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Richard Branson space flight: should billionaires be going to space? | Ticker VIEWS

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As billionaire Richard Branson welcomes humanity to “the dawn of new space age”, we are left to wonder if now is the time to leave earth

In the early hours of today, Richard Branson joined fellow billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos as a competitor in the new age space race. However, should we be celebrating the possibility of a future where the extremely wealthy can afford space getaways?

The last few years have been catastrophic for planet earth. The escalating climate crisis has seen wildfires ravage through Australia last year, and more recently in California. Global tensions continue to rise with escalating conflict throughout the Middle East and a widening political divide. The Covid-19 pandemic has become not only a health crisis, but also an economic and political one.

With this in mind, billionaires going to space as the world burns feels slightly out-of-touch. In many ways, the entire concept feels like it could be pulled from the plot of some dystopian blockbuster. As the world burns, the uber-rich get to escape in their personal space jets. However, these same men (and they are all men), insist that their escapades beyond earth are inherently philanthropic.

Last year, the UN’s David Beasley implored billionaires to “step up” and help fund the fight against hunger worldwide. Beasley also took to Twitter in June to specifically encourage action from Bezos, Branson and Musk.

And yet, it seems this is the exact moment the space race between Silicon Valley’s elite is heating up. Aside from Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos also have space travel firmly in their sights with SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Will space travel be accessible to all, or only the rich?

Traveling to space must be “more accessible to all,” Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said during a news conference following his successful space flight. However, the sentiment feels rather hollow when you look at the hefty cost of space travel.

Although the $250,000 price tag to go to space with Virgin Galactic may seem excessive, it’s a bargain compared to what other companies offer. A ticket aboard a SpaceX mission costs about $55 million, and a seat on a spaceflight next to Jeff Bezos costs about $28 million.

Even Virgin Galactic’s offerings for relatively cheap space travel cost about the same as the US’ medium house price. Thus far, the company says at least 600 people have made reservations for future Virgin Galactic flights, at a ticket price estimated to cost as much as $250,000.

Space Connector Christina Korp has over 12 years managing former NASA astronauts and says although Branson, Bezos and musk are fuelling the cash and ‘billionaire space race’ angle… it’s just a natural progression to take space to a commercial market.

“I heard their intention is to hopefully begin to do flights once a week or possible once a day (to space)”

Space Connector Christina Korp

Korp says NASA astronauts want to share their perspective of earth and believe more people should be able to also experience space.

“We’re here to make space more accessible to all,” says Richard Branson.

For his part, Branson has committed to reducing ticket prices. Although, he hasn’t specified when we can expect cheaper flights, or how cheap the tickets could become. Of course, many analysts say that space tourism flights will naturally become less expensive as technology continues to develop.

Space travel isn’t the only new technology that has a price tag too large for the average person. During the early days of commercial aircraft, a plane ticket was far out of most people’s reach. Now, over a billion people travel internationally every year (albeit this statistic was prior to Covid-19 restrictions).

“The price point is high, but that’s just like any other early adopter,” said Ann Kim, managing director of frontier tech at Silicon Valley Bank.

Are billionaires using their money to go to space, or is going to space making them money?

At the core of each of these discussions is a central component: money, and lots of it. Experts anticipate that space tourism will represent an annual market of $20 billion, as a competitor to long-distance commercial flights.

The billions of dollars pouring into private space companies represents “a high level” of capital formation, UBS said. Even though space tourism is still in its early days, UBS said they believe the sub-sector “will become mainstream as the technology becomes proven and cost falls”.

With so much money at stake, it leaves you to wonder whether the mission of these billionaires truly is to provide for humanity. And if so, why would they not direct their philanthropic endeavours closer to earth?

This isn’t to say that improving space travel technology won’t be beneficial to humanity. However, you’d be kidding yourself if you saw space technology as anything other than a capitalistic investment.

