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Starlink Satellite System
As the world progresses through the 21st century, the internet has become an invaluable tool. In the United States, people widely use it for educational purposes. Unfortunately, the developing world is not so lucky. With Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system, people across the planet should be able to gain access to high-speed internet.

The primary challenge with providing high-speed internet across the globe lies with the cost of fiber optic cables. It is very expensive to obtain and supply to certain areas of the world. On the other hand, using a satellite system to create connections in a vacuum is around 47 percent more efficient and does not require the use of fiber optic cables.

How Starlink Will Connect the World

Musk’s plan is to send 42,000 satellites into orbit. This substantial goal by SpaceX might be a dream, but a large number is necessary to ensure fast and widespread connections across the planet.

People who use the Starlink satellite system would require a device called a Starlink Terminal in their homes. It is a simple tool that they would plug in and point towards the sky. For those in hard-to-reach areas and whose internet connections are slow, this is fantastic news.

Ultimately, the hope is to provide all those who cannot obtain a strong internet connection with the means to connect with the world. The first step of the plan is to provide broadband internet to the west first and expand it into the developing world shortly thereafter.

The Global Impact of a Connected World

Global connectivity would provide an opportunity for anyone to receive the same education despite geographical location. Some of the latest reports regarding primary school-aged children in sub-Saharan Africa have indicated that 59 percent drop out of school.

Additionally, the quality of education is poor; many children across the globe are unable to read at a basic level. The main concerns surrounding the lack of education include cost, quality of teaching and a lack of schools and teachers. Fortunately, the Starlink satellite system could provide connectivity to reduce cost, provide proper tools and improve access to education.

The Starlink Terminal would cost between $100-$300 and several people could conceivably share it. A shared cost between multiple people, perhaps a school, would increase the affordability of the Starlink satellite system and terminal.

A growing global economy would likely also result from the Starlink satellite system. Specifically, the system has an extremely low latency for information transfer. This could give people in developing areas of the world more opportunity to participate in local and global stock markets.

Further, since the Starlink satellite system would likely be the fastest internet connection in the world, most of the financial markets would undoubtedly use it. Financial organizations using the system would provide customers the ability to send and receive money at the same rate, no matter the geographic location. Ultimately, the use of the Starlink satellite system would aid in the fight against global poverty by allowing the communities to participate in activities that developed nations regularly have access to.

The Timeline

As of right now, 362 Starlink satellites are orbiting the world and more should launch every other week. However, the recent pandemic might slow down the time frame.

Prior to COVID-19, the expectation was to have all 42,000 satellites orbiting by the end of 2021. Eventually, there will be enough satellites in orbit to provide global coverage. Even if the Starlink satellite system implementation takes more time than Elon Musk originally intended, the potential benefits are difficult to ignore.

The Starlink satellite system has the capacity to connect the entire world, changing the way people around the globe interact with one another.

Drew Pinney
Photo: Wikimedia

New Tech InfrastructureThe recent ravaging of the island territory of Puerto Rico, first by Hurricane Irma, then by Maria, is a reminder of the sheer destructive mayhem Mother Nature can wield—but also of the ability of individuals, businesses and governments across the globe to come together to solve problems and help those in need. Although the storms undoubtedly caused major problems, they also offered opportunities for change and innovation.

One such possibility is the chance to build a new tech infrastructure from the ground up. Many U.S. companies are stepping up to join in on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Under the direction of Elon Musk, Tesla is sending its Powerpack battery system to Puerto Rico to help homes, businesses, hospitals and schools use their existing solar panels by providing energy storage. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is sending special balloons to help restore cell phone connectivity in areas where the infrastructure is down. Meanwhile, Facebook pledged $1.5 million in relief money to various charities and sent employees to Puerto Rico to work toward restoring internet connectivity to the island.

In an interview with USA Today, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló spoke about talking with Elon Musk. He affirmed that they were looking into batteries and solar panels as a long-term solution to transform energy delivery and bring down costs for the island.

The new tech infrastructure is direly needed. As The New York Times notes, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) was already $9 billion in debt before the two hurricanes hit. PREPA declared itself insolvent in 2014 and ceased making debt payments, forcing a debt restructuring deal that has yet to be finalized. To make matters worse, PREPA has been at the center of a corruption scandal, making it harder to unify the public behind its mission and importance.

