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Leave my iPhone alone: why our smartphones are extensions of ourselves

12 days ago

Our phones offer connection, communication and knowledge and have become part of our identities. No wonder privacy violations bother us so much

Apples recent refusal to abide by a court order to unlock the San Bernardino shooters iPhone has brought to the publics attention an debate over cybersecurity and encryption that has been raging throughout the tech world for years.

On the surface, that argument has a particular and recognizable ethical character. But further down, it is about something else something deeper that has to do with identity itself.

Utilitarian intellectuals like John Stuart Mill have always held that the best style to decide any ethical question is to look and assure which action has the best consequences.

Turning to the iPhone case, the way this argument has played out in the media suggests that it is all about which future is more dire: the one where terrorists can hide their communications in common devices, or the one where the governmental eye of Sauron considers all.

Yet this characterization oversimplifies what is really at stake. Both pictures of the future are misleading, if merely because terrorists have, like the rest of us, numerous ways to get in contact with one another. Breaking into this particular iPhone wont change that. Moreover, your data is already unsafe. As more than one wag put it on Twitter, thats what makes it so ironic that privacy advocates like to complain on social media.

But the deeper problem with the its all about the consequences side of the debate is that it ignores the increasingly intimate relation we bear to the devices around us.

Smartphones were only the first step towards the world we live in now the internet of things. More and more devices from refrigerators to cars to socks interact with the internet on a nearly constant basis, leaving a trail of digital deplete. That means greater convenience, but increasingly it also means that our devices are becoming ready at hand as Heidegger would have said. Weve begun to see them as extensions of ourselves. The Internet of Things has become the Internet of Us.

It is tempting to see that as metaphorical. But there is actually a metaphysical phase here, one which we can get at by way of two very different, if consistent, philosophical routes.

The first style in stems from what is known as the extended intellect hypothesis. According to the philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers in a 1998 newspaper, our mental state, like our faiths or our memories, arent always simply in in our heads. They are spread out. In other terms, it is not just that I use my contact listing in my smartphone as a crutch to assistance me recollect, my actual remembering is partly constituted by the phone itself. It is a combo of brain cells and computer chips.

I am not sure whether Clark and Chalmers are right about the entire intellect, although they might be. But I am more convinced that one sort of mental state, the country of my knowing something, is often extended to our digital devices. My knowing, at the least in the passive, receptive sense of knowing, is definitely outsourced to my phone. And that is why I often feel 100% less knowledgeable when I dont have ready access to it.

If something like this is right, it helps to explain why we worry about losing more control over access to our smart devices. What and how I know it is part of my intellect; but if what and how I know is partly composed of what happens on my phone, if it is spread out in that way, then unlocking our devices is not simply like unlocking our home. It is more like opening up our intellects to Vulcan mind melds. And then the ethical topic here cant only be decided by tallying up the consequences; what harms our identity is a matter of principle.

Of course you might think that the extended knowledge hypothesis is too farfetched. But the other style to get to the same point is this: whether or not we actually are our telephones, we increasingly identify with them. We increasingly see them and the digital life we lead on them as partly constituting who we psychologically are.

The reason that matters is that psychology matters for autonomy. One type of freedom we care about is autonomy of action. But another type is freedom of decision. And you can violate my autonomy of decision in more than one route. One style is to overrule it. Hold a handgun to my head and I will find myself making decisions that arent actually in accordance with my most considered opinion about what is best for me.

On the other hand, you can also undermine it. Devote me a drug without my permission and my decision-making is constructed moot. It doesnt truly matter whether I wanted to take the drug or not. Ive taken it anyway and my decision is irrelevant.

Violations of information privacy undermine our autonomy of decision in the same way. They make a decision for us whether to share our datum. In some suits, perhaps like the case of the San Bernardino shooters phone, that may be justified. But there is a reason to be wary of generalizing, precisely because back-door telephone hacks would open us up to having our independence undermined in merely this way.

Arguably, what harms autonomy damages identity. And what harms identity, what harms us as individuals, as intellects, is not just a bad outcome it is bad in principle.

Michael Patrick Lynch is prof of philosophy and director of the Humanities Institute at the University of Connecticut. His new book is The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data. Follow him on Twitter: @plural_truth

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Are slow iPhone sales simply a blip or is Apple starting to struggle?

16 days ago

The volatile marketplace in China, the urgency for a new product, and slumping telephone marketings are blending to create serious problems for the tech company

Self-made billionaire investor Carl Icahn is known for his very vocal endorsements and criticisms of the worlds biggest public companies, including Apple. Yet when he is available on CNBC on Thursday, he wasnt there to demand the company give stockholders dividends, as hed been doing for years.

Instead, he said he was out. Icahn said hed dumped every share he held in Apple, claiming he made a$ 2bn profit and was done with the company, quoting very concerned about how the Chinese government could block the company from that market. You worry a little bit, and maybe more than a little, about Chinas attitude, Icahn said, warning of a tsunami of trouble.

Watching the broadcast was Dan Nathan, who runs the influential marketplace analysis site Risk Reversal. The jig is up for Apple, Nathan said. The big moneys is common knowledge that for a while. But people love their iPhones so much, and the tech press are all fanboys, so people havent “was talkin about a” it.

Wednesday marked the end of an epoch in Cupertino as Apple reported its first ever fell in iPhone marketings, sending the companys stock down to about 30% off its all-time high in May 2015.

iPhone sales in China a crucial market for Apple to continue growing have plunged 26% as its economy stalls, with some reports indicating the Apple brand is losing prestige there. In the US, clients are upgrading their telephones more slowly as the differences between generations, like the iPhone 6 to 6s, become more incremental.

