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The Design Issue #WANT Inside Nike’s secret lab where designers invented a powerlacing sneaker straight out of Back to the Future. A WIRED exclusive. BY SCOTT EDEN
PLUS Meet the Designers of Desire: How creative geniuses make us lust for their work.
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The Digital Justice League Google is on a mission to protect the Internet’s most vulnerable. BY ANDY GREENBERG
118 Idiom Savant Our writer entered the cutthroat world of competitive punning. The English language still hasn’t recovered.
Tiffany Beers is the engineer largely responsible for making Nike’s power-lacing sneakers a reality.
BY PETER RUBIN
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14 Release Notes
The illustrators behind this issue
Reader rants and raves
The Space Chase
How NASA will rendezvous with an asteroid millions of miles from Earth
48 New Moon
Omega’s watch gets a lunar upgrade
50 Evolution FTW!
6 weird ways nature ensures the survival of the species
52 I Vant (to Ship) Your Blood A Priceline for platelets
To stop police brutality, let’s film encounters early and often BY FORREST STUART
28 Do Before You Die
See a SpaceX rocket launch
30 Jargon Watch
Keeping up with the latest in the WIRED lexicon
54 Mr. Know-It-All
On a house sitter’s right to privacy BY JON MOOALLEM
Nate Duncan is the king of the NBA nerds
Tough times for young startups
36 Through the Looking Glass
Budnitz Model E vs. the Stromer ST2 S
66 Gearhead: Motorcycle Kit
68 MySpace: Magnus Walker
56 VR Gaming for All
The new PlayStation may make virtual reality cheap enough to go mainstream
56 Useless Interface
Give me TV, not endless menus!
The AI Enigma
We need to know what’s happening inside machine learning’s black box BY CLIVE THOMPSON
32 Alpha Geek
64 Head-to-Head: E-Bikes
Ride free with KTM’s Super Duke motorcycle, Velomacchi gloves, and Bell’s Pro Star carbon helmet
30 Bionic Battlefield The world’s first cyborg Olympics
Alfa Romeo’s beautifully brutal Giulia Quadrifoglio
Inside the workshop of an artist who doesn’t just collect Porsches—he reimagines them
FILE: // 73 The Spirit of Truth
Oliver Stone on secrets and his new film, Snowden BY MICHAEL HAINEY
ASK A FLOWCHART 126 What Kind of Shoe Am I? BY ROBERT CAPPS
Black Mirror grows up for season 3
38 What’s Inside
Warheads Extreme Sour Hard Candy
ON THE COVER
Photographed for WIRED by Dan Saelinger. Illustrated for WIRED by Tinker Hatfield. Prop styling by Jack StockLynn.
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RELEASE NOTES: THE ILLUSTRATORS IN THIS ISSUE
For 10 years, illustrator Christoph Niemann has provided whimsical art takes on our tribulations for WIRED’s Mr. Know-It-All column (see page 54). Niemann’s drawings are filled with philosophical musings and satirical jabs—and even morsels of advice. “My launching point is the question rather than the answer,” Niemann says. “The illustration has to add another layer to the column.” His new book, Words, a collection of offbeat word and image pairs, was conceived as a playful way for ESL students to uncover words’ unconventional meanings.
aula Scher—the formidable designer responsible for everything from the iconic brand logos of Citibank and Shake Shack to the Public Theater’s bold posters—says the best piece of advice she ever received is to “illustrate with type.” And illustrate she has, attracting particular acclaim for her large-scale typographic murals, like the hand-painted map of Philadelphia shown above. So Scher was a natural choice to design the opener of Peter Rubin’s story about the world of competitive word wizardry. Scher, who’s based in New York, took 150 original puns (generated by nine wired editors, who created a Slack channel for that express purpose) and fitted, scaled, and constructed 38 of them into the story’s rollicking opener. The volume, she says, was important in more ways than one. “It’s less interesting as a list and more interesting as a cacophony.” See her incredible work on page 118. 0
Illustrator Clay Rodery often creates moving images for clients like HBO (Game of Thrones) and Universal Pictures (Straight Outta Compton), but for this issue WIRED senior designer Annie Jen asked Rodery to animate in a different way: She tasked him with using a graphicnovel style for a story about NASA landing on an asteroid (page 40). For Rodery the challenge was “trying to figure out how to compositionally work all the images onto one page.” WHO TO FOLLOW
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Scher’s Philadelphia Explained installation
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DEPUTY CREATIVE DIRECTOR David Moretti DESIGN DIRECTOR, PLATFORMS Dylan Boelte SENIOR ART DIRECTOR Allie Fisher SENIOR ART DIRECTOR, PLATFORMS Olga Montserrat MANAGING ART DIRECTOR Victor Krummenacher ART DIRECTORS Raul Aguila, Francesco Muzzi SENIOR DESIGNER Annie Jen UX DESIGNER Evan Mills DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Anna Goldwater Alexander DEPUTY PHOTO EDITOR Neil Harris SENIOR PHOTO EDITOR Sarah Silberg PHOTO EDITORS Jenna Garrett, Maria Lokke EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, VIDEO Paula Chowles SENIOR PRODUCER Sean Patrick Farrell PRODUCER Ryan Loughlin VIDEO ANIMATOR Joshua Lim ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS Junho Kim, Kayla LaCour POSTPRODUCTION SUPERVISOR Nurie Mohamed PROJECT MANAGER Dellea Chew PHOTO RESEARCHER Ruby Goldberg CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER Dan Winters DIRECTOR, CREATIVE OPERATIONS Rosey Lakos PHOTO FELLOW Courtney G. Stack
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If all you think about is your next meal, we totally support that—as long as you really think k about it: about what you’re eating, what went into it, if it’s good for you, how sustainable it is, and whether there’s a better alternative. We tackled these questions in our August cover story (“What to Eat Today”), preparing everything from drought-friendly recipes to a periodic table of proteins. Plus, celebrity chef David Chang wrote about his secret to crafting insanely great dishes (“The Unified Theory of Deliciousness”). Sometimes that means dunking a fried chicken leg in caviar.
Re: “What to Eat Today”
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Re: “Our Food Issue(s),” by Scott Dadich “Scott, the introduction that you wrote covered the entire human experience with food. Thinking about relationships with food as memory-inducing, emotion-evoking, and the anchor for many of life’s pivotal experiences is so spot-on. It takes an incredible amount of courage to write publicly about your personal hardships, and your honesty in revealing that was truly commendable and highly relatable.” Chewy Tang via email
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“Am I the only one who sees the Alien chest-burster in the shadow of the cover of the latest issue?” Alex Rodriguez on WIRED.com (No, you’re not! —The editors) “Holy cow. Chang demonstrated that when you work with something with such passion for so long, you start to transcend the typical way of seeing things to a whole new level.” Zero36 on Reddit
Re: “The Unified Theory of Deliciousness” “As a musician I found a lot to relate to. I’m going to start thinking about writing music with this in mind, where the taste is unfamiliar and confusing—too salty and not salty enough.” johnnycross on Reddit “Never thought I’d read a chef who referenced Richard Hofstadter. Goddamn.” Zeeker12 on Reddit
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Re: “Herzog’s Web”: The German director makes a promotional film about the Internet “Lo and Behold is going on my epic-documentaries bucket list.” Shafkat Sakeeb (@Sakeeb91) on Twitter
Re: “Olympics Everywhere”: Disperse the games across the globe
“SPLITTING THE GAMES UP ISN’T ANTI-OLYMPIC. IT ENCOURAGES GLOBAL COOPERATION.” Natef on WIRED.com
Re: “Olympics Everywhere” “I love the idea of splitting the events between a group of cities. With streaming media, the only thing you lose is having all the athletes at the opening and closing ceremonies. But they could be gathered in their respective locations and shown live. 0
Re: “Illuminating ISIS”: New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi “Very interesting interview. Especially the fact that the US government assumed that terror organizations are designed in a rigid, top-down way instead of a more or less decentralized, redundant network.” Kevin Maas on WIRED.com
Re: “Keep Me From Your Leader”: Finding and protecting microscopic Martians “I understand the concern, but bottom line, saving Martian life we don’t know exists by barring robotic landers from going into areas and taking samples of soil most likely to contain life—is absurd.” 1chrisford1 on WIRED.com “We’ve been putting things on the surface of Mars since 1971—and not all of them up to current sterilization standards. It’s a worthy goal to want to learn as
much as possible about any potential Martian life (a prospect that becomes more remote with each day of robotic exploration). But if we’re reaching the point where these concerns are crippling our very ability to find them, something has gone amiss.” Richard Malcolm on WIRED.com “This puts us between a rock and another rock. Captain Picard, we need your advice. The prime directive is necessary now, more than ever.” Ernie Aldridge on WIRED.com
Instead of by country, you show them by sport. Easy.” paint on WIRED.com “Good idea, but it won’t cut it. Why? Because it would be less profitable for the TV networks, as they’d have to split up their efforts over disparate venues. Theodore Wirth on WIRED.com OCT 2016
ARE THE SMARTEST CITIES THE MOST VULNERABLE TO ATTACK?
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Silence the Threat
WATCHING THE POLICE LET’S ALL START FILMING, EARLY AND OFTEN BY FORREST STUART
on a dingy sidewalk along LA’s Skid Row, two police officers surrounded an older homeless man who was, according to residents, popping sunflower seeds into his mouth. One officer pinned the man against a wall; another punched him in the back of his skull. After landing a knee to the man’s ribs, the cops tackled him to the ground. Half an hour later, paramedics loaded his beaten body into an ambulance. That day about eight years ago, members of a local activist group, the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), had stumbled upon the scene and whipped out cameras to capture the beating. I study policecommunity relations for a living, and I showed up just after the man was taken away. Despite the brutal treatment of one of their neighbors, the activists’ mood was optimistic.
PHOTOGRAPH: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Finally, these residents thought, they had captured damning proof of their long-standing claims of injustice. It was wishful thinking. The LAPD justified the beating: If the video had shown the entire interaction, one of the officers involved told me outside the courtroom, we would have seen the man shoving crack cocaine into his mouth. Any blows caught on video were part of officers’ attempts to dislodge the drugs, save the man’s life, and preserve vital evidence. It was good police work, he said. Despite video evidence, the locals didn’t control the narrative, the cops did. Time and again, we’ve hoped that video could be part of the solution to the fractious relationship between our cops and our poor black communities. Time and again, we’re left frustrated when videos fall short in generating accountability and reforms. Sometimes, footage is mysteriously missing. When a Chicago cop shot unarmed 18-year-old Paul O’Neal in the back in July, the bodycam cut out during those fatal moments. When we do get footage, it often captures only a fragment of an interaction. We watch as lawyers and union reps explain away what looks like abuse as justified. Think about the footage from Minnesota of Philando Castile’s blood-soaked shirt clinging to his dying body (also from last July). As powerful as it was, it only documented the aftermath. My experience tells me that police representatives will likely try to rationalize Castile’s death by pointing to what the video doesn’t show. Even for the good cops, who respond admirably in tense moments, incomplete footage can make it difficult for them to earn the trust of the people 0
they serve. We all lose when video footage leaves too much to interpretation. Of course, video is just a part of a larger solution, but it can make a difference. Studies continue to show that, even when scenes show blacks and whites behaving in identical ways, blacks’ movements are seen as more threatening and criminal. But context can help. We already record
THEY THOUGHT THEY HAD DAMNING PROOF OF THEIR CLAIMS OF INJUSTICE. IT WAS WISHFUL THINKING. and share videos of all sorts of daily activities, but we need to double down, filming and sharing even more. Fortunately, there are groups who are showing us how to do that more effectively. The day before the Castile shooting, police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot and killed Alton Sterling. But that day a local antiviolence organization called Stop the Killing recorded the scene. For the past 10 years, the group has been developing tactics to increase the credibility of its footage: Members use police scanners to intercept 911 calls and try to arrive on the scene as early as possible, sometimes even before police, and they keep the cameras rolling for as long as possible. Stop the Killing and other groups around the country are increasingly trying to use multiple cameras to cover many vantage points. They’ve learned that the more footage they have, the better they’re able to insist on a full and bal-
Forrest Stuart (@forrestdstuart) is a sociologist at the University of Chicago. His new book, Down and Out and Under Arrest, was published in August.
anced investigation. It’s harder for bad cops to rationalize their use of force when footage shows that the violence, or even the stop itself, was unnecessary. After the beating that morning on Skid Row, the homeless man got a 16-month jail sentence for possession of narcotics. Soon, LA CAN began to film earlier and more widely. And the group has started to rack up significant legal victories. Working with the ACLU, the group won a federal injunction that prohibited Skid Row cops from handcuffing and searching pedestrians being cited for jaywalking and other minor offenses. In a recent class action, the group used comprehensive video and photo evidence to win a federal injunction prohibiting the LAPD from taking homeless people’s property. By gathering a lot more footage, these organizations have a newfound ability to prove their claims. Today, everyone can use free police scanner apps, and the ACLU offers a free Mobile Justice app that instantly uploads videos in case officers confiscate cameras. I’m optimistic about all these tools and efforts, but I’m also distressed that poor communities continue to have to search for more credible ways to prove their claims at all. In fall of last year, the disclosure of Chicago Police records showed that more than 28,000 complaints of misconduct had been filed over four years, and only 2 percent ever resulted in disciplinary action. Want to improve these kinds of numbers? Stop waiting and start filming. !
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Double exposure of a Falcon 9 launch and landing at Cape Canaveral. ALPHA
DO BEFORE YOU DIE
HAVE A BLAST SEE A SPACEX ROCKET LAUNCH before a SpaceX launch are tense. The ground shakes, plumes of smoke engulf the Falcon 9, and you can’t help holding your breath and crossing your fingers. Will it work? Will something blow up? And will SpaceX once again manage to land the rocket’s reusable first-stage booster back on Earth? ¶ When I was at Cape Canaveral last December, things were not looking up: SpaceX had suffered through a year of crash landings and one major explosion. Hoping to witness a success, I ventured to the beach to find a spot close to Landing Zone 1, along Florida’s famous Space Coast. I nestled my computer in the sand to track the mission’s progress and awaited the countdown with a group of nervous bystanders. ¶ The roar of the Falcon 9’s engines hits you first, so deep in the chest it feels as though your heart could stop. The crowd gasped as the rocket pierced the sky, a brilliant flame burning behind it. When the booster came soaring back through the atmosphere like an invading alien spaceship, the hairs on my arms stood up. Then it landed, gracefully and perfectly. ¶ But I shouldn’t have exhaled just yet. The next instant, I was jolted by a massive sonic boom—something you can never prepare yourself for and something you’ll never forget. Still think it’s exciting to watch these launches online? — R o b i n Seemangal THE SECONDS
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BIONIC BATTLEFIELD THE FIRST CYBORG OLYMPICS
2. Armed Force When Claudia Breidbach noticed that no women were competing in the arm prosthetic event, she signed up. For years, the German skydiver has been jumping out of planes with a simple prosthesis. At the games, she’ll be using Touch Bionic’s i-Limb Quantum model (shown)—five independently articulated fingers controlled by muscle contractions in her remaining forearm—for decidedly more earthbound tasks: assembling a puzzle, slicing a loaf of bread, and buttoning a blazer.
IN POP CULTURE, CYBORGS can fly, throw cars, and blow up buildings. Nobody will be doing any of those things at the world’s first-ever cyborg Olympics—the Cybathlon in Zurich, Switzerland, this October—but the action promises to be miraculous for a different reason. Using the latest bionic technology, disabled competitors will pair up with prosthetics developers to accomplish tasks ranging from bread slicing to bike racing. We don’t know which of the 59 teams will triumph, but here are some of the top contenders. —Marley Walker
3. Virtuous Cycle
1. Many Small Steps In 2012, NASA teamed up with roboticist Peter Neuhaus to build an exoskeleton for space exploration. Out of that project grew Mina v2, a robotic suit that moves paraplegic competitor Mark Daniel across the floor. By operating a joystick and a button on his crutches, Daniel can manipulate the six actuators positioned along his legs. Daniel won’t be traveling to Mars anytime soon, but he will be walking down ramps, over stones, up stairs, and across tilted pathways in the Cybathlon.
Vance Bergeron biked over 4,000 miles a year before he was hit by a car on the way to work. Now tetraplegic, he can’t move his legs, has only partial arm control, and has to actively remind himself to breathe. But in the years since his accident, he has brought together an international team of engineers to develop the Carbon TetraTrike, a tricycle that electrically stimulates his muscles at just the right frequency and intensity to get him back on the road—in time for the Cybathlon’s 750-meter race.
atomic memory n. / -'tä-mik 'mem-rē / A storage technology that uses a single atom to encode a bit of data. It’s still (really) slow, but researchers have built a 2-D device that works. Extended into three dimensions, it would shrink the Library of Congress to the size of a pollen grain. stomach tap n. / 'st -m k 'tap / A surgically implanted tube and belly valve that let you pump food out of your body after a meal. The FDA has approved it for weight loss, but one physician calls it “mechanized bulimia.” Spidey n. / 'spī-dē / A gene that controls the stickiness of flies. Ordinarily it causes them to grow a protective waxy coating. Switch it off and gunk accumulates on the fly’s skinny legs until it gets stuck on a wall or other surface and dies—a novel approach to pest control. introspection engine n. / in-tr -'spek-sh n 'en-j n / A proposed smartphone case that ' could keep your phone from spying on you. Conceived by Edward Snowden and hacker Andrew Huang, it would monitor the phone’s circuitry to make sure it’s not sending signals that reveal your location. —J O N AT H O N K E ATS
Forget rooftop bars. Air travel engineered around you
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bargaining rules— which mainly govern contracts for players and team-building protocols—are messy and complicated, even for some league staffers. So when they needed extra lessons on the finer points, they enrolled in a summer class with Nate Duncan. He’s not an executive or a former player, though. He’s a podcaster. ¶ In the year since launching Dunc’d On, Duncan has become king of, as he puts it, “the NBA nerds.” While fellow pundits often parrot the hot takes of the moment— such-and-such team is having an awful offseason, say—Duncan backs up his claims with a bevy of observations and research you can’t find anywhere else. He knows listeners crave in-depth analysis, whether the topic is LeBron James’ shooting or the number of future draft picks the Memphis Grizzlies have traded. He does so much homework, in fact, that he and his cohost, sportswriter Danny Leroux, can role-play as general managers and player agents for all 30 teams. Because the hour-plus shows pack in so much information, Duncan suggests listeners speed up playback to 1.5X just to squeeze it all in. ¶ One reason Duncan’s so good at all this? Before he was a podcaster he was a plaintiff’s lawyer in the Bay Area. “It was a good job, but not a dream job,” he says. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot, a nuclear sub commander ... or work in an NBA front office.” In 2011, the league introduced a new collective bargaining agreement, and Duncan saw an opportunity to apply his legal training to his favorite sport. He pored over the 500-plus-page document, methodically translating its legalese into everyday humanspeak. He even made flash cards and recorded himself reading them for daily commute listening. ¶ From there, Duncan tried out sportswriting before jumping into podcasts for the 2015 playoffs. “I was going to keep being a lawyer, watching the games and recording the podcast at midnight every night,” he says. But after Dunc’d On hit the iTunes Sports Top 10 and big advertisers (like ticket search engine SeatGeek) came calling, he traded one court for another. —Nathan Mattise THE NBA’S COLLECTIVE
COURT REPORTER B-BALL’S PODCAST KING
That Feeling of Envy is Expected The New HP EliteBook Folio Reinvent Obsession HP recommends Windows 10 Pro
Get one at: hp.com/go/thinandlight/wired Powered by the Intel® CoreTM m7 processor. Intel Inside®. Powerful Productivity Outside. World’s Thinnest and Lightest: Based on HP’s internal analysis of business class laptops as of January 4, 2016 with >1 million unit annual sales having preinstalled encryption, authentication, malware protection and BIOS-level protection, passing MIL-STD 810G tests with optional docking incorporating power delivery. Multi-core is designed to improve performance of certain software products. Not all customers or software applications will necessarily benefit from use of this technology. Performance and clock frequency will vary depending on application workload and your hardware and software configurations. Intel’s numbering is not a measurement of higher performance. © Copyright 2016 HP Development Company, L.P. Intel, the Intel Logo, Intel Inside, Intel Core, and Core Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
ROUNDING DOWN LESS VC FOR THE LITTLE GUY
VENTURE CAPITAL investments aren’t
based on whimsy (mostly). Perhaps a young company’s management team is experienced, or lax regulations in the sector bode well for unbridled growth. Or, you know, maybe canny investors are just making a lot of small bets to see what sticks. In recent years, VCs had been more willing to give up-and-coming startups a chance; fledgling companies were responsible for half of all funding rounds by mid-2015. But over the next year, the number of seed and angel rounds dropped by a third. “I think a jump in seed and series A funding follows a major technology innovation, such as social media in the late 2000s,” says David Wessels, a finance professor at Wharton. But when that flurry of deals subsides, VC money still needs a home. “There is so much capital available for later-stage deals now.” Earlier-stage companies, well, they haven’t been so lucky recently. Here’s how the cash has flowed—and ebbed. —Victoria Tang
The Big Get Bigger Instead of going public, unicorns are now siphoning off money that might otherwise go to earlier-stage companies. “There are many more laterstage companies accessing capital than in prior cycles,” says Anton Levy, global head of Internet and technology at General Atlantic.
