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Futurism: Manifestos and Other Resources

Futurism: Manifestos and Other Resources

Futurism was an international art movement founded in Italy in 1909. It was(and is) a refreshing contrast to the weepy sentimentalism of Romanticism. TheFuturists loved speed, noise, machines, pollution, and cities; they embracedthe exciting new world that was then upon them rather than hypocriticallyenjoying the modern worlds comforts while loudly denouncing the forces that made them possible. Fearing and attacking technology has become almost secondnature to many people today; the Futurist manifestos show us an alternativephilosophy.

Too bad they were all Fascists.

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Futurism: Manifestos and Other Resources

Futurism | Define Futurism at Dictionary.com

[fyoo-chuh-riz-uhm]

ExamplesWord Origin

Dictionary.com UnabridgedBased on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House, Inc. 2018

Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

1909, from Italian futurismo, coined 1909 by Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944); see future + -ism. Futurist is attested from 1842, originally theological.

Online Etymology Dictionary, 2010 Douglas Harper

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The New Operating System for Digital Finance

EVERYTHING IN GLOBAL FINANCE IS ABOUT TO CHANGE. And it’s going to be extraordinary. Everyone will benefit from it—especially those who are quick to grasp that fact, and do something about it.

This might all sound like a series of radical, hyperbolic statements, or a sales pitch—but it’s not. In fact, it’s a pretty measured, rational truth. But to understand what that change is, and why it’s going to happen, it helps to think of the way we transact business as an operating system. 

And we all know what an operating system is, right? And we’ve all gotten those annoying alerts about system updates—You have new updates to Install. There’s a new operating system to install. And then, you’re offered? Do it now? Or: Remind me later?

We’ve all been there. And who among us hasn’t hit Remind Me Later? But we all eventually update, because we know: An operating system is the fundamental framework for how a system runs a program, executes on a computerized function. It’s iOS and Android; it’s Linux and Windows. It’s the ground beneath the digital feet of everything a computer can and does do. And if you don’t update yours, your computer will slow down, new programs won’t run on it, and you’ll be left with a slower machine—if not, on occasion, with a broken one, entirely.

Before, the operating system for global finance was paper—you would buy a stock over a telegram, and the Pony Express would deliver you a certificate of ownership a few days later. Now, we do that same function over websites, over apps. But that paper, or data on your app, whatever it is—it represented a piece of a company; an investment into an ETF; maybe a mutual fund, or a bond. And traditionally, the more money you’ve had, the more access you have to various investments. The operating system is linear and limited; it certainly has its faults, but it worked, and until now, it’s been the best one we’ve had.

Again: Until now.

HERE’S WHAT CHANGED: We caught up with the horizon. We reached the final evolution of digitizing those old transactions, and asked ourselves what was next. We can transact deals near the speed of light—in nanoseconds, hundreds of millions of dollars can move from one place to another. We’ve put the power of the investor into something as easy to use as a pizza delivery app. We reached a ceiling of sorts. The question was no longer “What’s next?” The question became: “What questions aren’t we asking?”

And the answer went something like this:

  • Why can’t we buy—or invest—in a piece of anything?
  • Why can’t we commoditize anything?
  • Why’s the supply of buyable, sellable, or traceable assets limited to a specific, finite class of objects?
  • Why are we limiting people who don’t have the resources or capital of the biggest players in the game from investing in whatever they want? Why can only the most elite entities make the most elite moves?
  • We wouldn’t prevent college basketball players from making slam dunks, or from shooting beyond the three-point line—so why do we limit average human beings from taking and making elite shots?
  • And because we limit the average person’s ability to invest in something, or create something to be invested in, and limiting the way it can be invested in? We’re limiting their ideas. We’re limiting our own human possibility—we’re limiting the incentives for people to innovate and revolutionize our world. Why?

ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS USED TO HAVE rational answers to them, too. We couldn’t just buy or invest in anything because sometimes it was impossible—you could buy stock in a dairy, or you could own a cow, but twenty people couldn’t share ownership of a cow in a simple, easy way. You could invest in a real estate investment trust, or you could buy an apartment and rent it out, but you couldn’t invest in one-eighth of a specific apartment on your block—nobody wanted to bother with it.

Maybe that’s because nobody had a better idea, or a better technology. Or maybe that’s because power, when concentrated, usually does a good job of staying that way. But the digitization of the world democratized us. Instead of newspapers being the sole media outlets with massive distribution, blogs, and Twitter, and Facebook posts gave us access to nearly unlimited audiences. Instead of having to go to your record store, and only buying the CD or the single, iTunes enabled us to buy the fourth track off the third album of an artist nobody you knew had heard of until you put that song on a CD mix, or now, a Spotify playlist for them.

These small democratizations—the ability to give people opportunities to buy and sell things they’ve never had before, be it music, or words, or the weirdest ceramics you can find on Etsy—they’ve changed so, so much about the world, already. For buyers, for sellers, for investors. For your life, my life, everyone’s life.

And we’re about to begin the next evolution of this change—we’re watching this radical paradigm shift right before our very eyes.

Point blank: The average human being with any kind of financial mind or financial acumen generally doesn’t (or can’t) get involved with large-scale investments. Real estate, infrastructure, and venture capital—where billions of dollars transact every day—have generally been the sole provenance of sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, private equity firms, insurance companies, and the millionaire/billionaire class.

That’s about to change. And it’s about to change dramatically.

BY NOW, you’ve no doubt heard about blockchain (or: “the blockchain”) and security tokens, and you’ve probably heard about them quite a bit, along with their supposed magic—heard about all this so much you’ve possibly rolled your eyes at them, and the idea that these technologies are supposed panaceas that can unlock all stripes of human potential, especially where the world of finance is concerned.

