The tech elite is “a class for itself,” a study published in PLoS ONE journal found.
Researchers Hilke Brockmann, Wiebke Drews, and John Torpey concluded that the tech elite had “a distinct social identity” that made them easily identifiable in “the large pool of Twitter users.”
Looking at the Forbes list of the 100 richest people in tech, the researchers analyzed their use of language and emotions, using machine-learning approaches.
At the top of the list was Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. His net worth skyrocketed in 2020 with an increase of $72.7 billion.
Following closely behind was Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – although the latter’s wealth also increased substantially later in the year, taking him to over $100 billion.
Gaps between the tech elite and the rest of the population
The study examined how the language used by the tech elite differed from the rest of the “American Twitter-using population.”
They found that “disruption is consistently at the core of the communications of the tech elite,” who favor words including “can,” “great,” “people,” and “new.”
Their language was also much more achievement-oriented, using words that fell into an “achievement” category a total of 19,431 times.
This figure was twice as much as the general population’s, which came in at 9,439 times.
They also tended to draw more links between merit and employment compared with the general population.
The team hypothesized that the tech elite “saw its endeavors in ‘entrepreneurial technoscience’ as driven by a desire to ‘make the world a better place.'” They found that the language they used also reflected this goal.
Many of the tech elite have also signed the Giving Pledge, a scheme created by Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.
The scheme was set up to encourage billionaires to give away most of their wealth.
A 2020 report by the Institute for Policy Studies found that very little money may be helping people, as many of the billionaires were earning faster than they were giving.
The study also analyzed their subjects’ relationship with democracy and how it related to their wealth. “As representatives of an economic elite, they do not see or do not want to communicate a connection between these components of social potency,” the researchers said.
This constituted an active denial of the relationship between wealth and democracy, a view not shared by the general population.
“The tech elite does not take a critical view of the role they play relative to their abundance of power,” said Brockmann in a press release. “They deny their role in setting technical standards and influencing democracy with their financial capital.”
The researchers claimed that the tech elite’s view of the world was shaped by a meritocratic ideology. They believe their wealth is earned through effort, and so they don’t question their financial position.
Highlighting the elite’s “disproportionate influence” over how consumers spent their money, the team outlined the need for future policy research investigating how to “shape social outcomes” in a manner fitting of a democracy.
NASA is trying to send astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972, but its leader says Blue Origin might be getting in the way.
The rocket company, founded by Jeff Bezos, sued NASA last month after the agency decided to award a contract to SpaceX, not Blue Origin, to build the next moon lander for astronauts. The suit alleges that SpaceX’s proposal did not meet NASA’s requirements, and that the decision therefore violates “fundamental tenets” of government-contract procurement law.
NASA’s Artemis program aims to use SpaceX’s lander, a version of its Starship megarocket, to put boots on the moon in 2024. The mission plan calls for NASA to launch astronauts aboard its own Orion spaceship, which would then rendezvous with Starship in lunar orbit. Two of the astronauts would move to the SpaceX vehicle, which would then descend to the lunar surface to give the astronaut pair a week of exploring.
But NASA’s administrator, Bill Nelson, admitted in a press conference on Tuesday that he can no longer say when that will all happen.
Associated Press reporter Marcia Dunn asked Nelson whether NASA still had a shot at a 2024 moon landing, and he replied: “You want to call the federal judge and ask him?”
“The answer is we don’t know at this point,” he said. “We’re gonna move with all dispatch as soon as we know the legal realm, and then we can better answer your question.”
NASA subsequently confirmed to Insider that Nelson was referring to Blue Origin’s lawsuit.
‘Legal wrangling’ has frozen progress on SpaceX’s lunar lander
Before NASA sends any astronauts to the moon, it plans to launch an uncrewed mission called Artemis I. That would send the Orion spaceship around the moon without passengers, and it’s planned for later this year or early next year. After that, Artemis II would send an Orion spaceship on a similar flight, but with astronauts on board, in late 2023 or early 2024. Artemis III would then land astronauts on the lunar surface.