Those bullish on the company say that the slowdown is inevitable as the smartphone market ripens, and that Apple will find another game-changing product. In the meantime, the business is good: Apple pulled in $50.6 bn in revenue and $10.5 bn in profits this one-quarter. And its CEO has won a high-profile public battle against the FBI over telephone hacking, showing Silicon Valleys unprecedented power.

It was 30 years between the Macintosh and the iPhone, said Jean-Louis Gasse, once an engineering head at Apple who shepherded the early Macintosh and now watches the company closely. It takes time for these major waves.

But in Silicon Valley, where the motto seems to be innovate or succumb, growth is everything. And critics argue that Apple, famous for its internal culture of aggressivenes and privacy, has lost its innovative edge.

Analysts say the company has not had a distinct make product in recent years. The company tightly guards its Apple Watch sales figures, but researchers consider numbers slipping in favor of wearables that use Android software made by Apples arch-rival Google.

Reviews of the new Retina MacBook were tepid. Tech news site the Verge liked the beautiful machine but received it slower, impractical and costly, so the reviewer went back to his older Mac, while industry site The Loop described the companys Apple Music service as a consumer nightmare because of technical and design problems. Despite criticism, Apple Music, has grown to 13 million subscribers, a bright spot in Apples recent financial results.

The most important issue facing Apple, analysts say, is how it can expand internationally. In China, the companys most important new marketplace, the number of people who can stretch for an aspirational product such as an iPhone has topped out, Nathan said. The average iPhone, without wireless service contracts, cost $687 in the last one-quarter of 2014, according to ABI Research and the Wall Street Journal three times more expensive than an Android device, which typically selling off about $254 globally. But World Bank data from 2015 shows that in China the average income is $7,400 means that an iPhone would cost the average Chinese person more than 10% of their annual salary.

Its an expensive phone, Nathan said. And the high objective has become saturated. Nathan said the best bet would be to expand into the lower objective, which the company is doing somewhat with their new 4in iPhone SE. But a past endeavour at a bargain product, the colorful, plastic iPhone 5C, was widely seen as a flop. That was three years ago, though, Nathan said.

Tim Cook, who took over as CEO after the companys iconic founder Steve Jobs died in 2011, is a specialist in supplying chains rather than product design. Where Jobs was obsessed with the product specs, Cook is more focused on spending projections, according to a rare authorized profile in Bloomberg News that sought to prove the new CEO wasnt simply Jobss logical, icy sidekick.

On Wednesday, Cook said that broader market issues were causing the slow in growth, and recognizing that critics were worried about China, seemed to reference the idea that Apple was no longer Silicon Valleys starring.[ We] may not have the wind at our backs that we once did, Cook said of the companys efforts in China. But its a lot more stable than what I guess the common view of it is.

Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategy technology market research firm, said there is little Apple could have done better given the broader smartphone market. The company is a victim of its own success, he argued. Theres contentment with customers at large who look at their phones and say, You know, this things pretty great, I dont know if I require a new one, Bajarin said. Youve got to give someone a reason to buy a new device.

Bajarin believes the market overreacted to the iPhone sales numbers, since the company sold as many telephones as it had said it would this quarter. It wasnt a astound. They came in simply above the bottom objective of their own guidance, Bajarin said. All of this now is just about managing Wall Street.

The company, with its $233 bn in money, has been been using that money to buy back its own stock and pay stockholder dividends to encourage investors. Apple has the ability to be patient because of that money, but everyone will say they also have the ability to be complacent, Bajarin said. But I dont think thats their plan.

Nobody believes theyll be like, yeah, thats it, we rode the smartphones and were done, he added. Theyre out looking for the next thing right now.

Others argue, though, that Apples culture has become uniquely problematic and is getting in the way of innovation. Tim Kuppler, who advises firms on better workplace environments through the firm Human Synergistics, is working on a study of 30 tech company cultures.

If youre at Apple, theres so much privacy, you cant bring your 100% because there are certain things you cant even talk about, Kuppler said. Its so difficult in that surrounding for people to live up to their potential. Youve get chains on; youre riding the brake. Thats very different now at places like Google that are more achievement oriented.

For Apple, issues with culture may be affecting recruitment and retention. The company lately lost the head of their electric car operation as well as a longtime decorator who worked closely with design squad chief Jony Ive.

There was an era in Silicon Valley when critics rarely voiced sentiments on the unassailable Cupertino powerhouse, where strong hierarchies and control are woven into the corporate culture. Now sentiment in Silicon Valley seems to be turning against the company. Even on the quiet streets of Palo Alto, Cook runs into trouble.

He was all by himself, and I dedicated him a 30 -second harangue about the App Store, said Gasse, who ran into Cook at a shopping mall earlier this year. Growth concealed a lot of shortcomings for Apple. When you grow fast you can be a little disheveled, dirty. Now Apple has to revisit what its lacking.

Gasse, who left the company in 1990 and has since become an investor, said Apples culture of tight hierarchies and aggressive administrators wasnt working for them in the new modern climate: The command and control that reigns at Apple is not necessarily working in its favor any more.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Kenyan creativity broadens job horizons for disabled people | Kate Hodal

18 days ago

A digital tool that helps disabled people find jobs and a convertible electric wheelchair that solves access issues could foster greater diversity in the Kenyan workplace

Finding a undertaking has never been an easy task for Frederick Ouko. Despite university degrees and a can-do posture, the 34 -year-old Kenyan has detected himself turned away from job again and again, solely because he employs a wheelchair.

