Now that Snapchat Spectacles can be purchased online — and you don’t have to chase down a vending machine — it’s a lot easier to get your hands on a pair of Specs. If you picked up a pair, know this: There’s a lot more to the sunglasses than you’d expect.
Here are 11 tips to help you get the most out of your fancy sunglasses.
As the old aphorism says, it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. Assessing the legacy of Barack Obama will be easier in a few decades when we can see the long-term consequences of his presidential decisions and initiatives.
The administration’s shortcomings around science – some of which reflected Republican political pressures – included limited funding overall and travel restrictions for government workers, both of which reduced the effectiveness of positive science and tech policies.
Psyched about science
In office Obama was fundamentally an optimist about the potential of science and technology to improve society and safely expand the economy. His most significant (and low profile) near-term initiatives elevated and institutionalized the foundations of scientific research – exploration, data-based experimentation and policy, openness, transparency, and access to information – into routine government activities. These steps should accelerate the commercialization and diffusion of research.
In space, the Obama administration strongly promoted commercialization, directing NASA to pay private firms to launch supplies and, in 2018, astronauts to the International Space Station. This should reduce the high cost of reaching earth orbit and thus the exploration and exploitation of space.
While attracting fewer headlines, initiatives on space weather and the asteroids and comets that might strike our planet may end up preserving civilization. In 1859, an extremely powerful solar storm disrupted Earth’s magnetic field. A similar “Carrington event” today would destroy satellites and much of the world’s electric power transmission grid. Worst-case scenarios (always good for pushing people to act) predict tens of millions of people dying because of the loss of electric power for years. A large asteroid striking Earth could devastate a large area, kill millions, and spark a new ice age.
Guarding against these rare but inevitable natural events will not excite voters, but demonstrates preventive stewardship. These initiatives coordinated government efforts across multiple departments to predict a dangerous event, provide warning, and equip satellites and terrestrial infrastructure to minimize harm and maximize resiliency.
On the other hand, restricted travel
One major negative effect on science from the Obama administration was its crippling of federal employees attending conferences.
In 2010, the General Services Administration, which supports federal agencies, held a lavish conference in Las Vegas. Congressional Republicans and Democrats attacked this very visible misuse of taxpayer dollars. In response, the Obama administration overreacted by sharply restricting federal spending on conferences and creating an elaborate, expensive bureaucratic process for government employees to get permission to attend a conference, workshop or other professional meetings. Reflecting these restrictions, the number of defense scientists attending the Defense Security and Scanning conference of the International Society for Optics and Photonics dropped from 648 in 2012 to 206 in 2013, for example.
By decreasing opportunities for researchers to meet in person, the Obama administration hurt the creativity and productivity of the entire ST&I community, not just federal workers. This was an entirely self-inflicted wound.
In fairness, cybersecurity was a fairly low priority throughout the country. There were seemingly few consequences to firms that fail to maintain adequate defenses. The burden of identity theft, for example, falls on the individual. The revelations of American cyberspying by Edward Snowden and the deployment of the American-Israeli computer Stuxnet virus to destroy Iranian uranium centrifuges put the Obama administration on the defensive. Congressional and business skepticism, some partisan but mostly motivated by disagreement about what to do, resulted in little legislative action.
Perhaps the most important shortcoming of the Obama administration’s science and technology agenda was its inability to increase S&T funding.
Partly this reflects the demographic trend of an aging U.S. population focused more on its retirement and medical costs than investing in research and development for the future. As more people retire and live longer, entitlements – like Social Security and Medicare – increasingly crowd out the discretionary part of the federal budget.
Coupled with budget battles with Congressional Republicans, including a costly government shutdown in 2013 and sequestration, the result has been near-stagnant ST&I budgets. That’s in contrast to the long-term increases proposed by the president in 2009 to expand public and private spending on research and development from 2.8 to 3.0 percent of GDP.
Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration’s rhetoric outpaced its resources and restrictions. Nonetheless, the 44th president left a strong legacy of supporting ST&I not just for the goals of discovery and economic growth but to strengthen democracy and improve the processes of government.
One of the president’s most important responsibilities is fostering science, technology and innovation in the U.S. economy. The relationship between science and policy runs in two directions: Scientific knowledge can inform policy decisions, and conversely, policies affect the course of science, technology and innovation.
