Take it from the insiders: Silicon Valley is eating your soul | John Harris

One source of angst came close to being 2017’s signature subject: how the internet and the tiny handful of companies that dominate it are affecting both individual minds and the present and future of the planet. The old idea of the online world as a burgeoning utopia looks to have peaked around the time of the Arab spring, and is in retreat.

If you want a sense of how much has changed, picture the president of the US tweeting his latest provocation in the small hours, and consider an array of words and phrases now freighted with meaning: Russia, bots, troll farms, online abuse, fake news, dark money.

Another sign of how much things have shifted is a volte-face by Silicon Valley’s most powerful man. Barely more than a year ago the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, seemed still to be rejoicing in his company’s imperial phase, blithely dismissing the idea that fabricated news carried by his platform had affected the outcome of the 2016 US election as a read more

10 reasons why Sicily should be your next family holiday

You might think Sicily is one destination where it’s best to leave the children behind – or wait until they’re older. Dramatic but sometimes forbidding landscape, serious cultural sights, and madcap cities like Palermo seem to cry out for a grown-up approach. But don’t be put off. Sicily has a huge amount to offer families with small children.

1. Ice cream

Sure, this isn’t a uniquely Sicilian treat, but the Sicilians feel they do it best, and your two euros are always well spent, keeping morale high and little legs moving. Just picking from the vast variety of flavours is a game in itself.

2. The food in general

It’s amazing. Pasta, of course, but seafood too. Many coastal villages have fishmongers where the fishermen bring home their fish, squid or shrimp which you can buy or eat at a cafe next door. And everywhere, even in humble or apparently touristy cafes, fuelling up the children without whingeing is easy. Ubiquitous orange rice balls – arancini –  will help prevent many a meltdown; as every parent knows, life is much easier when the troops have full stomachs.

A market in bustling Palermo Credit: GETTY read more

3. Weather

It read more

Here’s Why I Invented A ‘Death Machine’ That Lets People Take Their Own Lives

Talk about “dying with dignity” has grown to a calamitous pitch in recent years. “Right to die” groups vie for supremacy, trying to show who can make the dying experience the least degrading. Who can replace the utter macabre-ness of the necessity of death with something more palatable. In this reclamation of death ― a change from the silence of the past decades, when the subject was even hidden from children ― the focus on dignity is an admirable, yet somewhat clumsy, catch-all for how we should all want to die. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not critical of the intentions or semantics of the current discussion; it’s just that there seems something lacking ― at least to me. Some 20 years ago, I became the first physician in the world to administer a legal, lethal, voluntary injection to four of my terminally ill patients (under Australia’s short-lived Rights of the Terminally Ill Act). At the time, I approached death with the confidence, and even arrogance, of someone in the middle of his life. I was about to turn 50. At a psychological level, death was still something that happened to other people. As my work in this field has matured, my vision has shifted from supporting the idea of a dignified death for the terminally ill (the medical model) to supporting the concept of a good death for any rational adult who has “life experience” (the human rights model). At Exit International, the nonprofit organization I founded after the aforementioned overturning of the world’s first voluntary euthanasia law, we interpret that to mean anyone over 50 years of age. I have found myself at the pointy end of the right-to-die debate.

Getting information about how to “die with dignity,” should the need arise, is like an insurance policy ― the “just in case” safety net that could be there if their health and quality of life turned bad someday.

If we are talking about a “good death,” referred to by the Greeks as “euthanasia,” then why isn’t this the goal for all of us? Why do you have to be terminally ill (i.e., almost dead) to die with dignity?  This unequal distribution of the privilege of dying with dignity makes no sense, especially given the capacity of modern medicine to keep many of us alive well beyond what we would wish. This presents another conundrum: In the liberal democratic West, we are living longer but our lives are less healthy. I see this reality every day. It may surprise readers to know that the vast majority of the membership of Exit International are the “well elderly.” These older people are not sick ― well, not now, at least. However, they know things will not always be this way. Getting information about how to “die with dignity,” should the need arise, is like an insurance policy ― the “just in case” safety net that could be there if their health and quality of life turned bad someday. I hear some people express surprise others plan ahead like this. Is this morbid? Is it depressing to anticipate one’s death? At Exit International, we don’t think so.  Time and again, we see the comfort and reassurance that is gained from knowing one has an “exit plan,” so to speak, within reach, should the need ever arise. Being in control gives confidence; it restores one’s sense of self. And, yes, it generates dignity in living, knowing one will have dignity in dying. But what if we had more than mere dignity to look forward to? What if we dared to imagine that our last day on this planet might also be one of our most exciting? Would “dignity” still be our endgame, or would that just be par for the course? Thinking in this context about what I wanted my own last day to be like, I began to envision a machine, device, invention, thing  ― I’m searching for terminology here that is not yet in our vocabulary ― that might elevate the spirit when the end is nigh. “The Sarco,” as the capsule that I have co-designed with Dutch engineer Alex Bannink has been named, is my first tangible expression of enquiry for death to be much more than “just dignified.”

