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Dolores Abernathy fly Westworld premiere

Note: Spoilers are ahead for previously aired Westworld episodes, as is some potentially spoiler-y speculation for future episodes.

Something is wrong in "Westworld."

HBO`s sci-fi western drama — a serialized reboot of Michael Crichton`s 1973 thriller by the same name — depicts a fantastical robot-filled "theme park" of the future.

Westworld guests can interact with artificially intelligent "hosts" — gunslingers, brothel madams, a farmer’s daughter, Native Americans, and more — taking part in all the sex and violence that can be jammed into these characters’ storylines. And all of it teed up by the people who are essentially Westworld`s game designers.

But as visitors ride, terrorize, shoot, and sleep with the park`s robot hosts, the designers operating behind the scenes soon discover that something is off.

Along the way, Westworld’s story brushes up against all kinds of uneasy questions — mainly scientific and philosophical — about the complex intersection of technology and people.

While we can`t say where the show is going, or whether it will ever answer any of these questions, here are some of the most interesting ones we’ve spotted so far.

Do we all live in a simulation?

Everyone in Westworld wakes up to go about their day — working, drinking, fighting, whatever it may be — without knowing that their entire existence is a simulation of a “real world” created by the park’s designers.

Physicists and philosophers say that in our world, we can’t prove we don’t live in some kind of computer simulation.

Some think that if that is the case, we might be able to "break out" by noticing any errors in the system, something the Westworld robots seem to be brushing up against.



Can we control artificial intelligence?

Each time the park wakes up (or the simulation restarts?), the hosts are supposed to go about their routines, playing their roles until some guest veers into the storyline. The guest might go off on an adventure with the host — or they might rape or kill them. In any case, when the story resets, the hosts` memories are wiped clean.

Supposedly.

For some reason, a few hosts seem to remember their disturbing past lives. This may be related to a “software update” created by park founder Dr. Robert Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins) or it may have something to do with his mysterious co-founder, Arnold.

Luckily, and for a variety of reasons, AI researchers today believe out-of-control AI is a myth and that we can control intelligent software. Then again, few computer and linguistic scientists thought machines could ever learn to listen and speak as well as people — and now they can on a limited level.



How far off are the intelligent machines of Westworld?

Behind the scenes at Westworld`s headquarters, advanced industrial tools can 3D-print the bodies of hosts from a mysterious white goop. Perhaps it`s made of nanobots, or some genetically engineered tissue, or maybe it`s just plastic that`s later controlled by as-yet-undisclosed advanced technology.

There`s a lot of mystery here, and as we find out in one episode (when a host smashes his own head in with a rock), the "thinking" part of the machines is definitely located in the head. But what`s it made of? And what powers these strange constructs? And how are the batteries recharged, if at all? Can (and how do) they feel pain and pleasure?

These automatons seem like an engineer`s dream as well as her nightmare.

Nothing like this exists in the real world, but researchers and entrepreneurs are working hard to advance soft robots, ultra-dense power sources, miniaturized everyday components (some down to an atomic scale), and other bits and pieces that might ultimately comprise a convincing artificial human.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Former Olympian and marathon coach, John Henwood, explains the proper training the week before your marathon. His advice is a little different from many of the popular training programs.

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Uber Lyft driver ridesharing app

Driving for a ride-hailing app like Uber or Lyft is a bit of a gamble.

Earnings can vary significantly from one hour to the next, and then there`s the question of who exactly is getting into their car.

On some occasions, drivers can have genuine conversations with complete strangers. But, then, of course, they also come across their fair share of stinkers.

To find out which passenger behaviors rub drivers the wrong way, we asked them to chime in.

Here are 17 annoying things you should probably stop doing right now:

Leaving one-star reviews for no reason

"One thing that might surprise people about the job is that even a four-star rating is bad. The whole system is set up so anything less than five stars is terrible for the driver."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Making your driver wait

"Don`t ask for a ride unless you`re ready to walk outside the second you order the ride."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Eating in the car

"I wish passengers would stop eating food in my car without asking. In order to drive for Uber or Lyft, you have to have a new car. Therefore, your nachos in my new car causes undue stress."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Canceling rides, especially when the driver is already en route

"There`s not much more frustrating than spending 10 minutes getting to my fare only to have them cancel the ride. I end up wasting a lot of valuable time when that happens."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Sitting in the front

"It`s distracting."

—Uber driver

Lack of drive-thru courtesy

"I wish passengers who ask that I stop at a fast-food drive-thru would offer to buy me something. I usually turn them down — I`ve accepted a water once — but it just feels like common courtesy."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Being entitled, belligerent drunks

"I`m a sober person getting you home. I`m on your team, not your servant. A `please` goes a long way."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Calling people

"I wish passengers wouldn`t call people in my car. I turn the radio off so they can hear better and then I`m just awkwardly eavesdropping. Just text."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Not wearing your seat belt

"I wish passengers would put their seat belts on. It`s still a car. You can still die."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Touching

"Please don`t touch me. Ever. At all. That`s super uncomfortable. Don`t mistake my cheerful demeanor for flirting. I`m just a nice human."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Cramming people in

"Stop asking to fit more people in this car than it can legally fit."

—Lyft and Uber driver

Changing the music

"I always hated when people would change the radio station or try to play their own music without asking first. It`s pretty distracting to have a passenger you don`t know reach across the front console to mess with your media settings."

—Uber driver

Not knowing where you are going

"Many drunk and high passengers don`t know where they are or where they are going."

—Lyft driver

Not moving the pin to exactly where you want to be picked up

"If someone is on the back side of a property when they request a ride but want to be picked up in front, this causes navigation to send you possibly to the next street over. Google Maps may say that a person is miles away from their actual location. So it is up to the passenger to confirm that the location is correct, but many don`t."

—Lyft driver

Drinking in the car

"Don`t get into my car with open alcoholic drinks."

—Anonymous driver

Leaving trash behind

"I always hated when people would leave trash in my car."

—Uber driver

Being demanding

"Don`t expect water and candy on a 5 ride that I drove across town for."

—Lyft driver

SEE ALSO: Flight attendants share the 21 things they wish passengers would stop doing

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NOW WATCH: A résumé expert reveals what a perfect résumé looks like

In 2014, researchers with the US Geological Survey attached a camera to a radio collar on a polar bear. While the footage is pretty shaky, it`s an incredible first-hand look at what it`s like to be a polar bear. 

Video courtesy of USGS

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Mercedes-Benz is traditionally known for their luxury cars and SUVs, but on October 25th Mercedes announced their first pickup truck — the X-Class.

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The witching month is upon us!

Get your favorite black cat, your loosest anthropomorphic skeleton, and your best pumpkin carving tools out from storage — it`s time to get wild in the streets. If nothing else, it`s time to listen to Tim Curry classic, "Anything Can Happen on Halloween."

Wait! Where are you going? Come back! We`re not trying to scare you away.

We`ve put together the 19 scariest games for you to play in the lead up to All Hallows Eve and the subsequent Halloween festivities on October 31!

SEE ALSO: 14 eerie vintage photos show how Americans used to celebrate Halloween

19: `Silent Hill: Shattered Memories`

"Silent Hill: Shattered Memories" is the most interesting entry in the long-running "Silent Hill" series — a series that largely revolves around third-person puzzle solving and the occasional action bit. What`s different about "Shattered Memories" is it has a huge, crazy story twist, and it`s available on the Nintendo Wii. If you dare!

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18: `Eternal Darkness: Sanity`s Requiem`

Though you`ll need a Nintendo GameCube to enjoy "Eternal Darkness: Sanity`s Requiem," we can`t suggest it enough. It takes your expectations for a horror game and contorts them in exciting, unique ways. On its face, it`s just a third-person action game. But in reality, it`s a terrifying exploration of player agency and unreliable narrators.

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17: `Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water`

The newest entry in the "Fatal Frame" series has been out for some time in other parts of the world, and it`s heading to North American Wii U game consoles on October 22nd. If you`ve ever wanted to carefully snap photos of ghosts before they`re able to murder you, this is your big chance.

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See the rest of the story at Business Insider


"Appetites"
 author Anthony Bourdain says beef tenderloin, the cut filet mignon comes from, isn`t worth cooking. For a good steak, he uses cuts that don`t have such a high price tag.

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Our iPhones are our calendars, music libraries, cameras – basically our connection to everyone and everything we know. These four helpful features are still relatively unknown, and can increase your iPhone productivity.

Here are 23 more.

Produced by Arielle Berger. Original reporting by Steven Tweedie.

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donald trump

Donald Trump added another group of actors to the growing list of interests that he claims are "rigging" the election against him.

In a tweet on Sunday, the Republican presidential nominee baselessly asserted that technology companies were attempting to tamp down new revelations that the FBI is continuing to investigate Hillary Clinton`s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.

"Wow, Twitter, Google and Facebook are burying the FBI criminal investigation of Clinton. Very dishonest media!" Trump wrote.

In their lack of factual support, Trump`s claims on Sunday largely mirrored other unsubstantiated assertions that media organizations and even poll workers were intentionally attempting to stop Trump from becoming president.

As CNN host Brian Stelter pointed out on Sunday, the FBI`s investigation into Clinton`s emails was the top story on Google News on Sunday, and a top trending topic on Twitter.

And after taking heat earlier this year from suppressing some right-leaning outlets, Facebook removed human curation from its trending topics section altogether, allowing stories to rise to the top based on their popularity and importance in Facebook`s algorithm.

SEE ALSO: One of the biggest super PACs is trying to woo millennials by bringing puppies to the polls

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NOW WATCH: Everything we know about Donald Trump’s unhealthy diet

Game of Thrones

Some say we are living in a "golden age" of television. That may or may not be true, but there`s one thing that`s certain: we`re living under an absolute torrent of scripted shows.

Over the last few years, the amount of original scripted shows has roughly doubled, from 216 in 2010 to 419 in 2015. And it`s shown no signs of slowing down in 2016.

One big driver has been the entrance of streaming heavyweights like Amazon and Netflix, which began making originals in 2013. Netflix has said it will release a whopping 1,000 hours of original shows and movies in 2017. That would take you 41 days of binge-watching to get through. 

But it`s not just Netflix. Cable networks have also ramped up production in a serious way.

A recent chart from Deutsche Bank shows just how much the landscape has exploded since 2002. Here it is:

Screen Shot 2016 10 10 at 11.12.57 AM

This might be good for customers, who have more choice than ever, but it`s not good for some TV networks.

One such network, which analysts from Pacific Crest pointed to in a recent note, is AMC.

AMC built its recent success out of high-quality dramas like “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” and “The Walking Dead.” But these types of shows have become a commodity, according to the analysts.

"The explosion in high-quality original dramas driven by [streaming video on demand] companies [like Netflix] has commoditized an area of programming that AMC helped popularize and represents the core of the network`s brand,” they wrote.

Pacific Crest`s thesis is that there are simply too many good serialized dramas being produced, especially by streaming services, and AMC is suffering from the glut. Pacific Crest had been hopeful that AMC’s strength of programming would continue to help it prosper, but now the analysts are significantly lowering their ad revenue estimates going forward, and think “continued declines for existing AMC programming are likely."

