Author Archives: Tom Burroughs

Robots May Save Global Economy


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  12/6/16 – The labor pool worldwide might not fast enough to support society’s needs, and the answer, according to an investment manager who has analyzed the technological and demographic forces driving global change, could well be…robots. Robots and artificial intelligence will likely reduce or eliminate some types jobs, as an economic analyst has explained […]


Substance Misuse Deemed Public Health Crisis


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  11/30/16 – The US surgeon general recently declared substance misuse a public health crisis that “must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion.” This new approach, commented The Atlantic, could “profoundly impact the criminal-justice system, where addicts often end up.” As part of a series of articles on mass incarceration in the United States, […]


Venture Capitalists Pursuing Fusion


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  12/1/16 – Long a holy grail in energy research, nuclear fusion is getting a boost from the sharp-penciled world of venture capital, according to a Bloomberg online report. One of those investors has also described in Issues his reasons for supporting a private company pursuing fusion, noting that “sometimes an opportunity presents itself that, […]


Avocado v. Monarch


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  11/26/16 – On lands adjoining Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, where the long-distance fliers nest as they await their next migration northward, a push to plant income-generating avocado orchards in place of native oak and fir trees is endangering the butterflies’ survival. Indeed, as a wildlife researcher has explained in Issues, habitat loss threatens […]


Space to Get More Crowded


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      11/23/16 – The private company SpaceX has announced plans to put 4,425 new satellites into space—more than tripling the current satellite population—with the aim of providing super-fast Internet coverage worldwide. This expansion is in keeping with projections detailed in a recent review of global space activities, described by its lead analyst in […]


What Are We Vaping for?


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  11/21/16 – Mounting evidence suggests that “vaping” with electronic cigarettes is far less dangerous than smoking and may also help current smokers quit, the New York Times reports, yet more states are passing laws that prohibit or discourage their use. Instead, a community health specialist has argued in Issues that states should conduct a […]


Building Ladders for Social Mobility


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  10/31/16 – All children should have a good—and equitable—chance on the economic ladder, social thinker Isabel Sawhill and colleagues have written in Issues, describing a variety of promising interventions to give disadvantaged kids a leg up at various stages of life, from before birth through entry into adulthood. In a new report, she and […]


Thinking Smaller in Space


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  10/28/16 – The White House has announced a new federal initiative to promote public-private partnerships to develop and deploy small satellites not only to aid in space research but also to help shorten the cycle of technological innovation, according to a policy brief from the American Institute of Physics. This effort reflects trends in […]


Rebooting Manufacturing


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  10/21/16 – Manufacturing’s recent anemic output growth in the United States is largely the result of globalization, and new government policies are needed to address problems, a senior employment research economist recently said here and here. In Issues, a leading observer of innovation policy has also examined what really ails manufacturing and laid out […]


Global Reach of Robots


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  10/19/16 – Artificial intelligence and robotics hold potential for disrupting the workplace in the United States, as an economic analyst explained in Issues. And these technologies are also flourishing elsewhere in the world, with industries in other regions making even greater use of robots, and with China expected to show especially rapid growth in […]


Carbon Tax on Washington State Ballot


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10/18/16 – Setting a tax on carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion is considered by many experts, including two economic analysts writing in Issues, as a promising way to help control human-caused climate change, but US policy makers have resisted. Now, a proposal is on the ballot in Washington state to institute a carbon tax, […]


Drug Enforcement’s Unintended Effects


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  10/13/16 – Criminalizing drug possession has caused “dramatic and unnecessary harms” in many African American communities, two major human and civil rights organizations concluded in a new report described here that called for changes in how governments deal with drug enforcement. In a related look at the effects of mass incarceration on communities of […]


Cooperation Key to Reaching Mars


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  10/12/16 – “Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we’re already well on our way,” President Obama said in an essay on CNN’s website, in tandem with a joint blog post by senior White House and NASA officials. Indeed, collaborative work on space activities is becoming increasingly common […]


Natural Disasters: Be Prepared


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  10/10/16 – With Hurricane Matthew leaving behind damages estimated to be nearing $6 billion, a vast swath of the Southeast likely faces massive rebuilding, if past experience is the guide. In Issues, a strategic planner who helped develop a “decision tool” to aid recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy has proposed what he considers a […]


Yeast Yields a Nobel Prize


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  10/7/16 – A Japanese biologist has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for a series of “brilliant experiments” using yeast that revealed for the first time a key mechanism in cells that plays an important role in cancer, diabetes, and numerous other devastating diseases. Indeed, yeast has an illustrious history in […]


