Thursday, July 27, 2017

Friday Thinking 28 July 2017

Hello all – Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.
Jobs are dying - work is just beginning.

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9



Fears about the frailty of human wisdom go back at least as far as Ancient Greece and the fable of Plato’s cave, in which humans are held captive and can only glimpse the shadows of true forms flickering on the stone walls. We prisoners struggle to turn towards the light and see the source (or truth) of images, and we resist doing so. In another Platonic dialogue, the Phaedrus, Socrates worries that the very medium of knowledge – writing – might discourage us from memorising and thinking for ourselves. It’s as though the faculty of reason that defines us is also something we’re constantly in danger of losing, and even tend to avoid.

This paradoxical logic of loss – in which we value that which we’re at the greatest risk of forsaking – is at work in how we’re dealing with our current predicament. It’s only by confronting how close we are to destruction that we might finally do something; it’s only by embracing the vulnerability of humanity itself that we have any hope of establishing a just future. Or so say the sages of pop culture, political theory and contemporary philosophy. Ecological destruction is what will finally force us to act on the violence of capitalism, according to Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (2014).

The philosopher Martha Nussbaum has long argued that an attempt to secure humans from fragility and vulnerability explains the origins of political hierarchies from Plato to the present; it is only if we appreciate our own precarious bodily life, and the emotions and fears that attach to being human animals, that we can understand and overcome racism, sexism and other irrational hatreds. Disorder and potential destruction are actually opportunities to become more robust, argues Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Antifragile (2012) – and in Thank You for Being Late (2016), the New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman claims that the current, overwhelming ‘age of accelerations’ is an opportunity to take a pause. Meanwhile, Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute pursues research focused on avoiding existential catastrophes, at the same time as working on technological maturity and ‘superintelligence’.

End-times for humanity

The most terrible thing anyone has said to me about this work is "You realise you just proved prejudices are true."  No, we just showed that some biases reflect some aspects of historic reality.  One of the stereotypes I've seen demonstrated by one of the leading IAT researchers is that we associate {{good with our right hands} and {bad with our left hands}} way more easily than we associate {{good with our left hands} and {bad with our right hands.}}  Next to no one has believed that the left side of our body was bad in Europe for centuries (the Romans believed it!)  You can't say that it's true.  But it's a very strong implicit bias, because it's been a big part of our historic culture.

We Didn't Prove Prejudice Is True but  where word meanings come from

There is an audacious economic phenomenon happening in China.

It has nothing to do with debt, infrastructure spending or the other major economic topics du jour. It has to do with cash — specifically, how China is systematically and rapidly doing away with paper money and coins.

Almost everyone in major Chinese cities is using a smartphone to pay for just about everything. At restaurants, a waiter will ask if you want to use WeChat or Alipay — the two smartphone payment options — before bringing up cash as a third, remote possibility.

Just as startling is how quickly the transition has happened. Only three years ago there would be no question at all, because everyone was still using cash.

“From a tech standpoint, this is probably one of the single most important innovations that has happened first in China, and at the moment it’s only in China,” said Richard Lim, managing director of venture capital firm GSR Ventures.

There is a corollary for what could happen here. In Japan in the early 2000s, flip phones could do everything from stream cable TV to pay at stores. But because the phones were so advanced, Japan was slow to adopt smartphones, and it went from tech giant to tech laggard in 15 years.

Now in Japan those flip phones, which are still being used, are called Galápagos phones because they evolved perfectly for an isolated environment.

In Urban China, Cash Is Rapidly Becoming Obsolete

Well here’s a signal that is counter to the current ‘conventional wisdom’ about social media and Fake News. Remember it was mainstream media that spread the ‘fake news’ about the smoking gun of weapons of mass destruction. Fake news was already well described by Herman and Chomsky’s 1988 book - “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media”. The graphs in this article are worth the view.
Two things are immediately striking. First, the majority in most countries and in most groups do not use sources from across the political spectrum. But also, second, that both social media news users and those incidentally exposed to news on social media not only (a) consume news from more sources but also (b) have a more politically diverse online news diet than those who do not use social media at all.

Using social media appears to diversify your news diet, not narrow it

“The central fear, as Eli Pariser has put it, is that ‘news-filtering algorithms narrow what we know.’ This, at least, is the theory.”
Despite widespread fears that social media and other forms of algorithmically-filtered services (like search) lead to filter bubbles, we know surprisingly little about what effect social media have on people’s news diets.

