Big Tech &
Uber lays off another ~350 across Eats, self-driving and other departments (3 minute read)
In what it says is its third and final phase of layoffs, Uber has let go of around another 350 employees. This includes employees from Eats, performance marketing, Advanced Technologies Group, and recruiting, as well as various teams within the global rides and platform departments. Some employees were asked to relocate. The layoffs represented about one percent of the company's workforce. More than 70 percent of the layoffs were staff in the US and Canada.
Uber and Lyft are suing New York City after it limited the length of time drivers can cruise without passengers (2 minute read)
Studies have shown that Uber and Lyft have increased the amount of traffic in cities. Drivers spend about half their time without passengers. A law in New York, implemented by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission, introduced a limit on how long ride-share drivers were allowed to stay on the road without passengers. Uber and Lyft have filed lawsuits against the city in order to fight the rule. They argue that the rule is arbitrary and that it hurts both drivers and passengers in less populated areas. Both companies have disconnected drivers in times of low demand to comply with the law.
24-Hour Solar Energy: Molten Salt Makes It Possible, and Prices Are Falling Fast (10 minute read)
A solar plant in the Nevada desert is making solar energy an affordable, carbon-free, 24-hour energy source by heating molten salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit, storing it in a giant insulated tank, and then using it to make steam to run a turbine. These salt-powered towers are much cheaper than the equivalent amount of lithium-ion batteries. A new plant to be built in Australia will generate electricity at just over 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. The technology is still relatively new, but if it proves to be reliable, it is poised to take off.
Digital dystopia: how algorithms punish the poor (4 minute read)
Billions of dollars are being poured into AI-based projects by governments around the world to change how low-income people will interact with the state. Governments are looking into ways to automate how welfare payments are distributed amongst those who need them. They claim the new systems will speed up benefits payments, increase efficiency and transparency, reduce waste, save money for taxpayers, eradicate human fallibility and prejudice, and ensure that limited resources reach those most in need. However, many have seen their payments reduced or stopped, and unexplainable mistakes often occur. Victims of these mistakes often have no way of seeking remedies. The technology is also being used to demand repayments from those who have been overpaid, with some cases where up to 30 years of overpayments were demanded to be repaid.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Detectron2 (GitHub Repo)
Detection2 is Facebook AI Research's software that implements state-of-the-art object detection algorithms. It is a complete rewrite of the previous version. It uses PyTorch, trains much faster, can be used as a library to support different projects on top of it, and it includes features such as panoptic segmentation, densepose, Cascade R-CNN, rotated bounding boxes, and more.
SandDance (GitHub Repo)
Would you give up Google for $17,000 a year? The Federal Reserve wants to know (3 minute read)
The Federal Reserve is trying to work out the value of the internet, as while the current expansion of the economy is the longest in history, productivity gains are weak, and GDP growth is far from stellar. This may be due to the fact that many of the most used products on the internet are free, and GDP measures the value of products and services that are bought and sold. In a study on the value of these services, it was found that the median user of Facebook would give up the service for $48 a month, people would give up YouTube for $1,173 a year, and it would take $17,530 for users to give up search engines for a year. The studies on the value of free internet services found that the GDP would be higher if the value of these services were included in calculations.