Anxiously Seeking the Perfect Anti-Anxiety App

When I’m having a bout of anxiety, or even just an avoidant feeling (that is probably the precursor to a bout of anxiety), I pull out my phone to distract myself. In bed, when I can’t sleep (which is often) I scroll through Instagram. In the morning, to stave off errands or work, I’ll scroll through Twitter. At some point, when I’m scrolling and liking, any app I have opened to relieve anxiety begins to give me anxiety of its own. Instagram ads quickly trigger excessive worry about which shoes I should get for my 12-month-old who isn’t even walking yet; Instagram stories drive me to wonder why I don’t “do more” with my free time; Twitter makes me feel like the least industrious writer to have ever lived.

So I turn again to my phone to calm down. But this time, I toggle to specific anti-anxiety apps. I’ve tried quite a few: There’s Headspace, Mindful, Stop, Breathe & Think, 10 Percent Happier, and Insight Timer. The great paradox for those of us whose phones make [...]  read more

Seeing Through Silicon Valley’s Shameless ‘Disruption’

The great folk singer and champion of the people Pete Seeger, with a wee bit of sarcasm, used to tell union members not to waste their pity on the scab taking the side of the bosses during a strike. Have no fear, Seeger would say, the scab will bounce back and “make a good living on what he takes out of blind men’s cups.” Seeger knew how to humble his foes.

Similarly, one might at first worry whether Silicon Valley food apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Seamless will survive the public outrage following a recent New York Times exposé of the hamster-wheel existence of the delivery people who use the apps to make a living. The article details how the business models of these bright new startups require that their employees—excuse me, “independent contractors”—carry food from restaurant to customer at a ferocious pace for pay that often amounts to less than the hourly minimum wage.

Noam Cohen

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Noam Cohen is a journalist and author of The Know-It-Alls: [...]  read more

A New Law Makes Bots Identify Themselves—That’s the Problem

This month, California became the first state to require bots to openly identify as automated online accounts.

On July 1, nine months after being signed into law, California’s SB 1001—the “Bolstering Online Transparency,” or B.O.T. bill—came into effect. The new rule requires all bots that attempt to influence California residents’ voting or purchasing behaviors to conspicuously declare themselves. The owner or creator of the bot is responsible for prominently designating the account as automated; the platform itself is off the hook. (To see what the law might look like in practice, visit @Bot_Hertzberg—a bot created by SB 1001 author and California Senator Bill Hertzberg to showcase the need for the new rule. “I AM A BOT,” its Twitter bio reads. “Automated accounts like mine are made to misinform & exploit users.”)

Renee DiResta (@noUpside[...]  read more

The Twisted Flight Paths of ‘Global Girl’ and the Lolita Express

The Gulfstream Girl can’t use that nickname anymore. In 2013, the model-turned-pilot—then 27, blond, often beaming in photos—was hit with a trademark infringement suit by Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, which told her their brand name was off-limits.

That must have been a disappointment. As a commercial pilot, the former Gulfstream Girl, whose real name is Nadia Marcinko and before that Nadia Marcinkova, holds three rating certificates: for single-engine aircraft, multi-engine aircraft, and various Gulfstream business jets, which have their own rating certificates. Furthermore, she is the CEO of Aviloop, a supremely odd aviation branding business, whose website features flawless shots of her with Gulfstreams.

Virginia Heffernan (@page88) is an Ideas contributor at WIRED. She is the author of Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art, a cohost of Trumpcast, an op-ed columnist at the Los Angeles Times, and a frequent contributor to Politico.

Marcinko was a good sport about [...]  read more

Can Sci-Fi Writers Prepare Us for an Uncertain Future?

What will 2050 be like? As our existential anxiety is fueled by a burning planet, eroding privacy, and geopolitical instability, it’s a question that big companies have to take seriously. So earlier this year, the international engineering firm Arup attempted to envision what climate change might mean for their business—and beyond—in 30 years.

To do so, they turned to Tim Maughan, who was tasked with crafting four different “user journeys,” written accounts that imagined potential futures. “I invented a person in these scenarios and described their daily commute to work,” Maughan told me. “Who has to rely on private transport, who has public transport, who has to walk or bike? That tells you a lot about what’s happening in different outcomes.” In some of Maughan’s vignettes, climate change has ravaged the planet. In others, humans have taken action to slow the damage. Maughan’s job was to flesh out those futures in a series of descriptive sketches.

 [...]  read more

The Death of a Patient and the Future of Fecal Transplants

Last month the Food and Drug Administration sent out an emergency alert: Two people who had undergone fecal transplants developed multi-drug-resistant infections from bacteria in the stool they were given, and one died.

