Beyond the Trolley Problem: Three realistic, near-future ethical dilemmas about self-driving cars

MIT Professor Emeritus of Robotic Rodney Brooks has published a thought-provoking essay on the most concrete, most likely ethical questions that will be raised by self-driving cars; Brooks is uninterested in contrived questions like the "Trolley Problem" (as am I, but for different reasons); he's more attuned to the immediate problems that could be created by selfish self-drivers who use their cars to get an edge over the people who drive themselves, and pedestrians. Read the rest

Folding Beijing: the 2016 Hugo-winning novelette about the obsolescence of labor and the preservation of privilege

Belatedly, I've finally read Hao Jingfang's novelette "Folding Beijing," which won the Hugo Award last summer in Kansas City: it's a story about a future in which the great cities continue to be engines of economic power, but where automation eventually makes most of the people in the cities obsolete -- a problem solved by dividing the city's day and geography up by strata, using marvellous origami buildings that appear and disappear, and suspended animation technologies that whisk away great portions of the city's unneeded proletariat for most of the day. Read the rest

Trump Tower has two "privately owned public spaces" that anyone is entitled to visit

In order to get permission to add an extra 20 floors to Trump Tower's plan, Donald Trump had to promise to build public amenities, "including access to restrooms, an atrium, and two upper-level gardens." Read the rest

Rich people can afford to buy more sleep than poor people

In Rich do not rise early: spatio-temporal patterns in the mobility networks of different socio-economic classes, a group of transportation engineers analyze an open data-set about the commutes of people in the Colombian cities of Medellín and Manizales, concluding that the rich and the poor commute the furthest distances, but that the rich have much shorter commutes, thanks to private transport and superior routing, which translates to substantially more sleep for the wealthy. Read the rest

Tour New York's invisible, networked surveillance infrastructure with Ingrid Burrington's new book

Writer/artist Ingrid Burrington has published a book called Networks of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure, which sketches the physical extrusions of the internet into New York City's streets and buildings, and makes especial note of how much of that infrastructure has been built as part of the post 9/11 surveillance network that NYC has erected over the past 15 years. Read the rest

Geographically representative map of the London Underground

The Transport for London tube map, building on Harry Beck's pioneering work in 1931, is rightly hailed as a masterpiece of simplification and clarity in data visualisation. Read the rest

The 2017 Ikea Catalog considered as dystopian urban microapartment futurism

The new Ikea Catalog is making a big bet on very small living spaces -- the kind of place that costs more than half your monthly salary but is too small for a dinner-table, let alone a separate room for your kids, who are supposed to sleep in a bunk-bed in the living room ("Why would a child on the verge of pubescence need privacy anyway?"). Read the rest

It's pretty easy to hack traffic lights

Researchers from the University of Michigan EE/Computer Science Department (previously) presented their work on hacking traffic signals at this year's Usenix Security Symposium (previously), and guess what? It's shockingly easy to pwn the traffic control system. Read the rest

Residents of Silicon Valley homeless camp clear 48,000 Lbs of garbage from creek, ask for housing

Silicon Valley's legendary housing crisis -- now several decades old -- has led to the establishment of semi-permanent homeless camps on public lands, including a notable camp on the banks of Coyote Creek, on Santa Clara County Water District land. Read the rest

Textiles printed directly from sewer covers

Berlin's Raubdruckerin ("Pirate Printer") roam the world's great cities -- places like Paris, Amsterdam and Lisbon -- and apply ink-rollers directly to the prettiest manhole and utility covers they can find, then print tees, hoodies, posters and bags to sell with them. Read the rest

San Francisco's bike lanes have become Uber's pickup/dropoff zones (and the cops don't care)

It's no secret that San Francisco's cops hate cyclists -- they won't investigate hit-and-runs, they blame cyclists for accidents and harass them, they run them down in bike lanes -- so it's no surprise that they stand by idly while San Francisco's busy biking lanes are turned into pick-up and drop-off zones by Uber and Lyft drivers, forcing cyclists to swerve into traffic. Read the rest

Why do Pokemon avoid black neighborhoods?

The crowdsourced database that was use to seed locations to catch Pokemon in Pokemon Go came from early augmented reality games that were played by overwhelmingly affluent (and thus, disproportionately white) people, who, in an increasingly racially segregated America, are less and less likely to venture into black neighborhoods, meaning that fewer Pokemon-catching landmarks have been tagged there. Read the rest

America's infrastructure debt is so bad that towns are unpaving roads they can't afford to fix

Since the Reagan years, infrastructure spending has been so politically unpopular in America that the nation's roads, ports, power grid and other hallmarks of an advanced society are crumbling, sometimes beyond repair. Read the rest

Unpleasant Design: design that bullies its users

Selena Savić and Gordan Savicic (previously) have published Unpleasant Design, their long-awaited book on "design that bullies its users" -- that is, devices, street furniture, tools and products designed to control humans. Read the rest

Hidden "anti-crime" mics are proliferating on US public transit, recording riders' conversations

New Jersey public transit was forced to remove the bugs it had installed on its light rail system after a public outcry, but Baltimore's buses and subways remain resolutely under audio surveillance, while in Oakland, the cops hid mics around bus-shelters near the courthouses to capture audio of defendants and their lawyers discussing their cases. Read the rest

New Yorkers *just* missing the subway

Three minutes of heartbreak from Gothamist: train a deep-learning facial recognition system on the expression of these New Yorkers as the subway doors slam in their faces and you will plumb the very depths of the human soul. (via Metafilter) Read the rest

Flintnation: 33 US cities caught cheating on municipal water lead tests

An independent investigation by The Guardian found 33 cities in 17 US states (including Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee) are systematically cheating on the tests to monitor lead levels in the municipal water. 21 of those cities used the same cheating techniques that led to criminal charges in the Flint water scandal. Read the rest

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