But, according to Puerto Rico resident Gabriel Rodriguez, tech company aid to the island has been very polarizing. In his words, “People are really for it or against it. There are the people that say that of course it’s going to be a great improvement for us… but then there’s a lot of people that are very mad because they say we are selling the island to outside interests.”

Ina Fried of Axios speculates that the American companies currently volunteering side-by-side on the island will eventually compete with each other for larger-scale rebuilding contracts. The heavy lifting won’t come free, and this is likely the source of some Puerto Rican worries.

One of the challenges of rebuilding will be to do it in a way that respects Puerto Ricans’ autonomy and independent identity. These fears of selling out to foreign interests are similar to the ones that inspired the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s that toppled Fulgencio Batista and put Fidel Castro in power.

While the two situations are not politically analogous, the tales of government corruption and fears of foreign influence are, and those U.S. companies interested in helping would do well to approach the situation with sensitivity. There is room for all parties to share in the profits and rewards that a new tech infrastructure in Puerto Rico can yield.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence and PovertyArtificial intelligence (AI) has forever changed the way society interacts with technology. It has provided limitless opportunities for problem-solving in the last decade, and the relationship between artificial intelligence and poverty reduction may be one worth fostering.

In 2007, the iPhone had first made its appearance on the world stage. Since its release, phone-based computer programs (apps) have evolved from simple games like Space Invaders: Infinite Gene, to industry-upsetting business models like Uber.

Since apps began to use algorithms to create relatively simple artificial intelligence (AI), computation has become vital to leading businesses and organization. Ten years ago, AI was almost entirely task-based, but a new form of AI—known as deep learning—has garnered more attention in the past few years.

Instead of a programmer telling how a certain machine should do a task, deep learning AI uses neural networks which actually teach the computer (or other deep learning AI) how to complete tasks in the most efficient manner. What makes it so special is that deep learning is faultless, and, with enough computation resources, can learn things faster than humans.

Does this finally mean that the age of robots is upon us? The easy answer is yes. Deep learning machines have now outplayed people in chess, Go (widely considered to be the most complex game in the world) and are possibly are going to try to beat humans at StarCraft, a multiplayer video game. But AI can disrupt the world’s economy in significant ways. Corporations use it to trade in the financial sector; write articles for newspapers; diagnose health disorders and diseases and do manual office work. It has even recreated a Nobel prize-winning physics experiment.

In the last decade, we have discovered that deep learning AI and AI has infinite potential. So, the question goes, how will artificial intelligence and poverty correlate? Can AI reduce poverty? In general, it should. Never in the history of mankind have we let machines do this type of work for us, so we have no precedents to build off of. Additionally, because deep learning machines are only just coming onto the marketplace, new obstacles may appear as we continue AI research.

However, people are beginning to harness this extremely powerful tool for the poor, and the work sounds promising. At the moment, AI is especially useful for data mining simple statistics: which areas need more development, which people require more education and how they can receive it, etc. Having to collect this data manually would be a time-intensive task that would also be incredibly expensive.

However, there are also more complex uses for AI, such as agricultural research for poor farmers. Tech giant IBM is working on an operations research robot that will optimize transporting food aid around the globe. Improvement of artificial intelligence and poverty reduction are thus parallel goals for these major corporations.

In addition, IBM is also working on a novel illiteracy project. If eventually implemented, it will allow people to learn how to read without the assistance of a teacher by having a computer analyze something that a student of any age might find in their daily life (such as a flower). The computer would then display the written word while playing the sound for it. This would allow people to learn how to read wherever they are, whenever they have time.

Of course, these are all leading edge uses when talking about artificial intelligence and poverty. While engineers continue to work on the technical aspects of the technology, the U.N. is preparing for the change in methodology in battling poverty by holding AI summits. Twenty U.N. agencies have and will continue to discuss issues pertaining to the Millennium Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals in relation to AI.

The potential to significantly diminish poverty with these new technologies is very high. It might take humanity decades before AI is actively fighting poverty, but when it does, it will most likely help eradicate it.