That sounds dire, but networks like AMC may be in for some relief.

FX boss John Landgraf says the sheer volume of shows will have to go down soon. “I will still stick by my prediction that we are going to hit a peak in the scripted series business within the next two and a half years — and then see a decline — by calendar (2019) at the latest,” he said in August.

SEE ALSO: It would take you over 41 days to binge-watch all the original shows and movies Netflix will release in 2017

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NOW WATCH: Watch the terrifying moment an American Airlines plane caught fire

Screenshot from the second #ThisIsEgypt promotional video

Screenshot from the second #ThisIsEgypt promotional video

Egypt’s tourism ministry has decided to launch a tourism campaign in Rome next month in an effort to attract Italian visitors back to Egypt, privately-owned Al-Shorouk reported.

According to a press release from the ministry, there are “positive indicators” regarding the potential tourism market in Italy in comparison to past months. The ministry also said that it will be directing its efforts to increasing flights between the two countries, in tandem with a campaign to promote various destinations in Egypt, including South Sinai, Luxor and Aswan.

Last month, Egypt’s ambassador to Italy Amr Helmy said that Italy had agreed to operate 11 direct flights from a number of Italian cities – including Naples, Palermo and Pisa – and Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Sharm El Sheikh.

Sharm El Sheikh has suffered from a sharp drop in tourist visits over the past year after a Russian passenger plane was downed, killing all 224 people onboard. A number of countries, including the United Kingdom and Russia, banned all flights to the resort town following the plane crash over security concerns.

The ministry’s decision to launch the campaign comes days after Italy’s foreign minister said the unresolved case of graduate student Giulio Regeni’s brutal murder in Cairo is an “open wound” for Italy.

The head of Egypt’s Tourism Authority (ETA) Mohamed Abdel Gabbar had said in February that Italian tourism bookings to Egypt during the summer season had dropped by 90 percent in comparison to last year. The drop was announced less than two weeks after Regeni’s tortured body was found on the outskirts of Cairo.

Approximately four million Egyptians work in the tourism sector, which accounts for 12.6 percent of the country’s total employment and about 12 percent of the economy.

The drop in tourism revenues is also one of the main factors contributing to the country’s current foreign currency crisis. Since the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak, foreign reserves have gone down more than 50 percent, from USD 36 billion to USD 19.592 billion as of last month.

Elona Karafin

When Elona Karafin was a child, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. She spent two years in treatments and today, at age 23, she`s happy to report that she`s healthy. 

But being a cancer survivor is forever baked into her psyche.

"I had cancer when I was 10, " she says. "Now I realize, people around me, people my age or people older, everyone is dealing with something that stops them from doing what they want to do."

She says the experience taught her, "I don’t want to waste away my youth and I don`t want others to waste away their youth and I don`t want them to do it because people think they don`t have enough money or enough time."

And so, every few weeks, Karafin, who lives in New York, travels to a far-away destination like Bali or Poland or Paris or Portugal on a long weekend, maybe three days, spending less than 1,000 on the total trip including airfare, hotel, entertainment — everything. 

If she`s not traveling internationally, she`ll zip around the US. For domestic trips, its a straight weekend jaunt, Friday night to Sunday, she says.

She keeps details of her trips. what she saw, how she spent her time and documents it all on her blog, "Elona The Explorer."

She`s out to prove to everyone who wants to travel the world (or achieve any of their dreams): "You have time. You can make time. Even the busiest people in the world, they have time," she says. "That`s why I focus so much on weekend trips."

And, she`s not independently wealthy. She works as a financial analyst at a large e-commerce and postage supply company. "I work a full-time job and I`m fresh out of college, so I`m not exactly making the big bucks," she laughs. 

 

Some of her best trips:

  • A three-day jaunt to Bali. "It was a 26-hour flight, I was in Bali for 3 nights. not even a full four days," she says.
  • She`s done Dubai in 4 days.
  • And once, she went to Poland for 8 hours. "I surprised my best friend for her birthday, I flew out on a Saturday."
  • She also nailed Amsterdam in 2 days. "There`s a whole list of things you can get done in two days."

On top of working and traveling, she also runs her own charity called Checkmatecancer.org that uses social media and crowdfunding to raise money for underprivileged kids who have cancer.

So she probably falls into the "busiest people in the world" bucket. She`s really proud of the charity, by the way. "So far, in three years I raised over 115,000 in donations for individual families in the United States and abroad," she tells us.

As a traveler, it does help that she lives in New York, because flying to European destinations takes less time, but she says anyone can do exotic travel on the weekends, no matter where they live.

Here are her top tips:

SEE ALSO: Meet the first guy Steve Jobs ever fired at Apple ... and he wasn`t even an employee

Turn off the "cookies" in your browser before using travel sites (or clear them before you return). Many travel sites use cookies to remember you and show you the same fares, even if they were high. "They assume that`s what you`re willing to pay," Karafin says.

Here`s how you clear cookies in Chrome.

This is what to do in Internet Explorer.

And here`s how you clear cookies in Firefox.



Be flexible on where you`ll go. "I use websites that allow me to put `everywhere` as a destination, and New York as my origin," she says. She goes where ever the bargains take her.



One of her favorite sites for finding deals on flights is Jetradar.com. "It has some of the best deals I’ve ever seen."

Read more of Karafin`s favorite apps for traveling on the cheap.



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microsoft windows 10 virtual reality demo

That new Surface Studio computer may have been the star of Microsoft`s show last Wednesday, but the story that didn`t get enough attention was how Microsoft is expanding its plans for augmented and virtual reality, the platforms many think will usher in a new era of computing.

Next year, Microsoft will release a free update to Windows 10 called the Creators Update that includes the ability to plug a virtual reality headset into your PC. The headsets are relatively cheap too, starting at 299. They`ll be built by all the top PC makers like Dell, Lenovo, and Asus.

But they`re more than just affordable headsets. They also have features you still can`t get in high-end headsets like Facebook`s Oculus Rift, which costs 599. Most notably, the headsets are able to provide free range of motion without an external camera tracking you.

Alex Kipman, Microsoft`s head of the HoloLens and other augmented and virtual reality projects, told Business Insider in an interview last week that the new portfolio of VR headsets will be the "most immersive and and powerful headsets at the most affordable price."

That last bit about affordability is a major caveat, of course. While the new headsets from Dell, Lenovo, and the rest may not match the Oculus Rift in terms of display quality, they`ll immediately be more accessible and in some ways more capable.

 

Microsoft executives testing HoloLens

Right now, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive require very powerful PCs that can cost 1,000 or more. But the Windows 10 headsets will be able to run on PCs that cost around 500. In many cases, if you have a computer that can run Windows 10, you have a computer that works with VR.

That`s a huge advantage. VR is still in its very early stages and isn`t accessible to many people. But opening it up to a large portion of the Windows ecosystem with affordable headsets could give VR a major boost.

Then there`s the tracking. Kipman boasted how this will be a major advantage for the new headsets over the competition. Microsoft will let VR headset makers use similar built-in tracking that`s found in the HoloLens, which is completely untethered from a PC and can "scan" your surroundings so you can move about freely in VR.

While the Vive and Oculus Rift make you install a camera or laser emitters in your room to achieve that effect, the Windows headsets will be able to do it without an external accessories and for several hundred dollars cheaper. Facebook briefly teased its own Oculus Rift with that "inside out" tracking, but it`s still in the early stages. Microsoft will have it ready by next spring.

With one update to Windows, Microsoft will immediately leapfrog much of its VR competition. It`s going to be the easiest, most affordable way to experience high-end VR and puts the company in a position to dominate the category.

SEE ALSO: The new MacBook Pro is going to be the best Mac for most people

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A California based group has discovered a growing threat to the American honey bee population that turns them into "zombees." The research by Dr John Hafernik and his team have discovered that the phorid fly has begun to use the honey bee as its host, and could be contributing to colony collapse disorder. These infected "zombees" behave erratically, leaving their nest to die.

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If you`ve ever drunk heavily before, then you`ve probably fallen victim to the dreaded and awful "spins." We all have at some point. But have you ever thought about why that happens in the first place? Well, to put it simply, it`s because alcohol is literally getting in your ears.

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Whether it`s George A. Romero`s zombies or Robert Kirkman`s zombies, one thing is always certain — humanity suffers greatly during zombie outbreaks. Dr. Stephen Morse — a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University — stopped by to walk us through how public health officials would attempt to stop a potential zombie apocalypse in its tracks.

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Antonio Garcia Martinez

Antonio Garcia Martinez joined Facebook as a product manager right before its IPO in 2011. He was hired to work on Facebook`s ad products, and he eventually created the doomed FBX ad exchange.

Garcia Martinez left the company in 2013 and then wrote the book "Chaos Monkeys," a description of what it`s like to work alongside Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook in Menlo Park, California. "Chaos Monkeys" is probably the best, most detailed description of what it`s like working at the giant social media network from the point of view of ordinary employees. 

The book reveals that many of them are very well compensated. This isn`t surprising, as the competition for tech workers in Northern California is intense. But Garcia Martinez went a step further than that. He detailed exactly what he was paid, in salary, stock, options and bonuses. While salaries at Facebook aren`t a secret, it is unusual to see a Facebook employee describe their compensation in such detail.

It turns out that even when you`re offered a package worth nearly 1 million, you still don`t feel rich, Garcia Martinez writes: 

Facebook’s original offer was 75,000 shares, vesting over four years, in addition to a 175,000 salary. I had managed to wangle the equivalent of 5,000 shares up front in cash to pay for credit cards, a new car (with the license plate ADGROK, of course), and the sailboat I was then living on— about 200,000 in cash all together. That left 70,000 shares. Assuming nominal performance, from both me and the company (our bonuses were a product of individual performance reviews and a company-wide multiplier more or less arbitrarily chosen by Zuck), I’d get a cash bonus in the 7 to 15 percent range.

Garcia Martinez said his comp worked out like this, on the day of the IPO:

  • 38 per share
  • × (70,000 shares ÷ 4 years + 3,000 shares annual bonus)
  • + ( 175,000 base salary + 17,500 rough annual bonus)
  • = 971,500 per year [about £800,000].

But then ... taxes! And Silicon Valley property prices!

After the IRS took its chunk Garcia Martinez was left with about 550,000. Apartments in the San Francisco area start at 1 million and go up to 3 million for a nice but modest house. So even when you`re a near-millionaire in SF on paper, your actual circumstances can still feel decidedly middle class, Garcia Martinez says.

And, if he had held onto any of that stock, Garcia Martinez would be even better off now. While FB did dip into the teens after the IPO, it is now trading at 131.  

Many Facebook employees joined the company far earlier than he did, and emerged from the IPO multi-millionaires. That showed up later, Garcia Martinez says, in the form of "a certain debauched air" inside the company as people splurged on luxury cars:

I didn’t quite realize all this, sitting there on the first day the company was public, looking at a stock price, but I would soon enough. I’d see not just my fortunes change (even if not in a fully “fuck you” sort of way) very quickly ; those of everyone around would change as well. From the slightly ridiculous nights out (I recall a double steak dinner and four-figure restaurant bills in there somewhere), to the rather rapid accumulation of Porsches, Corvettes, and even the odd Ferrari in the parking lot, things did assume a certain debauched air at Facebook, despite all the corporate clamor for austere discipline. That was all in the future. Right then, it just seemed I was finally going to live at something above a subsistence level, and have more than peanuts in the bank.

