Tomb raider / eidos interactive

Distressing Damsels

Why can’t girls in games shake their victim status?

Spend any time near a serious discussion of video games, and sooner or later the question comes up: “Where are all the women?” The latest figures show almost half of the video game industry’s audience is female, a huge market which, the narrative goes, is poorly served by testosterone-packed franchises such as Call of Duty. There’s an oft-touted piece of research by tech forecasting firm EEDAR that showed in 2012, less than four percent of titles sampled were fronted exclusively by female protagonists. However, I don’t believe that’s a particularly useful thing to measure. Instead of the number of women in video games, it might be better to think about how they’re treated within those games.

I bring this up because I’ve just finished playing what should have been one of the titles to fight back against that trend, Tomb Raider, featuring the latest incarnation of globe-trotting big game hunter and archaeologist, Lara Croft. The narrative of the latest Tomb Raider is supposed to be the birth of a superhero — the transition of Lara Croft from fragile adolescent to the gun-toting adventurer we met way back in 1996. However, this incarnation of Tomb Raider is less an adventure game than a survival horror. In the opening minutes, we watch as our heroine is drowned, mysteriously resurrected, half-drowned again only to be washed ashore in the midst of a triage and beaten unconscious, bound in canvas and hung upside down like a joint of meat, impaled on a piece of rebar, attacked by a crazed man and crushed to death under a boulder. And all this before she sees daylight. Presented with a vulnerable Lara Croft, playing Tomb Raider feels like an exercise in voyeuristic sadism, a chance to watch a beautiful woman being endlessly brutalised. As we progress, she is broken on crevasses, skewered, stabbed, sliced, and shot, the camera leering in on her at every death vignette, her face blood-splattered and wracked with torment but never disfigured. This is Tomb Raider by way of Eli Roth.

Tomb Raider / Square Enix

Having recently completed Telltale Games’ triumph, The Walking Dead, in which the player does their best to shield a vulnerable female character from harm, I found it deeply upsetting to play a game that forces a similar character to suffer endless rounds of violence. Why should I feel this way any more than I do about Nathan Drake, the male lead of Uncharted, who suffers equal amounts of violence (although without the sexualised glorification)? The only answer I can give is that the latest Lara Croft is an unwilling protagonist. She doesn’t set out to be marooned on an island with several hundred homicidal men, and indeed there’s a definite change in tone when the narrative arc finally shifts her from survival to offensive. It’s that agency, rather than her increasing capacity for violence, that dispels her vulnerability.

I struggle to think of any game featuring a male protagonist that undergoes a similar transformation. Male characters are often weak at their outset (gaining power throughout the course of the game), but rarely vulnerable. To wit, I can only think of one example, Amnesia, which left protagonist Daniel with nothing to safeguard his sanity with but a lantern as he descends into a nightmare.

In cinema, there is a notable genre outside rom-coms in which female protagonists are the norm instead of the exception, and that’s horror, particularly in thriller and slasher flicks. Directors from Hitchock to Argento have defended this trope, arguing that women in peril elicit a stronger reaction from the audience than men would.The female protagonists of horror films almost always triumph against the monster in the end, but their role is to be tortured for ninety minutes first. I wonder if this is any better than being resigned to the default victim status that so many of Lara’s counterparts are, as highlighted by Anita Sarkeesian in this video. Boosting the number of female protagonists in video games ought to involve more than making the damsel in distress a playable character.

Next Story — What to think about when you think about hearables
Currently Reading - What to think about when you think about hearables

What to think about when you think about hearables

It seems everyone I know is sending me news of Here Active Listening, a Kickstarter pitch for “the world’s first true hearable” that promises to retune your world. Here is essentially a hearing aid — it listens to the world and plays you a different version of it — but you know, a cool one, for cool people, not icky deaf people. It’s Instagram for your ears. It can mute annoying babies. A lot of people are excited by this, and Here have raised over £600,000 from baby-haters and people who think the world needs tuning on Kickstarter, a vast sum dwarfed by the $17 million parent company Doppler Labs just raised from investors. Everyone thinks Here is great, because none of them have ever used assistive hearing technology.

Here to hear

I am excited about the rise of hearables, because I wear a pair of hearables every day, and have done since I started going deaf in my twenties. I wear them from the moment I step out of the shower in the morning until the moment I lay down at night. Anything that focuses more time and money and creativity into hearing devices is a great thing for me. Yet this experience also grants me a great big pinch of salt to take with all this “hearable” razzmatazz. I’m going to use Here as an example, but really these observations can be applied to almost all the herable tech you’ve read about, and most the hearable tech you will read about in the years ahead. Consider it your primer.