Data from the 2017 Reuters Institute Digital News Report can help address this. Contrary to conventional wisdom, our analysis shows that social media use is clearly associated with incidental exposure to additional sources of news that people otherwise wouldn’t use — and with more politically diverse news diets.

This matters because distributed discovery — where people find and access news via third parties, like social media, search engines, and increasingly messaging apps — is becoming a more and more important part of how people use media.

This is another signal about the emerging digital environment’s message of ‘social computing’ through near-zero coordination costs - as a result of the collapse of transaction costs, the rising importance of opportunity costs. This doesn’t mean that traditional organizations will disappear - but it does mean that in order to survive they will have to evolve at minimum - internal capacities to enable ‘flash organizations.’

The Pop-Up Employer: Build a Team, Do the Job, Say Goodbye

At first glance, the organization chart for the maker of True Story, a card game and mobile app in which players trade stories from their daily lives, resembled that of any company. There was a content division to churn out copy for game cards; graphic designers to devise the logo and the packaging; developers to build the mobile app and the website. There was even a play-testing division to catch potential hiccups.

Upon closer inspection, the producer of True Story wasn’t really a firm: The workers were all freelancers who typically had never met and, perhaps more striking, the entire organization existed solely to create the game and then disbanded.

True Story was a case study in what two Stanford professors call “flash organizations” — ephemeral setups to execute a single, complex project in ways traditionally associated with corporations, nonprofit groups or governments.

….Then there is perhaps the least likely of innovations: middle management. The typical freelancer performs worker-bee tasks. Flash-like organizations tend to combine both workers and managers.

Yet the flash model appears to have revolutionary potential. If nothing else, millions of middle-management jobs that fell by the wayside in recent decades might one day be reincarnated as freelance project-manager positions. “The bottleneck now is project managers,” Ms. Valentine said. “It’s a really tough position to fill.”

This is an awesome idea - one that every single city could use to let citizens participate in the re-imagining and ongoing developments of their cities and communities. This provides not just engagement - but a platform for citizen and community development. The key concept is that architecture is the colonization of our future - should this colonization be in the hands of the few - or should all citizens have access to participative re-imagening?

United Nations uses Minecraft to design public spaces

United Nations initiative turns ordinary citizens into urban planners through a world-building videogame.
A United Nations initiative is using the computer game Minecraft to help citizens design public spaces in more than 25 developing countries.

In 2012, UN-Habitat, the UN Programme for Sustainable Cities, teamed up with Mojang, makers of the popular world-building computer game, Dezeen reported. Minecraft is the world’s second best-selling videogame of all time, according to the report. In the game, players use textured cubes to build a virtual world.

Called Block by Block, the UN project turned the game into a “community participation tool” in urban design, with a focus on poor communities, according to the website. The initiative also funds public space projects in the region and all over the world, in countries such as India, Nepal, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Mexico.

Local residents in these countries attend workshops to learn how to build virtual landscapes in Minecraft, Dezeen reported. They then present their ideas to local governments, and eventually, they are turned into architectural drawings. For example, in Hanoi, a group of teenagers used Minecraft to come up with ideas to improve safety in their local neighbourhood.

The initiative “aims to involve youth in the planning process in urban areas by giving them the opportunity to show planners and decision makers how they would like to see their cities in the future,” said Pontus Westerberg, coordinator of the initiative.

This is a great signal about the future of not only work - but learning as well. There is a great 3 min video that very clearly illustrates the power of this technology to improve performance in complicated environments - including medical environments.
A recent Forrester Research report predicts that by 2025, nearly 14.4 million US workers will wear smart glasses.


Don’t call Heather Erickson a glasshole.
Yes, that’s Google Glass on her frames. But she’s not using it to check her Facebook, dictate messages, or capture a no-hands video while riding a roller coaster. Erickson is a 30-year-old factory worker in rural Jackson, Minnesota. For her, Glass is not a hip way to hang apps in front of her eyeballs, but a tool—as much a tool as her power wrenches. It walks her through her shifts at Station 50 on the factory floor, where she builds motors for tractors.