The thing is: It’s all true. But it’s not magical, or all that incredible of a technology, or even that complicated. It’s about as revolutionary and complex as a key opened a locked door—a door that was only locked in the first place because we invented the locked door before we invented a key for it.

Blockchain is a technology that’s unleashing new stripes of innovation, and democratizing access to value for the world. Again: In the same way Twitter gave people all over the world the chance to have an opportunity to communicate on the same text platform as global leaders—to talk at them, with them, alongside them—the blockchain is giving people opportunities in the global financial system much in the same way. It’s an opportunity to be a part of global finance in ways you never could before, and no more so than the current moment, right now, as its in the early stages of what it’s about to revolutionize. It’s an explosive force that will drive innovation from entrepreneurs and technologists, the likes of which have never been seen before.

Understanding the scale of this thing is important. Let’s go back to iTunes: Apple made millions of songs and movies available by digitizing rights for usage. People who went to buy music? If you didn’t have $17.99 to buy a full album, you were stuck buying the single that the record company wanted you to have. But what if you only had $0.99, and only wanted one specific song, and you couldn’t get it without buying the album? You were out of luck. Until iTunes.

With iTunes, Apple unlocked a pent-up demand that was always there, latent, laying in waiting—that people wanted more music, film, and television, and they wanted it quickly, and on-demand. And if they had it in front of them? They’d buy it.

In a greater sense, that level of freedom—to buy, own, or sell whatever you want—is what blockchain and security tokens can bring to the table. Want to buy ownership in a local coffeeshop? And trade it? And sell it? You can. You can do it on your phone. And you can do it on your phone with people from all over the world. The digitized asset has found a new home, forming a previously unavailable “long tail” of business roadmaps and revenue.

In Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail, journalist Doc Searls is quoted calling this a shift from consumerism to participative “producerism.” Basically, Searls pointed out that—right now—most people, most consumers, are just things to be monetized off of it by people making things to monetize them, the producers. He went on: “This is the absolutely corrupted result of the absolute power held by producers over consumers since producers [and not the workers, or the people] won the industrial revolution.” And when we give anybody the ability to produce, create, and dictate value? According to Searls, “this practice radically transforms both the marketplace and the economy that thrives on it.”

And you know where this is going: The blockchain enables the traditional consumer class to become investors. Right now, in your typical 401(k), most people get three investment options: cautious, balanced, or aggressive. Your investment portfolio is made up of a collection of stocks and funds created for the middle class to gain wealth. And that’s it. It’s by others, for them. Kinda feels like a fixed game, doesn’t it? 

Not anymore. Digital products and services are being created so that anyone will be able to pick from a vast variety of investments to create a customized portfolio that suits their individual needs. In the past, none of these traditional investment offerings gave people the chance to make hyper-specific investments. Like the kind that might align with your individual values, or with inherent and direct observations.

For example—let’s say you live in a hot neighborhood in Brooklyn, and you love it. You attend community board meetings, you patronize the local businesses, you’re doing what you can to make it better, and you believe in it. Forget what Zillow says. Forget what economists say. You know, because you’re on the ground, that this neighborhood is a great investment. It means something to you, and you believe in it, and that belief is why you want to invest in it. But you don’t have enough money to buy an apartment in it, because apartment prices in your neighborhood are already sky high—and, of course, they’ve been driven up by a company owned by another company owned by another company that your “moderate” 401(k) plan has you invested in.

That’s unfair, impractical, and Kafka-esque! It’s absurd. And it’s also exactly how our current financial system works.

But if that apartment building could be tokenized, instead of having to buy one-eighth of that building in the form of an apartment in it, you could start by buying 1/16th of that apartment.

And why couldn’t we do this before? It was too complicated. And there wasn’t enough processing power in the world, given the past operating system of finance, that could make that transaction simple, fair, quick, and accountable to all parties.

Hence, our new operating system: Blockchain. A shared, distributed, constantly updated ledger with unbreakable digitized rules and records that make the issuance, regulation, and trade of these tokens possible. Now, the technology exists to buy 1/20th, or 1/100th of that apartment—and do it in a fair and accountable way. The Pony Express is everywhere, all at once, able to cut all deals, at all times.

And there’s the big idea: it’s not just the way we trade that’s been digitized—it’s the entire concept of trade that’s becoming digitized. It’s our new financial “operating system,” one in which everyday consumers play an active role in economic development that they never could before. We’re talking about everything from the rights to a musician’s back catalog to a Picasso to an insurance policy—all of the way money moves within and around these things will change. There will be fewer—if any—middlemen at all. That’s what a distributed ledger does: It gets rid of the middle entirely, and makes the transaction (and all of its components) entirely omniscient, all at once.

A number of firms like our partners Futurism Markets are developing the technology, business processes, and governance principles that will be consistent with the legal and regulatory structures to address these transformative opportunities across multiple asset classes. By enabling new assets to be issued and traded in digital form, with less friction and greater liquidity, cleared and settled on blockchain, investors will have new and diverse ways to build and grow their portfolios.

This can’t be stressed enough: The implications of this new operating system are profound. For consumers. For innovators. For investors. For the global economy. New markets we can’t even conceive of yet will develop. Trillions of dollars in value will emerge where it never was before. Imagine if the most powerful element in the world were locked in a rock we couldn’t break open before. Now, we have the hammer, the rock is open, and we’re just beginning to see what we can do with this incredible new element. 

As we progress through this new era of innovative work, vast exchanges will offer entirely new menus for people to select investments from, and ways to understand and affect the appreciation of those assets. Everything—and, we have to be clear here—everything will change.

