Future of technology


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Aerial view of the Apollo 9 space vehicle on the way from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center. 3 January 1969. By 1966, NASA directly employed a staff of 36,000, with another 400,000 people working for 20,000 contractors and 200 universities in 80 countries. Photo courtesy NASA

Essay/
The future
Where did the grandeur go?

Superlative things were done in the past century by marshalling thousands of people in the service of a vision of the future

Martin Parker

A 3D-printed model of a protein nanoparticle, shown here in orange and white. Scientists at the University of Washington are using protein design to create candidate nanoparticle vaccines. Photo by Ian C Haydon/Institute for Protein Design

Essay/
Future of technology
Engines of life

At the level of the tiny, biology is all about engineering. That’s why nanotechnology can rebuild medicine from within

Sonia Contera

An aerial view shows a typically busy Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province, deserted amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak that originated in the city. 27 January 2020. Photo by Hector Retamel/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Technology and the self
Collaborators in creation

Our world is a system, in which physical and social technologies co-evolve. How can we shape a process we don’t control?

Doyne Farmer, Fotini Markopoulou, Eric Beinhocker & Steen Rasmussen

Photo by Raghu Rai/Magnum

Essay/
Technology and the self
Privacy is power

Don’t just give away your privacy to the likes of Google and Facebook – protect it, or you disempower us all

Carissa Véliz

The August 1926 edition of Radio Broadcast magazine, three years before the 1929 crash. Scan courtesy of Americanradiohistory.com

Essay/
Economic history
The economics of bubbles

Market booms and busts might be irrational, but we can understand why they happen – and what to do to mitigate the damage

Brent Goldfarb & David A Kirsch

Photo by Carre Philipe/Getty

Essay/
Technology and the self
Who pushes the button?

From elevators to iPhones, the rise of pushbuttons has provoked a century of worries about losing the human touch

Rachel Plotnick

Asterion the Minotaur prowls the streets of Toulouse in the show ‘Le Gardien du Temple’ by La Machine street theatre company, France, 4 November 2018. Photo by Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Essay/
Future of technology
AlphaGolem

When we pit ourselves against machines, the game can only end in tears. It is in our gift to imagine another way

John Cornwell

Winnie the Pooh by Banksy, displayed at Bonhams’ inaugural US auction of urban art on 24 October 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Tibrina Hobson/WireImage/Getty

Essay/
Future of technology
Calculating art

Artistic success takes a mysterious mix of talent, luck and timing. But could algorithms now predict and produce the hits?

Hannah Fry

At the Amazon fulfilment centre. Photo by Rex Features

Essay/
Technology and the self
Gamified life

From scoreboards to trackers, games have infiltrated work, serving as spies, overseers and agents of social control

Vincent Gabrielle

An original French billboard poster for Frankenstein by artist Jacques Faria (1931). Public Domain

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Godmother of intelligences

Mary Shelley foresaw that artificial intelligence would be made monstrous, not by human hubris but by human cruelty

Eileen Hunt Botting

Chief priest Bungen Oi holds a robot AIBO dog prior to its funeral ceremony at the Kofukuji temple in Isumi, Japan, on 26 April 2018. Photo by Nicolas Datiche /AFP/Getty

Essay/
Automation and robotics
Robot says: Whatever

What stands in the way of all-powerful AI isn’t a lack of smarts: it’s that computers can’t have needs, cravings or desires

Margaret Boden

A 1937 poster for the Rural Electrification Program. From the invention of Edisons light bulb, mass electrification outside the big cities took half a century. Graphic design by Lester Beall, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Essay/
Future of technology
The blitzscaling illusion

All the great inventions took painstaking, risky, indirect routes to fruition. Has Silicon Valley really escaped history?

Edward Tenner