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From “Everything’s Connected,” Timothy B. Lee’s Vox article about the promise of a new technological dawn in which gadgets linked to the Internet can anticipate our commands. It’s mostly fun and games now, but such apps could eventually cause profound change. An excerpt:

“Every couple of decades, the plunging cost of computing power gives birth to a new kind of computing platform. The 1970s saw the introduction of the first integrated computer chips, making possible PCs that were small and cheap enough that anyone could have one on their desks. In the late 1990s, a new generation of low-power chips allowed the creation of mobile computers — smartphones — that fit in our pockets and could run all day on a single charge.

In both cases, it took technology companies about a decade to figure out how to take full advantage of the capabilities of the new platform. PCs were clumsy niche products until the Macintosh (and later Windows) made them user-friendly starting in 1984. Smartphones didn’t reach their full potential until Apple invented a modern multi-touch interface for the iPhone in 2007.

We could be at the cusp of a third computing revolution. Once again, a new generation of computer chips is dramatically smaller, cheaper, and less power-hungry than the generation that preceded it. And like PCs in 1978 or smart phones in 2001, the current generation of products seem more like toys than a technology revolution.

What’s missing is software to allow consumers to manage dozens of connected devices in their homes and offices as effortlessly as we manage apps and websites today. It’s likely to take several more years for the necessary technology to mature. But it when it does, it could be a big deal.

So what might the world look like when there are tiny computers everywhere?”


Is the phrase “Oh, the humanity!” the most famous “play-by-play” call ever, still widely known? That was the succinct takeaway of radio reporter Herbert Morrison’s broadcast about the disaster of the Hindenburg, the German commercial airship that burst into flames over New Jersey on May 6, 1937. Shockingly, the majority of the passengers and crew survived. Bruce Weber has written a New York Times obituary about Werner Franz, who was a 14-year-old cabin boy when the ship went down and had been the last surviving crew member. The nasty footnote: He was later a member of Luftwaffe. An excerpt:

“The Hindenburg, 800 feet long (more than three times the length of a Boeing 747) and 135 feet in diameter, had its maiden voyage on March 4, 1936, and made 62 safe flights before its destruction. Mr. Franz had made four round-trip crossings on it, to both North and South America. As he recalled his experience of the crash in a book published in Germany a year later, he had been clearing dishes in the officer’s mess when the Hindenburg began to burn.

‘Franz heard a thud, and he felt the ship shake and point sharply upward as the burning tail crashed to the ground,’ Mr. [Dan] Grossman wrote on his website, airships.net, summarizing the German account. ‘Hydrogen flames roared above and behind him as the ship tilted more steeply, and then a ballast tank ruptured, dousing Franz with water.’

The inadvertent soaking was Mr. Franz’s good fortune, offering a buffer against the mounting heat and flame. He kicked open a hatch used to bring supplies onto the ship, and when the ground loomed close enough, he leapt to safety, running from the wreckage before it could entrap him. He suffered no injuries.”


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A follow-up post to the recent one about Google angling to outdo Amazon in the delivery-drone sector, this one about the regulatory issues involved. Even when navigational and battery challenges are worked through, the greater obstacle in the path may be governmental, at least in the near-term future. From Jack Nicas at the Wall Street Journal:

“Then there are the regulatory hurdles. There, the issue isn’t so much the Federal Aviation Administration’s current effective ban on commercial drones. The agency says it plans to propose rules for small drones in November, with the rules likely finalized one or two years later. That timeline jibes with Google’s and Amazon’s stated plans for delivery drones. Still, the FAA has missed several previous deadlines for the rules, and their importance means several big federal departments will have to weigh in, which could further delay things.

The devil is likely to be in the details of those rules. The FAA has said it will prohibit fully autonomous drone flights for the foreseeable future—even after the broader ban is lifted. Its five-year roadmap for drone integration, released last year,  says that a pilot will be required to fly each drone, or at least have ‘override authority to assume control at all times.’ Some have suggested one pilot could oversee many largely autonomous drones with the ability to jump into control if any device malfunctions, but the FAA roadmap explicitly states there must be one pilot per drone.