Historically, government spending on science has been good for the economy. Innovation is estimated to drive approximately 85 percent of economic growth. Not only does it provide a means for “creative destruction” within the economy, it also results in reduced costs for products and services that consumers demand. The United States prides itself as the most innovative country in the world, but how did it get that way?
Many famously disruptive technologies were invented in the United States – the internet, shale gas fracking and solar photovoltaics are three examples – and subsequently led to the growth of major American industries and associated jobs. Such inventions are the fruits of investments and effort made both by the private sector and the U.S. government (usually at different points in time).
President-elect Trump has made clear he intends to boost the economy’s growth rate and supporting science and technology should be a vital part of his plan. So how does an American president settle on research priorities for the country? And once he has a science and innovation agenda, how does he move it forward to eventually seed new industries that have the potential to generate jobs and improve the country’s competitiveness?
Where does the president get scientific advice?
Every president since World War II has maintained a personal science advisor in the White House to inform key decisions about domestic and foreign policy, although some presidents proved more attentive than others.
The very first science advisor, Vannevar Bush, demonstrated his value during World War II as head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD). OSRD’s mission was to marshal and coordinate civilian and military scientists to develop and deploy new technology in wartime. OSRD helped to establish the Manhattan Project and was the origin of the military-industrial complex. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bush later founded the Raytheon Corporation.) Bush also pushed for the creation of the National Science Foundation.
Although the director does not have cabinet rank (as does, for example, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors), OSTP works alongside the other offices in the White House, including the Domestic Policy Council, the Council on Environmental Quality and the National Security Council. The 1976 act also authorized OSTP to lead interagency efforts to develop and implement sound science and technology policies and budgets.
Typically, the director of OSTP also has a separate appointment as special assistant to the president in order to serve as his private science advisor.
Many people in Washington seek the president’s ear, ranging from cabinet secretaries, senators and congressional representatives to lobbyists. But the president usually relies most heavily on his own personal staff within the Executive Office of the President. The Office of Science and Technology Policy thus is enormously influential in clarifying and implementing the president’s science, technology and innovation priorities.
Budget is a big part of it
Once a president determines his science and innovation priorities, his main tool to influence the country’s research agenda is the federal budget. His priorities may spring from concern about U.S. competitiveness in certain industries or sectors, or from a sense of opportunity about where new science or innovation could contribute to the public interest or national good. Of course, the president’s budget request must be approved by Congress in order for the spending priorities to be fulfilled.
Innovation research is an uncertain and risky investment, which is why the government has traditionally shouldered the burden for pre- or noncommercial science and technology research and why universities do most of this type of research. Federal funding for basic research is a crucial long-term investment in the nation’s future, and has traditionally garnered bipartisan support since businesses tend to focus on already proven technologies that are close to commercialization.
The Department of Defense manages the largest portion of the federal R&D budget (US$78 billion in the FY17 budget) compared with all other nondefense R&D combined, at $68 billion. The National Institutes of Health comes in second at 0.77 percent with $30.9 billion. The Department of Energy and NASA have far fewer resources, with R&D funds of about $14 billion and only $12 billion, respectively.
These research dollars go to our world-renowned national laboratories, to the private sector and to support the research of professors and graduate students in American universities.
Some of these investments will directly bear fruit for the economy, and others will do so indirectly through spillovers. The skills of the U.S. workforce are created in part through investments in STEM education and through their work experience over time. Those doing the research accumulate knowledge and expertise that can contribute to improved understanding and problem-solving. These people can then take their skills to commercial companies which create economic value, or they continue to innovate in nonprofit research institutes or universities to address problems in the public interest, such as how to reduce air pollution or improve lifesaving treatments for diseases ignored by private firms.
Of course, high-risk research sometimes yields high-value rewards, especially when the government partners with the private sector.
The internet was originally invented by researchers associated with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, shale gas fracking from both Defense and DOE investments at Los Alamos National Lab and research on the human genome from NIH. Private firms like Microsoft and Google, Mitchell Energy and Pfizer capitalized upon taxpayer investments in science and technology to develop these industries.
Although President-elect Trump seems to find little value in facts, he clearly wishes to reinvigorate the U.S. economy. He cannot do so without improving access to high-quality STEM education and accelerating U.S. investments in science, technology and innovation.
