Technology and Mankind’s Shrinking Dominion

F ifty years ago Buzz Aldrin took the large leap onto the lunar surface. While making that ginger hop, he wore an Omega Speedmaster, a wristwatch with a chronograph. The Swiss luxurious watchmaker Omega maintains to gain the profits today. Judged by means of all the promotional gear at watch shops celebrating the 50-12 months anniversary of the moon landing, it appears the romance of sporting a NASA-authorised piece of gear at the wrist still has superb enchantment to guys with a few thousand dollars to spare. The romance comes from the aggregate of 19th-century timekeeping era, twentieth-century commercial design, and a futuristic dream of technical wonders to come.

But in a way, there’s something almost melancholy approximately a 50-year-old wristwatch layout nonetheless commanding so much attention. My early life become filled with television reruns of space-age dreaming about the destiny. The Jetsons had flying cars. They had a robotic maid, Rosie, who turned into a sign that menial jobs could disappear in the future. Everyone may want to stay like an aristocrat, with out all people having to stay like a servant. On Star Trek, the problem of scarcity were solved by using “replicators” that made meals for you right away. And the energy of imagination had been positioned into rooms that would generate holograms of any environment. Occasionally these had been used for amusement and escapism, but in general they were handy for training the bold crew for their intergalactic and civilizing missions.

In these visions, era were mastered by means of people as a part of our God-given dominion over Earth and the introduction linked to it. We solved Newtonian and Malthusian issues thru its use, producing superhuman forces of pace and electricity in one hand, and brilliant-ample resources for human flourishing on a galactic scale.

There is continually a barely dark side to futurism, and our area-age desires had them. The loneliness of space, our disconnection from home, or the unknown and extra dangers of the final frontier loomed someplace in that vision. But the essential route become towards progress, and extra vistas on which humanity ought to do top.

Anyone raised with these visions and dreams now wakes up every morning in 2019 and sees that the maximum effective technology business enterprise, Google, is largely a aggregate spy employer and advert corporation. Sure, in its spare time, it attempts to build a self-using vehicle and works out a way to application it to crash into the correct bystander in a pinch. But usually, its promoting you exercise applications, food plan dietary supplements, and newbie-made guides on your existing interests.

Previously we dreamed of getting to know the physical troubles of the universe and spreading the rule of thumb and dominion of mankind. Now technology has taken a Freudian flip. It is utilized by agencies to master us. We’ve long past from Rosie the maid to Samantha, the running device within the 2013 movie Her. Instead of being the servant, our tech is used as a distraction and phantasm of connection with other human beings. We suppose we are entering into bed with a glowing, sexy-voiced mate. But it’s only a masks for Big Brother, and we fear that his presence on our nightstands might be giving us brain cancer.

Peter Thiel, the investor in Facebook and different tech organizations, has made this identical criticism. Instead of flying cars, we got 140 characters. He desires to make extra progress in atoms, instead of in bits. But I suppose the tragedy is nearly worse than he describes. Instead of expanding the guideline of mankind, and our desires throughout the final frontier, we’ve became technology against ourselves, making Google and Facebook deeper and greater informed intimates than our personal spouses, parents, and youngsters. We’ve extended the invasiveness of twentieth-century advertising and taken the crass, ugly glowing billboard into our personal hands.

Technology, transient assist continues farmers on task longer

At seventy-nine years vintage, Art McManus says he’s nonetheless able to hop on the tractor and maintain a hundred and sixty acres of cherry timber at his orchard in Traverse City, Michigan.

His children have long gone on to begin lives in their personal, even though he receives some help walking his farmers market from his daughter-in-regulation. But he hires seasonal assist to maintain the cherry operation transferring. “I’ve been at it all my life,” he says. “I enjoy it.”

For McManus and many farmers throughout the USA, assistive generation, help from seasonal hires and family contributors, and a well-known development in the fitness of U.S. Seniors in current a long time have helped them remain productive nicely into their 60s, 70s, and past.

Farmers staying on the job longer can restriction land options of younger farmers, making it harder for beginners to crack into the industry, experts say. They worry that without the older farmers, there may not be sufficient younger human beings interested in agriculture to support America’s food production wishes.

“It’s a problem,” says Milt McGiffen, an agronomist, plant physiologist, and researcher at the University of California, Riverside. “There isn’t a magic bullet to restore it. And the alternative trouble is you’ve got much less human beings going into ag and you need more meals popping out the alternative end” with a developing U.S. Population.

In the U.S. Closing yr, the median age for home farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers was fifty-six. Four years antique. That’s the best median age of any important career tracked by the government’s Current Population Survey for which statistics become to be had. The age has ticked up by using half of a year due to the fact that 2012, no matter the median age of the whole hard work pressure falling slightly over the same length.