No one at Erickson’s factory is concerned that the consumer version of Glass, after an initial burst of media glory, was condemned for bugginess and creepiness, then ushered into a gadget version of the Bardo. The original Glass designers had starry-eyed visions of masses blissfully living their lives in tandem with a wraparound frame and a tiny computer screen hovering over their eye. But the dream quickly gave way to disillusionment as early adopters found that it delivered less than it promised—and users became the target of shaming from outsiders concerned about privacy. Within three years, Alphabet (the parent company of Google and its sister company, the “moonshot factory” called X) had given up Glass for good—or so people assumed.

What they didn’t know was that Alphabet was commissioning a small group to develop a version for the workplace. The team lives in Alphabet's X division, where Glass was first developed as a passion project of Google cofounder Sergey Brin. Now the focus was on making a practical workplace tool that saves time and money. Announced today, it is called Glass Enterprise Edition.

Companies testing EE—including giants like GE, Boeing, DHL, and Volkswagen—have measured huge gains in productivity and noticeable improvements in quality. What started as pilot projects are now morphing into plans for widespread adoption in these corporations. Other businesses, like medical practices, are introducing Enterprise Edition in their workplaces to transform previously cumbersome tasks.

Upskill and Boeing Use Skylight to Reinvent Wire Harness Assembly
There's no margin for error when building an airliner. That's why Boeing uses smart glasses and Skylight from Upskill to guide technicians as they wire hundreds of planes a year. The result: Boeing has cut its wiring production time by a remarkable 25% and has lowered error rates to nearly zero.

In David Graeber’s book “Debt: The First 5000 Years” he argues that ‘debt’ is literally social fabric - that we maintain relationships by never really settling up exactly - always keeping some form of favor or obligation open as a signal of trust and relationship. When we want to ensure there is ‘no relationship’ between us - we settle up exactly to signal there is no obligation.
This article is an interesting signal of this very argument and points to a need to be more informal in our ‘relationship accounting’.
“It’s making people less generous and chivalrous,” Ms. Pennoyer said. “It used to be you’d go to a restaurant, and you’d put down your credit cards and split it 50-50, even if one person had steak and one had chicken. But now people pay exactly to the cent.”

Thanks to Venmo, We Now All Know How Cheap Our Friends Are

Margaret Pennoyer, an elementary school teacher in Manhattan, had just returned from a bachelorette party in Napa Valley when she received an email that had been sent to all the guests. The two organizers had itemized each woman’s individual expenses, which they had covered, and requested reimbursement through Venmo, an app that transfers money between users who have linked their bank accounts to their phones. Ms. Pennoyer owed $31.98 to one woman and $20.62 to the other.

In a previous time, the organizers likely would have asked everyone to bring enough cash to repay them in person or to mail a check afterward, courteously rounding down to $30 and $20. But the Venmo request, calculated to the penny, struck Ms. Pennoyer, 29, as emblematic of how the app, the most popular among her fellow millennials for everything from entertainment expenses to rent shares, “changes friendships and makes them more transactional,” she said. “It’s nickel-and-diming everything, literally.”

By rendering payments between friends nearly invisible — no cash changes hands, no checks are written — Venmo theoretically should make these relationships less obviously transactional. Yet not only does it encourage pettiness, distilling the messiness of human experience down to a digitally precise data point, but by making it so easy to pay someone back for purchases as trifling as a coffee, the app arguably promotes the libertarian, every-user-for-himself ethos of Silicon Valley.

Here’s another interesting signal of the emerging infrastructure of the digital environment.

The Startup Behind NYC’s Plan to Replace Phone Booths with 7,500 Connected Kiosks

Intersection, which is funded by Alphabet, hopes they could someday guide autonomous vehicles, too.
If you live in a big city, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of rushing to the subway only to realize—eventually—that it’s delayed and you would have been better off walking or taking the bus. What if there were digital screens mounted on street corners that warned you the subway was running late and directed you to other forms of transportation? And what if those screens also notified you of community events, listed daily pollution levels, and solicited your opinion on local government initiatives?

Such a scenario may soon be reality in London and New York. Both cities are replacing outdated phone booths with Wi-Fi kiosks that have embedded computing tablets, USB charging ports, keypads for making phone calls, and large screens that display relevant information to passersby. New York, which started installing its “LinkNYC” kiosks in 2016, currently has more than 900 activated across all five boroughs and plans to increase that number to 7,500. The U.K. just started erecting its “InLinkUK” kiosks in London and intends to deploy up to 1,000 across the country.