Garcia Martinez now lives on a boat in Washington State.

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NOW WATCH: The ‘Apple of China’ just unveiled a phone that’s more powerful and better looking than the iPhone


Ever since HBO`s "Westworld" premiered, fans have had their suspicions about one character in particular (besides the Man in Black). Bernard Lowe is Ford`s right hand man — he`s in charge of behavior and programming. And if you`ve been paying close attention to his scenes, you might have noticed that there are a lot of clues hinting that he may not be exactly who he seems. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

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Why is Pennsylvania so hilly, boring, liberal? Why is is Manitoba so humid and flat?

Reddit user Salem-Witch gathered the top Google Autocomplete suggestions for states and regions around North America.

"Don`t shoot the messenger," Salem-Witch comments.

Note that suggestions may change over the course of the year.autocomplete north america

SEE ALSO: The 67 types of people in America, according to market researchers

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Y-40 The Deep Joy is the kind of pool that scuba and free divers dream of. It holds a Guinness World Record as the deepest pool for diving at 137 feet. It also has various features for divers of all levels to practice their skills.

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macbook pro touch bar

With its new Surface Studio desktop PC, unveiled this week, Microsoft did something unimaginable: It upstaged Apple

The machine`s sharp, super-thin screen, its smart design and its innovative click wheel led Business Insider`s Steve Kovach to write that "the Studio isn`t a computer. It`s an entirely new computing category, a sort of desktop-tablet hybrid that already has people excited."

When Apple gathered tech reporters at Cupertino the following day, the company showed off a new lineup of Macbook Pro laptops sporting largely the same design we`ve seen for years, but with the addition of a new touchscreen Touch Bar that doubles as a Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

The contrast between the cool new Surface Studio and the same-same MacBook Pro was striking. Microsoft — popularly known for decades as the bland purveyor of bland software for bland beige boxes that sit in bland offices  — is out-innovating the company that once dared its customers to "Think Different."  

microsoft surface studio

And with Microsoft making such a splash with the exquisite Surface Pro tablet, Surface Book laptop, and now the Surface Studio PC, it has Apple`s legions of Mac devotees asking: Why can`t Apple just build a better Mac?

Well, those Mac fans ain`t gonna like the answer. You see, the replacement for the Mac is already here. It`s called the iPhone. Maybe you`ve heard of it?

Stalling for time

Apple is the most valuable company in the world, and it`s all thanks to the iPhone. Sure, Android phones dominate by marketshare. But at the end of 2015 the iPhone was more profitable than all the major Android manufacturers combined

Plus, the iPhone drives Apple`s growing services business, including Apple Music, iCloud storage, and most of all, the 30% cut it takes of all App Store transactions.

Ultimately, as the iPhone grows, the Mac`s importance to Apple diminishes. Check out the steady year-on-year revenue decline of the Mac since this chart starts in 2011:

bii apple quarterly revenue growth by product 3Q16

Sure, Apple could pour money into the Mac business, inventing a touchscreen MacBook that rivals the Surface Book. With Apple`s cash reserves, the sky`s the limit. 

But Apple`s actions aren`t about money or beating Microsoft on the PC battlefield. Apple will never admit it, but the real goal is ensure that the Mac stays frozen in time. 

Pressing pause

While you and I might want a touchscreen Mac, Apple has already moved its big-picture focus over to the iPhone and iPad. Launching a touchscreen Mac now has a huge potential to confuse the market, split the developer base, and pause the overall transition while customers try to figure out if they need a work-friendly iPad Pro or a touchscreen-enabled Mac.

It`s unarguable that, today, it`s difficult for most people, particularly students and creative professionals, to do their whole entire jobs on an iPhone or iPad.

Consider this, though: What can you do with the iPhone today that you couldn`t when it launched in 2007? When the Apple App Store launched, stuff like Google Docs on the iPhone seemed like a convenient novelty; now, as the apps have improved and their feature lists fill out it`s become a normal part of the working day for millions of people.

iPad Pro

It`ll be a while before iOS, the operating system on the iPhone and iPad, is really, truly ready to replace a Mac (or a Windows computer, for that matter). But we`ve already seen signals that Apple is thinking in that direction: CEO Tim Cook probably tipped his hand when he pitched the giant-sized iPad Pro as a laptop replacement.

So while the world waits for iOS to mature, Apple still needs to keep the Mac around for the many millions for whom an iPad still isn`t good enough. It`s a tricky balance: if Apple makes the Mac too modern, it hurts iPad adoption; Not modern enough, and Apple`s install base erodes away before there`s a real replacement.

And when Apple finally starts to push into new platforms like augmented reality or even audible computing, you can bet that it will be centered around the iPhone, not the Mac.

Hence, we get things like the Touch Bar — an underwhelming compromise between old and new while the future shakes itself out.

Microsoft swoops in

For Microsoft, this is a huge opportunity. 

Microsoft lost out on smartphones — by year`s end, Windows phone platforms are expected to drop to a pitiful 1% global marketshare. And with overall PC sales shrinking, and smartphones handling an ever-larger amount of everyday computing, the future of the company`s Windows business is in danger.

Windows 10 is designed to meet this threat head-on: It`s designed to bridge the old Windows desktop experience with a new, touch-friendly interface. It tries to be as good for tablets as it is for PCs, and for the most part, it succeeds. Where Apple is trying to balance an old platform and a new one, Microsoft has one very mature operating system.

So with Apple stuck in this weird, in-between stage between Mac and iPad, it`s the perfect time for Microsoft to get people jazzed up about Windows 10. That`s where the Surface line comes in, making the case to consumers that Microsoft is really good at helping you get stuff done and at coming up with nifty new touchscreen experiences. 

surface book review 0786

Clearly, Microsoft would love if everybody on the planet bought all-Surface-everything. But even if they don`t (the devices are pretty expensive), Microsoft`s real end-game with devices like the Surface is showing off what their hardware teams can do that Apple can`t, or won`t. 

The mere fact that we`re talking about the real possibility that Microsoft out-innovated Apple is proof enough that the strategy is working. It`s going to get people at least considering a Windows machine, even if it`s not a Surface, whereas before they might have just bought another Macbook.

The real game now, then, is whether Microsoft can use the Surface hype to bring Windows back to growth, before Apple sorts out the existential crisis with its platforms and starts pushing its computers forward again.

SEE ALSO: For crying out loud, Apple, just build a touchscreen Mac already

DON`T MISS: For Microsoft Windows, it`s do or die

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NOW WATCH: A mysterious cloud moving 700,000 mph is going to collide with our galaxy — here`s what will happen

apple macbook pro

Apple worked with LG to make special displays specifically for Apple`s new MacBook Pros, which the company announced on Thursday.

Computer monitors aren`t usually built with any particular computer in mind, as most of them only act as a simple screen. And displays also don`t often cost as much as LG`s UltraFine displays, which range from 700 to 1,300. 

So, what makes the LG UltraFine displays work so well with Apple`s MacBook laptops?

Check it out.

SEE ALSO: This is Apple`s replacement for the MacBook Air

The best thing about LG`s UltraFine displays is they can CHARGE the new MacBook Pros with the same cable that transmits video and audio.

This is very good. 

One of the four USB-C ports on LG`s UltraFine displays can charge the new MacBook Pros. 

That means you`ll have only one cable to power your laptop and connect it to the LG monitor.

Note: The 27-inch version of the LG UltraFine displays requires Thunderbolt 3.0 to charge laptops via USB-C. That means only Apple`s new MacBook Pros will charge with the 27-inch LG display; Apple`s 12-inch MacBook does not support Thunderbolt 3.0.



It acts like a docking station for MacBook Pros.

The same, single USB-C cable that charges the new MacBook Pros and connects them to LG`s display can also transmit data to the LG UltraFine`s USB-C ports, too. 

That means you can connect other accessories and peripherals, like hard drives or adapters, to one of the the LG UltraFine display`s three remaining USB-C ports.

It`s essentially a docking station that happens to have a 4K or 5K resolution screen on it.

Of course, other monitors with USB-C ports can be docking stations for other USB-C laptops, too. Yet, what makes LG`s UltraFine display special is that a single cable can be used for power, video, and data. 



There aren`t many 5K resolution displays out there.

The 27-inch model of LG`s UltraFine display has 5K resolution. Yep, one more "K" than 4K.

This 5K display — which has seven times the number of pixels as a 1080p HD display — mostly benefits photo or video editors, who often use Macs for their work.

How so? In editing apps like Final Cut Pro, you have a preview window with the video you`re editing, and you also have all the editing tools around the preview window. If you shoot and edit video in 4K, a 5K display lets you see that 4K video in the preview window in full 4K resolution, leaving an extra "K" of pixels for the surrounding editing tools.

So, with that in mind, it`s not really useful for those who primarily use computers for the internet and lurking on social media. But while it`s not a common resolution for displays, video or photo editors who want a 5K display will find LG`s UltraFine pretty nifty, especially when they don`t have many other options. 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Former Olympian and marathon coach, John Henwood, explains the proper training the week before your marathon. His advice is a little different from many of the popular training programs.

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total

French oil and gas company total announced its plans to expand the capacity of its lubricant blending plant in Alexandria’s Borg Al-Arab industrial zone, to reach up to 90,000 tons

“We plan to increase the exports of the plant’s current production to 40 percent from 25 percent, as well as adding key export markets,” said Ian Lepetit, Total’s managing director.

The company invested EGP 45 million (USD 5.07 million) since 2015 to achieve a strategic plan that consolidates its presence in the country and to cater for both local and export needs. A sum of EGP 30 million was invested in the period 2015-16, while the company plans to invest another EGP in 2017.

Managing Director Lepetit added in press remarks that Total’s recent expansion will raise the plant capacity from 50,000 tons of 280 lubricants products up to 90,000 tons per year.

The production is currently exported to markets in Africa and the Middle East including Lebanon, Uganda, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Zambia.

Total Egypt’s Borg Al-Arab plant spans on an area of 35,000 square meters with an investment value estimated at USD 15 million. It is 65 percent owned by Total and 35 percent owned by Oilibya as a minority shareholder.

AT&T ceo randall stephenson

If you`ve been following the news, you`ve seen AT&T making business headlines.

That`s because the telecommunications conglomerate has announced its intent to purchase Time Warner for 85.4 billion.

The acquisition could shake up the digital world forever.

If the deal goes through, AT&T will acquire CNN, HBO, and Turner Broadcasting Systems.

AT&T is likely hoping to feature content from those Time Warner properties on its new DirecTV Now streaming service. This new product will allow consumers to watch TV on any device.

Between the Time Warner deal and the coming launch of DirecTV Now, AT&T and Time Warner are promising to disrupt the world of digital media and capitalize on the trend of mobile phones trumping TV sets.

