For the past ten days, I've been getting my news from Snapchat. I've learned stuff about internet dating, celebrity plastic surgery, Ukraine peace talks, and Bitcoin mines. But mostly, I've learned what old media thinks app media really wants. And it's not pretty.
I have discovered something extremely strange about San Francisco. It has to do with how many patents the city has produced in the past 25 years.
If you were a psychiatrist assigned by the government to make torturers feel better about their lives, what would you do? That's not a rhetorical question. Back in the 1950s, the psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon was forced to answer that question, in his own life.
It came up the other night as dinner conversation. "Where do you think the next nuclear war will break out?" I asked. Everybody had an opinion.
The career of computer science pioneer Ada Lovelace has been shrouded in mystery since her death in 1852. Even today her contributions to science are often overshadowed by the Victorian equivalent of Twitter gossip about her life. And yet that gossip is part of what made her life so futuristic.
When Facebook and Apple announced that their new health plans include an option to freeze the eggs of female employees, the news was greeted with a mix of cheers and outrage. But freezing women's eggs is just a starting point. The future demands more than that.
The longer you live, the more likely it is that your everyday life is inhabited by the dead. You see an old friend, who died last week, disappearing into a crowd. You hear your father, dead last year, cracking jokes you once loved. It's like a zombie movie, only more melancholy — and with fewer obvious ways to survive.
Fifty years ago, historians advised politicians and policy-makers. They helped chart the future of nations, by helping leaders learn from past mistakes in history. But then something changed, and we began making decisions based on economic principles rather than historical ones. The results were catastrophic.
It just happened again. Some dumbass with an algorithm has decided that I belong in a demographic and is feeding me "relevant" information. But none of it is relevant. And now I'm really pissed off, for reasons that you will never guess because they don't fit your goddamn predictive models.
The powerful painkiller morphine comes from opium poppies, which only grow in a few places around the world. But now, a group of bioengineers are on the cusp of creating a modified form of baker's yeast that can synthesize the drug. What happens when we can brew up heroin in a vat of yeast?
In many cities, it's become popular to hate "gentrifiers," rich people who move in and drive up housing prices — pushing everyone else out. But what's going on in these rapidly-changing urban spaces is a lot more complicated than that.
I'm not really into taking pictures of myself, but I love seeing your selfies. I don't care whether you're posing with some weird food item or standing next to that guy who kind of annoys me. That's because your Snapchat pic of a barf face is fulfilling an ancient biological urge that I share with my fellow humans.
Right now, in the United States, law enforcement can put you under drone surveillance without a warrant — as long as the drone never lands on your property. What the hell is going on here? How can this be legal?
Even though you are reading this on a sophisticated electronic device, you are an animal. That's the most radical idea to come out of Charles Darwin's groundbreaking studies of evolution, and even today, it still freaks people out.
There are so many ways the world could end, even in the next year, that it's impossible not to fantasize about some of them, some of the time. The question is, what do you do with these apocalyptic thoughts? It seems to me there are two basic choices.
Though Pacific Rim was arguably a more original and complex movie than Godzilla, it fizzled at the box office — while Godzilla's formulaic fun earned so much money its first weekend that the studio has already ordered a sequel. What made one giant monster movie succeed where the other failed?
Earlier today, scientists announced they'd discovered an insect with a new kind of female sex organ. It looks a bit like a penis, and is called a gynosome. But almost every news outlet covered the story by describing the insects as "females with penises." This isn't just painfully wrong — it's bad for science.
If humans are actually going to live on other planets or space stations one day, we're going to need more than rocket fuel and futuristic propulsion systems. We're going to need environmental science. Here are some fundamental reasons why.
Evidence has been piling up for a while that early humans in Europe had children with the Neanderthals who had been living there for probably 500 thousand years before humans arrived. Very few Neanderthal genes are left in humans today, so what difference does it make? A lot, both genetically and philosophically.
Thirty years ago, a war raged between the dorks who played Dungeons & Dragons, and the conservative parent groups who believed that gaming was debauched at best and Satanic at worst. Lives were ruined. People died. And now that war is over. I still can't believe we won.