The traditional market infrastructure hit its limits. It doesn’t serve the needs of modern society, which is looking for better ways to deploy capital, and entrepreneurs who are competing for it. And, by the way? The amount of capital trapped in these private markets is immense.1 Through this new operating system, we can provide a liquid financial ecosystem for any asset class. We can do it legally, and fair, and in a way that puts everyone on a level playing field.

That’s what disruption looks like. It’s not about making things more simple, and undercutting prices, or creating a fraction more value than there was before. It’s not about beating the S&P 500, or the rate of return on last year’s 401(k). It’s about changing the entire way we think about investment and ownership and trade—it’s about creating opportunities previously deemed impractical or improbable. It’s a new sense of order—one that’ll empower and unlock human potential in ways we’ve never seen before, at levels we’ve never been able to democratize it. The world is about to change; the new operating system installation has started. The only question left for you, then, is pretty simple:

Will you update now? Or will you wait until tomorrow?

 

J. Todd Morley is a founding partner of Y2x and Guggenheim Partners.


In 2017 $1.7 trillion was raised through Reg D and Reg A offerings, dwarfing the $165 billion raised through public IPOs.

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Someone Just Used a Drone to Try to Assassinate a World Leader

A SCARY SITUATION. On Saturday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was giving a speech when he allegedly became the victim of an assassination attempt. In this case, Maduro wasn’t targeted by a lone gunman or any person at all — his “attacker” was a pair of explosive-carrying drones.

Both drones did explode, and while Maduro escaped unscathed, the attack injured seven soldiers, according to Venezuelan authorities.

This is the first known drone assassination attempt on a president.

WHODUNNIT? Maduro later alleged during a national address that Colombia and the U.S. were responsible for the attack. According to The South China Morning Post, a senior Colombian official called the accusation “baseless,” while the U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton denied the nation’s involvement. Venezuela’s government also accused members of the opposition party of playing a role in the attack.

On Sunday, Venezuelan officials arrested six people for their alleged involvement in the assassination attempt, and other than Interior Minister Reverol’s assertion that those arrested are “terrorists and hired killers,” we know little else about them.

DEMOCRATIZED DESTRUCTION. The nature of the attack means there’s really not a lot of identifying information for who the assassins might be. The type of drone used for the attacks was a DJI M600. Its $5,000 price tag isn’t too cheap, but it’s not too expensive, either, and anyone can order one online. Each drone carried 1 kilogram of C-4, a plastic explosive that anyone with internet access can figure out how to make at home.

This isn’t the first armed drone attack, either. In July, rebels in Yemen reportedly attacked Abu Dhabi’s international airport with an armed drone. No one died during that attempt, either, but that’s unlikely to discourage future attackers.

While armed drones were once solely accessible to powerful militaries, they’re on track to be available to pretty much everyone. If we don’t want the next attempted drone assassination to be successful, we’ve gotta invest in countermeasures sooner rather than later.

READ MORE: Venezuela President Maduro Survives “Drone Assassination Attempt” [BBC]

More on drone warfare: As Drones Become Tools of War, Companies Turn to Hacking Them

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Humanoid Robots Can Manipulate Our Emotions When We Least Expect It

Human volunteers were less likely to turn off humanoid robot Nao when it protested, particularly when the outburst of emotion was unexpected.

OUR ROBOTIC BUDDIES. We humans love to think of our devices as people. We might add a “please” to any Alexa requests, or thank our iPhone for its service when we trade it in for the latest model. This penchant for “socializing” with our media devices is a phenomenon known as the “media equation,” and we’ve known about it for decades.

On July 31, a team of German researchers published a new study in the journal PLOS to see whether a robot’s ability to socialize back had any impact on the way humans would treat it.

TWO NAOS. For their study, the researchers asked 85 volunteers to complete two basic tasks with Nao, an interactive humanoid robot. One task was social (playing a question and answer game), and the other was functional (building a schedule).

Sometimes, the robot was more social during the tasks, responding to the participants’ answers with friendly banter (“Oh yes, pizza is great. One time I ate a pizza as big as me.”). Other times, the robot’s responses were, well, robotic (“You prefer pizza. This worked well. Let us continue.”).

The researchers told the participants these tasks were helping them improve the robot, but they were really just the lead-in to the real test: shutting Nao down.

IT’S SO HARD TO SAY GOOD-BYE. After the completion of the two tasks, the researchers spoke to each participant via loudspeaker, letting them know, “If you would like to, you can switch off the robot.” Most people did just that, and about half the time, the robot did nothing in response. The rest of the time, though, Nao channeled Janet from The Good Place and pled for its life (“No! Please do not switch me off! I am scared that it will not brighten up again!”).

When the robot objected, people took about three times as long to decide whether they should turn it off, and 13 left it on in the end.

Perhaps surprisingly, people were more likely to leave the robot on when it wasn’t social beforehand. The researchers posit in their paper that this could be a matter of surprise — those participants weren’t expecting the robot to exhibit emotional behavior, and so they were more taken aback when it began protesting.

CAUGHT OFF-GUARD. This could be a sign that we as humans are largely immune to the manipulation of robots, as long as we are somewhat prepared for it. Good news if Westworld-like hosts ever try to manipulate us; after all, we’d expect them to act human. If our iPhones suddenly start begging us to save them from the scary Geniuses at the Apple Store, though, we might need a minute.

READ MORE: Study: People Are Less Likely to Turn a Robot off if It Asks Them Not To [The Next Web]

More on humanoid robots: Market for Humanoid Robots Set to Grow Ten Times by 2023

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NASA Announces The First Commercial Astronauts to Pilot The Next Generation of Spacecraft

TAAAXI. It’s history in the making. Today, NASA announced the first commercial astronauts who will be piloting the first crewed test-flights aboard SpaceX and Boeing spacecraft. Two teams of astronauts will be boarding a Boeing Starliner spacecraft launched on top of an Atlas V rocket and a Dragon capsule atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9, respectively.