If you want to learn more about what`s in store for AT&T and Time Warner, don`t miss Business Insider`s flagship conference, IGNITION: Future of Digital.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes will be there to discuss their companies` expansion and continued focus on digital media. The conference is happening December 5-7 at the Time Warner Center in New York City. This is your chance to get the scoop on what`s coming next.

This year`s IGNITION speakers include Thrive Global`s Arianna Huffington, IAC`s Barry Diller, Airbnb`s Nathan Blecharczyk, and Cisco`s Chuck Robbins.

Sign up today before tickets sell out!

SEE ALSO: Hear Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes at IGNITION 2016

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NOW WATCH: Jeff Bezos: Why I Always Tell Employees Not To Pat Themselves When Our Stock Is Up

James has interviewed hundreds of successful people. Regardless of their accomplishments or the field they excel in, this is the one thing they all have in common.

Altucher is a bestselling author, entrepreneur, angel investor and former hedge fund manager. His podcast and blog teach the lessons he`s learned about money, health, and happiness after having it all, losing it, and getting it back again.

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Jo Bertram

Uber has told its drivers that the tribunal ruling requiring them to be paid minimum wage does not apply and that there will be "no change" in how drivers are paid until Uber has appealed the decision, according to a leaked email tweeted by the GMB union.

A London employment tribunal ruling last week found that Uber drivers are not independent entrepreneurs — as the company had argued — but captive employees. Drivers are therefore entitled to the same minimum wage protections, holiday and sick pay, as all other workers are, the tribunal said. The ruling potentially covers 40,000 Uber drivers and half a million "self-employed" British workers in the gig economy, at companies like Deliveroo and Hermes.

But Uber emailed this message to its drivers after the ruling, the GMB said. The message claims the ruling "only affects two individuals and Uber will be appealing it. There will be no change to your partnership with Uber in light of this decision":

Uber

The GMB was not happy: "If you received this misleading email - know that Uber judgement applies to 40,000 UK drivers, not 2," the union tweeted.

Uber did not immediately respond to Business Insider`s request for comment.

Previously, Uber UK general manager Jo Bertram had said: "Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss. The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want. While the decision of this preliminary hearing only affects two people we will be appealing it."

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NOW WATCH: Elon Musk just unveiled something that could revolutionize how you power your home

A voter wearing a bicycle helmet marks her ballot during early voting in Boulder, Colorado October 21, 2008.

For such an advanced democracy, many Americans just don`t vote. In recent elections, turnout has ranged from about 50% to 60% of the voting-age population.

But there`s a simple change that the US could make to boost turnout dramatically, something that has worked in at least 26 other democracies.

We could make Americans vote.

President Barack Obama has endorsed the idea, and yet it has never taken hold in the US, for a variety of reasons. But many experts think it`s a good idea.

Benefits of mandatory voting

The two countries leading in voter turnout are Belgium and Turkey, according to Pew Research data. In their most recent elections, those countries saw 87% and 84% turnout, respectively. The last US presidential election saw just 55% of people rocking the vote.

Political scientists worry about this because older and wealthier Americans vote more often than anyone else. This means leaders` policies are more likely to favor their interests over other groups. It`s called "class bias."

Compulsory voting is a fairly old solution. Belgium first enacted its law in 1892, and Argentina in 1914, both as ways to keep the general population invested politically.

It doesn`t take much to get results. In Australia, where voting has been mandatory since 1924, the fine for not voting once is 20. After that, each fine is 50. If you never pay up you could lose your driver`s license. In Belgium, after racking up penalties, chronic vote avoiders risk losing the ability to vote for 10 years.

In the US, compulsory voting has barely entered mainstream conversation. In May of last year, President Obama publicly endorsed compulsory voting for the first time, telling a crowd in Cleveland that "it would be transformative if everybody voted" specifically because of the class-bias effect.

"The people who tend not to vote are young, they`re lower income, they`re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups," Obama said. "There`s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls."

obama speech

A handful of studies suggest Obama may be right.

One 2013 study found Australia`s turnout rate was like a lot of advanced democracies before it switched, in 1924, at which point the law forced working-class people — many of whom were otherwise disengaged from the political process — to learn about politics out of necessity.

That phenomenon has been validated in follow-up experiments using smaller-scale incentives: People tend to take an interest in things when there`s something specific in it for them. Some have even suggested paying people to vote, rather than fining the apathetic.

"When Australia passed compulsory voting, the Labor Party did better and you saw more progressive policies in line with what the working class was advocating for," Anthony Fowler, the study`s author and a public-policy researcher at the University of Chicago, told Business Insider. "Compulsory voting would have large political consequences that would benefit the poor and working class."

Other researchers have challenged the idea that voters start to lean left when voting is mandatory. Jason Brennan, Georgetown University professor and coauthor of "Compulsory Voting: For and Against," said Australia may be an anomaly.

"The people who vote and the people who don`t vote are roughly the same in terms of their partisan preferences," Brennan said in a recent interview with Governing.

Doug Chapin, an election expert at the University of Minnesota, disagreed. He said candidates would have an incentive to campaign to everyone, not just the wealthier, older people who disproportionately vote today.

factory workers

The challenge of forcing Americans to vote

Fowler says it`s unlikely the US will adopt compulsory voting. For one, Republicans might fear an influx of progressive voters.

Revamping the entire election process, which varies across the country, would require big changes.

For example, Fowler speculates few Americans would be excited by the idea. "The idea that somebody might force me to vote might sound off-putting to a lot of American voters," because Americans don`t often like being told what to do, he said. It goes against many Americans` notion of individual liberty.

But compulsory voting doesn`t require citizens to cast a vote for specific candidates. People are still free to submit a blank or partial ballot.

Enforcement is another challenge. For instance, Chapin said Australia`s turnout rate of 79% could be even higher if the penalties were stiffer and the law better enforced. If the US, a much more populous country than Australia, fails to go after vote avoiders, the mandate`s effectiveness could wane.

"You certainly hate to reduce democracy to a cost-benefit analysis," Chapin said, "but I think with something like this, whatever level of government is considering it is going to have to do that."

electronic voting booth

Some states have already taken steps to make voting easier by design.

Earlier this year, Oregon became the first state to automatically register its residents to vote. If people don`t want to, they have to manually opt-out. Right now 28 other states are weighing similar laws.

Still, Chapin is skeptical that mandatory voting of any kind will make its way to the US, despite the evidence arguing in its favor. American government is slow-moving, even for small changes. If there were political will, overhauling the laws on voting — the bedrock of democracy — would take a long, long time.

"My grandmother used to say `never` is a child`s word, so I`m hesitant to say it`ll never happen," Chapin said. "But I think it`s highly unlikely."

SEE ALSO: 7 lessons about elections that America should learn from other countries

DON`T MISS: How to read election year polls

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NOW WATCH: Here are all the prominent Republicans voting for Hillary Clinton

NME Awards 2016 with Austin Texas - London Yoko Ono

HSBC has opened a special office near Tate Modern and in the same building as rock and roll magazine NME to entice trendy developers to work for the bank, according to the bank`s CEO.

Stuart Gulliver told a conference in London on Friday: "There`s a cultural issue from a large incumbent organisation. Therefore we`ve lifted out about 3,000 staff that form the nucleus of a digital group and actually they`re positioned in the Blue Fin building in Southwark.

"Actually we felt having them in our building in Canary Wharf would either not create the right environment to hire the right people, because they didn`t want to be in that community, and on the other hand create some sort of tension issues in the rest of the cultural environment of the bank."

The Blue Fin building, built in 2007, boasts "stunning views of St Paul’s, Tate Modern and Docklands," according to its website, and features a picturesque roof garden. The office block is so attractive that it advertises itself for wedding hire.Blue FinAs well as HSBC`s sizable innovation team, the Blue Fin building is home to Time Inc. UK, the magazine group that publishes titles like rock and roll weekly NME, design magazine Wallpaper, and fashion publication InStyle, among many others. (I did an internship at NME years back and can attest that it is pretty swish in there.)

HSBC`s Canary Wharf headquarters, meanwhile, is a thoroughly corporate affair. The 45-story tower is next door to Bank of America and a stone`s throw from Citigroup. Banker central, in other words.

The headquarters of HSBC bank in London`s Canary Wharf financial district, Britain, March 11, 2016.

Speaking at the second HSBC Innovation Summit in London on Friday, Gulliver said that the HSBC digital team in the Blue Fin building was part of the bank`s efforts to keep on top of the threat from fintech — financial technology — companies that have emerged in recent years to challenge traditional banking models.

Gulliver said: "To survive for 150 years we`ve had to evolve. Most of the risk we`ve dealt with is political. Actually what`s happening in the digital space is there is a threat, particularly to retail banking. There is a significant threat in payments, in wealth management."

All major banks are experimenting with fintech in one way or another, seeing new technologies variously as a way to cut out costs, win over a new generation of customers, and hang on to the ones they`ve currently got by offering them a better service.

But many face a problem with recruiting the hoodie-wearing developers that populate much of the fintech world to the suit-and-tie landscape of Canary Wharf.

At a conference in London earlier this month the cofounder and CEO of fintech information company Orchard said he thought Goldman Sachs would struggle to launch its online lending platform Marcus because of recruitment. Matt Burton said: "The issue that Goldman has is it can’t recruit the talent that it needs for an industry that is changing all the time."

Stuart GulliverOpening up a satellite office somewhere a little more cultural — the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, and the National Theatre are all a short walk away from the Blue Fin building — looks like a smart way for HSBC to avoid this issue, creating an environment that trendy tech types would be more likely to want to work.

But internal innovation isn`t HSBC`s only strategy. Gulliver said: "We`re also doing the classic thing that a lot of banks are doing like making equity in startups. Some of the technology you`ve seen in terms of using voice recognition to get into HSBC bank account, the ability to open a business bank account and scan your documents on your iPad — all of that kind of thing comes from investing in various startup."

HSBC set aside 200 million for investment in fintech in 2014 and has backed startups like Danish trade finance company Tradeshift.

Gulliver said: "You don`t want to own them because as soon as you have 51%, a big company like us, the likelihood is you`re going to choke the life out of them. You want to have 25% and a board seat."

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NOW WATCH: Bass Pro Shops is buying its rival Cabela’s for 5.5 billion

A man in California says he has created a bicycle that is healthier, safer, and faster than a normal bike - because you ride it on your stomach.

John Aldridge, the creator of the Bird of Prey Bicycle, claims his bike is the "fastest racing bicycle in the world."

The product can be bought online for around £4000.

Produced by Leon Siciliano

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Horuna Stanislav (L) from the Ukraine fights against his opponent Omar Abdel Rahman from Egypt during the Male Kumite third place 75kg of the 22nd Karate World Championships at OVB-Arena on November 8, 2014 in Bremen, Germany. Photo: CARMEN JASPERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Horuna Stanislav (L) from the Ukraine fights against his opponent Omar Abdel Rahman from Egypt during the Male Kumite third place 75kg of the 22nd Karate World Championships at OVB-Arena on November 8, 2014 in Bremen, Germany. Photo: CARMEN JASPERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian karatekas Sarah Sayed and Omar Abdel Rahman landed silver medals, while Egyptian Giana Farouk clinched a gold medal at the 2016 Karate World Championships in Linz, Austria on Saturday.