The Sarco is a 3D-printable machine that provides death by hypoxia, an environment with low levels of oxygen. It can be transported wherever one chooses. Facing the awe of the Rockies? Overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean? Where you die is certainly an important factor. Nice scenery at the end is hardly a new thought. The film “Soylent Green” showed the benefit of the peace that pretty pictures and a soothing soundtrack can bring when drifting away from this world. The thought that ground-breaking film left on the shelf, though, was the possibility of feeling not just dignity at the end, but of feeling euphoric. And why not? Hypoxia can offer just that. Ask someone who has lived through a rapid plane depressurization ― that drunk disorientation can leave you a little unsure of just why you should strap on that dangling oxygen mask. In my Air Force days I was asked to write a letter to a friend while they lowered the oxygen level in my training chamber. I wrote rubbish, but it seemed like happy euphoric rubbish when I was re-reading it at ground oxygen level. As I say in my workshops, “You’re only going to die once, so why not have the best?” In that case, I’m usually referring to Nembutal, a barbiturate used as a euthanasia drug. While the modus operandi of Nembutal might be peaceful, reliable and, yes, dignified, it fails miserably at providing a euphoric death.  And this is just what the Sarco is seeking to address.

A Sarco death is painless. There’s no suffocation, choking sensation or “air hunger” as the user breathes easily in a low-oxygen environment. The sensation is one of well-being and intoxication.

Here’s how it works: Potential users fill out an online test to gauge their mental fitness. If they pass, they receive an access code to a Sarco device that works for 24 hours. After the code is entered and an additional confirmation given, liquid nitrogen in the generator is released, rapidly bringing down the oxygen level in the capsule. Within a minute, the user loses consciousness; death comes a short time later.  A Sarco death is painless. There’s no suffocation, choking sensation or “air hunger” as the user breathes easily in a low-oxygen environment. The sensation is one of well-being and intoxication.  In a creative twist on my previous “have the best death you can” proposition, the Sarco adds the extra layer of “feel your best.” It is perhaps that in experiencing life as euphoria that life and death conflate into one. This sentiment has been similarly expressed in the graphic short film “H Positive” (below). The leading man, Mark, says, “When I die I don’t want barbiturates in my blood, I want adrenaline!” [embedded content] He has a terminal diagnosis, so he has a real-life version of Julijonas Urbonas’ “euthanasia roller coaster” built. The G-forces generated by this final ride guarantee cerebral euphoria and anoxia ― and death.  The palatability and acceptability of Mark’s death will differ from viewer to viewer, but the message stays the same: Someone’s last day on Earth is special. Is there any reason why their feeling shouldn’t be measured in the positive, rather than in degrees of miserable-ness, pain and mental anguish? The Sarco will not be for everyone, that’s clear. By next year, though, the open-source plans will be freely available on internet. I would like to think that it will find broad appeal and be able to help reframe conversations about, and people’s experiences, with death. Do you have a personal story that you’d like us to consider sharing on HuffPost Personal? Pitch us here.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #flipboard https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sarco-death-philip-nitschke_us_5abbb574e4b03e2a5c7853ca

IBM’s smart assistant is called…Watson Assistant

You saw this one coming, right? This week at its Think 2018 Conference in Las Vegas, IBM showed off its own take on the growing smart assistant category, aimed firmly at enterprise applications. Naturally, the company’s using the Watson name for the offering, and tacking on “Assistant” for good measure.

Unlike Alexa, Siri and Google’s own offering of the same name, however, Watson Assistant won’t be a chipper, consumer-facing offering loaded up on IBM-branded smart speakers. Rather, the company’s plan here is to operate mostly behind the scenes, white labeling the technology for use by companies.

In fact, the offering is so behind-the-scenes that IBM’s already rolled it out in a bunch of spots, including the Munich Airport and the Royal Bank of Scotland. The big Think read more

Barnes & Noble is killing itself

I’ve been chronicling the slow demise of B&N for years now, watching the company bleed out, drop by drop, until it has become a shell of its former value. B&N was a cultural center in places without cultural centers. It was a stopover on rainy days in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland and it was a place you could go to get your kids’ first books.

