Wired columns

I write a monthly column for Wired, about how technology affects everyday life. I’ve been doing it since 2007; man, there are a lot of these!

The Upside of Fidgeting (April 2017)
Why are “fidget toys” so hot? Because they help our brains cope with our deskbound, sedentary lives.
Math Rescues Democracy (April 2017)
Gerrymandering has rigged too many elections in the US. How to fix it? With better math!
When the Waves Rise (Feb. 2017)
Want to see what climate “adaptation” looks like? Check out the world’s coastal cities.
Will game 4 $$$ (Feb. 2017)
An economist has a startling prediction: In the future, low-skill workers will be paid to play video games.
Creepy apps (Feb. 2017)
When software gets too personalized, it falls into the famous “Uncanny Valley”.
Fast Forward (Feb. 2017)
Are you watching video at speeds of 2X and up? That’s okay: It’s the new form of skimming.
Coal and code (Feb. 2017)
What’s the next major form of blue-collar labor? Computer programming.
Boredom –> creativity (Oct. 2016)
If you want to get a big new idea, let yourself embrace boredom.
Inside the Black Box (Oct. 2016)
Neural nets are useful, clever — but we don’t know what’s going on inside them. Time to change that.
Do-it-yourself virtual reality (Sept. 2016)
“What’s VR for?” The only way we’ll find out … is by letting everyday people make it.
The rise of text-messaging literature (Aug. 2016)
Which is surprisingly addictive — and harkens back to the radio serials of the 1940s.
Why Tech Aimed at Women’s Health is Taking Off (July 2016)
Male VCs didn’t want to fund products aimed at women — so the female entrepreneurs took it to Kickstarter.
Let’s Give the Robots a Hand (June 2016)
Robots can out-think us at chess — but still can’t pick up a chess piece. The new frontier for AI is manipulation.
The Blissfully Slow World of Email Newsletters (May 2016)
Newsletters are quirky, personal, and hot. How did email become the place where readers get serious?
Put Down the Broom: Tidying Up Can Hamper Creativity (April 2016)
Why a little bit of clutter can be good for the soul.
To Make AI More Human, Teach It to Chitchat (March 2015)
The secret to making an artificial intelligence more convincing? Program it to shoot the breeze.
Space Mining Could Set Off a Star War (Feb. 2016)
Asteroids are worth trillions of dollars. Who has the rights to harvest them? Can nations agree on this — without fighting?
Tech That Gives Animals the Power to Speak (Jan. 2016)
Woof: “Animal-computer interaction” designers are making tech that lets dogs and other animals communicate with humans.
3-D Printers Give Us a New Way to Think (Dec. 2015)
3D printers aren’t like mini-factories. They’re like laser printers — they give us a way to quickly print and ponder an idea.
Baffle Web Trackers by Obfuscating Your Movements Online (Nov. 2015)
You’re being tracked online all the time. How to thwart spying government and corporations? Throw out some false signals.
Watch What You Say: The Cloud Might Be Listening (Oct. 2015)
Welcome to the latest, weirdest phase of our relationship with technology: machines that eavesdrop on us.
How Dictation Software Makes Us Rethink Writing (Sept. 2015)
We’re increasingly dictating texts and emails using our voices. How will change the way we write?
The Browser Wars Are Back — Thank Goodness (Aug. 2015)
Why a new breed of software pioneers are trying to revamp the browser.
The Future of Online Video Is Awesomely Boring (July 2015)
What do people do when you give them the ability to livestream their lives? They show you the contents of their fridge — and, weirdly, we love it.
When Technology Starts to Creep Us Out (June 2015)
If you make a piece of tech too “personalized”, it can start to creep us out. Welcome to the Uncanny Valley for everything.
Screenshot Nation (March 2015)
Why it’s so fascinating to take — and share — snapshots of the screens we’re looking at all day long.
How Your Travels Around the Internet Expose the Way You Think (Feb. 2015)
The most interesting thing about surfing online isn’t the things we find. It’s how we find them.
Tech That Talks to You Through Your Skin (Dec. 2014)
You’re probably sick of your phone beeping and flashing alerts at you. How about a phone that spoke to you through motion and movement?
Why Negativity Wins Online (Nov. 2014)
Why we tend to say sour, negative things when we’re trying to convince other people that we’re smart.
How Minecraft Is Helping Kids Learn to Read (Oct. 2014)
Kids who play Minecraft read huge “strategy” manuals, pore over college-level wikis, and read long fan-fiction novels.
Why Your Library May Soon Have Laser Cutters and 3-D Printers (Sept. 2104)
Libraries are all about literacy — and increasingly, that means not just reading but designing, fixing, and making.
The Secret of Wattpad (Aug. 2014)
An app is encouraging millions of kids to write entire novels on their phones — and serialize them online.
How Working on Multiple Screens Can Actually Help You Focus (July 2014)
The paradox of distraction: Why putting different tasks on different devices can make it easier to manage them.
The Tyranny of Awful Stock Photos (July 2014)
They’re visual cliches, and they lead us into cliched thinking. But you can help end the madness — with your cameraphone.
The Myth of Oversharing Moms (April 2014)
Do mothers really flood their Facebook feeds with nothing but baby pix? Nope; studies find the opposite. So why do we think they do?
Congrats, Millennials. Now It’s Your Turn to Be Vilified (Jan. 2014)
Data show the real reason millennials get so much criticism: It’s because middle-aged folks always dislike the young. Just ask … GenX!
Don’t Blame Social Media if Your Teen Is Unsocial. It’s Your Fault (Dec. 2013)
Kids are flocking to social media because society won’t let them hang out F2F anymore.
Why We All Need The Darknet (Dec. 2013)
Criminals have created a secret, parallel Internet to avoid police eyes. In a world of surveillance, maybe that’s something regular citizens should do, too.
