The EU Is on a Crusade to Make Apple Pay More Taxes. There’s a Bigger Problem It Can’t Fix.

By Adam Chodorow

Everyone involved in the European Union’s crusade to make Apple pay more taxes has a reason to be pissed off. The tech giant, livid EU officials say, has dodged more than $14 billion in taxes in Ireland, where its European operations are based. Apple is outraged, obviously—and astoundingly, so is Ireland. American politicians and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, who routinely lambast domestic companies for shifting profits to overseas tax havens, are enraged that the European Union is targeting U.S. firms who have allegedly received sweetheart deals from Ireland and other countries. The politicians are clearly pandering, but the Treasury knows that if Ireland taxes Apple’s profits, that money will effectively come out of its own coffers. So who, amid the uproar, is right?

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FCC Support for Hackable Wireless Routers Is a Win for All of Us

By Dan Gillmor

It’s increasingly dawning on people that they don’t really own a lot of the goods they buy, not in a world where software is infiltrating everything and can be modified at the whim of the seller. Amazon can remove books people have “purchased” for their Kindles. Apple decides what software you’re allowed to load on an iPhone. Coffee-machine companies try to prevent customers from using competitive refills. And our legislators and regulators rarely seem to notice, much less block, such control-freakery.

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Keeping Grandma and Grandpa Safe Online

By Jamie Winterton

In June, a collective “awwwww” reverberated across the internet, as the story of a polite British grandmother who included please and thank you in her Google searches gave everyone the warm fuzzies. “I thought, well somebody’s put [the search results] in, so you’re thanking them,” she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “I don’t know how it works to be honest. It’s all a mystery to me.”

That mystery, however, can be dangerous.

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Citizen Science Isn’t Just About Collecting Data

By Jason Lloyd

The earthquake near Washington, D.C., five years ago in August 2011—the one that damaged the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral but had little other noticeable impact—caught me by surprise. Sitting in an office on the 12th floor of a building downtown, I thought it might have been an improbably large truck on the street below, until a co-worker suggested we probably ought to leave the building. We spent the rest of that sunny afternoon milling around with other office workers before calling it a day and heading to happy hour.

What I did not do, but really wish that I had, was enter a description of my experience into the U.S. Geological Survey’s crowdsourcing initiative, Did You Feel It? The system collects data from people who have felt tremors to determine the extent and intensity of earthquakes in near-real time. The submitted data are used in the USGS ShakeMaps, which help organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency prepare for and respond to earthquakes.

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What Do You Think About Scientists Creating Human-Nonhuman Hybrids?

By Andrew Maynard

The U.S. National Institutes of Health wants to support responsible research into human-nonhuman hybrids, and they’d like your help. Sort of.

On Aug. 4, the NIH proposed two changes to the way the agency will oversee research using human stem cells in nonhuman primates. Policy changes like these are required to go out for public review and comment before being implemented, so we’re now entering a 30-day public comment period—everyone with opinions on research into combining humans with other animals has a chance to have his or her say.

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How to Develop This Cutting-Edge Genetic Research Responsibly

By James P. Collins

From ancient soothsayers to Wall Street stock pickers, humans have always yearned to be able to tell the future. The ability, needless to say, has mostly been overstated.

But what if there were a sense in which you really could tell the future? And what if we could also make a particular outcome more likely, even certain? The emerging technology known as gene drives offers just such a prospect for favoring particular traits in future plants and animals—to increase agricultural output, to reduce the risk of infectious disease transmission, or something we haven’t yet imagined. Indeed, some have already suggested using gene drives to eliminate certain mosquitoes that can spread Zika, malaria, and other ailments. But is that a good idea? How should we think about employing such a technology in ways that anticipate, and weigh, its benefits and harms for current and future generations?

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The Muddled Legacy of Alvin Toffler

By David Guston

Futurist Alvin Toffler’s death on June 27 at age 87 has brought out the usual obituaries, marveling at the way his self-educated intellect grappled with the complex intertwining of technological and social change and created best-seller buzz around his predictions. The account of his life in the New York Times follows a familiar arc: from child of immigrants, to self-made man, to adviser to some of the most powerful men on the planet. His books, especially Future Shock (1970) and The Third Wave (1980), achieved required reading status among a certain set, apparently including politicians as diverse as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Chinese Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang.

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How a Volcano Helped Inspire Frankenstein

By Kent Linthicum

Two hundred years ago this June, during a dreadfully cold and wet summer, Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein. Since then Frankenstein has become iconic, spawning a legion of adaptations and reinterpretations. The Oxford English Dictionary even includes entries for the verb “to frankenstein,” which means to stitch something together in a grotesque fashion, and the prefix “franken-” to make anything monstrous. The novel is shorthand for the dangers of unfettered scientific progress.

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The Self-Driving Car Generation Gap

By Brad Allenby

On Jan. 22, 1984, one of the most famous advertisements in American history debuted during Super Bowl XVIII, the one and only time it appeared on nationwide television. Advertising the Apple Macintosh personal computer, it showed a single brave heroine outrunning the thought police to destroy ideology, conformity, and totalitarianism, and ended with the tag line “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” It did a lot of things. It gave the Apple brand an individualistic, somewhat countercultural, flavor, which the firm retains even today, when it is one of the behemoths of the global economy. More importantly, perhaps, it provides an insight into technology systems that tells us a lot about autonomous vehicles and their likely routes of acceptance into mainstream culture.

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The Trouble With High-Tech Prosthetics

By Patrick McGurrin

You’ve probably seen the Frozen, Iron Man, and Star Wars prosthetics—intended to boost the confidence of kids with missing limbs. Now, you can even meet the first man with the Luke Skywalker arm. With today’s ever-increasing technology, some of these once fictional devices are making their way to real-life.

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