All posts tagged: technology

A Contrarian View of Digital Health

“The pursuit of health is a symptom of unhealth.” —Petr Skrabanek Picture Jim from Kentucky. A farmer, tall, Peterbilt hat. Just retired. He takes basic meds for high blood pressure and diabetes. Arthritis slows him but he has no cardiac symptoms. He plays cards, goes fishing and hangs out with his grandkids. Jim’s family bought him a smart watch, so he could improve his health. The watch kept telling him that his heart rate was low. Jim called his family doctor, who arranged an urgent cardiology visit. Jim’s electrocardiogram showed occasional premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). His cardiologist worried because PVCs can indicate trouble. Jim tried to reassure his doctor, saying, “I feel well.” The cardiologist insisted on further testing. One of the scans—known for its propensity for false-positives—showed an abnormality. So Jim, the asymptomatic happy man who met the cardiologist because of a smart watch, had a near-normal coronary angiogram—a test that requires placing a catheter in the heart. Soon after the procedure, Jim stopped talking, his face drooped and he could not move the …

Down the Rabbit Hole of Political Intolerance in Silicon Valley

Editor’s note: Blake J. Harris is the bestselling author of Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation, which is currently being adapted for television by Legendary Entertainment, producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and Scott Rudin. His second book, The History of The Future—which was published on February 19—chronicles the dramatic, larger-than-life true story behind the founding of Oculus, and its quest for virtual reality, and the company’s $3 billion acquisition by Facebook. What follows is an interview with Harris conducted by Quillette’s Clay Routledge.  Clay Routledge: I just finished your latest book, The History of the Future. And I have to tell you, I tore through it. Such a fascinating story in so many ways. What made you interested in telling the story of Oculus VR and its founder, Palmer Luckey? Blake J. Harris: So back in 2014, my first book was published. This was a big, life-changing experience for me. Prior to that—for the previous eight years—I had been a commodities broker, buying and selling things like sugar, coffee …

We Can Put an End to State Bidding Wars

In a crashing finale to its corporate headquarters search saga, Amazon announced that it is withdrawing from its commitment to New York. Politicians have responded with mixed reactions, with some hailing the decision as a victory for the middle-class locals who came out in droves against the deal proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo. The deal, which was comprised of more than $3 billion in tax incentives for the company, reignited the debate over whether immediate incentives for large corporates were justified by projected taxes down the road. Amazon promised to bring over 25,000 news jobs to the city, as well as additional investment in local infrastructure and school programs. However, the agreement quickly became a political hot-button issue. Many on the left saw it as a giveaway to a multi-billion-dollar corporation when subways lines break down on what feels like a daily basis. Those on the right chided the government for falling prey to crony capitalism. It seemed to be one of the few times that both sides could agree …

Deepfakes and the Threat to Privacy and Truth

You just crossed into the twilight zone. “Photographs furnish evidence,” wrote Susan Sontag in On Photography. “A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened.” Sontag went on to write of how photographs can misrepresent situations. But do they even have to show real objects? When you open the website “This Person Does Not Exist” you are met with the face of a man or woman. He or she looks normal—like the average person you would brush past on the way to work—but he or she does not exist. The website uses generative adversarial networks, which produce original data from training sets. Through analyzing vast numbers of real faces the website can generate new ones. True, there are some glitches. The first man I saw—a cheerful, bald, middle-aged man who could have been a television evangelist or a salesman at a training seminar—had an inexplicable hole beneath his ear, which, once seen, gave him an unnerving reptilian appearance. More often than not, though, the faces are indistinguishable from the real thing. You just …

Video Games and the (Male) Meaning of Life

Virtual worlds give back what has been scooped out of modern life . . . it gives us back community, a feeling of competence, and a sense of being an important person whom people depend on. —Jonathan Gottschall When I was seven, my parents bought me and my brother an Atari 2600, the first mass game console. The game it came with was “Asteroids.” We played that game an awful lot. One night, we snuck down in the middle of the night only to discover my Dad already playing. My brother and I loved going to local arcades and try to make a few quarters last as long as possible. It was the perfect set of incentives—you win, you keep playing. You lose, you’re forced to stand there and watch others play, hoping that someone is forced to leave their game in the middle so you can jump in. We became very good at video games. My favorite was “Street Fighter II.” I memorized the Mortal Kombat fatalities to inflict graphic harm on defeated enemies. …