Humans 1, Robots 0

Why human cashiers beat check-out machines at the supermarket. “The human is faster. The human has a more pleasing, less buggy interface. The human doesn’t expect me to remember or look up codes for produce, bags my groceries, and isn’t on hair-trigger alert for any sign that I might be trying to steal toilet paper. Best of all, the human does all the work while I’m allowed to stand there and stupidly stare at my phone” (990 words)

How Google Taught Itself Design

Google’s aesthetics are catching up with Apple’s. Design revolution began when Larry Page took over as chief executive in April. He called for a unified look and feel across all products: “Our goal is to design everything so it’s beautifully simple”. The outcome so far: a new design process, centred on the “card” — a little white information box that the user can access or dismiss it with a touch or a swipe (4,000 words)

WarGames: Google vs. Apple

Recommendation goes to the entire series: seven episodes long at the time of writing, and still under construction. What would happen if Google and Apple went to war — first commercially, but then for real? Slate at its slightly crazy best. Worthy of an Orson Welles radio broadcast. To my taste it jumps the shark in episode seven, when Apple starts issuing iPistols to loyalists queueing outside Apple stores, but, who knows, it may yet jump back again.

If The NSA Trusted Edward Snowden, Why Trust The NSA?

Good point. The PRISM whistleblower may be an idealist, even a hero. But what does his access to secrets say about the workings of the NSA? “The NSA trusted its most sensitive documents to this guy? He isn’t a seasoned FBI or CIA investigator. He isn’t a State Department analyst. He’s not an attorney with a specialty in national security or privacy law. Instead, he’s the IT guy, and not a very accomplished, experienced one at that” (740 words)

Profiling Is Great, Except When You Do It to Me

Plausible reconstruction of how the IRS came to scrutinise Tea Party groups. If tax officials are required to spot signs of political activity in groups applying for exemption, it makes sense to look for short cuts: for example, those that seem to be part of a new political movement, Tea Party. Trouble is, that’s “profiling”. Just like the TSA officer pulling over a traveller in a turban. It’s easy, logical, and wrong (1,590 words)

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