Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Is Google Making Us Stupid? - The Atlantic

Illustration by Guy Billout

“When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.

The Net’s influence doesn’t end at the edges of a computer screen, either. As people’s minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Internet media, traditional media have to adapt to the audience’s new expectations. Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads, and magazines and newspapers shorten their articles, introduce capsule summaries, and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets. When, in March of this year, TheNew York Times decided to devote the second and third pages of every edition to article abstracts , its design director, Tom Bodkin, explained that the “shortcuts” would give harried readers a quick “taste” of the day’s news, sparing them the “less efficient” method of actually turning the pages and reading the articles. Old media have little choice but to play by the new-media rules.” (Nicholas Carr, The Atlantic)

‘Big Data’ Emerges as Key Theme at South by Southwest Interactive

‘Big Data’ Emerges as Key Theme at South by Southwest Interactive - Chronicle of Higher Education“Mr. Lanier, who is a scholar-at-large at Microsoft Research, suggested that companies like Facebook, which rely on selling information about their users’ behavior to advertisers, should find some way to compensate people for their posts. “People have to make money from what they do on there,” he said, noting that as computers replace many other kinds of jobs, more people will need to make money in information industries. ‘Facebook could evolve into something that helps people make a living,’ he added. ‘Capitalism won’t survive unless it does.’ ” (Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education)

FTC Urges Apps For Kids Must Disclose Data-Collecting Practices

FTC Urges Apps For Kids Must Disclose Data-Collecting Practices - Wall Street Journal

Photo: AP

“The agency released a report Thursday that criticized developers and app marketplaces for not doing enough to disclose the data-collection practices of apps geared toward kids. It said it will conduct a six-month review to determine whether such apps violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.” (Matt Jerzemsky, Wall Street Journal)

The Dilemma of Being a Cyborg

The Dilemma of Being a Cyborg - New York Times

Image: Tom Gauld

“Foer said, ‘What makes things memorable is that they are meaningful, significant, colorful.’ Data is weightless and characterless and takes up very little space. The more of it we save, the more we lose the ability to differentiate it, to assign significance and meaning.

I’m pretty sure, for instance, that my husband still doesn’t know my phone number, which he stored on his phone on the day we met, whereas I remember his because he wrote it down for me on a tiny scrap of paper that I pinned to my bulletin board, where it gradually accrued meaning. In my mind, my husband’s phone number is inextricable from his handwriting, and it lives on a jagged-edged, ephemeral scrap that resurfaces every once in a while, usually when I’m looking for something else.” (Carina Chocano,

In Big Data, Potential for Big Division

“But, as with the rest of the technology revolution, big data is likely to have a more mixed impact on us in our role as workers. David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has done groundbreaking research on the “polarizing” effect of technology on the labor market: his bottom line is that it has been good for people at the top and not had much of an effect on people doing hands-on jobs at the bottom. But it has hollowed out what used to be the middle. Studying the same phenomenon in the United Kingdom, the economists Maarten Goos and Alan Manning have come up with an evocative term for what is happening — the division of work into ‘lousy and lovely jobs.’ ” (Chrystia Freeland, Reuters/

CollabMap crowdsourcing software for evacuation plans

“CollabMap will be of interest to any organization that wants to develop an evacuation plan,” said Dr Ramchurn. “We don’t just use the information to build a map; we build a computer simulation that shows how people move around an area. Once people log in and draw routes, we aggregate the data to produce a high fidelity map over which we can simulate the movement of thousands of individuals across roads and open spaces, using parallel programming techniques.” (University of Southampton)