Automation Is “About Doing More with the People We’ve Got”

(p. A1) Mr. Persson, 35, sits in front of four computer screens, one displaying the loader he steers as it lifts freshly blasted rock containing silver, zinc and lead. If he were down in the mine shaft operating the loader manually, he would be inhaling dust and exhaust fumes. Instead, he reclines in an office chair while using a joystick to control the machine.
He is cognizant that robots are evolving by the day. Boliden is testing self-driving vehicles to replace truck drivers. But Mr. Persson assumes people will always be needed to keep the machines running. He has faith in the Swedish economic model and its protections against the torment of joblessness.
“I’m not really worried,” he says. “There are so many jobs in this mine that even if this job disappears, they will have another one. The company will take care of us.”
. . .
(p. A8) The Garpenberg mine has been in operation more or less since 1257. More than a decade ago, Boliden teamed up with Ericsson, the Swedish telecommunications company, to put in wireless internet. That has allowed miners to talk to one another to fix problems as they emerge. Miners now carry tablet computers that allow them to keep tabs on production all along the 60 miles of roads running through the mine.
“For us, automation is something good,” says Fredrik Hases, 41, who heads the local union chapter representing technicians. “No one feels like they are taking jobs away. It’s about doing more with the people we’ve got.”

For the full story, see:
PETER S. GOODMAN. “Sweden Adds Human Touch to a Robotic Future.” The New York Times (Thurs., December 28, 2017): A1 & A8.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 27, 2017, and has the title “The Robots Are Coming, and Sweden Is Fine.”)

Britain’s Peaceful Ceding of Global Dominance Was a “Shining Exception”

(p. A13) At Harvard, the scholar Graham Allison, with a research team, has studied the historical precedents for power transitions, and his findings are not encouraging. In almost every case, he discovered, conflict was the result. The perennial danger, he explained in “Destined for War,” published earlier this year, is that the weakening greater power will force a confrontation with its growing rival in order to stem its own decline, as Athens did with Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. The results can be disastrous, as they were for Athens.
The shining exception to the pattern is the peaceful shift in global dominance between 1870 and 1945. Kori Schake, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, tackles this subject in “Safe Passage: The Transition From British to American Hegemony,” a remarkable and timely chronicle–living history of the best sort.
. . .
In the 1840s, the two powers clashed over the Oregon Territory. Britain, though stronger militarily, accepted a compromise that endures to this day in the U.S.-Canadian border along the 49th parallel. Then, during the Civil War, London resisted the temptation to halt the rise of a competitor-power by supporting the Confederacy–say, by breaking the Union blockade. Britain’s reasoning, in this case, rested on the self-interested desire to maintain the integrity of the blockade weapon for its own use and, in part, on a growing abhorrence of slavery.
As a result of such decisions, a peaceful transition–a “safe passage”–became possible. Its core logic, in Ms. Schake’s view, was a mutuality of ideological and geopolitical interests, a realistic grasp of shifting military and economic power, and a kind of political cross-pollination: The United States, to paraphrase Ms. Schake’s formulation, became more imperial as Britain became more democratic.

For the full review, see:
Brendan Simms. “BOOKSHELF; Make Way for the New Boss; The world’s dominant nation, as it weakens, often goes to war with its growing rival. In the 19th century, power transferred peaceably. Why?” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017): A13.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 26, 2017, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Review: The ‘Safe Passage’ From British to American Hegemony; The world’s dominant nation, as it weakens, often goes to war with its growing rival. In the 19th century, power transferred peaceably. Why?”)

The book under review, is:
Schake, Kori. Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017.

Is a Michelin Star the Best Metric of Good Food?