I hacked my own hearing aids last year — making me the first human who could hear Wi-Fi fields — partly to demonstrate the kind of potential that comes from wearing always-on, networked, personal audio devices. One of the phrases me and my collaborator Daniel Jones bandied around during that project was “Google Glass for the ears” and I genuinely think devices such as the Starkey Halo and ReSound LiNX, which can connect wirelessly to a smartphone, deserve that name. Hearing becomes a platform. It’s exciting to think about what can be built in that space in the years ahead.

A visual representations of networks detected by the Phantom Terrains system

With that in mind, I think the Here team are onto something good, if a little behind the game. Because despite what the makers claim, it pretty much is a hearing aid, and it’s certainly not the world’s first hearable. Even bog-standard hearing aids allow different presets to tune your world, most have automatic noise dampening, and higher-tier models come with smartphone apps that let you adjust equaliser settings in exactly the way Here promises to. I can play music wirelessly into my hearing aids. I can take phone calls through them. I can hear better with them. Here distinguishes itself by saying that it is none of these things — not a Bluetooth headset, or a pair of headphones, or a hearing aid. I expect it does its chosen job of airbrushing your audio landscape quite well. But in the language of tech writers, in the existing ecosystem, it’s not a features-rich product.

My principle issue with Here devices — and this is something you ought to look out for in all future hearable technology — is that they seem to rely on a fully-occluded headphone to work. That means the little soft bit that goes in your ear completely seals your ear-hole. It’s essential if you want someone to only hear the output of a device, without it mixing with sound from the outside world. You’ve likely seen them sold as “noise isolating” headphones. They’re great for listening to music, because all you hear is the music.

Full occlusion: cheap and effective sound isolation

However, full occlusion is terrible for anything except listening to the device. It creates a very common problem known as the Occlusion Effect. The pocket of air trapped between the earbud and your eardrum amplifies internal vibrations. Try eating some crunchy cereal with occluding earbuds in. It’s deafening. As if that’s not enough, with full occlusion you lose the ability to judge the volume and tone of your own voice, as your perception of internal sound is off. As a result, you find yourself talking weirdly, and then you find yourself not talking much at all.

This is one of the reasons that almost all hearing aids have a vent — a clear tube from one side to the other — that equalises the pressure between your ear and the outside world, allowing the internal vibrations to escape. It doesn’t solve the problem entirely, but it helps. My completely-in-canal (CIC) style hearing aids (imagine a pair of earbuds with the wires sliced off) have vents, but I still can’t eat with them in, it’s just too damn noisy.

Now, creating a vent means that sound from the outside world will leak in to your ears. That’s OK for hearing aids, because you’re trying to add sound, not remove it. But any device hoping to become an everyday wearable will struggle to deliver true noise reduction, because the experience of full occlusion is so uncomfortable long term.

In their defence, the Here team does say that their device is for episodic use, to rejig sound levels at concerts and so forth. But they also make clear that the idea is for much more pervasive wear in the future, a dream shared by others fantasising about the hearables future. This raises some problems, the next of which is also related to full occlusion.

As well as trapping air in the ear, closed buds will trap moisture. And as you all know, bacteria love to grow where it’s warm and wet. I endured a lot of mild ear infections when using CIC hearing aids (even though they have vent!). Having something sit in your ear all day can also irritate the delicate membrane of your ear canal, which is painful. I’ve yet to experience similar problems since I switched to behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids, which sit where the name suggests they do and send sound to the ear via a very slender, non-occluding tube that snakes into the ear canal. So if you plan to wear a big fat fully-occluding hearable all day so you can shut out the sound of screaming babies and unacceptably balanced music, I expect you’re going to suffer an increased rate of ear infections. Sorry the future isn’t all sleek white plastic and chrome, kids.

Next on our list of problems is that it is functionally impossible to recreate the sonic environment on something the size of a kidney bean. I really wish this wasn’t the case. It would be good news for me and millions like me if it wasn’t the case. But so far, it is. It would take several essays to explain the problems in detail, but for now accept that we simply don’t know enough about how hearing works, and we don’t have the technology to replicate it. One reason hearing aids are so difficult to make is that you’re trying to reproduce your acoustic surroundings to an acceptable level using a set of tiny microphones nestled against the head. I welcome any progress that Here can deliver to resolving this problem, but I want you to understand that recreating acoustics is not as simple as having a device with a microphone at one end and a speaker at the other and putting it in your ear.

