Our pick of the week’s science and technology stories include Facebook and Google’s new search, a new look at Stephen Hawking and how to protect workers from the rise of robots.

Facebook’s bold, compelling and scary engine of discovery: The inside story of Graph Search
Steven Levy | Wired | 15 January 2013
As the title suggests, this is an in-depth look at the story behind Facebook’s much-anticipated search product. "A transformative product gets you to do more of something that you wouldn’t think to do on your own. Thanks to Graph Search, people will almost certainly use Facebook in entirely new ways. it expands Facebook’s core mission – not just obsessively connecting users with people they already know, but becoming a vehicle of discovery".

How to protect workers from the rise of robots
Noah Smith | Atlantic | 14 January 2013

The coming of intelligent robots will change the historic relationship between labour and capital in a way that previous technologies did not. Value of labour will collapse. How best to distribute income and wealth fairly? By making all of us entrepreneurs – so we all have our own robots. 

The Panasonic Toughpad press conference
Grant Howitt | Look Robot | 14 January 2013

Writing degree zero. What it feels like to cover a tech industry press conference when you don't actually know anything about the tech industry, and in any case you have a hangover. As for the product: "It is a tablet computer you can drop underwater from a height and have that not be a problem". 

The searchers
Nicholas Carr | Rough Type | 13 January 2013

Short reflection on Google's "personalised" search. "In its new design, Google's search engine gives us information that fits the behaviour, needs and biases we have displayed in the past. It reinforces the existing state of the self rather than challenging it. It subverts the act of searching" 

Has the ideas machine broken down?
Anonymous | Economist | 11 January 2013

This modern age is great at producing incrementally jazzier gadgets. But we've lost the vision, the appetite for fundamental technological progress. Revolutions in transport, health science, even kitchen gadgetry all took place before 1970. Since then we've done the internet and that's all. 

The placebo phenomenon
Cara Feinberg | Harvard Magazine | 10 January 2013

Profile of Ted Kaptchuk, researcher into placebos and their effects. His findings: People respond positively to placebos even when they know that the placebos are placebos; and, the effect is dose-dependent. More medicine makes you feel better even when it's fake medicine. 

On Stephen Hawking, Vader, and being more machine than human
Helene Mialet | Wired | 8 January 2013

When we celebrate Hawking, who and what are we really celebrating: the man, the mind, or the machines? "Hawking isn’t just issuing remote commands and expressed desires, his entire body and even his entire identity have become the property of a collective human-machine network. He is what I call a distributed centred-subject: a brain in a vat, living through the world outside the vat". 

The Dunbar Number, From the guru of social networks
Drake Bennett | Business Week | 10 January 2013

Profile of Robin Dunbar, deviser of the much-debated Dunbar Number, which holds that for most human activities – forming tribes, making friends, sending Christmas cards, using Facebook – the largest manageable in-group is 150 people. He argues it's a function of brain size. The smaller the brain, the smaller the number.

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