Business review from the Economist
Musk lays out step toward singularity
In a presentation to scientists, Elon Musk said that a startup he backs that is developing technology to integrate artificial intelligence with the brain plans to begin tests on humans by the end of next year. Neuralink is working on a system that will connect the brain to machines by implanting hundreds of electrode "threads," thinner than hair strands, using a surgical robot. The procedure is intended for patients with severe neurological disorders but could eventually be used to boost the brain's power.
Facebook is to be fined $5 billion in the United States for violating users' privacy in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Although this would be by far the biggest penalty levied on a technology company in the United States, one bipartisan group of senators described it as "egregiously inadequate," adding that $5 billion was too small to "alter the incentives and behavior of Facebook and its peers." The Federal Trade Commission is awaiting approval of the settlement from the Justice Department.
There was more pushback from officials against Facebook's plan to launch a global cryptocurrency to be named Libra. Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. treasury secretary, said that given concerns about the potential for money-laundering, Libra was a national security issue and that Facebook has "a lot of work to do" convincing government.
The European Union's competition regulator trained its sights on Amazon. The retailer is to be investigated over the process for sharing the "Buy Box" on its website with independent vendors, and whether it uses data provided by the vendors to its own advantage when selling its own products.
Netflix's share price tumbled after it disclosed that it had lost subscribers in the United States for the first time in eight years and had signed up just 2.7 million new users globally in the second quarter, far below its forecast of 5 million. Netflix raised the subscription price for its U.S. customers earlier this year, just as it is about to face strong competition from other media companies starting their own online streaming services.
The sterling fell sharply against the dollar and other currencies. Markets are waking up to the likely victory of Boris Johnson in the race to become Britain's new prime minister. Johnson maintains a hard-line position that he is prepared to leave the E.U. without a deal on Oct. 31. Britain's fiscal watchdog thinks a no-deal Brexit would plunge the country into recession.
Four months into its search for a new CEO following the abrupt departure of Timothy Sloan, Wells Fargo reported a higher-than-expected quarterly net profit of $6.2 billion. The bank is struggling to find a new boss as it continues to deal with the regulatory fallout from a fake-accounts scandal.
China's GDP grew by 6.2% in the second quarter, year over year, the slowest pace in three decades.
South Korea's central bank sliced a quarter of a percentage point off its main interest rate, to 1.5%. It was the first cut in three years and comes amid a slump in the country's exports.
Global Politics from the Economist
German official to lead E.U.'s executive arm
Ursula von der Leyen, until recently Germany's defense minister, was approved by the European Parliament as the next president of the European Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm. She secured 383 votes, nine more than the required absolute majority, suggesting that she will take office with her authority already brittle. Her first, and very tricky, task is to assign jobs to the commissioners of each country.
There were 1,187 drug-related deaths in Scotland last year, according to official figures. That is a rate of more than 218 people per million, higher than in the United States, which is in the grip of an opioid epidemic.
A Turkish diplomat was killed in a gun attack in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey recently stepped up its offensive in the Hakurk region of northern Iraq against Kurdish fighters, who have waged war with Turkish forces for decades.
The soldiers running Sudan signed a power-sharing deal with the opposition, whose protests led to the fall of President Omar al-Bashir, a tyrant, in April. The accord lacks many details, but the two sides have agreed on a path to elections after three years and the composition of a sovereign council of civilians and military types.
The World Health Organization formally declared the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be a global health emergency. More than 1,670 people have died in the latest outbreak.
Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's president, upset China by staying in the U.S. while on her way to and from the Caribbean.