Number of VC rounds Average deal size
The number of angel and seed rounds has fizzled since mid-2015. Instead, VCs are awarding bigger rounds of funding to fewer companies.
20 16 520 DESIGN
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THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS HOW BLACK MIRROR GROWS UP FOR SEASON 3
THE LAST TIME a season of Black
Embracing Improvisation Brooker describes himself (and his co– executive producer, Annabel Jones) as “quite control-freaky.” That’s partially because of the nature of the stories. “The rules of the world are so tight that we can’t afford to have too much improv,” he says. But with the influx of new acting talent, they’ve learned to let the actors explore. In the episode “Play Test,” Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street ) took some creative license with his performance, turning a caricature of a cocky tourist into a more fully formed portrayal. “The character metamorphosed in an unpredictable but satisfying way,” Brooker says.
Leaving the Home Base
Charlie Brooker image tk
Mirror aired, it took almost two years for Netflix to bring the British cult hit stateside. This time around, the streaming platform cut out the middleman: The third season of the near-future sci-fi series premieres worldwide in October. From the influx of American stars to the reported $40 million Netflix paid for the rights, the show is no longer a plucky underdog—and creator-writer Charlie Brooker knows he’s under the spotlight. “If I think too much about the people watching it, I go a bit crazy,” he says. Stage fright or not, here’s how he adapted to the bigger platform. —Joseph Bien-Kahn
Taking More Direction
The first two seasons of Black Mirror, as well as its Christmas special, take place in the UK. This time around, thanks to what Brooker calls the show’s “slightly bigger canvas,” at least half of the episodes will be set off the British Isles—but never gratuitously. “One of our episodes is set in California, for instance, in 1987,” he says. “But there’s a reason within the story for the setting.”
Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker looks to the future.
Because the show is a Twilight Zone–like collection of single-episode stories, its directors have always taken a collaborative role. “They wield far more power than they would doing episode seven of 23 of a comedy,” Brooker says. And now, with established directors like Joe Wright (Atonement ) and Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) coming aboard, that power is even more apparent. In “Nosedive,” Wright added a distinct aesthetic—what Brooker calls a “pastoral symmetrical nightmare”—that conveys the essence of the story’s satire.
Trading Bleak for Bingeable Near-future dystopia tends to be dark by nature, but Brooker and Jones stress that this season will be more tonally varied, so as not to overwhelm mainlining viewers who may have watched earlier seasons an episode at a time. While some episodes are rosier, though, Brooker promises the darkness will remain. “If we started giving everything a happy ending,” he says, “you’d feel cheated.”
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF NETFLIX
Tangy fruits, like lemon and lime, are loaded with citric acid. So are Warheads, where it provides the initial blast of so-badit’s-good sour. Like all acids, citric acid yields hydrogen ions that activate the tongue’s sour taste receptors.
It may be impossible to taste anything beyond the acid burning your tongue, but Warheads do have flavors. Since flavorings, like perfumes, are proprietary, we don’t know what makes up the fruity profiles here, but we’d expect chemicals like benzaldehyde (cherry!) or amyl acetate (apple!).
Microencapsulated Malic Acid There’s a persistence to the sour in Warheads. To prolong the pucker, malic acid (the stuff that gives apples their natural tartness) is coated with hydrogenated palm oil, which likely acts as an invisible time-release mechanism. As the oil melts, it releases hits of malic acid. Like citric acid, large quantities of malic acid can cause dental erosion and canker sores, thus the product warning: “Eating multiple pieces within a short time period may cause a temporary irritation to sensitive tongues and mouths.”
WARHEADS EXTREME SOUR HARD CANDY SUGAR ON ACID
Corn Syrup Corn syrup, granulated table sugar, and water are heated into a supersweet solution, then cooled. The corn syrup’s glucose–the same sugar firing through your blood–slips between the granulated sugar’s sucrose molecules, interfering with formation of rock-candy-like crystal. The result is Warheads’ smooth, hard texture.
Artificial Dyes (Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5) Eye-popping colors are part of the experience, but dyes have become a foodsafety lightning rod. While used widely in the US, Red 40 and Yellow 5 can contain carcinogens, and research linking them to hyperactivity in children prompted the EU to require warning labels.
Ascorbic Acid More commonly known as vitamin C, ascorbic acid is integral to tissue growth and repair. Here it’s used as an oxygenscavenging preservative. Though C’s healing powers are controversial, it is thought to shorten a cold’s duration. Feeling sick? Take two Warheads and call us in the morning. — BL ANC A MYERS
Interest rates may change. The reasons you invest in bonds don’t. Growth of $100K investment in Fidelity® Total Bond Fund Since 10/15/2002 Fidelity® Total Bond Fund
Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond
in Fed Funds rate June 2004–June 2006
Average Annual Total Returns as of 06/30/2016
Life of Fund 1 year
Fidelity® Total Bond Fund
Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond
Expense Ratio 0.45%
Performance data shown represents past performance and is no guarantee of future results. Investment return and principal value will fluctuate, so investors may have a gain or loss when shares are sold. Current performance may be higher or lower than what is quoted, and investors should visit Fidelity.com/performance for most recent month-end performance.
The Fidelity® ;V[HS )VUK -\UK OHZ KLSP]LYLK PUJVTL HUK KP]LYZPÄJH[PVU PU HSS [`WLZ VM THYRL[Z I` ILPUN ÅL_PISL 3LHK -\UK 4HUHNLY -VYK 6»5LPS HUK [OL KLLW [LHT VM L_WLYPLUJLK -PKLSP[` WVY[MVSPV THUHNLYZ HJ[P]LS` THUHNL [OL M\UK HUK [OL -PKLSP[`® ;V[HS )VUK ,;- ZLHYJOPUN MVY ]HS\L HJYVZZ [OL LU[PYL IVUK THYRL[ ;OL YLZ\S[! [^V VW[PVUZ MVY KP]LYZPÄJH[PVU HUK PUJVTL
Two options for your core bond investment. FIDELITY® TOTAL BOND FUND
FIDELITY® TOTAL BOND ETF
Fidelity.com/TotalBond 800.FIDELITY | Or call your advisor.
Before investing in any mutual fund or exchange-traded fund, you should consider its investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. Contact Fidelity for a prospectus, offering circular or, if available, a summary prospectus containing this information. Read it carefully. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. ETFs are subject to market fluctuation and the risks of their underlying investments. ETFs are subject to management fees and other expenses. Unlike mutual funds, ETF shares are bought and sold at market price, which may be higher or lower than their NAV, and are not individually redeemed from the fund. Total returns are historical and include change in share value and reinvestment of dividends and capital gains, if any. Cumulative total returns are reported as of the period indicated. Life of fund figures are reported as of the commencement date to the period indicated. In general, the bond market is volatile, and fixed income securities carry interest rate risk. (As interest rates rise, bond prices usually fall, and vice versa. This effect is usually more pronounced for longer-term securities.) Fixed income securities also carry inflation risk, liquidity risk, call risk, and credit and default risks for both issuers and counterparties. Lower-quality fixed income securities involve greater risk of default or price changes due to potential changes in the credit quality of the issuer. Unlike individual bonds, most bond funds do not have a maturity date, so holding them until maturity to avoid losses caused by price volatility is not possible. Expense ratio is the total annual fund operating expense ratio from the fund’s most recent prospectus. Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC. © 2016 FMR LLC. All rights reserved. 728275.6.0
... 3 ... 2 ... 1 In the clean room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center …
Every speck of dirt that hitches a ride could mess up Rex’s results when it returns.
Engineers ready OSIRIS-REx (Rex, for short) for liftoff.
THE SPACE CHASE
After circling the sun at 63,000 miles per hour for a year, Rex careens back toward Earth. But he’s not heading home … not yet. Instead, he slingshots around the planet, using its gravity to shift his path 6 degrees toward…
TO THE CASUAL observer, the asteroid Bennu is just a huge rock tumbling through space. But to NASA, it’s scientific gold. Bennu could tell researchers the source of the organic compounds necessary for life … but not until OSIRIS-REx, NASA’s recently launched asteroid-sampling mission, has pulled off an unprecedented touch-and-go maneuver. —Eric Smillie
AUGUST 2018, 79 MILLION MILES FROM EARTH
18 months go by. Rex sends NASA daily downloads about Bennu’s terrain, mass, and temperature. Finally, scientists pick a sampling site.
Bennu! Without the extreme gravity of a planet, Rex can’t easily lock into orbit around the asteroid. So Rex and his NASA navigators fly carefully, tracking Bennu’s landmarks as he closes in, hovering about a mile above the surface. GOTCHA!
Back on Earth …
Humanity’s most expensive carnival crane dangles from Rex’s belly. It blasts nitrogen gas at the surface, forcing rock and dust into a metal mesh filter.
EASY … EASY …
Stay tuned for Rex’s gripping return, as he tries to parachute his precious samples back to Earth after a two-year journey home …
Rex gets the command to approach the surface. Too far from Earth to take real-time direction, he’s flying solo, using a tiny thruster to descend at just 4 inches a second.
Up to 4 pounds of Bennu’s surface belongs to Rex now. Who knows what secrets it holds? Using his mapping footage, he checks lidar and camera images to make sure he hits the site spot-on.
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WESTERN UNION THE COUPLE BEHIND HBO’S WESTWORLD
JONATHAN NOLAN and Lisa Joy might have created Westworld, HBO’s new series about an android-populated Western-themed park, but this isn’t their first rodeo. Nolan cowrote five of older brother Christopher’s movies, including Interstellar. Joy is a TV veteran who’s writing the new big-screen Battlestar Galactica. However, Westworld—based on the 1973 cult-classic film—is the first project that Nolan and Joy, married since 2009, have collaborated on. Here, they discuss Westworld’s heady sci-fi themes and their domestic pardnership. —Mark Yarm
The original Westworld came out in 1973. What made you want to revisit this world? Jonathan (Jonah) Nolan: I’ve been working for several years now with [show executive producer] J.J. Abrams on Person of Interest. Twenty-three years ago he sat down with Michael Crichton, who had directed the original film, to talk about remaking it, but he couldn’t figure out how to tackle it. Twenty years later it dawned on him that part of the difficulty was that the film is packed with ideas. For instance, there’s a throwaway line in the original about the thing that’s propagating the error from robot to robot being like a virus. I looked it up, and the first computer virus didn’t appear in the wild until 1974. There are so many ideas that J.J. thought, “There’s a series here.”
audience in the protagonist’s perspective. Westworld’s hosts share something in common with him in that they have a certain amount of amnesia—in this case, the amnesia has been built in by design. Lisa Joy: Jonah and I would joke that if we were hosts, we would be so easy to program because our loop is so tiny: We would breakfast together, drive into the office, work, work, work, eat lunch and dinner out of a Styrofoam box, work, work, work, try to get home, put our daughter to bed, rinse and repeat. Nolan: Whoever’s writing our lives is— Joy: —really uninspired.
Unlike the movie, lots of the story is told from the POV of the park’s android “hosts.” How did that decision come about? Nolan: The robots’ obliviousness to the rules of the world makes them great protagonists. I remember arguing with my brother over Memento; he wanted to do it backward, because going backward stranded the
How much do you strive for accuracy on the show? Did you have advisers? Nolan: We went on deep background with sources, talking about the state of AI and where it’s going. In Silicon Valley, a lot of people aren’t willing to go on the record, because it’s an arms-race environment. We modeled so many aspects of the show on their intense secrecy. The nice thing about the Western part is that there’s no obligation to accuracy whatsoever. Westworld itself is a pastiche of one character’s romantic ideas about the West: You have some of the elements of an 1840s Western; you have the trains from the 1870s and 1880s; some of the firearms are from the turn of the century.
GROOMING BY LOUISE MOON
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game, they don’t think, “Oh my goodness, I just ran over four pedestrians, how terrible. I wonder if their family has health insurance?” Now, as technology develops, you start to wonder: Where is that line where it becomes immoral not to have empathy, even if you know that these creatures are artificial?
As Jonah mentioned, the original Westworld was very prescient. When we look back in 40 years, how do you think your version of Westworld will be perceived?
In a meta moment, one of the human guests describes Westworld as being much more than “guns and tits and all that mindless shit I usually enjoy.” How do you achieve a balance between the mindless and the more high-minded concepts? Nolan: That question is very much at the center of what we’re doing. The trend is toward human beings’ ability to turn more and more of their world into game space and narrative space—you’ve got peak TV, you have 0
VR. We’re starting to ask, why are all these narratives so similar? Why are many of these narratives so violent? And the series very much asks the question: What the fuck is wrong with us?
Reporters at a recent press event questioned HBO programming head Casey Bloys about the network’s portrayal of sexual violence—an exchange that was spurred in large part by Westworld’s pilot, in which one of the female androids is raped, off-
camera, by a human male. Joy: The way we portray violence of any sort, including sexual acts, is something that we spend a lot of time talking about. With every scene, we ask ourselves: Is it integral to the story? Are we doing it in a fair way, not a gratuitous way? Of course, questions like that are subjective. Especially with a theme park in which humans are encouraged to let their id run free, to indulge in whatever their heart desires, it felt like these were topics that we did have to touch on in order to fully explore human nature.
Nolan: This is a story about how people behave when no one is keeping score and there are no apparent consequences. You have to deal in these transgressions.
Were you anticipating this sort of controversy? Joy: We expect the show to be thought-provoking, because it’s thought-provoking for us. When I play Grand Theft Auto, I’m such a nerdy little law abider because I’ve always had this active imagination in which I sympathize and empathize with things. When other people turn off the
Joy: I think the thing that will endure about Westworld will be the questions it poses. Forty years from now, there will be ways in which we’re able to hack our DNA. So in the future we might be looking at the show from the other way around— empathizing with the robots because we’re now the robots, the ones whose code is hackable.
If you were given the chance to visit Westworld, what would be the first inappropriate thing you’d do? Nolan: Oh dear … based on my track record with roleplaying games, I’d be a bit of a square. But I do think a train robbery would be high on the list. Joy: Before marriage, I think I would have at least kissed a gunslinger or two. I’m not sure about anything beyond that, but I can certainly see myself getting some smooches. OCT 2016
PHOTOGRAPHS: JOHN P. JOHNSON/HBO
On HBO’s Westworld, android “hosts” (above and right) enact story lines in a theme park for visitors’ entertainment—all under the watch of park founder Robert Ford and programmer Bernard Lowe (below).
The Design Behind the X-STAR PREMIUM
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2 MODULAR GIMBAL The X-Star series’ quick-release gimbal and camera module makes sure that the drone keeps up with you. Remove the mount without -77b om- |oo v ou _-vv ; _;m b| v l; |o r grade, customize, repair, or replace the module.
3 CAMERA Breathtaking scenes deserve to be captured at world-class quality. That’s why the X-Star series’ industry-leading 4K Ultra HD camera comes with a superior lens to help you view the world from above with stunning clarity and vivid color. Capture video at 4K30, 2.7K60, 1080p120, or 720p240, and take 12-MP photographs all with a 108-degree FOV. The 3-axis stabilized ]bl0- ;mv u;v - vloo|_ v|;-7 v_o| mo l- ;u how wild the adventure.
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Boot Print Examine the moon’s Mare Tranquillitatis and you’ll spot an exact replica of Buzz Aldrin’s famous boot print, at the exact coordinates of the landing site. Of course, Omega wants you to see it without a microscope, so it’s not to scale.
NEW MOON OMEGA’S SPACE WATCH GETS A LUNAR UPGRADE Space buffs and watch obsessives have been moon-eyed for Omega’s Speedmaster since 1969. That was the year Buzz Aldrin wore one in space; and though Aldrin earned “only” the second step on the lunar podium, his Speedmaster was the first watch to walk on the moon. Now the iconic timepiece is getting an out-of-this-world update, and it’s a pretty giant step for watchkind: This year’s design shows the moon with incredible accuracy, from a proper 29.5-day cycle of waning and waxing to a photo-real representation of the cheesy orb itself. —Joe Brown 0
Gravity Assist The movement for this new $10,600 watch wouldn’t work well in space because it’s self-winding. The weighted rotor spins around the case’s perimeter (gravity, see), coiling a spring that stores power.
The silver moon is an ultraprecise reproduction of a NASA photo (above). To make the 3.9millimeter-wide facsimile, Omega’s artisans project a microfiche image on a glass disc coated with a micron-thick layer of vaporized black metal. Then they use a nanoscale laser to zap out every crater, mountain, and valley, pixel by pixel.
Minute Detail The numbers and indices around the ceramic bezel are made of Liquidmetal, which is used in fancy-pants golf clubs and is almost two times stronger than titanium.
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF OMEGA (WATCH); NASA (FOOTPRINT, MOON)
WE DIDN’T INVENT THE SMALL BATCH When you handcraft the world’s finest tequila, there’s an art to every step. That’s why we double-distill our 100% Weber Blue Agave in small-capacity, custom copper stills to give our tequila its signature smooth finish. We didn’t invent the small batch,
The perfect way to enjoy Patrón is responsibly. Handcrafted and imported exclusively from Mexico by The Patrón Spirits Company, Las Vegas, NV. 40% abv.
WE JUST PERFECTED IT.
EVOLUTION FTW! THE WEIRD STUFF ANIMALS DO TO SURVIVE
THERE’S A FISH that makes its home in the butt of a sea cucumber. Why? Because it worked for one crazy ancestor, and winning strategies, however unseemly, get perpetuated by natural selection. (That goes for humans too: Our mating rituals seem normal to us, but they must be hilarious to our pets.) Ultimately, life is pretty simple: Eat, don’t get eaten, and perpetuate the species—all the rest is optional. While researching my new book, The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar (coming out in October), I got familiar with a wild assortment of evolution-approved survival tactics. Here are some of my favorites. —Matt Simon
PROBLEM: Crabs and sea snails are delicious and plentiful but heavily armored. SOLUTION: This crustacean has little spring-loaded punching arms that strike with over 200 pounds of force, momentarily heating the water to nearly the temperature of the sun. They can smash clamshells or disarm crabs by blowing off their pincers.
PROBLEM: Being a boneless tube sock of flesh puts you at the mercy of predators. SOLUTION: When hagfish aren’t burrowing into whale carcasses (to eat them from inside), they’re an easy mark. So if a shark bites, the hagfish instantly ejects a cloud of mucus. The slime clogs the attacker’s gills, causing it to let go and probably asphyxiate.
PROBLEM: A short breeding season timed to produce babies when food is abundant. SOLUTION: The male antechinus, a shrewlike marsupial, mates so frantically with so many females in three weeks that he goes blind, bleeds internally, and drops dead. But that’s OK, for his genes will live on. And there will be fewer hungry mouths to feed.
Zombie Ant Fungus
PROBLEM: Juicy grubs are hiding somewhere under tree bark, but how to find them? SOLUTION: Madagascar has no woodpeckers—which may explain the aye-aye. By tapping on branches with its long, skeletal fingers, this nocturnal primate can tell where the insect larvae are inside. It then gnaws through the wood and fishes out the grubs with its E.T.-like middle digit.