Nearly 29 percent of farmers were as a minimum 65 years of age final yr, and less than thirteen percentage have been underneath the age of 35. Experts say steep system expenses, confined land availability and opposition from older farmers are a number of the reasons younger workers struggle to set up themselves.

“With the cost of land and device, I don’t recognize how you can make it paintings (as a young farmer). It’ll value $1 million to get into it,” McManus says.

Agriculture’s age imbalance and the boundaries to entry for young farmers have no longer gone overlooked with the aid of U.S. Lawmakers. A House panel plans a hearing Thursday to start addressing the challenges confronted by means of new farmers.

“It’s critical and it’s my process to make sure Congress and this management pay attention those stories loud and clear,” stated Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, who leads the House Small Business subcommittee that offers with rural development and agriculture.

With time and money invested in land and device, some older farmers are reluctant to cede their operations to more youthful people. Technological advancements have made it less complicated for them to work longer, in keeping with agriculture employees and experts.

“When it comes to machine paintings, hiking in and out of the (tractor) is about as a whole lot stronger because it requires to do things. And in phrases of guidance, automobile steering has just been a freaking game-changer,” says John Phipps, 71, a commentator for “Farm Journal” and “Top Producer” magazines who keeps more than 2,000 acres of farmland along with his son in jap Illinois.

McManus says mobile phones have also been “a huge assist to keep track of the help and what’s going on,” although the latest automobile accident and subsequent back surgical operation have forced him to greater actively recall stepping away from the operation.

Many farmers who need assistance because of getting old or disability, turn to Agrability, a partially authorities-funded application that facilitates them extra without problems hold their farms. Bill Field, a professor of agricultural and organic engineering at Purdue University and the challenge director at Agrability’s countrywide hub in Indiana, says more than 1,500 experts were despatched to character farms last year to evaluate the want and determine what sources are probably to be had.

For farmers with sizable mobility issues, Agrability might also advise system manufacturers of the assistive era. For others who’re struggling with arthritis or the wear and tear of age, options encompass one of a kind watering or harvesting techniques, rigging additional lights to tractors for advanced visibility. The application also may also advocate using an extra automatic device or putting in handrails to assist workers higher navigate the farm.

“The largest-single name we get has a tendency to be associated with mobility due to arthritis and growing older,” he says. “It’s from time to time little matters. When you’re operating inside the afternoon, (we inform older farmers to) preserve your windshield smooth. We lose about a 3rd of our light-capturing capacity by the time we’re 70.”

Field, 70, owns more than dozen head of livestock and nearly a dozen tractors and says he has no plans to walk far from farm life. He says he isn’t amazed through the developing variety of older people accomplishing out to the program, and he’s advocated older farmers are opting to stick around.

Mark Hosier, a fifty-eight-year-old farmer, and Alexandria, Indiana, local who farms corn, beans, and coins vegetation whilst breeding and promoting show pigs, known as on Agrability after a 2,000-pound bale of hay fell from the forks of Hosier’s tractor in 2006, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He’s been capable of preserving his operation strolling way to assistive lifts on his tractor, on the returned of his truck and on his combine that he says were instrumental in preserving him at the farm.

How Technology is Revolutionising the Online Furniture Market in India

The online industry has expanded through leaps and boundaries, thanks to ever-evolving cloud space and synthetic intelligence. Today, no one has to step out in their homes to shop for gadgets as basic as a grocery or as complexes fixtures, on the grounds that everything is to be had at the tap of a finger and brought in a greased lightning speed. Such tendencies are step by step turning into part of the shopping for process. And so, businesses throughout the globe, online and offline, are setting up new requirements to sustain their patron relationships. A few years back no one might have thought of ordering fixtures on-line, foundation the complexity of the mission in the first region and difficulty in creating a choice to observe. Today, we’ve got marketplace leaders persuading customers towards online furniture spaces in which they provide at ease, useful and attractive objects at jaw-losing costs.

How do they do that? How does a patron, who might have long gone markets to markets looking for that one unique chair, now buys a sofa set or even a mattress online with such ease? What technological advancements have made it clean for buyers whilst being of their comfort sector buy fixtures online? Let’s see.

1. Augmented Reality

How can AR not be a part of whatever on the web? Being a well-known, properly-exploited, and properly- hooked up generation, Augment Reality has been helping customers in diverse ways than one. Customers can browse via a variety on their mobile telephones, upload items to their cart/wishlist and with no trouble participating in the furnishings purchasing system. What’s more, fun is the image content material, 2D/3-D/4D photo revel in, rising technologies, fantastic UI/UX, and attractive internet site content. With a multiple of attributes coming collectively, even the customers with the broadest of the thoughts come to one or greater relevant shopping options to ease the process similarly. A significantly extra trend-placing innovation, that’s slowly taking its place, is Virtual Reality. While AR combines the arena with electronically created components, in VR, one is coping with a very digital global in which the whole thing, such as the consumer, is an automatic photo. The obstruction to using this innovation is the requirement for luxurious hardware: more often than not VR goggles, laser sensors, and motion controllers. However, if the specified development of VR innovation and its advertising executed proper, the costs of the gadget will diminish essentially.

