Five Reads: Big Tech = Big Trouble
Here’s our roundup of five compelling stories from around the internet in the last few days. Look for this column every week in this space.
The Power — and Perils — of Big Tech
Even as Facebook, Google and others confronted challenges in 2018, their ambitions were undimmed. After all, so much of life remains undisrupted. David Streitfeld of the New York Times provides a vivid portrait of the tech giants’ long-term strategy for dominating our time, our money, our cities and our minds. Meanwhile, as AI reaches further into our lives, it generates backlash, often in unpredictable ways, as in the bizarre spate of attacks on self-driving cars. And tech has a way of exposing our human foibles, as chronicled in this hilarious, riveting account in Huffpost, “I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America.”
The Swashbuckling Chess of AlphaZero
Not only is AlphaZero the strongest player on the planet — it also represents a whole new approach to games and to the science of cognition, writes grandmaster Garry Kasparov, whose 1997 loss to IBM’s Deep Blue marked a turning point in machine intelligence. AlphaZero demonstrates a sparkling, exhilarating style of play that eluded previous chess projects — all the more remarkable considering that it taught itself how to play.
Kasparov will speak on Ethics and Responsibility in the AI and IoT Age as part of the SXSW 2019 Intelligent Future track.
Nanoscavengers Might Save Us
Sarin and other lethal nerve agents are some of the deadliest weapons ever developed. A piece in Science magazine uncovers the work of researchers at the University of Washington who have developed an enzyme that defuses sarin and wrapped it in tiny beads of polymer to fool the immune system. Guinea pigs injected with the nanoscavenger gained protection against sarin for eight days, according to the study. This has the potential to act as a sort of vaccine for humans.
Check out other innovative ideas in healthcare coming in the SXSW 2019 Health/MedTech track.
The Deeper Meaning of “Bandersnatch”
Netflix’s venture in interactive cinema, where viewers can choose their own adventures through the Black Mirror episode “Bandersnatch,” has drawn praise and scorn. Kyle Turner in Paste Magazine argues that one of the endings is so profound that it justifies the whole experiment.
Learn more about the future of storytelling at the SXSW 2019 Experiential Storytelling track.
Don’t even pretend you don’t know any of their songs. In a fascinating take, Dave Holmes in Esquire comes to grips with the legacy of Hootie and the Blowfish, and argues that the cruelty and scorn that we poured on the quintessential nineties FM rock band has come back to haunt us.
Facts to Make You the Life of Any Party
The Atlantic’s science desk has earned a reputation as an astute observer of new trends. Here are 83 things that blew their minds last year. Memorize a few and you’ll never have trouble making conversation with strangers again. Some potential gambits: “Hey what do you think is the preferred social network for nudists? or “Do you know why scooters were invented?” One other random bit of trivia: As part of its coverage on the epic odyssey spanning 12 years and four billion miles of the New Horizons space probe, which sent back stunning photos of Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever encountered, National Geographic writer Michael Greshko revealed that one of the astrophysicists working on the project played guitar for Queen.
Five Reads Archive
December 28: Austin is Weird and Wired
December 22: The End of Traffic
December 15: Guarding the Truth
December 5: Becoming an Obama
November 30: The Trouble for Juul
November 21: Life Is Good
November 16: Whither Facebook
November 9: Why Does the US Love Guns?
November 2: Esther Perel Knows Love
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.