The Download, Feb 13, 2017: The Free Web in Danger, U.S. Chips in China, and Amazon’s Real-Life Retail Lab
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Three Things You Need to Know Today
Taking U.S. Chips to China
California-based chipmaker GlobalFoundries has announced that it plans to build a new fabrication plant in China at a cost of $10 billion. The move is part of an expansion strategy that will see it increase production of its semiconductors in facilities in the U.S., Germany, and Singapore. But in an unwelcome twist for the Trump administration, growth of its U.S. facilities looks set to be among the most modest. Asian tech firms have recently stated that they plan to set up manufacturing operations in the U.S. over the coming years. But the New York Times suggests that CEOs of Chinese companies may have taken a cue from Trump's style of business: make big promises, even if they're unlikely to come to full fruition. American companies, meanwhile, have generally been reserved about making promises to grow manufacturing in the U.S.. The GlobalFoundries news serves as a reminder that there’s still incredible appeal in the East.
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Is the Future of the Free Web in Question?
The Mozilla Foundation recently warned that the openness and neutrality that made the Internet a runaway success are being subverted. Now, the World Wide Web Consortium—the organization that sets the standards for how the Web works—has a decision to make that could firmly cement its thinking about what the future of the Internet should look like. As Ars Technica reports, the Consortium is set to decide whether it wants to standardize so-called Encrypted Media Extensions, which provide Web browsers with the ability to use digital rights management to govern media playback. Proponents argue that they're a boon for piracy protection; skeptics warn that the Consortium's approval would send a clear message that the open architecture of the Web is no more. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and leader of the Consortium, has some serious decisions ahead.
Automation, Labor, and What To Do Next
When Trump was elected as President, the result was decided by a few Midwest states in the heart of the Rust Belt. The key issue for many voters there: the economy. Or, more precisely, the shortage of relatively well-paying jobs. According to Trump’s campaign, lost jobs went to globalization and the movement of manufacturing facilities overseas—like, for instance, the news from GlobalFoundries, above. But many economists argue that automation bears much more blame than globalization for the decline of jobs in the region’s manufacturing sector and the gutting of its middle class. The real question that needs answering, then, might not be how to bring those manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., but instead how to ensure that the looming onslaught of AI doesn’t make existing tensions worse. Our own David Rotman explores how we must develop new approaches to ensure that the population—and not just the economy—benefits from automation.
Ten Fascinating Things
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Quote of the Day
"We are always looking for what characterizes reliability, and the various characteristics of reliability."
— Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, explains why she is relaxed about a decision that encourages contributors to Wikipedia to stop using the Daily Mail newspaper as a source.