TIME Internet

The Internet As a Human Right

An audacious idea whose time has come

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Kosta Grammatis likes to think big.

In 2011, around the time of the Arab Spring, Grammatis grew frustrated at the ways governments can pull the plug on people’s Internet access as a form of social and political control. He wanted to figure out how to circumvent political and physical obstacles and bring digital media to anywhere it was otherwise unavailable. He and some colleagues set out to buy a satellite from a bankrupt company and use it to beam connectivity to places like Tunisia. That plan turned out to be harder to realize than to it was to imagine.

But Grammatis, a web evangelist, is a true believer in the good things that can happen in a more interconnected world. He recalibrated his thinking to rely less on expensive orbital technology and more on working with established communications and financial institutions.

But the idea remains big. His new startup, Oluvus — i.e., “all of us” — remains focused on wiring the entire planet and bringing free Internet to the five billion people who do not have access.

In the video above, Grammatis tells the story of how he got where he is now and why this time, the odds of success look good.

 

TIME Innovation

Ready or Not, Driverless Cars Are Coming

There may be an autobot in your driveway sooner than you think

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Predictions about a future in which cars that will fly, float or drive themselves have been staples of everything from science fiction to pop culture to corporate PR for decades. But now it looks like driverless cars, at least, may finally be hitting the road in short order.

Google announced as early as 2010 that it logged more than 140,000 miles in a self-driving car as part of a secret project. “While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future thanks to advanced computer science,” said Sebastian Thrun, a Google Fellow working on the company’s self-driving cars. “And that future is very exciting.”

Since then, Google and auto manufacturers have made great strides in refining and testing driverless technology by integrating semi-autonomous features into cars already on the market and building legal and public acceptance of the concept. But as the technology develops, questions have been raised about what it would mean if autonomous vehicles start hitting the roads in larger numbers. How do “robot cars” determine the best ways to react to an impending collision? How will human drivers and robots interact when they have to share the road? It won’t be long until we begin finding answers to these questions and others.

TIME Surveillance

The New Cop on the Beat May Be a Bot

Knightscope K5 promises enhanced policing capabilities, courts controversy

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Have we as a species learned nothing from Robocop?

A Silicon Valley company called Knightscope is currently testing a prototype robot designed to detect and monitor criminal activity, much the way a police officer or a security guard would.

The Knightscope K5 is a five-foot-tall autonomous robot (one presumes that its resemblance to a Dalek is merely coincidental) that roams around your neighborhood, observing and gathering data and trying to predict where and when criminal activity will occur.

It carries no weaponry, but it has a pretty complete sensor package that includes thermal imaging, license plate reading and facial recognition.

This takes public surveillance a step beyond stationary cameras, and the challenges to personal privacy are clear. The K5 could do a whole lot of good by deterring crime, especially in neighborhoods that lack the resources to field an adequate police presence.

But where do you draw the line?

TIME social good

Watch: How Haute Couture Can Use the Marketplace for Social Good

Combining a social agenda with good business produces beautiful results

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What happens when a social activist and a fashion-industry executive put their heads together in order to create social good? Maiyet, a New York-based luxury fashion brand working with local artisans in the developing world, aims to find out.

Co-founder Paul van Zyl, who came of age during the fight against apartheid in South Africa, believes the firm’s mission is to make sure that “people at the bottom of the pyramid can lead dignified lives.”

His business partner, Kristy Caylor, a career fashion executive, is troubled by the fact that consumers can buy a “one dollar t-shirt that was made half way across the globe and assume that people’s human rights have been respected and that people are being paid properly.”

Rather than rail against injustice, however, the pair set out to change the conversation among the people at the top of the industry by finding people with world-class skills in local markets without access to design direction or infrastructure and work with them to build a brand that give expression to their “raw talent” while at the same time succeeds commercially.

Judging from the response they got at Paris Fashion Week last month, they are off to a good start.