Speaking of that microphone, the Here devices look as though they have lovely giant microphones jutting out from the device. My behind-the-ear hearing aids might escape the cereal-munching occlusion problem, but being external raises another one: they suffer wicked wind noise. Imagine someone blowing over a microphone. It sounds just like that, because that’s what it is. Even a light breeze is enough to drown out any other sound. I have to take them off in the gusty Tube. I have to take them off when I cycle. This can be addressed with software, and design too, and perhaps the sheer gargantuan size of the Here devices will help in this respect, allowing more room to play. But I wouldn’t recommend buying any hearable that relies on listening to the environment until you’ve tried wearing them in a stiff breeze.

At this point, I should also raise the question of battery life. Here claim six hours for their devices. My hearing aids are half the size, and last a week. I’ve no idea how Here are hammering their batteries so hard. But know that the benchmark for hearables is a week on a battery smaller than an aspirin.

Finally, a word on the price. Creating a good “hearable” is very difficult. Prices reflect that. An entry level, standard NHS-issue hearing aid is in the region of £750 ($1,200). A top-of-the-range, noise reducing, speech focussing, iPhone-linked LE Bluetooth device is around £2,400 ($3,800). That is the price per ear. Yes, you read that right. My hearables cost ten times more than your fancy upmarket Beats headphones. So, can Doppler Labs and their contemporaries deliver what is effectively a comparable product at $249 a pair? I have, to put it mildly, strong doubts. I hope they can, of course. Perhaps by trading off size, battery life and audiologists appointments they can. The hearing aid industry is ripe for a shake up from a punchy young startup, and if someone can figure out how to create similar products at a fraction of the price and sell direct to consumers, kickstarting (haha) the hearables market, I’ll be first in line. In the meantime, temper your expectations.

Next Story — This is Your Life in Silicon Valley
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Silicon Valley — Photo Credit — Vadim Kurland

This is Your Life in Silicon Valley

You wake up at 6:30am after an Ambien-induced sleep. It’s Friday. Last night at The Rosewood was pretty intense — you had to check out Madera and see if there is any truth to the long running Silicon Valley rumors. You were disappointed, but at least you did get to see a few GPs from prominent VC firms at the bar. Did they notice you? Did you make eye contact? You remind yourself they are not real celebrities — only well known in a 15-mile radius to the Techcrunch-reading crowd.

Your non-English-speaking nanny shows up at 7:30am on the nose. You are paying her $24/hour and entrusting her (and Daniel the Tiger) with raising your child. You tell yourself that it’s ok for now — when he’s old enough he’ll (someday) be in public school in the Palo Alto school district.

You commit to being a better parent this weekend and spending more quality time with him as you browse through the latest headlines on Flipboard. You recently realized he may not be the next Mark Zuckerberg after all — still you send him to a music school even though he’s only 3. You swear he’s a genius because he can say a few 4-syllable words and can clap perfectly to the beat of “Call me Maybe”. He’s special. He is destined for greatness and you’ll make sure he achieves every ounce of it. After all, both of you are so smart and accomplished.

Cal Academy of Sciences — Photo Credit: Brook Peterson

You ask your nanny if she has any availability to watch your son this weekend. Bummer — you wish Cal Academy of Sciences hadn’t sold you on the annual pass 11 months ago. You figured you’d be going there every weekend, but only ended up going the one time. Not a break even proposition for you.

Your wifi enabled coffee maker downloads the perfect instructions to brew a cup of Blue Bottle — and you don’t have to do anything. The Roomba purrs in the background while you continue to read from your smartphone. You see a few articles about Trump and how crazy he is — somehow this comforts you.

You decide to share an article about Brexit from “The Atlantic”, which will somehow shed light to all your friends as to why it happened. The article is 1,000 words long — you only read half of it, but that’s good enough. It captures all the arguments you’ve been wanting to make for the past two months to your friends. Will this be the Facebook post that finally spurns your friends into action? You realize your Facebook friends all agree with your political views and social views already.

Fifteen minutes — only 3 likes — better luck next time. The Facebook Newsfeed algorithm totally fucked you — you should have shared from your browser, not your phone, and perhaps at a more optimal time.

But then you realize another friend already shared the article. You feel stupid.

Youtube office in San Bruno — photo credit Travis Wise

Your spouse hurriedly gets ready for work — you are a two income family and you have to be one for now. The spreadsheet shows that with only three more years’ savings, you can finally afford that 2 bedroom condo in San Bruno. So what if the weather is shitty 340 days out of the year? At least you’ll be homeowner in the Bay Area — and nothing says you’ve “made it” like being able to afford a down payment. Besides, San Bruno is “up and coming” — and Youtube has an office there.

Your commute to work sucks, but at least its an opportunity to catch up on Podcasts so you can have great conversations over cocktails with your friends. Should you listen to “Serial Season 2” today? Or should you listen to that amazing “Startup” podcast? So many choices, so little time. You instead decide to expand your horizons by trying a new playlist on Spotify — something about Indian-infused-jazz music. It sounds great. It makes you feel cultured.