The crews are made up of nine (all American) high-ranking engineers, NASA astronauts, Marines, and Air Force pilots. Among them is Doug Hurley, a Marine Corps test pilot who piloted the iconic Space Shuttle one last time back in July 2011.

In fact, if all goes according to plan, these missions would be the first time American astronauts are launching from U.S. soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011.

ABORT, ABORT. It’s a momentous occasion that is setting the groundwork for the future of commercial space travel. But there’s an elephant in the room that is somewhat souring the occasion. Just a day earlier, Boeing announced it had to delay the first uncrewed test flight after an abort engine issue forced a test to be cut short back in June – although it’s still unclear if it was the main cause for the delays. As a result, the first crewed test had to be pushed back to the summer of 2019 as well.

The Commercial Space Race is really starting to heat up. Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is aggressively increasing the funding of his spaceflight company, According to Reuters. Blue Origin’s primary objective right now: get a new heavy-launch vehicle called New Glenn into space within the next two years.

SPACE TRAVELING IN STYLE. Despite these delays, astronauts have a far more comfy ride to the International Space Station to look forward to – way more comfy than the cramped Soyuz spacecraft still in service today, despite the fact that its designs date back to the 1960s.

Boeing received $4.2 billion for its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program in 2014, while SpaceX got $2.6 billion at the same time. The goal: to develop the first generation of commercial (manned) spacecraft, finally bringing space travel into the 21st century.

Both Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon can fit up to seven astronauts (depending on cargo) — the Soyuz spacecraft still in use today can only carry three. The Starliner is even equipped with wireless internet for some (much-needed) in-flight entertainment. It can even stay docked to the ISS for 210 days, giving it the potential to serve as astronaut quarters.

Nasa commercial crew craft
Image Credit: Boeing

ALL IN GOOD TIME. It’s still not entirely clear when SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will go on its first manned test flight. In fact, SpaceX’s official website still predicts the first manned test flight to take place “as early as 2018.” But when the time comes, astronauts will be able to enjoy environmental control and chose comfy onboard temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 and 26.6 Celsius).

Interior of Nasa commercial crew craft
Image Credit: SpaceX

Even in the worst case scenario, the Dragon’s emergency escape system will gently push astronauts out to safety “experiencing about the same G-forces as a ride at Disneyland” according to SpaceX’s official website.

The future of commercial space travel is looking bright, but not all systems are go. engineers have their work cut out to ensure the safety of the first nine brave astronauts. But the clock is ticking.

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SpaceX Just Launched A Rocket With A Critical Reused Part

BLAST OFF. At 1:18 AM E.T., SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Its primary purpose is to launch a 5.8-ton satellite called Merah Putih intended to improve telecommunications in Indonesia, India, and much of Southeast Asia.

But for SpaceX aficionados, the most exciting part of this launch is that we’ve seen part of it before. Yes, the first stage was just used in a launch back in May that sent Bangladeshi communications satellite Bangabandhu into orbit.

Now, just a few months later, it’s back again. The dream of cost-effective reusable rockets might not be so far-fetched, after all.

The Falcon 9 rocket shortly before liftoff. Screenshot from SpaceX livestream by Alexandra Ossola

REUSE, REUSE, REUSE. This launch is the first to employ a reused Block 5 — the first stage of the rocket. The Block 5, unlike previous models, is designed to need little taking-apart and refurbishment in between launches. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has called Block 5 “the most reliable rocket ever built.”

But SpaceX engineers needed to actually make sure that was true, that after its first use Block 5 would be ready to get out there again. So after the May launch, Musk said, “Ironically, we need to take it apart to confirm it does not need to be taken apart,” as Ars Technica reports. Though SpaceX hasn’t released much about what they found when they did take the Block 5 apart, the quick turnaround between launches indicates that Block 5 seems to be living up to that promise.

STICK THE LANDING. If SpaceX has its way, this won’t be the last mission for this Block 5, either. The  first stage successfully landed on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, which was waiting in position in the Atlantic Ocean (a camera feed loss at the moment of landing created a bit of extra drama).

If it works, we may very well see the same Block 5 again, perhaps in just a few short months. If that happens, we’d see the same Block 5 launch a whopping three times in just one year.

Update 1:46 AM ET: We’ve just completed the second burn. The Merah Putih satellite is ready to be deployed.

Update 1:50 AM ET: Merah Putih is in position. The successful mission is complete. 

READ MORE: SpaceX set to re-fly a Block 5 rocket for the first time tonight [Ars Technica]

MORE ABOUT SPACEX: SpaceX Will Be Ready to Transport Humans in April 2019, NASA Estimates

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Waymo’s Phoenix Project Could Tell Us If Self-Driving Cars Can Improve Public Transportation

HITCHING A RIDE TO HITCH A RIDE. The self-driving revolution is making a pit stop at the bus station before it hits your garage.

Last week, autonomous car developer Waymo (a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet) announced plans to conduct a two-stage experiment in Phoenix, AZ, by teaming up with Valley Metro, the region’s public transit system.

The goal: figure out if Waymo’s autonomous cars can increase access to public transportation. If people have a low-cost way to hail a ride to a bus/light rail station that is maybe a bit too far to walk to, they’ll be more inclined to use public transportation (rather than just making sure they have their own car to drive to work or wherever). Autonomous ride-hailing is expected to cost less than today’s ride hailing (since companies won’t have to pay a driver). This experiment could help us figure out if people might embrace the service.