TIME Comedy

Make Fun Of Everything

Comedy duo Key and Peele
Chris Buck for TIME

When did America get so politically correct? It’s when we refuse to mock a group that we truly act like bullies

Would you make fun of a burn victim? Well, we did. Sort of …

We’re comics. In the most recent season of our TV show, in a sketch titled “Insult Comic,” a traditional stand-up comedian professes that he is “going to get everybody” in his set (the guy toward the front with big ears, the fat guy, the woman with comically large breasts). That’s the phrase, isn’t it, when a critic wants to praise a comedian for the fearless nature of his or her comedy? That he or she “gets everybody”? That “nobody is safe”? One of the club patrons in our sketch, however, is a wheelchair-bound burn victim. “You skipped me,” he calls from the audience, with a robotic-sounding artificial larynx. “Go for it,” he says, “I can take it.”

But can we, as a society, take it anymore?

Today it seems that we live in a world of extremes. On one end of the spectrum, we have anonymous Internet trolls looking for opportunities to dole out cruelty with impunity. But in mainstream culture, it often seems we’re drowning in a sea of political correctness that lapped up on our shores a couple of decades ago and has yet to recede.

It’s amazing to think how popular television shows like All in the Family and Good Times might fare today in a Hollywood pitch meeting. Films like Blazing Saddles and Silver Streak wouldn’t make it past the development stage at a studio. Too edgy.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve forgotten the true purpose of humor: to help people cope with the fears and horrors of the world.

Sure, sometimes at Key & Peele, we swim in the shallow waters of pratfalls, airplane observations and simple old-school punnery. But what we strive for–and what we think more people should strive for–is deeper: to make fun of everything.

It can be scary. We don’t want to lose our audience. Can we make them laugh at a sketch about slavery? Terrorism? The Holocaust?

At the same time, though, it’s our duty. To not make fun of something is, we believe, itself a form of bullying. When a humorist makes the conscious decision to exclude a group from derision, isn’t he or she implying that the members of that group are not capable of self-reflection? Or don’t possess the mental faculties to recognize the nuances of satire? A group that’s excluded never gets the opportunity to join in the greater human conversation.

Luckily, a lot of people get this–at least when it comes to their own cultures. Like the burn victim in our sketch, they plead, “You skipped me! Do me!”

There was the half-Hispanic, half–Native American man who told Keegan recently just how much gold there was to be mined from his hybrid culture. A young Arab man told us how much he loves Karim and Jahar (a couple of sexually repressed Arab characters we play). “You gotta do more of them!” he begged. Gay and lesbian couples tell us to “keep going … There’s plenty to make fun of … Trust us!”

Where a lot of people get nervous, however, is when it comes to laughing at other people’s culture or perceived weaknesses. That’s when we worry that we’re being insensitive–that we’re being mean.

But ask yourself again what’s worse: making fun of people or assuming that they’re too weak to take it?

The white whale of comedy is still out there. The day we can make fun of a black lesbian dwarf with Down syndrome who’s in a wheelchair, and someone who isn’t a black lesbian dwarf with Down syndrome is able to laugh–instead of trying to protect the dwarf’s feelings–we can pack up our artificial larynxes and retire.

Key and Peele are the creators of their namesake television sketch-comedy show on Comedy Central

TIME Education

Put the Sex Back in Sex Ed

Grant Cornett for TIME

When public schools refuse to acknowledge gender differences, we betray boys and girls alike

Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education. Sobering facts about women’s declining fertility after their 20s are being withheld from ambitious young women, who are propelled along a career track devised for men.

The refusal by public schools’ sex-education programs to acknowledge gender differences is betraying both boys and girls. The genders should be separated for sex counseling. It is absurd to avoid the harsh reality that boys have less to lose from casual serial sex than do girls, who risk pregnancy and whose future fertility can be compromised by disease. Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity.

Above all, girls need life-planning advice. Too often, sex education defines pregnancy as a pathology, for which the cure is abortion. Adolescent girls must think deeply about their ultimate aims and desires. If they want both children and a career, they should decide whether to have children early or late. There are pros, cons and trade-offs for each choice.

Unfortunately, sex education in the U.S. is a crazy quilt of haphazard programs. A national conversation is urgently needed for curricular standardization and public transparency. The present system is too vulnerable to political pressures from both the left and the right–and students are trapped in the middle.

Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education but leave instructional decisions to school districts. Sex-ed teachers range from certified health educators to volunteers and teenage “peer educators” with minimal training. That some instructors may import their own sexually permissive biases is evident from the sporadic scandals about inappropriate use of pornographic materials or websites.