2. Personalization

Building a profoundly customized consumer experience is an eCommerce method that expands dedication and drives alterations. Be that as it may, how can it follow to furnishings buying? In the period of Instagram and Pinterest, individuals make investments electricity refining their options. Customers have to get admission to various thoughts and it’s far a dream come true for producers. How? Today, clients demand extra than just mechanical, Scandinavian, or decrepit sublime furniture portions and it becomes difficult for any manufacturer to supply as predicted, without even knowing. With personalization getting into the photo, customers have now grown to be vocal of their selections and have made it easier for the manufacturers to the system as in keeping with.

Access to clients’ these days viewed images online, manufacturers can offer selections to their customers.

This helps make their advertising step by step effective. Projected personalization permits them to make wise suggestions dependent on what clients have as of past due looked at or bought. Consumer buy behavior acknowledged in any other case, permits their image to behave as an interior layout associate. For instance, recommending a bedside desk to coordinate the mattress they simply bought.

3. Interactive Application

New and rising fixtures producers in India encourage customers with their series, even as they’re surfing the agency’s internet site. A consumer can pick out one or extra designs according to their choice. Having decided on, the person may additionally test with the configuration of individual factors of the decor. This way making decisions about patterns, colorations, and types of fronts, handles or countertops. Users also can attempt a ramification of wall shades and flooring.

In assessment to shops, on-line outlets don’t supply the contact and feel know-how to clients as they ought to pick their desired couch and seat earlier than buying. Given this, the achievement of online fixtures companies that is wanted is to live off their capability to personalize products, offer recommendation from experts, call and aid, provide exchange and refund rules, make payment options available as in keeping with the requirements of customers and execute on-time transport.

To sum up, on one hand, the essential problems confronted by the segment are recognized with opposition from remote places having to see that India has low technology expenses, weak protection towards certified technology rights, depleting workforce, and conservation measures on international markets.

Given this, to continue to endeavor and flourish within the global furnishings industry, new and growing agencies need to profoundly comprehend the difficulties and probabilities to grow in advance.

China’s Efforts To Control Their Technology Future And Its Far Reaching Impact

I find it thrilling that two of the biggest subject matters going on in the tech global in 2019, so as to deliver properly beyond this yr, ought to do with government involvement and politics. The subject matters I’m referencing are trade and law. Over the years I actually have written approximately law and could continue to cowl that in destiny columns, but I want to head deeper at the alternate trouble and how I see a broader technology schism rising.

Having spoken with more generation executives and investors to this point this year, I suppose what is taking place is extra a broad generation schism that is going past the Internet.

The US and China exchange conflict are accelerating China’s efforts for whole verticalization and therefore manipulate in their technology destiny. This, however, at the least for the instant, is a strategy that in large part works in China. There has been some exciting debate around the potential for a third cell working device, and one Huawei plans to make this is an offshoot of Android, that could reach many parts of the developing international as one thousand million or more humans still get their first pc (a.Okay.A phone).

China First

China has constantly had a completely unique era environment except for Apple. Most US organizations, in particular software program organizations, don’t have an awful lot of a hazard to compete in China, and that fashion seems possibly to keep. An underlying fashion to observe is the degree that China doubles down on all things China-made and makes use of that as a new base to grow their understanding after which make bigger globally.

As China’s financial stimulus extends deeper into all regions of generation, with a focal point on verticalization, it seems probably it becomes even more hard for overseas corporations to compete in China. This ability for China to essentially pull off whole vertical technological implementation will be the first time we see this commercial enterprise method implemented to a kingdom and its proprietary tech at scale. China can use 5G, its network infrastructure, its proprietary software program, and custom China-constructed silicon, to absolutely wall off the relaxation of the sector.

Beyond China

Carrying this state of affairs out logically, China will then want to retain taking this era to different parts of the world. This is where the attempt of Huawei to take an Android deviation globally can be exciting to observe. There are markets where this product may be useless on arrival, and maximum of Europe and India are key ones. But the African continent is a extensive-open field, and one Huawei has had its eye on each from network infrastructure and smartphones.

Developing nations in Africa, and possibly a number of the encircling countries in East Asia, are the only ones I can see an Android variation potentially operating. What I suppose is thrilling is the capacity for an included solution of China-created 5G community generation, China Android implementation, and China telephone hardware as a method for global expansion. This brings up some exciting questions globally whilst we remember era becoming more easily on hand and nations countrywide safety.