Farouk, 36, defeated France’s Lucie Ignace to clinch her sixth consecutive gold medal at a World Championship since 2011.

She previously helped Egypt’s women’s team in kumite secure a gold medal for Egypt at the 22nd Karate World Championships in Bremen in 2014, and has won a silver or gold medal at every major international event since 2013.

Sayed landed in the second spot behind Japan’s Kiyou Shimizu, after defying expectations by making it to the final round.

“It is the first time in the history of Egyptian karate that a female has reached the kata final, so of course I am very happy,” said Sayed, who is ranked as number 21 worldwide. “I made a lot of sacrifices to be here and at the end of the day, all that I did was worth it.”

Meanwhile, Abdel Rahman also walked away with the silver medal in the men’s under-75kg crown after losing the final match to Azerbaijan’s Rafael Aghayev 4-1.

Archive Photo. Credit: Asmaa Waguih/ Reuters

Archive Photo. Credit: Asmaa Waguih/ Reuters

A senior military officer and the driver of his armored vehicle were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Egypt’s North Sinai on Saturday, privately-owned Al-Shorouk reported.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ramy Hassanein was the commander of a shock battalion and was traveling in an armored vehicle near Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai when the bomb claimed his life.

Three other conscripts were also injured in the attack.

It remains unclear who is responsible for the attack but Reuters quoted unnamed sources as saying the explosion specifically targeted Colonel Hassanein.

North Sinai has witnessed a significant uptick in militant violence following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, particularly against Egypt’s military.

Last week, Brigadier General Adel Rajaei, a commander of an armored division, was gunned down outside his home in Obour City on the outskirts of Cairo. A group calling itself Lewaa Al-Thawra claimed responsibility shortly before their Twitter account was suspended. However, there have been no confirmations of the claim.

Egypt’s military, in cooperation with local tribes, has waged a war against militancy in North Sinai, killing hundreds of suspected terrorists. An estimated 2100 people were killed in North Sinai in 2015, including roughly 1800 described by the military as “terrorists,” 150 civilians, 40 police officers and conscripts, and 140 military personnel.

Black Mirror

Before "Black Mirror" creator Charlie Brooker started writing for television, he used to make a living writing about television. His weekly Guardian "Screen Burn" column was famous for eviscerating its targets.

He once described the contestants on the British remake of "The Apprentice" as "14 odious, over-confident wannabe entrepreneurs, every single one of whom you will learn to hate twice as much as Hitler."

And then there was this description of Simon Cowell`s hair: "He prepares for each episode by dipping his head in matt-black Dulux and painting his dressing room wall with it."

All in all, he`s not afraid of telling TV executives what he thinks. This makes his views on working with Netflix on the third season of "Black Mirror" all the more interesting.

In television circles, Netflix is heralded as a saintly creative partner. One that gives bagfuls of cash to storytellers and trusts them to get on with it.

Kevin Spacey famously opined on the creative freedom handed over to the "House of Cards" team. "We weren’t asked to compromise or water-down the story we wanted to tell by anyone," he told the Edinburgh International Television Festival in 2013.

Charlie BrookerBrooker`s views don`t diverge from Spacey`s too much — and like the American actor, he believes "Black Mirror" has benefited from Netflix`s trust.

"I haven’t seen a satanic side. They’ve been brilliant," he told Business Insider. "They’ve been very collaborative, they’ve not been like cigar chomping American execs who say: `Put some titties and some kids in it.` None of that."

He added: "They’re very thoughtful and when they have notes on the script, it’s always very useful, annoyingly useful. I haven’t seen a down side. But then I would say that."

Brooker said it was like this from the outset with Netflix. The online video giant swooped for "Black Mirror" when British broadcaster Channel 4 refused to commit to a third season. It showed a "terrifying level of commitment," according to Brooker.

"When I’ve worked on things where you don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, I find it hard to push on through crafting the script because I’m a pessimist. But if you know it is going to happen, you’ve got a proper deadline. You get rid of that British voice in your head," he added.

Brooker "dismayed" at Channel 4`s approach to "Black Mirror"

Brooker said Netflix`s approach contrasted sharply with Channel 4.

"Channel 4 wanted to see every single thing in advance and wouldn’t have even had to put in much money. They wanted to see every single storyline, every single script. It was just impossible and held the whole thing up. We were supposed to do the third series in 2013/14, which they effectively decommissioned," he explained.

The British broadcaster was furious when Brooker`s company, House of Tomorrow, moved "Black Mirror" to Netflix. Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt accused the firm of flogging the show to the "highest bidder" and "ignoring the risk" Channel 4 took on it.

Brooker was upset by the rhetoric. "Really, I felt that we weren’t supported there. I was quite dismayed that we were made out to be greedy. It was all a bit unfortunate, but there’s no ill feeling," he added.

The writer is already well into development on the fourth season of "Black Mirror." Ironically, the idea of polarisation is weighing heavily on his mind. Although this is more to do with the lack of middle ground in modern politics, it`s clear he believes Netflix and Channel 4 were poles apart in their approach to the latest series of his dystopian tech drama.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How to choose the best cut of steak — according to Anthony Bourdain

Interpreting the Murals of Egypt through the Eyes of the Hopi

There has to be something missing in our explanation of the murals of Egypt. Why are there so many symbols— snakes, birds with human heads, feathers, buzzards, life symbols, monkeys, scarabs, balances, a young man, two twins, and masked individuals

Scott Belsky

Every now and then, it’s a fun and healthy challenge to think distantly. Sure, we already expect self-driving cars, wearable hardware, a connected home, and augmented reality. But where does the foreseeable future take us next? I’m talking more Black Mirror than investor thesis. What new problems will we be struggling with? What will kill us? What will connect us? While solutions change, some questions will always remain. If only to stimulate discussion among friends, here are a few forecasts on my mind these days:

  1. Social media will become passive.
  2. Our (augmented) reality will be a land grab, and always be under attack from brands.
  3. Interfaces will compete with the technology underneath.
  4. Autonomous vehicles in cities will become a public utility.
  5. We will transcend “tragedy of the commons” with technology that aligns self-interests with community benefits.

Allow me to explain, as well as share some implications for each:

(1) Social media will become passive.

The concept of actively “posting” or “sharing” will be frowned upon and entirely replaced by a passive stream of your life’s experiences, whereabouts, and media consumption. Imagine a 24 hour channel of you that is authentic, aways live (or automatically programmed), and always accessible to your friends (or if you’re born in the age of transparency (post year 2000), accessible to anyone). Any effort to actively post something will be seen as “manual editing” and will be perceived negatively unless it is an artistic statement. Quality will be community and algorithmically-determined, surfacing the highlights of your experience in a way that is automatic and thus deemed more authentic. Implications?

  • So many social products and new forms of advertising will emerge to accommodate the era of passive social. Viral growth of new products and media will happen more naturally based on how many people are tuning into you. Simply, whatever you’re doing or consuming is what other people will discover.
  • Typical forms of paid user acquisition will become obsolete, replaced by product placement and “experience placement.” The prices you pay for products and services in your life will be offset by the exposure you bring. The bigger your network (and the better your “CFV” (Conversion From Viewers, a measure of how actionable your content is for those that follow you), the less your life will cost!
  • I am struck by the idea of trusting automation over what someone does manually. It’s the evolution of how we are drawn to inferior photos on Snapchat in a more primal way than carefully posed and edited photos on Instagram. The objectivity of algorithms over the subjectivity of human tendencies may cause us to “trust” algorithms more. We value an unedited photo and “collective intelligence” for the same reasons — they make us less paranoid that we’re being lied to (and thus help us believe and relate). With the loss of “manual editing,” social media will become a more effective form of empathy and truth.
  • Given the passivity of social networks, their relevance will rely on context. Social networks will pop into and out of our life depending on where we are, what we’re doing, and what we want. Visiting Spain for Christmas? Expect to have “contextual ephemeral social networks” (sorry) that enable you to navigate, connect and plan activities with other friends in Spain during the week you are there. When the trip ends, the network will disappear.

(2) Our (augmented) reality will be a land grab, and always be under attack from brands.

Personally, I’m more bullish about augmented reality than virtual reality. The augmented layer opens up a ton of exciting (and horrifying) ways for brands, friends, governments, and artists to get in your line of sight based on where you are and when you’re there. Quite quickly, I see it getting out of hand. While the physical world has practical limitations that keep billboards at bay, the augmented world won’t. To get a feel for how bad this could be, check out this video. Implications?

  • Perhaps “ad blockers” will be the most important apps in the era of augmented (and virtual) reality? Whatever platform and device you use to augment your reality, advertising is the most likely business model. If the increasing number of paid search results in a typical Google search today is any indication, your augmented reality will constantly be under siege. To fight it, you’ll install intelligent or crowd-sourced filtering software that will override unwelcome parts of your augmented reality experience.
  • Perhaps the major platforms for augmented reality will designate certain zones as commercial or non-commercial? Zoning has worked well enough for governments. I can see your home — and all other private property — being designated as “non-commercial,” and thus off-limits to advertising. If Snapchat’s filter submission and approval system is any indication, augmented reality will be an unprecedented land grab akin to the domain-name craze in the nineties.

(3) Interfaces will compete with the technology underneath.

A few years ago I shared my excitement for the “interface layer: where design commoditizes tech,” and how superior interfaces will aggregate multiple services underneath. In the future, we will want fewer interfaces in our lives — and these interfaces will integrate all sorts of utilities into a simple flow. Examples?

  • Modern interfaces will revolutionize how we plan our day by aggregating the disparate services we wish to schedule, from rides and food to babysitters, into a single interface. The underlying providers of such services will compete for presence in the interface, based on price and revenue share with the interface itself.
  • The interfaces we use at work will become customizable. People will be able to choose and customize the “skin” for the tools they use in the enterprise. Consumerization of enterprise technology will bring us to a place where productivity and employee morale is meaningfully higher when interfaces are user-friendly and custom.
  • Interfaces will change the way we get customer service from companies and governments, negating the need to interact directly with cable companies, utilities, or government websites. The interface companies will monetize by proactively suggesting optimizations to your plans (saving you money) — or offering premium ways of saving time. These modern interfaces will empower customers and citizens by stripping away the benefits of friction enjoyed by providers (companies and governments rely on how damn difficult it is for us to do certain things!).
  • And for the left-field prediction, an entirely new mobile operating system will emerge that is location-centric rather than app-centric. In a modern world where we want fewer interfaces with interconnected functionality, it is time to rethink mobile. Functionality should be visible and then hidden based on where and when we are, rather than what apps we installed. In fact, apps shouldn’t exist. Whatever we need (whether we know it or not) should be at our fingertips, and (no surprise) our voice command should summon anything we want.

The biggest implication of the emerging interface layer is ruthless competition to be the default. The utility-based providers underneath these interfaces will be pressed on margins and will compete to be the default provider in the interfaces we use on a daily basis. To survive, the providers will focus more on optimizing the cost-efficiency of their services rather than spending money building their brand and relationships with customers.

(4) Autonomous vehicles in cities will become a public utility.

