TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 21

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. After another war, it seems more clear that the Israeli siege of Gaza continues through “inertia.”

By Itamar Sha’altiel in +972

2. A new project looks to inspire a generation to bold new scientific innovation by stimulating creative storytelling.

By Michael White in Pacific Standard

3. Attempts to combat voter fraud should be balanced against a constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

By Matthew Yglesias in Vox

4. More than meets the eye: Visual inspection is far from sufficient for guaranteeing the safety of meat and poultry. It’s time to reform USDA food safety systems.

By the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Center for Science in the Public Interest

5. Lifting teachers into leadership roles could help achieve the big gains for students we’ve been seeking.

By Ross Wiener in the Aspen Idea

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Let’s Fix It: Let’s End Human Driving

Sam Shank, chief executive officer and co-founder of HotelTonight Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg West Television interview in San Francisco, California on Jan. 2, 2014.
Sam Shank, chief executive officer and co-founder of HotelTonight Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg West Television interview in San Francisco, California on Jan. 2, 2014. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Sam Shank is the CEO and Co-Founder of HotelTonight

Roughly 10 years from now we will see the End of Human Driving — a seminal moment of the first half of the 21st century. I’m guessing my young sons will not need to learn how to drive

This Influencer post originally appeared on LinkedIn. Sam Shank shares his thoughts as part of LinkedIn’s Influencer series, “Let’s Fix It” in which the brightest minds in business blog on LinkedIn about how they would fix what’s broken in this world. LinkedIn Editor Amy Chen provides an overview of the 60+ Influencers that tackled this subject as part of the package. Follow Sam Shank and insights from other top minds in business on LinkedIn.

I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of technology replacing human drivers.

Let’s be honest: people aren’t always great drivers. They get distracted, tired and make mistakes. Technology can simply do a better job. This is a subject I’ve thought about deeply for the past 20 years. I believe it will have as much impact on the world as the switch from horse transport to automobiles.

The consensus opinion is that safe and reliable driverless cars will be available within a few years. Tesla just announced “Autopilot,” which will be available soon via a software update, and will allow for autonomous driving on freeways – an amazing first step.

Here’s what I think will happen next: the initial use of drive-anywhere autonomous cars (I call them AutoCars) will be with companies like Uber or Lyft rather than individually owned. They will rapidly gain acceptance because they’ll save people time (imagine all you could do with that time currently spent behind the wheel), will lower the costs of getting from one place to another, and will be way faster while also being safer than human driving.

Soon thereafter, as adoption skyrockets, cities will designate areas that are AutoCar-only. Lanes of highways will become AutoCar-exclusive, allowing for more density of driving and far higher speeds. Roughly 10 years from now we will see the End of Human Driving – a seminal moment of the first half of the 21st century. I’m guessing my young sons will not need to learn how to drive — but I’ll probably teach them anyway, as recreational driving is fun and won’t ever go away, any more than automobiles put an end to recreational horse riding.

The benefits of AutoCars are so pronounced across many areas – health, saved time, mobility of kids and seniors, lower road costs, efficiency – all of which I’d love to explore in future posts.

But what I think may be the biggest impact will be on our physical landscape. It always strikes me as interesting that the physical landscape hasn’t changed all that much in decades, despite the fact that the way we work and communicate has changed dramatically thanks to information technology. Sure, buildings have more glass and cars have more rounded edges, but if you compare two photos from 50 years ago and today, it’s often hard to spot much difference in the landscape (besides a few outfit choices and smartphones).

With the AutoCar, our urban landscape is set to change in massive and wonderful ways. Certain fixtures will become obsolete, like parking garages, road signs, street parking and traffic lights. For most people, garages will be as anachronistic as stables, and will be reclaimed for more productive uses like extra bedrooms, playrooms or exercise rooms. Saying goodbye to these items will free considerable resources to reduce housing costs and improve quality of life.

And new urban designs and systems will be invented that leverage the flexibility of the AutoCar: providing transportation on demand, but getting out of the way when not needed. Apartments may have drive-throughs like at airports for embarking and disembarking from AutoCars. And micro-traffic tunnels will tuck AutoCars out of sight, much like the delivery vehicles of Disney World are all underground. Is it possible to make the surface streets on the island of Manhattan 100 percent car-free? I bet it will be debated before the end of the next decade.

Information technology is set to impact our physical world, and I am optimistic that the result will be vibrant cities and suburbs more wonderful than we can even imagine.

What do you predict AutoCars will change the most in your life?

In this series of posts, Influencers explain what they wish they could fix — and how. Read all the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #FixIt in the body of your post).

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Early intervention for young people could halt schizophrenia before it starts.

