The GOP Revealed a Bill to Replace Net Neutrality, and It’s Not Good

A Not-So-Viable Alternative

Only days after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed hard-won, Obama-era net neutrality rules, a new bill has appeared in the House of Representatives in its place. Sponsored by Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), the bill that unveiled on December 19 supposedly promotes legislation that promises to replace net neutrality.

Except, it really doesn’t.

The Open Internet Preservation Act headlines itself as an amendment to “the Communications Act of 1934 to ensure internet openness, to prohibit blocking of lawful content, applications, services, and [non-harmful] devices, to prohibit impairment or degradation of lawful internet traffic, to limit the authority of the Federal Communications Commission and to preempt State law with respect to internet openness obligations, to provide that broadband internet access service shall be considered to be an information service, and for other purposes.”

While it does restore two of the most important provisions of the repealed net neutrality rules — namely, the ban on blocking and slowing of websites —the GOP-sponsored bill lacks an equally crucial provision. Included in the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules was a ban on so-called “paid prioritization:” i.e., the ability of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to prioritize and speed up certain websites in exchange for money.

Without this tenet, internet providers can technically influence consumers to patronize certain content over others, as long as these websites can pay for it. Sure, ISPs won’t be able to ban particular websites, but this “nudging” pretty much works in the same way.

“On paid prioritization, there is not agreement,” Blackburn said in an interview, according to the Washington Post. “We have heard from a lot of innovators who are working around [artificial intelligence] and with [autonomous vehicles] and in health-care technology that their preference would be for it to be silent on the paid prioritization issue.”

Not Real Net Neutrality

According to the Post, another key point in Blackburn’s bill that supporters of net neutrality might find questionable is the provision that pushes the FCC to recognize ISPs as “lightly regulated ‘information service providers.’” This was rejected under the 2015 FCC rules, as it’s a category that comes with fewer obligations, compared to classifying ISPs as utilities.

Stanford University law professor Barbara van Schewick, director of the Center for Internet and Society, told Futurism that Blackburn’s bill is net neutrality only in name. “This bill doesn’t protect net neutrality by law; it eliminates it by law. While the bill looks as if it codifies the existing bans on blocking and throttling of websites, apps and services, it doesn’t even do that,” she explained. “Moreover, the bill permanently frees ISPs to engage in lots of harmful behaviors that are currently prohibited, and dramatically curtails the FCC’s power to enforce what meager protections are in the bill.”

“It’s a joke that’s not funny,” said Evan Greer, director of the Fight for the Future campaign, in an interview with Futurism, referring to Blackburn’s proposed bill. Fight for the Future has been one of the long-standing advocates for a truly open and free internet, and supported the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules. In the group’s official statement, they called the latest attempt to replace net neutrality “a poorly disguised slap in the face to Internet users from across the political spectrum.”

This is a fight they plan on continuing, according to Greer. “Internet users are outraged. We plan to channel that anger productively and strategically and put everything we’ve got into pushing for Congress to overturn the FCC vote using a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA),” she told Futurism. “It will be a simple up or down vote on whether to protect the open Internet or sign its death warrant. Lawmakers should choose wisely which side of history they want to be on.”

Indeed, a number of efforts are underway to challenge and hopefully reverse the FCC’s repeal. A coalition of attorneys general plan to challenge the decision in court, a move that some lawmakers are also exploring. In California and Washington, authorities pledged to prevent ISPs from restricting internet excess. Under Blackburn’s bill, however, such a move would no longer be possible. The proposed bill expressly prohibits states from coming up with their own legislation on net neutrality.

For Berin Szoka, president of think-tank TechFreedom, the bill presents an opportunity. “I don’t expect [Democrats] are going to endorse Blackburn’s bill, but that’s never how this has worked,” he told the Post. “The point is to get both sides talking.”

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Top 7 Breakthroughs of 2017 That Prove We’re Living in the Future

In 2017, researchers turned science fiction into science fact – from developments in gene editing technologies, to improvements in artificial intelligence and quantum computing – this has certainly been a year full of breakthroughs. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the most impactful developments this year that are pushing boundaries toward a brighter future.

