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There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.

Topic: Miscellaneous 9:55 pm EDT, Jun 29, 2015

Kathryn Schulz:

Prairie-dog homes are known as towns (and divided, like New Orleans, into wards), but could more aptly be called nations. In 1901, scientists found one such town in Texas that covered twenty-five thousand square miles and contained some four hundred million prairie dogs, making it, population-wise, almost twenty-five per cent larger than the United States.

Emily Badger:

In 1960, 63 percent of American commuters got to work in a private car. Now, 85 percent of us do. And three-quarters of us are riding in that car alone. In 1960, 3.5 percent of U.S. households lived in a home where bedrooms outnumbered occupants. Today, 44 percent of households do.

Deepak Singh:

Only in the United States have people offered thanks for coming to their homes or parties. Initially I was surprised when people thanked me for visiting their house when they were the ones who'd invited me, but then I learned that, "Thank you for coming to my home" actually meant, "It's time for you to get out of my house."

big gulp
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:55 pm EDT, Jun 29, 2015


During the Cold War, forces prepared to operate in an environment where access to communications could be interrupted ... Through years of practice and exercise, a culture of resilience took root in the military and units were ready and prepared to operate in contested environments. Since the end of the Cold War, however, a younger generation has grown increasingly more accustomed to an environment of connectivity. In the face of an escalating cyber threat, the lessons of the previous generations must now be passed down.

Robert Spalding III and Adam Lowther:

[In the nuclear MAD era,] for every two dollars of defense, the enemy only had to spend one dollar on offense to defeat it. If we wanted to protect 90 percent of the American population it became an astronomical 6:1 ratio.

Gideon Rachman:

The days in which the US alone accounted for almost half of the world's military spending are long gone; by 2014, the Pentagon accounted for "just" 38 per cent.

The Economist:

The real cost of each active-duty service member has jumped by 76% in the past 16 years. If they were to continue to rise unchecked, personnel costs would swallow the entire defence budget by 2039.

the only thing money can't buy
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:54 pm EDT, Jun 29, 2015

Penelope Trunk:

Investors say, "We invest in people not ideas," but what they mean is, "My life is boring, and the only thing money can't buy is interestingness, but I'm trying by investing in your company."

Serena Saitto:

More than 50 U.S. technology companies reached a valuation of at least $1 billion in the past two years, according to CB Insights. Other startups such as Airbnb Inc. and Snapchat Inc. have surpassed a $10 billion valuation, while Uber Technologies Inc. has reached $40 billion, the highest for a U.S. startup.

Nicolas Colin and Bruno Palier:

Few start-ups find a viable business model, let alone a sustained market. In the digital economy, a few lucky individuals will find significant or sustained income and security, while many more unlucky ones will see their employers go bankrupt and have to seek new ways to make ends meet.

Casey Johnston:

While Kickstarter projects' delivery rate seems unreliable, it's significantly better than businesses that operate from venture funding.

too doomed to fail
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:54 am EDT, Jun 24, 2015

Rob Sloan:

With pressure to provide assurances to executives that data is secure, many CISOs and security managers will attach significance to what they know, rather than what they do not.

Robert Spalding III and Adam Lowther:

Cyber security is big business. The media also thrives on the sordid details of high profile cyber intrusions. However, it is time we set such concerns aside and take a new look at an old problem. What we are currently doing is not working.

Theresa Payton:

If we keep the same security mindset, keep implementing the same security protocols, and institute them with more money at a faster rate, we are doomed to failure. It's time to break the rules and try a different approach.

Ryan Lucas:

Lawmakers are pushing measures they say will help boost the nation's security from cyber-attacks, but experts warn the efforts will do little to shield the country from increasingly sophisticated online hacking.

the shrug-off
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:53 am EDT, Jun 24, 2015


[I]nvisible, unsolicited tracking is Google's lifeblood.

Rick Falkvinge:

Google has been stealth downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmits audio data back to Google. Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on. In official statements, Google shrugged off the practice with what amounts to "we can do that."

Ralph Gross:

If, even when you hide your face, you can be successfully linked to your identify, that will certainly concern people. Now is a time when it's important to discuss these questions.

John Oliver:

No one cares. [Americans] don't give a shit.

signal to noise
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:52 am EDT, Jun 24, 2015

Anna Harris:

In the medical literature, self-listening is referred to as autophony ... an "abnormality", described as a form of "hyper-perception". For most people, sounds from inside the body are "screened out", so as to make the outside world audible.