PROBLEM: The open seafloor is a dangerous place for a slender fish. SOLUTION: The pearlfish finds shelter in a sea cucumber’s anus. It waits for its victim to breathe (yes, sea cucumbers breathe through the wrong end) and just shimmies right in. Sometimes they go up in pairs and, scientists suspect, have sex inside. If that weren’t bad enough, the pearlfish may also eat its host’s gonads.
PROBLEM: Fungi often depend on wind to spread their spores, but a dense rain forest is windless. SOLUTION: The Ophiocordyceps fungus invades an ant’s body and surrounds its brain. Then it chemically mind-controls the bug up into the trees and orders it to clamp down on a leaf and anchor itself, before erupting from the ant’s head as a stalk and raining down spores on the ground below.
PHOTOGRAPHS: REINHARD DIRSCHERL/GETTY IMAGES (MANTIS SHRIMP); MARK CONLIN/ALAMY (HAGFISH); DAVE WATTS/ALAMY (ANTECHINUS); THORSTEN NEGRO/GETTY IMAGES (AYE-AYE); JURGEN FREUND/MINDEN PICTURES (PEARLFISH); ALAMY (ZOMBIE ANT FUNGUS)
© 2016 Optum, Inc.
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CHARTGEIST Desirable design elements, by relative desirability Dog face on selfies
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I VANT (TO SHIP) YOUR BLOOD PRICELINE FOR PLATELETS ALTHOUGH WE’RE IN the midst of a critical blood shortage, fewer than 10 percent of eligible donors roll up their sleeves to give blood. But it’s a logistics problem as well as a supply problem: There is no central nationwide database to track the availability and cost of blood products, so getting a pint to a patient in need is akin to calling multiple airlines to compare flight schedules and prices. “It’s a massively fragmented patchwork,” says health care entrepreneur Christopher Godfrey. To address these inefficiencies, Godfrey founded Bloodbuy, a Dallas startup whose cloud-based platform allows hospitals and acute-care facilities to shop for blood at the lowest price and from the best available source. Blood banks enter data about their supplies, including expiration dates and prices, and hospitals log in to place orders. Everything SHELF LIFE is done via Bloodbuy, digitizing processes previously FOR BLOOD done by phone or (yes) fax. After a successful pilot projPRODUCTS ect with Texas Medical Center’s teaching hospitals in 2014, the startup launched nationwide and, to date, has 5 days facilitated transactions between 25 hospitals and nine Platelets independent blood banks. In one study, Brigham and Up to 35 days Women’s Hospital in Boston reported savings in excess Whole blood of $100,000 during the first 45 days of placing orders Up to 42 days on the platform. The ultimate goal is to create a foreRed blood cells casting model that can predict shortages and prevent states of emergency. As for the sting of donating blood, 365 days well, that’s up to another startup. —Jodi Helmer Plasma
MICHAEL GEORGE HADDAD
“Always Pumpkin There to Remind Me”
“Pecan Get Down”
“Chess Who’s Back?”
“Single Ladies (Put Meringue on It)”
Emotions elicited by HBO’s Westworld Yearning for the second coming of Yul Brynner
Fascination with artificial intelligence
BY JON J. EILENBERG OCT 2016
I AM HOUSE-SITTING FOR FRIENDS. THEY LEFT THEIR NEST CAM ON. DO I HAVE A RIGHT TO COVER THE LENS? BY JON MOOALLEM
I pictured this Nest Cam looming over you—pictured its one dark eye, unblinking—and I immediately thought of that nasty old Cyclops who terrorizes Odysseus and his men in The Odyssey. What was his name? What was the story, exactly? I figured I better reread that bit. ¶ In a nutshell, Odysseus and his men are returning from a long, atrocious war. Landing for a stopover on the island of the Cyclopes, Odysseus confesses he’s at a loss to understand this mountaintop-dwelling race of one-eyed savages: They don’t fear the gods! They have no laws! They are just too alien to be intelligible; Odysseus sees them only as “brutes,” beneath his regard. So he leads his men into a cave—the home of one particular Cyclops who isn’t home—and ransacks it. They build a fire and help themselves to all his many cheeses. ¶ Well, the Cyclops— his name is Polyphemus—is pretty ticked off when he returns (the original “Who moved my cheese?”). And Odysseus suddenly turns diffident and cloying: “We’re at your knees in hopes of a warm welcome,” he tells the Cyclops. But does he apologize for what essentially amounts to home invasion? No, he does not. Instead, he demands a gift! That’s right, Odysseus asks the giant for a “guest-gift,” the giving of which, he explains, is a mandatory and sacred custom between guests and their hosts, as dictated by his Greek gods. ¶ Let’s pause the narrative right there. I was sure the story had something instructive
to say about what happens when the expectations of a guest and the expectations of his host don’t match up. Because your problem seems to be that you expect privacy, while your hosts expect to continue protecting their home with the latest Wi-Fi–enabled surveillance tools. They’d like to keep their minds at ease; you’d like to keep their eyes off your privates. And I felt obligated to defend their interests—privilege them—and conclude that the host-guest power dynamic is tilted toward the host and that, like it or not (and in your case I certainly wouldn’t like it either), being a guest means accepting a degree of powerlessness. Keeping the camera running is disrespectful to you, and creepy, but maybe that’s just how it’s got to be. But then, back in The Odyssey, things escalated. Polyphemus bashes two of the men on the ground of his cave until “their brains gushed out all over,” then rips off their limbs and eats them. So Odysseus sharpens a stake, heats it in a fire, and stabs it through the Cyclops’ single peeper. It’s an ugly story, in other words. And its ugliness snapped me back to reality. Because you are not some peasized Odysseus trapped in a terrible colossus’s cave. You are a human being staying in another human being’s house, and part of what makes us human is our willingness to engage in empathic back-and-forths to reconcile conflicting expectations. We compromise. We try to act decently toward each other. And suddenly I pictured you, alone in another person’s cavernous house, with that ominous, unyielding eyeball trained on you 24/7, and I imagined how vulnerable and exposed you must feel—how stripped of self-respect—and also how resentful. Because why else would the first solution that occurred to you be, essentially, to blind the camera? No, you don’t have a right to do so. But couldn’t you take a more obvious, less defiant tack? Couldn’t you just respectfully ask your host to deactivate the camera? Or to program it around your daily schedule, so it only flicks on when you leave? I really don’t think it will be a hard conversation to have; part of me assumes it never occurred to the homeowners how uncomfortable leaving that camera on would make you feel. But I get it: Sometimes we stew for so long that we get lost overthinking these things. Maybe what we learn from Homer, ultimately, is that not every problem is epic. !
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In this intense rhythm game, you’re a chrome space beetle hurtling down a track. Tap along to the EDM soundtrack— or else when the bass drops, so do you.
Soar through the skies and streets of Paris as a majestic eagle, navigating by turning your head (and fighting any winged foes foolish enough to get in your way).
Rotate a cluster of blocks so they fit through a hole in a steadily approaching wall. As the shapes grow bigger and more complex, this psychedelic puzzler turns into a high-adrenaline brain-buster.
A new spin on the eponymous 1980 arcade game puts you on a neon battlefield in a futuristic tank to strafe, shoot, and dodge as enemies attack from all sides. Like Tron but without those wimpy light cycles.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew
This indispensable free collection of party games includes Monster Escape, a multiplayer defend-the-city-from-a-kaiju romp in which only one player needs a headset.
Your nerd fantasies are about to be put to the test: Take your station on a Starfleet ship’s bridge and invite up to three friends to help you live long and prosper.
VR GAMING FOR ALL PLAYSTATION’S NEW ARENA
NO SHOW GIVE ME TV, NOT MENUS Cable TV is expensive, unnavigable, and overrun by loud, angry pundits. But at least when you turn it on, you get TV. Not true of our media players—the Rokus, Amazon Fires, and Apple TVs. When you boot those up, you get … menus. Terrible, messy, slow-loading menus. Menus that require scrolling, swiping, spinning in place, and clicking your heels together. And don’t even bother searching. (Jesus, when will someone figure out search?) So you waste the length of a TV show browsing, or you just give up and watch Always Sunny for the 36th time. It’s annoying and sad, because there’s so much good stuff out there. This is Peak TV, people! And these services have scary amounts of data about their content and your interests. They should be able to figure out what you want to watch and queue it up. Not as interested in Stranger Things as your Roku thought? Fine, just click Next. Too many set-top boxes make me feel like I’m back at a Blockbuster, when all I want is to flop on the couch and see what’s on. When you turn on the tube, you shouldn’t get grids upon grids of icons, blurring into a morass of movieposter wallpaper. You should get television, in all its goldenage glory. — DAV ID PIE RCE
VIRTUAL-REALITY HEADSETS like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have hit the market, but premium pricing has kept VR from becoming a living-room staple. That changes in October with Sony’s PlayStation VR, which costs just $399 and works with the 40 million PS4 consoles already in homes. Its intriguing initial slate of games might just help VR cross into the mainstream. — Lau r a H u d s o n
COURTESY OF SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT (THUMPER, PLAYROOM VR); COURTESY OF UBISOFT (EAGLE FLIGHT, STAR TREK); COURTESY OF KOKOROMI (SUPERHYPERCUBE); COURTESY OF BATTLEZONE (BATTLEZONE); ILLUSTRATION BY SIMON LANDREIN
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effective “right to an explanation” for decisions made by machine-learning systems. Starting in 2018, EU citizens will be entitled to know how an institution arrived at a conclusion—even if an AI did the concluding. Jan Albrecht, an EU legislator from Germany, thinks explanations are crucial for public acceptance of artificial intelligence. “Otherwise people are afraid of it,” he says. “There needs to be someone who has control.” Explanations of what’s happening inside the black box could also help ferret out bias in the systems. If a system for approving bank loans were trained on data that had relatively few black people in it, Goodman says, it might be uncertain about black applicants—and be more likely to reject them. So sure, more clarity would be good. But is it possible? The box is, after all, black. Early experiments have shown promise. At the machine-learning company Clarifai, founder Matt Zeiler analyzed a neural net trained to recognize images of animals and objects. By blocking out portions of pictures and seeing how the different “layers” inside the net responded, he could begin to see which parts were responsible for recognizing, say, faces. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam have pursued a similar approach. Google, which has a large stake in AI, is doing its own probing: Its hallucinogenic “deep dreaming” pictures emerged from experiments that amplified errors in machine learning to figure out how the systems worked. Of course, there’s self-interest operating here too. The more that companies grasp what’s going on inside their AIs, the more they can improve their products. The first stage of machine learning was just building these new brains. Now comes the Freudian phase: analysis. “I think we’re going to get better and better,” Zeiler says. Granted, these are still early days. The people probing the black boxes might run up against some inherent limits to human comprehension. If machine learning is powerful because it processes data in ways we can’t, it might seem like a waste of time to try to dissect it—and might even hamper its development. But the stakes for society are too high, and the challenge is frankly too fascinating. Human beings are creating a new breed of intelligence; it would be irresponsible not to try to understand it. !
THE A.I. ENIGMA LET’S SHINE A LIGHT INTO THE BLACK BOX BY CLIVE THOMPSON
SAY YOU APPLY for home insurance and get turned down. You ask why, and the company explains its reasoning: Your neighborhood is at high risk for flooding, or your credit is dodgy. ¶ Fair enough. Now imagine you apply to a firm that uses a machine-learning system, instead of a human with an actuarial table, to predict insurance risk. After crunching your info—age, job, house location and value—the machine decides, nope, no policy for you. You ask the same question: “Why?” ¶ Now things get weird. Nobody can answer, because nobody understands how these systems— neural networks modeled on the human brain—produce their results. Computer scientists “train” each one by feeding it data, and it gradually learns. But once a neural net is working well, it’s a black box. Ask its creator how it achieves a certain result and you’ll likely get a shrug. ¶ The opacity of machine learning isn’t just an academic problem. More and more places use the technology for everything from image recognition to medical diagnoses. All that decisionmaking is, by definition, unknowable—and that makes people uneasy. My friend Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist, warns about “Moore’s law plus inscrutability.” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says we need “algorithmic accountability.” ¶ All that is behind the fight to make machine learning more comprehensible. This spring, the European Union passed a regulation giving its citizens what University of Oxford researcher Bryce Goodman describes as an
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ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QUADRIFOGLIO
FETISH LA DOLCE VELOCE THE LAST TIME Alfa Romeo offered a four-door in the US was more than two decades
ago. That long drought ends with the iconic Italian carmaker’s stateside launch of the stunning Giulia sedan. Designed in-house by Marco Tencone, the Giulia comes in three flavors—this one is the most arrabiata. Powered by a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V-6 that sounds like the devil’s Uber and produces a brutal 505 horsepower, the Quadrifoglio accelerates from 0 to 60 in a neck-snapping 3.8 seconds and tops out at a widow-making 191 mph. To keep all that oomph from hitting the guardrail, a carbon-fiber front aero splitter auto-adjusts to produce up to 220 pounds of downforce. Add to that an elegant, driver-focused interior and you’ve got a ride that’s equally at home at Trader Joe’s and on the track. Andiamo! —JON J. EILENBERG
STYLING BY TODD DAVIS
HEAD-TO-HEAD BOOST MOBILE In an ideal world, every human would have perfectly toned thighs and a flat cycle path on which to commute. In reality, sometimes you need a little push. —AARIAN MARSHALL
Budnitz Model E
Stromer ST2 S
BEST FOR: 9-to-5 style mavens
Budnitz’s newest whip takes the company’s signature titanium frame and carbon belt drive and adds a 250-watt rear hub motor. Hit the wall halfway up the hill? Indulge in a spot o’ pedal assist. When the going gets less tough, just use it like a regular single-speed steed. The bike has a 20- to 100-mile range, depending on how much help you need. Regenerative braking adds electrons to the tank as you obey all stop signs.
Just like your Tesla, the new Stromer receives over-theair software updates for its touchscreen. It has GPS tracking too, good for logging rides and foiling thieves. The 11-speed model comes with a 500-watt drive motor and a massive battery —it can hit 28 mph and deliver 110 miles per charge if ridden conservatively. That’ll easily get you from the burbs to the city and back without pushing your lactate threshold.
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GEARHEAD FAST FASHION Fall is the best time for riding—crisp air, vibrant colors, fewer family trucksters on the road. Here’s the hottest gear for the coolest season. —CHUCK SQUATRIGLIA
Bell Pro Star Carbon Helmet
Velomacchi Speedway Gloves
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
All helmets protect your skull. This one protects your brain. It uses three materials of different densities to shield your noggin during low-, medium-, and high-speed impacts, and it buffers the rotational forces that can scramble your egg. The carbon shell keeps things extra light as well.
Protective gloves limit dexterity, while comfy ones often feel too thin to save your skin. But these Velomacchi mitts strike a nice balance. Kitten-soft leather, brass rivets, and rubber knuckle guards coddle your paws in safety, even if you aren’t whipping sideways around a turn.
This Austrian chariot is fast enough to get you into trouble and smart enough to keep you out of it. A 1,301-cc V-twin with 173 horsepower provides visionblurring acceleration, while traction control and a suite of sophisticated electronics keep the rubber side down.
Dainese York Jacket
Rev’it Grand Riding Shoes
Who says protective gear can’t be handsome? The York’s vintage styling is complemented by interior pockets in the shoulders, elbows, and back for Dainese’s removable armor. A high, full-coverage collar blocks the chill, on the bike and off.
Motorcycle boots are great for riding but lousy for walking. Rev’it solves this problem with rubber soles flexible enough for strolling around town yet stiff enough for comfortable shifting. The reinforced cowhide heel, toe, and ankle keep your dogs safe.
MY SPACE: MAGNUS WALKER
Inside the shop—and mind—of one of the greatest Porsche modders.
The workshop and showroom space is a 26,000-squarefoot, two-story brick warehouse built in 1902 and situated in LA’s Arts District, a recent hot spot of gentrification. When Walker’s previous business, Serious Clothing, was at its height, around 12 employees worked here. Now it’s where Walker feeds his Porsche-tinkering habit. Although the garment racks, sewing machines, and irons remain (“sentimental,” he says), they’re surrounded by stacks of parts and tools. 3
Magnus Walker is a Porsche remix artist. He doesn’t just collect the German cars, he reinterprets them—tuning their engines, modifying their bodies, painting them in vivid racing livery, and installing bespoke tartan seat panels. Porsche enthusiasts love his unique custom builds, and he’s a hero to anyone inclined to rebel against the stereotype of the buttoned-up European car owner. The path that Walker took to world-famous modder is as unconventional as his creations. He finished school at 15, moved from England to the US, and started designing clothes. He also began renting out his funky Los Angeles warehouse space for film shoots—a venture that’s proven lucrative enough to leave him free to focus on his passion: customizing Porsches. —Jack Stewart
Roll Model Walker is currently working on a 911 67S —“a holy grail car,” he says, because 1967 is the first model year of the more sportoriented version of the base 911. He started modifying this car in 2009 but got sidetracked. The finished car will finally be displayed at the auto industry’s SEMA Show in November. It’s a great example of how much Walker despises deadlines. PETER BOHLER
Walker uses Momo steering wheels in most of his modified cars. And when he got the chance to design his own, he turned to his former career in clothing design for inspiration. He wanted it to look like a pair of distressed leather pants, so he had the Momo factory in Italy handwork the leather with sandpaper and wire. The wheel is an amalgam of two of his favorites, a Momo Prototipo (“too thin”) and a Jackie Stewart– designed wheel (“great thick grip, but flat”). It was a limited run that sold out in less than six weeks.
W H AT D O ES G E N U IN E ROS EWO O D H AV E TO D O W I T H A B E T T E R - D R I V I N G S U V ?
Signature model shown.
TH E A LL- N E W TH R EE- R OW M A ZDA CX- 9 A turbo engine. Agile handling. Genuine Rosewood? Whether itâ€™s a great-driving SUV or a great-sounding guitar, the joy is in the details. In the case of the all-new Mazda CX-9 Signature, we partnered with the meticulous craftsmen at Fujigen Guitars to
A Fujigen Masterfield guitar with a genuine Rosewood fretboard.
hand-select the same Rosewood for our interior trim. The warm subtle hues and smooth grain finish indulge the senses. So every drive is a better drive. Why does paying attention to every detail matter? Because Driving Matters.
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MY SPACE: MAGNUS WALKER
Scan Job The 911 67S will have unique details, like seamlessly integrated louvers in the front fenders. (Walker says it’s never been done on a 911—race cars’ louvers are bolted in.) His buddy and fellow Porsche modder Rod Emory did a 3-D scan of the fender to capture its shape. They then made a die and stamped each louver one at a time.
Adjacent to the workshop is Walker’s garage. In contrast to the rest of the complex, this area is pristine, with framed posters, shelves of memorabilia, and 14 completed Porsches. “I’m known for building these outlaw hot rods, but half the cars in this garage are pretty much stock.” 7
Banner of House Walker A visual theme runs through Walker’s warehouse and his life: red, white, and blue. They’re the colors of the US and UK flags, but they also evoke Evel Knievel and Monte Carlo Rally cars. He even laminates his nondescript Ikea desks in his personal tricolor.
Fueled Up On a stock 911, the cap is under a flap on the fender. For this subtle mod, Walker lengthened the fuel filler neck to bring the cap up to the surface, displaying it beautifully instead of hiding it away. “I’m always trying to evolve, because you’re only ever as good as your last build,” he says.
This is the engine bay of Walker’s ’75 Turbo, from the first year of production of the “iconic, legendary” power plant. “Not too many have survived,” he says. 9
Favorite Thing This car, the 911 “277,” is Walker’s most identifiable creation. It’s fair to say the 277 is as famous as he is in the Porsche world. It was his second-ever Porsche purchase, and the one “that stuck around.” He’s owned it for 17 years, and it’s the car he drives the most. He likens it to a favorite pair of shoes.