The modern campaign for sex education began in 1912 with a proposal by the National Education Association for classes in “sexual hygiene” to control sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis. During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called for sex education starting in third grade. In the 1990s, sex educators turned their focus to teenage pregnancy in inner-city communities.

Sex education has triggered recurrent controversy, partly because it is seen by religious conservatives as an instrument of secular cultural imperialism, undermining moral values. It’s time for liberals to admit that there is some truth to this and that public schools should not promulgate any ideology. The liberal response to conservatives’ demand for abstinence-only sex education has been to condemn the imposition of “fear and shame” on young people. But perhaps a bit more self-preserving fear and shame might be helpful in today’s hedonistic, media-saturated environment.

My generation of baby-boom girls boldly rebelled against the cult of virginity of the Doris Day 1950s, but we left chaos in our wake. Young people are now bombarded prematurely with sexual images and messages. Adolescent girls, routinely dressing in seductive ways, are ill-prepared to negotiate the sexual attention they attract. Sex education has become incoherent because of its own sprawling agenda. It should be broken into component parts, whose professionalism could be better ensured.

First, anatomy and reproductive biology belong in general biology courses taught in middle school by qualified science teachers. Every aspect of physiology, from puberty to menopause, should be covered. Students deserve a cool, clear, objective voice about the body, rather than the smarmy, feel-good chatter that now infests sex-ed workbooks.

Second, certified health educators, who advise children about washing their hands to avoid colds, should discuss sexually transmitted diseases at the middle-school or early-high-school level. But while information about condoms must be provided, it is not the place of public schools to distribute condoms, as is currently done in the Boston, New York and Los Angeles school districts. Condom distribution should be left to hospitals, clinics and social-service agencies.

Similarly, public schools have no business listing the varieties of sexual gratification, from masturbation to oral and anal sex, although health educators should nonjudgmentally answer student questions about the health implications of such practices. The issue of homosexuality is a charged one. In my view, antibullying campaigns, however laudable, should not stray into political endorsement of homosexuality or gay rights causes. While students must be free to create gay-identified groups, the schools themselves should remain neutral and allow society to evolve on its own.

Paglia is the author of Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars

TIME Environment

Sweep Our Dirty Rivers Clean

Polluted waters
Illustration by James Dyson for TIME

This concept for a barge that scoops up debris could keep pollution from reaching the oceans

The amount of plastic debris in the oceans has grown a hundredfold in the past 40 years. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade but instead floats in giant, immeasurable patches for birds and sea life to ingest. Take the Eastern Garbage Patch, for instance, a large gyre of marine debris located near the Midway Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Albatrosses in the area give birth to 500,000 chicks every year, and nearly half of them die–many of them after consuming plastic fed to them by their parents, who think it’s food.

The concept I propose, the M.V. Recyclone, would combat this ever growing problem of plastic waste making its way to our oceans by filtering out debris from the rubbish-stricken rivers that feed into them. By focusing on the polluted rivers, the M.V. Recyclone could tackle a concentrated stream of plastic, catching it before it spreads.

Dyson is the founder and chief engineer of Dyson Ltd.

TIME

Watch: How Scientists Plan To Bring Extinct Species Back To Life

Resurrecting long-dead species of animals, or 'de-extinction', will not be a fantasy for much longer. But how is it possible?

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Conservationists and scientists have a saying, “extinction is forever.” But soon biologists will be able to clone long-gone animals, in the hopes of redefining that axiom to “DE-extinction is forever.”

TIME talked with Stewart Brand, president of Revive & Restore, about the technology that may soon allow scientists to bring back extinct species using the DNA found in museum fossils.

In the video above, researchers discuss the process of bringing extinct species like the passenger pigeons back to life.

TIME wall street

Diversify Corporate America

Sallie Krawcheck
Javier Sirvent for TIME

I wouldn’t have thought my gender affected the decisions I made on Wall Street—until I got fired

Capitalism is the most successful economic system in history. But sometimes it breaks. So too do the big banks, the most highly distilled form and symbol of capitalism. And never more so than in the crash of 2008.

The culprit in that crash has broadly been identified as greed, and the solutions have focused on additional regulation of Wall Street. But there have been few proposed solutions to one of the most important, and mostly unexamined, causes of the downturn: groupthink.

