The best of the week’s long reads in science and technology, including everything you need to know about Apple Watch, and why colour could be the key to understanding consciousness.

Work | Keynes and hard work

JM Keynes was right to predict global prosperity in the 21st Century, wrong to predict that the outcome would be lives of leisure for all. Where did his logic break down? He forgot about human nature. “The noble answer is that we rather like some kinds of work. We enjoy spending time with our colleagues, intellectual stimulation or the feeling of a job well done. The ignoble answer is that we work hard because there is no end to our desire to outspend each other.” (Tim Harford, Financial Times, 650 words)

Software | A new soft technology

A suite of sparkling short essays about the rise of software introduced by Marc Andreessen. “After written language and money, software is only the third major soft technology to appear in human civilization.” When software was embedded in hardware we thought that hardware had the power. Then, around 2000, we understood that power lay with software, and we are still learning to use that power. Software is eating the world. (Venkatesh Rao, Breaking Smart, 1,960 words)

Exercise | Fitted

The world according to FitBit. “From the point of view of the tracker, all activity is inherently solitary and accrues to you alone. The device produces a complete archive of our lives by abstracting them from any and every context. Taking a plane from New York to New Zealand, you travel no farther than the length of the aisle you walk to the bathroom. The only possible way to relate to others is through competition.” (Moira Weigel, New Inquiry, 3,100 words)

Environment | It’s not climate change, it’s everything change

Humanity is getting better at thinking about climate change. We mostly understand that climate change is happening, and that it's bad, and that something must be done — which was not the case even five or six years ago. We are a smart species; all is not yet lost. But we need a cultural shift. The culture of coal was production; the culture of oil was consumption; the culture of renewable energy must be stewardship. (Margaret Atwood, Matter, 6,000 words)

Consumer tech | Apple Watch: a symposium

Twenty-five writers pool their thoughts on the Apple Watch. And the conclusion: Meh. It will be great, but it isn’t yet. You have to shake your wrist to see the time. The apps are slow to load. And the world just isn’t wired for it. “Restaurants aren’t ready to receive an order from your watch. Cars aren’t ready to unlock with a wave of your wrist. Lights aren’t ready to switch on when you get home. This is a 1.0 product. But I love it.” (Steven Levy et al, Backchannel, 3,250 words)

Vision | The reality of colour is perception

The mystery of colour. Is colour part of the thing that we see, or is it created in our minds? We have yet to advance beyond Galileo’s 17th Century conjecture that things have primary properties — size, shape, motion — which are intrinsic, and secondary properties such as colour and taste which rely upon an observer. If Galileo is right, and colour is at least partly in our minds, then a theory of colour may bring us closer to a theory of consciousness. (Mazviita Chirimuuta, Nautilus, 1,990 words)

Digital revolution | Sleeping through a revolution

Incendiary recasting of the digital revolution as one in which the corporations and capitalists — to say nothing of the outright criminals — are in the business of capturing value, not creating it. For example: the consumption of all forms of media is rising, yet the music and publishing industries have suffered “precipitous” declines in revenue. “So where did the money go? Two places: into the pockets of Digital Monopolists and Digital Thieves.” (Jonathan Taplin, Aspen Ideas, 4,540 words)

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