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MONEY SOMETIMES SLEEPS Oliver Stone’s box-office gross Platoon
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Any Given Sunday
The Spirit of Truth Oliver Stone on secrets, surveillance, and his new film, Snowden. BY MICHAEL HAINEY
IT FEELS INEVITABLE
that Oliver Stone would make a movie about Edward Snowden. The exiled whistle-blower, as Stone told me, embodies traits and themes the director has been drawn to in more than a few of his films: Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street, JFK. Movies about idealistic (possibly naive) young men who see their principles tested and their sense of self transformed inside the belly of a beast—where the beast is one of the big institutions of American power. ¶ Snowden,
Oliver Stone’s 20th feature film dramatizes the life of America’s most famous exiled ex-consultant.
starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden and Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, is the 20th feature film Stone has directed. True to his almost compulsive record of courting controversy, Snowden takes on one of the most divisive Americans of the 21st cen-
tury. “At first, I didn’t want to make this movie,” Stone says. “It doesn’t lend itself to cinematic glory; it’s a live situation that is always changing. But the more I thought about it, I knew I had to do it. I could not walk away.” Stone’s office in Los Angeles has a professo-
rial feel. Books on the shelves, a few photos on the desk. One of them shows the cast of Platoon in a Filipino jungle, where the film was shot. Stone is like many of his movies—all forward motion. He talks a mile a minute; he’s a man who’s accustomed to spinning out scenarios for others to write down, prone to sudden deep dives into American history—or his own psyche. Drawn to heroes but distrustful of authority; fiercely protective of privacy but intent on prying open the secrets of power. As my conversations with the director made abundantly clear, there’s a lot of Stone in Snowden.
ball-breaking code shit that I never got into the film—stuff that most people would find so minor, and only someone from the NSA would say, “This is not the right line of code.” But we would write our version of a scene and then Ed would help us get it right— to make as few mistakes as possible. When you get into all the details it is mind-boggling. But Ed said, “You got it.” I don’t want to give too many details, but he understood the nature of film and made dramatic suggestions. So he’s comfortable ... He would have told me otherwise. … that his life is being
Ed will probably write a book one day. All the details of what happened to him, what he did, and who he was with will not be revealed in this film. Ed’s not going to give people up. Remember his original mission when he approached the journalists: “You will stick to the principles about the violation of the Constitution.” Ed didn’t want to endanger anyone. It was the opposite of Julian Assange’s approach. This film offers your version of some very polarizing events. Do you think there are things you will get hammered for? No. Because I think people under-
Oliver Stone on the set of Snowden with Shailene Woodley and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The real Snowden—spoiler alert—appears in the film. How did you get him to cooperate? He trusted us. He had seen the script—which is not to say he controlled it. He worked with it. And made it better. Did he give notes? Oh, yeah. Now, a lot of it was
dramatized? You’ve been down this road before: There’s a line between fact and fabrication, and people can get touchy about where it’s drawn. Sometimes real life is just not as exciting as a film. I think Hitchcock said that movies are life with the boring bits cut out. And look,
stand you can’t do a movie the same way you do a documentary. But you are putting this out in an environment— The very first shot says, “This is a dramatization.” That won’t stop people. You went through it with JFK ... And Nixon and World Trade Center ...
“We would write our version of a scene,” Stone says, “and then Ed would help us get it right.”
So aren’t you worried that people will say, “This guy Snowden is a traitor”? There’s no evidence. A traitor would share his information with a foreign power. But he destroyed it. When he goes to Russia, he doesn’t have the data he took from the NSA anymore. People have accused him of giving it to China, but none of those accusations have played out. I’m not aware of any distortions that we made. There was no cleansing of Ed’s character. He was a very good boy who was conservative by nature, motivated by 9/11 to join the Army and later the NSA. And he then changed over a period of time. We stuck to the spirit of the truth. But we had to protect him as well as the people he’s been with. You’re asking me if there are any distortions. Let’s take some examples of how American history gets distorted in movies. The CIA is all over Hollywood. They got the series 24, they got Homeland. You always see the CIA as heroes; it’s disgusting.
Michael Hainey (@MichaelHainey) is the executive director of editorial at Esquire and author of After Visiting Friends. OCT 2016
PHOTOGRAPH: WILLIAM GRAY/OPEN ROAD FILMS
THE SNOWDEN EFFECT In 2013, Edward Snowden engineered the biggest intelligence leak in US history, revealing the huge scope of the NSA’s surveillance programs. Almost instantly, the public’s use of encryption tech—from Tor to PGP keys—accelerated. —M E G A N M O LT E N I 6M Tor Users (Global) 4M
Tor Network The Tor Project, a nonprofit network of proxy servers that lets anyone exchange data anonymously, saw the number of its users increase more than sevenfold in the months immediately following Snowden’s leak.
PGP Keys In 2010, the newsrooms of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and the BBC had 130 PGP key registrations between them. By 2016, that number had more than quadrupled to 541.
Secure Browsing In 2013, among users of the Firefox browser, 30 percent of page loads on the web were encrypted through the HTTPS protocol— another method of browsing securely. That proportion jumped to 45 percent in 2016.
WhatsApp This year, the founders of WhatsApp, an online messaging service owned by Facebook, brought end-to-end encryption to their product. For the platform’s billion global users, flying under the radar now comes standard.
They were all over Kathryn Bigelow’s movie Zero Dark Thirty. I’ve seen the documentation and the FOIA of their involvement. They were trying to influence the script, and they did. That’s where you’re talking distortion. What do you think motivates Snowden? Conscience. His principles. I think that is the amazing part of the story. He was 29 years old. You don’t meet many young people who do that. Daniel Ellsberg was at least in his forties. Alexander Hamilton, Nathan Hale, they were very principled young men. There’s always been principled Americans. It’s good to see one so young. Do you think he has any regrets? I don’t think he does. The man I saw a few weeks ago is the same man I saw in 2015. He’s very driven. He’s a night owl, because he does so much correspondence with the US and needs to be on the same time zone. He tells me he’s working on some kind of Constitution thing, guidelines for a new era. You have a line in your documentary series The Untold History of the United States: “The fatal flaw arises not from without but from within.” So what is the fatal flaw in America today? A love of militarism, a love of violence. It’s in our genes. It’s been enhanced and enhanced, and combined with arrogance and hubris. Which all empires have. What about fear? Fear gets tedious. [Laughs.] Fear is a big thing. It should be confronted. I bring it up in meditation a lot. I do it as best I can every day. You have to counter the poisons. It’s all in the mind. Were you always this contemplative? I was more selfish, volatile, earlier—like there was a seesaw battle between Jekyll and Hyde.
“I didn’t know the degree of the adulteries until years later. I guess there was no guilt.”
When I was older, I went to the couch and I thought a lot about my parents. My father was a stockbroker; he was a pessimist, but he had fun. We had changed our name from Silverstein to Stone to get around the Ivy League quotas on Jews. My father always told us, “Don’t ever say you’re Jewish, because the persecution will come back.” We were totally secular. We’d drive through Williamsburg and he’d see the Orthodox, and he hated it. He’d say, “Why are they calling attention to themselves?!” My father was a mystery to me. My mother, too. When they divorced, I was in boarding school. No one came to see me; they just called me. The divorce fascinated me, and it hurt me deeply for many years. I felt ashamed. Like I had done something wrong. I didn’t know the degree of the adulteries until years later. My mother told me the nanny would come into my father’s bed in the morning and fellate him. And my mother would turn over in the bed and pretend not to hear. My father was reckless. [Sighs, laughs.] Can you imagine? He had affairs with so many women—every one of my mother’s friends, maybe with the exception of one. I guess there was no guilt. My mom was a party girl herself—a wild woman. She loved sex. She loved parties. And
then, when she was dropped from the New York circuit after the divorce, she went out with mostly gay people and designers and crazy ladies and had a wonderful time. A movie star kind of life. But ultimately very disorienting for a young man. How do you think you course-corrected or compensated? By enlisting to fight in Vietnam? It wasn’t course correction. It was reaction. I had my own issues of confusion. I was motivated to prove myself as a man. I was surrounded on my mother’s side by gay guys chasing me—New York was insane in the ’60s. And then my father was very strict. He wanted me to be a broker, and here I was trying to be a writer. It was hopeless. He thought I was doomed. I quit Yale twice. I was very angry. But he loved me in spite of that. What does all that do to your trust—these revelations about your parents? It devastates you. Nothing is as it seems. And I guess that goes to some of my work. Nothing is what it seems. I don’t believe presidents. They all lie. Everyone lies. That’s not to say I’m cynical. I’m an idealist in many ways. That’s why I admire Kennedy, FDR. I do believe many people are good and intend to do good. But there’s always something behind the veneer. That is part of my dramatic conviction. That’s what makes me want to tell the stories I do.
That there is always more there. Always vulnerabilities. Everyone has them. Powerful people are often seductive. Was your father? With his eyes and his voice. He gave me 25 cents to start writing when I was a boy—a theme a week on anything I wanted. I hated writing. But it was the quarter I wanted. I could buy a comic book for 15 cents and have 10 cents left over to get football cards or something. I had a lifetime subscription to Uncle Scrooge McDuck. I loved that character—always diving into his money. Years later, when I was having trouble in school, I started to write. So something stuck. There’s a line inspired by Ayn Rand in the film: “One man can stop the motor of the world.” Is Snowden a Randian? He admired her. He was definitely libertarian in his origins. He was an admirer of Thoreau and the original Tea Party. Those men broke the law and started a revolution. Breaking the law can make sense when it’s for a greater good. To me, this is the basis of the theme of the movie—a young man with an extraordinary conscience. And people lose that conscience. I saw this in Vietnam—people gave up their self-sovereignty to a larger authority. They lost their humanity. That’s what I tried to say in Platoon. If you’re just obeying orders, you’re cutting yourself off. At another point in the movie, someone says: “Americans don’t want freedom; they want security. They want to be able to play with their toys.” That’s what I believe. Do you think there has been a coup in this country? Yes. Definitely. Obama can’t do anything. It’s benign, grad-
ual. It’s the ascension of the military-industrial complex. I don’t think any president can break through and control that. Kennedy tried. He famously said he wanted to break up the CIA. Never happened. I think we’ve lost control. When you look at Trump, what do you see? I enjoy him on TV. He’s the only Republican in history who has said the Iraq war was a disaster, except for maybe Ron Paul. Does Trump worry you? My thing is war. I’m always worried about war. Whether it’s cyber or hot. The US keeps intervening, and I don’t think that’s Trump’s way. He says stupid things like “We are going to build the greatest military”— when we have the greatest military. We spend three times more than anyone else. So that kind of talk is crazy. But I worry about Hillary Clinton the same way. She has been regime-change all the way. I will vote for Jill Stein. What would you ask the candidates about the security state? “Why is bulk surveillance necessary?” Anything that’s happened with the terrorists has been solved by good law enforcement, by informants. All the usual things that used to work still work. Why are we tapping the whole fucking world? We don’t even have the ability to collate the information we have and do anything with it. There was a lot of information available on Paris, 9/11. Lots. In the film, you raise the idea of complicity between Silicon Valley and the security state. Do you think the roots of the security state are getting deeper? The security state is a corporate state. Corporations are obsessed with encryption, paying fortunes to get it. Security agencies are a new growth business. And now no one is free.
“Nothing is what it seems. I don’t believe presidents. They all lie. Everyone lies.”
We all have something to hide, and we have a right to hide it. Snowden told me that when the telephone was first invented, it was sacred; no one would ever be tapped. Then J. Edgar Hoover changed all that. We had hope for a moment that Obama would prosecute these crimes. But on the contrary, he enhanced the powers of the NSA. Until Snowden came along. I feel everything is going into a giant data collector. Who’s to say that one day a president won’t come in and stage a retroactive roundup of all the people who think different? I don’t feel anything is private. And that includes your sex life. Happens to Snowden in the movie; he has this realization that he and Lindsay could be watched through his webcam. She says to him, “What is there to hide?” And he says, “We all have something to hide.” !
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I N S I D E N IK E’ S SE C R E T UNDERGROUND LAB , W H ER E DESIGNERS I N V E N T E D TH E R EA L POW ERLAC I N G S N EA K E R O F O U R D R EA M S . A WIRED EXC LU S I VE.
Nike design guru Tinker Hatfield (far left) and CEO Mark Parker created the HyperAdapt— a shoe straight out of Back to the Future Part II. 0
THE SNEAKER SHOULD COME ALIVE. Âś Tinker Hatfield was sitting at a drafting table in his office in Beaverton, Oregon. He and another young designer at Nike named Mark Parker had just returned from a brainstorming session in Hollywood with film director Robert Zemeckis, who was storyboarding the sequel to his sci-fi comedy hit of three years earlier, Back to the Future. It was 1988, and Zemeckis and his creative team were on the hunt for futuristic sight gags for the film, set in 2015. They had tasked Hatfield and Parker with dreaming up some seriously 21st-century sneakers. One idea that came up in the meeting involved magnetic levitation, but to Hatfield that seemed a little too Jetsons.
STYLING BY TASHA GREEN/ROSTER REPS; GROOMING BY AMY GILLESPIE/ROSTER REPS
A Perfect Fit
His time as a pole-vaulter and his degree in architecture from the University of Oregon had taught him to prize utility, and it didn’t seem plausible to him that any athlete, even decades in the future, would ever want or need to levitate. Hatfield and Parker decided to treat the assignment not as a sight gag but, as he recalls, “like someone had asked me to reinvent footwear for actual performance reasons, in the real world, only I had 30 years to figure the technology out.” And that’s when the idea came to him: “What
For Tinker Hatfield, the idea of a selflacing shoe is of a piece with technologies like the Internet of Things or self-driving cars.
about a shoe that would essentially come alive when you put it on? It would sense you. It would become the shape of your foot, and when it came alive it would light up. Wouldn’t it be great if shoes could do that?” Hatfield didn’t just sketch what such a shoe would look like. He drew a storyboard in which Marty McFly first encounters a pair of sneakers: He steps in, reaches down to tie the laces—an instinctual, ritual bowing down to the shoe—and the sneakers light up, come alive, and shape to his foot. (Hatfield says he even included a snippet of McFly dialog—something like Wow! Power laces!) A scene similar to Hatfield’s drawing wound up in the movie, which became one of the highest-grossing films of the year and introduced the Nike Mag, as the shoe was christened, as something like the flying car of footwear—a sci-fi promise that nobody could figure out how to deliver on. Over time, the Mag would so capture people’s imaginations that an intense campaign resulted in online petitions, with futurists, fanboys, and sneakerheads pleading with Nike to create a retail version. Hatfield, Parker, and an army of designers, engineers, and data scientists were listening. And after 28 years of brainstorming and 11 years of R&D, after many false starts, delays, and blown deadlines, after the vanquishing of internal skepticism, after innumerable prototypes, iterations, and redesigns, Nike’s automatic electronic self-lacing shoe is scheduled to ship to stores this holiday season. The company is calling the technology “adaptive fit,” and the sneaker is the HyperAdapt 1.0—each shoe has a sensor, battery, motor, and cable system that adjusts fit based on an algorithmic pressure equation. When a foot is inserted, the shoe tightens automatically until it senses friction points. There are a pair of buttons near the tongue to adjust fit as needed. That such high tech shoes, with a likely (though still TBD) high price tag to match, would be desirable in a country that spends billions a year on sneakers was almost taken for granted. That Hatfield, now Nike’s vice president of creative concepts and probably the world’s most celebrated designer of shoes, a human icon inside a corporate one, would lead the team behind them was only expected. And while no one will say how much the company has spent on the shoe’s development—“a considerable amount of R&D dollars” is as specific as Parker, now the company’s CEO, will get—Hatfield believes the HyperAdapt is the first step in a revolution in adaptive footwear and thus worth every red cent. “We’re talking about a project that’s maybe the most difficult in the history of footwear,” Hatfield says. “I’m more excited about this than any project I’ve ever been involved with.”
SCOTT EDEN is the author of Touchdown Jesus: Faith and Fandom at Notre Dame.
Its Name Is E.A.R.L. Just as the characters in Wall-E, which helped inspire the design of the shoe, had acronyms for names, the HyperAdapt has its own nickname: E.A.R.L., which stands for Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing.
M PROP STYLING BY JACK STOCKLYNN
Mia Hamm looks from the outside like the sleek headquarters of a very rich pharmaceuticals company. All the major corporate structures on the Nike campus in Beaverton are named after the company’s most famous sponsored stars—there’s the John McEnroe, the Michael Jordan, the Tiger Woods, the Bo Jackson—and though the Mia Hamm Building rises a mere four stories aboveground, it’s home to a cavernous basement level that is suggestive of bunkers, classified military research installations, and villains’ lairs. The building is off-limits to the overwhelming majority of Nike employees and the totality of everyone else, and its top-secret nature is owed to the fact that it contains Nike’s most advanced R&D labs, its sneaker-prototype-fabrication skunkworks, its state-of-the-art materials-testing rooms, its biomechanics labs, and the experimental concept-shoe atelier that the company has dubbed the Innovation Kitchen in homage to Nike’s origin story. (In 1970, the head coach of the University of Oregon track team, Bill Bowerman, poured melted urethane into a waffle iron in the kitchen of his Eugene home in the hopes of creating a better sole for the shoes worn by his runners. The following year, the small imported-sneaker business he had started in 1964 with one of his former milers, Phil Knight, became Nike Inc.) Rising above the reception desk is an enormous sculpture, extending three stories into the atrium and composed of hundreds of plastic rods that spell out an exhortation: always listen to the voice of the athlete. The words, attributed to Knight, echo throughout the building, silk-screened onto walls in conspicuous, high-traffic areas and serving as an ever-present visible mantra for the designers toiling within: Solve a performance problem for an athlete and you’ve got yourself a shoe.
Inside the Kitchen, Hatfield’s desk sits at the terminus of a narrow corridor-like space, at least 75 yards long, that stretches the length of a curvilinear wall of windows. The area around his desk is a visual reminder of his exalted status at Nike: An enormous drawing of Michael Jordan hangs on the wall behind him, and 31 pairs of Air Jordans—the series for which he’s most famous—are strung on a rod along a nearby window. He sits surrounded by all of the Kitchen’s top designers and engineers, some perched at high drafting tables. Pinned to a bulletin board nearby are what appear to be blueprints for shoes of radical weirdness, and prototypes are piled on desks and spilling onto the floors. Exotic socklike things. Track shoes that look like Victorian witches’ boots. An orange shoeshaped object webbed a little sadistically with high-tensile cords. Foot forms (mannequin feet, basically) are everywhere, lending the Kitchen a podiatric atmosphere. A large open space adjacent to the designers’ area is filled with rows of high tech sewing machines, injection-molding devices, and laser cutters. There are spools of thread the size of footballs and enormous drawer units containing swatches of synthetic textiles. A few of the sewing machines have been modified so that they can sew with carbon fiber. This part of the Kitchen is where a specialized team of “concept creators” works its magic, fabricating prototypes basically by hand, taking shoe designs from 2-D to 3-D. It brings to mind the workshop of some kind of futuristic cobbler, which is not so far off. (I’m one of the few journalists ever admitted to the facility, and I’m under strict orders not to photograph—or even, it sometimes seems, commit to memory—any of the designs I might accidentally catch sight of on someone’s computer screen, or sitting around on desks in prototype form.) The desk immediately to Hatfield’s left belongs to Tiffany Beers, a senior innovator at the company and the engineer largely responsible for figuring out how to make adaptive fit a reality. She is 36 years old and a former collegiate volleyball player who looks positively Portlandia in black jeans and dark brown hair streaked with gray and blue dye. Hired by Nike in 2004 to develop new air bags for the company’s ubiquitous sole-cushioning technology, she quickly became known for her tenacity and talent, and after less than a year on the job, she was approached by Hatfield with a special assignment. For 17 years, he explained, ever since their Back to the Future brainstorming sessions in 1988, he and Parker had been giving deep thought to how athletic shoes ought to advance, and they’d come up with a set of ideas they dubbed “adaptable performance.” It was,
Behind the Wheel Tiffany Beers in the Winnebagocum-meetingarea inside the Innovation Kitchen. She had to become an expert in motors and batteries to engineer the HyperAdapt.
and his pole-vaulter’s physique more or less intact at 64. “Here’s a thing that I believe, and I think it’s been scientifically proven: If your feet are not healthy, there’s kind of a chain reaction, and your entire body can get out of whack.” Take pro basketball players, he says: “If you’re playing for three hours, there might be only an hour of it when you actually need your sneakers tight. The rest of the time, when you’re standing around for
JACKET, ISSEY MIYAKE, COURTESY OF STAND UP COMEDY, PORTLAND, OR; SHIRT, ALEXA STARK.
