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Autonomous vehicles: the need of today

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‘Time is money,’ this phrase, coined by the renowned Benjamin Franklin, is numerously iterated in the fast-paced world around us. Yet, ironically, we lose more than a day each year daydreaming on clogged roads. This figure is projected to soar, with the change from fuel to electron. It seems that, on the surface, humanity feels a sense of pride in saving turtles by not using Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs).   

On average, waiting in traffic jams for 31 long hours costs around £1,168 per driver, and that is excluding the costs of the impact stationary vehicles have on the environment. In total, the transportation sector derives 81% of all its energy from liquid gold- that is, oil. This not only makes oil the most dominant fuel, and a highly sought-after commodity, but holds it accountable for 26% of total carbon dioxide emissions globally.[1] A UN report in 2018 on global warming stated that “air pollution causes an estimated 40,000 early deaths in the United Kingdom every year.”

Aside from the socio-environmental problems, rush hour traffic takes a large toll on the commuter’s mental health. Constant noise, speeding, and road rage, has unsurprisingly resulted in high levels of stress. Cognitively, psychologically, physically, and socially, stress gets the better of us, and statistically speaking, we are thus more prone to hurting ourselves or other road users. The outcome of this? Road traffic accidents; a classic example of cause (socio-environmental problems) and effect (mental health from these problems that results in these very accidents). In fact, the Department of Transport UK reported 25,945 serious road injuries in 2019 alone.

So, what is the simple solution? Public transport would be a good starting point. There are many various methods of public transport that could be utilised by the average Joe Bloggs, but it would require a fair amount of organisation on TFL’s part, should everyone turn to public transport as an alternative.

The general consensus seems to be that the ideal way out would be applying the features of public transport (minus the extra walking, countless hours’ worth of delays, and a dozen changes during a single trip) combined with the mental contentment and comfort of personal cars.

Is this even a possibility?

Well, fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) are the only feasible, and somewhat plausible, answer right now. Since the mid-2010s engineers have been involved in developing and adapting to this new technology. In a nutshell, it is essentially self-driving cars, with no one at the wheel.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has classified automated driving features into 6 levels, from no automation (L0) to full automation (L5). In the first three levels, the driver is driving with some support features for steering and accelerating/braking e.g., blind-spot warning, lane centring and adaptive cruise control. The other three levels mean that the driver is not driving, even if seated in the driver’s seat, because of features like traffic jam chauffeur. Some cars may not even have the pedals and steering wheel installed in them.

The majority argues that they will be a complete disaster. Arguments include “they won’t work, because they’ll get hacked” or ‘they won’t work until cars are as smart as humans.” Are these arguments presenting the whole truth?

The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) UK has had public and private investments of £440 million. Thankfully it has not gone to waste. The UK is overall leading in enabling regulations and infrastructure as well as market attractiveness. Companies such as AutoAir, UKCITE, A2/M2 Connected Corridor and ConVEx have been working to develop modern infrastructure, which can easily accommodate future technologies. They also ensure that the data collected by the AVs are being processed efficiently and effectively.

The famous German car manufacturer, Audi, has conducted a research project, ‘25th Hour – Flow’. This research simulated the future of mobility in Ingolstadt, in order to find out what happens when automated transport becomes more widespread. The project concluded that travel times will reduce at a high rate, even though road users will increase by 10%. This reduction in travel time will increase the fuel economy, saving consumers £5 billion per annum.

Even though it is very early days for AVs, the potential overall impact on the UK’s economy by 2030 is estimated to produce more than 420,000 jobs. This industry could be worth £62 billion as “1 in every 5 miles travelled by consumers in the UK could be automated.” Moreover, 47,000 serious accidents can be prevented saving over 3,900 lives because human error will be eliminated.

Ultimately, and akin to human development, every new creation needs a few decades to come out of the cradle, to grow, to experience highs and lows, and to ultimately succeed. In less than 100 years, AVs could be the norm. As technological advances continue to grace the international market, manual cars are slowly becoming part of recent history. From automatic cars, it only seems right that the natural progression should lead us to automated vehicles.


[1] Chapman, (2007) “Transport and climate change: a review”, Journal of Transport Geography 15, pp. 2

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Politics

Digital Authoritarianism – A Growing Challenge to The World Press Freedom

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Press and electronic media have been an active source of propagation of the discourse be it political, social, or religious. They make it easier for a piece of information to reach the common masses and thus it is crucial for the governments to control them to keep insuring the creation of “us” and “them” division in the society.  But this control has become a challenge for a free and independent press. Digital authoritarianism, cyber surveillance, and monitoring of political and social activities of people through media have made it difficult for the people of the present age and time to have freely expressed their opinion and easier for the governments to control the information.

While China has been controlling the influx of information and the regulation of ideologies in the country through a great fire, Other countries are joining in too with their measure to increase cyber-surveillance. Internet shutdowns are one of the tools for asserting digital authoritarianism and according to a survey conducted by a non-profit digital rights organization Access now, the year 2021 experienced 182 events of Internet shutdowns around the world.