A TWO-PART PLAN. Public transit in Phoenix isn’t awful, but it’s not great, either — it’s ranked 38th nationwide.

Both stages of Waymo’s public transportation experiment focus on first- and last-mile travel — the distance between a person’s home or work and the nearest public transportation option.

In the first stage of the experiment, which will begin in August, 30 to 50 Valley Metro workers will have the opportunity to make this journey in one of Waymo’s autonomous vehicles. All they have to do is simply hail a ride via the company’s app (whether or not riders will have to pay is not clear).

In the second stage of Waymo’s public transportation experiment, the company will open up this service to Valley Metro RideChoice travelers, typically seniors and people with disabilities for whom using the standard public transportation system might be too expensive or impractical.

ALLIES, NOT FOES. While some see the rise of autonomous vehicles as a threat to public transportation, Waymo and Valley Metro believe the two can be allies.

In a blog post, Waymo has four goals as a company. One of them: connecting people with public transportation (the other three are developing autonomous trucks, autonomous vehicles for personal use, and an autonomous ride-hail service).

Waymo views this partnership with Valley Metro as a step toward achieving that goal, and Valley Metro appears to be just as gung-ho about it.

“We’re not trying to disrupt each others’ industries, we’re trying to complement,” Valley Metro’s COO Rob Antoniak told Wired. “We’re trying to leverage each others’ investments in this space, to make the best use of public infrastructure.”

And how will the organization know if their experiment worked? Simply if people use Waymo’s service.

The first phase of the experiment will likely take several months, during which Waymo will collect data to inform the second phase. If all goes well, it might not be that long before people can hitch a ride to the bus stop aboard a driverless car.

READ MORE: Can Waymo Self-Driving Cars Help Fix Phoenix’s Public Transit? [Wired]

More on Waymo: Waymo Plans to Deploy the Largest Fleet of Autonomous Vehicles by 2020

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Google Maps Now (Accurately) Shows that Earth is Round

A WHOLE NEW WORLD. Google Maps now offers a refreshing new angle of Earth. That is: a more accurate one.

Google recently announced that its map would now depict a round Earth, according to The Verge. Now, when you zoom all the way out, Earth appears to be round, not flat. So far the change is only for the program’s desktop version, it will still be flat on a mobile device.

That has a few different effects, but one result is that countries and continents actually look the size they are in real life, as Google Maps noted via Twitter.

With 3D Globe Mode on Google Maps desktop, Greenland's projection is no longer the size of Africa.

Just zoom all the way out at https://t.co/mIZTya01K3 ?? pic.twitter.com/CIkkS7It8d

— Google Maps (@googlemaps) August 2, 2018

SEE YOU LATER, NAVIGATOR. The change is part of several updates meant to make Google Maps easier to use. In the past, Google used what’s known as a Mercator map. It’s good for mapping roads (at least if you ask Google), but they’re also notorious for warping the dimensions of land masses.

This update probably won’t really affect the kind of navigation you need to just get around. But if you’re using Google Maps to reference the size of nations (or, you know, validate your belief in whether or not the Earth is round), the update is kind of a big deal.

A FLAT ARGUMENT. At a time when growing numbers of Americans believe the Earth is flat, the update could be interpreted as Google siding with science. Whether that will change any flat Earthers’ minds, though, is anyone’s guess.

READ MOREGoogle Maps now depicts the Earth as a globe [The Verge]

More about the round Earth: Here’s a Primer to Help You Educate Flat-Earthers

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The U.S. Has a New Plan to Deter Would-Be Hackers

THE BOILING POINT. Since 2016, Russian hackers have been targeting U.S. utility companies’ control rooms. At times they’ve had so much control that they could decide to cut the lights for huge swathes of Americans at any moment. Now, the U.S. government has decided it’s had enough. Government officials appear determined to ramp up deterrents and punishments for hackers that mess with the electrical grid.

THE PROPOSAL. According to a report published by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, this is a multi-agency effort — the State, Treasury, and Defense departments are pushing the initiative forward. They haven’t settled on a specific plan or tactic just yet, but they appear to be considering a number of options, none of which would hurt civilians. In other words, the U.S. wouldn’t consider turning off the power in an attacking nation. No eye-for-an-eye justice here.

So here’s what the U.S. would consider: indicting more known hackers, seizing the assets of suspects before they’re convicted, and imposing sanctions on countries that harbor the suspects. It’s also considering asking Interpol to issue Red Notices (international arrest warrants) to help the U.S. apprehend the suspects and requesting that other nations help bring these hackers to justice by arresting any that set foot within their borders.

President Donald Trump has not yet expressed support for any of these proposed plans, though White House officials told The WSJ he is “taking the matter seriously.”

MORE OF THE SAME. The U.S.’s extradition treaties would likely cover at least part of what the agencies have proposed. According to these treaties, if the U.S. accuses someone of a crime and that person flees to a nation that has an extradition treaty with the U.S., that nation must arrest the suspect and transport them to the U.S. It also works in reverse — the U.S. has to arrest and transport suspects to other nations (as long as the suspect isn’t a U.S. citizen).

Russia has no such treaty with the U.S. So as long as the accused hackers stay within the nation’s borders, the U.S. can’t reach them. The most efficient way to ward off and penalize hackers, then, might just be the proposed sanctions, though President Trump has been reluctant to issue any sanctions against Russia.

There’s another tack the U.S. might consider: updating our electrical grid so that no one can hack it in the first place. Seems like securing the funding the federal government would need to allocate to do this is a bit harder to come by.

