Five Reads: Life is Good
What follows is our roundup of five of the most compelling stories discovered over the last few days. Look for this column every week in this space.
First, Some Good News
In the New York Times, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker talks about his recent book “Enlightenment Now,” which lays out a compelling case that “by every major measure of human well-being, from personal safety to longevity to economic security to happiness, people everywhere are far better off today than they were before the start of the Enlightenment in the 17th century.” Read the interview and you’ll feel like you have plenty to be thankful for, no matter how awful everything seems.
Watch Pinker discuss Tech and the Human Condition at SXSW 2018 here.
Mind Over Matter
The question of how exactly the brain moves the body remains a great mystery. In the New Yorker, Raffi Khatchadourian calls understanding the behavior of the brain’s 86 billion neurons “as formidable a scientific challenge as interstellar travel.” He reports on new technology that enables a paralyzed woman to experience a “brain-computer interface, a complex assemblage of technology — transistor-like cortical implants, wires, algorithmic decoders, robotics, all in their early stages of development — designed to fuse minds with machines.” The possibilities are epic.
Discover more of them at SXSW 2019 at the Health and MedTech Track.
Are Lists Killing Everything Cool?
Kevin Alexander takes a searing and personal look at what happened after he named the old fashioned burger at the low-key Portland, Ore. dive Stanich’s the best in America. In short, he killed it. Rather than just a simple mea culpa, Alexander digs in to the trouble with lists, the way social media can drive and crush popularity and sits down with Stanich’s owner to get closer to the story.
Among other things, the SXSW 2019 Food Track will explore how to grown, learn about and consume food in more sustainable ways for a healthier future for all.
Will Awareness Inspire Action?
A visually compelling call to action in the Washington Post aims to “accelerate efforts to reduce fine-particle emissions worldwide,” which could address the declining global air quality. The bottom line: “the average person on Earth would live 2.6 years longer if the air contained none of the deadliest type of pollution.” The positive spin is that “people can change the air, and in many place they have.”
Fighting Back Against Deep Fakes
A fascinating report published by the Neiman Lab explains how the Wall Street Journal is training journalists to detect actual fake news and synthetic media. They discuss their “internal deepfakes task force” made up of video, photo, visuals, research, platform, and news editors trained in deepfake detection. “Raising awareness in the newsroom about the latest technology is critical,” said WSJ deputy editor Christine Glancey. They share useful insights and practices.
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.