On the future of drones in America:
“But the drone industry is ramping up for a big landgrab the moment the regulatory environment starts to relax. At last year’s Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) trade show in Las Vegas, more than 500 companies pitched drones for filming crowds and tornados and surveying agricultural fields, power lines, coalfields, construction sites, gas spills and archaeological digs. A Palo Alto, Calif., start-up called Matternet wants to establish a network of drones that will transport small, urgent packages, like those for medicine.
“In other countries civilian drone populations are already booming. Aerial video is a major application. A U.K. company called Skypower makes the eight-rotored Cinipro drone, which can carry a cinema-quality movie camera. In Costa Rica they’re used to study volcanoes. In Japan drones dust crops and track schools of tuna; emergency workers used one to survey the damage at Fukushima. A nature preserve in Kenya ran a crowdsourced fundraising drive to buy drones to watch over the last few northern white rhinos. Ironically, while the U.S. has been the leader in sending drones overseas, it’s lagging behind when it comes to deploying them on its own turf.”
Even back then it was apparent that fan fiction was not just an homage to the glory of the original but also a reaction to it. It was about finding the boundaries that the original couldn’t or wouldn’t break, and breaking them. Issue No. 3 of Spockanalia included a story called “Visit to a Weird Planet,” in which Kirk, Spock and Bones are transported to the set where Star Trek is being filmed and get confused with the actors who play them (Bones: “I’m a doctor, not an actor!”). Spockanalia No. 4 ran a story in which Spock has an affair with a fellow Federation officer. These were homages to Star Trek, but at the same time they were critiques: I love the show, but what if it went further? What happens if I press this big, shiny, red button that says “Do not press”?
If “The Pale King” isn’t a finished work, it is, at the very least, a remarkable document, by no means a stunt or an attempt to cash in on David Foster Wallace’s posthumous fame. Despite its shattered state and its unpromising subject matter, or possibly because of them, “The Pale King” represents Wallace’s finest work as a novelist.
On Feb. 15, 1965, a diffident but self-possessed high school student named Raymond Kurzweil appeared as a guest on a game show called “I’ve Got a Secret.” He was introduced by the host, Steve Allen, then he played a short musical composition on a piano. The idea was that Kurzweil was hiding an unusual fact and the panelists — they included a comedian and a former Miss America — had to guess what it was. On the show (you can find the clip on YouTube), the beauty queen did a good job of grilling Kurzweil, but the comedian got the win: the music was composed by a computer. Kurzweil got $200.
Zuckerberg has often — possibly always — been described as remote and socially awkward, but that’s not quite right. True: holding a conversation with him can be challenging. He approaches conversation as a way of exchanging data as rapidly and efficiently as possible, rather than as a recreational activity undertaken for its own sake. He is formidably quick and talks rapidly and precisely, and if he has no data to transmit, he abruptly falls silent. (“I usually don’t like things that are too much about me” was how he began our first interview.) He cannot be relied on to throw the ball back or give you encouraging facial cues. His default expression is a direct and slightly wide-eyed stare that makes you wonder if you’ve got a spider on your forehead.
Ask Apple CEO Steve Jobs about it, and he’ll tell you an instructive little story. Call it the Parable of the Concept Car. “Here’s what you find at a lot of companies,” he says. “You know how you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, ‘Nah, we can’t do that. That’s impossible.’ And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, ‘We can’t build that!’ And it gets a lot worse.”