NASA won’t use SpaceX’s vehicle until that third mission – it will proceed with the first two on its own. But SpaceX can’t currently move forward in developing its moon lander until the Blue Origin lawsuit is resolved. NASA agreed to this work stoppage in exchange for an expedited schedule in court, with litigation set to conclude on November 1.
Blue Origin and another aerospace company, Dynetics, were finalists for the moon-lander contract. NASA was expected to pick two winners, but it chose only SpaceX for the time being. SpaceX’s $2.9 billion bid was much lower than the prices its competitors offered, according to NASA’s selection statement.
The US Federal Court released a redacted version of Blue Origin’s lawsuit on Wednesday. In it, the company argues that SpaceX’s proposal didn’t meet NASA’s requirements, and that “NASA inexplicably disregarded key flight safety requirements for only SpaceX,” a decision the company alleges was “arbitrary, capricious, and irrational.”
The crux of Blue Origin’s argument is that SpaceX’s plan does not require it to conduct flight-readiness reviews for uncrewed Starship launches before its moon landing. In such a review, NASA and SpaceX sit down together and spend nearly a day going through their checklists and ensuring they’re ready for flight. SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, have both said the company intends to conduct these reviews.
“If you have a coin, you can flip it as to what’s going to happen in the legal wrangling that’s going on right now,” Nelson said on Tuesday.
“What is the federal judge going to decide?” he continued. “When is he going to decide? What is the further legal possibilities about that? And once we know better about things like that, then we can answer on Artemis III, and then after that Artemis IV.”
A 2024 moon landing is unlikely anyway
Regardless of Blue Origin’s lawsuit, many experts think a 2024 moon landing is unlikely, even impossible. SpaceX’s Starship hasn’t flown to orbit yet. And the rocket NASA is building to launch its Orion spaceship has faced a series of delays.
“Just too many things have to happen for it to be feasible,” John Logsdon, a former member of the NASA Advisory Council and founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute, told Insider.
In an August report, the NASA Office of the Inspector General found that it’s “not feasible” for the agency to meet the 2024 goal, largely due to delays in its spacesuit development.
A United Nations chief ripped into Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson on Tuesday.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told other world leaders during his opening remarks at the UN General Assembly that the billionaires’ race to space demonstrated massive gaps between the poor and the uber wealthy.
He said that a “malady of mistrust” is spreading across the globe as everyday people see their rights curtailed and struggle to put food on the table. Guterres said “parents see a future for their children that looks even bleaker than the struggles of today,” while at the same time they see “billionaires joyriding to space while millions go hungry on Earth.”
Spokespeople from the billionaires’ space companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
“[They] are mostly right,” Bezos said at the time. “We have to do both. We have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those and we also need to look to the future, we’ve always done that as a species and as a civilization.”
“I think we should spend the vast majority of our resources solving problems on Earth. Like, 99% plus of our economy should be dedicated to solving problems on Earth,” Musk said in the first episode of the Netflix documentary about the flight. “But I think maybe something like 1%, or less than 1%, could be applied to extending life beyond Earth.”
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider. But, Musk’s driving force behind SpaceX’s progress has long been plans for colonizing Mars.
“If life is just about problems, what’s the point of living,” Musk said in the documentary.
The Inspiration4 mission also featured a fundraiser that raised over $200 million for St. Jude. Musk himself contributed $50 million.
Do you work for Blue Origin or SpaceX? Reach out to the reporter from a non-work email at email@example.com
Amazon’s plans to roll out brick-and-mortar grocery stores where customers can use their phones to order groceries like produce and meats was known as Project Como, the Wall Street Journal reported. The stores are intended to appeal to people who like to pick up groceries on their way home from work and to rival discount retailers like Walmart, which has expanded its grocery pick-up sites.
Though over 800 people are working on a home robot project known as “Vesta,” company employees worry that the project will crash and burn like the company’s failed Fire Phone, Insider’s Eugene Kim reported. The home robot is expected to be an Alexa-powered home-roaming device equipped with multiple cameras and a screen.
