Monthly Archives: October 2017

Home »  2017 »  October

When Government Fails, Social Media Is the New 911 Roberto Hernández Alarcón needed a diamond-blade saw. It was nearing midnight on September 24, and he was standing on the rubble of what had been an office building in the middle of Mexico City. It was five days after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake had hit Mexico, showering rubble across the central states. Hernández, the leader of a volunteer rescue team, had seen how a building could crush a person—and he knew there were perhaps 40 people inside this one. To get to them, he would need to pierce concrete. Maya Averbuch is a reporter covering migration and refugees in Mexico. ——— Sign up to get Backchannel’s weekly newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Topos México, Hernández’s highly respected volunteer group, was one of several formed in the aftermath of the 1985 earthquake that razed Mexico City. When the latest […]

Are We Ready for Intimacy With Androids? Hiroshi Ishi­guro builds androids. Beautiful, realistic, uncannily convincing human replicas. Academically, he is using them to understand the mechanics of person-to-person interaction. But his true quest is to untangle the ineffable nature of connection itself. by Alex Mar 10.17.17 It is summer 2002, mid-morning in a university research lab on the edge of Osaka, Japan. Two girls—both dressed in pale yellow, with child-puffy cheeks, black shoulder-length hair, and bangs—stand opposite each other under fluorescent lights. More precisely: One is a girl, 5 years old; the other is her copy, her android replica. They are the same size, one modeled on the other, and they are meeting for the first time. ¶ The girl stares hard into the eyes of her counterpart; its expression is stern and stiff. It seems to return her gaze. ¶ A man is videotaping the pair—he is the father […]

New Black Panther Trailer Promises Marvel’s Most Breathtaking Movie Yet Marvel A few months ago, director Ryan Coogler and the cast of Black Panther came to Comic-Con International and showed a trailer for their new movie. Set to Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA,” it caused a reaction stronger than anything else to hit Hall H for that entire con, and probably a few cons prior. There was a standing ovation, with swaths of the crowd in tears—as well as the cast, which hadn’t yet seen the footage. (For a second, I thought Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o might crawl along her own panel’s table to tackle-hug Coogler.) It was exactly the reaction you want to see in a room full of fans who have waited years for a movie to be made. But Marvel never released that trailer. Until today. It’s a slightly different cut, and set to Vince Staples’ “BagBak” mixed with some […]

No One Knows What a Self-Driving Car Is, And It’s Becoming a Problem Mercedes-Benz “We have now self-driving cars.” So declared no less an authority than the United States’ chief of transportation, Secretary Elaine Chao, in a May interview with Fox Business. “They can drive on the highway, follow the white lines on the highway, and there’s really no need for any person to be seated and controlling any of the instruments.” This is wrong. Today, you can indeed buy a car with controls steering and braking for you. Tesla, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Audi already, or soon will, offer this sort of advanced driver assistance system. But nothing now available or coming soon will let you nap or email or slap on a VR headset behind the wheel. Contrary to Chao’s thinking, today’s cars very much need humans to supervise them and intervene if something goes wrong. Don’t blame the […]