Happy Friday, TechAways readers!
It’s Lauren Clark, back at the helm again, and finally recovered from the US elections. But if you thought Biden in charge would let EU leaders breath a sigh a relief, you should probably think again. While the Biden administration has touted itself as Europe’s friend, on the trade front it seems like there are some policy holdovers from the previous president – notably the threat of tariffs for EU countries that impose a digital tax.
But on Thursday things changed (maybe). The Biden administration announced a proposal for a global minimum corporate tax rate that would affect the world’s 100 largest companies. This would shift the focus of the digital tax discussions off the predominantly American Big Tech companies to include other large multinationals, such as Volkswagen, as well. Many were sceptical that European leaders would be on board, but since the announcement, both Italy and France have stated that they support the US plan. France has even said that it wants to sign the minimum tax rate into EU law during its EU presidency in the first half of 2022. While this is an ambitious timeline, it seems like the US plan to sidestep the global digital tax debate might actually have legs. And if you’re wondering why the US is suddenly on board with going after these giant multinationals, I invite you to consider your definition of ‘infrastructure’.
One more thing before you dip into our latest offerings. Our #BrusselsCalling series is back with a debate on Tackling Diversity in EU Media on 13 April at 17:00 CEST. Sign up here to witness EU Commission VP Věra Jourová turning the tables on Jitendra Joshi (AFP), Mehreen Khan (FT) and Matina Stevis-Gridneff (NYT).
Music has the power to make us reminisce about past moments which seemed trivial at the time. Unfortunately, the artist whose song jogs our memory may no longer be alive to provide us with new opportunities to explore their particular sound. A mental health organisation has tried to remedy this by generating a new Nirvana song using a Google AI system. What’s the verdict? It’s no “Smells like teen spirit” and it’s unable to replicate the particular voice of Kurt Cobain. Picture me unimpressed. On a different level we should ask ourselves if producing new music for a deceased artist is ethical. Is this another example of technology going too far?
We’re not trying to further disparage AI but…not only does it apparently suck at creating good 90s grunge rock, it also isn’t great at guessing human emotions and to add insult to injury, huge amounts of AI datasets are incorrect. According to an MIT study, up to 10% of AI datasets are labelled incorrectly (and others include racist and sexist labelling). Meaning an image of a mushroom could be labelled as a spoon. Seems problematic when hundreds of scientists use these datasets to train their algorithms. Additionally, we’re now realising how terrible AI is at discerning human emotion. Test the stupidity of AI emotion recognition at emojify.info.
How low carbon can you go? [The Verge]
Swedish electric vehicle company Polestar has unveiled its efforts to redefine how cars are made with a 2030 moonshot goal of a carbon neutral car. And it means really carbon neutral – it won’t use “cop-out” carbon offsetting. This will certainly pose a challenge because, while EVs don’t emit carbon during use, their manufacturing does – including the production of lithium-ion batteries. Eliminating these processes entirely will be a hugely consequential task requiring extreme innovation, but if they can pull it off, this could be the feat of the century.
Abandon ship! [CNN]
If the whole Evergreen-stuck-in-the-Suez-Canal-disrupting-global-trade thing isn’t the perfect metaphor for the last year-plus, we don’t know what is. But, now that it’s finally unstuck, we’re hoping that, like the Evergreen, things will return to business as usual. Until that happens you can try your hand at an interactive game from CNN where you are the captain of a ship, navigating the Suez Canal. While purely for entertainment purposes, this game does factor in some real-world concerns like depth of water, proximity to the bank, passing ships, the turning circle, availability of tugboats, and, of course, weather. Give it a try here! (Spoiler: It’s a lot harder than it looks.)
About this week’s editor, Lauren Clark:
As I said in October, I’ve been at Cambre for (now) three years – focusing on policy comms for the tech and energy sectors. And while back then I only had some chickens to keep me company, we have now added a dog to the mix! We adopted Brooklyn (ironically not named by me) from a Serbian animal shelter in November. He’s an old man of eight years but will still run around like a puppy if there’s food involved. So if you’re interested in updates on the Battery Regulation 🔋, the latest tech news🤖, or cute dog pics 🐶 shoot me a message!
In case you haven’t had enough…