Depending on how this policy materializes in the final rule, it could create a big headache for Google’s and Amazon’s plans — and many other potential drone applications. Delivery drones would likely have to be autonomous to be cost efficient.”


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In “Why Don’t Restaurants Charge for Reservations?” Alex Mayyasi’s really interesting Priceonomics post about the mysterious policies of dining establishments, we learn why some dishes are “loss leaders” and why meals cost the same whether they’re served at peak or off-peak hours. An excerpt about start-ups trying to disrupt the reservation system, which is usually based on social rather than monetary capital:

One reason entrepreneurs keep trying to sell reservations is that restaurant pricing seems so outdated. Airlines charge significantly more for tickets on weekends and charge much less for flights that depart at 5am, yet all dinner reservations are the same price (free) and with the exception of a few special holiday menus, prices are the same on Tuesday at 6pm as Saturday at 8pm. 

At the very high end of the restaurant business, that may be changing. Nick Kokonas is the co-owner of three expensive, celebrated restaurants in Chicago. He now charges for reservations using a system he developed — one that restaurateurs may actually like.

When customers reserve a table at one of Kokonas’s restaurants, they pay for their entire dinner. The restaurants have a fixed price tasting menu (although at a more casual restaurant that does not, customers’ reservation charge is a credit toward their bill), so a reservation is actually a pre-paid ticket for a meal at a set time. 

They system can benefit everyone. It overcomes owners’ and managers’ primary objection to charging for reservations, as diners pay for their meal rather than for a table. It also eliminates the need for reservation staff and prevents no-shows.”

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Russia’s field war with Ukraine and financial one with the West has led to a symbolic skirmish between Vladimir Putin and American-born fast-food franchises. This counter-glasnost at the McDonald’s counter will make the country a little healthier in one sense and much unhealthier in another. It’s a move stuck in the twentieth century, as is much of Putin’s leadership. From Masha Gessen at the New York Times:

“Last week, the Russian consumer authority announced that it would shut down several McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow, including that famous flagship. The authority cited health-code violations, but it has long been known to wield its power almost exclusively to political ends: It banned wine imports from Georgia when relations with Russia soured, and dairy products from Belarus when the normally pliant neighbor edged westward. Since those first McDonald’s closures in Moscow, the authorities have shut down the chain’s restaurants in several other Russian cities. The other 420-plus McDonald’s outlets in Russia may not be around much longer.

But with this, McDonald’s has reclaimed its symbolic role in Russia. A quarter century ago, the opening of its first branch in Moscow symbolized that Russia was taking down barriers between itself and the Western world. It also symbolized the end of four decades of enmity between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. (no matter if the company that initially ran the Moscow restaurant was based in Canada rather than the United States). The same process is now occurring in reverse.

The Russian government is shutting down a symbol, not a business. Back in 1999, as soon as NATO planes started bombing Serbia, protesters stormed the McDonald’s in the center of Belgrade, breaking windows and looting the restaurant. The Russian state is following roughly the same logic today: Regardless of who owns it, McDonald’s serves as a symbol of America and the West, against which President Vladimir Putin has declared war.”

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No real surprise that Amazon isn’t alone in its attempt to perfect delivery drones. In publicizing Project Wing, Google acknowledged its foray into this yet-to-exist market. From Michael Liedike at the Associated Press:

“Drones clearly could help Google expand an existing service that delivers goods purchased online on the day that they were ordered. Google so far is offering the same-day delivery service by automobiles in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York.

‘Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving goods, including options that are cheaper, faster, less wasteful and more environmentally sensitive than what’s possible today,’ Google said in a pamphlet outlining Project Wing.

Google, though, seems to see its drones as something more than another step in e-commerce delivery. The aerial vehicles also could make it easier for people to share certain items, such as a power drill, that they may only need periodically and carry emergency supplies to areas damaged by earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural catastrophes, according to Google’s Project Wing pamphlet.”


From the December 1, 1909 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“The policemen of Stapleton, Staten Island, station rejoiced when a pig, taken as evidence in a raid and placed in a cell, was returned to its owner, Alex Aleski, who has a saloon and hotel on McKeon Street. It was said a score of men were gambling for the pig. The animal’s squeals had kept the policemen from getting their usual rest.