Lamb-in-a-Bag: An Artificial Womb Sustains Life

It’s, perhaps, fitting to open this list with a technology that could potentially save lives in the future. In April 2017, a team of physicians from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia published a study in the journal Nature Communications that detailed the successful use of an artificial womb.

The device, a specialized transparent biobag filled with a fluid that allows it to imitate the environment inside a uterus, successfully housed a 23-week old lamb. This artificial womb can help save the lives of premature babies. The team working on the technology expects it to soon be ready for human use.

Read the original story here.

For the First Time in the U.S., an Embryo Was Edited

Genetically modified human beings are no longer just the topic of science fiction. In July 2017, MIT Technology Review reported on efforts by researchers in Portland, Oregon to genetically modify human embryos using gene editing tool CRISPR. The researchers, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of the Oregon Health and Science University, edited the DNA of one-cell embryos – effectively demonstrating that it’s possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that carry heritable diseases.

For the full story, check out this article.

Gene Editing Inside a Human Body

Without a doubt, CRISPR is the most efficient and effective gene editing tool we have today. After numerous experiments that demonstrated what CRISPR could do, the gene editing tool was finally applied to a living human patient on the 13th of November. A 44-year-old patient suffering from a rare genetic condition called Hunter syndrome had his genome edited using a CRISPR treatment developed by biotechnology firm Sangamo Therapeutics.

You can check out the full story here.

The LHC’s Five New Particles

Now that we’ve look at some biological advances, let’s move on to the realm of quantum physics. The science of the “small” continues to grow, thanks to work done by scientists using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). On March 16, 2017, the LHC discovered a new system of five particles, all in a single analysis.

With overwhelming statistical significance to back it up, the exceptional discovery can’t be dismissed as a fluke. Instead, it provides a new window into our understanding of quantum theories that govern both the physics of particles in our world and beyond it.

You can read about the new particles here.

Securing the Future of Quantum Communication

Speaking of quantum theories, 2017 has been a host to some of the biggest developments in quantum technologies to date. Quantum computing, for one, has seen significant advances. Equally important are the breakthroughs in quantum communication, thanks to the efforts of researchers from China and elsewhere to build quantum networks.

From demonstrations of quantum entanglement from space, to successfully sending messages using quantum cryptography, researchers have shown that a quantum internet future is on the horizon.

Read about what a world powered by quantum computers would be like here.

SpaceX and an Era of Reusable Rockets

When it comes to the future of spaceflight and exploration, SpaceX has become a household name. The rocket company started by Elon Musk in 2002 cemented its hold on rocket technology and space this year, marking a number of “firsts” off of their development checklist.

Chief among these is the successful launch of a previously used Falcon 9 rocket booster, signaling the end of an era of expensive space missions. On the 30th of March 2017, SpaceX showed that their Falcon 9 rockets are reusable not just in name. That, however, was just the beginning. With an updated plan for Mars and a revamped BFR rocket, SpaceX continues to work on making every part of their rockets and spacecraft completely reusable.

Look back to that historic moment here.

TRAPPIST-1 and Finding Earth 2.0

Last but definitely not the least is one of the biggest discoveries that could affect the future of life beyond Earth. In February 2017, scientists working at the European Southern Observatory and NASA announced the discovery of seven Earth-like exoplanets situated in the habitable space or “goldilocks zone” of a star system called TRAPPIST-1.

The TRAPPIST system, located some 39.5 light-years from the Sun, hosts an ultra-cool red dwarf star that’s only a bit larger — although significantly more massive — than Jupiter. Astronomers continue to debate the potential of these seven TRAPPIST exoplanets to host life, but the discovery of a collection of possibly livable exoplanets in just one system is a promising find in the quest for life outside of Earth.

Read about TRAPPIST-1’s discovery here.

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Can “RoboSperm” Really Be Used to Fight Cervical Cancer?

