Welcome to the Weekly Scan. Here’s what we’re following for the week of August 23, 2021.
I, Robot. During Tesla’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) day, CEO Elon Musk said that the company would develop humanoid robot and that the company would be able to debut a prototype next year. The robot will reportedly have a computer screen instead of a human face, and will be 5 feet 8 inches tall, and weigh 125 pounds. The robot will be able to carry 45 pounds and travel at 5 miles per hour, enabling it to do “boring, repetitive, and dangerous” work. Musk did not announce whether or not the robot would be sold, or how much it would cost.
- The takeaway: In his announcement, Musk claimed that the robot would make physical labor optional, affecting the job market. For that reason, Musk said that a Universal Basic Income would be required. Despite these claims, building a robot that can perform human tasks has been challenging in the past. Additionally, Musk has come under fire for overpromising on Tesla’s technological abilities in the past, particularly around when Tesla will be able to sell self-driving cars. Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the safety of Tesla’s self-driving technology.
Privacy please. Last week, China passed a massive data privacy law known as the Personal Information Protection law, mirroring the privacy law passed in Europe known as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The law aims to curb data collection and includes stipulations requiring organizations and individuals handling Chinese citizens’ personal data to minimize that data collection, and get consent from the individual. However, the law doesn’t limit what data the Chinese government can access. The law follows criticism from both the government and society regarding online fraud, data theft, and data collection by Chinese technology companies.
- The takeaway: The new law is the latest attempt by the Chinese government to crack down on tech companies over data collection and anticompetitive practices. During the last year, the government charged Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. with a multi-billion dollar fine for requiring its vendors to sell their products exclusively with Alibaba. Another objective of the latest privacy law is to deal with algorithmic discrimination, a practice where tech companies offer different prices to people based on data they have about their online conduct.
More debt forgiveness. The Biden administration announced that it will cancel the student loan debt held by severely disabled people. The change will affect 323,000 borrowers holding $5.8 billion in debt. While anyone who’s severely disabled as defined by a physician, the Social Security Administration, or Department of Veteran Affairs has been eligible to receive forgiveness, the process has also required a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork. In response to the pandemic, the Biden administration temporarily waived the process in March 2021. Going forward, that process will be indefinitely waived. Those who qualify will reportedly find out in September, and see their debt forgiven by the end of 2021.
- The takeaway: In June 2021, the Department of Education recently approved $500 million in student loan forgiveness for former students of ITT Technical Institute, a private chain of colleges that was shut down in 2016 for misrepresentation. The Biden administration is reportedly exploring the options for more widespread student loan forgiveness. Millions of U.S. consumers have student loan debt, totaling about $1.6 trillion as of March 2021. Currently, because of the pandemic, federal student loans are in a forbearance period through January 2022.
Here’s what we covered in last week’s Scan:
- The NSA awarded Amazon a $10 billion cloud-computing contract.
- The U.S. Senate passed a $3.5 trillion budget framework.
- The U.N. issued a climate report.
- Walmart is offering temporary bonuses and pay raises.