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Mundane Dramas

20-year hackable bugs, sex robots, CRISPR GIFs, fake ballistic missile alerts, and more.

Hello! Here, have a track: RUMTUM - Good Places. It's a lovely little thing which will be perfect for reading this issue.


Triple Meltdown: How So Many Researchers Found a 20-Year-Old Chip Flaw At the Same Time

Did you hear about this? It's probably the big computing story of the time--a massive flaw was discovered in, like... almost every computer, ever, due to how the CPU optimizes decision making processes. You should probably install a security update for that, by the way. The crazy thing is that this is a lot like Heartbleed, but even worse--it's probably existed for longer, was undetectable, and may have been used by who knows how many people.


Why sex with robots is a complicated business

Oof. Here's a hard hitter: "WikiTribune spoke to a range of experts with conflicting ideas on what [a world with sex robots] may look like. On one hand, sex robots can solve loneliness and lack of sexual intimacy in old age. On the other, they may exacerbate sexual violence and the objectification of women." The dangers discussed herein are isolation from real relationships and one-sided fantasies. But a flip-side is intimacy (even if fabricated) for the socially isolated, such as the elderly and differently abled, or even as training and therapy for sexual dysfunction or trauma. I like those pluses a lot. I wish, however, that we were less money in technology for band-aids and more money in education for things like how to handle relationships, sex, intimacy, and consent. Where was that high school class? (I don't know. Is that so utopian of me?)


Navigation Apps Are Turning Quiet Neighborhoods Into Traffic Nightmares

You know, I often struggle with the drama-mundanity dynamic. There are some struggles that are incredibly dramatic: nuclear war, neonazis, revolutions. Then there are the struggles that are incredibly mundane: the things that cause climate change (industry, trash, cow farts), human bias, and navigation apps rerouting thousands of cars through otherwise quiet neighborhoods. Of course, on an individual level, all of these struggles end up being dramatic. But my principle-oriented brain wants there to be foundations, clean lines, obvious points of expression in the rules of the world. Unfortunately for me (and everyone else), they're not there, at least when you're up close and looking at the little things. Life at scale must be grasped in the tiniest of nuances, and seeing how those nuances propagate into larger patterns--like how fractals start with extremely simple formulas and patterns and explode into universes of complexity and infinitude.


Hawaii missile alert: How one employee ‘pushed the wrong button’ and caused a wave of panic

Speaking of mundanity leading into drama: "Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: 'Test missile alert' and “Missile alert.” He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert." There's actually a significant amount of research done into UI design and human habit and folly in high-pressure, survival, and emergency systems and situations. Putting the real thing next to the fake thing with one word of difference, and no confirmation, which could literally be pressed due to butterfingers, is incredibly irresponsible of the UI designers of that missile alert software. Worse yet, now that they've witnessed a failed alert, everyone in Hawaii will be trained to ignore a ballistic missile alert when it actually happens. (Wow! As a front-end developer, this is something I actually have a credible opinion on! That may have never happened in this newsletter before!)


What Are You Syncing About?

Here's a completely weird, delightful thing. I have no idea who the author of this is, but he seems to have created a WebGL demo with one of his favorite songs (I would surmise), and created a whole bunch of neato animations, renderings, and effects to a very enthusiastic, happily electronic track.