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llustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
China is criticized for its use of deeply controversial surveillance systems to control untrusted elements of its population. But the U.S., too, is developing such know-how as artificial intelligence fast becomes a leading factor in the race for power in the new world order.
The big picture: Lisa-Maria Neudert, a researcher with Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project, says researchers are working on powerful AI technologies with enormous potential for good. But the technology also can have malicious uses — facial recognition employed for police purposes at a football stadium can also be used to repress the Uighur people of western China.
"When these technologies become weaponized, they can be used for surveillance, manipulation and self-generating propaganda," Neudert tells Axios.
"The idea that governments in Western nations will not want to get in on such a potent tool is ahistorical. If you build it, the powerful will want to use it."— Zeynep Tufekci
Over the last few days, a number of long articles have described the role of AI in a lurch to a new techno-authoritarianism.
As we have previously reported, the world appears to be dividing into new zones of technological and geopolitical power resembling the Cold War. Facial recognition and other AI-infused systems are fundamental to the trend.
Amazon Fresh, ready for delivery. Photo: Monika Skolimowska/Getty
Every big grocer in America has spent the last year assuring shoppers and investors that it is not falling behind when it comes to grocery delivery.
Erica writes: But experts watching food retail tell Axios that they have yet to see a clear demand signal for food delivery. Retailers may be running at this logistically difficult, extremely low-margin service for relatively little return.
Some analysts in fact predict explosive growth in delivery. UBS projects it'll jump from a $35 billion industry to $365 billion in the next 10 years. But despite such bullishness — venture capitalists invested $3.5 billion in food delivery companies last year — the delivery market is still just 1% of total food retail, according to McKinsey.
"No one really knows what the demand for food delivery is, and we don't know how much it'll cost. We're flying blind in the dark."— Charlie O'Shea, lead retail analyst, Moody's
The reason grocers are obsessing over food delivery is the looming threat of Amazon, but now the e-commerce giant itself is seemingly doubling down on physical stores.
While Amazon charges ahead on brick and mortar retail, the other big grocers are struggling with the logistics of delivery.
Following the 1929 crash. Photo: Bettmann/Getty
We received several letters responding to yesterday's top story, "The global push to reinvent GDP." Here are two, lightly edited for space:
"The need for the American government to improve its understanding of what was going on within its borders was underscored by the Great Depression. It wiped out billions of dollars in paper assets and threw millions of Americans out of work in a panic in which nearly half the nation’s banks failed. In response, Hoover appointed The President’s Research Committee on Social Trends and charged it with examining American life.
The committee called for an array of 32 statistical series exploring everything from education to women, work, the family, and crime and punishment. A second group appointed to examine the economic effects of the space program in the 1960s called for the development of social indicators and recommended ongoing attention to producing systemic social accounts and improved statistical information.
All of this work languished during the Nixon administration and was buried when President Reagan took office. Still, these seminal efforts took root in Europe, where several nations, including Great Britain, provide periodic reports on social indicators.
My point is that the social indicators movement is much older than commonly understood. Simply improving the methodology under-girding measurement of GDP does little or nothing to improve the development of broader statistical series. These should go beyond measuring the scale and scope of the economy to actually examine and make some judgments on the quality of life of the people the economy is supposed to be supporting."— Jim Harvey, Seattle
"Is a Manhattan Big Mac really worth 27% more than a Phoenix Big Mac, or does that just reflect the inefficiencies of the place? I suspect a Big Mac is a Big Mac. [There are] all kinds of tangible distortions before you worry about the intangibles."— Jeff Porter, Phoenix
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
The economist with the gecko earring (The Economist)
Whither trade? Economists are all over the place (Dion Rabouin — Axios)
Authoritarian voters (Yascha Mounk — Slate podcast) (h/t Azeem Azhar)
Ten big global challenges to solve (MIT Tech Review)
Remembering Alan Krueger (Ben Casselman, Jim Tankersley — NYT)
Simon Rattle conducts the London Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Robbie Jack/Corbis/Getty
Hello and welcome to the nerdiest 1 fun thing ever. Today, we listen as Alan Smith, data visualization editor for the Financial Times, makes music — with U.S. treasury bond yield curves. These are charts that show short-, medium- and long-term interest rates on treasury bonds.
Kaveh writes: It's not just a sonic experiment — it's a new way to absorb data that can be difficult to visualize over time. Something to jam out to next time you're pondering the long-term health of the U.S. economy.