From dime museums to reality TV, freak shows have always been a part of American life, our eyes fixed on something we think is worse than we could ever be, yet we keep watching because perhaps we notice a resemblance? The practice began long before Barnum, though he was the one who eventually ushered the sideshow into the main tent. Via Delancey Place, a passage about the origins of this sideshow from Duncan Hall’s The Ordinary Acrobat:

“The first ‘freak’ display in the United States occurred in 1771, when Emma Leach, a dwarf, was shown in Boston. Around 1840, full ‘freak shows’ began to emerge, traveling with menageries or in the company of ‘handlers’ who managed the promotion and exhibition of the stars, enhancing their natural deformities with a story or an exotic medical explanation. (As Tom Norman, Barnum’s English equivalent and the handler of the Elephant Man, wrote in his autobiography, ‘It was not the show, it was the tale that you told.’)

Barnum was in this tradition, and he excelled at it. According to his biographer, A. H. Saxon, nearly every famous freak of the period spent a few weeks in the showman’s employ: R. O. Wickward, the skeleton man; Jane Campbell, ‘the largest Mountain of Human Flesh ever seen in the form of a woman’; S. K. G. Nellis, the armless wonder, who could shoot a bow and arrow with his toes. Many of the freaks appeared as stars in his museum, either as roving attractions, as part of special exhibitions, or as spectacles in the theater in back. Sometimes Barnum toured with them as well. General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) was a twenty-five inch-tall four-year-old midget, who Barnum claimed was eleven. Barnum coached the boy to perform impersonations of various heads of state, including Queen Victoria, whom he visited on three separate occasions. In Paris, the duo played to Napoleon III and in a series of shows at the Salle Musard that sold out months in advance. ‘The French are exceedingly impressible,’ Barnum wrote of the visit in his 1896 autobiography Struggles and Triumphs, ‘and what in London is only excitement in Paris becomes furor.'”

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Disney theme parks have always been as tightly controlled as police states, replete with the latest surveillance technology and swarms of undercover security. You aren’t even allowed to die there. But the company says, in some new patents, that it aims to use the reconnaissance machinery of the moment–drones–merely to create light shows and the like. From Dara Kerr at Cnet:

“What could be more magical than Disney fireworks, light shows and multifarious water fountains? These things plus high-tech entertainment with drones.

Walt Disney Co. has filed three patent applications that could let it provide complex aerial entertainment shows with the support of drones. The applications involve floating projection screens, marionettes supported by drones, and a synchronized aerial light display with ‘floating pixels.’

‘In the entertainment industry, there are many applications where it is desirable to provide an aerial display,’ Disney wrote in the patent applications. ‘For example, an amusement park may have a lagoon or other open space over which it is desired to present a display to entertain visitors. In another example, massively large aerial displays may be presented at sport stadiums or other venues to celebrate holidays such as New Year’s Day.’

Disney wrote that without the use of drones, aerial shows are challenging.”


A Midwest man of marriageable age who was minus an ear made a monetary offer to purchase one to be transplanted onto the side of his head, improving his chances of wooing a wife, as reported in a grisly article in the July 19, 1924 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“A Chicago surgeon has a patient who lost one of his ears as a result of an accident. Now the patient desires to marry and would have the missing member replaced by the real ear of another or something resembling an ear.

In his oration over the dead body of Caesar, Marc Antony exclaimed: ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.’ Even in this compressed simile he did not ask for the gift or sale of an ear, but merely for its loan.

But the Chicago surgeon does not indulge in metaphor when he attempts to gratify the desire of his patient, nor does he call for a loan. In his advertisement he calls for a real flesh and blood ear and offers therefore a monetary consideration.

We are advised that the advertisement has brought responses from many sources, women being included on the list of applicants. The motives actuating those who have expressed a willingness to sell an ear are interesting. Doubtless each applicant realizes that loss of an ear would cause disfigurement and that amputation would not only be painful but probably dangerous.

Some of those who meet the conditions imposed are willing to make the sacrifice in order to secure money for treatment of their children suffering from tuberculosis.”




