Future

​Will There Be A Legal Right To Telework?

Silicon Valley firms are leading the way in corporate policy, while European countries like Germany are beginning to draw up laws to create a bonafide legal right to work from home.

Employers and governments around the world have been oscillating between full remote requirements to everyone-back-to-the-office to forever-flex schedules. Now, two years into the pandemic, working from home appears bound to be a feature of our current existence that will be with us — in some form — once COVID-19 is gone.

But even as companies experiment with different policies, others are pushing to see it translated into law — in other words, to make working from home a right.

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Masahiro Hara Takes Aim: The QR Code Inventor Builds Post-Pandemic Applications

Conceived in the early 1990s, the QR Code has spread exponentially during the pandemic. Its creator, Masahiro Hara, is one of the many continuing to innovate his most famous invention, which has changed everything from medicine to how we dine.

There's a small red sign at the foot of the steps leading to the Haiden pavilion of Futarasan-jinja, a Shinto shrine founded in 782 by a Buddhist monk. We are in the heart of a cedar forest in the sacred mountains of Nikko. Before going up to pray to the kami, the spirits of the temple, pilgrims and tourists crowd in front of the sign installed just two years ago.

Smartphones in hand, they scan a QR Code, under a few lines explaining — in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean — that it is good manners to make a "small donation" when visiting a shrine.

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Why The Right To Die Is Expanding Around The World

Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are still the exception, but lawmakers from New Zealand to Peru to Switzerland and beyond are gradually giving more space for people to choose to get help to end their lives — sometimes with new and innovative technological methods.

The announcement last month that a “suicide capsule” device would be commercialized in Switzerland, not surprisingly, caused quite a stir. The machine called Sarcophagus, or “Sarco” for short, consists of a 3D-printed pod mounted on a stand, which releases nitrogen and gradually reduces the oxygen level from 21% to 1%, causing the person inside to lose consciousness without pain or a sense of panic, and then die of hypoxia and hypocapnia (oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation).

While active euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, assisted suicide is allowed under certain conditions and under the supervision of a physician, who has first to review the patient’s capacity for discernment — a condition that Sarco aims to eliminate. “We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” Australian doctor Philip Nitschke, the machine’s creator, told news platform SwissInfo. Some argue that this is against the country’s medical ethical rules while others expressed concerns about safety.

But Nitschke says he found the solution: an online AI-based test, which will give a code to the patient to use the device if he passes.

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Six Massive Clean Energy Projects That Offer A Shot Of Climate Hope

Last fall's COP26 climate summit showed the way to, not, move forward on tackling the climate crisis. But all's not lost. From the biggest solar farm in the world to a huge storage plant for C02, here are some of the largest renewable energy projects in the pipeline around the globe.

Following a decade-long fanfare of private and government pledges to combat the warming of the planet, last month’s United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow painted a grim picture of the world’s climate progress. The takeaway: the world is on course to overshoot the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accords in all but the most optimistic scenario, which would require all announced targets to be fully implemented.

That scenario, however, seems distant today as the pivot to a sustainable energy market is unevenly distributed across the globe, with many fossil-fuel-dependent countries still struggling to close the energy gap as demand for power increases. What is worse, while some countries have improved their ambitions, others slipped backward at COP26 by retracting set climate targets.

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Work In Progress
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: The Working World In 2022

Will the Great Resignation of the past year lead to a Great Reskilling the next...?

Like the year before, 2021 was filled with Zoom meetings, travel bans, shaky economics and supply chain disruptions. At the same time, it was a singular year, defined by strikes, international labor shortages and vaccine mandates in many workplaces. As Q4 comes to an end, things are ramping up, and the work challenges of 2022 are becoming very clear.

All over the world, unemployment is high — and so is the lack of available labor. What will see a bigger increase, inflation or salary bumps? Will the Great Resignation lead to a Great Reskilling? What we do know is that white-collar workers are shifting from overtime to flexible schedules, from cogs in the wheel to drivers in the front seat, from struggling independent contractors to employees with full benefits.

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Future
Gado Alzouma

Why Africa Has So Few Nobel Prizes In The Sciences

Even as it celebrates this year's literature prize going to Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah, Africa is again completely absent from the list of Nobel winners in science. In research as elsewhere, money is the key.

Nobel Prize recipients from around the world have been celebrating their achievements this month at their respective award ceremonies. But besides Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner in the literature category, the African continent was largely absent from the awards — most notably in the science categories. But this is nothing new.

With the notable exception of Egypt, which boasts a Nobel Prize in chemistry, and South Africa, which has five in chemistry, physiology and medicine, over the years Africa only has obtained Nobel Prizes for literature or peace. By comparison, the United States leads the way with 296 laureates, followed by Germany and Japan, with 94 and 25 awards respectively.