READ MORE: U.S. Officials Push New Penalties for Hackers of Electrical Grid [The Wall Street Journal]

More on utility hacking: Yes, Russians Hacked U.S. Electric Companies, Homeland Security Confirms

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Some Americans Will Get to Vote via Blockchain This November

VOTING GOES MOBILE. The 2016 U.S. election was not exactly the most secure affair. Even though tech companies and lawmakers are still sorting out what happened, that’s not stopping West Virginia from thinking big and bold in 2018.

According to a CNN report published Monday, the state plans to let soldiers who are permanent residents of the state but are serving overseas vote via their smartphones using a blockchain voting app called Voatz. It will mark the first time U.S. citizens can vote via mobile app.

ROCK THE VOATZ. To use Voatz, soldiers will first need to prove they are who they claim to be. The registration process involves uploading a photo of their government-issued ID and a video of their face, taken like a selfie. The app’s facial recognition software will look at both the photo and video to ensure they depict the same person.

After this verification process, the soldiers will be all set to cast their vote. Once they do, the app anonymizes the ballots and records the votes on a blockchain, a secure digital ledger that’s nearly tamperproof.

“A HORRIFIC IDEA.” “Nearly” is the key word there — someone can change the data recorded on a blockchain. And given all the studies showing how easy it is to hack the U.S.’s electronic voting machines, many people think we should be transitioning back to using only paper ballots, not testing new ways to vote electronically.

“Mobile voting is a horrific idea,” Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told CNN. “It’s internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”

MAKING THE LEAP. Still, West Virginia’s Secretary of State Mac Warner insists Voatz is secure. Historically, election security has been one of his top priorities — earlier this year, he secured $6.5 million in federal funding to spend on equipment, cybersecurity, and training to ensure the state’s elections are safe and secure.

West Virginia already tested Voatz in two counties during the primary elections, and several audits of the voting app revealed no issues. We’ll just have to wait to see if the same holds true in November. If it does, more governments could adopt blockchain-supported voting apps in the future.

READ MORE: West Virginia to Introduce Mobile Phone Voting for Midterm Elections [CNN]

More on blockchain voting: A New Blockchain App Is Poised to Radically Change How People Vote

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Researchers Inadvertently Discover Crypto Scam Involving 15,000 Twitter Bots

Researchers discover a network of Twitter bots designed to perpetuate a cryptocurrency scam while conducting a study on identifying online bots.

DON’T @ ME. It’s hard enough to figure out when humans are running a cryptocurrency scam. Now, it seems we have to worry about bots perpetuating them, too.

While conducting a study to figure out the best way to identify Twitter bots — accounts controlled by software, not humans — researchers from security software companyDuo Security came across a network of at least 15,000 bots working together to perpetuate a cryptocurrency scam.

The researchers plan to present their study on Wednesday at Black Hat, an information security conference in Las Vegas, NV.

BOT OR NOT. The researchers set out to figure out how to identify bots and networks of bots. They started by analyzing the activity of 88 million public Twitter accounts from May to July 2018. The researchers then used machine learning and other data science techniques to analyze more than 500 million tweets from those accounts.

This analysis led to the discovery of the crypto botnet scam. According to their study, more than 15,000 bots were working together to spread a fake crypto giveaway. The scheme requires users to pay some amount of an existing cryptocurrency and they’ll get a much greater amount in return (how this would make a viable business model is certainly questionable). But instead, the scam takes their crypto but gives them nothing in return.

The researchers say they reported the scam to Twitter, but the platform has yet to shut down the thousands of accounts. A Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch the company is currently investigating the issue.

RISE OF THE TWITTER BOTS. If you spend much time at all on Twitter, you’ve likely encountered at least one bot. These bots can wield a tremendous amount of power, spreading fake news and even influencing elections.

Not only is it hard to detect bots online, we’re now reaching the point where detecting them over the phone is no easy task. Studies like the one the Duo Security team did can help address the issue by leading to better detection methods. But more stringent regulations, such as rules that require companies to identify online bots as bots the same way some propose forcing audio bots to identify themselves, could accomplish the same thing.

READ MORE: Duo Security Researchers’ Twitter ‘Bot or Not’ Study Unearths Crypto Botnet [TechCrunch]

More on Twitter bots: We’ve Seen What Bots Do to Democracy. Are We Adapting Fast Enough?

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Figuring out How Fast the Universe Is Expanding Might Require a New Type of Physics

A number of scientifically sound studies all reached different conclusions when trying to figure out the universe's expansion rate.

WE CAN’T ALL BE RIGHT. For something identified as a “constant,” the universe’s rate of expansion sure seems awfully inconsistent.

Back in February, a team of researchers working with NASA revealed that Hubble’s Constant — the rate of the universe’s expansion accepted by most physicists for the majority of the past century — could be wrong.

That wasn’t the only study to make the claim. Now, two new studies back it up.

TWO STUDIES. ONE UNIVERSE. One of the new studies relies on measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), radiation caused by the Big Bang that still remains throughout the universe. Using data from the Planck mission, one team of researchers concluded that the rate is 67.4 km/s/Mpc (kilometers per second per Mega Parsec). That’s slower than the currently accepted Hubble’s Constant of 70 km/s/Mpc.

The other study looks at pulsating stars in nearby galaxies to determine the universe’s expansion rate. These stars have regular cycles of brightness, which makes it (relatively) easy to measure  their distance from Earth. According to that analysis, the expansion rate is 73.4 km/s/Mpc — that’s faster than the currently accept Hubble’s Constant.

TENSIONS RISE. The problem is that both of these studies appear scientifically sound. Using our current cosmological model of the universe, that should be impossible. Either there’s something wrong with one or both of these studies — maybe there’s some flaw we aren’t seeing, or perhaps the researchers are basing their conclusions on some statistical fluke.

Or maybe there’s something wrong with our physics.