Just the act of getting on to public transport takes a long time: first you have to wait for a bus that has enough room for you and your chair, then finally you show up at the office for the interview, and you are turned away at the door because they think you are there to beg, says Ouko, who is from Nairobi.

There is a general notion that if youre disabled you dont need to work, because your family look after you or youre on government benefits. Not in their wildest dreams would an employer think you want to work and that you may be qualified.

Ouko was born able-bodied but suffered polio as a child, which left him with weak legs. In the eyes of most Kenyan employers, this rendered him unemployable. So he began thinking about how to reaching companies that might be interested in diversifying their labour pool, as well as how to explain the potential benefits of diversification to less progressive firms.

Government statistics concerning disability are unreliable, with the inclusion of albinism skewing numbers, but the International Labour Organisation suggests there may be as many as 3 million people living with a disability in Kenya.

Ouko began developing an online platform to match jobseekers with task providers. He named it Riziki Source, Swahili for livelihood. Users input their qualifications, skillset, locating and disability benefits, and are then matched with potential employers. Users qualifications and skillsets are visible to industries, but not their CVs; should an employer express interest in a specific nominee, they connect through Ouko and his colleagues.

Kenyas 2003 Persons with Disabilities Act requires both public and private firms to reserve 5% of their jobs for disabled employees. In practise, though, says Ouko, they dont even consider it. There is no monitoring. There is no coordinated effort by the government to provide jobs[ to disabled people ]. But there is all this unexplored talent you[ as an employer] may be missing by not hiring a person with a disability.

Riziki Source has been live for six months. So far it has helped 10 jobseekers to find employment in the hotel, IT, accounting and software industries. The program was recently shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineerings Africa prize for engineering innovation, and Kenyas department of labour has provided $30,000( 23,800) in funding.

Oukos goal is to change the narrative of disability in Africa.

We are important resources that our countries havent bothered investing in, he says. Can we normalise the challenges, and have the ability that we are qualified for, whether or not were disabled?

It is a question that fellow Kenyan Peter Mbiria, 26, has furthermore been asking for the past five years. After befriending a woman with crippling arthritis, Mbiria an able-bodied electrical engineering student in Nairobi recognised the limitations of existing technology for disabled people.

I could see how much she was struggling to do her daily tasks, and I wanted to make a wheelchair that would really suit her requires one that would build her independent and mobile, comfy and happy, he says.

Here in Kenya surfaces are very uneven, largely rocky and pretty difficult for people who utilize wheelchairs. In fact, even around Nairobi there are no ramps for wheelchairs.

Mbiria points out that most wheelchairs are limited to a single function. Some are best suited to a flat surface, others to rough terrain or moving in an upright position. Few, though, are able to combine all three functionalities. Mbiria decided to change that. Blending a military tank concept with the capacity of a 4×4 and the design of a normal wheelchair, he made the E-Con: an all-terrain wheelchair that allows users to stand upright, climb up or down stairs, and self-navigate.

Peter
Peter Mbiria is seen with a scale model prototype for his all-terrain electric convertible wheelchair. Photo: Brett Eloff/ Royal Academy of Engineering

Similar to a Transformer, the wheelchair morphs from its standard shape into a vertical upright posture, and can handle flat surfaces as well as bumpy terrain. Each wheel consists of three smaller wheels, allowing for greater movement and balance.

The E-Con is still in prototype form, but Mbiria, who was also shortlisted for the Africa prize, is in talks with a Kenyan organisation over funding to build the first model, which he says will cost about $9,000. Many of the components will have to be sourced from abroad, as they are not available in Africa.

Mbirias arthritic friend passed away before he was able to present her with his invention, and he took her death poorly. I was very sad because I was making this for her in secret, and she left without knowing what I was preparing for her, he says. For a while I was heartbroken, and then I supposed Well, there are many people like her who would like a wheelchair that would enable them to be independent and mobile.

Encouraged by that gues, Mbiria is now pushing for such wheelchairs to be made available to those in need without delay.

Once people are mobile and independent, they can focus on their dreamings, their goals in life, themselves, he says. These other challenges have been taken away from them. Now they can ask themselves, Can I start my own business? What can I do for my community? What do I want to be?

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Lost for words? A new app writes witty texts so you don’t have to

18 days ago

Now you can crowdsource the funniest possible responses to messages youve received. Its basically Cyrano de Bergerapp

If you suffer from a lacklustre text life, help is at hand. Nattr, a new app that has been getting a lot of chatter, lets you crowdsource clever responses to text messages usually texts from people you want to have sexts with. Back in the olden days, people used to send screenshots of conversations to their friends and, in a panic, ask: What should I say? Thanks to technological innovation, todays young can ask random people on the internet for semantic supporting via what is basically Cyrano de Bergerapp.

When I say todays young, I entail YOUNG. Im 32 ie doubled persons under the age of most Nattr users. Asking teens for advice on my lexical love life constructed me feel like a creepy weirdo. I also worried that all my replies would read: Go home, mum, so I experimented with changing my age to 25.

As well as other Nattr users, you can ask your phonebook for responses; your contacts are informed of your dilemma via an anonymous text. So, my dentist may have received a message that said: Natalie says shes not sure if we have textual chemistry, how should I react? If he did, he didnt write back.