The Technological Game of RISK

The last point I need to make right here and do not forget this more meals for notion is what occurs if greater countries catch onto China’s fashion of complete-stack technological verticalization. For example, India is one of the quickest-growing generation markets. Will India want a complete stack Chinese strategy to begin to take a percentage of their local marketplace? Or will India need to start to verticalize on its personal? There is a global sport of RISK taking place round era, and a few ahead-thinking politicians and policymakers need to apprehend how the choices being made these days will impact their future.

The larger question countries ought to begin thinking about seriously is their era policy because it relates to countrywide security. At the moment, we don’t have any actual evidence, only insinuation, that Huawei is a countrywide security danger. However, whether or not they are or not, does now not cut price the concern they may, at some point, become extra of a chance. Does India need China answers so profoundly included into their u . S . A .’s technological surroundings that sooner or later, it’s too past due from a countrywide protection standpoint?

One has to surprise approximately the implications of countries starting to invest more in their vertical answers and the way that creates extra walls and now not less from a generation point of view. Foreign international locations cannot simply build military bases at will in other countries backyards, but as era may be visible as capacity for cyber warfare, it is conceivable that more governments will form more potent foreign policy in terms of IP and center generation coming into their u . S . A . To hold them safe.

I suppose the tech industry desires to start questioning lengthy and tough about all of the capability eventualities, each true and awful, that can come from america-China trade war.

Technology Plays Key Role In F&B Industry

Technology plays a large function in nowadays’s meals and beverage landscape, and with an ever-growing lineup of tech gadgets at the menu, brands have to undertake and adapt according to the wishes of the consumers. In this modern generation, marketplace forces require meals and beverage institutions too are trying to find efficiencies, attain agility of their strategies and adopt new technologies to live competitive within the F&B global. Product best and safety are glaringly the top concerns as purchasers are disturbing healthier, much less-processed, natural and local foods. As we have moved in addition inside the virtual era, greater technological improvements are rising to help form the F&B enterprise’s future. With the sizeable shake-united states of America witnessed over the last couple of years, the sector has shifted more and more from imitation to innovation.

Technology has been a key driving force in a whole lot of adjustments for the F&B enterprise during the last few years and has had an effective impact on each facet of the society – it is truly converting the meals and beverage enterprise for the better. It’s presenting customers with the last convenience they search for after they need to dine-out, or order meals at their doorstep and is helping the restaurateurs take their enterprise to the following degree as well. Consider tablet-based ordering at airport terminals, new packaging advances in food guidance and transport, robot bartenders or even AR interactions on the point of purchase. F&B brands seeking to make a touch with era have loads to think about, as they paintings to align technological adoption with the wants and needs in their clients.

When incorporating technology into product improvement, customer service and brand experience, the key point of consideration are that it ought to be applicable and convenient for the stop purchaser. Appliances from agencies like Borosil, Kaff, Laopala, Glen, Kenwood are delivering applicable cooking generation in today’s context for the time-starved patron. These have succeeded not like an LG fridge launched nearly 20 years ago, which become ahead of its time but had no purpose for the in-door, waist-high elevation. At the top of the day, era needs to enhance the enjoyment along with the cease product. The same stands actual for technological programs within the F&B industry. The moving awareness of the patron in terms of patron lifestyle and the lens by way of which we live it continues to change and types want to preserve up. The needs of the time, a need for comfort and awareness (or want for transparency) of a product lifecycle is important.

On the issue of comfort, we’re seeing increasingly eating places — each rapid informal and pleasant eating — set up a generation interface that educates diners and gives get entry to to the logo in new methods. In addition, shipping thru apps has grown exponentially. Even within the exceptional eating region – with Zomato, Swiggy, and Uber-Eats, shipping offerings have already delivered five-megastar cuisine to houses from numerous restaurants and the services continue to grow. These applications have absolutely changed customer eating revel in and provide utmost customer convenience. Mobile gear allows consumers to view a restaurant’s menu anywhere and vicinity an order, in order that it’s ready while they arrive. And now not simply the purchasers, this era has benefitted restaurant owners too – giving them extra time to prepare food and the ability to growth table turnover. Also, seeing that maximum pre-order apps have on-line charge capabilities, eating place owners can sell their food earlier. All these aspects bring about better customer revel in, and of direction, stepped forward commercial enterprise operations.

We have seen that the important thing to achievement in organizing this era-pushed comfort is ensuring that the logo revels in keeps at domestic. With regard to transparency, customers nowadays now not most effective need to understand where a brand’s product, components, and many others. Are sourced from however additionally how the product changed into made, the way it got there and the guarantee of great. Technology plays an essential position across the entire lifecycle of a product, and communicating it in a transparent way is crucial for building brand loyalty in addition to word of mouth.

