TAINAN, Taiwan — The United States and China are wrestling to lead the world in artificial intelligence, 5G wireless and other cutting-edge technologies. But the real wizardry that makes those advancements possible is being performed on a yam-shaped island that sits between them, geographically and politically.
On Taiwan’s southern rim, inside an arena-size facility stretched out among lush greenery and coconut palms, colossal machines are manipulating matter at unimaginably tiny scale. A powerful laser vaporizes droplets of molten tin, causing them to emit ultraviolet light. Mirrors focus the light into a beam, which draws features into a silicon wafer with the precision, as one researcher put it, “equivalent to shooting an arrow from Earth to hit an apple placed on the moon.”
The high-performance computer chips that emerge from this process go into the brains of the latest tech products from both sides of the Pacific. Or at least they did until last month, when the Trump administration effectively forced leading chip makers in Taiwan — and elsewhere — to stop taking orders from China’s proudest tech champion, the 5G giant Huawei.
The administration’s stranglehold on Huawei shows that for all of China’s economic progress, the United States still has final say over the technologies without which the modern world could not run. Chip making relies on American tools and know-how, which gives officials in Washington the power of life and death over semiconductor buyers and suppliers anywhere on the planet.
Next in the firing line is China’s most advanced chip producer, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation. The U.S. Department of Commerce told American companies last week that they needed permission to export to SMIC, saying its chips could be used by China’s military. If the administration blocks SMIC from using American software and equipment entirely, it will sharply set back
An unusual school year has started in earnest, and with it has come the return of digital proctoring programs. This is software that can lock down students’ computers, record their faces and scan their rooms, all with the intention to thwart cheating.
These programs, with names like ProctorU and Proctorio, first raised alarms about privacy as they were adopted by schools. Now many students are finding that the programs they’re required to use may not have been well-designed to consider race, class or disability — and in some cases, simply don’t work. Many are organizing on and across campuses for alternatives or for their eradication.
The rigidity of online proctoring has exacerbated an already difficult year, students say, further marginalizing them at the very moments they’re trying to prove themselves. Here are some things that can go wrong with testing and digital surveillance.
‘It Feels Like an Invasion of Privacy’
Before the pandemic, Sabrina Navarro, 20, a junior at California State University, Fullerton, hadn’t thought to register her chronic tic disorder with her university’s disability services office. The disorder, which she’d lived with since she was 6, hadn’t ever affected her education.
“I’m good at covering it up,” she said of her disorder. “A lot of my friends don’t even know that I have it.”
This semester, though, scared that her involuntary mouth movements would get her flagged for cheating, she went to get medical records to prove her diagnosis and request accommodations.
If the majority of her classes didn’t require Proctorio, this wouldn’t be a concern, she said.
But Ms. Navarro feared Proctorio would record her tics and send her professors footage for review. Ticcing happens more frequently for her during stressful situations, like an exam.
“Just the fact that professors might have access to seeing me ticcing, over