Three-parent Baby Raises International Ethics Concern


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  10/4/16 – With revolutionary developments in reproductive technologies occurring in many nations, a researcher and a writer joined in Issues to examine the accompanying global bioethical debates. Concerns recently kicked into higher gear with the birth of a “three-parent” baby, born to a couple from Jordan who traveled to Mexico for treatment using a […]


Mixed Winds Buffeting Manufacturing


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  10/3/16 – In an examination of jobs losses in the United States, a New York Times article says that 13% can be explained by changing trade practices, with the rest being casualties of automation or tweaks to factory operations that have enabled more production with less labor. In Issues, a leading scholar who examines […]


Welcome to New Space


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  10/1/16 – A massive change is occurring in the space industry—a move from “Old Space” to “New Space”—as out-of-the-box thinking increasingly pushes against heritage and convention, an Australian space innovator reports in The Conversation. In Issues, an observer of the scene has detailed this “major transformation” as more countries and private companies expand their […]


Savings Workers from Robots


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  9/30/16 – Based on an analysis of how artificial intelligence and robotics are transforming the workplace, an economist has argued in Issues that society must begin paying more attention to potential disruptive changes over the next few decades. The chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers foresees a period of transition that […]


Time to Restructure Energy R&D


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  9/23/16 – Human-caused climate change is real, and solving it will require massively increasing government support for research and development aimed at “breakthrough technologies cheap enough to outcompete fossil fuels,” says the leader of a Danish think tank. In Issues, a longtime energy analyst has also called for more energy innovation, but rather than […]


Finding Work for Former Prisoners


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  9/22/16 – Unwinding mass incarceration in the United States will require helping the large number of people already in the criminal justice system successfully reenter society, two authorities on prison reform have said in Issues. Reflecting this idea, the federal government is planning to award $5 million in new grants to fund job centers […]


The Potential of Green Finance


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  9/21/16 – In one corporate quest to develop a new type of fusion reactor, venture capitalists are playing a key role, described in Issues by a financial backer involved. In the New York Times, Henry M. Paulson Jr., a former Treasury secretary and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, expands on the wider need for […]


Science Looks at Communicating Science


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  9/20/16 – In a recent survey, 270 scientists identified “the biggest problems facing science.” Of the seven major items named, number 6 was that “science is poorly communicated to the public.” In Issues, several articles (here and here) have examined this concern from various perspectives and offered possible solutions, with the most recent focusing […]


Scientists Seek Action on Climate Change


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  9/20/16 – Three hundred and seventy five leading scientists, including 30 Nobel laureates, have published an open letter to draw attention to the serious risks of climate change, warning especially about potential dangers from political resistance to action. Issues has examined some of the political divides and laid out a clean-energy blueprint that may […]


Canada Imposes Carbon Taxes


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9/19/16 – Taxing carbon released from burning fossil fuels could be a key part of a comprehensive effort to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to human-caused climate change, two economists have argued in Issues. Although policy makers in the United States have largely resisted this option, Canada’s federal government will soon begin […]


Progress for Marine Sanctuaries


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  9/16/16 – An idea explored years ago in Issues—establishing marine protected areas to help protect ocean biodiversity—has resurfaced on several fronts. On September 15, President Obama designated the first fully protected area in the Atlantic Ocean, designating nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of Massachusetts as a marine national monument. And just a […]


Human Gene Editing Research Could Begin Soon


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  7/5/16 – Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have gained approval from a federal ethics panel to use, for the first time ever, the gene-editing tool called CRISPR to alter the immune systems of cancer patients to aid in their treatment. If the Food and Drug Administration grants its approval, research can begin. Issues […]


A New Type of Mileage Program


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  6/28/16 – A group of states along the East Coast wants to explore ways to overhaul how the nation pays for its decaying roads, proposing pilot programs in four states to figure out how they might charge motorists a fee for the miles they travel. A noted transportation analyst writing in Issues has been […]


Prison Reform Taking Root


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  6/25/16 – The largest county in Mississippi has agreed to a first-of-its-kind settlement with the federal government to reduce mass incarceration by offering alternatives to jail, providing re-entry services for inmates leaving incarceration, and sentencing fewer people to jail for failure to pay court-ordered fines and fees, among other actions. The agreement reflects recent […]


Targeting Technology for Good


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  6/23/16 – Spurred by a technology proposal gone controversial, a media scholar at MIT examined in the Atlantic the challenge of ensuring that technology “address social problems in ways that make the world better, not worse.” In Issues, a longtime observer of the interplay between technology and society sharpens this aim, suggesting that the […]