Work to create the Amazon Echo was code-named Project D and was created by Lab126, the company’s hardware division. In the process, the device’s name was changed from Amazon Flash to Amazon Echo, and the word chosen to activate the device was changed from “Amazon” to “Alexa,” out of fear that utilizing a commonly used word like Amazon would lead to the device turning on while Amazon ads played on television.
A jet setter’s dream, the G650ER boasts a range of 7,500 nautical miles and speeds of up to Mach .925 enabled by Rolls-Royce BR725 engines. With that range, a traveler can jet between any two cities in the world in one stop or less.
Musk is the perfect example of the jet’s capabilities, flying nearly 160,000 miles on the jet in 2018. Some of the Tesla CEO’s longest flights included hops from Texas to Israel, Northern Ireland to California, and California to Thailand via Alaska.
While in Doha checking out the G700, Qatar Executive invited a group of journalists onboard a G650ER for a demonstration flight. Here’s what it was like.
Qatar Executive is the private jet division of Middle Eastern mega carrier Qatar Airways, catering to clients that want a step above first class. The G650ER is the company’s flagship private jet after a $1 billion order for 14 planes.
The typical Qatar Executive passenger bypasses the commercial terminal and is chauffeured right up to their awaiting airplane. Jets in the Qatar Executive fleet also include the Bombardier Global 5000 and Global XRS.
A total of 13 passengers can be seated in the 46-foot and 10-inch G650ER cabin that’s divided into three living areas.
Two pairs of club seats comprise the first living area for a total of four seats, each with its own window.
The forward section is the ideal seating area for takeoff and landing. It’s also the section in which the principal passenger typically sits.
This type of seating area is standard and can be found on nearly every wide-cabin private jet.
Directly behind is another four-seat section known as the dining and conference area thanks to its massive table.
This is where meals can be enjoyed and shared with the other passengers onboard, just like a home dining room table.
But it also doubles as a conference room table ideal for holding meetings or just getting work done on a larger table. In-flight WiFi is included in Qatar Executive’s charter rate, meaning customers can browse away or hold presentations without having to worry about how much data they’re using.
Power outlets are also available to keep devices charged.
When it’s time to rest, the seats can also recline fully flat to make a bed that can sleep two.
Opposite the table is a credenza with a built-in television monitor. The credenza can also be used as a buffet table during meals times, and its drawers can be used for extra storage.
The rear-most living section is a private compartment with seating for five passengers.
This space is highly customizable based on owner preference and Qatar Executive opted for a split between club seats and a three-place divan.
A pocket door can also close for additional privacy, sealing this section off from the rest of the plane. It can be anything from an executive’s private office to a living room.
One private jet expert told Insider in a prior aircraft tour that an executive might use this space as an office and the forward sections as the waiting room, calling subordinates back one at a time for in-flight meetings.
Both the divan and club seat pair can be converted into beds during downtimes. As many as three passengers can sleep in this stateroom.
This G650ER does not come with a shower but the option is available for owners. A shower would complete the idea of a flying apartment, allowing flyers to arrive from a long-haul flight clean and well-rested.
Each pair of club seats in the forward and rear living areas come with tables that can also be used for meals, work, or playing cards, among other uses.
Instead of popping out from the sidewall, the tables are raised and lowered with the press of a button.
Window shades on the aircraft are also controlled with the press of a button. Flight attendants also have control through a master system panel in the galley.
An extra seat is located in the crew rest area that’s reserved for an additional pilot on longer flights.
With all 12 passengers onboard, it was time to take to the skies above Qatar.
First, a towel was offered to every passenger before departure.
Next came the pre-departure beverage. A full bar including soft drinks, juices, and alcohol is stocked and complimentary on Qatar Executive flights, just as on Qatar Airways.
Our pilots started the engines as the first drinks were being served. It was just a few minutes from the time the door was closed to getting underway.
And one of the perks of flying private is being able to see what goes on in the cockpit.
Soon enough, we were taxing to the runway with downtown Doha in sight. The oval windows are Gulfstream’s largest at 28 inches wide, enabling truly expansive views without having to crane one’s next.
Next came the true test of the aircraft’s capabilities: takeoff. Passengers were warned beforehand that the G650ER feels more powerful on takeoff compared to a traditional airliner.