Let the record say: I’m not opposed to space travel, or investing in the development of space technology. However, perhaps billionaires should be using their astronomical wealth to contribute to social causes closer to earth.

Keira is the front-page editor at Ticker NEWS. She's previously worked at Reuters in Jakarta, and ABC in Australia. She has a Bachelor of Journalism, specialising in international politics. Keira is particularly interested in writing about politics, technology and human rights.

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Death toll rises to three following explosion in China

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An explosion in China’s provincial capital of Liaoning, has left three dead and several injured

Authorities say the death toll has risen to three, with at least 30 people injured in the aftermath of an explosion which rocked the provincial capital of Liaoning, northeastern China on Thursday morning.

Investigators from the Shenyang emergency department and gas company are at the scene of the explosion, which shattered windows in multiple buildings and sent debris flying, hitting a number of parked cars.

The local fire department says rescue efforts are ongoing with 25 fire trucks and 110 firefighters deployed to the site as of late Thursday morning.

In June, a gas explosion at a market in central China killed 25 people and injured more than 130.

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Facebook settles US worker discrimination claims

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Facebook has settled a major discrimination case, agreeing to pay a record $14.5m to settle claims made by US workers

The world’s biggest social media giant, Facebook, has agreed to pay a record $14.5m to settle claims it discriminated against U.S. workers in its hiring practice.

The United States Department of Justice claimed that the tech giant often overlooked US workers in favour of foreign ones on temporary visas.

It is the biggest penalty of its kind issued by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Facebook said it “strongly believes” it met the federal government’s standards

“Facebook is not above the law, and must comply with our nation’s federal civil rights laws, which prohibit discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices,” 

said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ.

“Companies cannot set aside certain positions for temporary visa holders because of their citizenship or immigration status.”

The tech sector in the United States often uses temporary visas, including the H-1B, to bring highly skilled foreign guest workers to America.

Tech giants argues those foreign workers are vital, because there are not enough American science and engineering graduates to fill the jobs available in areas such as artificial intelligence.

However, critics say the laws governing temporary visas are lax, and make it too easy to replace U.S workers with cheaper foreign labour – something US law prohibits.

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Step aside Android, Apple’s announced their most powerful devices yet

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Expert advice, in-depth device explanations and all the updates – everything you need to know about Apple’s latest product launch.

The new MacBook Pro among a series of new Apple releases

Apple’s freshest products are in, but there’s something quite different about the tech giant’s latest product release.

In the past, Apple fans have witnessed the tech company outdo themselves each year, with their much-loved devices advancing in technicality each model.

But after wrapping up their latest product showcase, Apple’s so-called “unleashed event” has turned user expectation on its head.

Rather than going out with the old and in with the new, the newest models of MacBook laptops and Airpods share similar features to much older models of their respective devices.

The latest release of devices will see SD card ports reintroduced to laptops and the next generation of Airpods share their design of their original model.

Apple has also taken aim at professional content developers opposed to general consumer leisure.

But first, here’s all you need to know about Apple’s new approach to their latest tech:

What exactly did Apple unveil at their latest event?

While many would say the third generation of Airpods and the release of the new MacBook Pro were the highlights of Apple’s events, the tech giant unveiled a series of new updates and features to some of their pre-existing products.

All-new MacBook Pro and Airpods aside, here’s some more changes coming to Apple devices that you need to be aware of.

The M1 Pro and M1 Max

The tech giant has introduced their most powerful chips built in-house, the M1 Pro and M1 Max.

Installed to power the all-new MacBook Pro, the new chips feature up to a 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU, 64GB of unified memory, ProRes acceleration and industry-leading power efficiency.

The new chips are up to two times faster and one-up the pre-existing M1 chip installed in earlier models of the MacBook Pro and Air, iPad and the latest iMac.

Additionally, memory bandwidth, graphics and battery life are enhanced, making it one of the most powerful chips built for a pro notebook.

