WIRED March 2020

The Wired mission is to tell the world something they've never heard before in a way they've never seen before. It's about turning new ideas into everyday reality. It's about seeding our community of influencers with the ideas that will shape and transform our collective future. Wired readers want to know how technology is changing the world, and they're interested in big, relevant ideas, even if those ideas challenge their assumptions—or blow their minds.

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12 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
totally wired

For most of my earthbound existence, I’ve ignored starry nights. Not The Starry Night, that swirly Van Gogh in my screensaver rotation. I mean the real thing, in the open air, looking up into the endless abyss. Don’t mistake me: I have nothing against the great outdoors. I embrace a bracing hike, climbing high in the high desert in my Vibram-soled boots, stopping to tickle the cute little lobes of the scrubby oak, bowing in respect to the spiky claw of the healing aloe. I gladly succumb to nature’s codeless charms. Then comes night. To my love, this is the best part. I try to understand, asking: What is to be gained by staring at this static, aggressively pixelated screen overhead? Patient as ever, my love replies: It isn’t static, it merely…

3 min.
we asked contributors:

“IF YOU WERE MOVING TO ANOTHER PLANET, WHAT FOOD WOULD YOU WANT TO BRING?”“Dessert: Mars Bars, Milky Ways, and a bag of Fermi Bears (if you can find them). A nice, quiet broccoli, since in space no one can hear you steam. If there’s a grill, pale blue brats. And definitely ginger ale, because that’s one giant Schweppes for mankind.”—Contributor Paul Ford (page 16)“Everything bagels from Russ & Daughters.”—Food stylist Maya Bookbinder (page 38)“A Cox’s Orange Pippin apple, which is the best apple, for one last taste of Earth. I’d then plant the seed to grow the first microgravity cultivar, whose fruit would not fall on my head if I sat underneath it like Newton.”—Author Nicola Twilley (page 38)“If this planet has Instant Pot, I’d bring all my butter chicken…

7 min.
symphonie digitique

Alexa has no knack for pianissimo. Here’s how to tell. Set her to living-room volume and ask her to play Berlioz’s rapturous epic of sex and opioids: Symphonie Fantastique. The opening passages should be erotic and feather-light, but on the Echo the massive orchestra comes through as smothered whooshes, the exhalations of a pint-sized table fan caked in dust. Is this thing on? The first movement is meant to conjure the fantasies of an artist in thrall to a woman of infinite allure; in the sway of the opening strings, she grazes his mind in her gentle, precoital theme, which becomes insistent, demanding, and then maddening. (“So many musical ideas are seething within me,” Berlioz wrote at the time. “Must my destiny be engulfed by this overwhelming passion?”) This is…

5 min.
generation vexed

Among the detritus to survive my late adolescence are a few cases of cassettes, dozens of paper books, a crate of vinyl albums, and many plastic albums filled with CDs. Typical Gen X ephemera. Today, scanning all of that and creating digital versions would require about 20 gigabytes of storage. Back then I would have needed to spend around $15,000 to buy a bunch of hard drives to store that stuff, roughly the same amount as my student loans. I probably shouldn’t say that so loud that millennials might hear, but it would have seemed like a lot of money at the time. Today the local electronics store gives you 32-gig SD cards free with a coupon. Which is insulting. I lugged this essential information around for three decades and…

4 min.
word’s worth

Gabriel is a professional transcriber, and for years he earned a middle-class living. In the early 2000s he’d make up to $40 an hour transcribing corporate earnings calls. He’d sit at his desk, “knock it out” for hours using custom keystrokes, and watch the money roll in. “I sent my son to private schools and university on transcribing,” he tells me. “It was a nice life.” But in the past decade, the bottom fell out. As audio recordings went digital and broadband spread, clients could ship work to India and the Philippines. Meanwhile, buzzy Silicon Valley startups emerged—like Rev, a sort of Uber and 800-pound gorilla of the transcription world. It has moved the industry toward an on-demand gig model. Since Rev charged customers a flat rate of $1 per…

1 min.
angry nerd

THE QUANTUM CON Have you ever really looked at a photon? Part wave, part particle, all perfection. Yet they bring out the worst in some people, who bring out the worst in me. Let’s start with the obvious: Photons, in all their quantum quintessence, can improve the security of internet connections. Anybody can poke around standard-issue encryption keys undetected, but when the 1s and 0s are hooked into specific photons, that snooping triggers telltale state changes—revealing the presence of a hacker! Clever, right? What’s less clever, and more maddening, are the ways companies overhype this style of quantum cryptography. They witter of an “unbreakable” and “unhackable” internet. I like quantum engineering projects as much as any midichlorian-blooded nerd, but a cybersecurity panacea? Au quantraire! The suggestion turns me into Schrödinger’s sourpuss: neither…