We’re not going back to normal


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Social distancing is here to stay – That’s what the experts are saying.

We don’t know exactly what this new future looks like, of course. But one can imagine a world in which, to get on a flight, perhaps you’ll have to be signed up to a service that tracks your movements via your phone. The airline wouldn’t be able to see where you’d gone, but it would get an alert if you’d been close to known infected people or disease hot spots. There’d be similar requirements at the entrance to large venues, government buildings, or public transport hubs. There would be temperature scanners everywhere, and your workplace might demand you wear a monitor that tracks your temperature or other vital signs. Where nightclubs ask for proof of age, in future they might ask for proof of immunity—an identity card or some kind of digital verification via your phone, showing you’ve already recovered from or been vaccinated against the latest virus strains.

The complete article

Gideon Lichfield — MIT Technology Review

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How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump


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Twitter, the company, retweeted my talk in a call for job applicants to “join the flock.” The implicit understanding was that Twitter was a force for good in the world, on the side of the people and their revolutions. The new information gatekeepers, which didn’t see themselves as gatekeepers but merely as neutral “platforms,” nonetheless liked the upending potential of their technologies.

I shared in the optimism. I myself hailed from the Middle East and had been watching dissidents use digital tools to challenge government after government.

But a shift was already in the air.

The complete article

Zeynep Tufekci — MIT Technology Review

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Eliminating the Human


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Apps are eliminating messy human interactions. Ordering food, hailing cab, buying grocery – apps have completely eliminated the need for interaction between human beings for these activities. But, are we missing out on something?

We’re a social species—we benefit from passing discoveries on, and we benefit from our tendency to cooperate to achieve what we cannot alone. In his book Sapiens, Yuval Harari claims this is what allowed us to be so successful. He also claims that this cooperation was often facilitated by an ability to believe in “fictions” such as nations, money, religions, and legal institutions. Machines don’t believe in fictions—or not yet, anyway. That’s not to say they won’t surpass us, but if machines are designed to be mainly self-interested, they may hit a roadblock. And in the meantime, if less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

The complete article

David Byrne — MIT Technology Review

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Why does a mole rat live 30 years but a mouse only three?


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Today’s needull provides an update on anti-ageing research.

What’s different about a mole rat? That is the sort of costly, open-ended question Calico can afford to ask. And then there’s the seven-year study Calico is financing that will follow 1,000 mice from birth to death to search for biomarkers of aging. Right now, there’s no proven test for a person’s “biological” age; finding one would be scientifically useful and possibly lucrative. “They don’t open the kimono much,” says Brian ­Kennedy, a Buck Institute scientist who interacts with Calico. “I think they believe we need a broader grasp on the biology of aging. They recognize it can’t possibly be ­simple.”

The complete article

Antonio Regalado — MIT Technology Review

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