Wednesday, May 18th, 2016


You Talking to Me?

As expected, Google announced its competitor to Amazon's Echo and Apple's Siri (and Hound, Viv, etc). It's called Google Home. The company also launched its AI assisted challenger to Facebook's Messenger and What's App, and Apple's Messenger. It also introduced a competitor to Skype and Facetime. We used to have hundreds of tech companies all working on different things. Now we have five all doing the same thing. Maybe that's the real singularity -- when all of the major tech companies are working on a single product. Here are more product announcements from a very busy day at Google. These product announcements hammer home an important point. The days of talking with our computers is upon us. But while talking to our machines is getting easier, a lack of interoperability between all of these competing products could make it even harder to talk with each other.


Stockhome Syndrome

The more we have the tech to work remotely, the more we all seem to be moving into our big cities to be together. So, it's no surprise that the rent is too damn high. Or that it's often really hard to even find a place to live. Consider Stockholm, where "the city's queue for rent-controlled housing is so long that it's being considered by the Guinness Book of World Records." BBC on the city with 20-year waiting lists for rental homes.

+ Want an apartment in San Francisco? Join the auction.

+ While our cities are crowded, many new residents seem to be sequestered in their full-service offices all day long. For the sake of our cities (and our sanity), maybe it's time to go out an really do lunch.



"Amina Ali Nkeki was found carrying a baby by an army-backed vigilante group on Tuesday in the huge Sambisa Forest, close to the border with Cameroon." After two years, one of Nigeria's missing schoolgirls has been rescued. And she says others are still alive.


Feed the Head

There's been a lot of debate about Facebook's role in selecting the news items its users see. The WSJ built an interactive tool to give you an idea of what different political types are seeing in their version of the news: Blue Feed, Red Feed.


Good Griddance

"Electricity consumption in the country was fully covered by solar, wind and hydro power in an extraordinary 107-hour run that lasted from 6.45am on Saturday 7 May until 5.45pm the following Wednesday." Portugal just ran on renewable energy alone for four days.


Farm to Gut

"A big farm planting herbicide-tolerant GM corn in Iowa doesn't have much in common with a smallholder growing pest-resistant GM cotton in India." And realities like that, along with a quickly changing landscape, make it hard to make blanket statements about GMOs. Vox provides a look at the 5 big takeaways from the most thorough review of GMOs yet.

+ FiveThirtyEight: Probiotics won't fix all your health problems. But they might fix some. But we probably won't know how.


Street Fighter

There was a ton of interest in yesterday's lead story on Rana Foroohar's Time article on the shifting relationship between Wall Street and Main Street. As a follow-up, here's an interview between NewCo's John Battelle and Foroohar. "This industry creates 4 percent of jobs and takes 25 percent of the corporate profit pie. That is just breathtaking. If you need one number to sum up where the problem is, it's that."

+ And here's a link to Foroohar's book: Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business.


A Sporting Chance?

In my old neighborhood, the sporting good store we all used to go to has been replaced by a pharmacy. That always seemed like an apt metaphor for America's health habits. From Racked: The Death of the Great American Sporting Goods Store.


The Pages of My Mind

"It's really all about taking things that don't make any sense and giving them some sort of strong visual meaning. People are much better at remembering those sorts of things." The New Yorker gets some lessons from America's first memory world champion, Alex Somethingorother.


Bottom of the News

"The rappers hate the idea. The rockers, struggling with drugs and low record sales, don't know what to make of Rubin's pitch. But on a Sunday in March, they meet in a Manhattan recording studio to create what will become one of the most important songs of the modern pop era." Here's the oral history of Walk This Way.

+ Buzzfeed: How Blac Chyna Beat The Kardashians At Their Own Game.

+ "Now you can get fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants all over the world. Except for China. Where they hate them."