This is an important signal about a fundamental phase transition in our understanding genetic inheritance, our embeddedness in a microbial ecology and our environment. Domesticating DNA opens our minds to a vast complexity of becoming. This is a long read but for anyone interested in the nature of evolution and adaptability it is a MUST READ.

The Human Microbiome and the Missing Heritability Problem

The “missing heritability” problem states that genetic variants in Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) cannot completely explain the heritability of complex traits. Traditionally, the heritability of a phenotype is measured through familial studies using twins, siblings and other close relatives, making assumptions on the genetic similarities between them. When this heritability is compared to the one obtained through GWAS for the same traits, a substantial gap between both measurements arise with genome wide studies reporting significantly smaller values. Several mechanisms for this “missing heritability” have been proposed, such as epigenetics, epistasis, and sequencing depth. However, none of them are able to fully account for this gap in heritability. In this paper we provide evidence that suggests that in order for the phenotypic heritability of human traits to be broadly understood and accounted for, the compositional and functional diversity of the human microbiome must be taken into account. This hypothesis is based on several observations: (A) The composition of the human microbiome is associated with many important traits, including obesity, cancer, and neurological disorders. (B) Our microbiome encodes a second genome with nearly a 100 times more genes than the human genome, and this second genome may act as a rich source of genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity. (C) Human genotypes interact with the composition and structure of our microbiome, but cannot by themselves explain microbial variation. (D) Microbial genetic composition can be strongly influenced by the host's behavior, its environment or by vertical and horizontal transmissions from other hosts. Therefore, genetic similarities assumed in familial studies may cause overestimations of heritability values. We also propose a method that allows the compositional and functional diversity of our microbiome to be incorporated to genome wide association studies.

This is a great signal and 13 min TED Talk. It signals a few things about developments in science - the technological development, new understanding of the human brain (including baby brains) and how scientists are not only increasingly diverse - but becoming more human.

Baby Brains: Unlocking Our Humanity

At MIT, Rebecca Saxe studies human brain development, in order to understand how the human mind is built. The challenges and rewards of this research connect her experiences, as a scientist and as a mother.

Rebecca Saxe is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, and an associate member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Saxe was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, before studying Psychology, Philosophy, and Physiology at Oxford University in Oxford, UK. She did her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT, and then was a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows. Her research addresses the human brain’s astonishing capacity for complex abstract thought. She is especially known for her work on “Theory of Mind”, people’s ability to think about the thoughts, beliefs, plans, hopes, and emotions of other people. Central questions in this research include: how does an adult’s brain construct thoughts about thoughts? How do these capacities develop in infancy and childhood? How is this aspect of brain development affected by the environment, and by disease?

Here’s a strong signal about the domestication of DNA for nano-manufacturing of things and materials. This is a short but relatively comprehensive summary of the field thus far.

Building Nanoscale Structures with DNA

The versatility of geometric shapes made from the nucleic acid are proving useful in a wide variety of fields from molecular computation to biology to medicine.
DNA—the biological information-storage unit and the mechanism by which traits are passed on from generation to generation—is more than just an essential molecule of life. In the chemical sense, the nucleic acid has properties that make it useful for nonbiological applications. Researchers are now using DNA to store massive amounts of data, for example, including books and images, a Shakespearean sonnet, and even a computer operating system, with data encoded in the molecule’s nucleotide sequences. At an even more fundamental level, DNA is a critical building block of nanoscale shapes and structures. Researchers have created myriad nanoscale objects and devices using the nucleic acid, with applications in biosensing, drug delivery, biomolecular analysis, and molecular computation, to name but a few. DNA provides a highly specific route to building nanostructures. While the field is still addressing how to scale up into the micrometer range, it is possible to imagine a future with DNA-based computer chips performing calculations and DNA nanobots delivering personalized medicine to target sites in the human body.

And not just DNA but bacteria as well are being harnessed to do new things through integration with nano-machines. There is a cool 44 sec video.

Physicists Just Found a Way to Spin Teeny Tiny Robot Motors With Bacteria

It may sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, but researchers have found a way to power micromotors with the help of swimming bacteria. For the first time, the team were able to make the tiny propeller-like structures spin in the same direction by adjusting the light conditions.