The Most Tech-Savvy Show on TV is “The Good Wife” (Sept. 2013)
From Bitcoin to Twitter to Anonymous, this legal procedural nails tech culture perfectly. How do they do it?
The Web Is Too Quiet. It’s Time to Pump Up the Volume (Aug. 2013)
Forget about music. From the sounds of interstellar winds to chatter on the streets of London, Soundcloud is becoming an archive of fascinating noises.
Why Politicians Should Behave Like Software Engineers (July 2013)
Programmers often “eat their own dogfood” — they use their own software, to figure out how to improve it. Politicians should do the same with laws.
We Need a Fixer (Not Just a Maker) Movement (June 2013)
Making tech your self is cool — but fixing is even cooler, because then we wouldn’t throw out so many electronics.
The Work-From-Home Paradox (May 2013)
When we work from home, we’re more productive — but in the office, we’re more creative. How to balance the two?
The Moral Problem of Algorithms (April 2013)
If a driverless car runs over someone, who’s to blame? Philosophers are pondering the morality of our new world of AI
China’s Weird World of “Duplitecture” (March 2013)
Chinese developers have made a copy of the Eiffel Tower, the White House, and french villages. Why does the country love knockoff architecture?
Tech That Helps Us Remember the Future (Feb. 2013)
Do you forget to buy milk on the way home? Smartphone assistants are about to help you out with that
Why The Animated Gif is From the 19th Century (Jan. 2013)
In 1879, Edward Muybridge amazed people with the “zoopraxiscope” — a tiny animation, looping over and over. Today’s gifs touch the same chord.
The Internet of Things Grows at the Grassroots (Dec. 2012)
Everyday folks aren’t waiting for corporations to build them smart-homes — they’re doing it themselves.
Why We Freak Out About Some Technologies, But Not Others (Nov. 2012)
We panicked over the mobile-phone — but not the fax. The anthropologist Genevieve Bell has figured out why.
In Defense of Pinterest (Oct. 2012)
Snobs sneer at Pinterest as “girly crap”. But the photo-pinning service taps into some deep, smart ideas about how to organize information
Our Addiction to “Counterintuitive” Arguments (Aug. 2012)
What if everything we know is wrong about “everything we know being wrong”?
In A World of Social Media, All Art is Now Live (July 2012)
When you can see instantly what your audience thinks on Twitter, writing a TV show is like playing live at a club.
Why Having Lots of Windows Can Help You Focus (June 2012)
Maybe multitasking isn’t as always as bad as we think it is.
The Coming Legal War Over 3D Printing (May 2012)
You can scan a copy of a plastic toy, and print a copy. But are you allowed to?
The Hidden Value of Writing Fan Fiction (April 2012)
The Bronte sisters did it. Most Nobel prizewinners do too. Why telling stories about an imaginary world is linked to powerful creativity.
The Power of Introversion (March 2012)
Introverts have unique powers — and often they’re able to show them off online.
Could Energy Efficiency Hurt the Planet? (Feb. 2012)
The “Jevons Paradox” says that energy efficiency won’t save the climate, because it’ll just make energy cheaper. Is it true?
The Curse of “Skeuomorphs” (Jan. 2012)
Digital apps are often designed to mimic paper ones. That’s crazy — and makes software worse.
The Instagram Effect (Dec. 2011)
How using “filters” can change the way you look at the world.
The Weird, Cool World of Print-on-Demand Books (Nov. 2011)
You can now publish a print book for an audience one person. The future of print books is going to be super, super niche.
Why Johnny Can’t Search (Oct. 2011)
Kids aren’t being taught how to be smart, critical users of Google — and the myth of the “digital native” is to blame.
The Rise of “Memory Engineering” (Sept. 2011)
We’re terrible at recalling the past. Smart algorithms could give us some help.
It’s Time To Kill Online Ads (Aug. 2011)
They’re invasive, they slow down pages, and track us relentlessly. It’s time to kill them — and simply charge people for content online.
How “Urban Farming” Could Change The Way We Eat (July 2011)
A grey, concrete city could be teeming with farmed goods — and improving the health of everyone.
The “Long Nose” Theory of Breakthrough Tech (Jun 2011)
Most new, billion-dollar technologies aren’t really new at all. They’ve been around for decades — you just didn’t notice.
Welcome To The Age of “Sousveillance” (June 2011)
Surveillance is when Big Brother points the camera at us. “Sousveillance” is when we point the camera back.
The Power of Voice Dictation (May 2011)
What’s voice dictation good for? Letting us pour out ideas — and capture “aha” moments that can otherwise escape.
Why High-Bandwidth Friends Rock (April 2011)
It turns out that having a tight circle of friends doesn’t close your world down. It can open it up
Why Governments Should Give Away Their Data (March 2011)
When governments publish their data openly, it can create huge and valuable new industries.
Making Work Seem Like Play (Feb. 2011)
“Gamification” is trying to put game mechanics into dull, everyday tasks. Does it work?
How Teens Hide Their Secrets in Plain Sight (Jan. 2011)
Teens are forced to let their parents see their Facebook accounts. So they hide their secrets the way Cold-War spies did — in plain sight.
The Short Take and the Long Take (Dec. 2010)
Twitter doesn’t just inspire quick, short takes. It inspires some slow, long ones too.
Why Everyone Should Learn To Code (Nov. 2010)
Like reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, learning to program a little bit is a new civic literacy.
Gadgets that Know How We Feel (Oct. 2010)
If your computer knew you were stressed out, maybe it could help make life easier — by interrupting you less.
The Power of Visual Thinking (Sept. 2010)
Why scribbling on the back of a napkin can give you better ideas than staring for hours at a screen.