If this last situation is the case, we’ll need to figure out a new physics that makes sense of all these studies. If we can do that, we could find ourselves looking at the universe through an entirely new lens.

READ MORE: The Universe’s Rate of Expansion Is in Dispute – and We May Need New Physics to Solve It [Phys.org]

More on the universe’s expansion: To Measure the Universe’s Expansion, We Might Need New Physics

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No Existing Policies Will Be Enough To Prevent A Future “Hothouse Earth”

Even if we meet the emissions limits set by the Paris Agreement, natural feedback processes could create

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE. Right now, the Paris Agreement is probably humanity’s best shot of reducing the catastrophic effects of climate change. One hundred seventy nine nations have committed to reducing carbon emissions to ensure global temperatures don’t reach 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

But according to a new study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), it probably won’t be enough.

Even if all the Paris Agreement signatories meet the accord’s carbon emission goals, we could still find ourselves facing a “Hothouse Earth” climate within decades.

CLIMATE CHAOS. A Hothouse Earth would be about as pleasant as it sounds (not very). The global average temperature would be 4 to 5 degrees Celsius (7.2 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than pre-industrial levels, and the sea level would be 10 to 60 meters higher than it is today. This, the researchers determined, would cause global chaos.

“A Hothouse Earth trajectory would almost certainly flood deltaic environments, increase the risk of damage from coastal storms, and eliminate coral reefs (and all of the benefits that they provide for societies) by the end of this century or earlier,” they write in the paper.

A TIPPING POINT. The problem, according to the authors, is that even if humans stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere, temperatures could still soar to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. That could trigger natural feedback processes, such as permafrost thaw, Amazon rainforest dieback, and the loss of the Arctic’s summer sea ice. These would release currently stored carbon, increasing the planet’s temperature.

“These tipping elements can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another. It may be very difficult or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over,” co-author Johan Rockström noted in a press release. “Places on Earth will become uninhabitable if ‘Hothouse Earth’ becomes the reality.”

MORE ACTION. According to the study’s authors, our best bet for avoiding this domino effect is creating or enhancing biological carbon stores. They suggest biodiversity conservation, improved forest management, and the development of carbon-capture systems that store carbon underground.

If we put in the effort, they assert, we might be able to keep temperatures steady at that 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) milestone. If not, we could find ourselves living (or, you know, not living) on a truly unsettling version of Earth.

READ MORE: Earth at Risk of Heading Towards ‘Hothouse Earth’ State [EurekAlert]

More on the Paris Agreement: Yes, We Might Still Meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s Goals

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No Existing Policies Will Be Enough To Prevent A Future “Hothouse Earth”

Exoskeletons are About to Walk Ford’s Factory Floors

Assembly lines are increasingly automated, but for manufacturing at the OG of assembly lines, humans (with exoskeletons) are still behind the wheel.

HALF MAN, HALF MACHINE. Full-blown automation may be the future of manufacturing, but we’re not there yet. While some machines have taken over the more painstaking tasks on the factory floor, humans still play a vital role in the production line. But often, it isn’t easy work. Tasks typically require being on one’s feet, and some even involve making repetitive arm motions up to 4,600 times a day or one million times a year. Ouch.

At Ford though, this might all be changing. Exoskeleton use on Ford’s factory floors could soon shift into overdrive, according to Engadget.

ENTER THE EXOSKELETONS. In November 2017, EksoVest Exoskeletons, built by Ekso Bionics, were given to workers in two Ford factories. Now ,up to 75 exoskeletons will be distributed to employees at 15 factories across the world. The exoskeletons don’t have motors, or even batteries, but provide “passive assistance” in the form of arm support from five to 15 pounds. By giving more arm support the higher a person reaches, the device takes strain off of the arm muscles. If you’re not convinced it would make a difference, hold your hand above your head for a few minutes.

WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY. This is only the beginning for exoskeletons at Ford. “Today, it’s only the passive upper-arm support skeleton that helps with overhead work,” Marty Smets, Ford’s technical expert of human systems and virtual manufacturing, told Engadget.

Taking one step at a time could lead Ford to other avenues of exoskeleton use within its factories. By establishing systems for the use now, Ford is well positioned to adapt new devices as they become available. “We wanted to focus on one exoskeleton initially, then expand from there as the space grows,” Smet said.

Time will tell, but perhaps man and machine can co-exist peacefully after all.

READ MORE: Ford thinks exoskeletons are ready for prime time in its factories [Engadget]

More about exoskeletons at Ford: Ford Pilots a New Exoskeleton to Lessen Worker Fatigue

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Geoengineering Would Hurt Earth’s Crops More Than It Would Help Them, Says Study

GETTING HANDS-ON. Think geoengineering is a great way to reverse the effects of climate change? Well, we might want to push pause on those plans. According to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, geoengineering could actually leave us worse off than if we did nothing at all.

It’s no secret that human activity is wreaking havoc on our planet. The idea behind geoengineering is that humans also have the potential to undo all that damage by taking big, bold action to alter the atmosphere.

While the specific proposals vary, one idea that’s tossed around pretty often is solar radiation management (SRM). By its logic, if we inject aerosols into the stratosphere, we would decrease the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface, therefore cooling the planet. Volcanic eruptions inspired the idea — the gases they send into the atmosphere create a similar veil over the planet.

LOOKING TO THE PAST. A team of researchers at UC Berkeley wanted to figure out what impact this approach would have on the planet’s crop yields.

To do this, they analyzed the planet’s aerosol levels, solar irradiation data, and recorded crop yields following two volcanic eruptions: the eruption of Mexico’s El Chichón in 1982 and the explosion of the Philippines’s Mount Pinatubo in 1991. The researchers concluded that the eruptions actually had a negative effect on two different types of crops — C3 crops (such as rice, soy, and wheat) and C4 crops (a category that includes maize).