Parker says, the “next phase of performance”—athletic footwear that could sense the presence of a foot and trigger a motor to tighten or loosen the shoe. The thinking was rooted in enhancing athletes’ abilities and protecting their bodies. “Most of the athletes we observe—scientifically and otherwise—their feet are ruined,” Hatfield says, reclining in a love seat near his desk, his curly gray hair frothing up professorially
free throws, jump balls, sitting on the bench, you should loosen your shoes up.” But NBA players don’t do that, he explains—“so day after day after day they’re torturing their feet, and they’re becoming less and less healthy.” This was a performance problem, Hatfield reasoned, that required an engineering and design solution. By 2005, with interest in the Nike Mag still pulsing, he and Parker believed that technology had advanced enough to make adaptable performance a reality.
Beers, ambitious and energized by the call from the resident guru, set off on the project, with Hatfield and the other designers largely taking a backseat. This is how a project generally works at Nike: The heavy design work doesn’t commence until the engineering is mostly worked out. There was no deadline for Beers and no budget. To start she paid a visit to Nike’s enormous archives—run by a former Nike shoe designer who had also been a curator at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry—and had him pull the original Nike Mag. The prop itself did not have an auto-lacing mechanism—in the movie, special effects people constructed a platform, and under it several crewmembers lay on their backs and pulled a series of wires, invisible to the camera, that were attached to the shoes on Michael J. Fox’s feet. Beers also discovered that the lights in the shoe were electroluminescent and therefore electro-hungry. On the set, Fox had to carry a battery pack the size of a transistor radio in his back pocket, allowing the letters nike to light up in fluorescent blue on the Mag high-tops. Something like cold fear ran through Beers as she considered how to embed a powerful enough battery into a lightweight, streamlined sneaker. “I’m like, they want me to stick this in there? And add auto-lacing? Are they crazy?” She called any company she could think of that manufactured very small motors. She spoke with model-train people, medical-device people. The motor would be used to pull the laces tight—the “lace engine,” as Beers and her team would come to call this mechanism. She flew to Europe and Asia to attend industry conferences and trade shows. She became an expert in batteries. With the help of a mechanical engineer, she devised a rudimentary fit system, the cabling that would take the place of shoelaces in the sneaker. She breadboarded the electrical component systems she would need and had the Kitchen’s cobblers stitch up actual shoes into which she could insert them. Trial followed error and was repeated. It took two years, but by 2007, Beers had a full-blown prototype to show Parker and Hatfield—though there were, she recalls, a few issues. For one thing, the sneakers were huge and rigid and basically unwearable; they looked as though someone had watched Back to the Future Part II and drawn the Nike Mags from memory as a cartoon. For another, you had to plug the things into a socket with an AC adapter—permanently. They could not hold a charge. Also, owing to the size and mass of the motor, similar in both measures to a roll of quarters, the shoe was heavy and loud. “It sounded like you were in a dentist’s office,” Beers says. “And it closed … very slowly. And it opened … very slowly. But
we proved we could do it.” (Her efforts resulted in US Patent 8,046,937, in which “an article of footwear with an automatic lacing system is disclosed.”) It would take another five years of prototyping and iterating before a wave of technological advances combined to give the auto-lacing mechanics any real momentum. (In the meantime, Nike would release limited-edition, movie-replica, light-up, non-auto-lacing shoes in 2011, auctioning them off to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Neat trick but, without any performance-enhancing cred, well short of the finish line.) By late 2013, Beers and her team discovered a high-speed, lightweight micromotor that proved far more durable than even its manufacturer initially believed. To make it work with the shoe’s cabling system, the Nike team adjusted the gearing inside the motor’s off-the-shelf box. She sourced a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery that packed enough juice to power both the motor and the LEDs in the heel that light up when the cable system activates. (Your shoes are now yet another power-hungry device that requires plugging in—a full charge, Beers says, takes three hours and typically lasts about two weeks.) And for the cables that would tighten and loosen the shoe, she experimented with Kevlar and other high-performance materials before deciding that standard 200-pound-test fishing line provided the most strength and the least friction. After years of slow progress, Beers was growing cautiously optimistic, and Hatfield was feeling bullish. In February 2014, as he was partaking in Nike festivities at the NBA All-Star weekend, Hatfield announced to reporters that the company would have an auto-lacing shoe ready … the following year! In 2015! Just like in the movie! Headlines ensued. Beers was blindsided. Nothing about the project’s status suggested the sneakers would be ready in a year’s time, and though Hatfield insists he wasn’t trying to light a fire under his team— no Jobsian reality-distortion fields here—the degree of epinephrine shock Beers experienced is still hard for her to articulate. Still, she did not panic. She commandeered a section of the Kitchen, erected four foam-core partitions, brought her team of six engineers into this enclosure, and told everyone else to stay out. Need-to-know. They called it the Black Hole. It was a top-secret skunkworks inside a top-secret skunkworks. For six weeks, day after day, 12 and 13 hours a day, they made the final push, with Beers
THE EVOLUTION N OF AIR For 37 years, Nike’s air-pocket technology has led to some of the company’s biggest hits. Nike Air designer Kathy Gomez describes a few key steps, from the earliest uses of air to the latest: the VaporMax (right). —JOSEPH BIEN-KAHN
The Tailwind (1979) Nike’s first use of air technology. With an air pocket hidden in the sole, runners felt rather than saw the difference in weight and impact shock. The biggest engineering challenge: “We needed to make sure the air unit could withstand miles of running.”
The Air Max 1 (1987) The first shoe where the air pocket is visible. “Tinker was inspired by the Pompidou, a museum in Paris where much of the interior structure is visible from the outside.”
The Air Max 95 (1995)
The first Air with strategic cushioning throughout the sole. “It’s softer under the heel, where the foot crashes down, and under the forefoot there’s more structure, so the foot could be more propulsive.”
borrowing two key structural elements from recent Nike creations to reach the finish line. First she turned to the Jordan 28, a 2012 Hatfield cocreation that was designed with a sizable gap in its sole; into this highway underpass, Beers figured, she could insert the lacing engine without interrupting the sneaker’s silhouette. Then she took advantage of a 2014 breakthrough called Flyweave, in which a shoe’s upper is woven entirely out of soft, pliable polyester. The cables that were needed to tighten and fasten the HyperAdapt could be embedded into this woven upper, and the smooth polyester reduced friction, which in turn reduced stress on the motor. “Everything kind of came together all at once,” Beers says. The design work could finally begin. Hatfield’s process, he says, is often a kind of visual stream of consciousness or free-association exercise wherein he just starts sketching whatever pops into his mind. He’ll fill page after page with weird cartoons and phantasmagoria and bits of architecture and narrative sequences resembling the storyboards of some lush videogame. At first he couldn’t get past his original design of the Mag, and he ended up tossing his first few sketches out of frustration. “More and more, I was like, man, get away from that shoe! That’s been done! ” he says. As they often do with design projects, Hatfield and Parker passed sketches back and forth, drawing over each other’s work and scrawling notes in the margins. Parker, the former designer, is an unusual Fortune 200 CEO in that he rolls up his sleeves and does what he was originally trained to do, which in his case is design. Among other things, he helped jar Hatfield out of his Mag rut by suggesting that they jettison the idea of making it a high-top. He also produced a sketch with a kind of command written in all-caps in the margin: make “power laces” more of the hero. Hatfield went back to his sketch pad; out of his brain and onto the page fell the male and female robots from Pixar’s computer-animated film Wall-E, an exotic blue-
The Air Max 97 (1997) “The thinking here was, how do we make it so we deflect impact in the heel, make it flexible in the forefoot, and still have multiple pressures under the foot? So this was about delivering one full-length air unit from heel to toe. It took away foam and other materials to make the shoe lighter.”
Beyond the HyperAdapt
PHOTOGRAPHS: VAPORMAX (DAN SAELINGER); COURTESY OF NIKE (REMAINING)
The VaporMax is Nike’s other major sneaker launch of 2016.
green luminescent butterfly that is part of an insect collection displayed on a wall in Parker’s office, and the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star. “The Chuck Taylor, there’s an iconic logo on the side, but otherwise it’s unadorned,” he says. “And I felt like this first HyperAdapt effort from Nike should be like a new-wave Chuck Taylor, because someday we’re going to look back at this and it will be as archaic as the Chuck Taylor is now.” These loose imaginings started to take shape in what would become the HyperAdapt’s ultimate design: The shoe is mostly black, white, or gray, for starters, and along the tongue are what appear to be laces but aren’t—not exactly. They’re nylon bands that perceptibly contract and expand as the shoes tighten or loosen. These “laces” serve as a visual cue so that wearers can tell, by sight in addition to feel, just how taut or slack each shoe is. On the shoe’s sides, there is a muted galaxy of blue-green pixels (shades of the luminescent butterfly) clustered over the cables, the better to draw attention to the fit system. And there is a blue orb, inspired by the female robot in Wall-E, implanted in the midsole that lights up momentarily when the lacing engine is engaged. (To minimize the power suck, the LEDs dim after six seconds.) All of this was an effort to design for the shoe’s functionality. That’s what would excite people about the HyperAdapt, Hatfield and Parker believed. That’s how they would sell it.
The Air Max 360 (2006) “This was internally called the E Max, or Engineered Max, because it was engineered with two different materials: thermoform air bags and thermoplastic around them for structure.”
The Air Max 2013 (2013) These were upgraded 360s— lighter, more flexible—with sleek mesh and a transparent midsole. “By the time we got to the ’13, the shoe was 15 percent lighter and two times more flexible than the one that came before it.”
The VaporMax (2016) The sole consists exclusively of discrete, flexible air pockets. “Maybe more air isn’t better. Let’s put air only where we need it, and let’s redefine the sensation of air.”
— Every now and then the Nike brass convene in the Innovation Kitchen for what amounts to a high-stakes game of show-and-tell. Designers and engineers bring the prototypes for projects they’re working on, and top executives will consult, criticize, and question their progress. In January 2015, the HyperAdapt team brought their latest iteration into one of the Kitchen’s conference rooms. Beers, who’d been working nonstop since Hatfield’s NBA All-Star bombshell, had finally taken a vacation, and assuming her place was Eric Avar, another heralded Nike designer and Hatfield protégé, best known for his designs bearing Kobe Bryant’s name. As Avar wrapped up his presentation, the panel began eviscerating the entire project. They questioned just about everything. At bottom, Beers says, they doubted that the shoe had any real athletic benefit. Even more terrifying, they were unsure whether work on it should even continue. (Skepticism was and is hardly limited to inside Nike—in the wider industry, gimmick is a word that gets thrown around, and the Reebok Pump is sometimes dismissively referenced. “I look at it as more of a PR thing, not as true innovation,” says Peter Rueegger, a leading footwear-industry consultant who has worked with Nike in the past. And Mike Friton, a former Nike designer who worked closely with Beers on the project in its early stages around 2007, questions the environmental impact and sustainability of a shoe packed with electronics. “To me, it was kind of running backward in that sense.”)
Office Max Nike CEO Mark Parker is a well-known and multifarious collector of objets and fine art, and everything in his office—from the Tiffany lamp on his desk to sprinter Michael Johnson’s gold shoes in the foreground to the Mark Ryden paintings on the wall—informs his design work. 0
When she returned, Beers once again did not panic. The panel’s feedback coaxed her team to focus on improving the HyperAdapt’s basic proposition: It could help protect athletes’ feet, and that, in turn, could help the athletes feel better and play better. “I was like, OK, we have to build more prototypes,” Beers says. “We have to have more people try it out, we have to prove it with numbers. We have to put the proof on the table.” With the help of Nike Sports Research Lab, a testing facility that measures human performance and collects data to shape the design and engineering, she conducted multiple rounds of what’s internally called perception testing. Beers put HyperAdapt prototypes on test subjects and had them go through
a kind of CrossFit training routine, and after their workouts they answered surveys about their shoe experience. She also stepped up dynamic wear testing, where she asked runners and basketball players to wear the shoes and give her feedback on how their feet felt during and after their workouts. With new data in hand, Beers added sole cushioning and rejiggered the fit system so the lacing harnesses hugged less on the toes and more on the foot’s midsection, and subjects reported less wear and tear on their feet after intensive workouts. Six months later, with a new launch target of 2016 in mind, she presented a new HyperAdapt prototype to the Kitchen’s evaluation panel. The skeptics were satisfied.
A Kitchen Confidential
From the sign that greets visitors in the Mia Hamm Building (“Always listen to the voice of the athlete”) to a poster hanging in the Innovation Kitchen (“At the end of the day we’re still kids that draw shoes”), the interplay between form and function is everywhere at Nike. Concept creators prototype with loose soles, bolts and sheets of synthetic textiles, and other sneaker components, and they fabricate 3-D models using machines like this heel former (far left).
— A pair of HyperAdapts materializes in front of me. It’s late July in Beaverton, and these are samples, late-stage prototypes—Beers is even now testing and making tweaks to the shoe’s internal workings. She is currently wearing a pair of HyperAdapts. She in fact wears them all day, every day. “I want to know every challenge our consumers are going to face. I just want to know everything in order to make it better.” There are no swooshes on her pair. That way, when she goes out in public, prying eyes will be less likely to discern that she’s wearing a pair of top-secret Nikes. She sees me gazing mutely at the shoes as if awaiting instructions. “All you have to do is step into it,” Beers says. The second I do so, the shoe emits an electric whizzing noise, like that of a child’s toy. It’s the noise you might make if you were doing the robot. The sound is weirdly satisfying, possibly because it occurs as the shoe embraces my foot in a gentle kind of hug. Not long ago, I sprained my right ankle in an embarrassing encounter with a flight of stairs. As a result, my right foot remains swollen. After the whirring subsides, I stand up and look down. On my right shoe the laces are visibly looser, but the grip no less secure. The sneaker’s full name is the HyperAdapt 1.0, the numerals a nod to Silicon Valley’s always-be-iterating ethos, and it suggests that this shoe is just the start, one early product in a whole multiproduct, multiversion wave of Nike gear. The Kitchen is already working on future versions that will adjust to your foot automatically and in real time—as a runner’s feet swell, say, the shoes will correspondingly expand on their own, obviating the need for the buttons that allow current prototype users to adjust the fit manually. Nike is also working on making other parts of the shoe automatically adaptable—the breathability of the upper, for one, and the cushioning in the sole. When I ask how that would work, Hatfield clams up. “I’m not going to tell you more than that.” He says the whole idea is of a piece with emerging technologies like selfdriving cars, like the Internet of Things. In one of Beers’ final data-gathering tests, two teams convened in a Nike HQ fitness center to play a little basketball. Some of the athletes wore HyperAdapts, and Beers stood courtside like an anthropologist, observing closely. When the HyperAdapt-wearing players put on the shoes, they started to bend down to tie them and flinched as the shoes sucked up around their feet. Wow! Power laces! As the game got going, one player inbounded the ball, and before heading downcourt he pressed the buttons on his sneakers to tighten them. Another HyperAdapter was flying around, scoring from everywhere—slashing layups, pull-up jumpers, dunks off fast breaks. As the game wore on he grew more jubilant, and each time he made another basket he’d turn to Beers on the sidelines and yell, “It’s the shoes!” Beers, scribbling in her notepad, just kept listening. !
INSIDE UNSEEN NIKE
In the basement of the Mia Hamm Building, there are a variety of labs that test new materials and designs. Behind these doors is the Ride Lab—the ride being Nike-speak for the sole of a shoe—where engineers test new iterations of Air soles and other cushioning technology.
Miniature ceramic replicas of Nike’s greatest hits line the wall outside Mark Parker’s office in the John McEnroe Building, across campus from Mia Hamm. The shoes on display range from high-performance soccer cleats to classic Dunks and running sneakers.
The Nike Sports Research Lab, split between the basement and first floor of Mia Hamm, is where researchers collect and analyze data related to performance. In this environmental testing chamber, researchers subject Nike clothing to extreme wind, heat, and humidity to gauge its durability.
Another area in the NSRL: the soccer testing room, where players can run and kick a ball while cameras and sensors measure how their prototype shoes perform. Nike does not make its R&D budget public, but everyone in the industry agrees that the company outspends its rivals by orders of magnitude. 0
Inside the Innovation Kitchen, on the first floor of Mia Hamm, an early-1970s Winnebago sits just outside the main conference room and is one of the designers’ preferred meeting spots. In Nike’s early days, Phil Knight drove a similar RV to high school and collegiate track meets all over Oregon, hustling shoes.
Behind Tinker Hatfield’s desk in the Innovation Kitchen, the limited-edition Nike Mags created for a charity auction in 2011 (and based on the original Back to the Future Part II model) are on display inside a transparent cube, as if in a museum exhibit.
Hatfield often creates special-edition sneakers exclusively for the athletes and student fans of his alma mater, the University of Oregon. Seen here on his desk: the Jordan Melo M10 “Oregon Ducks” PEs (player exclusive) and the Air Jordan Retro “Pit Crew.”
A corridor in Mia Hamm has a floor made from the material used in most modern running tracks. Last April, Nike announced plans to expand its campus by 3.2 million square feet, with the architecture taking “inspiration from human movement, speed, and the strength and energy of competition.” We can't wait to visit. 0
How the beauty company Glossier talks— and markets—directly to you.
ON A WALL in Glossier’s conference room hangs a framed white napkin with the beauty brand’s guiding principles scrawled in red lipstick: Inclusive, Innovative, Clever, Fun, Thoughtful. Not the most radical words, per se, but they begin to explain how this completely digital company has built an online following so rabid that, for a period of time last year, its eyebrow product had a 10,000-person wait list. Glossier (a play on the word dossier) doesn’t rely on celebrity ads or high-profile department store placements. Employees talk to customers directly—via email, social media, the company’s site—in a casual voice that young people understand. If there’s such a thing as designing a millennial approach for selling a product, this gets pretty close: real and unmediated, the antibrand brand. Its founder, 31-year-old Emily Weiss, was a styling assistant at Vogue in 2010 when she launched the beauty blog Into the Gloss. As women flocked to the site to talk about their routines, Weiss began to realize that beauty companies had no idea what their customers were up to. “If I want to know how to do a black cat eye, I’m not going to drive to a department store,” Weiss says. “I’m going to go on YouTube, cross-check reviews of a product, and then maybe talk about it on Instagram. There wasn’t a brand that encouraged me to take ownership of my routine—and understood that everyone is their own expert.”
* “Just make beauty fun,” Weiss says. “It doesn’t have to be a serious thing.”
Glossier launched in October 2014 with the Phase 1 Set, four skin-care products in blush-pink packaging (#glossierpink, as it became known to fans). True to Weiss’ philosophy, the tone was engaging and nonjudgmental, even when Glossier added concealers to the Phase 2 line. “We’re not telling you that you need a concealer. We’re providing a concealer in case you want it,” Weiss says. “We’re trying to give you the tools to be able to make whatever decision you want.” That breezy approach works for Glossier. When Annie Kreighbaum, the company’s executive editor, trains new copywriters, “the first thing I tell them is to forget everything,” she says. “Open an email draft and pretend you’re writing to your best friend.” The brand’s voice is that of your coolest friend who knows that trying too hard is antithetical to being cool. (So too many exclamation marks or words that feel too Internet-y don’t work.) And it’s about pictures and vibes as much as words: photos of a young Gisele Bündchen, Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, glitter. Followers know that if they leave a comment, Glossier will respond directly, usually with some emoji thrown in. As one fan put it: “Will gladly let u slide into my DMs @glossier.” Asked if she feels competitive, Weiss shrugs. “How many lip balms do you own? Zillions,” she says. “We’re not saying we make the best of everything for everyone.” Yet many people love what they do, from teenage girls who show off Glossier face masks on Snapchat to thirtysomethings who tag the brand in their Instagram selfies (the brand has more than 250,000 followers). In the first quarter of 2016, Glossier sold as much as it thought it would in a year, which made for five-figure wait lists and impatient fans. The company addressed the delay in a post on Into the Gloss about the realities of scaling the business. The next logical step would be retail, Weiss concedes, though she’s intentionally vague. “I think a lot about the Apple Store,” she says. “About creating hubs where you can touch and experience a product, yes, but you can also connect with like-minded people.” Glossier does have a penthouse in its SoHo offices, where it occasionally hosts pop-ups. “We’ve had girls stay upstairs for hours and order pizza on the roof. And we have to be like, ‘OK, that’s a little too much.’” She says that, but you can tell it’s a point of pride. This is a woman who enjoys letting you do what you want. It’s paying off. —Marisa Meltzer
PHOTOGRAPH: STYLING BY LAUREN GOODMAN; HAIR BY CECILIA ROMERO; MAKEUP BY ALIANA LOPEZ
MEET THE DESIGNERS OF DE SIR E
Weiss at Glossierâ€™s SoHo headquarters, in front of one of her mood boards. Sweater, GUCCI; skirt, ISABEL MARANT; necklace, watch, Juste un Clou bracelet and ring, Love bracelet, CARTIER; pinky ring, JEMMA WYNNE; arm cuff, JENNIFER FISHER
RYAN OGLE (CTO): We knew that if you download an app and it’s annoying, or it takes an extra second to do something, you’re just going to get rid of it. BADEEN: Buttons don’t work all that well. Every step you take, your finger moves a little, and you’ve got touch targets that can be hard to hit. I started to think that a gesture might be a good way to go for this.
