Sign in

The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.
“Winter snow storm” by superkar

We often worry that AI and automation will take our jobs — that software will do work so efficiently and cheaply that corporations will chuck their humans aside. That certainly can happen; bank tellers are in steep decline, to pick just one example.

But the more I’ve reported on the impact of tech on work, I’ve noticed another pattern that’s more complex, if just as unsettling.

In situations I’m seeing more often, AI and automation don’t necessarily destroy jobs. In fact, sometimes they create more work.

The problem is, these new jobs suck — often precisely because of how AI…

Photo: Alexander Sinn/Unsplash

Once, while sitting in my car waiting to get onto the Bay Bridge, I was physically assaulted by a man with a bag of rocks who seemed to be strung out on drugs. The experience was disconcerting, to say the least, but what I also remember is the shock of looking around at nearby cars that were likewise stopped. One guy was chatting on his phone, sipping a drink, casually glancing back and forth between me and my car being attacked and the road ahead. A woman next to me was holding up her phone in my direction, presumably filming…

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

There’s a part of me that thinks one day I’ll have to get an Apple Watch. I don’t want one. I don’t need one. I don’t even use a regular watch, so it wouldn’t make any sense to strap several hundred dollars of tech to my wrist and commit myself to upgrading it every year or so. I see friends with smartwatches and have no desire for one. Yet I have this creeping suspicion that one day Apple Watch will somehow inveigle itself into my life and onto my wrist.

“Have to” buy one is perhaps over-stating it. I don’t…

Photo: Facebook

If you’re an avid user of Facebook, it likely knows you better than you know yourself. It has access to your data, your friend’s list, your memories, your messages, and a record of everything you’ve ever clicked on, commented on or scrolled past on the platform throughout your history on it.

Not content with the data pool it has built (read: stolen from unwitting users), Facebook now wants to see what you see by living in front of your eyes.

It’s hard not to be cynical about the launch of Ray-Ban Stories, the $299 Smart Glass collaboration between Ray-Bans and…

Photo by Denis Cherkashin on Unsplash

Will Tim Cook unveil an iPhone 13? That’s the million-dollar (or multi-billion-dollar) question circling next week’s big Apple product event.

Just as we were still shaking off the sleepy vestiges of a long Labor Day Weekend, the Cupertino technology giant sent out invites early Tuesday for a “Special Apple Event broadcasting from Apple Park.”

Almost two years into the pandemic and many months from our last in-person product event with any company, we’ve all grown used to these streaming product productions. Apple, in particular, appears more adept at it than most. …

The following is a selection from Big Technology, a newsletter by Alex Kantrowitz. To get it in your inbox each week, you can sign up here.

Facebook this week dispatched its high-level executives to ask customers to hang in there. They weren’t, of course, visiting to discuss the Wall Street Journal’s recent exposé of the company’s unsavory practices. But instead, Facebook VPs, including Simon Whitcombe and Graham Mudd, spoke to advertisers about Apple’s anti-tracking initiative, the one thing wreaking immediate harm on the company’s ad effectiveness and its bottom line.

“This is where, when something actually affects their business, they…

Midcenutry advertisement for the Hush-A-Phone.

The Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery has just published my editorial, “Competitive Compatibility: Let’s Fix the Internet, Not the Tech Giants,” explaining how interoperability was once an engine for competition and user empowerment — and how that ended.

As the title suggests, regulators are fed up with Big Tech’s abuses, but they’re not sure what to do about it. One approach is to “fix the companies” — like forcing Facebook to fight “disinformation” or making Google filter all user content for suspected copyright violations.

The problem with this approach is that it’s not clear whether the tech…

Mark Zuckerberg onstage, speaking in front of a large stock-report chart that shows a descending line, captioned with a Facebook ‘Delete My Account’ button.

Facebook is a rotten company, rotten from the top down, its founder, board and top execs are sociopaths and monsters, committers of non-hyperbolic, no-fooling crimes against humanity. They lie, they cheat, they steal. They are some of history’s greatest villains.

Because Facebook is a terrible company run by terrible people, it periodically erupts in ghastly scandal. Sometimes whistleblowers or reporters reveal historic crimes, including (but not limited to) deliberately helping to foment genocide.

Sometimes, the scandals are contemporary: either Facebook blithely announces it’s going to do something terrible, or we learn of some terrible thing underway from leaks or investigations.

Original photo: Sound On/Pexels

You’re probably familiar with apps like Photo Lab. You hop in, upload a selfie, then wait a few seconds only to find yourself marveling at what you’d look like in a comic book or an ancient painting.

Now picture a similar app but instead of a cute portrait, you get a porn clip with you as one of the actors. The tagline? “Turn anyone into a porn star with one click!”

Oh come on, you might think. Cut the scary far-fetched dystopian bullshit. Except, there’s zero bullshit involved. MIT Technology Review recently reported that such an app exists. …

Photo by Bill Mead on Unsplash

As the reach of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin expand, societies are becoming increasingly aware of their massive environmental impact. The Bitcoin network now uses more electrical power than many countries, generating over 23 million tons of carbon emissions in 2019 alone. Crypto evangelists like Elon Musk have sworn that they won’t promote currencies like Bitcoin until they go green.

That change is happening, albeit slowly. Companies worldwide are finding creative ways to mine cryptocurrencies sustainably. One technology for sustainable mining, though, is often overlooked. It uses existing infrastructure, fits perfectly with the distributed ideal of cryptocurrencies, offers the promise of rapidly…


The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store