Weaponized Sex Cells

Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Germany have devised a way to deliver chemotherapy to cervical cancer patients that appears to significantly reduce the negative side effects associated with the cancer treatment.

The researchers soaked bull sperm cells in a chemical commonly used for chemo, known as doxorubicin. Then, they placed the loaded-up cells in a dish containing mini cervical cancer tumors. The sperm cells were also outfitted with iron “hats” to help magnetically guide them toward the tumors. Once they reached their destination, the iron opened up allowing the sperm to enter the tumor and begin destroying it from the inside. The “robosperm” were able to kill 87 percent of the tumors’ cells within three days. The research has been published in ACS Nano.

The American Cancer Society estimates that by the end of 2017, 12,820 women in the United States will have been diagnosed with cervical cancer. 4,210 of those diagnosed will die of the disease. Death rates appear to be decreasing, however, in part due to the more widespread use of screenings, like the Pap test. Those numbers could continue to shrink with the implementation of innovative treatments. The method devised at the Leibniz Institut also has to potential to reduce the side effects that often accompany chemo: since the drugs specifically target tumors, this results in less exposure for noncancerous cells.

Study leader Haifeng Xu hopes the development could also lead to future applications outside of chemo delivery for cervical cancer patients. It’s possible that other conditions affecting the female reproductive system, such as endometriosis or ectopic pregnancies, could also benefit from targeted delivery of medication by drug-enriched sperm cells.

The Road Ahead

The results of the study are still preliminary, and thus much more testing will need to be completed in order to confirm its safety and efficacy in patients — rather than just in a petri dish. Chemo drugs are notoriously strong, so researchers will have to determine adequate and safe dosing for human subjects. Researchers will also have to ascertain if the treatment will be as effective with human sperm cells, rather than the bull sperm used in the study. Human testing would also reveal if the iron “hats” worn by the sperm could be harmful to patients undergoing treatment.

Elsewhere, scientists are working on other novel treatments for cervical cancer. Researchers from Duke University are developing an ethanol-based gel that can be injected directly into cervical tumors in a treatment that could cost as little as $ 5.

As with any major medical discovery, the treatment method has a long road ahead before it could even be considered for FDA approval. Even so, the preliminary results are promising and make space for a great deal of hope for the future of cervical cancer treatment.


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This Silicon Quantum Computer Chip Design Might Actually Work

Silicon Quantum Chips

Researchers all over the world have been working tirelessly integrate quantum interactions into working computer chips. After over three decades of research, we may be on the verge of making quantum computing possible. Recently, engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have used silicon to design quantum computer chips.

The new chip design, published in the journal Nature Communications, turns traditional silicon microprocessors on their head with its unique architecture. This design uses semiconductor components, which are the basis for most modern chips, known as CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors) to perform quantum calculations.

The design was created by Andrew Dzurak, director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and the paper’s lead author Dr. Menno Veldhorst, a research fellow at UNSW when the conceptual work was completed.

“We often think of landing on the Moon as humanity’s greatest technological marvel,” Dzurak said in a press release. “But creating a microprocessor chip with a billion operating devices integrated together to work like a symphony — that you can carry in your pocket! — is an astounding technical achievement, and one that’s revolutionised modern life.”

When it comes to the future and potential of quantum computing, Dzurak continued, “we are on the verge of another technological leap that could be as deep and transformative. But a complete engineering design to realise this on a single chip has been elusive. I think what we have developed at UNSW now makes that possible.”

Most importantly, the UNSW team believes their new quantum chip design could be manufactured in a modern semiconductor manufacturing plant — meaning it wouldn’t take new infrastructure to create and implement them widely.

On the Verge

One of the persistent obstacles in quantum computing has been the capability of computer chips. For a functioning quantum computer, one needs to pack these chips with millions of qubits — bits that operate off the same concept as the binary bits that run your computer by signaling either 0 or 1, except that a qubit can exist as 0, 1, or as both of these potential states at once. Yet it has so far been difficult to pack more than a few dozen qubits onto a chip.

This new design aims to overcome that, incorporating traditional elements with novel design to accomplish what has not been accomplished before.