The new micromotors can be produced in large amounts at a low cost, and could be used to deliver targeted drugs to treat disease.

"We can produce large arrays of independently controlled rotors that use light as the ultimate energy source," says Roberto Di Leonardo, lead author from the Sapienza University of Rome.

"Our design combines a high rotational speed with an enormous reduction in fluctuation when compared to previous attempts based on wild-type bacteria and flat structures."

They may be tiny at less than one millimetre, but microbots are set to to make a huge impact in a variety of applications, from improving drug delivery and disease diagnosis to moving huge objects such as cars, just like a team of ants.

If anyone has read Neal Stephenson’s book “Diamond Age” this should sound familiar - certainly a step toward developing the personal learning tutor. And in fact is a good signal relevant to the future of education.

Sesame Workshop and IBM team up to test a new A.I.-powered teaching method

Can A.I. help build better educational apps for kids? That’s a question Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the popular children’s TV program “Sesame Street” and others, aims to answer. The company has teamed up with IBM to create the first vocabulary learning app powered by IBM’s A.I., which adapts itself the child’s current reading level and vocabulary range, then continues to intelligently adjust as the child’s vocabulary skills improve.

IBM and Sesame Workshop announced last year that the two companies would work together on a line of cognitive apps, games and educational toys. This new app is the first result of that three-year partnership.

The companies have now just completed a pilot trial for the app, where it was introduced to over 150 students in Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools. Located in the Atlanta metro area, Gwinnett County schools (GCPS) is one of the top urban school districts in the U.S., and the 13th largest district in the nation. It’s also a three-time finalist and two-time winner of The Broad Prize for Urban Education.

The app itself is built for preschool and Kindergarten-aged children on the IBM and Sesame Intelligent Play and Learning Platform. This IBM Cloud-based platform is designed to take advantage of A.I. platform IBM Watson’s cognitive capabilities, which are then tied to Sesame Workshop’s understanding and expertise in the field of early childhood education.

During the pilot program, students and educators tested the app in a classroom environment on tablet computers.

This is a key signal about an emerging computational paradigm related to algorithmic intelligence. This is a very accessible account of this field.

Neuroevolution: A different kind of deep learning

The quest to evolve neural networks through evolutionary algorithms.
Neuroevolution is making a comeback. Prominent artificial intelligence labs and researchers are experimenting with it, a string of new successes have bolstered enthusiasm, and new opportunities for impact in deep learning are emerging. Maybe you haven’t heard of neuroevolution in the midst of all the excitement over deep learning, but it’s been lurking just below the surface, the subject of study for a small, enthusiastic research community for decades. And it’s starting to gain more attention as people recognize its potential.

Put simply, neuroevolution is a subfield within artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that consists of trying to trigger an evolutionary process similar to the one that produced our brains, except inside a computer. In other words, neuroevolution seeks to develop the means of evolving neural networks through evolutionary algorithms.

So much focus on related to foresight tends to be on emerging technologies - but we can’t overlook progress and surprises in fundamental science. After all - the quantum computer may be only a few years away. This year one of the Nobel Prizes was for basic progress in the concept of topology and the application of these conceptualizations to understanding matter and the possibilities of new materials. This is an important signal of new forms of computational capability based on subatomic particles rather than on electrons. The article is accessible and worth the read.

The strange topology that is reshaping physics

Topological effects might be hiding inside perfectly ordinary materials, waiting to reveal bizarre new particles or bolster quantum computing.
Charles Kane never thought he would be cavorting with topologists. “I don't think like a mathematician,” admits Kane, a theoretical physicist who has tended to focus on tangible problems about solid materials. He is not alone. Physicists have typically paid little attention to topology — the mathematical study of shapes and their arrangement in space. But now Kane and other physicists are flocking to the field.
In the past decade, they have found that topology provides unique insight into the physics of materials, such as how some insulators can sneakily conduct electricity along a single-atom layer on their surfaces.

Some of these topological effects were uncovered in the 1980s, but only in the past few years have researchers begun to realize that they could be much more prevalent and bizarre than anyone expected. Topological materials have been “sitting in plain sight, and people didn't think to look for them”, says Kane, who is at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Now, topological physics is truly exploding: it seems increasingly rare to see a paper on solid-state physics that doesn’t have the word topology in the title. And experimentalists are about to get even busier. A study on page 298 of this week’s Nature unveils an atlas of materials that might host topological effects1, giving physicists many more places to go looking for bizarre states of matter such as Weyl fermions or quantum-spin liquids.