THE TINDER TEAM
A brief oral history of the alluring right swipe.
since Tinder’s launch, the right swipe has become the prevailing signifier of our generation—shorthand for like, lust, and (possibly, hopefully, finally) love. It was no accident of design. Tinder’s creators knew they had to make online dating fast, delightful, intuitive—and a little physical. Fans of celebrated UX designer Loren Brichter, who created the pleasingly tactile pull-to-refresh feature now used by most apps, the team eventually stumbled on an iconic gesture of their own. Of course, the origin story includes the requisite happenstance and serendipity, plus a touch of controversy. But everyone agrees on one thing: Without the swipe, there would be no Tinder. And we might all be going home alone tonight. —David Pierce
IN THE FOUR YEARS
Tinder began at one of our hackathons. We thought online dating felt broken and laborious. JONATHAN BADEEN (CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER): It wasn’t fun. We wanted to have the same sense of excitement you get from a game.
SEAN RAD CEO
J O N AT H A N BADEEN CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER
BADEEN: I was getting out of the shower one morning, wiping the mirror because the room was steamy, and I saw myself staring back at myself. Then I wiped the other direction. All of a sudden it clicked. CHRIS GULCZYNSKI (FORMER CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER): The initial launch didn’t have swiping. But when I showed it to my friends, they kept trying to swipe to see the next person. BADEEN: I started thinking about the way I organize photos in real life. How I’ll start out with one stack and eventually end up with two: my yes and my no. Swiping would give you that same personal, sort of manipulable experience. It mimics the real world, where you’re able to pick something up and put it over there. GULCZYNSKI: Jon [Badeen] likes to take credit for “inventing the right swipe,” when in reality he ripped it off from the flash-card app he worked on for Chegg. It was me who said that swiping should mean something. BADEEN: After I came up with the swipe, I was looking for other things that did it. There wasn’t anything. I was really surprised. It seemed so logical and simple. OGLE: We weren’t as excited about it as Jon was, in the beginning. He really saw the potential. BADEEN: I was having a hard time describing it. Like, yeah, you swipe it, and there it goes! Everybody was like, did you take something this morning? SEAN RAD (CEO): We had a five-minute conversation. It was a cool idea, but Jon thought it would take two weeks to build. So I said, eh, probably not a priority. This was right after we launched. We had a whole set of things we wanted to do. OGLE: We wanted to do read receipts, typing notifications, all these things.
DINESH MOORJANI (FORMER HATCH LABS CEO):
Then, three weeks later, I saw swiping in the app! At first I was angry. I said to Jon, “Did you just spend two weeks working on this?” BADEEN: I’d actually thrown it in and hadn’t told anyone. I’m sure there were a billion bugs in it, so it probably wasn’t the most reliable. RAD: He told me he did it over the weekend. So I was like, OK. Fine. BADEEN: Not the best version of it, but it worked. Sometimes. RAD:
The stakes weren’t as high four years ago. You weren’t worried about disrupting a multimillion-dollar company or a multimillion-person userbase. RAD: We did it because it felt right. MOORJANI: We could have designed the user gesturing to scroll up and down in the app but decided a left-to-right swipe was a more natural hand movement, particularly when holding the smartphone with one hand. BADEEN: Loren Brichter’s pull-to-refresh was a brilliant thing. It’s this desire to be able to organize things in the way we organize them in real life, which is through touch and movement. That very visceral, very reactive interface and ability to really feel like you’re doing it. I think it even adds emotion. RAD: The emotional connection probably comes in the euphoric feeling of when you swipe right and there’s a match. That dopamine rush is now associated with a right swipe.
RAD: You’d ask someone, “Have you heard of this app called
Tinder?” At some point we started hearing, “Is that the thing where you swipe?” They’d always do the thumb thing. OGLE: We have over a trillion swipes now. You sometimes hear about us being shallow, a hookup site, but the point was not to be superficial. It was to fill that need of a mobile generation. They want to be able to do things quickly. BADEEN: I remember watching Jimmy Kimmel ask Bill Murray if he’d heard about Tinder. Murray’s like, yeah, I know about it, and he’s miming the swipe left and right. I thought, “Oh my God, Bill Murray knows about our work.” RAD: There was a Lay’s commercial about a guy who swipes right on a bag of chips and falls in love with a bag of chips. That’s when it really sunk in. R YA N O G L E CTO
IV. EXPLOSION BADEEN: Even after we added swiping, we never educated
people about it. But there were hints. People started figuring it out.
DINESH M O O RJ A N I FORMER HATCH LABS CEO
FRED RIK EKLU ND The art of selling a home that does not exist.
WHEN FREDRIK EKLUND walks the streets of Manhattan, he sees his handiwork everywhere. As one of the city’s more influential real estate agents and the breakout star—eccentric, dramatic, superbly dressed—of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York, the 39-year-old Swede not only sells existing apartments but also works with architects and designers on developing the homes of the future. And he’s very good at it: In Eklund’s 13-year career, he and his team have sold out 50 new buildings to the tune of $2.5 billion. From drone photography and strategic lighting to his clients’ own futureself aspirations, there’s nothing he won’t use to create desire and make a sale. —Jason Kehe
At what point do you become involved in the design process? Obviously I’m a real estate agent, but I also work on new developments. I’m at the drawing table with architects and interior designers. We try to create products that don’t exist yet—beautiful homes up in the sky. With your wealthier clients, what’s at the top of their wish list? I call them Masters of the Universe apartments. Private elevators, private swimming pools, private parking.
The exterior of 11 North Moore Street in Tribeca, a 2014 project that Eklund helped develop.
I mean, private is an important word. To be able to walk around naked in your own home, surrounded by all glass, and still have no one looking at you is the ultimate luxury. How do you sell spaces that aren’t completed yet? We design a sales gallery—sometimes it’s a whole model apartment in the same building, sometimes it’s individual rooms. And, of course, technology helps. We call it the video wall, where we show all the digital assets— movies, floor plans, the big view of Manhattan you’ll have. We set up drones that take photography of the views from the exact spot the apartments will eventually be located. And the interior design? We don’t want anything too modern, like what I call the “spaceship finishes” that were popular in New York in the new-development wave that happened around 2006. But we don’t want something too traditional, either. Layering materials throughout the apartment can create the perfect mix. You do metal, you do wood, you do stone—all together. People want to see variation. Do these homes feature a lot of technology? Lots and lots and lots. Motorized shades used to be an add-on luxury, but now they’re pretty much standard. I’m selling an apartment now with 200-something windows, so it has 200 motorized shades. Another thing is perfect air-conditioning in multiple zones with filtered air and humidifiers—making sure all of that can be controlled from your phone even before you come home. Those are all for new apartments—how do you approach selling properties that have already been lived in? We’ll stage the apartment. Less is more. Decluttering is a must. Repaint the walls. Buy floor lamps that light the place up. Take down the heavy draperies and blinds. Light is happy, and everyone likes to be happy. Mirrors are good. There’s been a lot of press lately about how super-high-end homes aren’t selling like they used to. How do you convince your clients that they need this level of luxury? I always try to sell people on the next version of themselves. Right now we’re doing a search for this woman. She’s a celebrity. We’re showing her a bunch of different things between $15 million and $30 million. I’m upselling her on her life: You can have dinner parties on this terrace. You’re going to be able to have a maid or babysitter in this room. You will have private parking. Really getting her to imagine living her 2.0 life. Any other special tricks that can help close a deal? I do high kicks when I’m happy. Try it. Life is so much better with a kick or two in it.
PHOTOGRAPH: STYLING BY LAUREN GOODMAN; GROOMING BY SANDRINE VAN SLEE. RENDERING: PAPERFARM/DOUGLAS ELLIMAN
Eklund reclining in the penthouse of 11 North Moore Street, currently listed at $30 million. Suit and tie, shirt, STENSTRÖMS; Submariner watch, ROLEX
WIRED PHOT OGRAPHER S How shooters capture the perfect image—and your undivided attention.
IF YOU’VE EVER tried to snap a photo of a perfect
cocktail, chances are the result was not at all perfect. Photography is an art form most of us iPhone-wielding amateurs do not understand. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn. Here, three professionals reveal how they transform everyday objects—a glass of whiskey, an elegant shoe— into images that make you want what you see. You may not be able to replicate the exact shots, but you can use these strategies to significantly up your Instagram game. —Emma Grey Ellis BOOZE
AD AM VOOR H E S & R O B I N F I N L AY Known professionally as The Voorhes, this duo is a (married) photographer/stylist team who specialize in still lifes. They shoot WIRED’s monthly What’s Inside column.
Keep Your Whites White “You know when you shoot something in fluorescent light and you get that weird-colored glow? Your eyes don’t see it, but the camera does. When we took this shot initially, we noticed there was a tiny bit of cyan in the ice cubes. Making your highlights really white in Photoshop gives you a much crisper and cleaner image. It’s so subtle, you don’t even realize it was bothering you until it’s fixed.” FINLAY:
Fake It (Don’t Make It) “You want a photo to feel natural but look better than it does in real life. Regular ice looks cloudy, the shapes aren’t attractive, and in a shot like this, where there’s action and the cubes are bouncing around, you want some consistency.”
FINLAY: “The ‘ice’ in this picture is actually hand-crafted acrylic cubes from Trengrove Studios. But the whiskey is real. It’s Wild Turkey.”
Work Clean “We bought a tumbler from Goodwill with facets that act almost like prisms, so you see these glowing points of light in the middle of the liquid. You want the glass to be attractive, high quality, and clean. Robin always gives me a hard time when I get fingerprints all over it.” FINLAY: “To clean the glass between shots, we use blue shop towels instead of the regular paper towels because they seem to give us less lint. We’ll Windex it and handle it with latex gloves.”
JAM E S DAY Day is a London-based photographer who has shot portraits, Star Wars models, and the Apple Watch for WIRED, plus ad campaigns for Audi, Sony, and Heineken.
Pare It Down
Light It Up
“When you take pictures, particularly still lifes, you want it to be about the object itself, so I try to isolate it from its environment. For this shot, I wanted the shoe to feel heroic and monolithic, so I kept it very pared down and simple and beautiful, and I positioned the camera tight and low, so you’re looking up at it ever so slightly.”
Photoshop Your Background
No joke: It’s the same glass of whiskey, just with nasty freezer ice.
Still a badass shoe, but the “before” shot is blurrier, dustier, and way less heroic.
ADAM VOORHES PHOTOGRAPHER
“Photoshop is a fantastic tool, but it’s quite open-ended. You need to know what look you’re going for. The background of this shot was composited in Photoshop, and we gave it a slight dark halo around the shoe so the spikes and highlights pop around the edges.”
R O B I N F I N L AY STYLIST
J A M E S D AY PHOTOGRAPHER
“It’s all down to lighting. Look at the surface you’re dealing with. These Christian Louboutin shoes looked amazing coming out of the box—as they should when they cost well over $1,000— and they are made of very reflective patent leather. I side-lit the shoe using strip lights that ran vertically so I could have these very defined highlights going down the incredible stiletto heel. You want to show off an object’s interesting points to their best advantage.”
Wagener in MercedesAMGâ€™s new S65 Cabriolet.
at Mercedes-Benz start every project with two questions, says Gorden Wagener, head of design for parent company Daimler: “Is it cool? And is it hot?” Cool as in high tech; hot as in sensual. His customers might love the features born of the one-upmanship among carmakers, from infrared cameras to gestural controls. But the experience needs to be immersive, and plasticky buttons or crummy leather would break the spell of opulence. Wagener has been running design for Daimler for nearly a decade, overseeing everything from Freightliner trucks to the Smart car. He has designed a yacht, a helicopter, a private jet interior, even a golf cart. But he always comes back to his work at Mercedes, which blends engineering, emotion, and art. ¶ The culmination of that work must meet the expectations of folks who’ll pay $250,000 for a car. It’s why Mercedes spends an hour inspecting the leather that will swaddle the driver (and another five hours installing it). That’s just one of many design decisions that, together, add up to an experience that appeals to the company’s target customer. In fact, on a car like the 2017 Mercedes-AMG S65 Cabriolet, Wagener dives into the project—even spending time helping select the metal finishes. But he doesn’t stop at just meeting the buyer’s expectation; he pushes even further. “It’s important to create those unexpected moments,” Wagener says. And that means tapping into the five senses. —Alex Davies
T HE DES IG N ER S
GORDEN WAGEN ER Daimler’s head of design wraps drivers in sensual luxury.
The fact that the roof opens wide is no excuse for a loud ride when it’s closed. Wagener refused to compromise, insisting on double-glazed windows and a three-layer fabric roof that combine to block out road noise. Turn off the Burmester sound system’s 23 speakers and bask in the symphony of silence. TASTE
OK, so this is a different kind of taste. It’s what Wagener calls “sensual purity,” the idea that nothing is overdone, that every element serves its purpose, inside and out. “If we like it, take a line off,” he says. “If we still like it, take another off.”
Knurled metal feels better and looks more expensive, so you’ll find those Braille-like bumps on audio and climate system controls. Wagener gets personally involved in these details, down to the resistance and sound of a turning knob: “It should feel like you’re opening a safe.”
PHOTOGRAPH: TODD TANKERSLEY FOR WIRED (CAR)
The new car smell is out. Tucked away in the glove box, a cabin atomizer regularly wafts perfume into the interior. Choose from one of six scents (“Pacific Mood OK with everyone?”) or pop in your own. “We perfume ourselves,” Wagener says. “Why not our cars?”
Mercedes-AMG S65 Cabriolet Engine: 6-liter V-12 biturbo; 630 hp Transmission: 7-speed automatic 0 to 60: 4.1 sec. Top speed: 155 mph Price: $248,825
The rise of LEDs means that headlights increasingly are opportunities for design flair, so Wagener put 50 people on the case. Their brightest idea: Pack around 100 Swarovski crystals into the headlights and turn signals, just because they’re pretty.
AROUND MIDNIGHT ONE SATURDAY IN JANUARY, Sarah Jeong was on her couch, browsing Twitter, when she spontaneously wrote what she now bitterly refers to as “the tweet that launched a thousand ships.” The 28-year-old journalist and author of The Internet of Garbage, a book on spam and online harassment, had been watching Bernie Sanders boosters attacking feminists and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. In what was meant to be a hyperbolic joke, she tweeted out a list of political caricatures, one of which called the typical Sanders fan a “vitriolic cryptoracist who spends 20 hours a day on the Internet yelling at women.” The ill-advised late-night tweet was, Jeong admits, provocative and absurd— she even supported Sanders. But what happened next was the kind of backlash that’s all too familiar to women, minorities, and anyone who has a strong opinion online. By the time Jeong went to sleep, a swarm of Sanders supporters were calling her a neoliberal shill. By sunrise, a broader, darker wave of abuse had begun. She received nude photos and links to disturbing videos. One troll promised to “rip each one of [her] hairs out” and “twist her tits clear off.” The attacks continued for weeks. “I was in crisis mode,” she recalls. So she did what many victims of mass harassment do: She gave up and let her abusers have the last word. Jeong made her tweets private, removing herself from the public conversation for a month. And she took a two-week 1
unpaid leave from her job as a contributor to the tech news site Motherboard. For years now, on Twitter and practically any other freewheeling public forum, the trolls have been out in force. Just in recent months: Trump’s anti-Semitic supporters mobbed Jewish public figures with menacing Holocaust “jokes.” Anonymous racists bullied African American comedian Leslie Jones off Twitter temporarily with pictures of apes and Photoshopped images of semen on her face. Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti quit the service after a horde of misogynist attackers resorted to rape threats against her 5-yearold daughter. “It’s too much,” she signed off. “I can’t live like this.” Feminist writer Sady Doyle says her experience of mass harassment has induced a kind of permanent self-censorship. “There are things I won’t allow myself to talk about,” she says. “Names I won’t allow myself to say.” Mass harassment online has proved so effective that it’s emerging as a weapon of repressive governments. In late 2014, Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro reported on Russia’s troll farms, where day laborers regurgitate messages that promote the government’s interests and inundate opponents with vitriol on every possible ANDY GREENBERG (@a_greenberg)
wrote about cryptographer Moxie Marlinspike in issue 24.08.
outlet, including Twitter and Facebook. In turn, she’s been barraged daily by bullies on social media, in the comments of news stories, and via email. They call her a liar, a “NATO skank,” even a drug dealer, after digging up a fine she received 12 years ago for possessing amphetamines. “They want to normalize hate speech, to create chaos and mistrust,” Aro says. “It’s just a way of making people disillusioned.” All this abuse, in other words, has evolved into a form of censorship, driving people offline, silencing their voices. For years, victims have been calling on— clamoring for—the companies that created these platforms to help slay the monster they brought to life. But their solutions generally have amounted to a Sisyphean game of whack-a-troll. Now a small subsidiary of Google named Jigsaw is about to release an entirely new type of response: a set of tools called Conversation AI. The software is designed to use machine learning to automatically spot the language of abuse and harassment—with, Jigsaw engineers say, an accuracy far better than any keyword filter and far faster than any team of human moderators. “I want to use the best technology we have at our disposal to begin to take on trolling and other nefarious tactics that give hostile voices disproportionate weight,” says Jigsaw founder and president Jared Cohen. “To do everything we can to level the playing field.” Benedict Evans
J JIGSAW IS THE outgrowth of an earlier
GROOMING BY VERONICA VELEZ / AUBRI BALK
Jigsaw’s Jared Cohen: “I want us to feel the responsibility of the burden we’re shouldering.”
