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Is Data The Key To The 21st Century?

Is Data The Key To The 21st Century?

Last week at Davos, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian PM Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, and billionaire philanthropist George Soros all more or less agreed on one thing: whoever establishes control over data and information will win the 21st century contest for power. How, and why?


Well, as you ponder what could be done with the millions of bits of data that you are already emitting about where and what you are doing/buying/eating/reading/hearing/wearing/exercising — here are a few things to consider, from yours truly and Signal’s tech guru Kevin Allison:

Influence and Control: The proliferation of social media platforms and gargantuan troves of personal data make it possible for governments and companies to target people ever more effectively with information — real or fake — that is designed to influence their perceptions about the world around them. At the same time, this data provides huge new opportunities for governments (or companies, again) to track and surveil people.

War and conflict: “Acts of war” will increasingly involve cyber-invasions of the platforms where sensitive data is stored, transmitted, or used to operate our critical infrastructure. There are few international rules on limits or accountability for this kind of conflict, at a time when hackers (state and non-state) are getting more sophisticated and sensitive data looks increasingly vulnerable. Of course, it’s not always so complicated: here’s a recent storyabout US troops giving away secret positions by using a popular exercise app. Back in the old days we needed Geraldo for that.

People and Robots: One of the main applications for all this data is to feed the algorithms that underlie automation technologies, which will have their own disruptive effects as people are put out of work by robots and computer programs. The countries that have strong education systems (to prepare people to take new jobs) and supple social safety nets (to care for those who cannot) will have the best chance of prospering economically and holding together politically.

So who will win this race for dominance? Will it be companies or governments? We’ll address the strategies and approaches of the three main players — China, Europe, and the US — in next week’s Signal…

The role of the public library has evolved over time. As we move online at an even faster rate, knowledge, entertainment and opportunities for education and employment are found on the internet. Those living in well-connected, affluent places may have come to take internet access for granted. But there is a digital divide in the U.S. that has left people at a disadvantage – particularly since the arrival of COVID-19.

Finding ways to overcome that divide in a sustainable, community-led way could help bring the benefits of the internet to those who need it most. One solution is to use technologies such as TV white space to facilitate wireless broadband – as Microsoft's Airband Initiative is doing. To read more about Microsoft's work with public libraries, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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"The 'American exceptionalism' that I grew up with, the 'American exceptionalism' of the Cold War…I do think has outlived its usefulness." Those words coming from Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former top State Department official under President Obama, indicate how much the world has changed in the past few decades. Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: How a "President Biden" could reshape US foreign policy

Less than a week out from Election Day, 66 million Americans have already cast their ballots, and many of those are people who are voting "early" for the first time because of the pandemic. In fact, the early vote total alone this year is already equal to nearly half of all ballots cast in the 2016 general election, suggesting that 2020 turnout could reach historic levels. Most important, however, is how things are playing out in key battleground states where the outcome of the US election will be determined. In Texas, for instance, a huge surge in early voting by Democrats this year has raised the possibility that a state which has been won by Republican candidates since 1976 could now be up for grabs. Here we take a look at early voting in battleground states in 2020 as compared to 2016.

In a national referendum on Sunday, Chileans overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new constitution. But, why are people in this oasis of political stability and steady economic growth in South America willing to undo the bedrock of the system that has allowed Chile to prosper for so long?

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