You decide to park your car using “Luxe” today. You justify it to yourself by saying that parking garages are only $10 less expensive. And you have to spend all of that time walking back and forth. And besides — today you are meeting some friends after work for dinner and you’ll be on the other end of town. You can’t decide whether you’ll take Uber or Lyft to the dinner from your office — decisions, decisions.

You are the Director of Business Development at your startup. You aren’t even sure what that means, but the startup seems to be doing well. Your company recently raised a round and was featured in Techcrunch. You have 5,000 stock options. You aren’t exactly sure what that means, but that must be good. If you exit, maybe that will mean money toward a down payment.

Your day starts in Salesforce. You have to email a bunch of people. You briefly contemplate a business idea you have that will totally kill Salesforce and Facebook at the same time. But you need a technical co-founder. Eventually you’ll get to it — after all, you’re smart and destined for greatness yourself. And your friends all tell you how you should start something someday.

Your 27-year-old CEO calls an ad-hoc all-hands meeting and regales about company culture and how your mission is to “kill email because it’s broken”. He wants to make every enterprise company in the world switch to your product. He’s never worked for an enterprise company, or any other company at all.

The sales team got rowdy the night before. They missed their quota, but it was not their fault — it was implementation’s fault for fucking up a major deal. Also — marketing didn’t send them enough inbound leads for them to hit quota. Maybe next quarter. You trade emails with your college buddies on Gmail about how ridiculous Kevin Durant is for joining the Warriors. You come to realize email is working just fine for you. You feel depressed for a moment. Your summer intern is trying to figure out a Snapchat strategy.

Philz Coffee — photo credt: Rick.

It’s time for that afternoon coffee to keep you going through the day. You head over to Philz with some co-workers. You order a vegan donut and very clearly ask the barista for 3 Splendas. He was clearly a Splenda short, but the line is long and you want to be civil. You are above mentioning something like this to the barista — you let it pass and feel a “micro aggression” bubbling inside.

You have to decide where to go for dinner tonight. You look at Yelp for a place that’s within 1 mile and is rated at least 3.5 stars. But really you’re looking for something 4 stars plus and at least $$$. What will your friends think of you if you pick a place that’s too cheap? But you also don’t want to go $$$$ because that’s too expensive. You have good taste. This comforts you.

You realize your reservation with your spouse at the French Laundry is coming up this weekend. Your calendar app reminds you of this. You’ve been looking forward to it for months. You can’t wait to take perfectly Instagrammed photos of the meal to go along with your perfectly Instagrammed life.

#San Francisco is trending on Twitter. You realize the San Francisco journalism community is angry about something — they are full of rage at the way a homeless person is being treated. The reporters all share photos and videos of the homeless person, but no one talks to him.

It’s time for some afternoon Facebook browsing. Your friends are all doing SO well. You are secretly jealous of your friend who just bought a house in the Noe. You speculate as to how rich they must be after their exit from LinkedIn. Even though they were only employee #500 they must have done well. You briefly try to do the math in your head. Maybe that can be you at your current startup. It’s only a matter of time.

More browsing. One friend was employee #5 at a company that just sold to Twitter. They must have made so much money, you think. You like the status, but you are jealous. Another friend’s kid seems to be more advanced than your kid based on the Vine they just shared of them playing the piano. Damnit, need to be a better parent.

You go to Redfin to see how much they paid for their house.

You briefly daydream about how you once had an opportunity to work at Google pre-IPO. And that you could have joined Facebook right after IPO — and imagine that — the stock price has tripled in a short amount of time. Would that have been the big break you needed?

Your CEO grabs you in a panic and asks you to do a quick analysis for a board member. The board member was base jumping in Mexico and panicked about something related to burn rate and strategy. The CEO’s job is at risk.

Microsoft Excel — photo credit Collin Anderson.

You do the grunt work and analysis, and finish it just in time for him to breathe a sigh of relief and tell you what an “Excel Ninja” you are. Your analysis makes you realize the company maybe should have saved money on office space, and perhaps the rock climbing wall and Segways. You realize your CEO knows nothing about your business.

Your mind briefly drifts off and you think — “is this all really worth it? should I move to Seattle, Austin, or maybe even Florida?” After all there is no state tax and you could live a great quality of life there with an actual house with your beautiful family.

You browse Redfin again. Hmmm. Maybe not Austin — what about something less ambitious like Fremont, Morgan Hill or Milpitas? That wouldn’t solve your commute problems, you think. It would be more affordable though.

Delicious looking cupcakes — photo credit Frederic Bisson.