Christine Porath:

It's increasingly challenging to be present and to listen.

Wendy Shanker:

There's very little you can say in 10 minutes that you couldn't say better in five.

a bold new leader
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:08 pm EDT, Jun 23, 2015

Ian Crouch:

[Jon] Stewart sounded tired and despairing, as if coming to terms with the fact that the nation's most poisonous problems would outlast his ability to mock or rage against them. That he would go and they might win.

Ron Fournier:

Until a bold new leader breaks the cycle of negative partisanship, support for the two major parties will continue to bleed away, lesser-of-two-evils voters will dominate a sad electorate, and more Americans will check out of the system all together.

David Auerbach:

There is no shortage of wealthy, left-libertarian techies who could become a lot more influential should they find the right candidate. Rand Paul wants to be that candidate.

Hillary Clinton:

Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion.

trying not to see
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:08 pm EDT, Jun 23, 2015

Joan Didion:

The apparent ease of California life is an illusion, and those who believe the illusion real live here in only the most temporary way.

Neal Stephenson:

We've got big infrastructure problems. We've been kind of living off of our patrimony, you know? We've got the same set of railroads and interstates and power plants that was built by a previous generation, and if we're gonna maintain a healthy economy that works for people, we need to get back into the habit of building things like that.

Pope Francis:

As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear ... This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.

not where we need to be
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:07 pm EDT, Jun 23, 2015

OPM's Inspector General:

The risk to Federal employees and their families will probably linger long after the free credit monitoring offered by these companies expires.

Lisa Monaco:

We are not where we need to be in terms of federal cybersecurity.

Robert Spalding III and Adam Lowther:

The cost of effectively securing all of these cyber-reliant systems is staggering and would require many magnitudes greater expenditures than what we see within the Department of Defense or the private sector. Yet, in spite of this known danger, we are plowing ahead into a digital future.

the slow nudge
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:27 am EDT, Jun 23, 2015


Once we realize what we can do, we wonder whether we should.

Paul Goodman:

A question of immense importance for the immediate future is, Which functions should be automated or organized to use business machines, and which should not? This question also is not getting asked, and the present disposition is that the sky is the limit for extraction, refining, manufacturing, processing, packaging, transportation, clerical work, ticketing, transactions, information retrieval, recruitment, middle management, evaluation, diagnosis, instruction, and even research and invention. Whether the machines can do all these kinds of jobs and more is partly an empirical question, but it also partly depends on what is meant by doing a job.

Michelle N. Meyer:

Why does one "experiment" (i.e., introducing a new product) fail to raise ethical concerns, whereas a true scientific experiment (i.e., introducing a variation of the product to determine the comparative safety or efficacy of the original) sets off ethical alarms?

Illah Reza Nourbakhsh:

Imagine an adaptive robot that lives with and learns from its human owner. Its behavior over time will be a function of its original programming mixed with the influence of its environment and "upbringing." It would be difficult for existing liability laws to apportion responsibility if such a machine caused injury, since its actions would be determined not merely by computer code but also by a deep neural-like network that would have learned from various sources. Who would be to blame? The robot? Its owner? Its creator?

If we are going to live in a world with machines who act more and more like people and who make ever more "personal" choices, then we should insist that robots also be able to communicate with us about what they know, how they know it, and what they want.

Quinn Norton:

What I'd do next is: create a world for you to inhabit that doesn't reflect your taste, but over time, creates it. I could slowly massage the ad messages you see, and in many cases, even the content, and predictably and reliably remake your worldview. I could nudge you, by the thousands or the millions, into being just a little bit different, again and again and again.

William Davies:

At the same time that behavioural economics has been highlighting the various ways in which we are altruistic creatures, social media offers businesses an opportunity to analyse and target that social behaviour. It allows advertising to be tailored to specific individuals, on the basis of who they know, and what those other people like and purchase. These practices, which are collectively referred to as "social analytics", mean that tastes and behaviours can be traced in unprecedented detail. The end goal is no different from what it was at the dawn of marketing and management in the late 19th century: making money. What has changed is that each one of us is now viewed as an instrument through which to alter the attitudes and behaviours of our friends and contacts. Behaviours and ideas can be released like "contagions", in the hope of infecting much larger networks.

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