The team used conventional silicon transistor switches, which “turn on” qubits in a two-dimensional platform. They also used a grid-based ‘word’ and ‘bit’ selecting protocol, which is similar to how bits are selected in a traditional system. But, Dzurak added in the press release, “Our chip blueprint incorporates a new type of error-correcting code designed specifically for spin qubits, and involves a sophisticated protocol of operations across the millions of qubits.”

This marks the first attempt to fit, onto one chip, all of the conventional silicon circuitry needed to read the millions of qubits involved in quantum computing.

So have we officially achieved quantum computing? Not exactly. This is still an early design, and the authors acknowledge that there will likely be further modifications to the design even before initial manufacturing.

Despite the work to be done, this design is still a massive achievement in the journey towards creating accessible quantum computing. When quantum computing can be achieved and then scaled up to where it is publicly, commercially accessible, life as we know it has the potential to change. Quantum computing promises to answer some of the most seemingly impossible questions about our universe, while also making the devices we use infinitely more reliable through powerful debugging.

This design is only one step, but it is an important step towards a quantum future.

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After the Moon and Mars, NASA Wants to Head to Alpha Centauri in 2069

Returning to the Moon, and Beyond

48 years ago, NASA launched the Apollo 11 mission, with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins unaware they were about to make history. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong would take the first step on the Moon, with Buzz Aldrin to follow shortly after. The men became the first — and only — humans to walk on the Moon.

While we haven’t returned to the Moon, that’s not to say humanity hasn’t ventured back to space in the years since — the International Space Station being proof of humanity’s continued off-Earth presence.

For a time, thoughts of going back to the Moon were overshadowed by a yearning to go to Mars. However, following Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement in October that the United States would begin sending astronauts back to the Moon, Mars has once again taken a backseat. Just last week, President Trump signed a new directive ordering NASA to focus on a new U.S. space exploration program.

“Imagine the possibility waiting in those big beautiful stars if we dare to dream big,” President Trump said at the signing. “That’s what our country is doing again, we’re dreaming big.”

“Dreaming big” is certainly one way to put it, as NASA has various projects and missions in development that would take us far beyond the Moon. To start, there’s the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft — both of which are key components to the organization’s plans to get to the Moon, Mars, and deep space. Those are followed by the Deep Space Gateway, which will be constructed near the Moon and serve as a space station to help facilitate the long journey to Mars.

Journey to Another Star System

If NASA gets its way, though, it’ll send people deeper still into outer space. As reported by New Scientist, NASA is reportedly making plans to launch a spacecraft to a nearby exoplanet in 2069 — 100 years after the success of the aforementioned Apollo 11 mission.

According to Newsweek, the mission will take the spacecraft to the Alpha Centauri system, home to Proxima b. Unsurprisingly, the mission is reportedly so early in the planning phase that it doesn’t even have a name yet. Anthony Freeman, manager of the Innovation Foundry at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, called the whole thing “very nebulous.” Even the technology for such an expedition has yet to be developed, though NASA is said to be looking into using the same robot probe technique used by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and his Breakthrough Starshot project.

While the unnamed mission was revealed at the 2017 American Geophysical Union conference on December 12, it’s not an entirely new idea. In fact, the idea was born in 2016, when U.S. Representative John Culberson (R–TX) ordered NASA to plan a trip to the star system by 2069. In the report that accompanied the considered bill, Culberson and the subpanel that oversees NASA were encouraging the agency “to study and develop propulsion concepts that could enable an interstellar scientific probe with the capability of achieving a cruise velocity of 0.1c [10 percent of the speed of light].”

Voyager-1, the only other spacecraft to reach interstellar space, is traveling less than 1 percent of 1 percent of the speed of light, according to Newsweek. With Alpha Centauri being about 4.4 light-years away, NASA’s probe would probably reach the system in about 44 years if it managed to move at 10 percent of the speed of light. The probe wouldn’t be the only hardware used in the mission, either. NASA would follow up on the probe with a space telescope capable of gathering data about the system without needing to see everything inside — an invaluable trait considering Alpha Centauri’s distance from us.

