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A primary complaint about the current U.S. economy has been the hollowing out of "middle-skill jobs" — the type of work that people with high school educations and substantial training could do and earn a "middle wage."
Confused? So were we.
What's happening: Since the early 1970s, the American middle class has shrunk to about half of all families, from about 60%, according to Pew, a trend that's taken on more importance since the financial crash, becoming a substantial feature of the nation's broad disaffection.
An example: In 1972, the average American union carpenter earned the current equivalent of $33.55 an hour — about $70,000 a year. Today, a carpenter earns $20.23 on average, about $42,000 annually, according to Indeed.
The background: In 1948, unionized auto industry workers achieved a major breakthrough — an agreement from the industry on a "basic wage." Over the subsequent decades, the symbol of the basic wage was $20 an hour, a threshold that spread, representing the bottom of the union wage ladder.
Today, economists and other experts typically call $15 an hour "middle wage;" the top of the middle-wage scale can be a little over $20. Since the financial crash a decade ago, some three-quarters of new jobs have paid around $15 or less an hour. As of 2015, 42% of all workers earned $15 or less per hour, according to the National Employment Law Project.
Go deeper: The problem with automation
Mapping buildings from satellite data. Image: Facebook
Using local census data and satellite imagery, Facebook says it has developed a high-definition map of every building in most of Africa, a first step in its plan to chart the entire world's population.
Kaveh writes: Detailed maps of where people live can help aid workers quickly respond to natural disasters or disease. They're also vital to Facebook's plans to distribute the internet around the world — and, by extension, get more people on the platform.
Details: "Crisis mapping," in which volunteers contribute to maps that relief organizations rely on, has become a popular way to help aid efforts after a disaster.
"Facebook’s project is an example of how we'll understand the planet far better with the right data," says Mark Johnson, CEO of Descartes Labs, a startup that uses satellite imagery to track natural resources.
How it works: To figure out where people actually live inside of often-enormous and largely empty census tracts, Facebook engineers started with an algorithm that chucked out every part of the map that clearly didn't have a building in it, based on satellite photos. Then, they used a second AI system to test the remaining 11.5 billion tiles — each covering an area of roughly 100 by 100 feet — for buildings.
Aid workers have used previous versions of Facebook's population maps to deliver electricity to rural Tanzania, or to visit 100,000 houses in Malawi in just three days to tell residents about measles and rubella vaccines.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
America is holding on to a narrow lead in a number of new technologies that will shape the future, but China is rapidly catching up.
Erica writes: Per a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, China is closing the gap — and even edging ahead — as an innovator.
The bottom line: The lead does appear to be slipping away as the pace of China's catch-up keeps accelerating. On R&D investment, "China could become #1 next year," Harvard professor Graham Allison tells Axios.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Microsoft research could be helping Chinese surveillance (Madhumita Murgia, Yuan Yang - FT)
Phone addicts are the new drunk drivers (Ina Fried - Axios)
Age of robot farmers (John Seabrook - New Yorker)
The secret trust scores companies use to judge us (Christopher Mims - WSJ)
Asia's worst aging fears are coming true (Mitsuru Obe - Nikkei Asian Review)
Photo: Kaveh Waddell/Axios
Kaveh found this car in a Stanford University parking lot this week.