By Amy Standen at National Public Radio

2. Next generation air traffic control management can reduce delays and frustration at the airport.

By Aaron Dubrow at the National Science Foundation

3. Alabama prisons are at 190% capacity. Sentencing reforms are slowing prison population growth, but much work remains.

By Kala Kachmar in the Montgomery Advertiser

4. In the five weeks remaining under the deadline, the U.S. and Iran can reach a historic accord on nuclear arms.

By Joe Cirincione in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

5. For the peaceful coexistence of bicycles and everyone else in a city, we can learn a lot from Copenhagen.

By Mikael Colville-Andersen in the Guardian

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Bill Gates has some notes for Thomas Piketty: Tackle income inequality by taxing consumption, not capital.

By Bill Gates in Gates Notes

2. Thousands have died as Central African Republic slides toward civil war, but media coverage is scant. Is there an empathy gap?

By Jared Malsin in the Columbia Journalism Review

3. Europe’s apprentice model isn’t a perfect fit for U.S. manufacturing, but it could change the way we train a new generation of blue-collar workers.

By Tamar Jacoby in the New America Foundation Weekly Wonk

4. Ebola may be gruesome but it’s not the biggest threat to Africa.

By Fraser Nelson in the Guardian

5. In dry California, regulators are using an innovative pricing scheme to push conservation.

By Sarah Gardner at Marketplace

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Accountability in education is essential and non-negotiable, and testing works. Just not in reading.

By Robert Pondiscio in Flypaper from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

2. Carbon capture technology is costly, but could be an interim solution for climate change. And a carbon tax could pay for it.

By David Biello in Yale Environment 360

3. Immersive public art is improving lives and safety in one Detroit neighborhood — and serving as a model for other communities.

By Anna Clark in High Ground News

4. Presidential pool reporters are circulating their own news reports to bypass pressure from the White House Press Office.

By Paul Farhi in the Washington Post

5. Unregulated campaign cash and elected judges together undermine the independence of our judiciary.

By Norm Ornstein in The Atlantic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 15

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Americans are often oblivious to the role of farming in their lives. To get the smart policies needed to feed our nation and the world, we must reconnect people to agriculture.

By Ian Pigott in the Des Moines Register

2. Even employer-paid health insurance can worsen poverty and increase inequality.

By David Blumenthal in Commonwealth Fund

3. Is “feminist marketing” an oxymoron?

By Chandra Johnson in the Deseret News

4. Helsinki has a plan cities everywhere could try: Combine the sharing economy, transit and mobile technology to eliminate cars.

By Randy Rieland in Smithsonian

5. America’s best bet in Africa is a strong relationship with Nigeria.

By Daniel Donovan in Foreign Policy Blogs

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Tech

Why Apple is Not a Tech Company

hand pulling iPhone box off shelf
Maxim Shemetov—Reuters

Peter Thiel argues that buying Apple means betting against innovation.

As the founder of PayPal, and the one of the first external investors in Facebook, it’s hard to argue that Peter Thiel doesn’t understand innovation or technology companies. But in his new book, Zero to One, Thiel takes somewhat of a radical approach to these concepts, drawing a line in the sand that may irk many traditional tech firms, as well as their investors.

Despite being both the largest and most well-known firm in The Valley, Thiel’s personal opinion is that Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 0.1376% isn’t much of an innovator these days: Just a few years ago, Apple’s stock was a bet on new technology — today, it’s a bet against it (at least according to Thiel).

In a recent phone interview, Thiel told me why he doesn’t consider firms like Apple, and most of the members of the Nasdaq 100, to be technology companies, and what that might mean for their investors.

An odd transformation

Thiel has somewhat of a problem with the concept of a “tech firm” — or at least, what people generally define one to be. In Thiel’s mind, true technology companies are firms leveraged to innovation — to new business models designed to shake up the status quo. Plenty of firms begin their life as a tech company, but those that find success often become something quite different.

“A whole bunch of the Nasdaq 100 stocks are bets against innovation … it’s a long list. [There's] a very short list of companies where you’re actually betting on innovation … Most of [the members of the Nasdaq 100] just throw off huge cash flows, and the risk is actually that there’s some innovation ….These companies are always described as ‘tech stocks’ because they were tech stocks … at some point in the past, but [today] they’re bets against technology.”

Although most still consider Apple, Oracle, and Microsoft to be technology firms, few hold the same opinion of General Motors. Yet according to Thiel, it’s all relative — simply a matter of timing and perspective.

“GM was a tech stock in the 1920s — it was still sort of a tech stock in the 1950s. [But] by the 1980s, you invested in GM as a bet against German and Japanese innovation. You said, ‘I’m long GM because Germany and Japan are never going to build cars that are that good.’ At some point, a lot of these tech stocks become weirdly changed to being bets against technology … [Of course] the companies can never say that, because their internal narrative and their external story is [based] so much around how they were historically innovative.”

Know what you’re buying

Admittedly, General Motor’s transformation from technology firm to incumbent took decades, but Thiel believes the shift is often far more straight-forward: Simply look for the founder to depart. With Apple, the change occurred just over three years ago, with the passing of Steve Jobs that thrust Tim Cook into the spotlight.

