Edward Snowden: The Internet Is Broken In 2013, a now-infamous government contractor named Edward Snowden shined a stark light on our vulnerable communications infrastructure by leaking 10,000 classified U.S. documents to the world. One by one, they detailed a mass surveillance program in which the National Security Administration and others gathered information on citizens — via phone tracking and tapping undersea Internet cables. Three years after igniting a controversy over personal privacy, public security, and online rights that he is still very much a part of, Snowden spoke with Popular Science in December 2015 and shared his thoughts on what's still wrong and how to fix it.
We can feed the world without chopping down more forests Maybe this is obvious, but expanding our agricultural footprint to feed the growing population — cutting down forests, plowing prairies — is a really bad idea. What’s less obvious, and more interesting/troubling, is that farmland expansion is so harmful on so many levels that it’s worth doing just about anything that helps us avoid opening up new land — even things that have their own environmental costs. I’ve been reading back through the papers of David Tilman, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, from the last 15 years, exploring the effect of farming on the natural world. (I should mention that these are also the papers of his many deserving coauthors, who I can’t easily credit here.) In a 2001 paper published in Science, Tilman et al. calculated what would happen if agricultural expansion continued, business-as-usual style: In 50 years, an additional billion hectares of land — larger than the entire area of the U.S. — would be cleared for farming.
YC-Backed Opez Is Yelp Meets Facebook, For Service Professionals Yelp provides a compelling platform for small businesses to connect with consumers via deals, reviews, reservations, information and more. But independent service professionals like hair stylists, bartenders, and DJs have a problem: if they jump from one establishment to another (which is quite common), they have a hard time taking their clientele with them. Enter Y Combinator-backed Opez, a platform that’s looking to help these professionals keep in touch with their clients on a long-term basis, making it easy to keep them informed of any job changes or hot deals they’re offering. Of course, Facebook already offers Facebook Pages, which can be used for similar a similar purpose.
Artificial Intelligence in Social Media: What AI Knows About You, and What You Need to Know For the 1964 World Fair, science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote an article for the New York Times, envisioning what the exhibits at the event would look like in fifty years’ time. Asimov’s predictions were scrutinized and used in numerous think pieces and tech forecasts of 2014, the year that marked the passing of the five decades since the article’s publish date. Since a large body of Asimov’s work concerned itself with human relationship with artificial intelligence, much attention was focused on the following quote: “If machines are that smart today, what may not be in the works 50 years hence? It will be such computers, much miniaturized, that will serve as the “brains” of robots.” Most writers summarized that, while the closest we have to an android housekeeper is a Roomba, Asimov was right to draw the parallel between brains and computers.
Phillip Ross Molds Fast-Growing Fungi Into Mushroom Building Bricks That Are Stronger than Concrete Mycologist Philip Ross is seriously into mushrooms, but not as a food -- instead, he uses fungi as a building material. Beneath the surface of the ground, fungi form a wide network of thin, rootlike fibers called mycelium. That part of the fungus isn't particularly tasty, but Ross discovered that when dried, it can be used to form a super-strong, water-, mold- and fire-resistant building material. The dried mycelium can be grown and formed into just about any shape, and it has a remarkable consistency that makes it stronger, pound for pound, than concrete. The 100% organic and compostable material has even piqued the interest of NYC's MoMa PS1, where the award-winning Hy-Fi Mushroom Tower pavilion is currently being built. We first discovered Ross’ unique mycelium material at The Workshop Residence in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood during the 2012 AIA SF‘s month-long Architecture and the City festival.
HouseFix: Bringing Social Recommendations & Accountability To Home Improvement If you’re planning to get work done on your house in the near future, you’ll probably be interested in HouseFix, one of the latest companies to launch this afternoon at the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield. The goal of the service is to the take offline social recommendations — in other words, the advice friends and neighbors often give each other about improving their houses — and bring them online. It’s also looking to become a comprehensive directory of contractors, complete with reviews and profiles of each. And, finally, it wants to help contractors keep track of their own projects and create an online presence. After logging into the site, you’ll be able to see which of your neighbors are also users, and the contractors they’ve recently used on their own projects. On the contractor-facing portion of the site, professionals can manage their jobs, viewing which ones are on time and within the quoted budget.
40 Cool Inventions and Gadgets That Will Change Your Life 2016 has been an awesome year for new and innovative inventions that we are all sure to love, need, or simply must have. Some have been designed to save us time, some to save money, and some just do allow us to have more fun. The only question left for the world to answer is which one should be gotten first. Most of the innovative gadgets have been funded successfully on Indiegogo, Kickstarter and have been made available for public to buy. 100% Renewable Energy Isn’t Theoretical, It’s Reality 100% renewable energy to some may sound like nothing more than a pipe dream, but in reality, it already exists. As giant countries like China, America, & India continue to pump out never ending streams of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, small, low-elevation islands are at risk of serious damage from rising sea levels and more intense and frequent storms. But some islands refuse to surrender and are doing everything in their capacity to do their part, even if that means overhauling their electricity grid as a means to achieve 100% clean, renewable energy. Of course this transition does not only contribute towards a healthier planet, but also a lower fuel bill for the islands as it is expensive to purchase and receive diesel and other fuels by sea or air.
Tastemaker Wants To Make Interior Design More Affordable And Accessible YCombinator-backed Tastemaker launches to the public in closed beta today, hoping to reach people who want to make professional home design a reality but previously thought it inaccessible due to excessive cost. Like fellow YC startup Scoutzie, the Tastemaker marketplace functions by allowing users to submit a request for proposal, answering questions about their personal taste, budget and practical concerns like room dimensions. Three vetted designers from the Tastemaker community then reply to the request within 48 hours, with ideas custom tailored to a user’s needs and a corresponding flat fee. Users pick which proposal they like best and are then assigned a design concierge to help them walk through the process, with the option of having a design associate come to their home and survey the room personally. While they enter in payment information when they decide on a proposal, they don’t actually get charged until they’re satisfied with the work.
How to Become Virtually Immortal It’s not enough that Internet companies have entered every corner of human existence—now, some are starting to cater to non-existence. In recent years, Google and Facebook have created systems to deal with death, such as suspending inactive accounts and allowing people to bequeath their data to a surviving friend or relative. The newest entry in the e-death industry is a small start-up called Eterni.me, which is taking end-of-life services to Asimovian extremes.