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Weekend Briefing No. 265
Welcome to the weekend. Hello from New Orleans. I’m on a trip across the South studying race and criminal justice reform with my friends at Illumine. I’m not going to talk about that this week, but tune in next week for a special briefing focused on what I’m learning on this trip.
202 – The good news: The global gender gap has improved, slightly. The reality: Differences in economic opportunity, including pay between men and women, are so vast it’ll take 202 years to fully bridge them.
50 – 50% of women in STEM jobs say they’ve experienced gender discrimination in the workplace. That’s higher than the 41% of women who encounter it in non-STEM jobs, and way more than the 19 percent of men in STEM occupations who say they’ve had to deal with gender bias.
6 – A new study shows that new parents face up to 6 years of sleep deprivation.
Self-driving cars may be more likely to hit you if you have dark skin. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that state-of-the-art object recognition systems are less accurate at detecting pedestrians with darker skin tones. The researchers tested eight image-recognition systems (each trained on a standard data set) against a large pool of pedestrian images. They divided the pedestrians into two groups for lighter and darker skin tones according to the Fitzpatrick skin type scale, a way of classifying human skin color. The detection accuracy of the systems was found to be lower by an average of five percentage points for the group with darker skin. This held true even when controlling for time of day and obstructed view. MIT Technology Review (5 minutes)
Discredited in China
China banned people from buying plane or train tickets 23 million times last year because their social credit scores were too low. The government rolled out the travel ban on people with low social credit scores last May. According to a report from China’s National Public Credit Information Center from last week, people have been blocked 17.5 million times from purchasing airplane tickets, and 5.5 million times from buying high-speed train tickets. These people had become “discredited” for unspecified behavioral crimes. That’s up from only 6.15 million citizens being blocked from taking flights as of 2017, according to China’s supreme court.The Verge (6 minutes)
Zooterra announced this week the launch of a first-of-its-kind nature conservation platform and digital tokens that provide a new way to support habitats and wildlife. The world is losing natural habitats and wildlife at a staggering rate, and existing donor engagement models lack the transparency, personalization, and follow-up to engage more people. By tokenizing natural areas into tokens called terras and using geolocation and satellite imaging, the platform enables users to engage in nature conservation in the most transparent and fun way to-date. The first limited set of genesis terras are associated with the Kasigau Wildlife Corridor in Kenya, a 500,000 acre natural area with over 50 species of large mammals. As you collect terras from around the world, you build your Guardian of Nature history while getting updates on local projects and forest health. Zooterra (6 minutes)
Some of the world’s biggest internet messaging companies are hoping to succeed where cryptocurrency start-ups have failed by introducing mainstream consumers to the alternative world of digital coins. The internet outfits, including Facebook, Telegram and Signal, are planning to roll out new cryptocurrencies over the next year that are meant to allow users to send money to contacts on their messaging systems, like a Venmo or PayPal that can move across international borders. Like Bitcoin, the new cryptocurrencies would make it easier to move money between countries, particularly in the developing world where it is hard for ordinary people to open bank accounts and buy things online. The current designs being discussed generally do away with the energy-guzzling mining process that Bitcoin relies on. New York Times (10 minutes)
It’s watching, and knows a crime is about to take place before it happens. Vaak, a Japanese startup, has developed artificial intelligence software that hunts for potential shoplifters, using footage from security cameras for fidgeting, restlessness and other potentially suspicious body language. While AI is usually envisioned as a smart personal assistant or self-driving car, it turns out the technology is pretty good at spotting nefarious behavior. Like a scene out of the movie “Minority Report,” algorithms analyze security-camera footage and alert staff about potential thieves via a smartphone app. The goal is prevention; if the target is approached and asked if they need help, there’s a good chance the theft never happens. Vaak made headlines last year when it helped to nab a shoplifter at a convenience store in Yokohama. Vaak had set up its software in the shop as a test case, which picked up on previously undetected shoplifting activity. The perpetrator was arrested a few days later. Bloomberg (5 minutes)
The global travel industry, notably the hotel and hospitality sector, has long been struggling with sustainability. What if hotels had self-cleaning rooms? The Danish manufacturer ACT.Global says it has developed a proprietary coating technology that at first glance, seems almost too good to be true. This coating’s benefits come across as assuring even the most strident germaphobe: the company says it protects against microbes, cigarette smoke, allergens, and stains. The results that ACT.Global tout include better indoor air quality; reduced use of water, chemicals and detergents; and improved hygiene. Triple Pundit (5 minutes)
Action addiction is an advanced sort of laziness. It keeps us busily occupied with tasks. The busier we keep ourselves, the more we avoid being confronted with questions of life and death. As we keep ourselves occupied with tasks, important or not, we avoid facing life. We keep a safe and comfortable distance to the issues that are sometimes hard to look at. Have we chosen the right career? Are we present enough with our children? Is our life purposeful? Busyness is a choice. We may have deadlines, projects, and activities, but we have the freedom to choose whether we become action addicts and busy-lazy, or just observe the experience of many activities. It’s a choice. And the ability to make that choice comes from developing a clear mind, free of action addiction. Mindful (7 minutes)
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What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in New Orleans, goes home with you. – Laurell K. Hamilton