Why Is There a ‘Gaming Disorder’ But No ‘Smartphone Disorder?’

The World Health Organization has proposed a behavioral addiction pathology for excessive video-game playing. But maybe the problem is in the economy more than the mind.

The international health community has decided that if you play video games like Fortnite or World of Warcraft a lot, you might suffer from a mental-health issue: Gaming Disorder. It’s a behavioral condition that the World Health Organization has added to the proposed 11th revision of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, or ICD-11, the first… read more

Apple’s Airpods Are an Omen

The company’s slick, wireless earbuds work great, but they foreshadow startling changes to the social fabric.

The moment I put the Apple AirPods in my ears, I feel like I’ve already dropped them in the toilet. They are so small and slippery. The mere act of removing these precious, wireless ear buds from their lozenge-shaped case makes them feel like a futuristic cure to unknown ills. I am late to adopt them, so I indulge a… read more

The Chinese Motherboard Hack Is a Crisis, Even If It Didn’t Really Happen

Apple, Amazon, and Super Micro have all denied the veracity of a report on Chinese hardware hacking. No matter the outcome, the results could inflame an already raw trade relationship for high tech between the U.S. and China.

It’s easy to forget in the app era, but Silicon Valley got its name from microchips. The generation that transformed orchards into Oracle did so by manufacturing electronic circuits that encrust “chips” of a semiconductor material, usually made of silicon. In the fertile purlicue south of San Francisco, the foundations of the electronic revolution were invented, designed, and manufactured. Shockley… read more

The Curse of an Open Floor Plan

A flowing, connected interior—once a fringe experiment of American architectural modernism—has become ubiquitous, and beloved. But it promises a liberation from housework that remains a fantasy.

For some American families, one kitchen is apparently not enough. What is wrong with having just one kitchen? Well, people cook in kitchens, and when they cook in kitchens, they make messes, and then, to make matters worse, if their kitchen is in full view from the rest of the house—as many today are—their mess is out in the open… read more

The Senate Votes Against the Net-Neutrality Rollback

But it was just a resolution to “disapprove”—a far cry from stopping the repeal.

In a shocking reversal, the Senate voted 52–47 to disapprove of the rollback of network neutrality—the policy that treats broadband and wireless data as common carriers. That protection required internet service providers to treat all internet traffic the same, rather than blocking, throttling, or otherwise interfering with access to particular services. All 49 Democratic senators were joined, somewhat unexpectedly, by… read more

Why ‘Stories’ Took Over Your Smartphone

The format, made popular by Snapchat and Instagram, is the native genre of glass rectangles.

Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox, made a remarkable announcement during a keynote at the company’s big conference this week: “The increase in the Stories format,” he explained, “is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends sometime next year.” This caught me off guard. I have been ignoring Stories for years,… read more

Alexa Is a Revelation for the Blind

Legally blind since age 18, my father missed out on the first digital revolution.

“Is it ‘Electra?’” my father asks, leaning in close to the Amazon Echo my mother has just installed. Leaning in close is his trademark maneuver: Dad has been legally blind since age 18, the result of a horrible car crash in 1954. He has lived, mostly successfully, with limited vision for the 64 years since. “Call it the right name!”… read more

The Dot-Coms Were Better Than Facebook

Twenty years ago, another high-profile tech executive testified before Congress. It was a more innocent time.

Twenty years and a month ago, Bill Gates, then chairman and CEO of Microsoft, made his first appearance before Congress. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gates defended against the accusation that his company was a monopoly. Antitrust investigations into the company had been ongoing for almost a decade by then, since the George H.W. Bush administration. The ubiquity… read more

Silicon Valley ‘Has No Words’

After a shooting at YouTube’s corporate campus, technology CEOs offer platitudes. Shouldn’t they have more to say?

I always wince when I see someone lament that “there are no words” to express something. Words: These are the tools humans possess, before all others, for expression. To claim that they have no power is to forsake the mutual compassion that communication affords. And so I winced on Tuesday, upon seeing nearly identical responses to the YouTube shooting from… read more

Enough With the Trolley Problem

A 50-year-old philosophical thought experiment has been central to the debate about autonomous vehicles. It’s time to give it up.

You know the drill by now: A runaway trolley is careening down a track. There are five workers ahead, sure to be killed if the trolley reaches them. You can throw a lever to switch the trolley to a neighboring track, but there’s a worker on that one as well who would likewise be doomed. Do you hit the switch… read more