In fact, the force of the speeding plane down the runway was so great that anything not tied down was launched backward. Some fellow passengers ended up spilling or wearing their drinks.
We were quickly airborne and overflying the main terminal at Hamad International Airport. It was a reminder that flying private means never having to wait in line at check-in, or go through a security checkpoint in most cases.
Once airborne, it was revealed that we wouldn’t just be flying aimlessly over Qatar. Rather, the pilots had programmed the route to create a special message in the sky to be revealed after the flight.
But while the plane was flying its special route, it was time to see what dining is like on a G650ER.
The menu for this flight included hot and cold options such as Mongolian beef casserole, rigatoni pesto, and hummus.
The two cabin attendants on our flight quickly jumped up to begin servicing, starting by setting the tables with white cloths, dishes, and flatware. In an instant, the atmosphere changed from a private jet to a five-star restaurant.
The credenza acted as the buffet table for this flight, allowing passengers to take what they pleased throughout the flight.
Meals are crafted in the forward galley, where cabin attendants have access to large countertops, ovens, and microwaves to prepare restaurant-quality meals.
Menus can be customized on each flight according to customer preference but it can be costly. In-flight catering on any private airline can quickly rack up a bill comparable to a five-star restaurant.
It took around two hours to draw our invisible painting in the sky, revealed to be “QE” for Qatar Executive. The only way for anyone on the ground to know what our flight plan spelled out would be through the lens of flight tracking software.
And while the G650ER is an incredibly smooth aircraft in which to ride, I will say that I felt a bit uneasy due to a likely combination of jetlag and the constant turning that the sky drawing entailed.
But it wasn’t time to return to Hamad International just yet. Qatar Executive had one more surprise for us: a trip to 50,000 feet.
That kind of altitude is rarely used by even the most capable private jet when passengers are onboard. In fact, 51,000 feet is the highest altitude possible for a G650ER and we were going to be 1,000 feet shy.
For most onboard, it was the first time any of us had ventured that high up. Travel YouTuber Sam Chui, who was also onboard, said he hadn’t been to 50,000 feet since flying on the famed Concorde.
Pilots carefully climbed the plane through the flight levels and leveled off with ease at 50,000 feet. I walked up to the cockpit to confirm it with my own eyes.
We weren’t quite in Blue Origin territory but it felt like we weren’t too far away.
I expected to feel at least light-headed while in the rarified atmosphere but the cabin pressurization system made it so we felt closer to the surface than we actually were. I was still a bit woozy for all the turns we did but other than that, I felt fine.
After a few minutes at 50,000 feet, it was time to get our feet back on the ground. We could’ve quite easily glided down to the runway but we made a normal approach to the airport instead, passing by some of Qatar’s newly-built 2022 World Cup stadiums.
The oversized windows once again came in handy as we passed Doha’s skyscrapers.
We also passed the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, constructed using modified shipping containers.
After a flight like that, I can see why Musk and his companies spent around $700,000 to use the jet for most of his 2018 flights.
Democrats face a looming deadline to pass an infrastructure package before the end of September – and they’re still squabbling over how to pay for it.
Many of the solutions are simple. House Democrats and the Biden administration both support higher taxes on rich Americans and corporations. But one particular tax issue – the “step-up basis” – sits at the center of their hemming and hawing.
It has to do with how, when Americans sell assets like stocks or bonds, they pay a capital gains tax on their earnings. If someone bought a stock for $100 and sold it for $250, they’d pay taxes on the $150 profit.
Through the step-up loophole, however, those charges can be dodged entirely. If an investor transfers assets when they die, the inheritor receives them without a capital-gains tax burden. It’s also an easy way to dodge the estate tax. While estates are taxed when they’re transferred after the owner’s death, gifts – like unrealized gains from assets -aren’t.
Understanding the loophole of a ‘step up’ in value
The term “step-up” refers to the difference in value and tax liability that an asset has when it is acquired and when it is transferred to an inheritor.