Of course, 2069 is decades away, giving NASA plenty of time to design, build, and test the technology needed to make the trip possible. Voyager-1 was launched nearly 40 years ago and still has more to show us. What’s another 50 years before we can see into another star system?

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A Hawaiian Lawmaker Plans to Introduce a Bill to Explore Public Broadband

Three Words

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may have voted to repeal net neutrality, but the fight for a fair and open internet is far from over. Joining that fight is a Hawaii state lawmaker, who says he plans to introduce a bill to establish public broadband networks.

Hawaii state representative Kaniela Ing first mentioned drafting the bill in a post on Twitter not long after the FCC voted to end net neutrality rules. Then, on December 19, he shared his vision for the future of the internet in a statement posted on his website.

“States like Hawaii must act now to save the equal-and-open internet,” wrote Ing. “One option is to reject corporate internet services providers all together, and control our internet ourselves.”

In the statement, Ing said he plans to introduce a bill that declares that the internet should remain equal and open to all. It also urges Congress to introduce legislation to cement net neutrality into American law as opposed to relying on easily repealable regulatory rules. Finally, it establishes a task force to explore the feasibility of creating public broadband networks to ensure corporate interests could not influence traffic.

“Locally owned internet is the only way to protect net neutrality for decades to come,” Ing told Motherboard. The task force created by the passage of his bill would be responsible for evaluating whether the government should extend grants to support the construction of the necessary infrastructure for these community-owned networks.

Turning the Lights On

Politicians from New York, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and other states have asserted that the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality was illegal and should be rolled back. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has proposed a vote to overturn the ruling, while New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is suing to stop the repeal. One state lawmaker has even proposed making net neutrality law in California.

Clearly, the FCC’s vote has inspired many to act to keep the internet open and free, but what good is an open internet if you can’t use it?

Even with net neutrality in place, many people in the United States have had issues accessing broadband internet. It’s not just a rural problem, either. While infrastructure expansion is economically prohibitive for internet service providers (ISPs) in some of the more remote areas of the nation, the issue also affects Americans in urban areas.

According to the Wireless Broadband Alliance, more than 60 million urban-dwelling Americans are without or cannot afford access to high-speed internet. By lowering standards of acceptable broadband access, the FCC is poised to exacerbate this problem.

Locally owned broadband networks could help to mitigate that gap, especially if governments decide that it is in their best interest to subsidize them. Public broadband cooperatives could mirror the local electric cooperatives created by rural Americans in the early 20th century to bring electricity to areas where utility companies refused to expand.

The repeal of net neutrality increases corporate control over the internet, and backlash toward it could help fuel public internet ownership initiatives. If successful, they could ensure that one of the most powerful tools of democracy remains in the hands of the people it serves.

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Japan Pledges $2.9 Billion to Universal Health Care in Developing Nations

Towards Health for All

At the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Forum on December 14, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that his government would fund healthcare programs in developing countries seeking to provide universal health care coverage. Japan pledged to contribute $ 2.9 billion to programs that push for battling infectious diseases and treatments for children, beginning with 28 target countries listed by the UHC Partnership.

Speaking side-by-side United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Abe said, “We will give our all to building a global framework to promote [universal health care], together with Secretary-General Guterres and other world leaders,” according to The Japan Times.

Promoting universal health care is among the sustainable development goals set by the U.N. for 2030, and the historic forum held in Tokyo was an avenue to push for the cause. The forum was organized by the Japanese government, in partnership with international institutions including the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the Japanese flag, earlier in 2017. Abe and the Japanese government are leading a push to provide universal health care to developing countries.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier this year. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

As part of this billion dollar pledge, Abe proposed a tentative new goal for universal health care: the Japanese prime minister wants to provide basic health services to 1 billion more people by 2023. “This is bold,” Gregory Stevens, associate professor for Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, told Futurism.

“Since the 1960s, Japan has successfully embraced universal health care inside its borders, and it remains a leader in both keeping costs low and achieving very good health outcomes,” Stevens said. “So, Japan committing funds to this is not only important and needed, but demonstrates their leadership and vast experience in this area.”

