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Basic income just got a standing ovation at TED

rutger bregman

Universal basic income — a system of wealth distribution that involves giving people a monthly wage just for being alive — just got a standing ovation at this year’s TED conference.

Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian and basic income advocate, gave a talk on the subject in which he explored a crucial question: Why do the poor make such poor decisions?

Poverty isn’t a character flaw, Bregman explained. People in poverty tend to eat less healthfully, save less money, and do drugs more often because they don’t have their basic needs met.

Bregman suggested that creating a system of basic income would be the quickest and easiest way to meet those needs.

“Poverty is not a lack of character. Poverty is a lack of cash,” he said, before the TED crowd of 1,000-plus rose to its feet.

Bregman’s standing ovation reflects the particular appeal that basic income is gaining among America’s technologists.

People in Silicon Valley are working to build autonomous robots that could replace human labor. But as economists have started speculating about the ways those innovations could lead to widespread unemployment, many tech elites have begun searching for solutions to the problem they’re creating.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Y Combinator President Sam Altman, and Facebook Cofounder Chris Hughes have all endorsed basic income. (Altman and Y Combinator are leading a basic-income trial in Oakland.) On Twitter, venture capitalist Chris Sacca remarked Bregman’s talk was “devastatingly provocative and enlightening.”

Basic income has gained new life in the last few years. It started as a niche economic theory in the late 1960s, promoted by Milton Friedman, but a wave of basic income trials around the world has propelled the idea towards the mainstream.

Experiments are currently under way in Finland, Kenya, and Oakland, California, and new ones are expected to launch later this year in the Netherlands and Canada.

According to Bregman, we already have the means, the research, and the need for basic income. All that’s left is the action, and judging by the reaction to Bregman’s talk, the TED crowd seems to agree.

SEE ALSO: Finland just launched an experiment giving 2,000 people free money until 2019

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Serena Williams explains how she ended up engaged to a 'nerdy' Reddit co-founder

Serena Williams

Serena Williams surprised the world when she recently announced her engagement to Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of social news site Reddit. As she explained at the TED 2017 conference during an onstage interview with CBS host Gayle King, no one was more surprised than her. 

During the interview, King joked that she never would have expected Williams to end up with “a nerdy geek. “I wouldn’t either,” Williams replied, to audience laughter.

“I never felt pressured to get married, and I can’t say I’m the marrying type of person,” she said. “I love my life, I love my freedom, and I love my career. I always felt I didn’t want anything to interfere with that.”

When asked how she knew Ohanian was “the one,” Williams laughed. “I’m…not going to say that [out loud]. But really, he’s very loving and he’s very kind. He’s very considerate.”

Williams also revealed that the initial pregnancy photo she posted on Snapchat was put up accidentally. “On social media, you press the wrong button and… 30 minutes later I missed 4 calls and I’m like, ‘That’s weird,” she said. “But it was a good moment. I was only going to wait 5 or 6 more days [to share].”

The 36 year-old Williams reiterated that she plans to return to tennis in top form after she has her baby. “Roger Federer is older than me and he’s still winning everything,” she said.

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Sergey Brin is secretly building a massive zeppelin in a NASA hangar, report says (GOOG, GOOGL)

uss macon nasa ames hangar one

Google cofounder and Alphabet president Sergey Brin is secretly building a massive zeppelin in Hangar 2 of the NASA Ames Research Center, with a giant metal skeleton already in place, reports Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance

It’s not immediately clear if this dirigible is for business purposes, or represents more of a hobby for Brin.

According to the report, Alphabet has nothing to do with Brin’s blimp project — though, as Vance points out, Google arm Planetary Ventures took over management of the NASA Ames hangars in 2015. 

Earlier this week, Kitty Hawk, a venture backed by Brin’s fellow Google founder Larry Page, revealed plans to start selling a personal “flying car” by the end of the year.

Representatives for Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read the full Bloomberg report here.

SEE ALSO: What we know so far about the Larry Page-backed ‘flying car’ coming later this year

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NOW WATCH: A giant US military blimp broke loose and traveled 130 miles

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Apple exec says computers should help people remember every person they've ever met

black mirror entire history of you

In the TV show “Black Mirror,” there is an episode imagining a world where humans record every single thing that happens to them — sometimes to detrimental effect. Apple’s Tom Gruber has a vision for a similar future, albeit one where these computer memory aids are helpful rather than harmful.

Gruber — the cofounder of Siri — posited his vision of computers logging everything that happens in our lives, allowing us to remember every person we ever met, along with how their favorite sports, family members, and correct pronunciation of their names, while speaking at the TED 2017 conference in Vancouver, Canada.

“I believe AI will make personal memory enhancement a reality. I think it’s inevitable,” he said onstage, adding that he doesn’t know when or how it will happen.  

Gruber stressed, however, that the data collected would have to be secure.  “We get to choose what is and is not recalled and retained,” he said.

Gruber imagines that this kind of technology will not only be useful for satisfying data geeks who want to optimize their health and happiness, but it could also assist those who suffer from diseases like dementia and schizophrenia. “It’s the difference between a life of isolation and one of dignity and connection,” he said.