You know what? If you move to Austin you could somehow get by. After all your spouse is so amazing at baking. She could easily make a living selling her cupcakes — she has so much talent as a cook and you could afford culinary school. Worst case, she also has an amazing knack for craft jewelry. The three pieces she sold on Etsy last month are evidence of that. How talented both of you are.

And hey — if you move to Austin, you can finally build that home with a “Zen minimalist” theme you’ve been dreaming of. You go to Bluhome’s website — their design aesthetic perfectly matches yours. You just need to save the money to make it happen. You browse Pinterest and Houzz for ideas on how to decorate the interior. Is Red or Navy Blue TOO bold of a color? You don’t know. Maybe you should use an on-demand service for that.

You forgot to order groceries and the nanny needs milk for your kid ASAP. She texts you frantically in broken English. Thank goodness for Instacart — you spend $10 in delivery costs, but you need to add a bunch of items to your cart to hit the minimum threshold. You add a few squeezies, some bananas and a few artisan cheeses to hit the mark. You realize you haven’t stepped into a grocery store for months — but don’t worry — your opportunity cost of time is way too high at the moment. Especially if you factor in those stock options.

Almost time for dinner. You are having dinner tonight with the “Chief Hacking Officer” at the company and the “VP of Awesomeness”. You arrive at the restaurant, and they marvel at your taste — nice job surfing Yelp.

Your dinner conversation centers around how autonomous vehicles are going to be better in the long run than ordinary cars for a variety of reasons. And something about how Elon Musk handles meetings. You are all too busy making your own points and citing articles to really listen to each other. You order the $17 dollar Risotto and the $9 glass of Pleasanton-brewed IPA.

On your ride home you find the time to catch up on the Malcolm Gladwell podcast. What an interesting guy he is — he’s so smart and he makes you think about things.

After coming home you briefly use that “7 minute workout” app, which scientists have proven is way more effective than a one-hour cardio workout. You got your exercise in for the day — nice work.

You and your spouse get ready for bed. What’s in your Netflix queue? Well, you have to catch up on “Making a Murderer” since it’s been all over the news lately. And let’s not get too far behind on “Mr. Robot” since it’s so critically acclaimed. For lighter fare, and if you have time, you can always try “Last Week Tonight” — John Oliver always says exactly what you’re thinking in your head — just funnier than you would have said it.

You quietly shuffle to bed, tired from the long, hard day. You check your email, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat one last time before bedtime. You don’t think you’ll have enough energy to check LinkedIn today — and besides — their mobile UI is not very good. Maybe you can start a company that will disrupt LinkedIn? They did just sell for a bunch of money after all.

Your last thought before bed — should you switch to the Android ecosystem? You are on the “S” iPhone replacement cycle and you are getting impatient. But then you realize you are so heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem that it may not make sense.

Vipassana Retreat — photo credit kinnla.

You briefly use mobile Safari to browse for Vipassana retreats — you hear a 10 day retreat in Soquel may be the ticket to shake things up. You realize it’s not going to be possible. You download a meditation app. You turn it off. You don’t have time.

You briefly recall your ride home on the 280 tonight. The sun was setting. It was beautiful. You realize you live in paradise.

Next Story — In Romantic Relationships, You’re Either a Spark-Chaser or a Long Burner.
Currently Reading - In Romantic Relationships, You’re Either a Spark-Chaser or a Long Burner.

“Someone is either a smoker or a nonsmoker. There’s no in-between. The trick is to find out which one you are, and be that.” — Robin Williams as Cozy Carlisle, Dead Again

In Romantic Relationships, You’re Either a Spark-Chaser or a Long Burner.

Find Out Which One You Are, and Be That.

The following advice is aimed at adults who have been dating for a good decade already. In my opinion, you should do whatever you want with dating in your twenties, within the bounds of treating people with feelings like you would want yourself to be treated, of course. The proverb all’s fair in love and war is never literally true, but is whimsically true when you’re dating in high school and becomes less true the older you get and the more you should expect of yourself and others. When you are young, too much about your core self is malleable, and that’s how it should be. Other than those occasional high school sweethearts who got lucky and have been together ever since, dating in your 20s should be viewed as an experiment to find out what you want out of a partner, and what you are prepared to offer yourself.

However, at a certain point you need to get your romantic shit together.

In a sense, every romantic relationship you will ever have goes through a “high school” stage in the beginning, during which you’re just getting to know each other and it’s OK to find some unforgivable deal-breaker, and break up with caring, but without much else owed to the other person. This ends after a couple of months. The longer things go on, the more you will “owe” the other person. If you’ve just ghosted someone you’ve been seeing regularly for six months, unless you did it because you fear for your personal safety or something, you’re not a kind person.

