App to record sexual consent in the blockchain will be used to discredit sexual assault survivors

LegalFling is a Dutch app that's supposed to protect partners in sexual liaisons from miscommunication by recording both parties' consent to sexual activity in an indelible, public blockchain entry. Read the rest

Negative review of a $1,500 Silicon Valley toaster oven

Mark Wilson of Fast Company cooked a piece of salmon in a $1,500 toaster over called June, which has a built-in camera, temperature probe, Wi-Fi, and artificial intelligence. He says the the oven isn't very good.

[June] required nearly $30 million in venture capital to create. It was the brainchild of the engineer who brought us the iPhone’s camera and Ammunition, the design firm that gave us Beats headphones.

...

But the June's fussy interface is archetypal Silicon Valley solutionism. Most kitchen appliances are literally one button from their intended function. When you twist the knob of your stove, it fires up. Hit "pulse" on a food processor and it chops. The objects are simple, because the knowledge to use them correctly lives in the user. If you get the oven temperature wrong, or the blend speed off, you simply turn it off and try again. The June attempts to eliminate what you have to know, by adding prompts and options and UI feedback. Slide in a piece of bread to make toast. Would you like your toast extra light, light, medium, or dark? Then you get an instruction: "Toast bread on middle rack." But where there once was just an on button, you now get a blur of uncertainty: How much am I in control? How much can I expect from the oven? I once sat watching the screen for two minutes, confused as to why my toast wasn’t being made. Little did I realize, there’s a checkmark I had to press—the computer equivalent of "Are you sure you want to delete these photos?" — before browning some bread.

Read the rest

Beyond "solutionism": what role can technology play in solving deep social problems

Ethan Zuckerman -- formerly of Global Voices, now at the MIT Center for Civic Media -- has spent his career trying to find thoughtful, effective ways to use technology as a lever to make positive social change (previously), but that means that he also spends a lot of time in the company of people making dumb, high-profile, destructive suggestions for using technology to "solve" problems in ways that make them much worse. Read the rest