In Defense of Bad Robots

The robots are coming. You know this. You’ve read the headlines, you’ve seen the movies. Her, Ex Machina, Terminator. You’ve seen the sleek, lithe, brilliant bots of the future. They’re sexy, even the ones that aren’t explicitly meant to be. We fear them, we’re drawn to them. Look at that smooth glass, that chrome, that unparalleled intellect, […]

What Makes Something Bodyhacking?

A few months ago, in a dark club on the always-busy 6th Street in downtown Austin, there was a very odd party going on. To get in, you had to show a thin metal badge with a dancing woman etched into it. Projected onto the wall above the DJ playing house music there was a […]

Guest Post: Water in Yomibato

Last November, I went to the Peruvian Amazon on assignment for National Geographic. (The story is out today). I focused on a group of indigenous people, the Matsiguenka, living inside Manu National Park. One of these people is Alejo Machipango, a hunter, farmer, and member of the water committee for the village of Yomibato. Alejo […]

Sankofa Futurism

One of my favorite futurist quotes comes from a 1956 Ford commercial called Design for Dreaming. In it, the main character sings (yes, it’s a musical) the line: “Everyone says the future is strange, but I have a feeling some things won’t change.” I love this quote for a lot of reasons, and I use […]

Damage Patterns

The other night I was in the midst of writing about the Ice Age when I strayed to the internet. Up came the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography that went this year to New York Times photographers Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev, Tyler Hicks and Daniel Etter for their coverage of the European refugee crises. Fresh from writing a […]

Marvin and The System

We live with machines. And our machines are getting smarter. They’re still very dumb, they do what we tell them to, and often not really all that well. But we’re teaching them. And I do mean “we.” When you tag your friends on Facebook, you’re teaching its facial recognition system what to look for in […]

Debunking Hollywood: The Gordian Knot

I’ve often wondered who was the first person to tie a knot. Who was that ancient ancestor 10, 20, 100 thousand years ago who first wrapped a strip of animal skin – or maybe some fibrous vine – around itself and realized that it could hold itself together, even hold a person’s weight. Or hell, […]

Nobody Likes Sad Futures

On Tuesday, the podcast that I host and produce started its second season. The show is called Flash Forward, and it’s weird and fun and surprising. Every episode takes on a possible future, from the terrifying likely (antibiotic resistance) to the completely absurd (space pirates drag a second moon to earth). Every episode starts with […]