Tech

Technological solutions to technology’s problems feature in “How to Fix The Future”

Larry Downes Contributor Larry Downes is a senior industry and innovation fellow at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He is the author of several books on the Internet and business. In this edition of Innovate 2018, Andrew Keen finds himself in the hot seat. Keen, whose new book, “How to Fix the Future”, was published earlier this month, discusses a moment when it has suddenly become fashionable for tech luminaries to abandon utopianism in favor of its opposite.  The first generation of IPO winners have now become some of tech’s most vocal critic—conveniently of new products and services launched by a younger generation of entrepreneurs. For example, Tesla’s Elon Musk says that advances in Artificial Intelligence present a “fundamental risk to the existence of civ...

Robot assistants and a marijuana incubator

We’ve had plenty of time to get used to our robot overlords and Boston Dynamics is helping us get there. This week we talk about the company’s addition of a door-opening arm to its SpotMini robot. It’s not spooky at all. We then switch gears and discuss Facebook’s Messenger for Kids. Is it good, bad or the company’s master plan to get every last human being with a smartphone on the platform? Later in the episode, MRD chats with Lanese Martin, co-founder of the Hood Incubator. The Hood Incubator is an Oakland-based organization that aims to foster equity in the marijuana industry. Through its programming, Hood Incubator supports people of color building businesses in the legal marijuana industry. Check it out at the top or head over to your favorite podcasting platform to download, subscrib...

Here’s how to keep track of Elon Musk’s Roadster and Starman in space

Elon Musk’s Starman, the mannequin driver of the Tesla Roadster SpaceX launched aboard its Falcon Heavy rocket, is taking a trip around our solar system, in a large elliptical orbit that will bring him relatively close to Mars, the Sun and other heavenly bodies. But how to track the trip, now that the Roadster’s onboard batteries are out of juice and no longer transmitting live footage? Thanks to the work of Ben Pearson, a SpaceX fan and electrical engineer working in the aerospace industry, who created ‘Where is Roadster,’ a website that makes use of JPL Horizons data to track the progress of the Roadster and Starman through space, and to predict its path and let you know when it’ll come close to meeting up with various planets and the Sun. The website tells you the Roadster’s current pos...

The CC Aurora is actually pretty fun, as far as projectors go

I don’t review projectors. Projectors are boring. Even the good ones. They remind me of vacation slideshows and the film strips we had to watch in health class — neither of which I’m in a particular hurry to revisit in my adult life. That said, I’ve always harbored some germ of a notion that some day I might buy one, to compensate for being one of those weirdos without a TV set. There’s something undeniably appealing about a big screen TV you can break out during movie night and then stash back into the closest of your one-bedroom New York City apartment. XGIMI’s CC Aurora is the closest I’ve seen to fitting the bill — or, for that matter, being a projector that I could actually muster any reasonable amount of excitement about. From the looks of it, it’s kind of the perfect package for the...

Fake news is an existential crisis for social media 

The funny thing about fake news is how mind-numbingly boring it can be. Not the fakes themselves — they’re constructed to be catnip clickbait to stoke the fires of rage of their intended targets. Be they gun owners. People of color. Racists. Republican voters. And so on. The really tedious stuff is all the also incomplete, equally self-serving pronouncements that surround ‘fake news’. Some very visibly, a lot a lot less so. Such as Russia painting the election interference narrative as a “fantasy” or a “fairytale” — even now, when presented with a 37-page indictment detailing what Kremlin agents got up to (including on US soil). Or Trump continuing to bluster that Russian-generated fake news is itself “fake news”. And, indeed, the social media firms themselves, whose platforms have been th...

South Korea aims for startup gold

Back in 2011, when South Korea won its longshot bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, the country wasn’t widely recognized as a destination for ski and snow lovers. It wasn’t considered much of a tech startup hub either. Fast forward seven years and a lot has changed. For the next 10 days, the eyes of the world will be on the snowy slopes of PyeongChang. Meanwhile, a couple of hours away in Seoul, a burgeoning startup scene is seeing investments multiply, generating exits and even creating a unicorn or two. While South Korea doesn’t get a perfect score as a startup innovation hub, it has established itself as a serious contender. More than half a billion dollars annually has gone to seed through late-stage funding rounds for the past few years. During that time, at least two companies, e-c...