The proverbial billionaire Jerry, for example, could buy a home for $250,000 and sell it for $1 million, after which he’d pay taxes on the $750,000 gain. But if Jerry passes the home onto his daughter Ella, and she has it appraised at $1 million, its value has taken a “step up” in value to $1 million. If Ella sells the home for $1 million or less, she wouldn’t owe anything in taxes.
For billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk who earn far more through their investments than their salaries, this loophole is a perfect way to shield their wealth. Intergenerational wealth has contributed to surging inequality in America, which grew wider during the pandemic. Since 2019, the wealth of the top 400 richest people in the US increased by $1.4 trillion, per research from Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez, a pair of left-leaning economists at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Often, for these people, wealth accumulates tax-free their entire lives,” Frank Clemente, executive director at the left-leaning advocacy group Americans for Tax Fairness, told Insider. President Joe Biden proposed ending this loophole and making billionaires “pay their fair share,” so why does it look like his party won’t touch it?
Democrats split on hitting the rich where it hurts
Biden wants inheritors to pay taxes on gains larger than $1 million for single filers and $2.5 million for couples. Coupling that with a higher capital gains tax rate could raise more than $320 billion over the next decade, the White House said.
This week, the House Ways and Means Committee released tax proposals that would tax the rich more, including raising the top income tax rate to 39.6% and boosting the top capital gains tax rate to 25%. Left out of this framework, though, was an end to the step-up basis.
“The [Ways and Means] proposal fails to end the ability of the wealthiest filers to go through life without paying any taxes on the vast bulk of their incomes from assets, and this should be revisited as the reconciliation process continues,” Chye Chin Huang, executive director of the Tax Law Center at New York University, wrote on Twitter,
The Senate hasn’t released its own tax framework, but it is considering eliminating the loophole. “I feel very strongly that yearly, billionaires who did extraordinarily well in the pandemic should make tax payments like nurses or firefighters,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told Insider.
Wyden will probably have to contend with moderates in the Senate, namely Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, just as moderates in the House have balked at closing the step-up loophole. If the moderates’ proposals prevail, the wealthy will likely continue to park their cash in assets with little financial consequence.
Closing step-up “is the one thing in the Biden plan that does get at wealth accumulation,” Clemente said. “For the really wealthy folks, they’re not going to have to cash out, so they won’t pay the tax anyway.”
An artificial intelligence startup backed by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos has teamed up with the world’s second-largest mining group to hunt for metals used in electric vehicles.
KoBold Metals and BHP will together search for lithium, nickel, cobalt, and copper in Australia, KoBold CEO Kurt House told Insider in an interview.
KoBold and BHP’s three-year partnership could help to source the nickel that gets used in Tesla vehicles, House said.
In July, BHP signed a deal with Tesla to provide nickel for the carmaker’s electric batteries.
“It could very well be that if we make nickel and cobalt discoveries together, those supplies will end up being a part of that agreement,” House said. “We could easily contribute to it in the future.
“Tesla is awesome. No question about it. They’re the market leader in electric vehicles,” House said, adding that KoBold’s goal was to help the entire electric vehicle (EV) industry.
KoBold, a privately-owned mineral exploration company based in Silicon Valley, uses artificial intelligence to collect data on where to drill for raw materials used in EVs.
House didn’t give an exact figure for how much the companies were likely to spend on the project, but said they’ll be shelling out tens of millions of dollars over the next two years.
Exploration will kick off in western Australia, covering half a million square kilometers of land, House said.
The companies chose Australia because the country is well endowed with the right materials needed for EVs, and it has high labor and environmental standards, House said.
“We can basically guarantee that any discoveries we make there will be developed in an ethically and environmentally sound way,” he said.
One of the principal investors in KoBold is Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate and technology fund financed by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg, according to KoBold.
House said that Gates and Bezos had influence over the EV metals search but said he couldn’t reveal how much money Gates’ fund had invested in the project.
Other KoBold investors include Andreessen Horowitz, the prominent Silicon Valley VC firm, and Norwegian state-owned energy company Equinor.
In August, KoBold said it would spend $15 million hunting for EV materials in Greenland alongside mining firm Bluejay.
In the latest in a series of spats between Elon Musk’s and Jeff Bezos’ companies, SpaceX called Amazon out for its “theatrics” and “gamesmanship” in its complaints against Starlink Gen2.
