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Best of the Web

Will flying cars ever take off?

Will flying cars ever take off? (Science Photo Library)

Will flying cars ever take off? (Science Photo Library)

Our pick of the week from around the web, including the rise in ambitious cars, why many jobs could be automated and why a good kettle costs so much.

What jobs will the robots take?
Derek Thompson | Atlantic | 23 January 2014

Nearly half of today’s American jobs could be automated “in a decade or two”. Jobs with a “99% likelihood” of being replaced by machines include routine-based jobs such as telemarketing and sewing; and work that can be solved by smart algorithms – tax preparation, data entry clerks, insurance underwriters. Fire fighters seem safe. And recreational therapists. But who knows?

Why Bitcoin matters
Marc Andreessen | NYT Dealbook | 21 January 2014

Bitcoin stands now where personal computers did in 1975 and the Internet in 1993 – a new technology with enormous implications, still misunderstood and trivialised. Bitcoin provides a better way of ordering property rights in the digital economy: “Everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer. The consequences are hard to overstate.”

Interview: Choire Sicha
Full Stop | 21 January 2014

Full of good points about the Googlisation of writing, reading, publishing. “I thought early on that everything would be at your fingers. Now it turns out that there are lots of goodies still locked up, and because there is so much available online so easily no one ever bothers to go to the pay access journals or the library, and you basically end up looking like a magician if you actually bother to do the least bit of effort.”

Why does a good kettle cost $90?
Chewxy | Bigger On The Inside | 20 January 2014

Theory and practice of building and buying kettles. “Expensive basic kettles are the same as cheap basic kettles, except for price differentiation. The increase in marginal utility from purchasing an expensive kettle is not big enough compared to buying a baseline cheap kettle to warrant it. It’d be better to buy a temperature control kettle, as then the increase in marginal utility would be enough to warrant purchasing it.”

Social media for robots
Nick Hawes | Phys.org/The Conversation | 20 January 2014

Introducing a “Wikipedia for robots”, which “allows the knowledge created for one robot to be shared with another robot, anywhere else in the world, via a web-accessible database. When one robot in Germany learns what a toaster is and how it works, it can upload that information into the network. A robot in Japan which has never used a toaster before can log in and learn how to recognise one.”

Yes, we will have flying cars
Brad Feld | Feld Thoughts | 19 January 2014

A tech investor predicts: Electric-car sales will overtake gasoline-powered-car sales in the US by 2025. First autonomous cars on sale in 2017; ubiquitous by 2030. Flying cars may yet emerge in the convergence between autonomous-car technologies and drones: expect them as expensive rarities in 20 years or so. High-speed trains will gain market share next decade thanks to cheap solar electricity.

What is Google for?
Horace Dediu | Asymco | 17 January 2014

Google is strange. It has no business model. It sees itself more as a research laboratory than as a commercial entity. “The absence of a purpose rooted in profit makes Google resistant to analysis. There might be a purpose, known only to the founders, but it’s one that is potentially naive, amoral or too abstract to be useful. Shareholders are aware of this and have agreed to entrust control to only three individuals.”

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