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Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,224 words, ~5 minute read.
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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
U.S. politics have teed up twin reckonings — one a sudden threat against the gargantuan power accumulated by Big Tech, and the second a challenge to the decades-long rise of China.
The catch: If the U.S. is to capture the commanding heights of future, frontier technologies like AI and quantum computing — which is the aim of both the U.S. and China — it arguably needs Google, Facebook and other Big Tech companies to help pave the way.
This week has brought the twin issues to a head.
The big picture: Critics say Big Tech's concentration of market power threatens democracy and the integrity of U.S. and European society. And while detractors criticize Trump's style, his challenge to Beijing has been largely embraced by both political parties and most U.S. allies, themselves worried about a world dominated by authoritarian China.
That tech power and China have been thrown together is happenstance — criticism of Big Tech is not new, but the administration's decision to investigate it is. At least, it only became public about 10 days ago.
The way the conflict is playing out is that both countries are retreating in what experts call a "de-coupling." China, and not Trump, actually set the separation in motion, argues Richard McGregor, a senior fellow with the Lowy Institute, with its Made in China 2025 policy, announced in 2015. But now both countries appear to see the issue as zero-sum.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty
Next month, the San Francisco District Attorney's office will begin using a computer program developed at Stanford to strip police reports of names, neighborhoods and other proxies for race like eye color or hairstyles, Kaveh writes.
The effort is meant to remove bias. Prosecutors decide whether to charge suspects based on police reports and evidence — but they're liable to be swayed by their own biases, which could lead them to bring charges more often against people of color.
The big picture: The U.S. criminal justice system is chock-full of racial disparities. Our prisons are disproportionately black and Hispanic — the two groups make up 56% of incarcerated people, but only 28% of the U.S. adult population.
"We want to make sure that when we're charging somebody, race doesn't come into it," a spokesperson for the SFDA's office tells Axios. "If we're able to take implicit bias out of even 90% of these cases, that's a huge achievement."
How it works: The system replaces racial proxies with generic placeholders — Person 1, Officer 2, Neighborhood 3. The idea is that a prosecutor reading a sanitized report will focus on the narrative rather than being influenced by their own preconceptions.
What's next: Later this year, the Stanford team will take a bigger leap. It's working on a machine learning program that will flag cases that, based on the DA's history, are most likely to be discharged.
Landing in Hong Kong. Photo: Marcio Rodrigo Machado/S3studio/Getty
Among the signposts pointing at a potential coming recession are dipping global trade flows, Kaveh writes.
Trade volumes are flat or down across major economies the world over, according to a new market analysis from Reuters' John Kemp.
Why it matters, from Kemp: "Air freight is used only for the most valuable and time-sensitive merchandise but is generally a good leading indicator for the rest of the cargo sector and the broader economy."
The bottom line: The trade downturn shows no signs of slowing, Reuters reports, potentially helping to tip the global economy toward recession.
An artist's impression of a Jupiter twin orbiting a distant star. Image: ESO/L. Benassi
Doggy treats at Amazon. Photo: Erica Pandey/Axios
Every day, some 45,000 humans come to work at Amazon's Seattle headquarters. And every day, they bring with them about 7,000 dogs, Erica writes.
The big picture: Letting workers bring their pups to work is part of Amazon's peculiar culture.
I had a couple of questions about dogs at work:
What if I’m allergic to dogs? Employees who want to bring their furry friends to work clear it with their office mates first. And there are dog-free buildings.
Can I bring a cat? Or a pet turtle? Nope. Dogs only.