Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Not So Fast Digest
Week of August 8-14, 2016

Note: This digest is brand new and a work in progress. I will be refining its format and improving its appearance in coming weeks. The ideas here reflect the perspective of my book, Not So Fast: Thinking Twice About Technology, forthcoming this fall from the University of Georgia Press.*

Headline of the Week 

Earth Overshoot Day: 
We’ve Used Up Nature’s Resource Budget for the Year 
Earlier than Ever Before (

Today, 8 August, is Earth Overshoot Day, which marks the point our annual demand on nature’s resources exceeds what the Earth can regenerate in that year.

Other not-very-surprising headlines of the week

GM mosquito trial in Florida given the go-ahead by regulator (NewScientist)

    On 5 August, the US Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for a planned trial in a small part of Key West, Florida, by ruling that it would not have any significant impacts. Residents of Key West will now vote in a referendum in November to determine whether the trial goes ahead.

Police: Laptop used to reprogram, steal more than 100 cars (PhysOrg)

     Two men jailed in Houston and accused of using pirated computer software to steal more than 100 vehicles may have exploited an electronic vulnerability to advance auto theft into high-tech crime.

FBI chief calls for national talk over encryption vs. safety (PhysOrg)

     The FBI's director said Friday the agency is collecting data to present next year in hopes of sparking a national conversation about law enforcement's increasing inability to access encrypted electronic devices.

Delta Malfunction on Land Keeps a Fleet of Planes From the Sky (NewYork Times)

     The big computer systems that get airplanes, passengers and baggage to their destinations every day are having a bad summer. 

Biohybrid robots built from living tissue start to take shape (PhysOrg)
     By combining robotics with tissue engineering, we're starting to build robots powered by living muscle tissue or cells. 

Expert says cyberattack worries could affect elections (PhysOrg)

    A real possibility exists that foreign hackers could throw a monkey wrench into the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in the fall, a Stanford expert says.

World should consider limits to future internet expansion to control energy consumption (PhysOrg)

     Researchers argue that the growth of remote digital sensors and devices that are connected to the internet – commonly known as the Internet of Things – has the potential to bring unprecedented and, in principle, almost unlimited rises in energy consumed by smart technologies.

Bad News: TSA Found a 3D-Printed Gun In a Carry On (Gizmodo)

     Because they’re made of plastic or resin, simple metal detectors won’t spot 3D-printed guns.

Think piece of the week

What Do You Think About Scientists Creating 
Human-Nonhuman Hybrids? (Slate)

The U.S. National Institutes of Health wants to support responsible research into human-nonhuman hybrids, and they’d like your help. Sort of. 

*Disclaimer 1: When I say The Not So Fast Digest is "a digest of the week's news," I mean news that has come to my attention during the week in question, or that is relevant to issues that arose during the week in question. Most of what is posted here will, in fact, be news of that week, but some items will have appeared earlier; I always have a lot of catching up to do. Posts of news that has not yet occurred will be rare. 
Disclaimer 2: Note that the purpose of this blog (and my book) is to provide a counterpoint to the climate of technological utopianism that prevails in the culture today. This should not be construed as a blanket rejection of the value of all technologies. Rather it should be seen as an effort to encourage an attitude of reasoned skepticism toward the claims of the enthusiasts.