The apps special sauce, however, is its ability to deliver reactions crafted by Nattrs team of handpicked writers and comedians, identifiable by a superstar on their avatar. If you arent a handpicked member, you can earn a superstar by amassing likes.

One Nattrati member, standup comedian Leah Knauer, will handcraft responds. A recent question she tackled was: How can I ask an American girl out in a way that she will find witty? Her respond: If shes blond: You look like youre made of angel-hair pasta and some sort of powdered gold. I know that sounds weird, but I mean it in a good way.

Nattr is free to use, but you have to buy charms to view responses from starred users such as Leah. For $3.99( about 2.80 ), you get 500 charms; unlocking or requesting a response from a writer/ comedian costs 300 charms. This is a clever business move. A locked answer teases you with potential: perhaps this pun will be the one; perhaps this reply will persuade Natalie that, actually, Im exceedingly funny, but most of my gags go over her head.

So, whats the verdict? Will Nattr up your text game? A few people have told me they found it useful. However, if youre over 30, Nattr may simply leave you feeling oldr and not much wisr.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Nap pods and rooftop parks: how Silicon Valley is reinventing the office

18 days ago

Tech giants Google, Samsung and Facebook are in a race to create the most elaborated workplace environments

From the fifth-floor putting green of Samsungs Silicon Valley headquarters, appearing out at a rolling horizon of sun-scorched mountains, its quite easy to forget youre at work. An executive is practising tai chi by the cactus garden, while another jiggles in a robotic massage chair nearby. A volleyball match is in full swing in the lush-planted courtyard below, while raucous screamings of table football emerge from the Chill Zone, next to a row of space-age nap pods. Meet by the ping-pong tables, reads a sign stuck on the window. Todays spinning class will be on the terrace! 🙂

With its new $300 m office block, which stands like a stack of gleaming white hard drives at an intersection north of San Jose, the South Korean electronics giant is plunging headlong into the holiday camp workplace culture of the Bay Area tech scene.

We wanted to introduce more of a startup vibe to the company, says Jim Elliott, Samsungs vice-president of memory marketing, a undertaking title as otherworldly as the building he works in. We were all separated in our different departmental islands before, but this building is about bringing people together and encouraging chance encounters. We want to get people out of the boardroom.

Samsung has had a base here for 30 years, housed in a cluster of nondescript sheds, but this 10 -storey beacon is designed to change its brand image in North America from purveyor of fridges and washing machines to powerhouse of cutting-edge semiconductor innovation.

Designed by NBBJ, an architecture firm that is conjuring futuristic jungle-filled biospheres for Amazon in Seattle and a handful of vast tech offices across China, the building is the product of research into behavioural psychology and the neuroscience of work.

Sleeping
Sleeping on the job a nap pod at Samsung HQ. Photo: Tim Griffith

Its all about mobility, says architect Scott Wyatt, who heads NBBJs corporate workplace division. If you sit down for more than 20 minutes, you get dumber. Strolling outdoors, he says, is when your brain attains optimum cognitive function, so the Samsung office is configured to get people out of their chairs as much as possible. With pairs of floors separated by an outdoor terrace, employees are never more than a floor away from stepping outside. The cafeteria, meanwhile, is housed in a separate star-shaped building, so they have to walk out to lunch where 10 various kinds of global cuisine are on offer in a food court worthy of an upscale mall.

Samsungs fun-filled office-cum-wellness-centre is just the most recent in a wave of new flagship headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area that mark a revolutionary deviation for the tech industry, which has never much cared for its surroundings before now. Norman Foster is busy erecting a doughnut-shaped flying saucer for Apple, set in a 150 -acre park in Cupertino, where 3.7 miles of curved glass will shortly encase a continuous tube of offices, built to the precision of an iPhone. Not to be surpas, Google has hired two of the most fashionable designers of the moment, Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick, to concoct a retro-futuristic fantasyland of plug-in run pods beneath swooping glass tents. Such dreamy visions mark a recent and radical change from the tech worlds default setting of the generic suburban business park.

Microsoft always said the buildings dont matter, says Wyatt, who has worked on countless projects for the Bill Gates empire. The tech position was: Just give me a garage. All that has changed. With increasing competition to attract the best young intellects, the silicon giants are now racing to outdo each other with ever more elaborate facilities( filled with ever more bountiful snacks ).

Techie
Techie jungle liana-like cables and stuffed leopards at Facebooks HQ, the biggest continuous office floor in the world. Photograph: Oliver Wainwright for the Guardian

The mother of all pimped-up garages now rambles along the road in Menlo Park, 15 miles west of Samsungs HQ, standing like a line of conjoined aircraft hangars piled up in a car accident. With walls protruding out at odd angles and zig-zagging staircases casually bolted on as if at random, it bears the unmistakable hand of Frank Gehry. Stretching across 40,000 square metres, his Facebook headquarters is a hymn to the beloved startup foundation myth of the loose-fit inventors shed.

Housing the biggest continuous office floor in the world, seating around 3,000 workers in an open-plan jumble, it is a appropriately gargantuan home for a social network that now counts one fifth of the worlds population in the membership of the committee. Strolling the office floor feels like exploring a techie jungle, where lianas of cables dangle from the seven-metre-high ceiling, servicing pods of programmers, while novelty helium balloons sway above their adjustable stand desks.

We encourage people to hack their space, says my young tour guide, as we navigate this rough and ready world of raw steel beams and exposed ductwork, passing a piata modelled on Donald Trump, a leopard in a pink cape and a life-size stuffed polar bear. Were merely 1% finished connecting the world, so we wanted the building to looking unfinished too.