Conversation AI represents just one of Jigsaw’s wildly ambitious projects. The New York–based think tank and tech incubator aims to build products that use Google’s massive infrastructure and engineering muscle not to advance the best possibilities of the Internet but to fix the worst of it: surveillance, extremist indoctrination, censorship. The group sees its work, in part, as taking on the most intractable jobs in Google’s larger mission to make the world’s information “universally accessible and useful.” Cohen founded Jigsaw, which now has about 50 staffers (almost half are engineers), after a brief high-profile and controversial career in the US State Department, where he worked to focus American diplo-
macy on the Internet like never before. One of the moon-shot goals he’s set for Jigsaw is to end censorship within a decade, whether it comes in the form of politically motivated cyberattacks on opposition websites or government strangleholds on Internet service providers. And if that task isn’t daunting enough, Jigsaw is about to unleash Conversation AI on the murky challenge of harassment, where the only way to protect some of the web’s most repressed voices may be to selectively shut up others. If it can find a path through that free-speech paradox, Jigsaw will have pulled off an unlikely coup: applying artificial intelligence to solve the very human problem of making people be nicer on the Internet.
effort called Google Ideas, which Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt and Cohen launched in 2010 as a “think/ do tank.” But aside from organizing conferences and creating fancy data visualizations, Ideas didn’t actually do much at first. “People would come around and talk a bunch of bullshit for a couple days,” one Google Ideas conference attendee remembers. “Nothing came out of it.” But slowly, the group’s lofty challenges began to attract engineers, some joining from other parts of Google after volunteering for Cohen’s team. One of their first creations was a tool called uProxy that allows anyone whose Internet access is censored to bounce their traffic through a friend’s connection outside the firewall; it’s now used in more than 100 countries. Another tool, a Chrome add-on called Password Alert, aims to block phishing by warning people when they’re retyping their Gmail password into a malicious look-alike site; the company developed it for Syrian activists targeted by government-friendly hackers, but when it proved effective, it was rolled out to all of Google’s users. In February, the group was renamed Jigsaw to reflect its focus on building practical products. A program called Montage lets war correspondents and nonprofits crowdsource the analysis of YouTube videos to track conflicts and gather evidence of human rights violations. Another free service called Project Shield uses Google’s servers to absorb government-sponsored cyberattacks intended to take down the websites of media, election-monitoring, and human rights organizations. And an initiative, aimed at deradicalizing ISIS recruits, identifies would-be jihadis based on their search terms, then shows them ads redirecting them to videos by former extrem-
ists who explain the downsides of joining an ultraviolent, apocalyptic cult. In a pilot project, the anti-ISIS ads were so effective that they were 70 percent more likely to be clicked than normal search results. The common thread that binds these projects, Cohen says, is a focus on what he calls “vulnerable populations.” To that end, he gives new hires an assignment: Draw a scrap of paper from a baseball cap filled with the names of the world’s most troubled or repressive countries; track down someone under threat there and talk to them about their life online. Then present their stories to other Jigsaw employees. At one recent meeting, Cohen leans over a conference table as 15 or so Jigsaw recruits—engineers, designers, and foreign policy wonks—prepare to report back from the dark corners of the Internet. “We are not going to be one of those groups that sits in our offices and imagines what vulnerable populations around the world are experiencing,” Cohen says. “We’re going to get to know our users.” He speaks in a fastforward, geeky patter that contrasts with his blue-eyed, broad-shouldered good looks, like a politician disguised as a Silicon Valley executive or vice versa. “Every single day, I want us to feel the burden of the responsibility we’re shouldering.” We hear about an Albanian LGBT activist who tries to hide his identity on Facebook despite its real-names-only policy, an administrator for a Libyan youth group wary of government infiltrators, a defector’s memories from the digital black hole of North Korea. Many of the T-shirt-and- sandalwearing Googlers in the room will
later be sent to some of those far-flung places to meet their contacts face-to-face. “They’ll hear stories about people being tortured for their passwords or of state-sponsored cyberbullying,” Cohen tells me later. The purpose of these field trips isn’t simply to get feedback for future products, he says. They’re about creating personal investment in otherwise distant, invisible problems—a sense of investment Cohen says he himself gained in his twenties during his four-year stint in the State Department, and before that during extensive travel in the Middle East and Africa as a student. Cohen reports directly to Alphabet’s top execs, but in practice, Jigsaw functions as Google’s blue-sky, human-rights-focused skunkworks. At the group’s launch, Schmidt declared its audacious mission to be “tackling the world’s toughest geopolitical problems” and listed some of the challenges within its remit: “money laundering, organized crime, police brutality, human trafficking, and terrorism.” In an interview in Google’s New York office, Schmidt (now chair of Alphabet) summarized them to me as the “problems that bedevil humanity involving information.” Jigsaw, in other words, has become Google’s Internet justice league, and it represents the notion that the company is no longer content with merely not being evil. It wants—as difficult and even ethically fraught as the impulse may be—to do good.
I I N S E P T E M B E R O F 2 0 1 5 , Yasmin Green, then head of operations and strategy for Google Ideas, the working group that would become Jigsaw, invited 10 women who had been harassment victims to come to the office and discuss their experiences. Some of them had been targeted by members of the antifeminist Gamergate movement. Game developer Zoë Quinn had been threatened repeatedly with rape, and her attackers had dug up and distributed old nude photos of her. Another visitor, Anita Sarkeesian, had moved out of her home temporarily because of numerous death threats. At the end of the session, Green and a few other Google employees took a photo with the women and posted it to the company’s Twitter account. Almost immediately, the Gamergate trolls turned their ire against Google itself. Over the next 48 hours, tens of thousands of comments on Reddit and Twitter demanded the Googlers be fired for enabling “feminazis.” “It’s like you walk into Madison Square Garden and you have 50,000 people saying you suck, you’re horrible, die,” Green says. “If you really believe that’s what the universe thinks about you, you certainly shut
The incubator is dedicated to geopolitical moon shots, tackling issues from online censorship to violent extremism. Here are a few of its efforts. —G R E G O RY B A R B E R
A Chrome browser buddy system that lets any censored Internet user route around the firewall by using a friend’s unblocked connection.
Free protection for media, election monitors, and human rights groups to defend themselves against cyberattacks aimed at taking down websites.
Conversation AI Montage
Crowdsourced analysis of YouTube videos to help journalists and humanitarian groups document conflict and human rights violations.
Warns people when they type a Gmail password into a phishing website mocked up to look like one of Google’s.
The Redirect Method
Identifies would-be jihadis based on search terms and redirects them to anti-ISIS videos featuring former extremists.
A filter for online discussion that uses machine learning to automatically detect insults or hate speech.
Digital Attack Map
A real-time visualization of DDoS cyberattacks around the world, including those where freedom of expression is being limited.
up. And you might just take your own life.” To combat trolling, services like Reddit, YouTube, and Facebook have for years depended on users to flag abuse for review by overworked staffers or an offshore workforce of content moderators in countries like the Philippines. The task is expensive and can be scarring for the employees who spend days on end reviewing loathsome content—yet often it’s still not enough to keep up with the real-time flood of filth. Twitter recently introduced new filters designed to keep users from seeing unwanted tweets, but it’s not yet clear whether the move will tame determined trolls. The meeting with the Gamergate victims was the genesis for another approach. Lucas Dixon, a wide-eyed Scot with a doctorate in machine learning, and product manager CJ Adams wondered: Could an abuse-detecting AI clean up online conversations by detecting toxic language—with all its idioms and ambiguities—as reliably as humans? To create a viable tool, Jigsaw first needed to teach its algorithm to tell the difference between harmless banter and harassment. For that, it would need a massive number of examples. So the group partnered with The New York Times, which gave Jigsaw’s engineers 17 million comments from Times stories, along with data about which of those comments were flagged as inappropriate by moderators. Jigsaw also worked with the Wikimedia Foundation to parse 130,000 snippets of discussion around Wikipedia pages. It showed those text strings to panels of 10 people recruited randomly from the CrowdFlower crowdsourcing service and asked whether they found each snippet to represent a “personal attack” or “harassment.” Jigsaw then fed the massive corpus of online conversation and human evaluations into Google’s open source machine learning software, TensorFlow. Machine learning, a branch of computer science that Google uses to continually improve everything from Google Translate to its core search engine, works something like human learning. Instead of programming an algorithm, you teach it with examples. Show a toddler enough shapes identified as a cat and eventually she can recognize a cat. Show millions of vile Internet
comments to Google’s self-improving artificial intelligence engine and it can recognize a troll. In fact, by some measures Jigsaw has now trained Conversation AI to spot toxic language with impressive accuracy. Feed a string of text into its Wikipedia harassment-detection engine and it can, with what Google describes as more than 92 percent certainty and a 10 percent falsepositive rate, come up with a judgment that matches a human test panel as to whether that line represents an attack. For now the tool looks only at the content of that single string of text. But Green says Jigsaw has also looked into detecting methods of mass harassment based on the volume of messages and other long-term patterns. Wikipedia and the Times will be the first to try out Google’s automated harassment detector on comment threads and article discussion pages. Wikimedia is still considering exactly how it will use the tool, while the Times plans to make Conversation AI the first pass of its website’s comments, blocking any abuse it detects until it can be moderated by a human. Jigsaw will also make its work open source, letting any web forum or social media platform adopt it to automatically flag insults, scold harassers, or even auto-delete toxic language, preventing an intended harassment victim from ever seeing the offend-
HE TYPES IN “WHAT’S UP, BITCH?”AND CLICKS. THE A.I. INSTANTLY RATES IT A 63 OUT OF 100 ON THE ATTACK SCALE. 1
ing comment. The hope is that “anyone can take these models and run with them,” says Adams, who helped lead the machine learning project. What’s more, some limited evidence suggests that this kind of quick detection can actually help to tame trolling. Conversation AI was inspired in part by an experiment undertaken by Riot Games, the videogame company that runs the world’s biggest multiplayer world, known as League of Legends, with 67 million players. Starting in late 2012, Riot began using machine learning to try to analyze the results of in-game conversations that led to players being banned. It used the resulting algorithm to show players in real time when they had made sexist or abusive remarks. When players saw immediate automated warnings, 92 percent of them changed their behavior for the better, according to a report in the science journal Nature. My own hands-on test of Conversation AI comes one summer afternoon in Jigsaw’s office, when the group’s engineers show me a prototype and invite me to come up with a sample of verbal filth for it to analyze. Wincing, I suggest the first ambiguously abusive and misogynist phrase that comes to mind: “What’s up, bitch?” Adams types in the sentence and clicks Score. Conversation AI instantly rates it a 63 out of 100 on the attack scale. Then, for contrast, Adams shows me the results of a more clearly vicious phrase: “You are such a bitch.” It rates a 96. In fact, Conversation AI’s algorithm goes on to make impressively subtle distinctions. Pluralizing my trashy greeting to “What’s up bitches?” drops the attack score to 45. Add a smiling emoji and it falls to 39. So far, so good. But later, after I’ve left Google’s office, I open the Conversation AI prototype in the privacy of my apartment and try out the worst phrase that had haunted Sarah Jeong: “I’m going to rip each one of her hairs out and twist her tits clear off.” It rates an attack score of 10, a glaring oversight. Swapping out “her” for “your” boosts it to a 62. Conversation AI likely hasn’t yet been taught that threats don’t have to be addressed directly at a victim to have their intended effect. The algorithm, it seems, still has some lessons to learn.
F FOR A TECH EXECUTIVE taking on would-be
terrorists, state-sponsored trolls, and tyrannical surveillance regimes, Jigsaw’s creator has a surprisingly sunny outlook on the battle between the people who use the Internet and the authorities that seek to control them. “I have a fundamental belief that technology empowers people,” Jared Cohen says. Between us sits a coffee table covered in souvenirs from his travels: a clay prayer coin from Iraq, a plastic-wrapped nut bar from Syria, a packet of North Korean cigarettes.
“It’s hard for me to imagine a world where there’s not a continued cat-and-mouse game. But over time, the mouse might just become bigger than the cat.” That sense of digital populism, as Cohen tells it, was instilled in him during his travels through Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq in the early 2000s as a Rhodes scholar. His most formative memories from that time are of watching young people use technology— cell phones everywhere, gay-nightclub promoters in Iran sending text messages to strangers via Bluetooth, and satellite TV blanketing the region with otherwise-censored Western culture. He was particularly struck by the time he spent with two Internet-savvy, cell-phone-obsessed young Syrian women in Homs who acted as his hosts, walked in public with him—an American man—and wore makeup and short-sleeved shirts amid the burkas and disapproving stares surrounding them. “Unlike their mothers, these girls know what they’re missing out on,” he’d
write in a book about his travels, Children of Jihad. “Society has changed, and technology has opened their eyes in ways that their parents cannot begin to understand.” When Cohen became the youngest person ever to join the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff in 2006, he brought with him a notion that he’d formed from seeing digitally shrewd Middle Eastern youths flout systems of control: that the Internet could be a force for political empowerment and even upheaval. And as Facebook, then YouTube and Twitter, started to evolve into tools of protest and even revolution, that theory earned him access to officials far above his pay grade—all the way up to secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and later Hillary Clinton. Rice would describe Cohen in her memoirs as an “inspired” appointment. Former Policy Planning director AnneMarie Slaughter, his boss under Clinton, remembers him as “ferociously intelligent.” Many of his ideas had a digital twist. After
visiting Afghanistan, Cohen helped create a cell-phone-based payment system for local police, a move that allowed officers to speed up cash transfers to remote family members. And in June of 2009, when Twitter had scheduled downtime for maintenance during a massive Iranian protest against hardliner president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Cohen emailed founder Jack Dorsey and asked him to keep the service online. The unauthorized move, which violated the Obama administration’s noninterference policy with Iran, nearly cost Cohen his job. But when Clinton backed Cohen, it signaled a shift in the State Department’s relationship with both Iran and Silicon Valley. Around the same time, Cohen began calling up tech CEOs and inviting them on tech delegation trips, or “techdels”—conceived to somehow inspire them to build products that could help people in repressed corners of the world. He asked Google’s Schmidt to visit Iraq, a trip that sparked the relationship that a year later would result in Schmidt’s invitation to Cohen to create Google Ideas. But it was Cohen’s email to Twitter during the Iran protests that most impressed Schmidt. “He wasn’t following a playbook,” Schmidt tells me. “He was inventing the playbook.” The story Cohen’s critics focus on, however, is his involvement in a notorious piece of software called Haystack, intended to provide online anonymity and circumvent censorship. They say Cohen helped to hype the tool in early 2010 as a potential boon to Iranian dissidents. After the US government fast-tracked it for approval, however, a security researcher revealed it had egregious vulnerabilities that put any dissident who used it in grave danger of detection. Today, Cohen disclaims any responsibility for Haystack, but two former colleagues say he championed the project. His former boss Slaughter describes his time in government more diplomatically: “At State there was a mismatch between the scale of Jared’s ideas and the tools the department had to deliver on them,” she says. “Jigsaw is a much better match.” But inserting Google into thorny geopolitical problems has led to new questions about the role of a multinational corporation. Some have accused the group of trying to monetize the sensitive issues they’re taking on; the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director of international free
expression, Jillian York, calls its work “a little bit imperialistic.” For all its altruistic talk, she points out, Jigsaw is part of a for-profit entity. And on that point, Schmidt is clear: Alphabet hopes to someday make money from Jigsaw’s work. “The easiest way to understand it is, better connectivity, better information access, we make more money,” he explains to me. He draws an analogy to the company’s efforts to lay fiber in some developing countries. “Why would we try to wire up Africa?” he asks. “Because eventually there will be advertising markets there.” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has accused Cohen of continuing to work as a de facto State Department employee, quietly advancing the government’s foreign policy goals from within Google, and labeled him the company’s “director of regime change.” When I raise that quote with Schmidt, he visibly tenses, then vehemently rejects the notion. “We’re not a government,” he says slowly and carefully. “We’re not engaged in regime change. We don’t do that stuff. But if it turns out that empowering citizens with smartphones and information causes changes in their country … you know, that’s probably a good thing, don’t you think?” Beyond the issue of Jigsaw’s profit motives or imagined government ties, however, another point nags at Cohen’s optimistic digital interventionism: Technology has unintended consequences. A tool like Haystack
“IMAGINE WHAT THE INTERNET WOULD BE LIKE IF YOU COULDN’T SAY ‘DONALD TRUMP IS A MORON.’ ” 1
that was intended to help Iranians could have put them in danger. Twitter, with all its revolutionary potential, enabled new forms of abuse. And Conversation AI, meant to curb that abuse, could take down its own share of legitimate speech in the process.
D DURING HER WORST days of being targeted by a gang of misogynists last year, feminist writer Sady Doyle would look down at her phone after an hour and find a hundred new Twitter notifications, many of them crude sexual comments and attacks on her history of mental health issues. But when I present her with the notion of Conversation AI as a solution, she hesitates. “People need to be able to talk in whatever register they talk,” she says. “Imagine what the Internet would be like if you couldn’t say ‘Donald Trump is a moron.’” In fact, when I run the phrase though the Conversation AI prototype, I find that calling someone a moron scores a full 99 out of 100 on its personal attack scale. The example highlights Conversation AI’s potential for false positives or suppressing the gray areas of speech. After all, even without automated flagging, Twitter and Facebook have been criticized for blocking legitimate, even politically powerful, content: Last year Twitter banned Politwoops, a feed that collected the deleted tweets of political figures to catch damning off-the-cuff statements. Facebook blocked photos of drowned migrant children intended to make Americans more aware of the tragedy of Syria’s refugee crisis. Sarah Jeong, the Motherboard writer who was silenced by Bernie bros, says she supports the notion of Conversation AI, in theory. “The Internet needs moderation,” she says. But she warns that no one should be foolish enough to let Conversation AI run wild with CONTINUED ON PAGE 124
Type by paula scher
by Peter Rubin
Our writer entered the cutthroat world of competitive punning. The English language still hasnâ€™t recovered.
FROM THE MOMENT HE SPOKE, I knew I was screwed. On the surface, the guy wasn’t particularly fearsome—pudgy, late thirties, polo shirt, plaid shorts, baseball cap, dad sneakers—but he looked completely at ease. One hand in his pocket, the other holding the microphone loosely, like a torch singer doing crowd work. And when he finally began talking, it was with an assurance that belied the fact that he was basically spewing nonsense. “I hate all people named John,” he said with surprising bravado. “Yeah, that’s right, that was a John diss!” The crowd roared. John-diss. Jaundice. A glorious, groan-inducing precision strike of a pun. Welp, I thought. It was fun while it lasted. If you’re an NBA rookie, you really don’t want to go up against LeBron James. Anyone’s trivia night would be ruined by seeing Ken Jennings on another team. And if you find yourself at the world’s biggest pun competition, the last person you want to face is four-time defending champion Ben Ziek. Yet that’s exactly where I was, on an outdoor stage in downtown Austin, Texas, committing unspeakable atrocities upon the English language in front of a few hundred onlookers who were spending their sunny May Saturday reveling in the carnage. The rules of the 39th annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship’s “Punslingers” competition are simple: Two people take turns punning on a theme in head-to-head rounds. Failure to make a pun in the five seconds allowed gets you eliminated; make a nonpun or reuse a word three times and you’ve reached the banishing Round by round and pair g point. p by pair, b i a fi field ld off 32 dwindles until the last of the halved-nots finally gets to claim the mantle of best punster in the world and what most people would agree are some pretty dubious bragging rights. It’s exactly like a rap battle, if 8 Mile had been about software engineers and podcasters and improv nerds vying for supremacy. (Also just like 8 Mile: My first-round opponent had frozen when his turn came to pun on waterborne vehicles. Seriously, y, y yacht a word out.. Canoe o d ccame e ou C oe believe be e e it?) ?)) Eventually, we stood, ll there h d two among the final eight: me, a first-timer, squaring off against the Floyd Mayweather of the pun world. Actually, only one of us was standing; I found myself doing the world’s slowest two-step just to keep my legs from trembling. I’d been a little jittery in my first couple of rounds, sure, but those were standard-issue butterflies, perched on a layer of misguided confidence. This was the anxiety of the sacrificial lamb. I was punning above my weight, and I knew it.
Senior editor and pun criminal PETER RUBIN (@provenself ) wrote about the
roadblocks to VR in issue 24.04. RYAN YOUNG
So that’s how it’s gonna be? Puns in a story about puns? —Editor
OK, this one is pretty clever. —Ed.
WHEN I WAS growing up, my father’s favorite (printable) joke was “Where do cantaloupes go in the summertime? Johnny Cougar’s Melon Camp.” This is proof that—well, it’s proof that I grew up in Indiana. But it’s also proof that I was raised to speak two languages, both of them English. See, there’s the actual words-working-together-andmaking-sense part, and then there’s the fun
Oh, boy. This is going to be a long article. —Ed.
Once the judges announced that we’d be punning on diseases—hence Ziek’s joke about star-crossed began. sta c ossed livers—we ve s “Mumps the h word!” I said, hoping that my voice wasn’t shaking. Ziek immediately fired back: “That was a measle-y pun.” Not only was he confident, with a malleable voice that was equal parts game show host and morning-radio DJ, but his jokes were seemingly fully formed. Worse, he was nimble enough to turn your own pun against you. “Well, I had a croup-on for it,” I responded. Whoa. Where’d that come from? He switched gears. “I have a Buddha at home, and sometimes”—making a rubbing motion with his hand—“I like to rubella.” I was barely paying attention. Diseases, diseases—oh! I pointed at people in different parts of the audience. “If you’ve got a yam, and you’ve got a potato, whose tuber’s closest?” “There was a guy out here earlier painted light red,” Ziek said. “Did you see the pink guy?” “I didn’t,” I responded. “Cold you see him?” Again and again we pun-upped each other, a philharmonic of harmful phonics. From AIDS to Zika we ranged, covering SARS, migraines, Ebola, chicken pox, ague, shingles, fasciitis, streptococcus, West Nile, coronavirus, poison oak, avian flu, gangrene, syphilis, and herpes. Almost five minutes later, we’d gone through 32 puns between the two of us, and I was running dry. As far as my brain was concerned, there wasn’t a medical textbook in existence that contained something we hadn’t used. Ziek, though, had a seemingly endless stockpile and tossed off a quick alopecia pun; I could have bald right then and there. The judge counted down, and I slunk offstage ff to watch the rest of the competition—which Ziek won, for the fifth time. Knowing I’d lost to the best cushioned the blow, but some mild semantic depression still lingered: Instead of slinging my way to a David-like upset, I was the one who had to go lieth down.
