Should wealthy individuals and nations shoulder more of the burden in addressing climate change? Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert argues that Big Tech leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk should shift more of their focus to fighting for our own planet's survival, instead of space exploration. "We're doing as much as we can to make life difficult on planet Earth for ourselves. But there's virtually nothing we could do to make it as difficult as life on Mars, where there's, among other things, no oxygen." Kolbert, the author of Under a White Sky, discusses why it's so crucial for a few rich countries to bear most of the climate burden, since they're also the biggest emitters. Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 16. Check local listings.
Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:
Number one, why did Colombia's president grant legal status to 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants?
Well, because they have them, first of all. Because given the extraordinary economic collapse and the human rights abuses of Venezuelans under the Maduro presidency, not to mention the coronavirus crisis making their lives even worse, they've been fleeing, and most of them have ended up in Colombia. Not providing legal status means they can't work, means they have no path for a future. Some of them have even fled back to Venezuela or returned to Venezuela, and again just shows just how critically difficult their life has been. It's a humanitarian gesture of pretty staggering degree. It makes an enormous difference in the lives of these people. Think about how the United States under Biden now preparing to accept 125,000 refugees per year, up 10 times from what it was just a year ago, the world's most powerful country. The wealthy countries never get overwhelmed with refugees the way the poorest countries do. It's states in Sub-Saharan Africa and it's South and Southeast Asia and it's Latin America, and in the Western hemisphere, it's been Colombia.
Venezuela has been the biggest humanitarian crisis and catastrophe and the Colombian government has had to deal with millions of Venezuelan refugees and now they're taking responsibility. And the United States should be fully supportive and should provide humanitarian aid to help the Colombian government deal with this very significant lift, and also to try to reduce the level of anti-Venezuelan sentiment. Because, of course, when you have that many refugees, they're not doing very well. There's going to be domestic criticism, that it's an eyesore, that they're criminals, that they're bringing, they're spreading disease. And the more capable the Colombian government is to actually economically integrate these people and to get them into positions where they can take care of themselves. They can provide for themselves, their family, the better it'll for everybody. So quite some good news in an environment that desperately needs it.
Okay, number two. What are the political ramifications of Netanyahu's corruption trial?
Here, we're talking about a sitting prime minister in Israel who has been indicted for corruption charges and is now facing a trial. And just yesterday, he sat in the docks and left after about half hour and he says, "It's a witch hunt." He says, "The judicial system is rigged." It's actually very analogous to the way that former President Donald Trump has treated his own two now impeachment cases in the United States. Some would say that the Israeli legal system works well because even a sitting prime minister can be forced to stand trial. Lots of other people think that the level of Netanyahu refusing to take seriously the claims and the cases undermining it in public and social media, the fact that most of Netanyahu's supporters agree that it's rigged, just as kind of most of Trump's supporters believe that the last election was stolen, it's actually undermining rule of law in the one government across the Middle East that has been the strongest consolidated democracy in terms of legitimacy of political institutions and unrest. And yes, I know we're not talking about the Palestinians in the occupied territory, but we are talking about everybody, including Palestinians and Arabs and the rest that are living inside Israel proper under Israeli law. And what's happening right now in Israel, I think is creating more polarization and is starting to delegitimize the institutions in that country. Netanyahu's trying to get another delay in the case and the calling witnesses until after elections at the end of March. Of course, elections are happening now in Israel every few months. So, extend and pretend, that's what Netanyahu's strategy is and he has proven to be quite a survivor on the Israeli political stage.
Finally, what is going on with Elon Musk and Bitcoin?
Well, damned if I know, because Elon Musk, in addition to being the most wealthy person in the world, also has a fairly insane social media feed and frequently writes about and tweets about anything imaginable on his mind, which given how many followers he has and given how much money he has puts him in a position of pretty extraordinary power. Now, look, I personally think that when the world's wealthiest man decided to tweet out in favor of GameStop with his tens of millions of followers, a stock that had virtually no underlying value, and therefore individually did more to pump up that stock and as a consequence put enormous numbers of rank-and-file retail investors at risk because they believe Elon. I think that's irresponsible. It's not illegal. There's nothing illegal about it, but it's incredibly irresponsible. I tell you, it bothers me that the wealthiest man in the world, and therefore one of the most powerful men in the world, has so limited regard for civil society, has so limited regard for the wellbeing of his fellow citizens, both in the United States and globally. And we can say he's doing fantastic things as an entrepreneur. And by the way, I do think that Elon Musk as an entrepreneur, as a technologist has been staggeringly successful, and I am thankful for that. In terms of not just electric vehicles, but also his willingness to invest in space and his willingness to set up prizes to get better development and advanced technologies and the Hyperloop and all of these things. Some of which will work, many of which will not, but we need people taking risks like that.
