The Week Unwrapped: Parks, mindful robots and selfish vaccines
Will offices give way to green spaces? Are robots on the verge of mastering empathy? And what’s gone wrong with the EU’s vaccine plan?
Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters from the past seven days.
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In this week’s episode, we discuss:
Paris is planning to turn most of the Champs-Elysees into parks and pavements, dramatically reducing the space given over to cars. The city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has said that Covid and the 2024 Olympics have persuaded her to reshape its most celebrated street. Will other cities follow suit - and should they - now that demand for city-centre office space is plummeting.
Columbia University says it has created a robot capable of showing the first “glimmer of empathy”, by envisaging how another robot will behave. The significance is that unlike other examples of artificial empathy, the machine in this experiment was not programmed with any rules or assumptions about what its fellow robot would do. All it could do was observe, spot patterns and then deduce and predict how the other robot would act in the future.
Anger over the EU’s slow vaccine rollout has been punctuated after Germany was found to have negotiated a deal for 30 million doses outside of the bloc’s joint scheme. Revelations in German magazine Der Spiegel then revealed that the EU scheme itself favours larger member states, leaving smaller countries with a lesser share. So what does that all mean for the continental rollout - and is it an example of Brexit Britain gaining an edge on its neighbours?