I was poly for about four years, and have been in a monogamous relationship for over two years. Being poly was a wonderful thing, and taught me a great deal about what I wanted and what I didn’t. It started after being burned out on a decade of serial monogamy. Being poly taught me that all those years, I was essentially monogamous for the wrong reasons. Because polyamory is less accepted by society, friends, and family, people tend to enter into relationships with whoever they went on a few dates with merely because they’d like to continue seeing them. This is not enough of a reason.

Actively learning what I wanted out of a relationship taught me how to be monogamous for the right reasons. When I was poly, I used to joke that “it takes three or four men to make one good boyfriend these days” and I was right. I knew I was ready to give it up when I found someone who felt like three or four men put together. He was enough, and then some. But I’m not talking about heightened passion or otherworldly attraction. I’m talking about the more rational process of someone possessing 90% of the traits I had always wanted in one person, and didn’t really think I’d ever find.

I’m writing this today because over the past few months several of my friends have gone through painful breakups. They had been together anywhere between six months and five years, yet all of them had lovers who said to them some dreaded version of “I love you, but I am not in love with you anymore”, “there’s no spark anymore”, etc.

Here’s the thing: ADULTS know that the in-love part fades, then ebbs and flows with work, attention, and active caring over the years. It may take months to fade, or it may take years. But it is the obvious eventual side effect of the very familiarity you seek. True monogamists are not afraid of the lack of spark or butterflies; that wonderful but ultimately transient and even shallow feeling of being in a state of love. I say shallow because everyone eventually has had that feeling — and strongly — for a person they know they have no business dating. Chemistry doesn’t give a fuck if you’re deeply attracted to a Republican who would make you incredibly miserable. Once you’ve had an experience like that, you don’t put a lot of stock in what your blood thinks is a good idea.

True monogamists are there for the benefit of adding a partner; a family member to your day to day life that a sister or a mom or a pet can’t possibly provide. That goal is ultimately antithetical to romance by nature; a fact that successful monogamists use as a starting point; they do not hide from it, nor do they leave it alone and hope it will spark itself from time to time without any work.

People who are dumped because the other person “just wasn’t feeling it” after a couple years have a right to be angry, and a right to feel betrayed. If you are that person, who has ended a long-term relationship over not feeling the magic, then you owe it to yourself and others to become a polyamorist. You’re either a spark-chaser, or a long-burner. There is no in-between. If you are trying to be a monogamist yet insist on expressing that desire to “be in love” through serial monogamy, then you are not being honest with yourself or your needs, and are disrespecting the needs of people you care for.

Polyamorists have the EQ to know that being a spark-chaser is nothing to be ashamed of; that it’s natural for human beings to desire others throughout their lifetime. They’re right, and they have the courage to admit they want that. Monogamists understand the same thing, they’ve just made a conscious decision to overpower it for the sake of something they have built with another.

Yet for some crazy reason, it’s still seen as more moral to be a guy who has a new girlfriend every few years, than to be the open, honest, Ethical Slut. American culture is dead wrong about this. If you are thirty or over and always looking for the person who will satisfy every need while making you feel like you are in love, you need to stop being in relationships. Period. Relationships quite simply don’t provide that. There is also no evolutionary purpose to the in love feeling lasting longer than it takes to produce offspring. Sorry, but nature is far from romantic. Nature doesn’t give a fuck about making you feel endless butterflies for the same person over decades.

Monogamists have the EQ to know that the “spark” is replaced by other things that are more valuable to them; a sense of family with the other person, a deep sense of belonging, a partner who is there for you when you get sick. This is why polyamorists often have a dedicated “primary” who serves that role, while their other lovers serve as adventure, romance, and variety. That doesn’t mean that monogamists shouldn’t stay on their toes in a relationship and try, whenever possible, to spark things up. They should, and they do. They are comfortable doing so because they are rooted in where the relationship is and have the emotional depth to roll with the tide, to endure the plateaus, and to always seek the best in the other person.

If your idea of looking for The One is going from relationship to relationship, you are denying who you are, hurting others, and wasting people’s time. Are you interested in always being in and out of love? Admit that poly is best for you. If you want a family, companionship, and history with the other person, and most importantly — accept the effort and antiglamour that comes with it — you should be in a relationship and should not try to make things work with those who don’t see the same way.

Certainly, there are other reasons to end a relationship that are perfectly valid. But if you’re ending it because you’re not feeling it anymore, you never felt the desire for monogamy as it actually exists in the first place. Figure out who you are, what you want, and be that. The only people who can have both are those few who are very, very good at polyamory.