Scientific advice could also provide President-elect Trump with some good ideas for revitalizing manufacturing in the United States, which he’s pledged to do. Indeed, the current President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) produced an excellent report on accelerating U.S. advanced manufacturing in 2014.
President Trump can use science and innovation to achieve his goal to restore American greatness, whether it is through launching a new “moonshot”-type initiative or creating advanced manufacturing jobs. With history as a guide, appointing a respected science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy will help him accomplish his goals.
Kelly Sims Gallagher, Professor of Energy and Environmental Policy and Director of Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at The Fletcher School, Tufts University
Three weeks after Donald Trump won a historic victory to become the 45th president of the United States, the media postmortems continue.
In particular, the role played by the media and technology industries is coming under heavy scrutiny in the press, with Facebook’s role in the rise of fake newscurrently enjoying considerable coverage. This represents a shift from earlier in the campaign, when the volume of media airtime given to Trump was oftenheld culpable for “The Apprentice” star’s political ascendancy.
In truth, a Trump presidency is – in part – a reflection of the status and evolution of the media and tech industries in 2016. Here are 10 ways that they combined to help Trump capture the White House in a manner not previously possible. Without them, Trump might not have stood a chance.
2) Algorithms show us more of what we like, not what we need to know. Amazon, Netflix and Spotify demonstrate how powerful personalization and recommendation engines can be. But these tools also remove serendipity, reducing exposure to anything outside of our comfort zone.
Websites like AllSides, and the Wall Street Journal’s Red vs Blue feed experiment – which let users “See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side” – show how narrow our reading can become, how different the “other side” looks, and how hard it can be to expose ourselves to differing viewpoints, even if we want to.
4) The rise of robots. It’s not just publications and stories that can be fake. Twitter bots can look the same as real Twitter users, spreadingfalsehoods and rumors and amplifying messages (just as humans do). Repeat a lie often enough and – evidence suggests – it becomes accepted as fact. This is just as true online as it is on the campaign trail.
My mother always warned me not to believe everything I read in the papers. We need to instill the same message in our children (and adults) about social media.
5) Tech has helped pull money away from sources of real reporting. Google, Facebook, Craigslist and others have created new advertising markets, diverting traditional ad revenues from newspapers in the process.
Meanwhile, programmatic advertising, which uses computer algorithms to buy – and place – online ads, is changing the advertising dynamic yet again. This canmean companies unintentionally buy ads on sites – such as those from the alt-right – which don’t sit with their brand or values; and that they would not typically choose to support.
Though some of these roles have migrated to online outlets that didn’t exist years ago, this sector is also starting to feel the cold. A reduced workforce has inevitably led to less original journalism, with fewer “on the beat” local reporters, shuttered titles and the rise of media deserts. Cable news, talk radio, social networks and conservative websites – channels that predominantly focus on commentary rather than original reporting – have, in many cases, stepped in to fill these gaps.
2) Unparalleled airtime helped Trump build momentum. A study by The New York Times concluded that in his first nine months of campaigning, Trump earned nearly US$2 billion in free media. This dwarfed the $313 million earned by Ted Cruz and the $746 million secured by Hillary Clinton. The Times noted this was already “about twice the all-in price of the most expensive presidential campaigns in history.”
3) Did all the investigative journalism and fact-checking make a difference? Great work by NPR, The New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post and others didn’t slow Trump’s momentum. Just two of the country’s 100 largest newspapers endorsed Trump, but more than 62 million people voted for him anyway.
We need to understand whether these journalistic efforts changed any opinions, or simply reinforced existing voter biases. As Fortune journalist Mathew Ingram observed: “Trump supporters and the mainstream media both believed what they wanted to believe.”
4) Many journalists were out of step with the mood of much of the country. We need a greater plurality of voices, opinions and backgrounds to inform our news coverage.
A 2013 study from Indiana University’s School of Journalism revealed that journalists as a whole are older, whiter, more male and better-educated than the American population overall. This means journalists can be disconnected from communities they cover, giving rise to mutual misunderstandings and wrong assumptions.
In March, the Washington Post’s editorial board astonishingly allowed Trump to play out the clock when he ducked a question on tactical nuclear strikes against ISIS by simply asking – with just five minutes of the meeting remaining – if people could go around the room and say who they were.
Journalists and technologists will need to redouble their efforts if we are to hold the White House accountable and rebuild trust across these two industries. This promises to be a bumpy ride, but one that we all need to saddle up for.