Trump cites Facebook exec’s comments downplaying Russian ad influence on election

You’d be forgiven for missing Donald Trump’s multiple retweets of Facebook executive Rob Goldman over the weekend. Perhaps you were spending time with family, watching Black Panther or just attempting to forget politics for a moment by ignoring the manic flurry of social media updates from the leader of the free world. But in amongst a deluge of tweets that blamed Democrats for failing to preserve DACA, called out the FBI over the recent school shooting in Florida on the FBI and affectionately referred to a member of congress as “Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control,” the President cited Facebook’s VP of Ads as evidence against claims that his campaign colluded with Russia. “The Fake News Media never fails,” Trump tweeted over the weekend. “Hard to ignore this fact from t...

3D printing company New Matter is shutting down this month

Perhaps 2014 wasn’t the ideal time to get into the 3D printing game. After years of hype, the even the biggest names have been struggling to stay afloat. Pasadena startup New Matter is joining the growing list of companies who’ve unsuccessfully made a go at it, announcing that it will be closing up shop by the end of the month. It’s not for lacking of trying — and the company’s MOD-t printer was met with decent reviews when it launched in 2016. In his writeup, John praised the pricing ($300 or $400, depending on where you picked one up) and ease of use, though added cautiously, “you get what you pay for.” Initially funded on Indiegogo, the company went back to the crowdfunding well last year, this time taking to Kickstarter to pay for a Model 2. The project managed to exceed its goal in fi...

Fake news is not the real problem

It’s the Internet’s fault, we’re told. Brexiters and Remainers, Republicans and Democrats — every side of every political dispute now lives in its own separate reality, bellowing “fake news!” at every attempt to breach their borders of belief. The fragmentation of the media, coupled with the filter-bubble effect and the dominance of Facebook and Google, means that we no longer share any consensus view of reality. …But I saw The Post this week, and it struck me: we never did. We used to have an imposed view of reality, not a consensus one. As the movie makes clear, editors and Cabinet members palled around weekly, and implicitly agreed on what news would and wouldn’t be fed to the public. (See also Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.) The moral crisis of the time came from the realization that...

Engineering against all odds, or how NYC’s subway will get wireless in the tunnels

Never ask a wireless engineer working on the NYC subway system “What can go wrong?” Flooding, ice, brake dust, and power outages relentlessly attack the network components. Rats — many, many rats — can eat power and fiber optic cables and bring down the whole system. Humans are no different, as their curiosity or malice strikes a blow against wireless hardware (literally and metaphorically). Serverless software deployment to the cloud, this is not. New York City officially got wireless service in every underground subway station a little more than a year ago, and I was curious what work went into the buildout of this system as well as how it will expand in the future. That curiosity is part of a series of articles I’ve written on an observed pattern known as cost disease, the massively inf...

Digital nomads are hiring and firing their governments

The nation state has survived wars, plagues, and upheaval, but it won’t survive digital nomads, not if people like Karoli Hindriks have something to say about it. Hindriks is the founder of Jobbatical, a platform that allows digital nomads to find work in other countries and helps with the logistics of getting there. The company also embodies a new world of highly-skilled, global migratory workers who work wherever they please. “Our own team today is forty people and they have flown in from sixteen different countries,” Hindriks explained about a recent all-hands gathering. “One of our engineers is from Colombia, and living in Talinn, and he was hosting a Couchsurfer who flew in from Malaysia and he was our engineer in Mexico, and he was now moving to Denmark. This is the perfect example o...

Sqreen wants to become the IFTTT of web app security

French startup Sqreen recently launched a Security Hub with dozens of plugins to put you in control of the security of your web app. In many ways, it feels like enabling tasks on popular automation service IFTTT. Sqreen participated in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield and Y Combinator’s current batch. The vision of the product hasn’t changed. Sqreen lets you protect your web service with little effort from your side. Big companies have dedicated security teams that protect services, try to run attacks to find weaknesses and more. Smaller companies don’t necessarily have enough time and money to build a dedicated team. But your product is still vulnerable to SQL injections, XSS attacks and brute-force attacks. Sqreen isn’t a firewall. You just have to install a library package on your serve...