Next Story — Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology
Currently Reading - Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology

“The strongest force propelling human progress has been the swift advance and wide diffusion of technology.” — The Economist

In the year 1820, a person could expect to live less than 35 years, 94% of the global population lived in extreme poverty, and less that 20% of the population was literate. Today, human life expectancy is over 70 years, less that 10% of the global population lives in extreme poverty, and over 80% of people are literate. These improvements are due mainly to advances in technology, beginning in the industrial age and continuing today in the information age.

There are many exciting new technologies that will continue to transform the world and improve human welfare. Here are eleven of them.

1. Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3–5 years they‘ll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.25 million people die from car-related injuries per year. Half of the deaths are pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists hit by cars. Cars are the leading cause of death for people ages 15–29 years old.

Just as cars reshaped the world in the 20th century, so will self-driving cars in the 21st century. In most cities, between 20–30% of usable space is taken up by parking spaces, and most cars are parked about 95% of the time. Self-driving cars will be in almost continuous use (most likely hailed from a smartphone app), thereby dramatically reducing the need for parking. Cars will communicate with one another to avoid accidents and traffic jams, and riders will be able to spend commuting time on other activities like work, education, and socializing.

Source: Tech Insider

2. Clean Energy

Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven’t worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.

Due to steady technological and manufacturing advances, the price of solar cells has dropped 99.5% since 1977. Solar will soon be more cost efficient than fossil fuels. The cost of wind energy has also dropped to an all-time low, and in the last decade represented about a third of newly installed US energy capacity.

Forward thinking organizations are taking advantage of this. For example, in India there is an initiative to convert airports to self-sustaining clean energy.

Airport in Kochi, India (source: Clean Technica)

Tesla is making high-performance, affordable electric cars, and installing electric charging stations worldwide.

Tesla Model 3 and US supercharger locations

There are hopeful signs that clean energy could soon be reaching a tipping point. For example, in Japan, there are now more electric charging stations than gas stations.

Source: The Guardian

And Germany produces so much renewable energy, it sometimes produces even more than it can use.

Source: Time Magazine

3. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.

Toybox demo from Oculus

People sometimes think VR and AR will be used only for gaming, but over time they will be used for all sorts of activities. For example, we’ll use them to manipulate 3-D objects:

Augmented reality computer interface (from Iron Man)

To meet with friends and colleagues from around the world:

Augmented reality teleconference (from The Kingsman)

And even for medical applications, like treating phobias or helping rehabilitate paralysis victims:

Source: New Scientist

VR and AR have been dreamed about by science fiction fans for decades. In the next few years, they’ll finally become a mainstream reality.

4. Drones and Flying Cars

“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need… roads.” — Dr. Emmet Brown

GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokémon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.

For example, drones are being used to inspect critical infrastructure like bridges and power lines, to survey areas struck by natural disasters, and many other creative uses like fighting animal poaching.

Source: NBC News

Amazon and Google are building drones to deliver household items.

Amazon delivery drone

The startup Zipline uses drones to deliver medical supplies to remote villages that can’t be accessed by roads.

Source: The Verge

There is also a new wave of startups working on flying cars (including two funded by the cofounder of Google, Larry Page).

The Terrafugia TF-X flying car (source)

Flying cars use the same advanced technology used in drones but are large enough to carry people. Due to advances in materials, batteries, and software, flying cars will be significantly more affordable and convenient than today’s planes and helicopters.

5. Artificial Intelligence

‘’It may be a hundred years before a computer beats humans at Go — maybe even longer.” — New York Times, 1997
“Master of Go Board Game Is Walloped by Google Computer Program” — New York Times, 2016

Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.

AI can be applied to almost any field. For example, in photography an AI technique called artistic style transfer transforms photographs into the style of a given painter:

Source

Google built an AI system that controls its datacenter power systems, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs.

Source: Bloomberg

The broad promise of AI is to liberate people from repetitive mental tasks the same way the industrial revolution liberated people from repetitive physical tasks.

“If AI can help humans become better chess players, it stands to reason that it can help us become better pilots, better doctors, better judges, better teachers.” — Kevin Kelly

Some people worry that AI will destroy jobs. History has shown that while new technology does indeed eliminate jobs, it also creates new and better jobs to replace them. For example, with advent of the personal computer, the number of typographer jobs dropped, but the increase in graphic designer jobs more than made up for it.

Source: Harvard Business Review

It is much easier to imagine jobs that will go away than new jobs that will be created. Today millions of people work as app developers, ride-sharing drivers, drone operators, and social media marketers— jobs that didn’t exist and would have been difficult to even imagine ten years ago.

6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone

By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today’s smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.