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Stephen Hawking thinks we shouldn’t attempt contact with extraterrestrials because if they’re smarter than humans, they’ll likely view us the way we do simians in a zoo cage. But we may very well be manufacturing those “ETs” in our labs and garages. A little more about the potential threat of superintelligence, this time from Stuart Armstrong of the Conversation:

“There are clear reasons to suspect that a true AI would be both smart and powerful. When computers gain the ability to perform tasks at the human level, they tend to very quickly become much better than us. No-one today would think it sensible to pit the best human mind against even a cheap pocket calculator in a contest of long division and human-versus-computer chess matches ceased to be interesting a decade ago. Computers bring relentless focus, patience, processing speed and memory.

If an AI existed as pure software, it could copy itself many times, training each copy at accelerated computer speed, and network those copies together to create a kind of AI super committee. It would be like having Thomas Edison, Bill Clinton, Plato, Einstein, Caesar, Stephen Spielberg, Steve Jobs, Buddha, Napoleon or other humans superlative in their respective skill-set sitting on a higher human council. The AI could continue copying itself without limit, creating millions or billions of copies, if it needed large numbers of brains to brute-force a solution to any particular problem.

Our society is set up to magnify the potential of such an entity, providing many routes to great power. If it could predict the stock market efficiently, it could accumulate vast wealth. If it was efficient at advice and social manipulation, it could create a personal assistant for every human being, manipulating the planet one human at a time. It could replace almost every worker in the service sector. If it was efficient at running economies, it could offer its services doing so, gradually making us completely dependent on it. If it was skilled at hacking, it could take over most of the world’s computers. The paths from AI intelligence to great AI power are many and varied, and it isn’t hard to imagine new ones.”


I check the U.S. version of the Guardian site several times a day, something I can say about few other three-year-old publications–or ones of any vintage. It’s smart and brisk and the Edward Snowden story placed it at the center of global media landscape, even if the scoop didn’t actually produce revenue, something that was pointed out by Michael Wolff, when he briefly took a break from his busy schedule of farting into the open mouths of sleeping babies. Although the publication can rely on its considerable trust for the next several years, it will eventually have to divine a way to turn quality journalism into profit. It has plenty of company in trying to piece together that puzzle.

Joe Pompeo, the excellent media reporter for Capital New York, has an interview with Guardian veteran Katherine Viner, who’s taking over the expanding American operation. An excerpt:

“Where does Guardian U.S. go from here? ‘Onwards and upwards and much bigger,’ Viner told me in her first interview of the new gig. It’s a tall order, and one that will place her under the microscope of skeptics questioning whether a big play for U.S. scale is worth the costs associated with such an effort—never mind that The Guardian has the luxury of being owned by a trust created expressly to ensure its survival while preserving editorial independence. (Look no further than Guardian Media Group’s whopping $1 billion sale this past January of its stake in Trader Media Group.)

In a June feature for British GQ, media critic Michael Wolff made a case that The Guardian’s sustained investment in the Snowden story for much of 2013 and 2014 stilted the New York newsroom’s broader mission without a real business benefit. ‘The success of the Snowden story, at the expense of the New York operation, has many people in the Guardian U.S. constellation … wondering about the future of New York,’ wrote Wolff, whose account was published a few months after his column for Guardian U.S. came to an end.

Viner offered a different take on the current moment and what The Guardian’s Snowden coverage has achieved in the U.S. ‘It means the site’s got this massive profile now,’ said the optimistic editor, ‘and I can build on that success, expand our coverage into lots of areas and deepen our relationships with American readers.’

She wouldn’t get into the nuts and bolts, telling me she didn’t want to publicize them in an article before having discussions with staff. She did however say that Guardian U.S. is ‘in a period of ambitious growth, and we are working on a number of serious plans.’Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger was ever so slightly more specific when I pressed him for details. Speaking by phone one night while on vacation in Tuscany, fireworks whizzing overhead, the 60-year-old said there are two U.S. expansion plans that Viner will be working on pending final board approval in mid-November. ‘It will get bigger,’ he said. ‘We’re just not ready to say in what ways.'”