(p. A4) MONTCEAU-LES-MINES, France — It is like giving up your Nobel, rejecting your Oscar, pushing back on your Pulitzer: Jérôme Brochot, a renowned and refined chef, decided to turn in his Michelin star.
He is renouncing the uniquely French distinction that separates his restaurant from thousands of others, the lifetime dream of hundreds. But Mr. Brochot’s decision was not a rash one, born of arrogance, ingratitude or spite. Rather, it was for a prosaic, but still important, reason: he could no longer afford it.
. . .
Even in a region famed for its culinary traditions, this declining old mining town deep in lower Burgundy could not sustain a one-star Michelin restaurant. Mr. Brochot, a youthful-looking 46, had gambled on high-end cuisine in a working-class town and lost.
. . .
Already Mr. Brochot’s strategy appears to be working. He has cut his prices and is offering a more down-to-earth cuisine of stews, including the classic blanquette de veau, and serving cod instead of the more expensive sea bass.
It had depressed him deeply, he said, to have to throw away costly bass and turbot, like gold even in France’s street markets, at the end of every sitting because his customers couldn’t afford it. “There was a lot of waste,” he said.
“Since we changed the formula, we’ve gotten a lot more people,” Mr. Brochot said. Above all, the effect has been psychological. “In the heads of people, a one-star, it’s the price,” he said.
On a recent Friday afternoon, most of the tables had diners, including Didier Mathus, the longtime former mayor, a Socialist.
. . .
“Maybe the star scared people,” Mr. Mathus said. “I understand. He’s saying, ‘Don’t be scared to come here.’ Here, it’s simple people, with modest incomes.”

For the full story, see:
ADAM NOSSITER. “Rejected Honor Reflects Hardships of ‘the Other France’.” The New York Times (Thurs., December 28, 2017): A4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 27, 2017, and has the title “Chef Gives Up a Star, Reflecting Hardship of ‘the Other France’.”)

“New Jerseyans Are More Flammable than People in the Other 49 States”

(p. A17) At 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, New Jersey became the last state in the nation where drivers are not allowed to pump their own gasoline around the clock.
. . .
It is a distinction that makes Declan J. O’Scanlon Jr., a state lawmaker, spout frustration by the gallon.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Mr. O’Scanlon, a Republican assemblyman from Monmouth County who will soon take a seat in the State Senate. “If I want to pull in, get in and out quickly, I should be able to do so.”
Mr. O’Scanlon said that he frequently pumps his own gas, ignoring the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act of 1949, the statute that first forbade civilians from putting their grubby hands on the nozzle.
. . .
New Jersey legislators cited safety concerns when they passed the original law that barred residents from pumping gas almost 70 years ago. But when gas station owners challenged the ban in 1951, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that self-serve was indeed “dangerous in use.” And the ban held up, despite attempts to fight it in the 1980s.
In the rest of the country, self-service stations became the norm. Safer unleaded gasoline became more common, thanks to federal regulations, as did pumps that accepted credit cards. In most of the United States, that spelled the end of an era when attendants offered to wipe your windshield and check your oil while the tank filled up and you fumbled for a tip.
Mr. O’Scanlon is undeterred by the dual weights of history and public opinion. He said that he may bring a new proposal this year, just to keep the conversation alive. He said that economic arguments about jobs and safety are absurd, given that drivers in other states have been pumping their own gas for decades and lived to tell the tale.
“The only thing you could argue is that New Jerseyans are more flammable than people in the other 49 states,” he said. “Because we eat so much oily pizza, funnel cake and fries, maybe you could make that argument. Otherwise, it’s simply ridiculous.”

For the full story, see:
JONAH ENGEL BROMWICH. “New Jersey Is Last State to Insist at Gas Stations: Don’t Touch That Pump.” The New York Times (Sat., JAN. 6, 2018): A17.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 5, 2018.)

Health Info from Apple Watches Will Allow Patients to “Take More Control”

(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO — In the last months of Steve Jobs’s life, the Apple co-founder fought cancer while managing diabetes.
Because he hated pricking his finger to draw blood, Mr. Jobs authorized an Apple research team to develop a noninvasive glucose reader with technology that could potentially be incorporated into a wristwatch, according to people familiar with the events, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the company.
. . .
In September [2017], Apple announced that the Apple Watch would no longer need to be tethered to a smartphone and would become more of a stand-alone device. Since then, a wave of device manufacturers have tapped into the watch’s new features like cellular connectivity to develop medical accessories — such as an electrocardiogram for monitoring heart activity — so people can manage chronic conditions straight from their wrist.
. . .
(p. B4) A digital health revolution has been predicted for years, of course, and so far has been more hype than progress. But the hope is that artificial intelligence systems will sift through the vast amounts of data that medical accessories will collect from the Apple Watch and find patterns that can lead to changes in treatment and detection, enabling people to take more control of how they manage their conditions instead of relying solely on doctors.
Vic Gundotra, chief executive of AliveCor, a start-up that makes portable electrocardiograms, said this would put patients on a more equal footing with doctors because they would have more information on their own conditions.
“It’s changing the nature of the relationship between patient and doctor,” he said, adding that doctors will no longer be “high priests.”
. . .
Apple is also looking at potentially building an electrocardiogram into future models of the Apple Watch, according to a person familiar with the project, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details were confidential. It is unclear whether the EKG development, earlier reported by Bloomberg, would be introduced; such a product would most likely require F.D.A. clearance.
Separately, Apple is continuing research on a noninvasive continuous glucose reader, according to two people with knowledge of the project. The technology is still considered to be years away, industry experts said.
The current solution used by many diabetics is also coming to the Apple Watch. Dexcom, a maker of devices measuring blood sugar levels for diabetics, said it was awaiting F.D.A. approval for a continuous glucose monitor to work directly with the Apple Watch. Continuous glucose monitors use small sensors to pierce the skin to track blood sugar levels and relay those readings through a wireless transmitter.