The death and illness may be the first serious adverse events associated with the poopy procedure, out of tens of thou­sands of times it’s believed to have been performed in the US. If those numbers are accurate, that’s an awfully good safety record. But it’s hard to know for sure, because roughly a decade since the procedure became mainstream, it still occupies a legal gray area, and thus whatever data is being collected isn’t comprehensive or public.

Maryn McKenna (@marynmck) is an Ideas contributor for WIRED, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, and author of Big Chicken.

That iffy legality is what is worrying the patients and doctors who practice the procedure now. The FDA has allowed [...]  read more

A New and Terrifying Tick, a 3D-Printed Shoe Sole, and More News

It’s time to get freaked out about a deadly new tick, New Balance is bringing us into 3D-printed shoe future, and WIRED wants to help you upgrade your underwater photography game. Here’s the news you need to know, in two minutes or less.

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Today’s Headlines

The terrifying unknowns of an exotic invasive tick

A new kind of tick is creepy-crawling around New Jersey and 10 other states, biting people and feasting on livestock. It’s called the Asian longhorned tick and it harbors an array of viruses including a potentially deadly hemorrhagic fever. It also lays thousands of eggs at a time, producing waves of offspring that extract so much blood they can kill cattle.

New Balance’s latest shoe comes with 3D-printed soles

New Balance is using 3D-printed soles to make its shoes lighter, more supportive, and more durable. Cool! But even cooler: the promising future of 3D-printed shoes. Companies could [...]  read more

The Challenge of Helping Blind People Navigate Indoors

Earlier this month, the charismatic, energetic mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, Greg Fischer, announced that the city would rename its airport the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. Ali tourism, the mayor told NPR, is becoming a major Louisville brand, along with the Kentucky Derby and bourbon. Ali the humanitarian and champion athlete makes for a welcoming image for the city, and Ali’s daughter, Maryum, made clear that Ali would have been proud that a Muslim was being honored in this way. Fischer made a promise at his 2011 inauguration to make Louisville “the nation’s first compassionate city,” and the renaming of the airport seemed like an inclusive move.


p class=”paywall”>I made my own pilgrimage to Louisville last month during the week-long hangover that follows the Derby. I was there in part to talk to city employees about Louisville’s uses of data and plans for fiber optic connectivity. Fischer has a reputation in the smart-city world as a [...]  read more

The YouTubers Who Changed the Landscape for #NaturalHair

“Oh, you are gonna want to do jojoba and sweet almond oil instead of castor,” Whitney White, one of YouTube’s most famous black beauty vloggers, told me over the phone last month. The changing of the seasons was making my hair flake a bit and the castor oil I’d been massaging into my scalp was weighing my hair down. “Add in some aloe,” she says. It was a revelation.

Collier Meyerson is an Ideas contributor at WIRED. She was awarded an Emmy for her work on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes and two awards for her reporting from the National Association of Black Journalists. She is a contributing editor at New York magazine and maintains the Nobler Fellowship at the Nation Institute.

As a young child, the bath was my least favorite time of day because I knew what was coming next: getting my hair combed out. My mother would plop me in front of Jeopardy!, lather a popular pink lotion in my hair, and start in on detangling my tight curls with a wide-toothed comb. When I’d sit down in front of her, she’d say, “I’m ready to fight,” addressing my hair. My mother, who is black, wears her hair naturally and cropped close to her head, but it has a different texture than mine. Each time she combed out my hair, she tried to be gentle at first, but by the end of the show I’d always end up in tears and she’d be calling me tender-headed. [...]  read more

How Ava DuVernay Made Sure the Central Park Five Were Finally ‘Seen’

The Netflix miniseries When They See Us from Ava DuVernay is excruciating to watch—an unflinching look at the human wreckage left behind after New York City’s police, prosecutors, courts, and news media insisted that five young Harlem residents pay the price for a crime they didn’t commit: the rape and near-murder of a jogger in Central Park in the spring of 1989.

I was tempted to turn off the TV about 15 minutes in—and might have if my wife, an immigrant committed to under­standing our country for what it is, hadn’t insisted on continuing. Many of my friends stopped early on or never started to begin with.

Noam Cohen

author photo

Noam Cohen is a journalist and author of The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball, which uses the history of computer science and Stanford University to understand the libertarian ideas promoted by tech leaders. While working for The New York Times, Cohen wrote some of the earliest articles about Wikipedia, bitcoin, Wikileaks, and Twitter. He lives with his family in Brooklyn.

That title, When They See Us, was a conscious decision by DuVernay not to use the familiar shorthand for the case, “the Central Park Five.” That was the name of a 2012 documentary that described [...]  read more