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From fitness tracking devices to search engines, it’s easy to think of personalised technologies as convenient shortcuts and useful tools for working towards goals. But, argues James Williams, a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute and a former Google employee, the primary aim of personalised tech is to keep users coming back by any means necessary – and often in a way that encourages empty distraction. In this brief animation featuring audio from a 2017 lecture at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in London, Williams makes the case that the consolidation of the ‘attention economy’ to just a handful of companies is an unprecedented and deeply fraught human experiment – and one that demands active, attentive resistance.
Teaching and learning
Ronald grew up in a New York City library. It was as strange and wondrous as it sounds
An unvarnished, poetic account of a new mother’s struggle to breastfeed
The ancient world
What did the Rosetta Stone’s inscription actually communicate?
Why making if-then connections might be the key to consciousness
The cast of ‘misfit toys’ who keep life on an idyllic tourist island afloat
Ageing and death
When his elderly parents make a suicide pact, Doron struggles to accept their choice
Biography and memoir
What Akiko saw at the centre of the Hiroshima blast, and the indelible mark it left
To understand the limits of human senses, look to the wild world of animal cognition
Design and fashion
From sheep to sea – an ode to the iconic sweater that warms Cornish sailors