We should also consider biometric applications. The intimate contact of the iWatch makes it a natural carrier for the ever-improving sensors we find in today’s health monitors, devices that measure and record heart rate and perspiration during a workout, or that monitor sleep patterns and analyze food intake. What we don’t find, in these existing gadgets, is the ability to download new apps. An iWatch with health sensors coupled with the App Store would open whole new health and wellness avenues.

Jean-Louis Gassée explores possibilities of a potential Apple made iWatch. As we will move closer to replacing smartphones with wearable devices, the paradigm will also shift to quantifying our selves.

More iWatch Fun | Monday Note

“The primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom,” says the Foundation’s description of the challenge. So a “next-generation” condom would, perhaps, find some way to increase sensation as to get men to wear them more often — purely in the name of global health, of course.

Bill Gates Will Give You $100,000 to Build a Better Condom, a thorough challenge. 

An insincere cult of apology

Michael Moynihan for the Daily Beast:

As best I can tell, everyone on the Internet is upset, their tender feelings inflamed by insensitive jokes, panting with exhaustion from the endless search for new outrages, demanding that people they don’t know offer them abject apologies for saying things they don’t like. This, it seems, is why the Internet exists—to remind us that different people who think different things are funny, that some people think nothing is funny, and others who get a perverse joy in watching well-known people, fearful their bank accounts will deflate, prostrate themselves before the public, expressing “disappointment” in their true selves.

So how does one achieve forgiveness from the permanently offended? Well, in the most extreme situations, there is always the shame-faced march to rehab (“It was the booze that inspired my Wagnarian fits of anti-Semitism, because such profanities don’t exist in my heart”). There is, however, a much cheaper option: the ritualistic public apology. As public pressure mounts on the offender, threatening to damage their own “brand” or a company’s earnings, a carefully crafted apology is released into the wild, America’s wounds are salved, and the braying mob moves on to its next victim. Nothing has changed, of course, but nothing was meant to have changed.

The whole article is thought-provoking and truly these kind of apologies need to go.

Another complaint about austerity

It now may be clear to readers of this blog that I am not really in favour of austerity economics. Perhaps this is due to my naive or idealistic perception of the world but perhaps austerity has basic problems that no one seems to want to tackle. 

Published in the Financial Times, this piece by Gillian Tett did really uncover some of these problems:

“There’s a lot of little kids going hungry round here,” explained one friend, who works in a local community centre. Indeed, just the other day she had spoken to a family where the child had been chewing wallpaper at night. “He didn’t want to tell his mum because he knew she didn’t have the money for supper,” she explained. “We hear more and more stories like this.”

To many readers of the Financial Times, such tales may seem hard to believe. After all, if you live in the more pleasant parts of southern and central England today, the idea of children chewing wallpaper seems far-fetched. To be sure, the “squeezed [English] middle” is howling about government austerity, inflation and stagnant wages – but life feels bearable for most Home Counties dwellers. And for the jet-setting international cadre in central London, austerity is just a theoretical word.

The problems are, in my humble opinion, excruciatingly simple. Kids are hungry and they do not understand why. They are human beings who lack food in some of the most developed countries in the world (a useless title if you can’t feed your children) and even though they might not inevitably become angry towards government, the transition to adulthood is not going to be all jolly and nice. They are not going to look back and say “the government did that for our own good”; one of their relatives might die from hunger and this will be the end of their hoped for exemplary citizenship. 

Although one must always think about the long term and therefore accept sacrifices in the short term, sometimes the weight of these sacrifices are simply too heavy to bear. 

The rationale that people will be better off suffering now from the lack of public spending (less education, less health care) in order to enjoy their lives in the foggy future is not appealing to anyone, even those who theorise it. 

The solution surely cannot be as dramatically simple as erasing debt wholly. But it cannot be as dramatically simple as asking people not to eat anymore—because this is really what it is. 

The rise of the sharing economy

The rise of the sharing economy

The rise of the sharing economy


They chose their rooms and paid for everything online. But their beds were provided by private individuals, rather than a hotel chain. Hosts and guests were matched up by Airbnb, a firm based in San Francisco. Since its launch in 2008 more than 4m people have used it—2.5m of them in 2012 alone.

It is the most prominent example of a huge new “sharing economy”, in which people rent beds, cars, boats and other assets directly from each other, co-ordinated via the internet. You might think this is no different from running a bed-and-breakfast, owning a timeshare or participating in a car pool. But technology has reduced transaction costs, making sharing assets cheaper and easier than ever—and therefore possible on a much larger scale

The Economist covers what there is to know about the sharing economy with a prime example, Airbnb.

My contention is that there is nothing in the text to rule out such a plan, and that it is simply a hole in the plot of an otherwise excellent book that the issue is never brought up. This is not to say that LoTR is in any way a bad book; it merely shows that even as excellent a writer as Tolkien does not always succeed at perfectly harmonizing the various entities which he has placed in his world. As Tolkien himself says,

Could the eagles have flown Frodo into Mordor?

Sean Crist investigates a major plot hole in the Lord of the Rings.

“What is truth?”. This provokes perplexity because, on the one hand, it demands an answer of the form, “Truth is such–and-such,” but on the other hand, despite hundreds of years of looking, no acceptable answer of that kind has ever been found. We’ve tried truth as “correspondence with the facts,” as “provability,” as “practical utility,” and as “stable consensus”; but all turned out to be defective in one way or another — either circular or subject to counterexamples. Reactions to this impasse have included a variety of theoretical proposals. Some philosophers have been led to deny that there is such a thing as absolute truth. Some have maintained (insisting on one of the above definitions) that although truth exists, it lacks certain features that are ordinarily attributed to it — for example, that the truth may sometimes be impossible to discover. Some have inferred that truth is intrinsically paradoxical and essentially incomprehensible. And others persist in the attempt to devise a definition that will fit all the intuitive data.

But from Wittgenstein’s perspective each of the first three of these strategies rides roughshod over our fundamental convictions about truth, and the fourth is highly unlikely to succeed. Instead we should begin, he thinks, by recognizing (as mentioned above) that our various concepts play very different roles in our cognitive economy and (correspondingly) are governed by defining principles of very different kinds. Therefore, it was always a mistake to extrapolate from the fact that empirical concepts, such as red or magnetic or alive stand for properties with specifiable underlying natures to the presumption that the notion of truth must stand for some such property as well.

Was Wittgenstein Right?, perhaps so, insomuch as you understand what he means.