Numlock News: October 30, 2019 • Robots, Greyhounds, Molten Coins
By Walt Hickey
Santa’s Little Helper
Greyhound racing, or as Northerners know it, “the reason your friend’s adopted mutt is abnormally fast,” has taken a massive dive in popularity, with the cost of regulating dog races now exceeding the state revenue generated from dog races: Florida loses $1 million to $3.3 million a year simply regulating dog racing, and the state’s racing tax revenue fell from $77.2 million in 1985 to $3.7 million in 2012. Greyhound racing was legal in 19 states, but since falling out of favor in the ‘90s is now legal in just 10, and actually only happens in six.
The market for voting technology — ballot boxes and the like — is only about $300 million in the U.S. and just a few firms have majority control of the business. Dominion has 30 percent of the market, Hart InterCivic has 15 percent, but the elephant in the room is ES&S, an Omaha company with 500 employees and 50 percent of the country’s election system market, with some 70 million Americans pulling the lever on an ES&S machine. After big firms like IBM got out of the game in the late ‘60s, this became a classic situation where entrenched market participants have inflated sway in the future of democracy, but mess up at an alarming rate.
Brexit has had many odd moments, but few more than the government’s decision to print 3 million 50p coins to commemorate a successful October 31 exit from the European Union. The issue is that they have delayed that exit a second time and will now have to destroy the thousands of coins that they mistakenly stamped “31 October 2019” on. Last week production ground to a halt as it became more likely that Halloween would not, in fact, end in Brexit, so it could have been worse, but nevertheless the coins will now enter numismatic history.
New data from Common Sense found that 13- to 18-year-olds from lower income homes spent an average of 8 hours 30 minutes per day on smartphones, tablets and video games compared to 6 hours 49 minutes for teens from higher-income households. Though richer teens are more likely to have ownership of smart devices, diminished access to extracurricular activities and child care mean that lower income households — those making less than $35,000 per year — simply have fewer opportunities for teens than higher-income ($100,000+ per year) homes.
Somewhere Beyond The Sea
Victoria in British Columbia is bending under the weight of the cruise business. It was visited by over 260 ships in 2019 with 1 million passengers. The city has seen a 45 percent increase in cruise ship arrivals since 2010, and a weird loophole in American law is largely to blame. Any foreign-owned passenger ship (like all cruise ships) can’t transport passengers from a U.S. port to another U.S. port, so Seattle ships bound for Anchorage pop over to Victoria for a quick stop to avoid a $778 per passenger fine. Though visitors don’t really stop for food and definitely don’t stay, they still add $130 million to the Victoria economy, but here’s the issue: the ships stay running the whole time, belching fumes and carbon dioxide into the city’s atmosphere, some 11,406 tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 2019 alone.
Mylar party balloons, the silvery helium-filled party favors that are super in vogue on social media in the form of letter- and number-shaped balloons, are driving a massive amount of business for the balloon industry. An industry report forecasts that party balloons will be a $330 million business by 2025, and the Balloon Industrial Complex is fighting back against any regulation that could get in that way. Balloon debris regularly wash onshore and also to some notoriety gum up power lines, with 1,128 power outages in Southern California stemming from balloons in 2018, double the 646 notched in 2014.
Seasonal hiring at delivery companies like UPS, FedEx and warehousing companies is about to spike, but in addition to human employment, the companies are about to employ even more robotic help than typical. As of 2018, commercial robots are deployed in just 3 percent of warehouses globally. By 2025 that’s projected to hit 27.6 percent, and right around the holidays several companies are advancing purchases of robotics as unemployment rates are extremely low and seasonal workers are difficult to find.
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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Open Borders · WrestleMania · Game of Thrones · Concussion Snake Oil · Skyglow · Juul · Chris Ingraham · Invasive Species · The Rat Spill · The Sterling Affairs · Snakebites · Bees · Deep Fakes · Artificial Intelligence · Marijuana · Mussels ·