As facial recognition systems improve, they will get better at identifying people at different ages, even very young children.
If a fingerprint can tell someone who you are, a “breathprint” could reveal how you’re doing.
For the past two decades, Dweik has been studying the molecular patterns in breath that can reveal what’s happening inside the body. In the same way that a pocket of air above the water level in a closed container carries signature molecules that reflect the composition of that water, our breath is directly linked to what’s happening in our blood.
"A lot of people just think breath is what’s in your lungs," Dweik told me. "We realize now that anything in your body that is eventually in the blood can be measured in your breath."
That includes diseases like lung cancer, liver disease, heart disease, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease, all of which have “really distinct signatures in the breath,” Dweik says. And the medical implications are major: Breath-testing devices—think of them as Breathalyzers that detect disease rather than alcohol—can be just as accurate as traditional blood testing or biopsies, only cheaper and far less invasive.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
In a decade, cognitive enhancement may have gone mainstream. Pills can already help you stay up longer, bring more focus to your work, and who knows what else. But what might sound good on an individual level could create societal disruptions, or so Palo Alto think-tank the Institute for the Future proposes in its latest Ten-Year Forecasts.
As a result, the Institute has proposed that the world’s citizens need a “Magna Cortica.”
"Magna Cortica is the argument that we need to have a guidebook for both the design spec and ethical rules around the increasing power and diversity of cognitive augmentation," said IFTF distinguished fellow, Jamais Cascio. "There are a lot of pharmaceutical and digital tools that have been able to boost our ability to think. Adderall, Provigil, and extra-cortical technologies."
Back in 2008, 20 percent of scientists reported using brain-enhancing drugs. And I spoke with dozens of readers who had complex regimens, including, for example, a researcher at the MIT-affiliated Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. “We aren’t the teen clubbers popping uppers to get through a hard day running a cash register after binge drinking,” the researcher told me. “We are responsible humans.” Responsible humans trying to get an edge in incredibly competitive and cognitively demanding fields.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
When Europe’s armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy. Massive listening devices gave them ears in the sky, armored vehicles made them impervious to small arms fire, tanks could (most of the time) cruise right over barbed wire and trenches, telephones and heliographs let them speak across vast distances, and airplanes gave them new platforms to rain death on each other from above. New scientific work resulted in more lethal explosives, new tactics made old offensive methods obsolete, and mass-produced killing machines made soldiers both more powerful and more vulnerable. On this 100-year anniversary, I’ve gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world. Today’s entry is part 3 of a 10-part series on World War I, which will be posted every Sunday until June 29.
The beauty of bitcoin, many of those who use the currency will tell you, is that it’s decentralized. You don’t have to bother with a bank, which means you don’t necessarily leave the kind of paper trail that many other transactions produce. From the user perspective, paying with bitcoin is basically like using cash—only you can do it online.
So it’s fitting that bitcoin is the currency of choice among online vendors of fake IDs, some of whom now offer discounts to customers who pay that way. Other vendors have gone bitcoin-only, according to a subreddit discussion of popular fake ID sites.
It must be noted that bitcoin isn’t just an underworld currency—in fact, not everyone agrees that it’s currency at all.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
In a cavernous facility at Birmingham City University in the U.K., the Internet is not so much a grand idea as it is a great machine. And as a machine—as a beast that hulks and hums and whines and whirs—the Internet is loud. It emits a noise that manages to be low-pitched and high at the same time.
As Slate’s Lily Hay Newman points out, that noise can be extremely grating to the workers who are forced to endure it every day. The Internet’s data centers are both ”LOUD and COLD,” one of those workers put it on a messaging board. As another wrote on a Quora thread, ”Think of the sound from the fan on your computer. Multiply that by 20 times or more. Think what thousands of those all going at once would sound like.”
But what does that actually sound like? How do you hear the cloud? The sound artist Matt Parker has been, on behalf of the rest of us, finding out. Parker has been touring data centers—the physical grounds of the ephemeral cloud—and recording the results, painstakingly compiling a collection of the audible Internet. He has also been converting the raw recordings of those data centers into sound compositions that are equal parts haunting an ethereal—musical renderings of the great churn of an Internet whose workings are otherwise silent to us.
Read more. [Image: Shutterstock/Tigger11th]
Everybody hated the How I Met Your Mother finale, right? Well, maybe not. The hour-long conclusion to the popular CBS sitcom was the target of much derision after it aired March 31. (See: Here, here, here, here, and here.)
But data, as it sometimes does, tells a different story. Most of the people surveyed by the social analytics platform Canvs felt good about the finale. More than twice as many people either enjoyed it or called it “great” than those who said it “sucked.”
Canvs, which formally launched last week, uses sentiment analysis to figure out how people feel about TV shows and other entertainment. That analysis is then combined with scary-specific data profiling, so Canvs can tell its clients not just how people feel about what they’re watching but what kinds of people feel certain ways.
Read more. [Image: CBS]
There is an allure to a Magic 8 Ball. You roll the thing in your hands, you ask it a question, and—presto!—you have an answer. The whole thing is wonderfully simple. The only problem—and it’s a big problem—is that it’s random. Can you really rely on the Magic 8 Ball’s advice? My sources say no.
I’ve long wished, however, that there could be something similar—a Rational 8 Ball or some such—for big life decisions.
Now there is. Or, at least: There’s something that claims to be.
Read more. [Image: Flickr/CRASH:candy]
How digital technology is transforming our relationship with sound.
In late January, a group of musicians, led by the trombone player Glen David Andrews, paraded through the narrow hallways of New Orleans’ City Hall and into the chamber of the City Council. They played trumpets and horns, cymbals and saxophones, snare drums and tubas. They danced. They sang a song called “Music Ain’t a Crime.” They held signs reading “we will be heard.”
Andrews and his fellow musicians were protesting a proposed new noise-control ordinance that would re-imagine the sound regulations of the city’s storied Bourbon Street. Noise in the area has been a matter of law since 1831, when the young city adopted an ordinance—one “concerning Inns, Boarding-houses, Coffee-houses, Billiards-houses, Taverns, Grog-shops, and other houses with the city of New-Orleans”—that forbade “cries, songs, noise or … disturbing … the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood.”
Since approximately 1831, such noise regulation has been a matter of controversy. There are, when it comes to controlling the sounds of the city, competing constituencies: tourists, residents, bar owners, professional musicians, less-professional musicians. There are First Amendment considerations at play (noise-making and personal expression being intimately acquainted). There’s money at stake. There are cultural sensitivities to be respected and navigated.
“You have to do it very carefully,” says David Woolworth, a principal at the firm Oxford Acoustics, “because people take it really personally when you go after their music.”
I wasn’t actually surprised to learn that public officials in Toronto had agreed to install “smart toilets” in the city’s convention center so they could analyze public, um, data. As a privacy researcher, the idea fascinated me.
Only problem: It wasn’t true.
But a fake toilet company’s publicity stunt has me thinking, which is what Quantified Toilets intended. Smart toilets are just the kind of product you expect to encounter at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing, or CHI, an annual event where researchers discuss the latest science of how people interact with technology. This is my favorite conference to attend. There are always new and cool projects that make me think.
So when Quantified Toilets debuted at CHI this week, it was an immediate hit. The company claimed to have installed sensors in the Toronto Convention Center and other civic venues that would automatically analyze “deposits” in the toilets to detect a person’s gender, drug and alcohol levels, pregnancy status, sexually-transmitted-infection status, and… smell.
There were signs in the bathrooms that read: “Behavior at these toilets is being recorded for analysis.”
Read more. [Image: Reuters]