These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The power to accuse someone of a grave crime on the basis of hearsay is a heady one. I have done it, and I faced the consequences of being wrong. Twenty years ago in the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan, I met a man, Chief Hussein Karbus, whose murder I had reported three years earlier. He was introduced to me by the man I had accused of ordering his death, a leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. The mistake had appeared in a report I authored for Human Rights Watch; it was the kind of error that human rights researchers sometimes make and rarely admit. The three of us sat together and laughed about it. Not all such missteps turn out so well.
They call it “the Internet of Things” — the rapidly growing network of everyday objects equipped with sensors, tiny power supplies, and internet addresses. Within a few years, we will be immersed in a world of these connected devices. The best estimates suggest that there will be about 60 billion of them by the year 2020. We’ve already seen internet-accessible sensors implanted in dolls, cars, and cows. Currently, the biggest users of these sensor arrays are in cities, where city governments use them to collect large amounts of policy-relevant data. In Los Angeles, the crowdsourced traffic and navigation app Waze collects data that helps residents navigate the city’s choked highway networks. In Chicago, an ambitious program makes public data available to startups eager to build apps for residents. The city’s 49th ward has been experimenting with participatory budgeting and online voting to take the pulse of the community on policy issues. Chicago has also been developing the “Array of Things,” a network of sensors that track, among other things, the urban conditions that affect bronchitis.