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From the August 23, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Cairo, Ill.–Before Frank W. Wilson, an advertising solicitor of St. Louis, died here in a hospital yesterday, he told physicians he had swallowed several articles of a foreign nature, and that they had better put the X-ray at work. He was operated upon Sunday night on the theory that he was afflicted with appendicitis.

Three incisions were made in the man’s stomach and according to the physician, the following articles were removed: One shoe button hook, a woman’s hatpin, three keys, one lead pencil, one belt buckle, one tin toy pistol, three nails (small), one needle and one thermometer.

Wilson, according to his physician, had been in a depressed mental state for some time, during which he swallowed anything that he could get down his throat.”


Muhammad Ali in 1972, after losing the “Fight of the Century” to Joe Frazier, on an Irish chat show hosted by Cathal O’Shannon. In Dublin to fight Alvin “Blue” Lewis, Ali was his usual mix of joking braggadocio and serious politics.

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Before the robot birds carry away you and your children, they will first be used to scare actual birds from airports and landfills. From Kyle Vanhemert at Wired UK:

“Birds are nice enough, unless you work at places like airports, farms, and landfills, in which case they’re the sworn enemy. Today, there are a variety of tools and technologies for spooking unwanted birds — we’ve graduated from scarecrows to flash-bang grenades and other sophisticated armaments — but Nico Nijenhuis is undoubtedly working on the coolest. He’s building robot hawks that trick lingering critters into thinking they’re about to get snacked on.

Nijenhuis, a 27-year-old based in the Netherlands, is the mind behind Robirds, a line of robotic birds of prey. He’s hoping to sell them to the aviation and waste management industries under the name Clear Flight Solutions. (Company tagline: ‘We create birds.’ Fair enough!) Nijenhuis is currently testing remote controlled Peregrine Falcons and eagles with promising results. By the end of the year, he’s hoping to have fully autonomous robot birds on offer.”

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Oh, we’re going to be quantified whether we like it or not, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy sledding for makers of fitness monitors, especially with so many people seemingly wired to hate exercise. It appears to be less laziness than a natural proclivity. From an Economist article about the steep climb ahead for Fitbit and the like:

“The immediate problem is their limited appeal. They are primarily aimed at fitness fanatics, yet well over half of all Americans do not exercise regularly, and thus have little interest in the product. Fitness trackers also fail to keep the attention of those health-conscious consumers who do go out and buy them. Strikingly, one-third of users discard their devices after six months, according to research by Endeavour Partners, a consultancy. Some industry insiders speculate that the true number may be much higher than that. Wearable fitness-trackers are just not as addictive as smartphones and the like, it seems. The novelty of being able to track your steps, calories or other metrics is appealing at first, but swiftly wears off. Use a fitness tracker regularly, and you get pretty good at guessing the numbers.”


There’s something curious inside us all, a pre-program if you will, and it’s more prominent in some than others. It’s not that we don’t have free will, but it’s not absolutely free.

Harrington “Heavenly” Gates was everything his parents wanted him to be, but that wasn’t what he wanted to be. He left his excellence as a Dartmouth scholar-athlete behind one fine day, much to his family’s chagrin, and began a 72-year-old religious odyssey, something he seemed almost born to do. From an article in the November 2, 1938 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Boston–The family of Harrington (Heavenly) Gates, ‘as soon as we get our breath,’ will make a pilgrimage to his New Hampshire religious retreat and try to persuade the Dartmouth football star to go back to college and graduate with his class.

Gates’ father, mother, four brothers and five sisters will make the trip to the cult farm of the ‘Holy Ghost and Us’ Society at Amherst, N.H., Mrs. Elder Gates, the mother, said today.

Gates, after helping Dartmouth beat the Yale football team, left school for a religious colony because of the profanity of the team and commercialization of the game.

From her home at Saugus, Mass., Mrs. Gates, wife of an ironmolder, issued this statement on her son’s resignation:

Want Him to Graduate

‘Shocked as we are, we are all still proud of Harry for his splendid record as a student and athlete. When we get our breath we will all go to him and see if there is anything we can do. It has been quite a financial hardship for us, too, in spite of the scholarship and outside help that he received. We wanted to see him graduate next June with his class.’

No less astonished and disappointed than Gates’ family were members of the Saugus Lions Club and other hometown organizations which had donated to his college expenses.