Visitors to the pope (source: Business Insider)

Internet-connected smartphones give ordinary people abilities that, just a short time ago, were only available to an elite few:

“Right now, a Masai warrior on a mobile phone in the middle of Kenya has better mobile communications than the president did 25 years ago. If he’s on a smart phone using Google, he has access to more information than the U.S. president did just 15 years ago.” — Peter Diamandis

7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains

“If you asked people in 1989 what they needed to make their life better, it was unlikely that they would have said a decentralized network of information nodes that are linked using hypertext.” — Farmer & Farmer

Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.

Protocols based on blockchains also have capabilities that previous protocols didn’t. For example, Ethereum is a new blockchain-based protocol that can be used to create smart contracts and trusted databases that are immune to corruption and censorship.

8. High-Quality Online Education

While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.

Encyclopedia Britannica used to cost $1,400. Now anyone with a smartphone can instantly access Wikipedia. You used to have to go to school or buy programming books to learn computer programming. Now you can learn from a community of over 40 million programmers at Stack Overflow. YouTube has millions of hours of free tutorials and lectures, many of which are produced by top professors and universities.

UC Berkeley Physics on Youtube

The quality of online education is getting better all the time. For the last 15 years, MIT has been recording lectures and compiling materials that cover over 2000 courses.

“The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” — Dick K.P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering

As perhaps the greatest research university in the world, MIT has always been ahead of the trends. Over the next decade, expect many other schools to follow MIT’s lead.

Source: Futurism

9. Better Food through Science

Source: National Geographic

Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef.

Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.

For example, entrepreneurs are developing new food products that are tasty and nutritious substitutes for traditional foods but far more environmentally friendly. The startup Impossible Foods invented meat products that look and taste like the real thing but are actually made of plants.

Impossible Food’s plant-based burger (source: Tech Insider)

Their burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and produces 87% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional burgers. Other startups are creating plant-based replacements for milk, eggs, and other common foods. Soylent is a healthy, inexpensive meal replacement that uses advanced engineered ingredients that are much friendlier to the environment than traditional ingredients.

Some of these products are developed using genetic modification, a powerful scientific technique that has been widely mischaracterized as dangerous. According to a study by the Pew Organization, 88% of scientists think genetically modified foods are safe.

Another exciting development in food production is automated indoor farming. Due to advances in solar energy, sensors, lighting, robotics, and artificial intelligence, indoor farms have become viable alternatives to traditional outdoor farms.

Aerofarms indoor farm (Source: New York Times)

Compared to traditional farms, automated indoor farms use roughly 10 times less water and land. Crops are harvested many more times per year, there is no dependency on weather, and no need to use pesticides.

10. Computerized Medicine

Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.

For example, just fifteen years ago, it cost $3B to sequence a human genome. Today, the cost is about a thousand dollars and continues to drop. Genetic sequencing will soon be a routine part of medicine.

Genetic sequencing generates massive amounts of data that can be analyzed using powerful data analysis software. One application is analyzing blood samples for early detection of cancer. Further genetic analysis can help determine the best course of treatment.

Another application of computers to medicine is in prosthetic limbs. Here a young girl is using prosthetic hands she controls using her upper-arm muscles:

Source: Open Bionics

Soon we’ll have the technology to control prothetic limbs with just our thoughts using brain-to-machine interfaces.

Computers are also becoming increasingly effective at diagnosing diseases. An artificial intelligence system recently diagnosed a rare disease that human doctors failed to diagnose by finding hidden patterns in 20 million cancer records.

Source: International Business Times

11. A New Space Age

Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA’s budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Source: Fortune

The good news is that private space companies have started filling the void. These companies provide a wide range of products and services, including rocket launches, scientific research, communications and imaging satellites, and emerging speculative business models like asteroid mining.

The most famous private space company is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which successfully sent rockets into space that can return home to be reused.

SpaceX Falcon 9 landing

Perhaps the most intriguing private space company is Planetary Resources, which is trying to pioneer a new industry: mining minerals from asteroids.

Asteroid mining

If successful, asteroid mining could lead to a new gold rush in outer space. Like previous gold rushes, this could lead to speculative excess, but also dramatically increased funding for new technologies and infrastructure.


These are just a few of the amazing technologies we’ll see developed in the coming decades. 2016 is just the beginning of a new age of wonders. As futurist Kevin Kelly says:

If we could climb into a time machine, journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we’d realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2050 were not invented until after 2016. People in the future will look at their holodecks and wearable virtual reality contact lenses and downloadable avatars and AI interfaces and say, “Oh, you didn’t really have the internet” — or whatever they’ll call it — “back then.”
So, the truth: Right now, today, in 2016 is the best time to start up. There has never been a better day in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/ risk ratios, better returns, greater upside than now. Right now, this minute. This is the moment that folks in the future will look back at and say, “Oh, to have been alive and well back then!”

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