Thiel is a fan of Cook’s management skills (“I think Tim Cook has done a very good job in an impossible position to try to fill Steve Jobs’ shoes,” he told me) but believes the Apple story is fundamentally different with him at the helm: Once, people bought stock in Apple because it was creating revolutionary new products — today, it’s all about the cash flow.

“No one is investing in Apple because they think it will create new products. People are investing in Apple because it’s generating massive cash flows, and the bet is that the cash flows will go on [for] somewhat longer than people think … that the rest of the world will not innovate; will not succeed in closing the gap.”

While plenty of investors may disagree with Thiel (the new Apple Watch, for one, gives investors something to look forward to) it’s indisputable that Apple is generating billions of dollars of cash, largely on the back of one product: the iPhone. Apple generated $10.3 billion in cash flow alone last quarter — enough to acquire many members of the S&P 500 outright. The iPhone brings in more than half of Apple’s revenue, and likely the bulk of its profits.

Not a bad investment

But even if Apple’s best work is behind it, it doesn’t make it a bad investment. In fact, Thiel believes Apple could be an excellent stock — so long as the iPhone cash-cow continues to deliver.

“Apple [will keep] generating massive cash flows so long as nothing much changes — as long as it maintains a certain brand lead, a certain premium on the iPhone. [If so,] it will generate huge cash flows [for many years] … the risk is that other people will catch up.”

That risk could come from rival handsets. Competitors like Xiaomi and OnePlus have attracted a fair amount of attention recently for their quality handsets, which they sell at a fraction of what Apple charges for the iPhone. Or it could come from advanced wearables — watches and other gadgets designed to replace the traditional smartphone. It may come from a radical reinvention of the handset — something like Project Ara, that shakes the current smartphone business model to its core.

Of course, it may not come at all — or if it does come, not for many, many years. In which case, the cash flows should continue, and Apple should reward its shareholders.

“Maybe there’s not much innovation happening. Maybe people overestimate innovation … but I think it is very helpful to try to get the framing right and understand, ‘OK, I’m betting against technology here.’”

TIME Innovation

This $150 Device Just Made It Ridiculously Cheap to Crack Open a Safe

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Combination lock Getty Images

The contraption fastens to a dial commonly used to lock ATMs and guesses the combination through trial and error

A pair of Australian-based security experts have developed a $150 safe-cracking device, making a technology normally reserved for defense department budgets accessible to anyone who can afford a smartphone.

The contraption, which was fashioned out of repurposed electronics and 3D-printed components, fastens onto a safe and spins the dial through a series of combinations, gradually cracking the code through trial and error, the Register reports.

Its inventors, Jay Davis and Luke Janke, say it typically takes four days to pop a standard 2-combination lock which is commonly used to secure ATMs, but they suspect that time could be shaved down to a matter of minutes by simply spinning a few of the default codes set by the lock’s manufacturer. Turns out a startling number of customers don’t bother to reset the code to something more personal and secure.

Another tweak would give the device some longer term memory to track untested combinations, “so if you get busted you can run away and come back and try later on,” Davis told the Register, “not that we condone that.”

[Register]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 14

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Fix the system, don’t fight individual diseases: Why Ebola may change how aid dollars are spent on healthcare in Africa.

By Lesley Wroughton at Reuters

2. Plan for a global body to regulate the great promise of genetics — balancing unfettered innovation with sensible rules to prevent abuse.

By Jamie F. Metzl in Foreign Affairs

3. Because it increases disease and exacerbates resource scarcity, the Pentagon sees climate change as a threat multiplier.

By Laura Barron-Lopez in the Hill

4. The U.S. should call out Egypt’s rising authoritarian leadership and the plight of repressed people there.

By the Editorial Board of the Washington Post

5. Successful community collaborations build civic confidence for increasingly audacious projects that can improve lives.

By Monique Miles in the Collective Impact Forum blog

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Check Out These Army Figurines in Yoga Poses

Let G.I. Joe help you find your inner Zen

lost-at-e-minor_logo

This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

Apparently, soldiers of war are now finding peace – not with guns, but with yoga poses! ‘Yoga Joes’ is an action figure concept by San Francisco-based Dan Abramson, in which he takes the classic green army men and makes them do yoga poses.

“I made Yoga Joes in the spirit of getting more people to try yoga. More unexpected folks are reaping the benefits of yoga today, from professional athletes, to children, to military men and women returning from wartime,” says Abramson. “I’m hoping people pass Yoga Joes around as an inexpensive gift to friends and loved ones, who might like to give yoga a shot.”

Some of the yoga poses included in the toy collection are Downward-facing Dog, Warrior Two, Cobra Pose, Child’s Pose, Meditation Pose, and Tree Pose. You can find out more about the Kickstarter project here.

(via Design Taxi)

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