A Timely Cause

The idea of universal health care is that health services shouldn’t be inaccessible to people who may not have the financial resources for it. The current plan by the WHO aims to have 80 percent of the population in developing nations access to such services by 2030, and that out-of-pocket medical expenses don’t lead to further poverty.

Universal health care isn’t just a concern for developing nations, though. “The terminology might be somewhat different for developed and developing countries,” Stevens explained to Futurism. “Among the developed countries, universal coverage generally means access to commonly practiced primary, specialty, tertiary, and emergency care (and many other facets of medicine like medications, physical and occupational therapy, and mental health care).”

In contrast, among developed countries, the focus is on the most basic level of health care, like primary care and hospital-based care. Stevens added: “This is changing as countries continue to develop and the needs of populations change,” such as the move away from infectious disease as the leading cause of death and towards chronic disease.

Indeed, all the developments in modern healthcare made possible by advanced technologies would seem meaningless in a society where basic access to medical services isn’t even assured. Japan, as Stevens pointed out, is no stranger to universal health care, and it’s no coincidence that the UHC Forum was organized by Abe’s government.

“It takes unwavering political commitment because it is a political choice, but the price is a healthier, safer and fairer world for all people,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, according to The Japan Times.

To this end, Stevens made one last observation: “Interestingly, the U.S. does not have sufficient standing to lead such an effort because, despite the Affordable Care Act (which continue to be under threat), we still have about 9 million people without health insurance and hundreds of thousands of people experiencing bankruptcy from medical bills each year.”

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UPS Is Betting Big on Blockchain to Lower Costs and Up Security

Shipping Futures

UPS announced on December 19, 2017 that they will join the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a group dedicated to utilizing blockchain tech in the trucking industry to secure data transfers and speed up transactions. In the U.S., our reliance on the shipping industry has grown tremendously with the increasing popularity of ordering items online instead of shopping in-store. In 2015, freight and logistics was nearly a $ 1.5 trillion industry, and that number is only expected to go up. But while we may be relying more and more on the shipping industry, its foundation is crumbling. The industry was not built with this level of growth in mind, and is prone to both inefficiency and fraud — which may be why UPS is betting big on blockchain.

The FBI estimates a loss of about $ 30 billion in cargo theft annually in the U.S. But while this has been an existing problem for years, it will likely only increase as the industry grows. Blockchain could be the answer by lowering costs and upping efficiency and security.

Basing shipping and transactions on a blockchain system will also increase transparency, potentially giving consumers much more information about the process and location of their package.

Betting Big on Blockchain

If this turns out to be a successful integration, this is fantastic news for consumers. Not only could shipping costs be lower, but shoppers might be granted more information, transparency, and ensured security throughout the process. Linda Weakland, UPS’s Director of Enterprise Architecture and Innovation, explained in a company statement: “The technology has the potential to increase transparency and efficiency among shippers, carriers, brokers, consumers, vendors and other supply chain stakeholders.”

This would spell brighter futures for shippers as well, as they would gain visibility throughout the supply chain due to increased transparency, allowing them to more effectively communicate with recipients and others along the way. This could increase their ability to relay information like loads, geo-waypoints, and basic compliance information. Additionally, once a shipment is both confirmed and recorded on the blockchain, its validity cannot be disputed, reducing fraud that both costs time and money for all parties involved.

It seems as though just about everyone is discovering the advantages of operating on a blockchain system. And, for the shipping sector, it might represent a solution to the industry’s crumbling security and efficiency in the face of rampant growth.

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People Are Taking Ubers to Avoid Ambulance Fees

Health Fare

Using an ambulance to travel to the hospital in an emergency can cost upwards of $ 1,000 USD. Now research demonstrates that a significant number of people are instead choosing Uber to perform the same service.

The paper – currently being peer reviewed – examines the effect on ambulance usage as Uber was introduced to 766 cities across 43 states. According its findings, even the most conservative estimate shows a seven percent reduction in people traveling via ambulance where the service is available.