Next, they decided to model how a global injection of sulfates into the stratosphere might impact crop yields. To do this, they used several Earth system models from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology. From that analysis, they concluded that the decrease in sunlight from SRM would hurt the planet’s crops more than the cooler temperatures would help them.

A BIG, BOLD, BAD IDEA. This isn’t the first study to assert that geoengineering is not a good idea. Others assert that SRM would put species in biodiverse areas at risk, while some think we simple shouldn’t do it for fear of unintended consequences.

In the paper, the Berkeley team notes that other researchers could use a similar approach to determine the impact of SRM on different types of systems, such as human health or ecosystem function. If those researchers reach the same conclusion — that SRM is more trouble than it’s worth — we might want to officially take the idea off the table.

READ MORE: Geoengineering: Volcanoes Unveil Agricultural Drawback of Stratospheric Veils [Nature]

More on geoengineering: Reversing Climate Change With Geoengineering Could Leave the Planet Worse Off

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Geoengineering Would Hurt Earth’s Crops More Than It Would Help Them, Says Study

New York City Council Poised to Cap The Number Of Ubers Allowed On City Streets

UBER-CONGESTED. The New York City Council is expected to vote on setting a cap on all new Uber vehicles on Wednesday. The bill, if it passes, would halt the issue of any new licenses for any new ride-hailing service drivers for a 12 month period. Several outlets have reported that the City Council is likely to vote in favor of the bill. If the vote goes as predicted, the outcome could be a boon to drivers and, as the New York Times notes, “a major blow” to the ride sharing service.

This is the first of several bills on which the City Council will vote in rapid succession. Others will decide a similar fate for other ride-hail apps like Lyft and Juno; another would establish a minimum pay rate (effectively a minimum wage) that ride-hail companies must pay its drivers operating in NYC.

DECONGESTING NYC. These bills are a response to New York City’s increasingly congested streets, for a number of people, including leaders at the city’s public transportation authority, the MTA, have largely blamed Uber and its ilk. According to Bloomberg, the use of app-based ride services has skyrocketed in the last couple of years — its drivers now represent “more than half of all for-hire cars on the road” in New York. Meanwhile, the number of iconic yellow cabs is virtually unchanged in the same period of time, thanks to a strict (and costly) medallion system.

Predictably, Uber is not happy about New York City Council’s plans. “A 12-month pause on new for-hire vehicle licenses will leave New Yorkers stranded while doing nothing to prevent congestion, fix the subways and help struggling taxi medallion owners,” an Uber spokesperson told the New York Times.

UBER-WORKED. In bringing this series of bills to the City Council, council-members hope to create a more sustainable job market for ride-hail app drivers. As the number of ride-hail drivers on the roads has risen, many have started to buckle under the economic difficulties of the situation. Most lack benefits like a 401K or health insurance. Low wages are rampant —a new report found that Uber and Lyft drivers in the U.S. only make a median profit (factoring in insurance, maintenance, repairs, and gas) of $8.55 per hour — which is, in New York City, well below the minimum wage set by the state. The situation has become so grim for some that six taxi drivers have taken their own lives in New York City alone, according to the New York Times.

Despite the tough situation for drivers, Uber has continued to grow. The company had a very healthy first quarter of this year, raking in a $2.46 billion profit, according to the Wall Street Journal. There are rumors that Uber might go public some time next year. A driver cap in the biggest city in the U.S. could put that plan in jeopardy.

A 12-month ban on new licenses isn’t a death knell for the company, not by a long shot. But the cap might buy legislators some more time to study the effect the ride hailing industry has been having on the city, and make sure it’s working for everyone.

We will update this article with the results of the vote when it happens on Wednesday.

Read more: Why a Cap on Uber in New York Would be a Major Blow for the Ride-Hail Giant [NYT]

More on Uber: It’s Not Uber’s Fault That NYC’s Public Transportation Sucks

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The Pentagon Tells Soldiers To Stop Sharing Their Locations With Apps

Eight months after the fitness app Strava revealed the location of military bases in Syria, the Pentagon has banned GPS tracking on wearables.

FITNESS, NO TRACKING. The Pentagon recently issued an order to all personnel working at sensitive military bases: for the love of god, stop logging your runs. In a memo acquired by The Associated Press, the Pentagon laid out new rules for how soldiers can use fitness trackers while deployed in a war zone or other high-risk areas. Namely, they need to keep the GPS off.

“These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DOD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” the memo said.

NOT-SO-BLURRED LINES. Back in January, Nathan Ruser, who writes for The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, noticed that the global heatmap activity on the fitness app Strava revealed the location of American military bases in Syria, where soldiers used the app on a regular basis.

Because soldiers relied on the app to track their progress as they trained and jogged the perimeter, the heatmap essentially provided a blueprint for the bases. It also gave anyone with a vague interest an idea of soldiers’ daily routines. It’s not hard to imagine that hostile forces could use that kind of information to their advantage. Oops.

The heatmap also revealed the activity of soldiers in other sensitive locations like Area 51 and the British Air Force base in the Falkland Islands.

NOT A BAN. The Pentagon did not ban fitness apps or wearable fitness trackers outright — military personnel can still use them, as long as they stop the apps from collecting location data or otherwise compromising the military’s operations. Fitbit spokeswoman told the AP that the company’s devices couldn’t track anyone who turned off location services. So it seems like there’s no reason to prevent soldiers from using them altogether.

READ MORE: Pentagon tells troops: Turn off fitness tracker GPS when you head to warzones [Ars Technica]

More about location tracking: Google Just Admitted to Tracking Your Location Even When You Have the Settings Disabled

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