During his talk, Gruber also touched on other positive applications for AI, including cancer detection and, of course, the technology’s usefulness in creating personal technology assistants.

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3D NAND to make up half of all flash memory production

3D NAND, which stacks layer upon layer of flash cells atop one another like a microscopic skyscraper, will become the prominent technology for all flash memory this year, according to a new report.

According to DRAMeXchange’s latest forecast, NAND flash manufacturers have focused their efforts on converting fabrication plants to 3D NAND, which is denser, faster and less expensive to produce than traditional 2D (planar) NAND.

WD Toshiba 3D NAND BiCS Toshiba

BiCS (Bit Cost Scaling) is the vertical stacking or 3D technology that WD and partner Toshiba use to produce solid state drives and other NAND flash products. Their latest memory stores three bits of data per cell and stacks those cells 64-layers high.

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Cisco Jasper package manages everything enterprise mobile

Cisco today announced an enterprise management package designed to help users monitor and control the data usage operation of the tons of mobile devices in their networks.

Cisco Jasper’s Control Center for Mobile Enterprise is an extension of Jasper’s overarching Control Center IoT service platform, now directed at letting enterprise customers turn up services more quickly, and since it ultimately will be integrated directly into service provider networks will allow for real-time usage data, automated cost control and what Jasper calls “enterprise-grade self-serve management of mobile services and assets.”

Like Control Center for IoT, Cisco Jasper’s Mobile Enterprise features are delivered through a service provider and in for now only Canadian telco Telus offers the plan. Cisco Jasper says others will soon follow, but a timetable remains open. The company has 50 service providers offering Control Center services worldwide.

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I tried Facebook in virtual reality and I’m not sure what the point was (FB)

Facebook Places Social VR

In the not-too-distant future, Facebook thinks we’ll want to strap on special goggles so that we can hang out with our friends in a virtual world in which we appear as disembodied, cartoon versions of ourselves.

Based on my experience with Facebook’s first real app for VR, Facebook Spaces, I’m highly skeptical.

Facebook pitches Spaces as a way to hang out with your friends in VR “as if you were in the same room, no matter where you are.” After logging into your Facebook account with an Oculus Rift VR headset, you can watch Facebook videos, look around at 360-degree photos or videos, take selfies, and draw in 3D with up to three of your Facebook friends.

I tried Facebook Spaces, which is still in beta but available now on the Oculus Rift, for about 20 minutes during Facebook’s annual developer conference last week. Some aspects of my experience, such as video calling with Facebook Messenger, were quite buggy. And I left the demo feeling generally confused about what I had just experienced and questioning why I would ever want to use Facebook in VR again.

Hanging out in VR

mark zuckerberg hugo barra virtual reality augmented facebook xiaomi

Facebook kicked off its push into VR with its $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that VR will be the next major tech platform that brings people together.

At the Oculus developer conference last year, Zuckerberg showed off the VR experience that is now called Spaces. He took selfies with friends at virtual tourist attractions, played virtual board games, and called his wife Priscilla inside VR with Messenger.

“The idea is that virtual reality puts people first,” Zuckerberg later wrote on his Facebook page. “It’s all about who you’re with. Once you’re in there, you can do anything you want together — travel to Mars, play games, fight with swords, watch movies or teleport home to see your family. You have an environment where you can experience anything.”

VR’s mainstream problem

The problem with Facebook Spaces is what, while using a virtual selfie stick may feel fun and novel at first, there’s nothing compelling enough about it to make me want to actually hang out in VR. Standing in the middle of a 360-degree video of a rainforest is cool, but I’d rather watch most videos in high definition on my TV or phone.

And if I want to talk with someone, I’d rather see their real face over a video call instead of seeing their vaguely familiar, cartoonish avatar. Facebook does let you call people in the real world from VR using Messenger. But when I tried to call a friend using Messenger in VR, all they saw were my disembodied avatar’s hands and not my face. (I was told it was a bug that would be fixed if I restarted the app.)

Screen Shot 2017 04 25 at 2.23.50 PM

Facebook Spaces feels like a tech demo without a clear purpose. At one point, the Facebook employee showing me around in VR rhetorically asked how cool it would be to pop some popcorn and watch Facebook videos in VR while surrounded by the Egyptian pyramids. I’m not sure anyone has wished for that experience, and I’m not sure why they would.

For now, Facebook Spaces is also hampered by the fact that the VR hardware required to use it is still expensive and complicated to set up. I found the Oculus Rift headset to also be physically uncomfortable to wear for more than a few minutes, which makes the idea of ‘hanging out in VR’ unattractive.

“We’re focusing on paradigms for the current hardware assuming it [VR] will become mainstream at some point in the future,” Mike Booth, who led the development of Facebook Spaces, said at one of the company’s developer talks last week.

But for VR to go mainstream, it’s going to be up to companies like Facebook to create compelling experiences outside of gaming. So far, at least with the first version, Facebook Spaces  isn’t good enough to make people want to go out and buy the Oculus Rift.