Freestanding plywood meeting rooms are daubed with colourful murals from resident artists, while other walls are plastered with motivational posters, made by the companys publish studio, the Analogue Research Lab, featuring ominous mottos such as: Eventually everything connects.

When Zuck[ CEO Mark Zuckerberg] says something in the morning, one Facebooker tells me, it can become a poster slogan by the afternoon.

At the top of a dog-leg staircase, in a moment of Alice in Wonderland revelation, we come to a nine-acre rooftop park, a bucolic idyll of sloping lawns and wireless-enabled wildflower grasslands that look out across the marshy rust-coloured flats of the bay. Cranes are busy constructing housing next door( which, although partly funded by Facebook, the company insists is not the rumoured Zeetown for its workers ), while volunteers set up pavilions on the roof for global causes day, an annual charity initiative.

No one pays attention to how much youre at your desk, says my guide. As long as you get your work done, you can be lying on the lawn or sitting at the grilled cheese bar.

Samsung
Samsung HQ. Photograph: Tim Griffith

Free food on tap is a fundamental part of the tech workplace, and Bay Area companies have long competed over the breadth of their snack offering. But the stakes are now shifting towards health-conscious options: the ubiquitous jars of jelly beans and M& Ms are increasingly supplanted by dehydrated broccoli florets and kale crisps, washed down with a gulp of Soylent. Google has rearranged its snack counters so you have to pass fresh fruit before you reach the candy, while in the cornucopic cafeteria of LinkedIns new San Francisco HQ, a wall lists all the local suppliers, beneath the slogan: Know your farms, know your food.

I like to start my day with a kimchi rice bowl, or maybe some sushi, says one LinkedIn employee, as we stroll around the never-ending buffet. We have an in-house pastry chef whose cakes are to die for and eight flavors of homemade ice cream.

Sheathed in a sinister cape of faceted black glass, somehow befitting the professional networking site, LinkedIns new 26 -storey tower is a vertical promenade of tech office cliches. We pass the wireless headphone rack of a silent disco zone and a Nerf missile play area, then a pillow fighting meeting room and a post your own haiku wall, each space exuding the forlorn air of a besuited tycoon trying to be wacky. Leaving the offices, we pass through a passageway where a distorted trompe-loeil mural makes a slogan appear to float in thin air, filling your field of vision with bold capital letter: FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS.

Airbnbs
Airbnbs bedouin tent meeting rooms. Photograph: Mark Mahaney/ Mark Maheny

A few blocks away, one of the regions fastest growing companies is rapidly filling the floors of a former newspaper mill, where it has converted the industrial spaces into a theatrical playground of themed work zones. At Airbnb, you can have your sessions in a log cabin or a Milanese loft apartment, a bedouin tent or a replica ramen cafe each space meticulously recreated from the websites holiday rental listings.

According to the companys in-house Environments team, its about how we can create spaces that are home-like, but highly effective, functional spaces that allow people to do great work, but hopefully in ways that amaze us.

Some people nestle in bean containers, hunched over their laptops on a stepped seat terrace, others gratify in an Airstream caravan, while studious kinds can squirrel themselves away in leather armchairs in a dimly illuminated analyse. At the centre of it all, in a defining moment of startup nostalgia, is a meeting room modelled on the apartment down the road where the company first began.

If the office is trying to be a physical manifestation of the companys motto Belong anywhere it all feels a bit like a budget version of the Crystal Maze, each define decorated with props sourced from eBay or Etsy, and built with the longevity of a shop-window display.

Ramen
Time to noodle ramen cafe-themed meeting room at Airbnbs HQ. Photograph: Oliver Wainwright for the Guardian

Out on the street, leaving the living wall-lined lobby, youre confronted with a stark symbol of one of the symptoms of the success of this room-letting behemoth, in the form of a type of enclosure that doesnt make it into the themed office scenery: the tents of a homeless encampment, huddled beneath the flyover.

It is a reminder of the side-effects that the booming tech industry is having on the immediate context outside its hermetically sealed, candy-coated walls. The recent influx of companies from the valley to the city, lured here by considerable taxation incentives, is not just increasing rents but bringing other unexpected consequences.

Tech offices can have a kind of deadening effect on the city, says Allison Arieff of SPUR, a non-profit urban research centre. Since they are now offer their employees with everything on site for free from coffee to dry-cleaning to haircuts local business are often forced to close down when they move in.

For all their talk of community and the commons, the dotcoms are proving to be some of the least civic-minded industries around. As a gesture of public goodwill, LinkedIns tower gives a vast chunk of its ground floor over to an airy public room, where you may sit and have your lunch and use the Wi-Fi, but San Franciscans wont be so easily persuaded.

Nobody cares about your tech job, reads a poster on a nearby lamppost. Be courteous to others when in public and keep the feral careerism of your collegial banter on mute. Or get mugged. We can hear you.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

4 Borderline Creepy Things You Do When You Start Dating Someone New

1 month, 27 days ago

Readjusting to single girl life, I have gone on more dates this year than in my entire life blended: lawyers, industrialists, scientists, engineers, trust fund children, accountants, IT analysts, advertisers, salesmen. I have now officially dated EVERYONE in this city. A plenty of those dates were trainwrecks from the start: dead dialogues, uncomfortable advances, awkward remarks. But occasionally you really click with someone new and sparks rain down. Great! This is so exciting! Now what?