M1 Pro and M1 Max feature an up to 10-core CPU that is up to 1.7x faster than the latest 8-core PC laptop chip at the same power level, and achieves the PC chip’s peak performance at up to 70 per cent less power. (Apple)

To all video editors, graphic designers and film makers – the tech giant hasn’t forgotten about you.

Loaded with advanced custom technologies, the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips can deal with intense workflows.

And if that still doesn’t convince you, both chips are 100 percent carbon neutral as Apple works towards their goal of net-zero by 2030.

M1 Pro features 33.7 billion transistors — more than 2x the amount in M1. The chip can be configured with up to 32GB of fast unified memory. (Apple)

The Apple Music Voice Plan

From just $5.99 a month, you can access the ultimate music experience designed exclusively for Siri.

The Apple Music Voice Plan exposes subscribers to a catalogue of 90 million songs, tens of thousands of playlists, personalised mixes and genre stations, as well as the award-winning Apple Music Radio.

To access all these features, plus more, all you have to do is call out to Siri.

“Apple Music and Siri are natural partners and already work seamlessly together.”

Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats..

“With Siri actively used on hundreds of millions of devices worldwide, we are thrilled to add this new plan that delivers an effortless music experience just by using your voice and makes Apple Music accessible to even more people around the world.”

The Apple Music Voice Plan is designed around the power of Siri, and will be available this spring in 17 countries and regions. (Apple)

Apple users can access the Apple Music Voice Plan across all Siri-enabled devices including HomePod mini, AirPods, iPhone or any other Apple device, and when using CarPlay.

It comes as competition ramps up in the music streaming world, with the Apple Music Voice Plan offering voice assistant technology that neither Spotify or Android’s Music Player have current access to.

Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro

Who needs access to a state-of-the-art editing suite when you can access studio-level features from your living room?

Apple’s update to their Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro programs is doing just that, thanks to powerful new features and optimisations from the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.

Professional video editors are performing tasks never thought possible on a Mac, with the updates providing the ability to play seven streams of 8K ProRes or colour-grade 8K HDR video, among other features.

“The world’s most creative people use Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro and the Mac to make the memorable movies, TV shows, online videos, songs and soundtracks that we all enjoy,” Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, says.

“Pros will be able to push the limits of their creativity like never before.”

Final Cut Pro 10.6 and Logic Pro 10.7 are available from today as a free update for existing users, or for A$499.99 and A$319.99 including GST, respectively for new users on the Mac App Store.

HomePod Mini goes vibrant

In line with the release of the Apple Music Voice Plan, Apple’s HomePod Mini is getting a splash of colour, with fans now able to purchase the device in yellow, orange or blue.

These colours are in addition to the pre-existing options of white and space grey.

“HomePod mini sounds incredible, and with access to more than 90 million songs in the global Apple Music catalogue and deep integration with your Apple devices, it’s the must-have smart speaker for iPhone users.”

Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing.

“With new vibrant colours, HomePod mini fits in even more places and delivers amazing sound, the power of Siri, and simple and secure smart home controls, all while protecting your privacy.”

HomePod mini works seamlessly with iPhone to hand off music or receive personalised listening suggestions when a device is nearby. (Apple)

In addition to the new colour palette, Apple is enlarging their list of available device features.

Expanding multi-user voice recognition, automatic Siri volume control and new ways to control smart devices are among some of the new features to be added to the device.

The HomePod mini also takes the environment into consideration.

Just under 100 per cent of the device is manufactured with recycled rare earth elements, while the neodymium magnet in the speaker driver utlises 100 per cent recycled rare earth elements. 

HomePod mini consumes 75 per cent less energy than the stringent requirements for ENERGY STAR.

Old features on new products

Okay, so back to the stars of the show, it’s quite noticeable that the new generations of MacBook pro and AirPods share some similarities with their respective predecessors.

Some might question if it’s even worth purchasing them seeing that Apple has taken a step back to old times.

However, Apple has raised the bar in other aspects, taking their goal or working towards net-zero by 2030 into account.