SEE ALSO: Mark Zuckerberg wants to kill the smartphone so Facebook can control what comes next

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NOW WATCH: Playing this virtual reality game was the scariest thing I’ve ever done

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Court rejects Uber executive's request to take the fifth amendment in self-driving car case against Waymo

Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski, the former Google executive at the center of Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber, will not be allowed to take the fifth amendment, according to an order from the US Court of Appeals issued Tuesday.

That means Levandowski will likely be compelled to provide the approximately 14,000 documents Waymo alleges Levandowski took from Google before Levandowski left the company, according to the court. Waymo’s lawsuit claims Levandowski used those documents to build self-driving technology at his new job at Uber.

In March, Levandowski’s lawyers said he wanted to plead the fifth amendment so he would not incriminate himself in the case.

The documents have been at the center of Waymo’s case against Uber. Uber has argued that none of the files are stored on Uber-owned computers and therefore cannot be submitted to the court during the discovery process.

waymo

Why this matters

Waymo is the company that spun out of Google’s self-driving car project. One of its goals is to start a ride-hailing service with a fleet of self-driving. However, Waymo’s lawsuit claims Levandowski used the documents he took to develop custom lidar for Uber’s self-driving cars. Uber denies Waymo’s allegations, saying its lidar is significantly different than Waymo’s lidar.

Waymo began testing its self-driving car service in Phoenix, Arizona this week. Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick has said the future of the company hinges on its ability to deploy self-driving cars and that it could lose everything if another company like Waymo beats Uber to market.

SEE ALSO: Waymo started a war with Uber, and it could be Uber’s downfall

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NOW WATCH: This man spent 6 weeks working undercover in an iPhone factory in China — here’s what it was like

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One of the biggest transportation changes underway has nothing to do with driverless cars

Citibike

When I learned to drive, cars were pretty easy to understand: they ran on gas, which was fairly cheap, and they had radios.

Other transportation options were limited to boats, buses, trains, planes, and motorcycles. If you lived in a big city, you got around using mass transit and your feet.

Fast forward a few decades and the types of transportation are essentially the same, but the automobile has been radically remade by technology and the auto industry is being roiled by everything from electric vehicles and self-driving cars to ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

The biggest change to air travel has been the cost, which has come way down since I was 16.

Obviously, I cover transportation and have had a front-row seat for the last decade as a deluge of change has arrived. You might think that if I were to look back, I’d say that the electric car is the biggest change I’ve seen. Tesla is a $50-billion-market-cap company after all — larger by that measure that Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles!

But you’d be wrong.

Nor is Uber the biggest change I’ve seen. Nor the advent of high-end luxury air travel, low-cost carriers, or even a rising number of private jets.

High-speed rail? Not so much in the US. Flying cars? Nope.

By far the biggest transportation change I’ve seen is the explosion in bicycle riding. I lived away from the New York area over a decade ago, and while I rode a bike when I lived in NYC, I was unprepared for the proliferation of bikes on my return.

Bikes, bikes, everywhere

Bike-sharing schemes like CitiBike have two-wheeled conveyances scattered throughout Manhattan. And although everybody in the 1990s got used to dodging bike messengers, nowadays we dodge commuters — or folks who just want to ride across the Brooklyn Bridge. There are bike lanes everywhere — and bike-oriented traffic signals. People ride their bikes year round, rain, shine, sleet, or snow.

I feel as if there are now as many bike shops as there once were Greek coffee shops and dive bars. 

Raleigh Roker Comp bike review copy

This change isn’t limited to New York. Cycling has boomed in many other American cities. Whole new genres of bicycles have arrived: bikes with electric-assist motors, bikes with extra carrying capacity (the SUVs of bikes), sleek fixies, fat-tired cruisers, throwback hybrid bikes.

This has quietly become a big deal. Whereas 20 years ago, you took your life into your own hands if you tried to ride from New York’s Upper East Side to Midtown, these days a vast flotilla of bikes has been integrated into the city’s transportation ecosystem.

“More than three-quarters of a million New Yorkers ride a bike regularly—250,000 more than just five years ago.” the NYC Department of Transportation said in its “Cycling in the City” report.

“It is estimated that over 450,000 cycling trips are made each day in New York City—triple the amount taken 15 years ago.”

Honestly, I didn’t see this coming, but I’m glad it did. Some changes on transportation are disorienting. But this one is welcome.

SEE ALSO: The coolest high and low tech at the Tour de France

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NOW WATCH: This light-up bike helmet has built-in turn signals

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Box revises platform pricing to ease developer adoption

Box is trying to give developers who want to use its platform more pricing consistency with a new  announced Tuesday.

Customers will now pay on the basis of how much active use they’re getting out of the Box Platform, which offers cloud storage and content management capabilities for third-party applications. Companies can purchase packages from Box that include a set number of active users, API calls, bandwidth, and storage use.

The first package costs $500 per month and includes 100 monthly active users, 175,000 Box API calls, 125GB of bandwidth, and 125GB of storage in Box’s cloud. The more packages companies purchase, the less they have to pay per package. For developers just getting started with the platform, there’s a free tier that allows 10 monthly active users, 15,000 API calls, 10GB of bandwidth, and 10GB of storage.

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