You Google them. Obviously.

But lets back up here. Say you dont know their last name. That happens sometimes. So then you plug in their phone number to White Pages and, voila, there it is. All of their glorious datum, entailing at the least their last name and maybe their age. Then you pause, is of the view that you at least know that, and start deeming other people you know who have similar last names.

OR

I am very logical.

After you spend 0.73 seconds holding just waiting to see what theyre like organically, you realise God induced the Internet for a reason, and you are only insulting Him by not researching this boy on social media. Youd hate to be smited, especially right after satisfying this great guy, so you go for it. You click through the limited privacy permitted Facebook profile images, refrain from looking at LinkedIn because, dang it, itll tell them if you appeared, and you read any other little tidbits that Google decides to offer up. Usually its funny quotes from a college newspaper or random websites theyre linked to. Sometimes, though, if youre really[ un] luck, articles pop up about their relatives. Their relatives who are actually international fugitives who are not allowed into the country anymore and may have a made-for-TV movie made about the crime they committed. But thats merely happened to me once.

You overly critique their texting styles.

I may be partial since I graduated with an English degree, but come along. Demonstrate me y-o-u care by fully spelling out your words. Soothe it down with the text talk, lololol. And why so many exclamation phases ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! I cant handle this.* screaming face emoji siren emoji eggplant emoji* Give me a properly executed sentence, and Ill give you my heart.

You start asking reciprocal friends about them.

Sometimes youre lucky enough( thanks to Facebook-stalking) to realize that youve got a few friends in common. So hit up that old friend-of-a-classmates-exs-roommate and ask what they think about this guy.

You make an effort to run into them in public.

The best hour for this to happen is when youre looking great and youre out at a bar with your girlfriends or, in my occurrence, my very attractive lesbian male friend. A less great time for this to happen is when youre as previously mentioned, but youre at a lesbian bar with said friend. The worst time for this to happen is when youre inside aforementioned gay bar and the drag queen emcee announces the strip competition that is about to begin, and you find yourself unknowingly watching the guy youve been ensure taking his clothes off for money.

And then you find out hes a regular. And then one of the guys behind you nudges you after noticing you staring, mistaking your horror for intrigue, and tells you you should try and get a date with that. BUT YOU ALREADY HAVE. But its almost okay because at least he won.

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Bursting the Facebook bubble: we asked voters on the left and right to swap feeds

1 month, 29 days ago

Social media has built it easy to live in filter bubbles, sheltered from opposing standpoints. So what happens when liberals and conservatives trade realities?

The 2016 election took place under the spectre of a bubble. Not the subprime mortgage lending bubble that shaped the 2008 election, but the filter bubble. Tens of millions of American voters gets their news on Facebook, where highly personalized news feeds dish up a steady creek of content that reinforces users pre-existing beliefs.

Facebook users are increasingly sheltered from resisting standpoints and dependable news sources and the viciously polarized nation of our national politics appears to be one of the results.

Criticism of the filter bubble, which gained steam after the UKs surprising Brexit referendum, has reached a new level of importance in the wake of Donald Trumps upset victory, despite Mark Zuckerbergs denial it had any influence.

To test the effects of political polarization on Facebook we asked ten US voters five conservative and five liberal to agree to take a scroll on the other side during the final month of the campaign.

We made two Facebook accounts from scratch. Rusty Smith, our right-wing avatar, liked a variety of conservative news sources, organizations, and personalities, from the Wall Street Journal and The Hoover Institution to Breitbart News and Bill OReilly. Natasha Smith, our left-wing persona, preferred The New York Times, Mother Jones, Democracy Now and Think Progress. Rusty liked Tim Tebow and the NRA. Natasha liked Colin Kaepernick and 350. org.

Our liberals were given log-ins to the conservative feed, and vice versa, and we asked our participants to limit their news consumption as much as possible to the feed for the 48 hours following the third debate, the reopening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and the election.

Not all of our participants induced it through to election day. You might as well have been waterboarding a brother, said one of the participants, Alphonso Pines, after his first exposure to the right-wing feed.

But eight of our bubble-busters made multiple forays into the Facebook feed and were interviewed three or four times one even said the experience influenced his final decision. Heres how it impacted them all 😛 TAGEND

Inside the bubble

From Utah to St Louis, and Georgia to San Francisco, most of our participants were aware that they lived in a bubble.

Twelve people have shared a story with me about the Hillary Clinton bus dumping human garbage into the sewer system, said Trent Loos, a farmer and radio host from central Nebraska. I never watch positive stuff about Hillary Clinton. I didnt know that existed.

Trent
Trent Loos, a conservative 50 -year-old farmer from central Nebraska. Photograph: Facebook

Nato Green, a comedian and writer who describes his political orientation as somewhere to the left of Che Guevara, describes a similarly sheltered existence.

I find regular Americans unbelievably exotic, the native San Franciscan said. I know Jill Stein people, and I know dont referendum people, but I dont know Trump people.

Several participants said that they sought out opposing viewpoints outside of Facebook, by watching Fox News( for a liberal) or reading High Country News( for a conservative ), but most had a generally one-sided experience within Facebooks news feed.

If I got any Trump advocates on my page, theyre in the closet, said Pines, a retired union organizer and liberal who lives in Smyrna, Georgia.

Like reading a book by a fool

If there was one thing that our participants agreed on, it was that the Facebook feed the other side reads is largely incorrect.

Its like reading a volume by a fool, said Pine. Its hard to read something you know is a lie.