Last December, when a football rally was scheduled at Saugus in his honor, he declined to attend despite the fact that the sponsors offered to pay his fare from Hanover, N.H.

Working on Cult Farm

Exchanging gridiron togs for overalls, the 24-year-old Saugus, Mass., youth, a senior student, was working today with fellow members of the religious cult, also known as the ‘Legion of God,’ on its Salem turkey farm at Amherst.

The cult believes that it alone can save souls from annihilation. Its regulations forbid the use of liquor, certain foods and contact with the outside world.”

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Two brief excerpts follow from Ashley Halsey III’s Washington Post article about a Carnegie Mellon driverless car being road tested in our nation’s capital, which highlight the challenges of making the vehicles completely autonomous.


The computers running the car, for example, can see the police officer bustling into the middle of Constitution Avenue at First Street NW. But they can’t figure out why he is doing it — and neither can the people riding in the car. It turns out the officer wants to wave off a driver in another car who was making an improper turn.

Could the car have handled it without [passenger Jarrod] Snider’s help?

“Yeah, it started to slow down before I took over,” Snider says, “and as he stepped out of [our] lane and walked across the street, the car would have continued to go. The car obviously doesn’t understand gestures like ‘Stop here.’ ”


The rest of the computers’ communication — currently and what’s planned in the future — come in chimes, beeps and vibrations. If the person in the driver’s seat touches the wheel or either of the floor pedals, much as with cruise control, the computer relinquishes control. If the computer needs the driver to take over, the steering wheel and passenger seat may vibrate.

“Sometimes, if it becomes not confident about something, it can tell you to take over, and if everything’s okay, it can tell you it’s ready to drive autonomous,” says Snider, lead engineer on the project at Carnegie Mellon. “It’s just providing some feedback to the driver.”

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Chris Dancy, who tracks and quantifies himself to the extreme, may not be exactly our future, but a significant amount of what is true in his life will become true in ours. Settling on common standards for the Internet of Things is an obstacle, but it only takes a single great product like the iPod or the iPhone to bring clarity. Apple and Google, meanwhile, are in a race to create the preeminent smarthome technology. We will be measured whether we want to be or not. The opening of Samantha Murphy Kelly’s Mashable article “The Most Connected Man Is You, Just a Few Years From Now“:

“DENVER, Colorado — Chris Dancy, the self-described ‘most connected guy in the world,’ reclines in a throne in the corner of his home office. The walls around him are a scrapbook of his life, pinned with foreign currency, concert tickets and pictures of his icons, like Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol.

In between stories of his travels, he mentions his newfound Internet fame. He has been thrown into the spotlight for using between 300 and 700 tracking and lifelogging systems at all times, from the fitness wristband Fitbit to the Beddit mattress cover.

But then the conversation shifts to his childhood, a time when Dancy (now 45) and his family struggled to make ends meet. While describing his mother’s role in helping them through a difficult time, he closes his eyes and cuts himself off. The lights in the room have started to flicker. It’s the only moment all day where you can hear a pin drop.

The blinking lights are a visual reminder for Dancy to slow down and focus on his breathing. The lights, like so many aspects of his unassuming, cozy home, are connected to the devices he wears; in this case, they sense his heart rate is up and signal it’s time for him to calm down. Similarly, classical music plays throughout the house if he loses his temper.

By looking at his data, he’s learned exactly what he needs to be his most productive self, such as setting the lights to a specific shade or programming the air levels in his bedroom so he can sleep soundly. He’s even monitored his heart rate while watching porn to become more aware of his sexual preferences: ‘I thought I was into certain types of people, but learned what I actually like most.’ He’s also lost more than 100 pounds along the way, just by tracking his daily habits and making small changes to be healthier.

Even his dogs are tracked; a product called Tagg logs their daily activities.

He’s been called everything from a cyborg to an alien for his extreme data collection routines, but Dancy is the future tech experts say is coming.

Dancy is the ultimate example of two revolutions underway in tech: the Internet of Things (smart thermostats, garage doors, toothbrushes, tennis racquets) and quantified self (what you learn about yourself from trackers). Apple and Google are the two biggest companies expanding their efforts in the ‘smart home’ market, which is projected to bring $1.9 trillion to the global economy by 2020, according to Gartner Research.”

