“This book is my last battle in my lifelong mission to fight devastating ignorance…. Previously I armed myself with huge data sets, eye-opening software, an energetic lecturing style, and a Swedish bayonet for sword-swallowing. It wasn’t enough.” — Hans Rosling, Factfulness

Replika is an AI chatbot “whose sole purpose is to become your friend.” Designed by a Belarusian woman, Eugenia Kuyda, who also created Luka, a forerunner to Replika, when her friend died in a car accident. Luka was a tool, built from the deceased’s words in texts, that would allow her to communicate with her dead friend’s ghost.

Luka…


The mind is a tool. The question is, do you use the tool or does the tool use you? — Zen Proverb

Randall Walker was taking an important test. It could determine how well he did in one class, yes, but his grades needed to be maintained at a high level to continue his scholarship and carry on to an advanced degree. Randall Walker suffers from a neurological condition, not unlike Turret’s Syndrome, that causes him to make uncontrolled bodily movements from time to time. …


The mirror — above all, the mirror is our teacher.

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519)

We build tools and then think in the logic of the tools at hand. We entrain our thinking and actions with that logic: cars changed our sense of neighborhood, airplanes shrank our perception of distance; texting changed how we write English, how (poorly) we drive, and interact with — or ghost — significant others. Our intention has little power over tool logic — unless we pay more attention to our intent than the pull-logic of the tool.

The ordinary mirror, once rare and expensive, is a…


“In the theory of relativity there is no unique absolute time, but instead each individual has his own personal measure of time that depends on where he is and how he is moving.” — Stephen Hawking, The Illustrated Brief History of Time

Chen Rong-yu, a 23-year-old computer gamer, had paid for 23 hours of web access to play League of Legends at an Internet cafe in New Taipei City, Taiwan Island. At 10 p.m. on a Tuesday, he sat with his hands outstretched, head drooping slightly. He sat in that exact position for at least nine hours. “I thought that he was only dozing off and paid no particular attention,” the waitress who found him said. She approached Chen when his 23 hours were up, and saw that his face was blackened and he was sitting rigidly in the chair. Rigor mortis had set in. When she moved Chen’s chair away from the desk, the man’s hands remained outstretched as if still gaming — frozen at his computer screen.

He was frozen in time. (He was not the only one. There were 10 other people in the cafe at the time of the discovery, but most remained in front of their computers and showed little interest as police cordoned off the area.)

Unsplash.com

Replacing Place

For most of history, humans were firmly in place. Celebrated by poets and…

Barry Chudakov

Barry Chudakov writes about the intersection of technology and consciousness. He is the founder of Sertain Research, a future-focused consulting firm.

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