The human element in the F&B industry, in an international of robotic bartenders and pill-primarily based wait body of workers, brands can’t and shouldn’t overlook. Particularly at retail and in eating places, interaction with servers has usually been an essential aspect in the recipe for success. Finding a manner to consist of executives and employees inside the adoption of technology is a key thing in ensuring the pleasure is surpassed directly to the purchasers. An engaged mixologist along with the robot bartender and a chef ensuring his freshly organized dishes reflecting modern-day food developments can help in making the logo and its enjoy stand out. Apart from this, those specialists can also raise how the logo communicates its era, benefitting toothier fanatics and ability future clients.

Technology is here to stay – it’ll preserve to form the enterprise, and how we communicate to and with clients and guests. Embracing it in a manner that compliments the emblem at the same time as persevering with to deliver and adapt based totally on the final product, is how the F&B industry can take CES(Consumer Electronics Show) to a higher degree.

Disclaimer: The perspectives expressed in the article above are the ones of the authors’ and do now not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless in any other case stated, the writer is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not supposed and have to no longer be a concept to symbolize official thoughts, attitudes, or rules of any business enterprise or institution.

This Clever New Service Auto-Cancels Your Free Trials

Every time you sign up for a free trial of any kind, you’re forced to take stock of your outlook on life. Realists accept that they’ll eventually wind up paying for this thing that is currently free. Pessimists understand this too but are prematurely embittered even as they plug in their credit card numbers. Optimists assure themselves that they’ll keep track of when the trial ends and they’ll cancel before they are ever charged if it turns out they don’t want to continue.

Oh, the naivete. It’s not until these sunny, positive thinkers are digging through their transaction history in their banking app months later that they see it: $89 a year for a mobile VPN membership? What on earth? And then they remember: It was April, Game of Thrones was finally returning for the last season, and they were in Canada, a place where HBO inexplicably doesn’t exist, and so they signed up for a free trial of a mobile VPN to try to stream it on their phone. Only it didn’t work because they had terrible Wi-Fi signal service, and they fell asleep whimpering in their hotel bed, watching as the spinning loading wheel of death never advanced and they forgot all about the free trial they’d signed up for.

OK, maybe I’m actually talking about me here. But if you’re anything like me, you can relate. You sign up for these “free” trials with your credit card, forget about them, and they are left paying for a service you aren’t using.

As of today, there is a more convenient way for you to cancel before ever being charged: a service called Free Trial Card. It’s available now through the app DoNotPay, created by 22-year-old wunderkind coder and entrepreneur Joshua Browder.

The Free Trial Card is a virtual credit card you can use to sign up for free trials of any service anonymously, instead of using your real credit card. When the free trial period ends, the card automatically declines to be charged, thus ending your free trial. You don’t have to remember to cancel anything. If you want, the app will also send an actual legal notice of cancelation to the service. The DoNotPay app will send you an email when you sign up for a service and another when your trial ends—a way of nudging you with the reminder that if you want to convert your trial into a paid subscription, you’ll need to update your payment info and hand over your actual credit card number.

“The idea for this product came when I realized I was being charged for a $21.99 gym membership from over a year ago that I was never using,” says Browder.
As he sees it, companies that require you to put in a credit card in order to sign up for a free trial are engaging in deceptive practices. They’re counting on you to forget that you signed up in the hopes that you’ll continue to pay whether you use their service or not. This, Browder argues, is fundamentally against the principle of “opt-in” services.

“Why should you have to give a credit card in the first place?” he asks. If free trials were truly free, you’d be able to sign up for them for a limited time without giving any financial information to the company. Then, if you wanted to continue using the services after the trial period, you could pony up the dough. That would be an actual opt-in service, argues Browder.

But since most free trials don’t work that way, Browder and his 10-person team at DoNotPay “found a way to trick the websites,” as he put it, into beginning the free trial without consumers having to put in any of their personal information, financial or otherwise.

The Con Man Who Became a True-Crime Writer

Last April, I received an odd email from a man named Matthew Cox. “I am an inmate at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida,” he wrote. “I’m also a true-crime writer.” He had one year left on his sentence and was “attempting to develop a body of work that will allow me to exit prison with a new career.” He included a story about a fellow inmate who’d been ensnared in a complicated currency-trading scam, hoping that I’d write about it for The Atlantic.

“This is fascinating,” I replied. I didn’t mean the currency-trading scam, which was too procedural for my tastes, but Cox’s own trajectory. He described himself as “an infamous con man writing his fellow inmates’ true crime stories while immersed in federal prison.” I’d never had a possible subject pitch his own tale so aptly. I wasn’t entirely sure that was a good thing.

