Life, Interrupted

From npr.org/planetmoney: What price do we pay for the constant interruptions we get from our phones and computers? And is there a better way to handle distraction? In this week's Radio Replay we bring you a favorite conversation with the computer scientist Cal Newport. Plus, Shankar gets electrodes strapped to his head to test a high-tech solution to interruptions.

The future of humanity and technology - Stephen Fry

From youtube.com: Stephen Fry, actor, comedian, journalist, author, tech enthusiast and polymath delivered his Shannon lecture "The future of humanity and technology". With over 150 film, TV, and audio performances and over 20 written works, as well as over 12 million Twitter followers, Fry’s wit and wisdom have been read, seen or heard around the globe over multiple generations.

Fry explores the impact on humanity of emergent technologies and, in classic Bell Labs style, looks back at human history to understand the present and the future. He will outline how humans have adapted to revolutionary changes in all aspects of life over the past millennia, and uses this as a basis for conjecture about the future of human existence in the machine or industrial internet age, and how best to navigate these murky technological and societal waters.

Why the hype around medical genetics is a public enemy

From aeon.co: Science has always issued medical promissory notes. In the 17th century, Francis Bacon promised that an understanding of the true mechanisms of disease would enable us to extend life almost indefinitely; René Descartes thought that 1,000 years sounded reasonable. But no science has been more optimistic, more based on promises, than medical genetics. Recently, I read an article promising that medical genetics will soon deliver ‘a world in which doctors come to their patients and tell them what diseases they are about to have’. Treatments can begin ‘before the patient feels even the first symptoms!’ So promises ‘precision medicine’, which aims to make medicine predictive and personalised through detailed knowledge of the patient’s genome. The thing is, the article is from 1940. It’s a yellowed scrap of newsprint in the Alan Mason Chesney Archives at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The article profiles Madge Thurlow Macklin, a Hopkins-trained physician working at the University of Western Ontario. Macklin’s mid-century genetics is not today’s genetics. In 1940, genes were made of protein, not DNA. Textbooks stated that we have 48 chromosomes (we have 46). Looking back, we knew almost exactly nothing about the genetic mechanisms of human disease.

Man and Machine: the macroeconomics of the digital revolution

From lse.ac.uk: The automation of robots and artificial intelligence is pretty well advanced in certain industries. The income now is shifting more and more to capital and away from workers, contributing to a general widening of inequality in the United States. Jeff Sachs argues that we need to pursue policies so that the coming generation of smart machines works for us and our well-being, rather than humanity working for the machines and the few who control their operating systems.

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