When (not if) all transportation within a city’s limits becomes automated and increasingly regulated, cities will rethink infrastructure and public transportation. Some citiesalready see Uber as a solution to “last mile” transportation quandaries. Perhaps planning and scheduling software for public transportation becomes more important than the commoditized technology in the vehicles themselves. Perhaps transportation will join the ranks of water and electricity? Implications?

  • A whole series of questions emerge: Will on-demand and autonomous transportation data become a public asset? At what point will mass transit adopt autonomous vehicles and become completely automated? Will the future of mass transit be operated by governments or private companies? Will companies that create technology to plan and schedule mass transit for government (like Remix Software) commoditize the tech that performs the transportation? As an Uber investor, i’m mixed about this, but I believe Uber’s dataset alongside its advances in autonomous technology will be its moat.
  • On the topic of autonomous vehicles, I was thinking the other day about the consequences of preset routes and what would happen when vehicles “disobey.” Call it a CGW — “car gone wild” — when a vehicle, with or without passengers onboard, begins to roam either out of bounds or off the set schedule or route (attention Black Mirror writers!). Perhaps the vehicle was hacked? Or perhaps conflicting instructions around traffic conditions or passenger destinations, coupled with artificial intelligence, take the vehicle on an unexpected course. Ultimately, government safety officers must be equipped to control anything that runs automatically.

(5) We will transcend “tragedy of the commons” with technology that aligns self-interests with community benefits.

The “tragedy of the commons” is the unfortunate human tendency to take advantage of shared-resources out of self-interest, thus depleting the benefits everyone could enjoy through collective action. Back in the day, farmers would take their livestock and selfishly deplete the town commons before returning to their own lands (which they would sustain thoughtfully). If everyone just agreed to graze the commons sparingly, it would last and benefit everyone. But self-interests obstruct the common good. People who abuse insurance spike prices for the rest of us. People who cheat taxes cause the rest of us to pay more. Through increased transparency, networks, and artificial intelligence, technology will enable us to collectively regulate and align our interests. Implications?

  • Any product or service that bakes in a cost for “bad actors” can be transformed. The way we buy insurance, get mortgages, and pay taxes may change once we can unbundle the costs and align our interests with larger groups of likeminded people. Would you pledge to eat healthier to lower your health insurance premiums? Would you pledge to drive safely and disclose the speed of your driving for cheaper insurance? As technology permeates our everyday actions, you’ll have the option of surrendering a degree of self-interest for lower prices.
  • Social networks will reduce the frequency of abuse and trolling through new tools powered by human curation and artificial intelligence that diminish the reach of bad actors. If you troll or fail to participate in the collective efforts to protect the platform, your voice will be heard less. To be anonymous and still be a steward of the medium is the future of freedom of speech.
  • Your reputation will become portable, recognized and rewarded beyond the brands and governments from whom you earned it. If you have a history of over-using customer service or being an outlier on the cost curve, you may not be eligible for better pricing.
  • Collective bargaining networks will become the default source for certain insurance and financial products. Bartering and “favor based” economies will become more mainstream as equality can be tracked.

What to do with forecasts?

Forecasts for the future are not an investment thesis. The future won’t happen until the present is ready for it. One of the things I’ve learned from the partners at Benchmark is just how important it is to invest with a tremendous insight into the present. But for a seed investor, product leader, or entrepreneur, forecasts for the future add a new lens to pattern recognition. Aside from what I look for in a founder, team, and product, I try to determine whether the future is a headwind or a tailwind for a company. Is the team attempting to defy a likely outcome or make it happen in a better way?

If nothing more, considering the future exercises our imagination and sparks conversation and debate with people you can learn from. Bring it. ;-)

Scott Belsky is an entrepreneur, author, and investor. Scott co-founded Behance in 2006, and served as CEO until Adobe acquired Behance in 2012. He`s now a venture partner at Benchmark Capital.

This post originally appeared on Medium, and is reprinted with the author`s permission.

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decathlon

Wall Street trading desks need a new fitness routine.

That`s a polite way of saying they`re bloated, and they need to get leaner as costs rise and revenues fall.

It`s the conclusion of a survey of 3,000 investors by Kevin McPartland at Greenwich Associates.

His primary conclusion — that trading operations need to get smarter, more focused on a smaller number of clients, and better at using technology — presents a challenge for Wall Street workers.

"Changing a business model that has largely remained intact for decades is not easy," McPartland said. "Feelings will be hurt and beliefs shifted while dealing desks are restructured to become more efficient and more effective given current regulations, technology, and economic conditions."

First, let`s set the scene. Traders have long been measured by revenues. That approach no longer makes sense, according to the report.

"Before 2008, revenues on most desks were so high that costs didn`t really matter," McPartland wrote. "Even if profit margins shrunk below what was seen as a reasonable level, showing revenue — and as a result, market share growth — was more important. Those days are over."

A case in point: Revenues in fixed income, currencies, and commodities at the top 10 banks stood at 38.2 billion in the first six months of this year, according to Coalition, down from 57 billion in the same period in 2011.

Meanwhile, the cost side of the equation is heading in the opposite direction. The report said:

"With revenues under strain, what seems like a never-ending increase in costs makes running a successful trading desk feel all but impossible. Under Basel III, the cost of capital has gone up considerably, acting as one of the single biggest pain points for bank management. If we think of capital as a trading desk`s raw material, ultimately used to create, buy and/or sell whatever products investors need, the cost of that raw material has gone up, driving senior management to limit how much the desk is able to use."

So what now?

There needs to be a significant amount of change, according to the report. Trading desks need to slim down and better focus their limited resources on key clients. Those that do this best could become new market leaders. From the report:

"The now obvious reality is that many of the largest players were bloated and, due to amazingly high profit margins and ROE profiles, had no reason to change. Now change is a requirement, with the leaders getting leaner and leaner by the day. Painful in the short run for sure, but a lean operation and refined business model coupled with improving market conditions could result in a market leader."

Cutting jobs is a part of this process — more than 10,000 front-office jobs have been cut across the top 10 banks since 2011 — but isn`t the entire process. The report lists 10 recommendations for how trading desks can stay relevant, ranging from managing your reputation to killing legacy technology.

Here are the recommendations that caught our eye.

Focus on profitable, not high-revenue, clients. When investment banks were chasing revenues, they focused their attention on those firms that were doing the most trading. Now, in a harsher climate, it might be that that same client is more trouble than it is worth.

This idea is part of a broader concept of investment banks understanding the nature of their client relationships. It might sound like a basic task, but Wall Street seems to have been behind the curve in this area.

For example, Gary Cohn, president and chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs, said in May that the bank is "only now starting to get more client feedback in FICC." And JPMorgan has been investing in resource-management tools.

trading floorDirect high-value sales traders to high-value clients. Once investment banks have figured out who their most profitable clients are, they should put their best people on the accounts.

"While this might sound obvious, many banks bucket clients first by asset class and region, and then on their trading style — phone or electronic," the report said. "This `high-touch/low-touch` approach could leave a high-value client with a less experienced e-sales professional, due to their high use of trading algorithms."

Conduct more agency/e-trading where possible. There is already a shift toward agency trading taking place in fixed income divisions. What this means is that rather than a bank taking a bond from a client in the hope of finding a buyer later (principal trading), it`s lining up the buyer and seller at the same time and acting as a go-between for a matter of minutes (agency trading).

Barclays explored this topic in detail earlier this year and found that 42% of block trades in the bond market (1 million-plus) in 2015 had an offsetting trade within a day, up from 31% in 2010. There has also been an increase in electronic trading.

Buy rather than build: Tech companies usually do it better. There was a time when investment banks believed they had to be technology companies to get ahead of the competition. The problem, according to the Greenwich report, is that they all pursued that strategy, spending more and more on tech that wasn`t all that different than the next bank`s.

"Investment in technology is as important today, if not more so," the report said. "But the need to build everything in-house has evaporated, with third-party technology providers now offering technology so customizable that the fear of losing a competitive advantage by using the same technology as your neighbor is gone."

This is already happening. The high-speed trading firm Virtu, for example, has entered in to a strategic partnership with JPMorgan in the US Treasurys market in what could be a prelude to more collaboration.

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spacex elon musk mars windows

On September 27, Elon Musk laid out his audacious plan to launch a million people to Mars at 200,000 a ticket and save humanity from certain death on Earth.

But in sharing detailed images of giant rockets, spaceships, fuel pods, and other crucial components of his Interplanetary Transportation System (ITS), Musk left out some important stuff, including where he plans to fit 100 to 200 passengers on each trip to the red planet.

Musk logged onto Reddit on Sunday to answer questions his most discerning fans during an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) session, but he punted on a question about the design of living quarters:

"Will aim to release details of the habitation section when we have actual live mockups. Maybe in a year or two," Musk wrote.

In the vacuum of information, architectural student Philip Lütken (who goes by user Next-Lvl) designed a concept for the spaceship`s interior himself.

"This is for when the system has become 100% reliable and cheap enough for almost everyone to take the 80 day trip to the red planet," Lütken wrote, to the delight of fellow Redditors. "This should feel more like a cruise ship than a nuclear submarine."

Here are Lütken`s intricate renderings of the ITS spaceship`s living quarters, which he gave Business Insider permission to republish, following some basic information about SpaceX`s hypothetical vessel itself.

SEE ALSO: Here`s Elon Musk`s complete, sweeping vision on colonizing Mars to save humanity

DON`T MISS: Elon Musk is about to test the `trickiest` part of his Mars spaceship — a giant, potentially explosive black orb

To give a sense of scale, here`s how big Elon Musk envisions his Mars rocket, plus the spaceship on top.

RAW Embed

Source: Business Insider



This is a cutaway of just the spaceship, which Musk prefers to call the "Big F***ing Spaceship." It would stand more than 160 feet tall — halfway up the Statue of Liberty.



And here`s a zoomed-in view of the habitable section, including a cargo hold at the bottom.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Elon Musk

If you haven`t been paying careful attention, you might have missed that Tesla has been eclipsed by Uber as the most interesting company in the world.

Don`t get me wrong: Tesla is still very, very interesting.

But Uber has captured the startup Zeitgeist in the same way that Tesla did a decade ago and ridden that wave to a 60 billion-plus valuation, while Tesla has to content itself with a mere 30 billion market cap.

Electric cars are just so 2010. In 2016, ride-sharing is the New New Thing, and everyone in the transportation business is trying to figure out if Uber can combine ride-hailing with the New New Things — self-driving cars — and establish a mind-warping paradigm shift.

This is why Uber`s debut of an experimental self-driving fleet of cars in Pittsburgh was such a big deal. If Uber can scale that idea, it would have the potential to monopolize on how billions of people worldwide get from point A to point B for next hundred years. Travis Kalanick`s startup would rapidly advance beyond being just a tech`d-up taxi service.

There would suddenly be far fewer justifications for owning a vehicle.

A Muskian mood swing

Tesla CEO Elon Musk formerly was not all that hot on the whole de-ownership concept for two reasons.

First, it didn`t make intellectual sense to him — he saw people sharing their living spaces through Airbnb, but like a lot of people in the car business, he didn`t think that widespread car-sharing was going to displace the conventional ownership model.