Cox’s path to becoming a prison true-crime writer began in the heady days of the new millennium when the housing bubble looked like it might just inflate forever. Cox owned a mortgage business in Tampa, Florida, and he did some shady things. “A broker would come in and say, ‘Look, this guy makes $65,000. If he made $75,000, I could get him a loan.’ And I’d say, ‘Bring me his W2s and his pay stubs and I’ll change this and I’ll change that,’ ” Cox told me. “I hate to use the word light fraud—there’s really no distinction—but in comparison to what I ultimately started doing, it was definitely light.”

In 2001, when Cox was 32, he faked an appraisal that got sent to the man whose name he’d forged—an appraiser who, as it happened, was also a former deputy sheriff. Soon Cox was facing federal and state charges for mortgage fraud. He ended up avoiding jail time but lost his brokerage license and was put on probation for 42 months.

Cox distracted himself from his troubles by writing a novel. In the thrillers, he loved to read, and in the heist movies he loved to watch, people were always playing at the edges of the system, seeing what they could get away with. As a kid, Cox had struggled with dyslexia; a school counselor once told him that he would probably be a construction worker, that he could never get a job that relied on his brain. As an adult, his height—5 foot 6—put him at a disadvantage in South Florida’s macho pecking order. But in these stories, swagger and savvy were what counted most. “I remember thinking, If John Grisham can write about lawyers and make it sound good, sound exciting, maybe I can write about mortgage brokers,” he said.

In The Associates, which was never published, a confident young Tampa mortgage broker named Christian Locke starts out fudging numbers before eventually expanding to tax evasion, wire fraud, and bank fraud. In trouble with both the feds and some gangsters, Locke escapes to the Cayman Islands on a cruise ship.
As he wrote the novel, Cox’s bills piled up. He’d sold his mortgage business to a friend, who hired him on as a consultant. But his income was radically curtailed, and he owed thousands of dollars a month in child support for his toddler son. (He and his wife had split up just before he was busted.) The responsible thing to do would have been to declare bankruptcy and move back in with his parents while he looked for legal ways to make money. Instead, Cox began behaving more like the protagonist of his novel, doubling down on fraud. He started inventing borrowers.

Cox would show up at the Social Security office playing the part of a sleep-deprived new dad. My son was born 10 months ago at home with a midwife, and the pediatrician never filled out the paperwork, he’d tell the clerk apologetically. Then he’d provide a birth certificate and an immunization record—both fake, of course; Cox had attended art school and proved to be a skilled forger. He amused himself with the names he made up for his fake babies: Brandon Green, James Redd, Michael White, Lee Black. With his freshly issued Social Security numbers, he’d start signing up for credit cards. Six months later, he’d have a perfect, synthetic individual with a credit score of 750. He rented post-office boxes and juggled half a dozen cellphones. He created fake companies to give his fake people fake pay stubs. He even invented his own banks—the Bank of Ybor, the Southern Exchange Bank of Clarksville—to verify assets in nonexistent accounts. Cox says that at least a dozen colleagues knew, to varying degrees, what he was up to, but as long as the money was flowing, they looked the other way. Some joined in.

Startup packs all 16GB of Wikipedia onto DNA strands to demonstrate new storage tech

Computer storage technology has moved from wires with magnets to hard disks to 3D stacks of memory chips. But the next storage technology might use an approach as old as life on earth: DNA. Startup Catalog announced Friday it’s crammed all of the text of Wikipedia’s English-language version onto the same genetic molecules our own bodies use.

It accomplished the feat with its first DNA writer, a machine that would fit easily in your house if you first got rid of your refrigerator, oven and some counter space. And although it’s not likely to push aside your phone’s flash memory chips anytime soon, the company believes it’s useful already to some customers who need to archive data.

DNA strands are tiny and tricky to manage, but the biological molecules can store other data than the genes that govern how a cell becomes a pea plant or chimpanzee. Catalog uses prefabricated synthetic DNA strands that are shorter than human DNA but uses a lot more of them so it can store much more data.

Relying on DNA instead of the latest high-tech miniaturization might sound like a step backward. But DNA is compact, chemically stable — and given that it’s the foundation of the Earth’s biology, it’s arguably not as likely to become as obsolete as the spinning magnetized platters of hard drives or CDs that are disappearing today the way floppy drives already vanished.

Who’s in the market for this kind of storage? The catalog has one partner to announce, the Arch Mission Foundation that’s trying to store human knowledge not just on Earth but even elsewhere in the solar system — like on Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster that SpaceX launched into orbit. Beyond that, Catalog isn’t ready to say who other customers might be or if it’ll charge for its DNA writing service.”We have discussions underway with government agencies, major international science projects that generate huge amounts of test data, major firms in oil and gas, media and entertainment, finance, and other industries,” the company said in a statement.