One main challenge of AI is to make sure that we can control it. Futurologist Elon Musk, along with world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and many AI experts have signed an open letter warning the U.N. against the use of AI-powered weapons, as they can potentially develop their own ethics standards and kill humans ceaselessly, regardless of their affiliation. Even though this warning specifically targets militarized robots, it is a cautionary tale: we need to tread carefully when using new technology, which is why AI will only truly take off several years into the future.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr


According to a United Nations (U.N.) report, inequality is rising in both developed and developing countries. Many people lack access to basic healthcare, clean water and food. For example, the U.S. has the largest economy in the world yet ranks second in income inequality out of the 32 developed countries indexed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

It is apparent that poverty, inequality and access to healthcare are transnational issues that know no boundaries. Each year, more and more jobs become automated. Artificial intelligence is taking the place of blue-collar jobs all over the world. A 2013 Oxford study estimates that 47 percent of U.S. jobs will be taken over by robots, automated technology and artificial intelligence within the next 10 to 20 years. The World Bank states that the shift will be even more drastic in developing countries. This is because almost two-thirds of jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation.

Some of the world’s brightest minds believe that the culmination of rising inequality, poverty and workforce automation will inevitably draw humanity toward a universal basic income.

“I think that from a human decency standard there’s a lot of sense to the idea that everybody in a society should be able to meet their basic needs,” says Jeffrey Sachs, economist and director at the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Another expert, Elon Musk, says that “there is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation.”

When the Basic Income Grant Pilot Project (BIG) was trialed in India, results showed that recipient households were three times more likely to start a new business than others. In Namibia, crime rates dropped by 36 percent despite an influx of immigration after BIG was implemented. “When you have a safety-net people will take more risks,” says Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots. Human ingenuity is restricted in a system that forces people to work low-level jobs to pay for their existence. Universal basic income ensures that everyone reaches the first rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, ensuring that basic needs are met. This will drastically improve the quality of life on Earth in developed and developing countries alike. This generation could actually live to see the end of poverty on Earth.

The only way that a phenomenon like this could come to fruition is if the cost of not moving to a universal basic income becomes greater than doing nothing. As more humans are phased out of work by robots, the cost of welfare will extrapolate until it is necessary to switch to a universal basic income.

Josh Ward

Photo: Flickr

Tesla-Home-Battery-Powerwall
As we burn up some of our nonrenewable resources, we face a grim ultimatum: continue using the same resources until we’ve depleted them all (which could have catastrophic consequences) or find a way that everyone on Earth can benefit from electricity without burning our nonrenewable resources. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, is trying to find a way to solve this and he has recently created a battery that may do just that.

Powerwall is a home battery that uses solar power in order to provide the battery with a charge. The battery is capable of powering an entire house when utilities are low. When a storm comes rolling into town and knocks the power out, the Powerwall is capable of providing the emergency power.

The compact design of the battery allows you to mount it on any wall that is desired; it is also an aesthetically pleasing piece of equipment. The entire system that collects and distributes electricity through the Powerwall is relatively simple. There are three essential parts:the Solar Panel, the Home Battery (Powerwall) and the Inverter.

The solar panel, which is installed on the roof, collects and converts sunlight into electricity. That surplus electricity is stored in the Powerwall during the day or even when the rates of the utility grid are low. The Inverter converts the electricity from DC to AC. AC is the type of electricity used for household electronics.

Building an invention as groundbreaking as this has many benefits. The battery can provide financial savings to its owner by charging during low rate periods when demand for electricity is lower, and, conversely, discharging when the rates are high. Owning a Powerwall also increases the consumption of solar power generation, which is one of the cleanest, renewable energy sources around. This allows for reduced CO2 emissions.

As this technology progresses, it can be used to address poverty and help provide electricity to areas that aren’t near power plants. Once there is a way to produce these types of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries cheaply, then we will be able to see them popping up in developing, remote areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. Congress has made bringing electricity to remote areas in Africa a major goal. The U.S. Agency for International Development is headlining that mission under the Electrify Africa Act.

The Powerwall is considered the automobile of its industry; it is pioneering technology. Once there are even better ways to produce the Powerwall, the technology will become more accessible. Once more accessible, more people will be able to utilize renewable energy. This is the underlying purpose of this technology; to reduce the amount of nonrenewable energy used by burning fossil fuels by providing a renewable alternative.

Erik Nelson

Sources: Congress, Tesla Motors 1, Tesla Motors 2
Photo: Wired