I was punning above my weight, and I knew it.
part. The pliant, recombinant part. The part that lets you harness linguistic irregularities, judo-style, to make words into other words. It’s not conscious, exactly; it just feels at some level like someone made a puzzle and didn’t bother to tell me, so my brain wants to figure out what else those sounds can do. A lifetime of listening to hip hop has reinforced that phonetic impulse. Polysyllabic rhymes aren’t strictly puns, but they’re made of the same marrow; when Chance the Rapper rhymes “link in my bio” with “Cinco de Mayo” in the song “Mixtape,” I get an actual endorphin hit. Besides, rap is full of puns already— instant-gratification ones like Lil Wayne saying “Yes I am Weezy, but I ain’t asthmatic” or MF Doom saying “Got more soul than a sock with a hole”—as well as ones that reveal themselves more slowly. Kanye West might be more famous for his production than his lyricism, but he endeared himself to me forever on the song “Dark Fantasy” by spitting the best Family Matters pun of all time: “Too many Urkels on your team, that’s why your wins low.” Whether this is nature or nurture, though, the end result is the same: I’m playing with language all the time, and Kanye and I aren’t the only ones. “I can’t listen passively to someone speaking without the possibility of puns echoing around in my head,” says Gary Hallock, who has been producing and hosting the O. Henry Pun-Off for 26 years. He’s seen the annual event grow from an Austin oddity to a national event and watched dad jokes, of which puns are the most obvious example, take hold in the millennial consciousness; a dad-joke-devoted Reddit board boasts more than 250,000 members. “I’ve often compared punsters to linguistic terrorists,” Hallock says. “We’re literally stalking conversations, looking for the weak place to plant our bomb.” And we’ve been doing it for a long, long time—verbal puns date back to at least 1635 BC, when a Babylonian clay tablet included a pun on the word for “wheat”— and the world has been conflicted about them for nearly as long. (Linguists can’t even agree whether the word pun derives from French, Old English, Icelandic, or Welsh, though there’s no point heading down that scenic root.) On one hand, puns are the stuff of terrible children’s joke books. Oliver Wendell Holmes likened punsters to “wanton boys that put coppers on the railroad tracks. They amuse themselves and other children, but their little trick may upset a freight train of conversation for the sake of a battered witticism.” On the other, God, how can you not feel a little thrill when you make a good one or a begrudging joy when you hear a better one? Humor theorists generally agree that comedy hinges on incongruity: when a sentence or situation subverts expectations or when multiple interpretations are suggested by the same stimulus. (Also, yes, humor theorists are a thing.) That stimulus can be visual (looking at you, eggplant emoji!) or auditory (what up, tuba fart!); most commonly, though, it’s linguistic. Language is slippery by nature, and of the many kinds of wordplay—hyperbole, metaphor, spoonerisms, even letter-level foolery like anagrams—nothing takes advantage of incongruity quite like puns, of which there are four specific varieties. In order of increasing complexity, you’ve got homonyms, identical words that sound alike (“Led Zeppelin’s guitarist was interrogated last week, but detectives weren’t able to turn the Page”); homophones, which are spelled differently but sound the same (“I hate raisins! Apologies if you’re not into curranty vents.”); homographs, which sound different but look the same (“If you’re asking me to believe that a Loire 4
Is it too soon to name this the worst pun in the story? —Ed.
PUNS: A FIELD GUIDE
Four distinct varieties. Infinite variations.
COMPACT AND JOVIAL, Jonah Spear is a dead ringer for Saturday Night Live’s Taran
Killam—or at least for Taran Killam in high school: Spear recently shaved off a grizzledprospector beard and looks about half of his 34 years. He’s also a professional play facilitator and counselor at an adult summer camp (no to phones and drinking, yes to sing-alongs and bonfires). That loosey-goosey vibe has carried into the Bay Area Pun-Off, a monthly event Spear began hosting in January that’s just one of a handful of competitive punning events popping up across the country. If the O. Henry Pun-Off is the Newport Folk Festival, then its Bay Area cousin— like Punderdome 3000 in Brooklyn, Pundamonium in Seattle, or the Great Durham Pun Championship in, well, Durham—is Coachella. The audience is younger, and
ut eb alik d n u When two similarly spelled words so me an d iffer en
Die Another Day
Villain: “I’m Mr. Kil.”
Bond: “Now there’s a name to die for.”
HOMOPHONES e When two words are spelled diff
but tly ren soun d th
“Surely, you can’t be serious.”
“I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”
HOMOGRAPHS but ilar When two words or phrases look sim are p rono u
From Paris With Love
Two Agents. One City. No Merci.
PARONYMS When two words or phrases are ju See also
a ind simil
A Night at the Opera
Groucho Marx: “That’s what they call a sanity clause.”
Chico Marx: “You can’t fool me, there ain’t no Santy Claus!”
PHOTOGRAPHS: EVERETT COLLECTION (OPERA, PARIS); MGM (DIE ANOTHER DAY); PARAMOUNT PICTURES (AIRPLANE!)
cabernet is that different from a Napa cabernet, then the terroirists have won.”); and paronyms, which are just kinda similar-sounding (“I have a ton of work to do, but I ate so much cucumber chutney that I have raita’s block”). When we hear a pun, the words we hear aren’t the words we think we hear, and the burden’s on us to crack the code. Granted, there are people out there who hate puns, and maybe rightly so. But for many of us, that decryption process is a reward unto itself. “Humor happens when something important is being violated,” cognitive scientist Justine Kao says. “Social norms, expectations. So for people who are sensitive to the rules that language follows, puns are more entertaining.” In other words, if you work with words on a daily basis—writing, editing, translating—you’re simply primed to appreciate them more. Behind every great headline, any editor will tell you, is a great pun. (I have a colleague at wired who once looked at a page about chef’s knives and gave it the headline “julienne more”; people lost their goddamn minds.) Still, even among the nerdiest of word herders, there are some rules. Two years ago, Kao and two colleagues at Stanford and UC San Diego decided to prove empirically that incongruity was the root of humor. They tested people’s reactions to hundreds of sentences that varied from one another in minute ways. Some used homophones; some didn’t. Some added detail supporting the nonpun interpretation of the sentence; some stripped detail away. They were able to demonstrate that ambiguity of meaning is necessary for a pun to be perceived—but it’s only half of the equation. (And literally, there’s an equation.) After all, “I went to the bank” is ambiguous, but it’s not a pun. The true determining factor of a pun’s funniness is what the team calls distinctiveness. Take the sentence “The chef brought his girlfriend flours on Valentine’s Day.” It’s a homophone, so it’s not the most complex pun. But if you turn the chef into a pastry chef, that added vocation property makes the pun more distinctive. “When you’re able to identify keywords from different topics,” Kao says, “it clues you in on the intentionality of it—you’re forcing together two things that don’t often co-occur.” Of course, “The pastry chef brought his girlfriend flours on Valentine’s Day” still isn’t funny. It’s the kind of pun a bot would make, and maybe has made in the decades since programmers created the first pun generator. There’s no storytelling to it, no drama. A good pun isn’t just an artless slab of sound-alikeness: It’s a joke that happens to hinge on wordplay. A truly formidable punner knows that and frames a sentence to make the pun the punch line. The longer you delay the ambiguity, the more tension you introduce—and the more cathartic the resolution. A pun should be an exclamation point, not a semicolon. But was I a truly formidable punner? I’d thought so—hell, my lifelong dream is seeing Flavor Flav and Ellen Burstyn cohosting a talk show, just so it can be called Burstyn With Flavor—but after Austin, I had my doubts. I’d cracked under pressure once; until I tried again, I’d never know fissure. As it turned out, a second chance was around the corner.
So, yeah: It was too soon. —Ed.
The Bay Area Pun-Off, a monthly philharmonic of harmful phonics.
We’d watch this show, for the record. —Ed.
the raucous atmosphere is fueled as much by beer as by unabashed pun love. It started in the living room of a communal house in Oakland in January 2016 but quickly outgrew its confines; in June the organizers even staged a New York City satellite event. But on this Saturday night, a week after O. Henry, it’s a high-ceilinged performance space in San Francisco’s Mission District where I’m looking for redemption. The pool of contestants at the Bay Area Pun-Off is small by O. Henry standards, and we commence with an all-hands marathon on tree puns designed to winnow the field of 12 down to eight. “I’m just hoping to win the poplar vote,” one woman says. “Sounds like birch of contract to me,” says someone else. A lanky British guy whom I’ll call Chet rambles through a shaggy-dog story involving a French woman and three Jamaican guys to get to a tortured “le mon t’ree” punch line. The crowd eats it up. When you’re waiting for 11 other people to pun, you’ve got plenty of time to think of your next one, so I try to Ziek out a good-sized reserve of puns—and when it’s my turn, I make sure that my puns build on the joke that came before me. “Keep the applause going,” I say after someone boughs out. “It takes balsa get up here and do this.” After someone delivers a good line, I admit that “I ended up being pretty frond of it.” They’re not distinctive, but at this stage they don’t need to be, as long as they’re ambiguous. Things go oak-ay, and I’m onto the next round. (What, yew don’t believe me? Olive got is my word.) After I indulge in a muggleful of Harry Potter puns, I find myself in the semifinals against a Quora engineer named Asa. Spear scribbles the mystery topic on a small chalkboard hidden from sight, then turns it around. It says … diseases. The same category that knocked me out in Austin? The category I dwelled on for the entire flight home, thinking of all the one-liners that had eluded me? This time, there’s no running dry. Not only do I remember all the puns I used against Ben Ziek, but I remember all the puns he made against me. So when Asa says, “I’m really taking my mumps,” I shoot back with “That’s kinda measly, if you ask me.” I reprise puns I’d made in Austin (“Did you see that Italian opera singer run through the door? In flew Enzo!”); I use puns that I’d thought of since
(“My mom makes the best onion dip. It’s HIV little concoction you’d love”). Asa fights gamely, but I have immunerable disease puns at my fingertips, and it’s not much longer before the round is over. And then, again, there are two: me and Chet. The difference now is I’m locked in: no nerves, no self-consciousness, just getting out of my brain’s way and letting the connections happen. When Spear announces the theme—living world leaders—I don’t even start trying to stockpile puns. I just wait, and they come. Chet opens the round: “Ohhhh, BAMA. I don’t know anything about world leaders!” This time, just hearing him mention Obama conjures up a mental image of Justin Trudeau. Before the laughter even dies down, I nod my head encouragingly: “True, tho—that was a decent pun!” It’s Austin all over again, just in reverse: Now I’m the quick one and Chet’s the one who has to scramble. He fumbles through a long story about rock climbing that leads to a pun about his cam-bell. (And before you ask: Chances are he wasn’t actually talking about Kim Campbell, who was prime minister of Canada for all of six months in 1993, but in the heat of the moment no one realized he’d just screwed up David Cameron’s name.) My turn? No problem. Just keep flipping it back to him. “Another patented long-ass Chet story,” I say. “I am Bushed.” “Well,” Chet says, then pauses. “He thinks he can just … Blair shit out.” It’s his one solid blow. I talk about the “bonky moon” that’s shining outside that night. I confide in the audience about my own alopecia problem, and how I needed to buy a Merkel. And each time, the audience is right there with me. They don’t necessarily know what’s coming, but they’re loving it. Chet’s used three US presidents and two prime ministers; meanwhile, I’ve been from South Korea to Germany, by way of Canada. Even better, I’ve got another continent in my pocket. “Have you guys been to Chet’s farm?” I ask the audience. “He has this group of cows that won’t stop talking.” I wait a beat. “They are seriously moo-gabby.” What happens next is a blur, to be perfectly honest. I can’t even tell you what comes out of Chet’s mouth next, but it’s either nothing or it’s the name of someone dead—and either way, the Bay Area Pun-Off is over. I might not have been able to vanquish Ben Ziek; this may be my only taste of victory in the world of competitive paronomasiacs; hell, I may never know the secret to the perfect pun. But as long as I’ve got the words to try, one thing’s for sure: I’ll use vaguely different words to approximate those words, thereby creating incongruity and thus humor. Or maybe I’ll just plead raita’s block. ! Wood you stop already? —Ed.
Digital Justice League CON TIN UED FR OM PAGE 117
automated comment deletion: “These are human interactions.” Any fix for the worst of those interactions, she says, will need to be human too. “An automated detection system can open the door to the delete-it-all option,” adds Emma Llansó, director of the Free Expression Project at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology, “rather than spending the time and resources to identify false positives.” My tests of Conversation AI do in fact produce outright false positives. “I shit you not” somehow got an attack score of 98 out of 100, the same as the far more offensive “you are shit.” The rather harmless phrase “you suck all the fun out of life” scored a 98, just a point shy of “you suck.” And most problematic of all, perhaps: “You are a troll”—the go-to response for any troll victim—was flagged with an attack score of 93. Throwing out well-intentioned speech that resembles harassment could be a blow to exactly the open civil society Jigsaw has vowed to protect. When I ask Conversation AI’s inventors about its potential for collateral damage, the engineers argue that its false positive rate will improve over time as the software continues to train itself. But on the question of how its judgments will be enforced, they say that’s up to whoever uses the tool. “We want to let communities have the discussions they want to have,” says Conversation AI cocreator Lucas Dixon. And if that favors a sanitized Internet over a freewheeling one? Better to err on the side of civility. “There are already plenty of nasty places on the Internet. What we can do is create places where people can have better conversations.” in June, I join Jared Cohen at one of his favorite spots in New York: the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, an empty, expansive, tomblike dome of worn marble in sleepy Riverside Park. When Cohen
ON A MUGGY MORNING
arrives, he tells me the place reminds him of the quiet ruins he liked to roam during his travels in rural Syria. Our meeting is in part to air the criticisms I’ve heard of Conversation AI. But when I mention the possibility of false positives actually censoring speech, he answers with surprising humility. “We’ve been asking these exact questions,” he says. And they apply not just to Conversation AI but to everything Jigsaw builds, he says. “What’s the most dangerous use case for this? Are there risks we haven’t sufficiently stress-tested?” Jigsaw runs all of its projects by groups of beta testers and asks for input from the same groups it intends to recruit as users, he says. But Cohen admits he never knows if they’re getting enough feedback, or the right kind. Conversation AI in particular, he says, remains an experiment. “When you’re looking at curbing online harassment and at free expression, there’s a tension between the two,” he acknowledges, a far more measured response than what I’d heard from Conversation AI’s developers. “We don’t claim to have all the answers.” And if that experiment fails, and the tool ends up harming the exact free speech it’s trying to protect, would Jigsaw kill it? “Could be,” Cohen answers without hesitation. I start to ask another question, but Cohen interrupts, unwilling to drop the notion that Jigsaw’s tools may have unintended consequences. He wants to talk about the people he met while wandering through the Middle East’s most repressive countries, the friends who hosted him and served as his guide, seemingly out of sheer curiosity and hospitality. It wasn’t until after Cohen returned to the US that he realized how dangerous it had been for them to help him or even to be seen with him, a Jewish American during a peak of anti-Americanism. “My very presence could have put them at risk,” he says, with what sounds like genuine throat-tightening emotion. “To the extent I have a guilt I act on, it’s that. I never want to make that mistake again.” Cohen still sends some of those friends, particularly ones in the war-torn orbit of Syria and ISIS, an encrypted message almost daily, simply to confirm that they’re alive and well. It’s an exercise, like the one he assigns to new Jigsaw hires but designed as maintenance for his own conscience: a daily check-in to assure himself his interventions in the world have left it better than it was before. “Ten years from now I’ll look back at where my head is at today too,” he says. “What I got right and what I got wrong.” He hopes he’ll have done good. !
COLOPHON KICKS THAT HELPED GET THIS ISSUE OUT: Curry Two dad shoes; my Nike Tier 0 Liberty Dunks; forget shoes, I use my miniPRO Segway to get around; the gorgeously embossed and foiled Marlboro cigarette packages in the UK; my motorcycle’s kickstand punching a hole through my kicks; watching my favorite horse kick up his heels when he plays; Data’s Nike high-tops in The Goonies; Magnus Walker spray-painting the white soles of his black sneakers black because he couldn’t buy them that way; Fredrik Eklund’s high kicks; working on my heel clicks at the office; pho at Yummy Yummy (thanks for blowing its cover, New York Times); kicking asses that need kicking; four rides on the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk; having coffee with a blue damselfly at camp. WIRED is a registered trademark of Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. Copyright ©2016 Condé Nast. All rights reserved. Printed in the USA. Volume 24, No. 10. WIRED (ISSN 1059–1028) is published monthly by Condé Nast, which is a division of Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. Editorial office: 520 Third Street, Ste. 305, San Francisco, CA 94107-1815. Principal office: Condé Nast, 1 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007. S. I. Newhouse, Jr., Chairman Emeritus; Charles H. Townsend, Chairman; Robert A. Sauerberg, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer; David E. Geithner, Chief Financial Officer; Jill Bright, Chief Administrative Officer. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement No. 40644503. Canadian Goods and Services Tax Registration No. 123242885 RT0001. Canada Post: Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to PO Box 874, Station Main, Markham, ON L3P 8L4. POSTMASTER: Send all UAA to CFS (see DMM 707.4.12.5); NONPOSTAL AND MILITARY FACILITIES: Send address corrections to WIRED, P.O. Box 37706, Boone, IA 500370662. For subscriptions, address changes, adjustments, or back issue inquiries: Please write to WIRED, PO Box 37706, Boone, IA 50037–0662, call (800) 769 4733, or email subscriptions@WIRED.com. Please give both new and old addresses as printed on most recent label. First copy of new subscription will be mailed within eight weeks after receipt of order. Address all editorial, business, and production correspondence to WIRED Magazine, 1 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007. For permissions and reprint requests, please call (212) 630 5656 or fax requests to (212) 630 5883. Visit us online at www.WIRED.com. To subscribe to other Condé Nast magazines on the web, visit www.condenet.com. Occasionally, we make our subscriber list available to carefully screened companies that offer products and services that we believe would interest our readers. If you do not want to receive these offers and/or information, please advise us at PO Box 37706, Boone, IA 50037-0662, or call (800) 769 4733.
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BY ROBERT CAPPS
ASK A FLOWCHART WHAT KIND OF SHOE AM I?
WHAT KIND OF JOB DO YOU HAVE?
HOW DO YOU GET YOURSELF PUMPED UP FOR A COLD CALL?
A REAL ENGINEER OR A PROGRAMMER?
THE REAL KIND
RED BULL AND METALLICA
ONLINE OR THE DYING KIND?
I’M AN INFLUENCER!
DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FOLLOWERS?
PROGRAMMERS ARE REAL ENGINEERS!
ESPRESSO SHOTS AND POWER POSES
FINE. WHAT DO YOU SNACK ON AT WORK?
CONVERSE ALL STARS
YEEZY BOOST 350
CHEETOS AND MOUNTAIN DEW
CLIF BARS AND KOMBUCHA
BULLETPROOF COFFEE AND MEDITATION
JIMMY CHOO PUMPS
THE DYING KIND
PRISTINE WHITE NEW BALANCE CROSSTRAINERS
I DON’T REALLY PAY ATTENTION. I’M ALWAYS ON INSTAGRAM.
I DON’T CARE ABOUT FOLLOWERS. I HAVE 12 50-DAY-PLUS SNAPSTREAKS GOING!
NIKE HYPERADAPT 1.0
FLIPFLOPS— WHO NEEDS SHOES WHEN ALL YOU DO IS WATCH SUNSETS?
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