Andra
Andra Constantin, a conservative 37 -year-old project manager in the construction industry. Photograph: Photo courtesy of Andra Constantin

Another liberal, Nikki Moungo from St Louis county, Missouri, went a step further: Its like being locked into a room full of those suffering from paranoid delusions, she said.

Loos said that he found the left-wing Facebook feed was too restricted and he was frustrated by the liberal medias attempts to spin and justify every negative story about Clinton.

Andra Constantin, a conservative project manager from Westchester County, New York, was frustrated by this whole big brainwashing move to save the world from the horrible climate change.

Both Constantin and Green agreed that a conservative Facebook feed in the run up to the election had more diversity of opinions than a liberal one, largely because Republicans were divided on supporting Trump while liberals can often unified behind Clinton.

I didnt see the issues being discussed, Constantin said of the liberal feed. Even though we can be hateful and nasty, at both ends of the conservative side were talking about the issues a bit more.

When Green returned to his regular liberal feed after the third debate, he felt wholly out of the loop with his cohorts topics of dialogue. I logged in and I was like bad hombres, nasty girls, what is everyone talking about?

They detest me

For several of our participants, reading the alternative Facebook feed was not just surprising, but hurtful.

Its hard for me to read some of it, said Pines, who is black. Its only a racist kind of thing, and I dont think its cleverly disguised. Pines was especially pained by the way in which Obama was portrayed by the right-wing sources, which he described as code and puppy whistlings.

Pam Tau Lee, a retired community organizer and activist from San Francisco, also had difficulty stomaching the right-wing feed.

Everything that they are saying is bad, I fall under that category, said the fourth-generation Chinese-American. The hateful stuff: thats me. They hate me and my community and what I stand for.

Pam
Pam Tau Lee, a retired community organizer from San Francisco. Photograph: Politenes of Pam Tau Lee

Kathleen Matz, who owns a pet care service in Oakland, California, determined the misogyny on sites like Breitbart hurtful.

I just stopped. I couldnt look at it anymore, she said.

But it wasnt merely the liberals who found the experience painful.

Im insuring a lot more hate from the liberal side, said Constantin. Its all about how much of a horrible, fascist, racist, misogynist Trump is.

On her own feed, Constantin detected herself winnowing down her friends in order to avoid arguments.

I did unfollow a lot of friends because I didnt want to feel seduced to correct what they were saying and get in a fight, she said.

Honestly, I detested it, said Janalee Tobias, a longtime conservative activist and is part of Mormons for Trump from South Jordan, Utah. Im seeing a psychiatrist trying to get over the shock and the dislike from the left, she joked. I supposed this would be easier for me to handle, because Im held pretty open minded.

Janalee
Janalee Tobias, a longtime conservative activist. Photograph: Sam Levin for the Guardian

The needle moved

For some of our participants, checking out the other bubble merely confirmed their commitment to staying inside their own.

I learned that[ people on the right] are way more vicious and lack a certain maturity that I would expect of adults, said Moungo, after the election. This just absolutely corroborated it … They are irredeemable monsters.

Seeing the liberal feed pulled me further to the right, said Loos. Without getting the counterpoint, I was drawn more and more to the conservative side. Instead of luring me in, it pushed me away.

But some of our participants determined greater understanding from the experiment.

Kathleen
Kathleen Matz( right ), a liberal, find the misogyny on sites like Breitbart hurtful. Photo: Politenes of Kathleen Matz

Lee said she was impressed by the cleverness of right-wing messaging, which use words like working class and jobs and economic stability. That promise is so great that it overshadows everything else, and I could see that, if thats the only thing that I find, I could understand. I could be swayed.

Asked whether that understanding had resulted in her having more empathy for Trump voters, Lee said: I dont know if Im there yet, but Im working on it. I come from a place where I want to build a movement coming from love and compassion, so Im working on it.

One of our participants, Todd Macfarlane, said his time on the liberal Facebook page influenced his final decision. A rancher and attorney from Kanosh, Utah, Macfarlane is a registered Republican who was considering supporting the GOP nominee, but ultimately chose not to vote for any presidential nominee.

The needle moved, he said after his first exposure to the liberal feed. I was kind of more undecided as I looked at it … I was persuaded to think hes a really bad selection.

Macfarlane didnt encounter any liberal news sources that convinced him to support Clinton, but his time on the feed helped him realize that a Trump presidency could be dangerous.

It had to do with his overall temperament and decorum and demeanor, he said. It only reinforced for me the concern about what he might do with that much power.

Maybe we should stop

It wasnt just his referendum that changed, for Macfarlane. Since participating in the experiment, he said, Im a lot more interested in engaging with people who are open minded and are willing to talk about the whole picture.

Nikki
Nikki Moungo, a liberal from Missouri: Its like being locked into a room full of those suffering from paranoid hallucinations. Photograph: Courtesy of Nikki Moungo

Constantin, who currently relies on Facebook for 100% of her news, said that she has concluded that the platform seems to filter out believable news articles on both ends and feed sensationalist far left/ far right things.

I have to be more proactive about getting good quality content, she said.

Tobias said that exposure to the other side constructed her realize how difficult it might be to find common ground after the election.

Its frightening to me to see how much the left and the right are divided right now, she said. To bring us back together, I dont know what its going to take.

For Green, the lessons of the election are more stark.