Second, Tesla is deeply invested in the ownership model. It needs customers to be willing to go into debt to finance its expensive electric vehicles. Even a cheaper mass-market EV such as the Model 3 will require a car loan or some type of lease — customers simply aren`t going to have 35,000 in cash lying around.

Travis Kalanick

But Musk is nothing if not adaptable, and he knows that Tesla`s decade of mindshare dominance could be coming to an end. Tesla has 500,000 vehicles to build in 2018, and Musk understands that it`s not possible to shift away from the premise that Tesla would produce EVs and then sell them — the business model wouldn`t tolerate it.

I think he`s probably been losing a bit of sleep over Uber`s ascent and its recent, rather stunning self-driving rollout. So he and his team have had to come up with a way to diversify Tesla into some sort of quasi-de-ownership business to avoid being steamrolled.

In this context it`s worth noting that Uber is unencumbered by Tesla`s commitment to EVs — Uber vehicles could be powered by anything. So Kalanick has flexibility where Musk doesn`t.

The Tesla Network

The solution for Tesla is economic, and it`s called the Tesla Network.

After Tesla reported third-quarter earnings and its first profit in three years this week, Musk was asked during the company`s earnings call about the Network, which is what the company will likely call a car-sharing network for owners.

Here`s the exchange between Musk and Dougherty analyst Charlie Anderson (emphasis added):

Anderson: "Is it something that will generate income for Tesla? Does it help develop future products, etc., at a reasonable gross margin? Or is it something that you`ll use more for market share gain, help people offset the price of the car long term?"

Musk: "I think it`s a bit of both, really. This would be something that would be a significant offset on the cost of ownership of a car and then a revenue generator for Tesla as well. Obviously, the majority of the economics would go to the owner of the car. Sometimes it`s been characterized as Tesla versus Uber or Lyft or something like that. It`s not Tesla versus Uber; it`s the people versus Uber."

That last bit has been, I think, erroneously characterized as fighting words — a verbal salvo fired from the cannons of that stout old battleship the USS Elon Musk across the pirate bow of the upstart privateer Travis Kalanick.

USS Missouri

That`s a misinterpretation of Musk`s thinking, if you ask me.

What Musk was really getting at was the lost value that almost all car owners endure because their vehicles sit idle most of the time. If you buy a 100,000 Tesla Model S, you make payments on the car but might use it for only an hour or two per day. All it does it lose you money.

The Tesla Network would enable you to use Tesla`s forthcoming advanced Autopilot features to permit someone else to "rent" your car while you`re aren`t driving it. An unproductive — and depreciating — asset could become a productive one.

You would have to deal with additional wear and tear, not to mention the sanitary habits of borrowers — and, of course, a lot of people who spend a hundred grand on a high-tech luxury car are going to have no interest in letting someone borrow it. But you`d be a leg up on how Uber wants you to operate, without even an idle asset to monetize.

A necessary compromise

Tesla Model 3

That`s what I believe Musk meant by his "the people versus Uber" comment. (I reached out to Tesla for clarification, but it`s busy right now, so I`ll update this post if and when I hear back.) The people are Tesla customers who could own a car that they could use on the Tesla Network — Tesla would make them economic players in a way that using Uber wouldn`t.

It`s obvious that Musk has been grappling with a way to change his mind on ride-sharing/ride-hailing/de-ownership as the market shifts around him. The Tesla Network sounds like a reasonable way to get in on the new action without ruining Tesla`s bread and butter, now and for the future: selling cars, and lots of them.

Because the solution is a compromise, I would hesitate to label it brilliant. But as our most recent Nobel laureate in literature once put it, the times, they are a-changin`.

And Musk is no enemy of change.

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The Mississippi River is a giant river that provides abundant resources. But, how big is it, exactly? This animated map shows the scale of the Mississippi River and its drainage system in perspective.

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Sean Arent, the director of the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers University, explains how surprisingly little time it takes to lose any gains from the gym. You might think twice about taking that day off.

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This week, we received the somewhat surprising news that Vine, the creation and distribution platform for looping six-second videos, is shutting down soon. Though Vine was/is owned by Twitter and the videos have always embedded nicely into tweets, it had a separate app and website to create, edit and host everything.

So even though the news came as a surprise, it makes sense. The videos and the site will stay online (for now), but it`s probably in Twitter`s best interest to encourage its users to create videos using Twitter`s built-in video tools. 

I don`t think anyone will actually do that, but Twitter is allowed to dream.

Anyway, Vine was a frustrating platform for a lot of reasons; its native editing tools were never great, searching for old Vines was always a hassle and much of what was promoted on the Discover page was terrible. You had to dig a little deeper to find value in Vine, but that made Vine special.

Here`s why:

The format was perfect for comedy

Comedy is all about pacing and timing. "Saturday Night Live" skits often fall apart because they go on for twice as long as they should. 

Obviously, that`s not a problem when you only have six seconds to work with. While six seconds seems like an extremely stringent limitation, it forced creators to prioritize what they include in order to maximize comedic impact.

Here`s an example:

Vine Embed:
https://vine.co/v/Mim03eOUg01/embed/simple
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That joke was everything it needed to be in about the amount of time it will take you to read this sentence, which I`m totally not artifically stretching out in order to make my point. The punchline even comes right at the loop, so you barely have enough time to process what you just saw and heard before you`re seeing and hearing it again.

As I hinted at before, I had a lot of misgivings about the kinds of Vines and creators who were the most heavily promoted on the platform. That said, when people actually put forth the effort to be funny instead of cashing in on topical memes, it occasionally produced some great stuff.

 



Even the bad stuff could be endearing

Vine Embed:
https://vine.co/v/O2HldFBbDMw/embed/simple
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That`s a Vine of some dude documenting his quest to buy some chewing tobacco. Even though it`s set up like one of the countless terrible "that moment when..." jokes out there, there`s no punchline; dude just buys some dip and enjoys himself.

I`m one of the curators of a semi-active Twitter account (not safe for work) that finds and posts bad Vines, but when I say "bad," I mean like the Vine above. I adore Vines by people who made something for an audience of none — people who have no ulterior motive beyond making something because they have the tools in front of them.

You can find so many Vines with loops in the single digits, where the creators were clearly some bored teens who felt like saying something into their front-facing camera because they could. I downloaded this app, so I should probably use it, right?

Whether it`s someone singing a bad screamo cover of a pop song or someone doing vape tricks, the corner of Vine where everything exists purely for the pleasure of its creator was always my favorite part. I will miss it dearly.



Vine was actually good for creators of color

I`m not especially qualified to talk about this, but NPR`s Kat Chow sums it up well. In a media landscape where racial diversity is still hard to come by in mainstream productions, Vine offered a wide diversity of creators a space to make things and rise to prominence on their terms. 

Vine Embed:
https://vine.co/v/5dMhtU1XnHq/embed/simple
Width: 600px
Height: 600px

The ease with which you could film, edit and post something in less than a minute also made Vine valuable for documenting protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Social media has been a key factor in increased awareness of police brutality.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider


On Tuesday, Chinese technology company Xiaomi debuted a stunning new phone called the Mi Mix. The phone replaces the traditional borders and bezels with a front face that is nearly all screen. It`s rumored that Apple will likely attempt the same feat on the next iteration of the iPhone.

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Snapchat allows users to create their own geofilters for as little as 5. Here`s how the submission process works.

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hackney police london riots uk metropolitan

Other people`s faces get strangely seared into my brain, even those of complete strangers. It`s not that I necessarily want to remember them — I just can`t seem to help it.

It turns out Eliot Porritt, a detective sergeant with London`s Metropolitan Police, is looking for people like me.

Porritt leads a police task force called the Super Recognizer Unit. Officers in his unit are believed to have an uncanny ability to place a familiar face, a skill that some researchers estimate is present in roughly 1% of the population. Because they`re believed to be able to accurately identify people from grainy, poor-quality images and videos, these super-recognizers are being called in to help crack cases that have gone cold.

Psychologists who`ve researched the phenomenon say it`s a huge boon for law enforcement, and British police officers overseeing their work are thrilled by its apparent success. But lawyers and privacy advocates feel otherwise. To them, the idea of using people whose abilities have not yet been comprehensively studied to identify suspected criminals — and eventually put them behind bars — is worrisome and potentially dangerous.

Face blindness

In the 1990s, researchers identified a region of the brain that is thought to play a key role in our ability to identify a face. They named it the fusiform face area.

In studies of people who`ve experienced brain damage to that region, researchers have identified a condition known as prosopagnosia — a word that combines the Greek words "prosopon," or face, with "agnos," or lack of knowledge. Prosopagnosics have difficulties recognizing familiar faces — even, sometimes, their own.

Oliver SacksMore recently, researchers have diagnosed the condition in people without brain damage as well. This type of prosopagnosia is known as developmental prosopagnosia because its sufferers appear to be born with it. The deficit doesn`t appear to negatively affect other intellectual efforts in those people. Oliver Sacks, the renowned neurologist and prolific writer, for example, was a prosopagnosic, and he wrote about his condition in the book "The Mind`s Eye."

"I am much better at recognizing my neighbors` dogs (they have characteristic shapes and colors) than my neighbors themselves," Sacks wrote.

Initially, researchers assumed that there were only two groups of people when it came to facial recognition: prosopagnosics, or people who were face-blind, and everyone else. They no longer think it`s quite that simple.

Super-recognition

The first paper to mention the phrase "super-recognizer" was published in 2009. In it, Harvard psychologists Ken Nakayama and Richard Russell and University College London cognitive neuroscientist Brad Duchaine outlined the experiences of four people who claimed to have an unusually good ability to recognize faces. In addition, the researchers presented the world`s first test designed to identify these so-called super-recognizers, the Cambridge Face Memory Test.

Eyeball

All four subjects in the paper described eerie instances in their past in which they had recognized apparent strangers: family members they hadn`t seen for decades or actors they`d glimpsed once in an ad and then seen again in a movie. Each person in the study said that for years they`d felt as if something were wrong with them. One of the participants, for example, told the researchers she tried to hide her ability and "pretend that I don`t remember ... because it seems like I stalk them, or that they mean more to me than they do."

For the first time, the Cambridge test suggested to these people that they weren`t alone — that their abilities weren`t merely in their head but quantifiable, testable, able to be proved and put down on paper.

Theory meets the London police

Around the same time Duchaine and his coauthors were discussing their newly published findings, psychologist Josh P. Davis, who is now a professor of psychology at the University of Greenwich, was traveling to a conference where he would meet the man in charge of video surveillance for the London Metropolitan Police, Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville. That meeting would change how the London Police handled video and photo surveillance footage for at least the next five years.

Davis had spent the past few years studying the psychology of surveillance and was particularly interested in the way closed-circuit television, or CCTV, was used in court to identify criminals. Neville was there to give a presentation on a handful of remarkable officers in his force who had repeatedly made what he and other officers refer to as identifications, the successful matching of an image of a person with a name in a database. Upon hearing that, Davis knew he had to talk to him.

"I just went up to him and I said: `Look, I`m interested in doing research on this. Is there anything we could be doing for you? Because we have a lot of common interests,`" Davis recalled.

