Taiwan's High-Tech Hubbub

No end to fallout from bullet train's collision with plans for Tainan semiconductor park

3 min read

Almost inexplicably, when Taiwan started developing plans 10 years ago for a bullet train to go from the north end of the island to the south, the route was allowed to conflict with plans for a new ­semiconductor park in Tainan. Several important foundry operations dropped out of the park in 2001 [see ”Bullet Train Shakes Taiwan’s Foundries,” News, August 2001]. How could a technically ­sophisticated and ambitious country like Taiwan permit a transportation project to endanger what’s arguably its most important industry?

Now, just as surprisingly, efforts to fix the vibration problems that the train was expected to cause have gone awry, giving rise to new charges of corruption and scandal. On 24 May, the cabinet-level supervisor of the science parks, Ching-Jyh Shieh, was detained by government prosecutors on suspicion of having manipulated contracting awards for vibration-mitigation technologies to favor certain individuals. Though the whole leadership of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which took power in 2000, has been shaken by allegations of wrongdoing, this is the first time a politically appointed cabinet minister has been arrested and has subsequently resigned.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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