Best of 2013,
On the science and tech companies hoping to cash in on cannabis, which has been legalized for recreational use in two states and decriminalized in some form in many others:
For the science and technology set, it’s a classic opportunity to disrupt an industry historically run by hippies and gangsters. And the entire tech-industrial complex is getting in on the action: investors, entrepreneurs, biotechnologists, scientists, industrial designers, electrical engineers, data analysts, software developers. Industry types with experience at Apple and Juniper and Silicon Valley Bank and Zynga and all manner of other companies are flocking to cannabis with the hopes of creating a breakout product for a burgeoning legitimate industry. Maybe it’s the Firefly. Maybe it’s something still being developed in someone’s living room. There’s a truism about the gold rush days of San Francisco: It wasn’t the miners who got rich; it was the people selling picks and shovels. As the legalization trend picks up steam, Silicon Valley thinks it can make a better shovel.
Bran Ferren has spent four years and millions of dollars constructing the most audacious exploration vehicle ever built. Its mission: Take his 4-year-old daughter camping.
It’s a late-summer afternoon, and Ferren—celebrated inventor, technologist, former head of research and development for Disney’s Imagineering department—is sitting inside a guesthouse-slash-storage facility on his ample East Hampton, New York, spread, drinking his third or fourth Diet Coke of the day. He’s 61 years old and towering, with a wily-looking red-gray beard and dressed in his everyday uniform of khaki pants, sneakers, and a billowy polo shirt. Ferren is the cofounder and chief creative officer of Applied Minds, a world-renowned tech and design firm whose on-the-record customer list includes General Motors, Intel, and the US Air Force; before that he worked on everything from Broadway shows to theme park rides.
Last year, a media-shy billionaire bought the flailing Lonely Planet travel-guide empire, then shocked observers by hiring an unknown 24-year-old former wedding photographer to save it.
But when I knock on his hotel room door at 7:30, Houghton, now 25, is chipper. The space is fastidiously organized: bed made, camera gear in one neat pile, North Face and J.Crew clothes in another. Houghton, who is six foot four and 150 pounds, with a long neck and blue eyes, has rewired the sound system in the room to allow him to play M83 and the Lord of the Rings soundtrack from his iPhone. As he waves me in, he's on the line with his boss, billionaire Brad Kelley, the former tobacco magnate who bought Lonely Planet last year, when the storied company was in the midst of a financial nosedive. Houghton wishes Kelley a happy birthday, then we're off to ride what's billed as the steepest tree-to-tree zip-line on earth.
The U.S. armed forces dominates the land, air, and sea. But it also must dominate the electromagnetic spectrum by jamming and counterjamming communications to remain effective on the battlefield:
It is well known that America’s military dominates both the air and the sea. What’s less celebrated is that the US has also dominated the spectrum, a feat that is just as critical to the success of operations. Communications, navigation, battlefield logistics, precision munitions—all of these depend on complete and unfettered access to the spectrum, territory that must be vigilantly defended from enemy combatants. Having command of electromagnetic waves allows US forces to operate drones from a hemisphere away, guide cruise missiles inland from the sea, and alert patrols to danger on the road ahead. Just as important, blocking enemies from using the spectrum is critical to hindering their ability to cause mayhem, from detonating roadside bombs to organizing ambushes. As tablet computers and semiautonomous robots proliferate on battlefields in the years to come, spectrum dominance will only become more critical. Without clear and reliable access to the electromagnetic realm, many of America’s most effective weapons simply won’t work.
An in-depth interview (via The Browser) with Wired co-founder and technology “protopian” Kevin Kelly about the future of sharing and tracking on the Internet:
The question that I’m asking myself is, how far will we share, when are we’re going to stop sharing, and how far are we’re going to allow ourselves to monitor and surveil each other in kind of a coveillance? I believe that there’s no end to how much we can track each other—how far we’re going to self-track, how much we’re going to allow companies to track us—so I find it really difficult to believe that there’s going to be a limit to this, and to try to imagine this world in which we are being self-tracked and co-tracked and tracked by governments, and yet accepting of that, is really hard to imagine.
A mathematician uses data mining and algorithms to find the perfect match on a dating site:
When the last question was answered and ranked, he ran a search on OkCupid for women in Los Angeles sorted by match percentage. At the top: a page of women matched at 99 percent. He scrolled down … and down … and down. Ten thousand women scrolled by, from all over Los Angeles, and he was still in the 90s.He needed one more step to get noticed. OkCupid members are notified when someone views their pages, so he wrote a new program to visit the pages of his top-rated matches, cycling by age: a thousand 41-year-old women on Monday, another thousand 40-year-old women on Tuesday, looping back through when he reached 27-year-olds two weeks later. Women reciprocated by visiting his profiles, some 400 a day. And messages began to roll in.
When the last question was answered and ranked, he ran a search on OkCupid for women in Los Angeles sorted by match percentage. At the top: a page of women matched at 99 percent. He scrolled down … and down … and down. Ten thousand women scrolled by, from all over Los Angeles, and he was still in the 90s.
He needed one more step to get noticed. OkCupid members are notified when someone views their pages, so he wrote a new program to visit the pages of his top-rated matches, cycling by age: a thousand 41-year-old women on Monday, another thousand 40-year-old women on Tuesday, looping back through when he reached 27-year-olds two weeks later. Women reciprocated by visiting his profiles, some 400 a day. And messages began to roll in.
Story picks from this year's winners, including The Washington Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and more.