For the full story, see:
DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI. “As Wearable Devices Evolve, The Apple Watch Offers an EKG.” The New York Times (Weds., December 27, 2017): B1 & B4.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 26, 2017, and has the title “Freed From the iPhone, the Apple Watch Finds a Medical Purpose.”)

“Eat Meat, Not Animals”

(p. 18) Run through anyone’s list of “disruptive” innovations in the works today and they begin to seem like small-time stuff as we contemplate “Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World.” Driverless cars, virtual reality, robots–these are interesting possibilities. But slaughter-free flesh for humanity, meat without misery, dinner without death: Now we’re talking “transformational.”
Who would not wish–all the more so if it meant giving up nothing–to make the abattoirs of the world fall silent? Suppose, as Paul Shapiro asks us to imagine, that after 10,000 or so years of raising other creatures for the killing, and some 60 years of raising them in the pitiless conditions of factory farms, we produced meat and other animal products from cultured cells, with no further need of the animals themselves, or at least no need that required their suffering.
. . .
To assume that the entrepreneurs and scientists described in “Clean Meat” cannot one day match precisely the beef, pork, chicken, duck and all the rest that carnivores demand is a bet against human ingenuity. Consider how close plant-based alternatives to meat, milk and eggs have come already. Not for nothing has Tyson Foods acquired a 5% stake in the startup Beyond Meat, through a venture fund focused, as Tyson announced, on “breakthrough technologies,” including clean meat.
“Eat Meat, Not Animals”–a slogan of the future, Mr. Shapiro hopes.

For the full review, see:
Matthew Scully. “Making Livestock Obsolete; Manufacturing meat without raising animals will soon shift from fantasy to reality. Early investors include Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Cargill Inc.–already the world’s largest supplier of ground beef.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018): 18.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan. 5, 2018, and has the title “Review: ‘Clean Meat’ Could Make Livestock Obsolete; Manufacturing meat without raising animals will soon shift from fantasy to reality. Early investors include Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Cargill Inc.–already the world’s largest supplier of ground beef.”)

The book under review, is:
Shapiro, Paul. Clean Meat: How Growing Meat without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World. New York: Gallery Books, 2018.

“Reject the Dark Side: Free the Net!”

(p. C5) HEALY Matt, what’s a culture/politics tidbit most people don’t know?
FLEGENHEIMER Washington’s most prolific consumer of pop culture is very likely … Ted Cruz. Amateur “S.N.L.” historian, ’80s movie buff and instigator of a Twitter feud with Mark Hamill over net neutrality. He explained the meaning of “Star Wars” to Luke Skywalker. It was very Cruz: @HammillHimself Luke, I know Hollywood can be confusing, but it was Vader who supported govt power over everything said & done on the Internet. That’s why giant corps (Google, Facebook, Netflix) supported the FCC power grab of net neutrality. Reject the dark side: Free the net! Ted Cruz 12:25 PM – Dec 17, 2017
ROGERS ’80s movie buff?
FLEGENHEIMER “The Princess Bride”! Life on the campaign trail with Ted Cruz was basically months of “Princess Bride” imitations with an occasional discussion of Obamacare.

For the full commentary, see:
MATT FLEGENHEIMER and KATIE ROGERS. “‘S.N.L.’ Kimmel. Covfefe.” The New York Times (Weds., December 27, 2017): C1 & C5.
(Note: ellipsis, bold and caps, in original.).
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 26, 2017, and has the title “Kimmel, Covfefe, ‘Wonder Woman’: Washington on Pop Culture in 2017.” The commentary/discussion is credited to Flegenheimer and Rogers, but Patrick Healy also participated. There are a few minor differences in how the print and online versions present the Cruz tweet. The quote above, follows the print version.)