Catalog, based in Boston, has its own device to write data that can record 4 megabits per second right in DNA. Optimizations should triple that rate, letting people record 125 gigabytes in a single day — about as much as a higher-end phone can store.

Conventional DNA sequencing products already for sale in the biotechnology market read the DNA data. “We think this whole new use case for sequencing technology will help [drive] down the cost quite a bit,” Catalog said, arguing that computing business is a potentially much larger market.
Catalog, based in Boston, has its own device to write data that can record 4 megabits per second right in DNA. Optimizations should triple that rate, letting people record 125 gigabytes in a single day — about as much as a higher-end phone can store.

Conventional DNA sequencing products already for sale in the biotechnology market read the DNA data. “We think this whole new use case for sequencing technology will help [drive] down the cost quite a bit,” Catalog said, arguing that computing business is a potentially much larger market.

Reading, writing and reflecting on service learning

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Breaking up arguments over playground equipment and cleaning up juice box spills isn’t the way most college students choose to spend their free time. But Western Michigan University business student Sam McGrath isn’t like most.

“I loved getting a chance to work with kids,” says McGrath, an honors student from Canton who is majoring in food and consumer package goods marketing as well as leadership and business strategy. She just completed a course on business ethics and sustainability, which requires students to complete 15 hours of community service with an organization in southwest Michigan and reflect on how the experience applies to their future careers.

More than a dozen community partners met with students at the beginning of the semester, offering a wide variety of experiences in everything from senior living communities to fire stations.

McGrath is passionate about reading and writing, so when it came time to choose an organization to work with, she immediately gravitated toward Reading and Write Kalamazoo. The nonprofit “exists to celebrate and amplify youth voices through the cultivation of reading and writing skills,” according to its website.
“We are extremely grateful for our partnership with the WMU Service Learning program,” says Kai Harris, volunteer coordinator for RAWK. “Simply put, having volunteers like Sam means we can do what we do.”

A Learning Experience
The chance to help kids develop writing skills got McGrath excited about her service-learning project.
“I love hearing about people’s stories. I love that creative aspect,” says McGrath.
Still, going from a college classroom to a room packed with energized kids is a culture shock.
“You have to approach communication in a different way because the kids have shorter attention spans and don’t always understand everything you’re saying, so I did a lot of figuring that out the first couple of weeks,” says McGrath.

While it doesn’t directly fit with her career goals, McGrath says she learned a lot from the elementary students she worked within the after-school program at Kalamazoo’s Lincoln International Studies School. She coordinated snacks and recreation as well as helped students with school work.
“A lot of the students just wanted to be heard. They just wanted to know that you cared about them,” McGrath says. “I think that’s a transferable skill wherever you go, to make your employees or co-workers feel that they’re part of something.”

The skills youth take away also stretch beyond the classroom.

“While our programs are intended to help youth build their literacy skills through one-on-one tutoring with our student volunteers, the impact our volunteers have on students goes beyond just reading and writing,” says Jason Conde, RAWK’s director of education. “During the time our youth spend with student volunteers, they develop their confidence as readers and writers, understand the importance of their voices and stories and learn problem-solving, social-emotional and behavioral management skills.”
Building the Future

McGrath and other student volunteers also give the kids a glimpse at what their future could hold.

“It’s really special for our students who get to work one-on-one with WMU volunteers because they get help with reading, writing, and homework, and they also get to ask about what it’s like to be a college student,” says Conde. “Because we serve at-risk, low income and vulnerable communities, this might be the only opportunity for our youth to engage with college students.”

Many of the student’s RAWK works with are eligible for the Kalamazoo Promise, which covers up to 100% of tuition to Michigan colleges and universities to Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates.

“They see WMU students who look like them, who they can relate to and who show genuine interest in them,” says Harris. “This is vital in helping nurture the confidence and drive in a young KPS student.”

“There were so many little moments of joy where the students shared a sense of accomplishment,” says McGrath. “They were timid or anxious the first time I met with them and by the time I left they were comfortable sharing things that they wouldn’t have before. The growth I saw within them is something I really enjoyed.”

Making it easier to program and protect the web

Behind the scenes of every web service, from a secure web browser to an entertaining app, is a programmer’s code, carefully written to ensure everything runs quickly, smoothly, and securely. For years, MIT Associate Professor Adam Chlipala has been toiling away behind behind-the-scenes, developing tools to help programmers more quickly and easily generate their code — and prove it does what it’s supposed to do.

