Why Nothing Works Anymore

Technology has its own purposes.

“No… it’s a magic potty,” my daughter used to lament, age 3 or so, before refusing to use a public restroom stall with an automatic-flush toilet. As a small person, she was accustomed to the infrared sensor detecting erratic motion at the top of her head and violently flushing beneath her. Better, in her mind, just to delay relief than… read more

How a Million-Dollar Superwatch Is Fighting Back Against Computing

Cheap or expensive, mechanical timepieces remind human wearers of their own humility.

At its heart, a mechanical watch is a fancy spring. A metal coil stores power when the crown is wound tight. A series of gears harnesses that energy in even increments. It spins a central wheel, whose oscillations are geared to turn the watch’s hands. Once gears spin, it’s possible to add more complications, as watchmakers call them. A date… read more

The Myth of Apple’s Great Design

The company’s new “spaceship” headquarters shows how its beauty has always been skin deep.

Apple has great design is the biggest myth in technology today. The latest victim of this ideology comes in the form a remarkable report on the late Steve Jobs’s final project, still in production: a new, $5 billion Cupertino headquarters for Apple Inc. Writing for Reuters, Julia Love outlines the campus’s “astonishing attention to detail.” Vents and pipes remain obscured… read more

Is #DeleteUber Good for Workers’ Rights?

The social-media campaign highlights labor issues, but only through the lens of identity.

When the New York Symphony goes on strike for better wages and benefits in the web TV series Mozart in the Jungle, its members find new ways to make do. Union Bob, a piccolo player whose nickname underscores his commitment to union rules, starts taking Uber fares in his Prius. Uber couldn’t have asked for a better endorsement: Even for… read more

Obama Was Too Good at Social Media

His “cool dad” presidency blinded him to technology’s dangers.

President Obama has been called the “first social-media president.” It’s both a true and a misleading characterization. On the one hand, the Obama White House was indeed the first presidency to make use of services like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. But on the other hand, these services either didn’t exist or weren’t used by a broad public before Barack… read more

Nintendo’s Sad Struggle for Survival

Facing an uncertain future, the company keeps trying to mine its storied past.

The Japanese video-game giant Nintendo has had a rough decade. Ten years ago, the company was riding high on the commercial and cultural success of the Wii, its physical-controller console, and the DS, its popular handheld. Nintendo’s stature—and its stock price—climbed to record highs by 2007. But flailing Wii remotes around in the den proved to be a short-lived trend… read more

Will Trump Make Silicon Valley Kiss the Ring at His Tech Summit?

The president-elect’s history in Hollywood might offer a clue.

Many years ago, when I was working at a Hollywood production company, a coworker went out to dinner with an out-of-town friend. When conversation turned to work, my colleague explained that he was producing marketing for a film by the director Michael Bay. His friend was no fan of Bayhem, it turned out, and issued a tirade against the director’s… read more

Why Silicon Valley May Warm to Trump

The technology industry has resisted him, but a Trump presidency is compatible with its business goals.

A memorable image from Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign showed the future president, reclined on a couch. His chief campaign strategist David Axelrod appears in the foreground, and “Change we can believe in” signs rest casually in the back. In then-Senator Obama’s left hand, he holds a sheet of paper. In his right, a BlackBerry. Obama was famously attached to… read more

Home Monitoring Will Soon Monitor You

When the Internet of Things begins to track electrical usage, houses could become more measured—and scrutinized—than ever.

I worry. About my family. My house. My dumb possessions, and my treasured ones. Doesn’t everyone? “Happiness,” Don Draper opines in Mad Men’s pilot, “is the freedom from fear.” Companies sell people solutions to those fears—even if they are contrived ones. Listerine, invented to cure a made-up condition called halitosis. Nike, whose kicks are used for sloth more than athleticism.… read more

A Pocket Guide to the Robot Revolution

Sorting the good from the bad, the creepy from the adorable

For formatting reasons, it’s best to read this one in print, or else over at The Atlantic online