I WANT WINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What is divinity if it can come Only in silent shadows and in dreams? — Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning” I. Angels and Superheroes In 2008, Samuel O. Poore, a plastic surgeon who teaches at the University of Wisconsin’s medical school, published an article in the Journal of Hand Surgery titled “The Morphological Basis of the Arm-to-Wing […]

Big data and the limits of social engineering

The following review of Alex Pentland’s book Social Physics appeared originally, in a slightly different form, in MIT Technology Review. In 1969, Playboy published a long, freewheeling interview with Marshall McLuhan in which the media theorist and sixties icon sketched a portrait of the future that was at once seductive and repellent. Noting the ability of […]

The music of mind-fracking

I have seen the future of music, and its name is ThinkEar. A new audio gadget from, oddly enough, a Finnish oil company named Neste, ThinkEar is a set of “mind-controlled earphones” that will allow your brain to choose the songs you listen to without any input from your thumbs or other body parts. Let’s go to the press release: […]

Logical fantasies

From Tim Hwang and Madeleine Clare Elish’s “The Mirage of the Marketplace,” in Slate: When you open the Uber app as a rider, you see a map of your local pickup area, with little sedans around that appear to be drivers available for a request. While you might assume these reflect an accurate picture of […]

Media takes command

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of addressing the annual convention of the Media Ecology Association in Denver. The title of my talk was “Media Takes Command: An Inquiry into the Consequences of Automation.” Here is what I said, along with the slides that accompanied the remarks. As I was trying to figure out what […]

Can computers improvise?

Bust this: Girl I’m down for whatever cause my love is true This one goes to my man old dirty one love we be swigging brew My brother I love you Be encouraged man And just know When you done let me know cause my love make you be like WHOA These rap lyrics, cobbled […]

Does innovation arc toward decadence?

Three years ago, I posted a piece here titled “The Hierarchy of Innovation,” which argued, speculatively, that the focus of innovation has followed Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, beginning with Technologies of Survival and now concentrating on Technologies of the Self. With The Glass Cage done, I’ve decided to return to this idea with hopes of fleshing it out. I’m […]