“As usual, Amazon tries to prevent a fair review on the merits by using procedural gamesmanship,” SpaceX said in its letter to the Federal Communications Commission. “Despite its theatrics, Amazon does not identify a single fact, figure or scintilla of data that SpaceX omitted from its application.”
Last week, Musk said on Twitter that suing SpaceX was Bezos’ “full-time job.” At the time, SpaceX said that lawsuits from Bezos’ companies, including Amazon and Blue Origin, had “become a bigger bottleneck than the technology,” pointing out that the companies had filed complaints against SpaceX roughly every 16 days this year.
In its letter dated Thursday, SpaceX urged the FCC to focus on the merits of its proposal and criticized Amazon for what it described as a lack of progress on its own satellite system.
“Another week, another objection from Amazon against its competitor, yet still no sign of progress on Amazon’s own long-rumored satellite system,” SpaceX said.
Starlink is part of Musk’s vision to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites that would deliver high-speed internet to customers anywhere on the planet. Amazon’s satellite-internet subsidiary – Kuiper Systems – has a similar vision, but is expected to take about a decade to fully deploy its planned 3,236 satellites. While the Starlink service is still in beta, the company has over 100,000 users in 14 countries so far. SpaceX has launched 1,740 Starlink satellites to date, and its second generation project plans to have nearly 30,000 satellites in total.
Amazon’s latest complaint against SpaceX is one of many filed by companies affiliated with Bezos. Blue Origin, a space company launched by the billionaire, has filed multiple protests against NASA’s decision to select SpaceX over Blue Origin for its project to put boots on the moon. Most recently, Blue Origin took the issue to federal court, calling the NASA decision “unfair” and essentially halting SpaceX’s work on the project.
Do you work for Blue Origin or SpaceX? Reach out to the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org from a non-work email.
Bezos has funded anti-aging research before – in 2018 he invested in Unity Technologies, a biotech company whose goal is to make anti-aging therapies.
MIT Tech Review reported Altos Labs would primarily focus on a technology called reprogramming, which works by adding proteins to a cell which essentially instruct it to revert to a stem-cell-like state.
A deadline in Blue Origin’s lawsuit against the US government and SpaceX was postponed again on Friday, as the government struggled to add page numbers to the “extremely voluminous” case documents.
A week ago, on August 27, the Department of Justice had asked for a one-week extension, saying it was having difficulty getting 7GB of case documents into a format that could be shared with the parties. The documents were to be transferred to DVDs.
On Friday, the DOJ filed another extension request, saying a new issue had cropped up with about 1,700 case documents, which now topped out at more than 16GB.
“The record is fully complete, arranged in tabs and subtabs, and fully indexed,” DOJ lawyers wrote in an extension request on Friday. “However, the process of applying page numbering to each page of the record is taking longer than anticipated, and will not be completed by the deadline.”
The DOJ asked to delay its administrative deadline for the documents by four days, giving government staff the long Labor Day weekend to complete their pagination. In the meantime, the DOJ said would send un-paginated DVDs of the documents to the parties as place-holders.
Blue Origin, a space-tech company founded by Jeff Bezos, last month sued the US government after NASA awarded a rival company, SpaceX, a sole contract to build a moon-lander for NASA’s planned Artemis moon missions. NASA had said it planned to choose two companies but only chose one.
Delays in the lawsuit may further push back work on SpaceX’s contract. The work under that $2.9 billion contract had been put on hold in April, then restarted, then put on hold again.
NASA paused work SpaceX’s contract while the US Court of Federal Claims case moves forward, initially setting a restart date of November 1. Delays in the case could push the work stoppage back further.
Last week, DOJ attorneys proposed a new restart date of November 8, but it was unclear from the court filings if that date had been approved by NASA or the parties.
Adobe recently told Insider it was working directly with the DOJ to help with the government’s PDF issues.
“Adobe Acrobat supports combining most large files, but we regret that it created these challenges for the DOJ,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We’re engaging with them directly to support their unique needs so they are able to maintain the quality and integrity of the original content.”