Scientists hope that topological materials could eventually find applications in faster, more efficient computer chips, or even in fanciful quantum computers. And the materials are already being used as virtual laboratories to test predictions about exotic and undiscovered elementary particles and the laws of physics. Many researchers say that the real reward of topological physics will be a deeper understanding of the nature of matter itself. “Emergent phenomena in topological physics are probably all around us — even in a piece of rock,” says Zahid Hasan, a physicist at Princeton University in New Jersey.

This is a great article comparing disruption in different cultures - what is needed is both physically different and culturally ‘ready’. This is worth the read for anyone interested in innovation and disruption.

Why This $4,000 Renault Is as Disruptive as the Tesla Model 3

Want to see the future of transportation? Spend 96 hours in India.
What is disruption? Ask the clickbait mills and the sheep who retweet them, and thy name is Tesla. Everyone knows the Tesla narrative. Autonomy! Electrification! Superchargers! Musk! If it weren’t for Tesla, we’d still be waiting for our electric and autonomous future to dawn. The Model 3 will disrupt, just as Tesla has disrupted the entire automotive sector, and now you can own one for only $35,000, plus options. It’s all true, but it’s only half right.

Go to India and Renault will sell the other half of disruption for just under $4,000.

This French-Indian disruptor is called the Kwid, and it’s the opposite of the Tesla Model 3 in almost every way. It lacks any of the technology or performance that earn cars placement on magazine covers. It’s a front-wheel-drive, 3-cylinder, 800-cc, four-door compact crossover (CUV) with plastic cladding. Boxes ticked? None. And yet it is the most important car in the largest segment in what will soon be the third largest car market in the world.

The reason it's so important is not because of its price, but because of what it represents, which is why the unlikely story of the Kwid says as much about Tesla’s future as it does about India’s.

Here’s a signal about the QR code - widely used in China to facilitate money transactions - but the potential is vast for many other unpredictable uses.


Don't look now, but QR codes have begun to creep back. They have different names now—Snap Codes and Spotify Codes and Messenger Codes and Other Things Codes—and a much improved sense of style, but the idea hasn't changed. Because QR codes, it turns out, were just ahead of their time. They required a world where everyone always had their phone, where all phone had great cameras, and where that camera was capable of doing more than just opening websites. Over the last few years, both the underlying technology and the way people use it have caught up to QR codes. Before long, scanning codes will feel as natural as thumbing your fingerprint to unlock your phone. And the rise of QR codes will bring augmented reality into your life in all sorts of previously impossible ways. QR codes aren’t a failure from the past. They’re the future. For real this time.

Beware the Fine Print
This is both funny and scary.

Thousands sign up to clean sewage because they didn't read the small print

Those who fell for the gag clause inserted into wifi terms and conditions committed to more than a month of community service
Do you read the terms and conditions? Probably not. No one does. And so, inevitably, 22,000 people have now found themselves legally bound to 1000 hours of community service, including, but not limited to, cleaning toilets at festivals, scraping chewing gum off the streets and “manually relieving sewer blockages”.

The (hopefully) joke clause was inserted in the terms and conditions of Manchester-based wifi company Purple for a period of two weeks, “to illustrate the lack of consumer awareness of what they are signing up to when they access free wifi”. The company operates wifi hotspots for a number of brands, including Legoland, Outback Steakhouse and Pizza Express.

Purple also offered a prize for anyone who actually read the terms and conditions, and flagged up the “community service clause”. Just one person claimed it.

It’s no surprise that people will agree to anything to get free wifi. In 2014, cybersecurity firm F-Secure ran a similar experiment in London, operating a wifi hotspot that anyone could use – in exchange for their firstborn child. The so-called “Herod clause” was clearly stated in the terms and conditions, and six people still signed up. Though it’s not clear how many of them simply dislike their eldest children.

This is an awesome selection of images of trees in all their glory. Well worth the view.

A Walk in the Woods: A Photo Appreciation of Trees

A collection of images of unusual, intriguing, and beautiful trees and forests around the world, from Madagascar to Poland, Scotland to Hong Kong, the United States, and more.

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