Scanning the many publications on Chlipala’s webpage, you’ll find some commonly repeated keywords, such as “easy,” “automated,” and “proof.” Much of his work centers on designing simplified programming languages and app-making tools for programmers, systems that automatically generate optimized algorithms for specific tasks, and compilers that automatically prove that the complex math written in code is correct.

“I hope to save a lot of people a lot of time doing boring repetitive work, by automating programming work as well as decreasing the cost of building secure, reliable systems,” says Chlipala, who is a recently tenured professor of computer science, a researcher in the Computer Science and Artificial Laboratory (CSAIL), and head of the Programming Languages and Verification Group.

One of Chlipala’s recent systems automatically generates optimized — and mathematically proven — cryptographic algorithms, freeing programmers from hours upon hours of manually writing and verifying the code by hand. And that system is now behind nearly all secure Google Chrome communications.

But Chlipala’s code-generating and mathematical proof systems can be used for a wide range of applications, from protecting financial transactions against fraud to ensuring autonomous vehicles operate safely. The aim, he says, is catching coding errors before they lead to real-world consequences.

“Today, we just assume that there’s going to be a constant flow of serious security problems in all major operating systems. But using formal mathematical methods, we should be able to automatically guarantee there will be far fewer surprises of that kind,” he says. “With a fixed engineering budget, we can suddenly do a lot more, without causing embarrassing or life-threatening disasters.”

A heart for system infrastructure

As he was growing up in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, programming became “an important part of my self-identity,” Chlipala says. In the late 1980s, when Chlipala was young, his father, a researcher who ran physics experiments for AT&T Bell Laboratories, taught him some basic programming skills. He quickly became hooked.

In the late 1990s, when the family finally connected to the internet, Chlipala had access to various developer resources that helped him delve “into more serious stuff,” meaning designing larger, more complex programs. He worked on compilers — programs that translate programming language into machine-readable code — and web applications, “when apps were an avant-garde subject.”

In fact, apps were then called “CGI scripts.” CGI is an acronym for Common Gateway Interface, which is a protocol that enables a program (or “script”) to talk to a server. In high school, Chlipala and some friends designed CGI scripts that connected them in an online forum for young programmers. “It was a means for us to start building our own system infrastructure,” he says.

And as an avid computer gamer, the logical thing for a teenaged Chlipala to do was design his own games. His first attempts were text-based adventures coded in the BASIC programming language. Later, in the C programming language, he designed a “Street Fighter”-like the game, called Brimstone, and some simulated combat tabletop games.

It was exciting stuff for a high schooler. “But my heart was always in systems infrastructure, like code compilers and building help tools for old Windows operating systems,” Chlipala says.

From then on, Chlipala worked far in the background of web services, building the programming foundations for developers. “I’m several levels of abstraction removed from the type of computer programming that’s of any interest to any end-user,” he says, laughing.

Impact in the real world

After high school, in 2000, Chlipala enrolled at Carnegie Melon University, where he majored in computer science and got involved in a programming language compiler research group. In 2007, he earned his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley, where his work focused on developing methods that can prove the mathematical correctness of algorithms.

After completing a postdoc at Harvard University, Chlipala came to MIT in 2011 to begin his teaching career. What drew Chlipala to MIT, in part, was an opportunity “to plug in a gap, where no one was doing my kind of proofs of computer systems’ correctness,” he says. “I enjoyed building that subject here from the ground up.”

Testing the source code that powers web services and computer systems today is computationally intensive. It mostly relies on running the code through tons of simulations, and correcting any caught bugs, until the code produces the desired output. But it’s nearly impossible to run the code through every possible scenario to prove it’s completely without error.

Chlipala’s research group instead focuses on eliminating the need for those simulations, by designing proven mathematical theorems that capture exactly how a given web service or computer system is supposed to behave. From that, they build algorithms that check if the source code operates according to that theorem, meaning it performs exactly how it’s supposed to, mostly during code compiling.

Even though such methods can be applied to any application, Chlipala likes to run his research group like a startup, encouraging students to target specific, practical applications for their research projects. In fact, two of his former students recently joined startups doing work connected to their thesis research.

One student is working on developing a platform that lets people rapidly design, fabricate, and test their own computer chips. Another is designing mathematically proven systems to ensure the source code powering driverless car systems doesn’t contain errors that’ll lead to mistakes on the road. “In driverless cars, a bug could literally cause a crash, not just the ‘blue-screen death’ type of a crash,” Chlipala says.

Now on sabbatical from this summer until the end of the year, Chlipala is splitting his time between MIT research projects and launching his own startup based around tools that help people without programming experience create advanced apps. One such tool, which lets nonexperts build scheduling apps, has already found users among faculty and staff in his own department. About the new company, he says: “I’ve been into entrepreneurship over the last few years. But now that I have tenure, it’s a good time to get started.”