That’s mostly over now. On Monday the company laid off 1,800 people. This offered a cost savings of $40 million. But that’s particularly interesting. That means each of those people made an average of $22,000 or so per year and minimum wage workers – hourly folks who are usually hit hardest during post-holiday downturns – would be making $15,000. In fact, what B&N did was fire all full time employees at 781 stores. From a former employee:

On Monday morning, every single Barnes & Noble location told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers (those read more

Machine learning won’t kill lawyers, but blockchain will

I fear for the professions.

Those which have enjoyed a monopoly for so long due to their protection by Royal Societies and Official registries. Those which require accreditation and continued professional development.

I’m not saying they never provided a quality professional service, I’m saying they had Carte Blanche to charge extortionate prices in a protected market.

When your moat is a 6-year degree and a 2-year traineeship it’s incredibly difficult to disrupt.

The problem is, with people living longer and more and more people jockeying to enter service based professions, there are too many people entering almost every one.

But here come the machines and they can read everything you have instantaneously, as well as every other law book every written. They have total recall of any precedent ever set and an insurmountable amount of information at the end of their electrodes, ready to be utilised in response to any query or requirement.

I read more

The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be the biggest overhaul of global privacy rules in over 20 years: EU citizens receive sweeping new powers over how their data can be collected, used and stored, and it will affect laws worldwide by imposing hefty fines for non-compliance via /r/technology

The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be the biggest overhaul of global privacy rules in over 20 years: EU citizens receive sweeping new powers over how their data can be collected, used and stored, and it will affect laws worldwide by imposing hefty fines for non-compliance

Submitted February 02, 2018 at 05:10PM by Hogron555
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social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #flipboard https://greenground.it/2018/02/02/the-eus-new-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr-will-be-the-biggest-overhaul-of-global-privacy-rules-in-over-20-years-eu-citizens-receive-sweeping-new-powers-over-how-their-data-can-be-collec-2/

Elon Musk’s flamethrower is real and yours for just $500

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.

Who could resist?
Boring Company
Some were ready to shoot the idea down in flames.

But it’s often wise, on hearing an apparently loopy concept emerge from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, to assume that he’s deadly serious.

In this case, it was Musk insisting that his Boring Company would release a flamethrower. Which, it strikes me, is a deadly serious implement.

On Friday, there was talk that it sat behind a password-protected product page

On Saturday, it appeared for sale on the company’s website at the bargain price of $500.

Oh, but there was so much fascinating marketing to accompany it.

There was Musk showing off his little friend.

And then he decided to film himself, fully armed and enflamed, attacking a camera.

His employees joined in the fun.

And then Musk took to Twitter to explain the most serious existential use for something that costs, well, half the price of an iPhone read more

Jeff Bezos is the richest person in history

Jeff Bezos in 60 seconds

Jeff Bezos is now the richest person of all time. That should put an Amazon smile on his face.

The Amazon CEO’s net worth reached $105.1 billion Monday, according to Bloomberg’s billionaire tracker. That eclipses the record previously held by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Forbes, the other major tracker of the net worth of the world’s richest, put Bezos’ net worth at a mere $104.4 billion.

The majority of that net worth comes from the 78.9 million shares of Amazon stock he owns. Shares of Amazon (AMZN) climbed 1.4% Monday, adding about $1.4 billion to his net worth.

Shares of Amazon (AMZN) are up nearly 7% so far in this year after rising 56% in 2017.

Bezos’ other holdings include the Washington Post and Blue Origin, a private space travel business that intends to take tourists to space.

Related: Jeff Bezos is the smartest guy in business

Bezos grabbed the title of world’s richest person in July, when he briefly passed Bill Gates. He moved back read more

Ripple’s XRP jumps on unconfirmed report Western Union plans to use its services for money transfers (WU)

Ripple priceMarkets Insider

  • Ripple’s XRP has rallied 20% off its intraday lows following an unconfirmed report Western Union is going to use its technology.
  • Ripple’s official Twitter account said earlier Friday the company has already signed three of the five largest money transfer firms.
  • Western Union finished the day up 5.9%.

Ripple’s XRP cryptocurrency is surging off previous intraday low prices, down just 4% Friday afternoon, following an unconfirmed report that said Western Union planned to use its blockchain technology for money transfers.

Ripplenews.tech, which then briefly went offline, first reported the anonymous tip just before 3 p.m. ET. Shortly after, the price of XRP surged 20% off its intraday lows. Western Union’s stock closed up 5.9% after the report.

A spokesperson for Ripple declined to comment, saying the company “can’t comment on rumor or speculation.” Western Union also declined to comment. The two companies have previously worked together on a pilot program for distributed payment protocols in 2015. 

Ripple’s official Twitter account said earlier Friday that the company had already signed three of the world’s five largest money transfer firms:

Screen Shot 2018 01 05 at 3.46.50 PMTwitter

The tweet appeared to be a response to read more