MacBook Pro with M1 Pro and M1 Max

Available in 14 inch and 16 inch models, the new MacBook Pro features a 1080p camera, the best audio system in a notebook and the most advanced connectivity ever seen.

Developers, photographers, filmmakers, 3D artists, scientists and music producers are at the forefront of the latest MacBook release.

“We set out to create the world’s best pro notebook, and today we’re excited to introduce the all-new MacBook Pro with M1 Pro and M1 Max — a game-changing combination of phenomenal performance, unrivalled battery life and groundbreaking features.”

Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

“The all-new MacBook Pro adds a breathtaking XDR display, more ports like MagSafe 3, an advanced 1080p camera and a sensational six-speaker sound system, all in a stunning new design.”

“The new MacBook Pro simply has no equal and is by far the best pro notebook we’ve ever built.”

If you’re still not entirely convinced, lets compare the newest model to the previous Pro.

MacBook Pro 2020 M1 chip

8 core CPU

8 core GPU

Up to 16GB unified memory

Up to 2 TB storage

Up to 20 hours battery life

Touch bar and touch ID

720p FaceTime HD camera

Advanced image signal processor with computational video

Stereo speakers with high dynamic range

MacBook Pro 2021 M1 Pro or M1 Max

Up to 10-core CPU

Up to 32-core GPU

Up to 64GB unified memory

Up to 8 TB storage

Up to 17 hours battery life

Touch ID

1080p FaceTime HD camera

Advanced image signal processor with computational video

High-fidelity six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers

In addition, the 2021 model of the MacBook pro comes with additional ports for an SD card, HDMI and three thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports.

Both models also come in silver and space grey.

Unlike other pro notebooks that lose performance when they are not plugged in, MacBook Pro delivers the same level of performance whether it is plugged in or using the battery. 

Ultimately it’s designed for performance, with capabilities that go beyond the expectations of any other notebooks.

The new MacBook Pro models are available from today with a retail price from $2,999.

AirPods 3rd Generation

While the new AirPods feature spatial audio, industry-leading sound and longer battery life, they do share a similar design to their first generation relatives.

Additionally, the new AirPods are resistant to sweat and water.

Again, in line with the release of Apple Music Voice Plan, the new earphones feature a force sensor for easy and intuitive control of music and phone calls plus extended battery life.

“AirPods forever changed wireless headphones with their groundbreaking design, incredible sound and magical experience.”

Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

“We are excited to introduce the next generation of AirPods, featuring unrivalled sound through Adaptive EQ and spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, along with seamless interaction between Apple devices — making the world’s best-selling headphones even better.”

While the third generation does share similarities with the first generation, the device’s stem is shorter with the goal of having a more subtle appearance.

Sound quality is also improved and microphone quality is also taken into account, covered by an acoustic mesh to block the sound of wind, all part of Apple’s intentions of creating a magical experience.

So how does this compare to the second generation of AirPod Pro?

AirPods 3rd Generation 2021

Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking

Sweat and water resistant

H1 chip

6 hours of listening time on charge

Up to 30 hours of listening time with charging case

Automatic switching

MagSafe charging

AirPods Pro

Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking

Sweat and water resistant

H1 chip

4.5 hours of listening time on charge

More than 24 hours of listening time with charging case

Automatic switching

MagSafe charging

While the AirPods pro do have the active noise cancellation feature, if you’re after a cheaper and longer-charging alternative, the AirPods 3rd Generation may be the option for you.

AirPods 3rd Generation are available to order from today, with their debut in store to occur from the 26th of October this year.

They start at a retail price of $279, therefore reducing the price of AirPods 2nd Generation to $219.

And to personalise your new AirPods even more, Apple offers free engraving for free if you order online.

And that’s a wrap

There you have it, you’re now up to date on Apple’s latest product release.

Stay tuned with ticker news and ticker tech for all the information on what’s to come from the Apple empire.

Written by Rebecca Borg

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