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It seems a cockamamie plan, one that has a reality TV show at its heart, but the Dutch space concern Mars One is promising to send four pioneers on a one-way trip to our neighboring planet within a decade. They will live there and die there, as settlers once did in the untamed Western United States, except you’ll be able to watch it all on your smartphone. I seriously doubt it ever happens. The opening of “Ultimate Reality TV: A Crazy Plan for a Mars Colony,” by Spiegel’s Manfred Dworschak:

“If his greatest wish is fulfilled, then Stephan Günther will one day die on Mars. He’s already thought long and hard about the eventuality. He would like his companions to pack his remains in an airtight coffin before depositing him outside the colony among the rocks.

‘Perhaps there are unknown forms of life on Mars,’ 45-year-old Günther says. ‘We can’t just intervene.’
It is a sentiment which displays the enlightenment of today’s conquerors. They want to take ownership of a planet, but they are concerned that their own remains could contaminate bacterial cultures in its dusty, rocky ecosystem.

Mars, to be sure, remains a deserted wasteland today, its ecology intact. But it could be that Günther could might be bouncing his way through rough craters beaming pictures back to Earth. Currently a flight trainer in Magdeburg, Germany, Günther has applied to take part in a unique voyage to our neighboring planet. A return trip is not part of the deal.

Conceiving the journey as one-way makes it vastly more feasible and less expensive. A Dutch foundation, led by businessman Bas Lansdorp, is behind the idea. ‘We want to send the first four settlers to Mars in 2024,’ he says, adding that ‘additional teams will follow.’

Some 704 candidates say they are prepared to leave Earth forever. A competition will decide which of them will be sent to be humanity’s permanent representatives on Mars. Lansdorp’s foundation, Mars One, plans to train those chosen for eight years as preparation for a radically new life.”

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When you have time, you want money. When you have money, you want time.

Life extension–immortality, even–is pursued by deep-pocketed technologists who are bad at saying goodbye. They believe the answers are a lot closer than they likely are. Of course, the defeat of death would pose myriad philosophical and ethical questions. From “The Eternal Problem Silicon Valley Can’t Solve,” Elizabeth Segran’s Fast Company feature about Dave Asprey and others trying to engineer an endless summer: 

“Over the last 15 years, Asprey has been tinkering with technologies in the hopes of slowing the aging process in his own body. He describes this as bio-hacking, using the hacker mentality to turbocharge his own biochemistry. And to hear Asprey tell it, that’s working: With a couple of scientific hacks, he’s lost hundreds of pounds, increased his IQ, and improved the quality of his sleep. All these things, he says, are also prolonging his life-span. He’s now sharing these techniques with others through Bulletproof Executive, the company he founded that creates coffee and other products to spike bodily performance, and as the chairman of the board of the Silicon Valley Health Institute, a group that meets monthly to discuss the latest developments in the study of longevity.

Asprey’s office, located just down the street from Google’s campus, is a microcosm of a growing Silicon Valley trend. Asprey is trying to stop individual bodies from aging–starting with his own–and investment is pouring into a growing number of companies whose stated goal is to increase human longevity and, in some cases, even cure death. Asprey freely admits that these are grandiose, quixotic endeavors. But in a place where geeks have changed the world with previously unthinkable breakthroughs in science, nothing seems impossible. ‘When you’re young and you’ve just created something amazing that makes you a ton of a money, you do egotistical things,’ Asprey says. ‘And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing: I want to swing for the fences. What is all of this cool technology we’re creating compared to getting an extra hundred years of life?'”

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From the May 17, 1916 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Kansas City, Mo. — John Arnold is today recovering from an operation in the Kansas City Emergency Hospital and the cause of his trouble–a lively and well-developed frog–is hopping about in a large jar at his bedside. Some time ago, Arnold says, he drank from a spring. He cannot tell whether the frog took up its abode in his interior as a tadpole or a small frog. The physicians who operated, liberating the frog and relieving Arnold of the nagging pain amidship, say Arnold is doing well. The frog speaks for itself.”


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