Many would be tempted to find the explanation for this poor African performance in a lack of "predisposition for science" or "scientific spirit" among our people. This is not the case: The capacity to produce scientific breakthroughs and to make discoveries does not lie in any "superior intelligence," in a supposed "genius," in alleged "genetic predispositions," or in the culture of the people.

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Economy
Adrien Lelièvre

De-Uberization? Food Delivery Apps Opt For Employees Over Gig Economy

Startups that offer to deliver groceries in less than 15 minutes have learned from the past and are hiring full-time employees, even if they need temporary workers to meet demand.

PARIS — In recent years, couriers working for meal delivery startups generously financed by investment funds have become one of the symbols of the "uberization of work." While mostly their freelance status remains widespread worldwide, the standard is shifting. In February 2021, the British meal delivery specialist Just Eat struck a chord by announcing the recruitment of 4,500 permanent staff in France, a country known for its strong worker protections and powerful unions.

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Future
Dan Wu

Taiwan's Virtual "Tuck-Me-In" Platform Shows COVID Impact On Dating Apps

Do you long for bedtime stories told remotely? Or miss the companionship a voice provides? There's an app for that, which also responds to special COVID-19 needs of dating apps that allows for more direct online communication.

TAIPEI — PlayOne is a popular app in Taiwan that provides online partners for streaming video gaming and other chat functionality. But recently the app began to offer online companionship with a new option: “Calling to sleep.”

On this particular platform, a user can select the characteristics of their ideal companion to be nearby, virtually, when bedtime arrives. A range of features can be selected, including the go-to-sleep voice and appearance of the person who is there with you remotely as you drift off to sleep. The price? One sleep buddy says that he charges about $13 per hour.

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Future
Alidad Vassigh and Irene Caselli

Free WiFi For All? Cities (And Nations) Making Universal Digital Access A Right

Whether it's to bridge the socioeconomic digital divide or to attract tourists, foreign businesses and digital nomads, the time may be ripe to offer free internet access across society. Here are some of those leading the push.

For years, certain big cities have been wooing tourists and remote workers by offering free WiFi hotspots to help find the best restaurants or connect for meetings from a park bench. This month, Mexico City won the Guinness World Record for most free WiFi hotspots in the world, with 21,500.

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Society
Carl-Johan Karlsson

COVID Is Pushing These 6 Cities To Bet On Bicycle-Friendly Futures

After slowly shifting in some cities to a more bicycle-centric model, the pandemic has accelerated the shift from cars to bikes in cities around the world. Here are some prime examples

In the two centuries since they were invented, bicycles have tended to be much more about recreation than transportation. Sure, there's the occasional Dutch commuter biking through a small city or a poor person in the developing world who can't afford a car or an American kid delivering newspapers. But, otherwise, the bicycle has been meant for fun and exercise, and competitive sport, rather than as an integral part of the system of transport.

That may be about to change for good. After a gradual shift over the past decade to accommodate bicycle use, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the shift from cars to bikes in cities around the world. Beyond the long-term environmental and health benefits, the change of attitude is also linked to the lack of street traffic and pollution during lockdowns, and the social distancing that bicycles provide compared to crowded public transportation.

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Future
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Pizza Makers To Patient Care: 5 Cool New Robots Conquering The World

Robotics has become standard in much of industrial production, but AI also means robots are able to accomplish more and more complicated tasks. Here are some living examples around the world.

"The robots are coming..." has been an ominous science fiction trope dating back decades. Now, depending where you look, the robots have arrived. With the multiplication of artificial intelligence capabilities, there are real-life fears that robotics will make our jobs irrelevant. A recent report the International Federation of Robotics found that in China, a record 943,000 industrial robots are now operating in the country's factories.

But in fact, it goes well beyond the traditional assembly lines: advances in robotic technology are creating devices capable of accomplishing increasingly complicated tasks, serving as sous chefs, healthcare aids, and even entertainment. Here's a global look at the robots you may soon see staring back at you:

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Future

Polish Hideout? Zambian Shave? Translating The "Meta" Meanings Of Facebook’s New Name

The embattled U.S. tech giant has unveiled a new name for its holding company: Meta. It will do little to soften the rising criticism of Facebook's practices. Indeed, across the world's many languages, we find the new name translates into all kinds of good content.

Mark Zuckerberg's unveiling of the new name for his company was a global event. And the choice has an international (ancient) ring: Meta, a word that tends to be used today to mean self-referencing, though the Greek prefix μετα refers to "after" or "beyond." Yes, another sign of the limitlessness of Zuck's ambitions.


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Future
Carl-Johan Karlsson

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

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Future
Emmanuel Grasland

How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.

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Future
Carl-Johan Karlsson

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

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