Maybe we should stop having social media, he said. For all the things that social media has done in terms of inducing it easier for me to stay in touch with someone that I was vaguely friends with in college, perhaps the ability with social media for people to construct their own reality to create a rabble is not worth it.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

#DeleteUber: how social media turned on Uber

2 months, 17 days ago

After Uber lifted surge pricing during a protest at New Yorks John F Kennedy airport against Trumps travel ban, censure online was swift

There was plenty to be angry about this weekend and many people is very much irate about the ride-hailing company Uber.

As news of Donald Trumps travel ban on Muslim-majority countries spread, protests sprang up at airports around the US. In support, the New York Taxi Employee Alliance called on its members to avoid John F Kennedy International Airport for one hour 😛 TAGEND

NY Taxi Workers (@ NYTWA)

NO PICKUPS@ JFK Airport 6 PM to 7 PM today. Drivers stand in solidarity with thousands protesting inhumane& unconstitutional #MuslimBan.

January 28, 2017

After the ten-strike, Uber tweeted that upsurge pricing, which translates into higher fares at busy periods, had been switched off near JFK 😛 TAGEND

Uber NYC (@ Uber_NYC)

Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.

January 29, 2017

The reaction to Ubers strikebreaking was swift. #DeleteUber began trending, as people encouraging one another not only to delete the app from their phones, but also to cancel their Uber accounts.

jeremiah st cyr (@ MiahSaint)

@Uber_NYC xoxo pic.twitter.com/ cCwN2DH 0ef

January 29, 2017

Austin (@ peacoatseason)

I’m a Lyft guy now. Lyft baby !!!!! #deleteuber pic.twitter.com/ 585 D46XYSe

January 29, 2017

Josh Butler (@ JoshButler)

Scores of people are deleting Uber after the company serviced rides at JFK airport while taxis were striking against muslim forbid #deleteuber pic.twitter.com/ D8 cJMlxOxQ

January 29, 2017

Thanks to the companys many disagreements from its attitude to customer security to its use of surge pricing during the Sydney siege its was far from the first time the company had been excoriated on social media. However, the hashtags popularity demonstrated how American consumers are use a different tactic to depict their displeasure with what they view as Trump-supporting companies.

Dan OSullivan, or @Bro_Pair, was the first person to tweet the hashtag in direct response to Uber lifting surge pricing. He told the Daily Beast: Let this be a warning: if you are a corporation who thinks you will ride out Trump, and softly make money at his side, you will be made to pay a price.

Others criticised Ubers CEO, Travis Kalanick, pointing out he is a member of Trumps Strategic and Policy Forum . Posting to his Twitter and Facebook page, Kalanick called Trumps immigration and travel ban unjust. He also outlined supporting available to Uber drivers affected by the order.

In a statement, Uber said it had not intended to break up any ten-strike. We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices.

Many of those angry at the company recommended switching to Lyft, an Uber competitor in the US. In response to Trumps executive order, Lyft announced it would be donating $1,000, 000 to the ACLU over the next four years to defend the constitution.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Twitter suspends American far-right activists’ accounts

3 months, 11 days ago

The move comes as the social network cracks down on hate speech on the site with new tools and features

Twitter has suspended the accounts of a number of American alt-right activists hours after announcing a renewed pushing to crack down on loathe speech.

Among the accounts removed were those of the self-described white-nationalist National Policy Institute, its publication, Radix, and its head Richard Spencer, as well as other prominent alt-right figures including Pax Dickinson and Paul Town.

Spencer, who according to anti-hate group SPLC calls for peaceful ethnic cleansing to halt the deconstruction of European culture, decried the bans as corporate Stalinism to right-wing news outlet Daily Caller.

Twitter is trying to airbrush the alt right out of existence, Spencer said. Theyre clearly afraid. They will fail! Members of the Reddit forum r/ altright “ve called the” move a purge.

Spencers ban is particularly notable, since he previously had a verified account on Twitter – the badge the company gives to noteworthy accounts to prove they are who they say they are. In the past, Twitter has stripped accounts of their verified status in the wake of abuse, as the company did with an editor at far-right news outlet Breitbartthis year, but the company does not appear to have previously acted so conclusively against an account it had once devoted what could be interpreted as a badge of approval.

A Twitter spokesman said the Twitter Rules prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse, and we will take action on accounts infringing those policies.

The move came the same day that Twitter announced a new move against loathe speech and harassment on the site. The company announced new features intended to allow users to control what content appears in their notifications, but it also confirmed a change to its develop process for moderators on the site, and a new set of tools for reporting loathe speech.

Those changes were welcomed by users, but also seen as too little, too late. As with Facebooks clampdown on fake news on its social network, users construed the social network as ultimately realising that its platform was facilitating and emboldening the far right, but merely during the course of its week after the far-rights candidate of choice had won the US presidential election.

For former Twitter users, both those cast off the site due to their extreme positions, or those discontinuing Twitter in protest, a new social network is hoping to hoover them up instead. Gab advertises itself with the slogan Free speech for everyone, and features a green frog as its logo. Webcomic character Pepe the Frog was added to an online abhor symbol database in September owing to the figures co-option as an alt-right icon.

In a statement, Gab said: We are a free-speech website and nothing more. Gab is open to all users, regardless of their political beliefs, ideology and moral positions. Our mission is to set people first and to foster discourse without hindrance and proscription, as is occurring throughout the online community.

We use a frog, because it has long been a symbol of fertility, creation, going back to the ancients. Its seen as a emblem of prosperity.

So far, though, the service has just 12,000 users, stimulating it small in comparison to other far-right meeting place such as Stormfront.

Read more: www.theguardian.com