What Roads Were Before Cars

5 Intriguing Things is a curated collection of links that help us think about the future. Subscribe to the daily newsletter.

1. How cars and car operators colonized our roads

"Roads were seen as a public space, which all citizens had an equal right to, even children at play. 'Common law tended to pin responsibility on the person operating the heavier or more dangerous vehicle,' says Norton, 'so there was a bias in favor of the pedestrian.' Since people on foot ruled the road, collisions weren’t a major issue: Streetcars and horse-drawn carriages yielded right of way to pedestrians and slowed to a human pace. The fastest traffic went around 10 to 12 miles per hour, and few vehicles even had the capacity to reach higher speeds."

2. The next version of Apple's iOS will let you see battery usage per app.

"Tim Cook and other Apple executives gave us a fast-paced, broad-ranging look at some of the features we can expect with iOS 8, including improvements to Messages, keyboard enhancements in the form of QuickType and access to third-party keyboards, HealthKit, Extensibility, and more. Along with the features that were demoed on stage, an iOS 8 graphic displayed some additional functions that went largely under the radar, many of which look quite interesting. For example, iOS 8 will apparently display battery usage by app, a handy feature that will let users monitor the battery drain of specific apps, shutting down those that are drawing too much power."

+ To me, poor battery life and breakability remain the two biggest problems with our devices.

3. Some predictions from the National Intelligence Council about what the world could look like in 2030. For example:

"Autonomous vehicles could spawn a new era of industrialization in mining and agriculture, addressing heightened demand from developing economies. Self-driving cars could begin to address the worsening congestion in urban areas, reduce roadway accidents and improve individuals’ productivity (by allowing drivers the freedom to work through their commutes). Mass-transit innovations will likely emerge from the fastest-growing urban areas of Asia. Nevertheless, more disruption could result from terrorists’ use of civilian UAVs as platforms to deliver explosives or unconventional weapons."

4. Giant concrete arrows mark a logistics era past

"In the 1920s, America began coast-to-coast Airmail service, but the pioneer pilots had trouble navigating the route, since navigation charts of the day were fugazi and you couldn't exactly pull over to ask a farmer for directions. And traveling at night, when it would have been most efficient, or in bad weather was impossible. To solve this Congress then funded these gi-normous arrow-shaped Airmail Beacons, some up to 70 feet long, to trace a route across the country."

5. An Instagram for soundscapes

"This is why I’m encouraging someone to build a product as simple as Instagram for our field recordings. Right now social media feels too explicit — this is my opinion, my face looks like this, let me check in to this place and find me as these coordinates. We need space to share more inchoate things. I want to listen to conversations out of context you overheard at a coffee shop. I want to hear thunder from someplace miles and miles away. If there’s a leaky pipe in your basement, I want to hear it. Really, I do. I could listen to all my friends’ tiny sound files on a loop all day."

+ Maybe Audioboo?

Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip

bourgeois. Originally, one of the 'burghers' of the shopkeeping middle class; among socialists, anyone with private property interests. Often loosely & over-used. As the name of a printing type, in which sense the word is English, it is pronounced berjois. 

Hear Thunder from Someplace