How Bild used the Periscope app to ‘get inside’ the Syrian refugees story

Bild reporter Paul Ronzheimer travelled across Europe live-streaming interviews: ‘For the refugee story, the personalisation is very important’

The negative side of coverage of the Syrian crisis has been dehumanising references to “swarms” of refugees, and an emphasis on numbers rather than people.

However, one journalist for German newspaper Bild has found a way to use his smartphone to help those people tell their stories direct to readers. Or rather viewers.

Continue reading… …read more

How eBay built a new world on little more than trust

The ratings system introduced by the biggest car boot sale on earth is now used by everyone from Uber to Airbnb

Twenty years ago this month, a French-born Iranian-American computer programmer named Pierre Omidyar added an experimental online auction section to his personal website, which at that time focused mainly on the Ebola virus. He called it AuctionWeb because it enabled people to bid to purchase items that other people were advertising for sale. One of the earliest, and most puzzling, sales on the site was of a broken laser pointer, which went for $14.83. The story goes that Omidyar wrote to the buyer asking if he understood that the laser pointer was broken. The guy replied that he was a collector of broken laser pointers. At this point, Omidyar realised he might be on to something.

He was: he called it eBay. The idea that one could use the web as a way of putting buyers and sellers in touch with one another was not new. But up to then that affordance of the technology had been seen mainly in the context of firms. It was the basis, for example, for the early and rapid growth of so-called B2B (business-to-business) sites. The critical twist that Omidyar added was that the same technology could work for ordinary people. And so he created what turned out to be the greatest car boot sale in the history of the world.

Continue reading… …read more

Ana Matronic: ‘I’d love to be a cyborg and have bionic legs – a little bit longer than my current ones’

The Scissor Sisters singer can’t wait to see what technology has in store for humanity, so long as it doesn’t involve Facebook

You’ve just published a book about robots. When did your love of them begin?
I don’t remember not loving robots. During my childhood, there were so many amazing sci-fi stories on TV, from Battlestar Galactica to Buck Rogers, plus Star Wars at the cinema. I was into robots aesthetically. Blade Runner made me get into them sartorially too. Then in my teens, I studied [mythologist] Joseph Campbell’s theories about heroes and applied them to The Bionic Woman (laughs). I turned that into a religion called Bionic Love and wrote a fanzine about it.

And you became a trans-humanist?
By the 90s, I was living in San Francisco at the height of the cyberpunk movement and through a friend, discovered the work of [feminist scientist] Donna Haraway, who wrote A Cyborg Manifesto. That was my introduction to trans-humanism and the idea that bionic people might not be such a far-off possibility. I’m excited by the opportunities that tech gives us to transform our capabilities. The ways AI can be applied to improve or extend human life. Nanotechnology, too. It’s all fascinating – and, of course, a little scary.

Continue reading… …read more

Self-driving cars: from 2020 you will become a permanent backseat driver

Driverless cars will revolutionise motoring, claim the manufacturers. But is the greatest danger that they will be too safe?

In the BMW museum at the company’s solidly futuristic headquarters, next to the old Olympic stadium site in Munich, you can view a century of evolving mechanical desire. BMW has long prided itself in creating “ultimate driving machines” and all that Bavarian engineering pride is dramatised in the decade-by-decade progression of engines that harness ever more efficient power in steel, and car bodies that have moved with the ergonomic times. Each sequence of cars on show leaves a gap at one end, ready to showcase the next generation of technical advancement. Over the past century, innovation has smoothly followed innovation; it is likely, however, that the next stage will be a paradigm shift rather than a marginal gain. The next empty space, or the one after, is likely to be filled by the ultimate driverless machine.

The person leading BMW’s prototype efforts to make that car a reality, Michael Aeberhard, does not want to see it in those terms. As he takes me for a drive in what seems a regular 5 Series, he is at pains to suggest that the new model now in gestation is simply another improved iteration of what has gone before.

Continue reading… …read more

Future of food: what we eat

What do tomorrow’s dinners look like, and how will you adjust? Our special feature sheds light on a world of algae, cowless beef, insect lollies and even an mouthwatering recipe for jellyfish salad…

Read more of our future of food special:

In the first section of our future of food feature, we look at some of the adjusted, alternative, and entirely new foods which could become the mainstays of tomorrow’s mealtimes.

Continue reading… …read more