I saw groupthink in action during my time on Wall Street. One sees hints of it in research showing that subprime bankers had worse personal real estate performance than the average American. And I lived it when I was fired from my position running Smith Barney at Citi after advocating partly reimbursing clients for losses on (unintentionally) high-risk products we sold them. I was told to “get back in line” and was later relieved of my duties.

When people ask me if I was fired because I am a woman, my prior answer of “Absolutely not” has now become “Well … not exactly” as I’ve reviewed the research on gender differences in the workplace.

While I did not necessarily take the positions I did because I’m a woman, research shows that compared with men, women are more risk-averse, take a longer-term perspective and are more concerned about maintaining relationships. And thus in a climate like Wall Street’s, women are arguably more client-focused.

These differing perspectives are neither good nor bad in and of themselves, and they can be complementary and therefore can strengthen an institution. Studies have shown time and again that companies with diverse management teams outperform those with less diverse teams–and that diverse teams outperform even more “capable” (on paper) teams.

That makes sense to me. Earlier in my career, I worked at Sanford Bernstein, by far the most diverse company I’ve been at. We actively hired people with non–Ivy League, non–Wall Street backgrounds, including even a taxi driver. (And that’s not to mention a just-returning-to-the-workforce-after-maternity-leave mom like me.)

When I was director of research there in the late 1990s, we began pursuing a strategy very different from that of the rest of Wall Street, pulling ourselves out of the extraordinarily lucrative–but conflicted–business of stock underwriting. We energetically debated the trade-offs of this decision. Our business suffered greatly for a few years (even our clients questioned us), but when Eliot Spitzer revealed that research analysts had been misleading investors by publicly praising–but privately disparaging–stocks, our lonely choice was validated. There is no question in my mind that it was because we were a diverse group of individuals that we questioned the conventional wisdom.

But it’s not all about individual firms’ fates and fortunes. The entire economy can suffer when groupthink is allowed to run rampant, as it did in financial services–among bankers, regulators, rating agencies, boards, analysts and others.

When diversity is embraced, however, there can be a major economic upside. The economic engagement of women, in particular, is a driver of economic growth, which positively affects everyone. A 2012 Booz & Co. Goldman Sachs report estimated that fully engaging women in the economy would increase U.S. GDP by a whopping 8%. More women in the workforce begets more demand, more demand begets more jobs, more jobs begets more demand.

What’s more, diversity can drive second-order positive economic impacts. Recent research from the Center for Talent Innovation indicates that greater diversity can power greater innovation.

At the end of the day, though, diversifying the leadership of Wall Street and corporate America is a fairness issue. Companies with more-diverse leadership teams have lower gender-pay disparities throughout their workforce. And for the banks, the fairness imperative is even clearer: gains in good times accrue to shareholders and employees, who represent an increasingly nondiverse group, while the risk of extreme losses has been shouldered by taxpayers. Unfortunately, progress on diversity has stalled in corporate America and actually gone backward on Wall Street.

One can see the promise of a business world dominated by those who “think different.” Harnessing the messy clash of ideas inherent in diverse perspectives is the smart path forward to a more modern and sustainable form of capitalism.

Krawcheck is the head of 85 Broads, a global professional-women’s network

TIME Food

Cook with the Whole Farm

Health food
Grant Cornett for TIME

Our long-term health—and that of the land—requires a cuisine that transforms agriculture

Is farm-to-table cooking sustainable? The movement began as a reaction against our expectations for dinner: what I call the first plate, an enormous, protein-centric entrée (usually meat) with a smattering of vegetables. Farm to table, or second plate, champions sustainably raised meat and vegetables but relies on the same architecture. Both models leave farmers overproducing soil-depleting crops like tomatoes and raising animals like lambs to sell mostly just the chops. Our tastes have to change.

What we need is a new conception of food, a third plate–a different way of assembling a dish, writing a menu and sourcing ingredients. It combines tastes based not on convention but rather on the health of the environment that produces them. It encourages you to cook with the whole farm, recognizing that what we eat is part of an integrated system. It champions an entire class of crops (and cuts of meat) that have gone unrecognized or that by engaging modern plant breeders will require support in the future. It encourages the right kind of demand for what a farm can supply. And like all great cuisines, it forces us into a pattern of eating that adds rather than subtracts, replenishes rather than drains.

Barber is executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill restaurants and author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

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