5 Intriguing Things: Thursday, 12/5

The future of television, air-gap hacking, de-extinction law, altered mental states, and dementia. 
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Lyuba, a well-preserved baby mammoth carcass.

 

1. The "not-too-distant" future of television.

"What remains of live programming is reserved for sports programming, breaking news stories, talent contests, and the big awards shows. Nearly all scripted shows become streaming shows, whether they are produced or aggregated by Netflix or Amazon, CBS or a (finally unbundled) HBO—or even an unexpected entrant such as Target, which recently launched a Netflix competitor. The new networks compete based on the their ability to make the right original programming decisions and secure the best old shows, as well as the prescience of their recommendation engines. But ultimately they’re all just selling access to piles of content to be perused at the viewer’s desire. Oddly enough, it’s a vision that actually makes television a lot more like the rest of retail. Or, more specifically, not unlike the old-style video-rental stores where Sarandos started his career, but super-sized for a new era."

 

2. How hackers (or government cyberwarriors) could jump the air gap into sensitive systems

"The hurdles of implementing covert acoustical networking are high enough that few malware developers are likely to add it to their offerings anytime soon. Still, the requirements are modest when measured against the capabilities of Stuxnet, Flame, and other state-sponsored malware discovered in the past 18 months. And that means that engineers in military organizations, nuclear power plants, and other truly high-security environments should no longer assume that computers isolated from an Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection are off limits."

 

3. The legal implications of bringing extinct species back into being. (There are some.)

"For purposes of this Article, we treat de-extinction, in some form, as a scientifically reasonable future prospect whose legal implications should be considered in a practical manner. For the most part, we assume that if de-extinction can feasibly be accomplished, someone will undertake the effort if for no other reason than because it would be irresistibly thrilling to do so. Jurassic Park itself may be unattainable, but a somewhat more plausible Pleistocene Park, populated with mammoths and aurochs, would generate nearly as much popular excitement. Other motivations for pursuing de-extinction might include the reintroduction of “keystone” species for purposes of reviving whole ecosystems, with substantial environmental benefits. 

Therefore, this Article explores the implications of de-extinction under existing law. "

 

4. The Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection at Harvard.

"The world’s largest private collection of material documenting altered states... The collection documents psychoactive drugs and their physical and social effects, from cultivation and synthesis to the myriad cultural and counter-cultural products such altered states of mind have inspired and influenced. Rich in scientific and medical works on cannabis, hashish, opium, coca, peyote, LSD, anesthetics and various derivatives, it documents in depth both the benefits of controlled use and the horrors of addiction. The bulk of the collection, however, explores drug use by individuals and the influence such use and users had on their society, with emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries in America and France."

 

5. Many more people are suffering from dementia.

"The global burden of dementia has increased by 22 per cent in just three years. 44 million people worldwide now have the disease, a figure which is projected to rise to 76 million by 2030. In western Europe, incidence rates are on track to double by 2050."

 

Advisory: The Freedom of the Press Foundation is raising money to work on encryption tools for journalists

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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