You want a time machine, don’t you?
Because one in 10 Americans do — at least that’s what they said when Pew Research Center asked what futuristic technology they would like to own.
That’s a notable percentage of people, especially when you consider that survey respondents came up with “time machine,” unprompted, out of every possible future invention they could imagine. (Naturally, flying cars were popular, too.)
The curious thing is that Pew found people’s level of interest in time travel had a lot to do with how old they are. About 11 percent of 30-to-49-year-olds said a time machine was the one futuristic device they’d want to own, but only 3 percent of people older than 65 said so.
And looking across demographics of the entire study group, people under 50 were way more into time-travel than people older than 50.
Why is that?
For most daydreamers, predicting the future is a business of missing more than you hit.
For example, we still haven’t eliminated childbirth by inventing designer babies grown in artificial wombs, a prediction the science editor of LIFE magazine made 50 years ago.
But that same editor surmised we’d be able to grow complete human organs from cell tissue in laboratories, and most Americans now agree that this sounds like something that will happen. Eighty-one percent of those polled believe organs will be developed in petri dishes by 2064. (Hey, why not, scientists are already working on lab-grown ears and noses.)
That’s according to a new Pew Research Center study that asked Americans for their feelings and predictions about the next 50 years of science.
But Americans’ optimism was not evenly distributed. If they were confident in the biomedical future, they were pessimistic about space. Only a third of us now believe that we’ll have colonized another planet by 2064. Here are nine other predictions Americans made.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
CAPTCHAs are a time-worn way for humans to tell computers that we are human. They are those little boxes filled with distorted text that we’ve been told humans can decipher, but computers—the bad guys’ computers—cannot. So, Watson-be-damned, we enter the letters and gain access to whatever is behind the veil, leaving the bad bots steaming outside the pearly, CAPTCHA’d gates. As Google’s ReCAPTCHA website puts it: “Tough on bots, easy on humans.”
It is a satisfying display of human superiority built into the daily experience of the web. And, BONUS, you’re often helping do optical character recognition on old books at the same time. Take that, Machines, you don’t even have any books.
But then along comes Google today noting, in a showily short and breezy blog post, that their machines can beat ReCAPTCHAs 99% of the time.
Amazon the corporate entity doesn’t actually produce a guide for dealing drugs, but its purchase-recommendation algorithm sure seems to have done just that.
Social media companies constantly collect data on their users because that’s how they provide customized experiences and target their advertisements. All Twitter and Facebook users know this, and there is a broad array of feelings about how good or bad the persistent tracking of their social relationships is.
What we do know, though, is that—when they want to—they are aware of how to go behind the machine’s back. They know how to communicate with just the humans without tipping their intentions to the algorithm.
In a new paper, University of North Carolina sociologist Zeynep Tufekci explores some of these strategies among Turkish protesters. She looks at these behaviors as analytical challenges for researchers who are trying to figure out what’s going on. “Social media users engage in practices that alter their visibility to machine algorithms, including subtweeting, discussing a person’s tweets via ‘screen captures,’ and hate-linking,” Tufekci writes. “All these practices can blind big data analyses to this mode of activity and engagement.”
The same practices, though, from the user perspective, can be understood as strategies for communicating without being computed. All they require to execute is thinking like an algorithm.
Read more. [Image: Renee Magritte via Wikimedia Commons/The Atlantic]
New Jersey’s second district lies vast across its south. Atlantic City to the Delaware River, cranberry bogs and the Pine Barrens: Where the state’s other districts have been gerrymandered into twiddly bits, the second district seems large, substantial, and plausibly contiguous.
Unlike the state’s Gotham-gorged north, south Jersey is known for farmland, shore towns, and a struggling economy. It’s not exactly the district where you’d expect a ‘coder to run for Congress’—but that’s exactly what Dave Cole, native New Jerseyan and Obama campaign veteran is doing.
In fact, that’s his core pitch: He began his campaign with a Medium post announcing, “I’m a coder running for Congress.” He calls himself an engineer, and he brings a startup’s sensibility, systems—and, perhaps, naïveté—to the campaign.
Chief among these? He’s placed his full campaign platform on the code management software Github, and he’s invited anyone to edit it.
Read more. [Image: Cole for Congress]
Your two-point to-do list for the weekend.
For music and movies as things you buy and own, this is the beginning of the end.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
There are, we often hear, several simultaneous Big Battles taking place on—and for—the Internet. Mobile web versus native apps! Open versus walled! Regulated versus free! We are, right at this very moment, approaching a pivotal juncture in the road to The Future Internet.
But the juncture is always pivotal, of course, and the dichotomies presented to us are almost always false ones; the choices and tensions we navigate when it comes to our digital infrastructure are rarely as black-and-white as convenient polarities would have us believe.
There is, though, a tension that is a little more validly either/or than many of its counterparts. And it has to do less with regulation, and less with architecture, and more to do with the social and cultural choices we make when it comes to the way we communicate online. It asks whether we want an Internet that remembers … or forgets. It navigates the space between the Internet’s virtually infinite memory and humans’ limited ones.
It’s the Internet of the Ephemeral—the side of the Internet that gives us Snapchat and Confide and other apps that owe their popularity not just to the fact that they are not Facebook, but also to the fact that they trade, specifically, on their impermanence. While the ongoing archive brings certain pressures—when it comes to performance, when it comes to privacy—self-destructing communications allow us the freedom of the fleeting. Like the also-popular apps Secret and Whisper, they create a kind of cognitive opacity. They offer privacy by way of ephemerality. They are cheekier, more atomized versions of the legal fight being waged in France: the battle for, as it’s being called, “the right to be forgotten.”
I mention all that because today we learned that #teamforgetting has a new member: Pluto Mail.
Read more. [Image: Shutterstock/senolito]