Annalee Newitz

You cannot afford Mars

Sure, we know it's not packed with cool aliens, but we haven't realized that hunkering down on another planet isn't going to solve our basic problems as humans
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annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION Mars used to teem with life, but now it's a dead world. I'm not referring to actual Martian history, which we still know very little about. I'm talking about the way humans used to think of Mars and how they think about it now. As recently as the 1950s, Mars was packed with scary, incomprehensible creatures and hulking buildings set in a web of gushing canals. But now it's a cold, dry land full of rocks that are fascinating mainly due to their extraterrestrial nature. Read more »

Three reasons to hate Facebook

Poking is just the beginning
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annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION I know it's uncharitable of me to say I hate Facebook.com, because, after all, I have a Facebook profile and I log in to the infernal site several times a week. But I do hate it, and I'm not afraid to say why.

1. I don't want you to know who my friends are.

Facebook is a second-generation social network, which means its developers have learned from the mistakes of early social networks like Friendster and MySpace. Read more »

Techsploitation: Information dystopia

A mysterious satellite falls, and Asia blacks out
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TECHSPLOITATION I was raised on the idea that the information age would usher in a democratic, communication-based utopia, but recently I was offered at least two object lessons in why that particular dream is a lie.

First, a dead surveillance satellite, one roughly the size of a bus, fell out of orbit and into a collision course with Earth. It will likely do no damage, so don't worry about being crushed to death by flying chunks of the National Security Agency budget. The important part is that nobody knew when the satellite died. Maybe a year ago? Maybe a few days? Read more »

Polite message from the surveillance state

Privacy, spying telcos, and the Protect America Act
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annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION Say what you want about Google being an evil corporate overlord that steals all of your private data, turns it into info-mulch, and then injects it into the technoslaves to keep them drugged and helpless. There are still some good things about the company. Read more »

Let's eat clone

It's just a duplicate cow, people.
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annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION I'm looking forward to eating my first clone hamburger. I mean, why not? I eat cloned plants all the time, and I admire cloned flowers. Clone meat seems like the next logical step. And yet I can't tell you how many bizarre conversations I've had with people over the past few days about the apparently controversial move by the Food and Drug Administration this month to approve meat from cloned cows as a foodstuff.

People are really freaked out by eating the meat from a clone. Read more »

Return of blog anxiety

Instead of taking the Metafilter ethos mainstream, many blogs are leaving it behind
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annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION Six years ago I wrote a column titled "Blog Anxiety," which was all about how bloggers make me nervous and jealous with their lightning-fast news cycles. I bemoaned my inability to commit words to public record without waiting for editorial oversight and without waiting for publication day (inevitably several days if not weeks after I had written those words). Read more »

Lesk's law

Content outruns storage because humans store things capriciously and illogically
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annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION I'd like to propose a version of Moore's law, only related to the expansion of information instead of the speed of processors. My new law goes like this: the amount of information in the world is always expanding faster than the data storage systems available to capture it.

You see what I'm getting at? Read more »

Technology in wartime

In a time of war you can't enjoy a party game without thinking about your game console being used to kill people
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annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION War changes everything, including technology. We are roughly six years into what the George W. Bush administration calls the war on terror and what hundreds of thousands of soldiers know as the occupation of Iraq. Gizmos that a decade ago would have been viewed entirely as communications tools and toys are now potential surveillance and killing machines.

Don't believe me? Consider how much the Web has changed. Referred to naively 10 years ago by Bill Clinton and Co. Read more »

International intrigue

A man, a lab, a scam, Lagos
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annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION The following story is not entirely made up. But it's fictional enough that if you think you recognize yourself or your friends, then you must be mistaken.

He had a vaguely European-sounding name and a vague job doing something with the United Nations, or perhaps one of its subcommittees or projects or councils. It sounded important because it had a lot of words in it, and one of those words was Internet. That's why Shiva met him.

They were at some kind of after-conference party, or maybe it was midconference. Read more »

Humans are dogs

Even monkeys can do math
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annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION Two new studies of animal intelligence caught my attention last week because they prove that humans are no better than dogs and monkeys. This is something I've always felt to be true on an anecdotal level, and now cognitive science backs me up.

A researcher in Vienna, Austria, trained dogs to sort photographs into two categories: pictures of other dogs and pictures of landscapes. Read more »