But that is very different than his public presence on issues of policy, on issues that affect the average human being, where I think he has been one of the most irresponsible forces in the country and that deeply bothers me and it's why the fact that he's putting an enormous amount of money into Bitcoin, his company has, Tesla, where he's a 20% owner and he is also putting Bitcoin symbol in his bio on social media. Oh, see this is what's going on, Dogecoin, everyone should invest in Dogecoin going to the moon. It doesn't mean anything. It's completely speculative. It moves a lot of money. And maybe it's just a game to him and maybe it's just a game to Dave Portnoy over at Barstool Sports. But these people are hurting people and they're hurting people just as much as the folks that are promoting fake news on the left and on the right in the mainstream media and the trolls on social media. And I think that with that kind of money and that kind of influence, you should take some responsibility. There's a reason why I personally don't buy stocks and currencies, and frankly it's because as someone who is a public figure with nowhere close to the level of reach and influence that someone like Elon has, I don't want the conflicts of interest. I want people to view my perspective as having authenticity and I think that there's some responsibility behind that and you can't be, if you're talking your book or if people think that you're talking your book, it undermines it.
Nicholas Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of WIRED, provides his perspective on technology news:
How do you run a successful digital campaign in 2020?
Well, we know that all campaigning during 2020, because of the pandemic, will be digital. What do you need to do? My guess is that the most successful campaigns will be ones that really learn how to leverage personal connections, to make it easy for you to pass a message to someone in your address book. Because I think mass communication, mass blasts, registration forms to "get out the vote" on big web sites were saturated. It's going to be human to human contact that changes people's votes or gets people to the polls who wouldn't get there otherwise.
What is a dark pattern?
A dark pattern is a bit of web design that makes it hard for you to do something that the company doesn't want you to do. For example, it is very easy to subscribe to New York Times and there are lots of options. It's piece of cake. You press lots of buttons. It's great. Try to unsubscribe. It's much harder. This is true of many, many different sites. Try to delete your Amazon account. Good luck.
What is Starlink?
Well, Starlink is a system blasted up by SpaceX to give satellite Internet connection. Why is that important? Well, in rural areas that don't have fiber optic cables in the ground, it gives everybody a chance to get online. Will it work? So far, it's not bad. Connection speeds are pretty good and any way we can get more of this country connected to the Internet, particularly in a pandemic. The better.
Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, helps us make sense of today's stories in technology:
Whoa Twitter! What happened this week?
Well, on Wednesday, a whole bunch of prominent Twitter accounts, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Apple, started tweeting out a Bitcoin scam. The same one. It said, "send money to this address and we'll send you back twice as much." Clearly a fraud. But what was interesting about it is that it wasn't like one account that had been compromised. A whole bunch of accounts have been compromised. Meaning most likely someone got access to a control panel at Twitter. The big mystery is how they got access to it? And why, if they had so much power, all they did was run a stupid Bitcoin scam?
How can we keep ourselves safe? Is two-factor authentication the only option?
Two-factor authentication, you need two things to get into your account, your cell phone and your password, is absolutely essential. With this hack, though, that wouldn't have helped you. The only thing you could possibly have done is have deleted your Twitter account. Which is a reminder, remove all the accounts you don't use, all the accounts you don't want, move all the applications with access to the accounts that you want. Basically, constantly, constantly clean out your barn.
Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, helps us make sense of today's stories in technology:
What kind of technology is law enforcement using in their standoff with protesters?
A lot of technology to try to find out who's who, like face recognition software and license plate readers. Protesters, meanwhile, are using a lot of encrypted messaging, trying to kind of do the opposite.
What is going on at Facebook and how will Mark Zuckerberg address the concerns of his employees?
A lot of his employees, and we don't know exactly what percentage, are frustrated that Zuckerberg isn't doing what Twitter is doing and blocking Donald Trump's statements if they're potentially false or could maybe be read as inciting violence. It's time, many Facebook people think, for Zuckerberg to take a stronger stand. Zuckerberg has not. Partly because he's a strong believer in free speech, partly because I don't think he wants to get on the bad side of the president.
Why are tech industry leaders Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos feuding and should it concern consumers?
They are feuding because Amazon may have briefly blocked a book about the coronavirus from a controversial author who has sort of extreme views about the coronavirus that are shared by Musk. So, Musk got upset and he tweeted that Amazon should be broken up. I actually think the feud also probably has something to do with a long feud between SpaceX and Blue Origin. But in any case, I think it's a tempest in a teapot and it should not concern consumers.
Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, explains the feud between Trump and Twitter and weighs in on Elon Musk's ambitious space plans:
What is happening between Trump and Twitter?
A lot. Twitter decided it had to fact check the president because the president said something that wasn't entirely true, and perhaps was false, about voting. Twitter cares a lot about lies about voting. So, they fact check Trump. Trump got really mad, said he's going to get rid of some of the laws that protect Twitter from liability when people say bad things on their platform. That started war number one.
War number two, started when Trump threatened violence on Twitter against protesters in Minneapolis. Twitter has a policy against threatening or glorifying violence. So, they hid that tweet a bit, which made Trump really mad. The upshot? Twitter is finally enforcing some of its policies against the president, though a little haphazardly and certainly imperfectly. The president is raging, which may screw up some of the laws that have kept the Internet in the US and functioning well for the last couple of decades.
When will we send civilians to space?
That is a hard question. Elon Musk promised that it would be at the end of 2021. So, with the coronavirus and that he usually doesn't quite hit his deadlines, let's say early 2023.
The decentralized nature of crypto may clash with Facebook's centralized model.
It's Tech in 60 Seconds with Nicholas Thompson!
And go deeper on topics like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence at Microsoft Today in Technology.