“I think it’s, in general, a good thing,” said co-author David Slusky, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, speaking to Futurism over the phone. “Certainly, we can think of cases where it’s a worrying trend, but in general, it’s a good thing.” Slusky went on to acknowledge the importance of “bending the cost curve” for healthcare in the U.S., given that residents spend more per capita on healthcare than anywhere else in the world.

Of course, it’s crucial that people are only using Uber drivers as an impromptu ambulance when it’s safe to do so. While in some cases it makes sense to save money using this strategy, there are certain situations when it would be ineffective or even downright dangerous to do so.

For example, you may end up in the wrong hospital, said Marc Eckstein, the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s medical director, speaking with CBS.

Not all hospitals offer the same services, so if you get a ride to the nearest one which is not equipped to treat your problem, that hospital will then call 911 and move you to the right facility. “That difference of 30 minutes or more could mean the difference between life and death,” Eckstein said.

Ambulance App

The fact that the cost of taking an ambulance to the hospital is inaccessible for a lot of people in the U.S. is a big problem, and the use of ride-sharing services is a workaround at best. However, there are certain advantages to the idea of people taking an Uber when an ambulance isn’t necessary.

“If ambulances aren’t used when they’re less needed, that improves response time when they are needed,” explained Slusky. Again, it’s troubling to think that people might have to weigh the financial repercussions of getting to the hospital in an emergency, but there could be a benefit to giving people a less expensive alternative in non-emergency situations.

Slusky argues that educating the public about what sort of conditions need immediate treatment, as well as an effective method of remote triage before the patient ever reaches the hospital, could help modernize our emergency healthcare. Some kind of sanctioned ride-sharing service could play a role, with ambulances serving as one component of a broader fleet of vehicles with various levels of specialization.

Technology is poised to revolutionize the healthcare industry as we know it, and the current experience of heading to the hospital could be unrecognizable in a few years time. When it comes to emergency services, the biggest problem is re-educating the public. People know the established process for emergency care, and ingraining a new approach will take time and effort.

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Three More Cryptocurrencies Arrive on Bloomberg Terminal

Bloomberg Terminal

Bitcoin is no longer the only cryptocurrency on Bloomberg’s terminal service. According to a Fortune report, ethereum, ripple, and litecoin will be added to the roster, intended for foreign exchange traders looking to branch out.

This incorporation is happening, as some suggest, as a result of bitcoin’s meteoric rise within the past year. Both in popularity and value, Bitcoin has exceeded many expectations and predictions that the “bitcoin bubble” would burst.

Now, mainstream investors are starting to feel comfortable with investing and exploring cryptocurrencies. And, while Bitcoin is leading the pack, there are other cryptocurrencies, like the three added, that are also finding success.

Crypto Rising

Compared to bitcoin, ethereum has a different primary purpose. The platform on which it runs is not created as a payment alternative, but aims to facilitate and monetize the circulation of tokens to enable developers to build and manage distributed applications.

Litecoin is meant to work as an improved clone of bitcoin, while ripple provides blockchain technology to banks, also allowing its currency to circulate on the market.

Bloomberg’s terminal service is used by major banks and investment houses worldwide. Its acceptance of four total cryptocurrencies says a lot about their legitimacy. Initially, crypto garnered suspicion and dismissal from many who saw it as a passing phase. And even now, many consider the success of crypto-giants like Bitcoin to be a growing bubble, bound to burst at some point in time.

The “seal of approval” provided by the addition of these cryptocurrencies to Bloomberg’s terminal could open up new possibilities for cryptocurrencies as a whole. More major players might now feel comfortable investing in crypto other than just bitcoin.

And because the popular digital currency has become so expensive in recent months, a portfolio of alternatives whose value is growing but are still affordable means that more investors may get involved.

Although the addition of new cryptos to a mainstream currency listing such as Bloomberg’s may not seem a significant milestone, it signals that crypto has the potential to attract a growing number of investors beyond the tech enthusiasts.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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