The shutdowns measures were taken to contribute to the growing political tensions in the respective regions for example, during the coup in Maynmar, and to influence the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe, specifically Russia. Similarly, while Africa experienced an epidemic of coups in the year 2021, the number of internet shutdowns reached 19.

 India which claims to be the “world’s largest democracy” imposed an internet shutdown more than a hundred times in the year 2021 and more than half of them were on the already repressed people of Jammu and Kashmir.

While Russia became the only country in Europe to impose an internet shutdown in 2021, in the year 2022, the Russia and Ukraine war has forced other EU countries to ban the access to Russia Today, Sputnik other information sites regulated by Russia calling it a measure against “the war propaganda.” Similarly, since the beginning of the conflict, Russia has imposed new internet laws in the country to monitor the spread of news restricting the use of global applications like Instagram and Facebook.  

The more recent rerouting of the internet traffic of occupied Ukrainian regions to be redirected through Russian cyber routes. Netblocks, an internet observatory, noted that: “Connectivity on the network has been routed via Russia’s internet instead of Ukrainian telecoms infrastructure and is hence likely now subject to Russian internet regulations, surveillance, and censorship.”

However, while countries around the world are being exposed to exerting digital dominance, and being accused to collect user data for their own benefit, it is becoming a challenge for them to create “democracy-affirming technologies” to combat the digital authoritarianism that has been challenging the world’s press freedom around the world.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Sexualized Child Images “Meet Community Guidelines” on Instagram

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Instagram has come under a lot of heat, and rightly so, for not removing accounts that showed pictures of children in swimwear or partial clothing attracting loads of sexualized comments even after such accounts were reported via the in-app reporting tool. 

The above-mentioned tool allows users to flag accounts that have suspicious activity which is then reviewed by the system’s automated moderation technology, which in this case ruled such concerning accounts as “acceptable” and conforming to “community guidelines” resulting in such accounts remaining live.

An independent researcher challenged this and reported one such concerning account to Instagram using the in-app reporting tool, only to be met with a response tagged with a phrase many of us a too familiar with i.e., “due to the high volume of reports” submitted it can not view the report but the “(automated) technology has found that this account probably doesn’t go against our community guidelines”. The said account, with more than 33,000 followers remained live the whole day.

All this while Instagram’s parent company, Meta, as do other social media companies claims an approach that has zero tolerance towards child exploitation – claims that remain unsubstantiated by their actions/policies.

Instagram is not alone in failing to effectively handle this issue. Twitter has many similar accounts often known as “tribute pages”. This is evident from the example of this one account which was ruled not to be breaking twitter’s rules after being reported through the in-app reporting tool despite posting pictures of a man performing sexual acts with images of a 14-year-old TikTok underage influencer. Other tweets from the same account reading “looking to trade some younger stuff” were also seemingly not concerning enough, until it was publicly called out by a campaign group ‘Collective Shout’ at which point the account was taken down.

Should such accounts suspicious of illegal activity and clearly harmful be allowed to remain live only because they do not meet a criminal threshold, yet?

Are “Zero tolerance” claims consistent with companies allowing the content that is a threat to children to remain live despite being reported, let alone proactively moderate content?

Should the social media companies be relying on automated detections for preventing the serious risk of sexualization, harassment and exploitation of our children when such technologies have been known to have failed miserably for even keeping up with simple hate speech?

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Tired of Carrying a Wallet? Have Your Credit Card Microchipped Under Your Skin

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Walletmor, a British-Polish startup, claims to have created the first implantable microchip that can be used at any contactless payment machine around the world. Walletmor has sold over 500 microchips that are slightly bigger than a grain of rice and weigh less than one gram. Each microchip goes for £199 and can be sewn in by professionals at any aesthetics clinic. 

Walletmor claims that the microchip is entirely safe and has received regulatory approval. Once implanted, the microchip is ready to use and will not shift from its place. The microchip requires no batteries or an external power source to function. The implantable capsule is made of biocompatible material and consists of a microprocessor for storing encrypted payment data and a proximity antenna to connect to nearby payment terminals. 

The founder of Walletmor, Wojciech Paprota claims that the microchips are impossible to hack stating, “our payment implant cannot be forgotten or lost. This means that, unlike a standard payment card, it cannot end up in the wrong hands. It will not fall out of our wallet, and no one will take it from there. The implant cannot be scanned, photographed or hacked.” 

At the moment, the microchip connects to a mobile app called ICard, where a user can refill funds for contactless payments. 

Paprota believes that credit card implants will one day be as popular as regular payment cards and that Walletmor’s long-term goal is to provide more functionalities to their chip such as identification and key card access capabilities. 

But before microchip implants can be widely accepted, Paprota and other emerging microchip-based companies must first assure citizens of their safety. Though implanted microchips are convenient for day-to-day tasks, many fear that as technology continues to advance, a person’s data and specific location can potentially be hacked causing safety concerns. 

