Author Archives: Tom Burroughs

Bamboo/Glass Ceiling Remains Strong


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8/13/14 – Asian American women face a double bind in the workplace as they encounter negative stereotyping for both their ethnicity and gender, says an account from the Better Life Lab. In an early examination in Issues, two scholars presented national data showing this to be especially true for leadership positions in science, technology, engineering, […]

The US/China Conundrum


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8/11/18 – China is rapidly emerging as a technological powerhouse, at least in part because of its use of illicit political and business practices, the president of MIT says, calling for the United States to develop an aggressive and forward-looking action plan. In Issues, a longtime technology and policy hand recently proposed just such a […]

Help Wanted: Middle-Skill Workers


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8/2/18 – The United States is expected to see ever more openings for middle-skill jobs—positions that require more than a high school diploma but typically not a bachelor’s degree—and a technology-and-policy group says new ways are needed to help workers gain skills and associated credentials that will open employment doors. In a deeper look, Issues […]

Gwyneth Paltrow: Health Hazard?


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7/27/18 – Gwyneth Paltrow, the actor turned head of a vast lifestyle-and-wellness enterprise called Goop, personifies the power of celebrities to influence everyday people’s health, often in ways that turn science on its head, says a long-form read in the New York Times Magazine. But rather than ignore potentially harmful pseudoscientific claims, two scientists who […]

Raising the Bar for Legal Algorithms


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7/26/18 – The legal system increasingly uses “risk assessment” algorithms in making decisions about bail, sentencing, and parole, but an official at a nonprofit legal association says these tools “are too rapidly acquiring an exalted place in human decision-making.” An independent research consultant earlier argued this case in Issues, and she proposed ways to improve […]

Self-Driving Vehicles for Your Shopping Trips


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7/26/18 – Waymo, a company fast-forwarding the development of self-driving vehicles, just launched a trial program in the Phoenix area to team up with Walmart and four other firms to transport people between their homes and nearby stores, restaurants, and other retail destinations. As autonomous vehicles move into everyday life, some observers are calling for […]

How Risky Was Flint’s Water?


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7/24/18 – Ever since the water in Flint, Michigan, was found in 2014 to be contaminated with lead, a range of people have cited various statistics to show that children’s health might have been harmed. But two scientists now say that a comprehensive review of the data has “raised questions about how risks and statistics […]

Researchers Take Stand Against AI Weapons


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7/22/18 – At an international conference on artificial intelligence (AI), numerous researchers signed a pledge to “neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.” This accords with a recent examination in Issues of when and how AI writ large should be regulated, which found reason for limiting “the […]

Cautious OK for Genetically Modified Babies


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7/21/18 – A leading bioethics advisory group in the United Kingdom says in a new report described here that genetically modifying human embryos, sperm, or eggs to influence the characteristics of a future person—a process known as heritable genome editing—could be morally permissible if it would provide meaningful benefit to the individual and would not […]

Improving Flood Insurance, or Not


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  7/20/18 – With the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on July 31, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) is fighting hard to prevent any reforms. Meanwhile, a group of state insurance commissioners has provided an update on what other members of Congress are doing. For help in deciding what to do, legislators might look to Issues, […]

Chinese Innovation on the Rise


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7/15/18 – China joined the world’s top 20 most innovative economies and is aiming to move higher, while the United States fell out of the top 5, according to the recently released Global Innovation Index 2018, cosponsored by the United Nations. Although measuring an economy’s innovativeness is inherently difficult, and many experts would challenge the […]

Vaccination Vacillation


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7/14/18 – California has become something of a test case for mandatory vaccination laws, as many parents in some communities are obtaining medical exemptions for their children. Convincing such parents to have their kids vaccinated will require more than pointing to scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, a philosopher and data analyst said […]

Israelis Aiming for Moon


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7/11/18 – A nonprofit group in Israel is leading a mission to softly land a spacecraft on the moon early next year, thereby becoming the first nongovernmental enterprise to do so. The group proposes to do this using an innovative two-months-long launch process that will be far cheaper than conventional methods. The effort illustrates in […]

Labor Market Misunderstanding


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7/9/18 – A new US jobs report declared that companies are finding it difficult to find qualified workers to fill open positions. But in Issues, a longtime workforce analyst recently looked behind the curtain, arguing that employers’ complaints about skill shortages mask a deeper struggle to extend their leverage in the labor market, and that […]

A Better Way to Fund Highways


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7/9/18 – Seven states recently increased their fuel tax that funds highway construction and maintenance projects, while some California politicians are pushing to repeal a recent hike in the tax. But in Issues, an energy analyst has proposed a totally different route, charging motorists by the miles they travel, arguing that the new system would […]

