Don Marti

Sun 14 Oct 2012 06:25:35 AM PDT

Sunday links: robots, cities, and the future

Warren Ellis: How To See The Future. The most basic mobile phone is in fact a communications devices that shames all of science fiction, all the wrist radios and handheld communicators. Captain Kirk had to tune his fucking communicator and it couldn’t text or take a photo that he could stick a nice Polaroid filter on. Science fiction didn’t see the mobile phone coming. It certainly didn’t see the glowing glass windows many of us carry now, where we make amazing things happen by pointing at it with our fingers like goddamn wizards.

David H. Freedman: The Rise of the Robotic Workforce. Called Baxter, it is a humanoid robot that has the potential to be everything Brooks was shooting for: a breeze to use, capable of handling any number of basic assembly-line jobs, and ridiculously cheap.

John Naughton: Google's self-guided car could drive the next wave of unemployment. [Google] engineers have demonstrated that with smart software and an array of sensors, a machine can perform a task of sophistication and complexity most of us assumed would always require the capabilities of humans. And that means our assumptions about what machines can and cannot do are urgently in need of updating.

Venkatesh Rao: Cloud Mouse, Metro Mouse (via attention industry). Metro mice view cloud-mice as philistines, incapable of appreciating the finer things in life, represented by megacity cultures. Cloud mice view the metro mice as self-absorbed, urban supremacists with embarrassingly limited horizons....

Hanna Rosin: are men an endangered species? The story was no longer about the depths men had sunk to; that dynamic had been playing out for several decades and was more or less played out. The new story was that women, for the first time in history, had in many ways surpassed them.

Timothy B. Lee: Restrictive Zoning Is Crippling Silicon Valley’s Transit Options. People like me who would like there to be more dense, walkable neighborhoods in America face a kind of chicken-and-egg problem. Achieving the necessary density requires a significant fraction of people to give up their cars. Living without a car is only practical in areas that are well-served by transit. But a good transit system is only economically viable in metropolitan areas that already have significant density.

Washington's Blog: Cowardice Is Destroying America. The courage of the men at Valley Forge was also a turning point in the war. Slogging on through the dead of winter without shoes inspired a nation. On the other hand, cowardice makes people stupid and docile.