Ah, July, that summer month in which we settle into long, lazy days and slow, softball news. Or, that’s usually the case. This year, that pattern was disrupted by what can only be described as disrupting news. The day after Fourth of July, North Korea successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile. AlphaBay, the online black market bazaar, experienced a takedown that threw the dark web into chaos. Amazon Jeff Bezos briefly usurped the title “world’s richest man” before ceding the mantle back to Bill Gates. Even the unveiling of Tesla’s Model 3, the car maker’s “affordable” electric vehicle, seemed to herald the dawning of a new automotive age. It all culminated with a dramatic health care vote and whiplash in the White House. Yep, it seems the summer doldrums never had a chance to start.
WIRED covered all this and more, including the death of several storied products, the quest for immortality, and the security vulnerabilities that leave virtually no technology safe. After a month like this, everyone deserves a little light summer reading.
The step into the future occurred in May at the company’s Nevada test track, where engineers watched a magnetically levitating test sled fire through a tube in near-vacuum, reaching 70 mph in just over five seconds.
That is but a fraction of the 700 mph or so Hyperloop One promises, but put that aside for now. What matters here is all the elements required to make hyperloop work, worked: propulsion, braking, and the levitation and vacuum systems that all but eliminate friction and air resistance so that pod shoots through the tube at maximum speed with minimal energy.
“Sorry,” my mom says for at least the third time. “Can you explain what a chatbot is?” We are sitting next to each other on a couch in my parents’ house. My dad, across the room in a recliner, looks tired, as he increasingly does these days. It is August now, and I have decided it is time to tell them about my thoughts.
As I have contemplated what it would mean to build a Dadbot (the name is too cute given the circumstances, but it has stuck in my head), I have sketched out a list of pros and cons. The cons are piling up. Creating a Dadbot precisely when my actual dad is dying could be agonizing, especially as he gets even sicker than he is now. Also, as a journalist, I know that I might end up writing an article like, well, this one, and that makes me feel conflicted and guilty. Most of all, I worry that the Dadbot will simply fail in a way that cheapens our relationship and my memories. The bot may be just good enough to remind my family of the man it emulates—but so far off from the real John Vlahos that it gives them the creeps. The road I am contemplating may lead straight to the uncanny valley.
Nir Barzilai’s big plan isn’t necessarily less quixotic than those being dreamed up at Silicon Valley biotechs. It’s just quixotic in a completely different way. Rather than trying to develop a wildly expensive, highly speculative therapy that will likely only benefit the billionaire-demigod set, Barzilai wants to convince the FDA to put its seal of approval on an antiaging drug for the rest of us: A cheap, generic, demonstrably safe pharmaceutical that has already shown, in a host of preliminary studies, that it may be able to help stave off many of the worst parts of growing old. Not only that, it would also shorten the duration of those awful parts.
Your brain’s ability to collect, connect, and create mosaics from these milliseconds-long impressions is the basis of every memory. By extension, it is the basis of you. This isn’t just metaphysical poetics. Every sensory experience triggers changes in the molecules of your neurons, reshaping the way they connect to one another. That means your brain is literally made of memories, and memories constantly remake your brain.
Last Christmas, Nathan Seidle’s wife gave him a second-hand safe she’d found on Craigslist. It was, at first glance, a strange gift. The couple already owned the same model, a $120 SentrySafe combination fire safe they’d bought from Home Depot. But this one, his wife explained, had a particular feature: The original owner had locked it and forgotten the combination. Her challenge to Seidle: Open it.
In a way, though, the death of the iPod feels like a critical moment for an entire generation. The way some people think about flipping through the LPs in a record store, or obsessively organizing their CDs into a hefty black Case Logic binder, some people remember their iPod: plugging it into the computer, waiting forever for iTunes to open and sync, managing metadata and curating playlists. Most of all, the feeling of a clickwheel whirring underneath your thumb as you searched for the perfect track.
Scientists have already used plain old DNA to encode and store all 587,287 words of War and Peace, a list of all the plant material archived in the Svalbard Seed Vault, and an OK Go music video. But now, researchers … describe using a Crispr system to insert bits of DNA encoded with photos and a GIF of a galloping horse into live bacteria. When the scientists retrieved and reconstructed the images by sequencing the bacterial genomes, they got back the same images they put in with about 90 percent accuracy.
When you imagine riding a Segway MiniPro electric scooter, your biggest concern is probably falling on your face. Much lower on that list? The notion that attackers could remotely hack your ride, make it stop short, or even drive you into traffic. Unfortunately, as one reacher found, they could have done just that.
—Lily Hay Newman
No one should shed a tear for Flash’s coming disappearance. The web will be safer, faster, smoother without it. But between now and 2020, the internet does need to figure out how to deal with the remains.