Flood Risks Rising with Climate Change


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6/29/18 – Rising sea levels driven primarily by climate change put more than 300,000 homes in the contiguous United States at risk of chronic flooding within the next 30 years, the lifespan of a typical mortgage, according to a new study and an interactive map tool for viewing threat levels of particular communities. Some of […]

Preparing for the Next Pandemic


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  6/ 28/18 – Potent new diseases may be only an airplane-ride from becoming a pandemic, but a deep read in the Atlantic says the world is not prepared. In addition to posing immense medical needs, the next pandemic will raise unprecedented communications challenges in providing people with accurate and credible information—to offset an almost-certain […]

Robot Sub Patrolling California Coast


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6/25/18 – Roaming the waters off California, a 51-foot-long “unmanned undersea vehicle”—essentially a submarine that can operate for months at a time with little or no contact with human operators—is undergoing tests ahead of possible deployment by the US Navy. And it won’t be alone. Various types of drone seagoing vehicles are being groomed for […]

Coping with Robots


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6/18/18 – Amid concerns about the impact of robots on the workplace, an economic analyst described in Issues his study of first principles: what skills do robots have or may soon acquire, and what jobs can robots with those skills perform. The conclusion: robots and advanced information technologies can likely handle 80% of current jobs. Emerging […]

Flagship School Seeks Foreign Students


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6/17/18 – The University of New Hampshire has become the first flagship state school in the United States to adopt an admissions test that may make it easier for students from China to enroll, bringing along the more than $45,000 they will pay for tuition and housing each year. But recruiting more higher-paying foreign students, along […]

Google Bans AI Development for Weapons


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6/12/18 – The technology giant Google will not develop artificial intelligence (AI) for use in weapons or other applications “that cause or are likely to cause overall harm,” its chief executive has announced in setting forth a set of principles to guide the company’s work in the field. The move aligns with a recent exploration […]

NASA Eyeing Privatization of Space Station


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6/10/18 – More countries and private companies are pursuing activities in space, an analyst recently noted in Issues. But in actions that would seemingly push even this expanded envelope, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is considering “a range of options” to privatize the International Space Station, including having a global team of corporations take over […]

Coal Comfort


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6/5/18 – Coal is in the news for reasons seemingly at odds. In Issues recently, a longtime analyst showed that coal has declined as an energy source over the past century primarily because of technology innovation, social forces, and price decreases of other forms of energy. Yet the Trump administration has announced plans to stop the […]

Feds Seek to Block Immigrant Entrepreneurs


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6/4/18 – Immigrants outpace US residents in forming new start-up companies, especially in technical fields, as observers have documented in Issues (here) and elsewhere (here). But in what some groups see as a shortsighted move (here and here), the Trump administration wants to end an Obama-era program that lets young foreign entrepreneurs remain in the […]

A Conservative Shade of Green


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6/1/18 – In a challenge to her political party, a young conservative says that addressing environmental challenges, including climate change, must become a priority. But, she adds, solutions will require “trusting businesses to do what is best for their bottom line and for the ecosystem without government intervention.” In this vein, a scholar of conservative […]

Flashback: Remember the Draft


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5/25/18 – Universal conscription—the draft—ended 45 years ago, and NPR is marking the milestone with a new series on the shift to an all-volunteer military. In Issues, two analysts have taken an even deeper look, concluding with a call for return of the draft. “Our thesis is simple,” they said. “We believe it is neither […]

Let’s Call It Meat


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5/24/18 – After examining progress in growing meat in the laboratory, two environmental scholars argued in Issues that it is time to “start thinking about how factory-grown meat might transform our food system, the environment, and even our culture.” Well, thinking has started—and is getting a bit contentious. Missouri may soon become the first state […]

Vaccines Losing a Bit of Shine


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5/23/18 – US residents are losing some confidence in the value and safety of vaccinations for measles and other diseases, according to a new survey, with 70% now saying vaccines are very important, down from 80% a decade ago. Why a decline? In Issues, a philosopher and data analyst recently noted that opinions about vaccines […]

Facing Reproducibility Fears


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5/23/18 – Current fears of a “reproducibility crisis” in research are shortsighted, a quartet of scientists and philosophers say, because a key part of scientific inquiry is in fact the integration of conflicting observations and ideas into a coherent theory. But even as failures may lead to success, a longtime science reporter recently argued in […]

Sorry, Bob, We Do Need a Weatherman


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5/17/18 – With this year’s US hurricane season approaching and damage from last year’s storms still vivid, the nation has “not fixed the underlying major problem, which is an utterly nonresilient infrastructure that at the end of the day will determine how much suffering there is after a large storm,” says an expert on disaster […]