Nada Kakabadse, a Professor of Ethics at Reading University questioned the ethics behind getting microchips implanted. Kakabadse stated, “there is a dark side to the technology that has a potential for abuse…to those with no love of individual freedom, it opens up seductive new vistas for control, manipulation and oppression.. And who owns the data? Who has access to the data? And, is it ethical to chip people like we do pets?”

So the question arises, how much are we willing to risk for the sake of convenience?

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Faiza Shah
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Born and raised in the Bay Area, California, Faiza is a mother of two with a degree in Psychology and Paralegal Studies. She is passionate about lending her voice to those who are disadvantaged.

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Society

Elon Musk is now the largest shareholder in Twitter

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Heisenberg Media via Wikimedia Commons

Tesla founder Elon Musk has become the largest shareholder in Twitter. His shares are four times greater than that of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

Elon Musk has purchased 9.2% shares equating 73.5 million shares in the social network. His shares are a passive stake but news that he has become the largest shareholder in the company caused a surge in Twitter share price. His stake is now worth more than $3bn.

Parag Agrawal, CEO of Twitter, tweeted on Tuesday “I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board.”

Elon is running a poll on twitter about the edit button, which will be helpful for twitter users to edit mistakes but some, including Jack Dorsey, have rejected the idea because people can change the meaning of what they have said, after they have shared it. 

Dan Ives, from analyst firm Wedbush said that Elon will soon go for an active role in company management. 

He said, “We would expect this passive stake as just the start of broader conversations with the Twitter board/management that could ultimately lead to an active stake and a potential more aggressive ownership role of Twitter,”.

This is supported by the reports of the Wall Street Journal that his application to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which should have a line saying he doesn’t intend to influence the company, had a ‘Not Applicable’ mark.

There is an issue reported about his investment in twitter. He filed his investment on 14th of March and after filing and before it became public knowledge, he asked users whether they believed that free speech was essential to a functioning democracy and whether Twitter adheres to this principle.

Cornell University’s assistant professor Alexandra Cirone considers this as an evidence he may “try to influence Twitter practices” and have a “more active play in the social media eco-system”.

On the other hand, Howard Fischer, partner at law firm Moses & Singer, said that considering he had bought the share already, “I do suspect the SEC is going to look long and hard into whether they can bring manipulation charges”. 

Elon Musk is a regular user of twitter, whether he uses his influence to establish free speech or market manipulation, twitter users will find out soon. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Education

Is Technology Making Children Grow Up Faster?

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  • Research has found that children’s exposure to technology may allow for them to be more intellectually savvy at a younger age, however it is seen to also push ‘maturity’ milestones to an older age.
  • Despite this supposed maturity, the younger generations seem to delay many adult milestones such as dating, drinking, engaging in intimate relations, and driving unlike previous generations.
  • With all things kept in mind, studies find that children are not growing up faster in terms of society, culture, or biology. 

Research has found that children’s exposure to technology may allow for them to be more intellectually savvy at a younger age, however it is seen to also push ‘maturity’ milestones to an older age. The advent of smartphones, tablets, and other such electronics has put the world’s knowledge into the palms of children at a younger age than ever seen before. With most parents buying their child a smartphone at age 10, it is no question that the newer generation has practically unlimited access to news, social media, games, and the like.

Marketing geared towards kids is not new and the concept of “kids getting older younger” (KGOY) is one used by companies constantly to raise revenues. Games such as Roblox have capitalized on such ideas and the effects are clear. Speaking to strangers and having open access to the internet is pulling children towards emotional maturity. 

Despite this supposed maturity, the younger generation seems to delay in many adult milestones such as dating, drinking, engaging in intimate relations, and driving, unlike previous generations. any experts argue that this view is skewed, including senior Vice President and Director of the Center for Children and Technology, Shelley Pasnik. Pasnik stated “The basic stages of children’s development aren’t changing…what has changed is [kids’] exposure to information.” 

Experts in sociology also warn that technology alone is not shaping children and their maturity. Confounding variables found in much more intensive parenting styles will also reflect on the youth. With all things kept in mind studies find that children are not growing up faster in terms of society, culture, or biology. Rather a view of what constitutes a ‘grown-up’ may be skewed in society. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Okta Hack Hits Hundred of Companies Putting Them at Risk

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  • Okta, one of the world’s leading providers of digital identity verification, said that a January data breach revealed by hackers this week may have affected hundreds of customers, such as Fedex and Moody’s corp., that rely on its software. Shares have fallen 10.74%.
  • This has been the “worst case” affecting 366 of its clients. The breach is compared to “walking away from your computer at a coffee shop” leaving private information to strangers’ access according to Okta
  • Cyber-gang Lapsus$, a South American threat actor, is behind the attack. They have been linked to other cyberlink attacks on some high-profile targets according to Ekram Ahmed of a cybersecurity company called Checkpoint. Lapsus$ has said in online posts that it has not stolen any databases from OKTA and focused only on its customers.
  • Even though sources are confident that there is no longer a security risk, it would “continue to investigate and assess potential security threats.”
  • Many companies such as CloudFare, FedEx, and Thanet have been notified and do not believe that they have been compromised. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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