The two agreed on a path forward: They had to give the officers the Cambridge test.

What we know — and don`t know — about facial recognition

Research suggests that facial super-recognition is fundamentally different from traditional memory in several key ways. First, the ability doesn`t appear to be able to be learned or enhanced with training. Second, it appears to have a neurological and structural basis.

But there`s still a lot we don`t know about super-recognition — and about facial recognition more broadly.

In a recent study in the journal PLoS One, for example, researchers studied two so-called memory champions, people who had competed extensively in memory contests and had even been recognized by the Guinness World Book of Records for their memorization skills. When the researchers studied these people`s facial-recognition abilities, however, their results were merely average. In other words, the researchers concluded, something about facial processing was fundamentally different from memory — and it couldn`t be learned by any training or class. Instead, it seemed to be innate.

Face_recognitionAnd if people are born with their facial-recognition abilities, then they most likely have a neurological basis in the brain, researchers say. A super-recognizer, for example, might have a slightly larger fusiform face area than a face-blind person, or the person might show more activity in this area when looking at images of a face. "Any time there`s a psychological difference there has to be a neurological basis," said Duchaine, the University College London cognitive neuroscientist. "Just like you`d say, OK, that car is faster than that other car. Is there a difference in their engines? Well yes of course there is."

Still, Duchaine and other researchers lack the data to confirm this. All of the existing studies of super-recognizers are based on very small samples of people — anywhere from just two individuals to a half-dozen people. Several of the researchers have presented their hypotheses about super-recognizers at conferences and presentations, but many of these haven`t yet been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Even normal facial recognition has its limitations. People are generally bad at accurately recognizing the faces of people whose race is different from theirs, for example. This phenomenon, known as the cross-race effect, or CRE, has been replicated by dozens of international psychological studies. It is a problem for law enforcement in particular, especially when it comes to eyewitness testimony.

"The CRE reveals systematic limitations on eyewitness identification accuracy and suggests that some caution is warranted in evaluating cross-race identification," a team of psychologists wrote in a 2012 study.

Notably, some studies suggest the cross-race effect is reduced when someone has more contact with people of other races (i.e., white people who have regular contact with black people are better at accurately identifying black people than white people who have little or no contact with black people). While all of the police officers in London`s super-recognizer unit are white, all of them reported interacting frequently with people of races other than their own.

The London riots: the first large-scale super-recognizer test

On August 4, 2011, just months after Davis and Neville began testing London`s police officers for their super-recognition abilities, a young black man named Mark Duggan was fatally shot by members of the London Metropolitan Police, whose ranks are nearly 90% white, in sharp contrast to the larger London population. When the local police refused to disclose details about the circumstances of Duggan`s death, members of his family and the surrounding community held what has been described by witnesses, including the police, as a peaceful protest.

But the police did not acknowledge the protest.

"Where we probably didn`t handle it well is no one came and really communicated" with the protesters "or articulated any kind of message, so that process kind of grew in numbers," said Porritt, who was working as an officer then.

Consistent accounts of what happened in the following days are still hard to come by, but rioting eventually broke out across the city.

Over the next six days, hundreds of businesses were virtually cleaned out. Homes and apartments were destroyed. A double-decker bus was set on fire. Five people died. "By Sunday night, I mean, it was absolute chaos," Porritt recalled.

london riots burned out car women walk

A handful of sociological studies have tried to parse out the root causes and intervening factors that influenced the riots. One major theme emerges from all of them: Many of the people involved felt they were responding, in a way, to decades of unfair, racially discriminatory treatment by the police.

"Reading the Riots," an extensive research project conducted after the riots by the London School of Economics and The Guardian, concluded "widespread anger and frustration at people`s everyday treatment at the hands of police was a significant factor."

"You see the rioting yeah?" a 20-year-old male interviewee asked the researchers. "Everything the police have done to us, did to us, was in our heads. That`s what gave everyone their adrenaline to want to fight the police … It was because of the way they treated us."

In addition, the evidence the researchers gathered suggests that those who participated in the riots generally had lower incomes than the UK population at large. "Analysis of more than 1,000 court records suggests 59% of the England rioters come from the most deprived 20% of areas in the UK," the report said.

Indeed, as far as the looting was concerned, most of the goods that were stolen, according to the report, were electronics, followed by clothing, sportswear, and food.

The police wanted it to stop. And once it was over, they wanted to punish the people they saw as responsible.

But first they had to identify those people.

"It got serious from that point on," Davis, the University of Greenwich psychologist, recalled, referring to the use of super-recognition in the days and months to come to identify suspects in the riots.

On August 12, 2011, Neville ordered a large trawl, or capture, of all of the video and images captured on London`s citywide mass-surveillance program of CCTV from the previous six days.

This was the first time that such footage — grainy, often barely distinguishable slices of chins, slivers of cheeks and eyes, or side profiles of faces — was used in such a systematic way. "Up until then, images really were being probably downloaded by detectives or police officers. And then they were just being probably hidden in a drawer or, if you`re lucky, pinned on a board," Porritt told me. But Neville changed all that. By contracting with a private company called 3rd Forensic, he made it possible for the police officers to categorize hundreds of thousands of images and hours of surveillance video.

"So the big breakthrough that Mick Neville made was he brought in this database software," Porritt said. "And because that started categorizing images it also enabled us to track cases."

Using a system called Forensic Image Linking and Management, 3rd Forensic made it possible to store, label, search for, and retrieve images and videos of people captured not just on CCTV cameras across London but also on body-worn cameras, mobile phones, social media, and police booking rooms. These images are stored in a database that officers across the city can search.

"This systematic approach is much the same way as we search for fingerprints and DNA at the scenes of other crimes," the Metropolitan Police says on its website. The difference here is that officers can search using a variety of terms including what they call personal descriptors, such as whether the person was wearing a hat or carrying a bag. Those descriptors could also include a person`s skin color.

shop a looter london riots poster identification police

In the days, months, and years after the riots, officers combed through thousands of photos and video clips from across the city. About 20 people in the force began to make identifications by matching familiar faces — people they`d seen elsewhere in the database or out in the field — with other faces in the database.

The vast majority of officers couldn`t do this. The low-quality images made it difficult to make out much in the first place, and many of the people in these photos were wearing bandanas or sunglasses. Yet these 20 officers had picked out and named more than 600 suspects, according to the BBC. These were either people they`d witnessed elsewhere whom they`d suspected of committing a crime or people they`d spotted previously on other potentially incriminating CCTV footage.

Many of these officers also ended up scoring highly on the Cambridge test, and some of them, like Porritt, are still working as super-recognizers with the London police. "So we could go back to the earliest images of 2011 and say we`ve just identified this guy for a burglary — how many more has he done that haven`t been solved?" Porritt said.

Since the super-recognizer task force got its official start on 11 May 2015, its officers have made roughly 2,300 identifications on cases that, until now, have been considered essentially unsolvable. The vast majority are for crimes like shoplifting and burglary.

In roughly 65.5% of those cases, the identified individual has been charged with a crime — this rate has fluctuated from 57% to 74% throughout the task force`s existence, according to Porritt. Typically, a suspect is charged on the basis of a combination of facial recognition and additional evidence linking the person to the crime. The London police department did not have data immediately available on how many of these charged suspects were found guilty, but the fact that so many of these cases have made it to trial alone suggests the courts are viewing testimony from super-recognizers as admissible evidence. And, in what are called "linked series" — cases where a suspect is charged with anywhere from 20 to 30 crimes at once based on collected CCTV footage — 100% of the suspects have pleaded guilty, according to Porritt.

In addition, several studies of the super-recognizers` abilities, including a paper published this August in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, support the idea that the super-recognizers are making legitimate identifications.

riot police london riots

Some privacy and police-accountability advocates think the practice is getting ahead of the science, though. Instead of preventing crime, Camilla Graham Wood, a legal officer with UK-based privacy-rights organization Privacy International, said its use may be "combining the most worrying aspects" of facial-recognition technology "along with the subjective decisions, and errors therein, of human beings."

"What we don`t know is ... how good are they, how many mistakes do they make, what role does prejudice play in all of this?" Graham Wood added.

An `unknown field`

For years after the London riots ended, officers combed through thousands of images and hours of surveillance footage in every area where riots or looting had been documented. And they identified hundreds of suspects. But if they had surveilled another area in another borough, might they also have found numerous suspects who wouldn`t otherwise be identified? Did the riots — and the discovery of police officers with super-recognition abilities — justify the police`s decision to pay particular attention to these areas?

Porritt and his coworkers believe that using super-recognizers is massively improving the efficiency, speed, and accuracy of their work. And at every step of the process, he and his team have had psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists at their side, cheering on the efforts of the world`s first super-recognizer task force.

Super-recognition still does not have a scientific definition. Yet the Metropolitan Police have used it to pick out, arrest, and successfully charge thousands of individuals who otherwise would most likely never have been brought to court. Out of a force of 36,000 individuals, Porritt`s team of just five people has been able to make something approaching 25% of all the identifications from images and video in the entire city. "That for me is exceptional value for money," Porritt said.

But it`s still early days for super-recognition as a science. "We`re working in a kind of unknown field with no real protocol," Porritt told me. As a result, it`s impossible to say whether super-recognition is being applied in a way that reinforces existing, potentially discriminatory policies, or whether it`s being used to combat those policies through increased accuracy and objectivity.

Regardless, the use of super-recognizing officers does appear to lend increased legitimacy to the use of surveillance, but some question whether it will be applied fairly.

"We`re meant to have a culture of `policing by consent,` but with these kinds of measures there is no consent," Graham Wood said. "It enables perpetual policing, whether or not we`ve actually committed any crime."

SEE ALSO: There`s a test that tells you if you`re a `super-recognizer` of faces, and you can take it right now

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NOW WATCH: Neuroscientists are trying to understand how the brains of elite athletes work

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On October 29, 2012, exactly four years ago, Superstorm Sandy hit New York City, flooding many coastal areas and claiming the lives of 44 New Yorkers. City officials estimate that the storm cost 19 billion in damages and lost economic activity.

Though Sandy is now considered a 260-year-storm, meaning there’s just a 1 in 260 chance of it happening in a given year, storms like it are expected to become more common as climate change causes weather to become more extreme. To make matters worse, damage caused by future storms will be exacerbated by sea level rise — estimates suggest that by 2050, Sandy-sized storms could flood nearly 25% of New York City.

Though cities like New Orleans currently have more land area in their floodplains, New York’s density makes it the US city with the most people — nearly 400,000 — living in the 100-year flood zone.

That reality means it’s imperative for the city to start preparing now to protect its residents, businesses, coasts, and infrastructure from those future storms. Though some experts suggest little can be done to fully prevent damage in many parts of the city, efforts are already underway to mitigate the future impacts of flooding and extreme weather events.

Here are a few of the big projects underway.

SEE ALSO: By 2050, storms like Hurricane Sandy could flood nearly a quarter of New York City

The New York City Panel on Climate Change has brought together leading scientists to assess risks and make projections.

In 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gathered a group of climate and social scientists to form New York`s first NPCC. The panel was charged with developing projections to help city officials understand the risks of climate change and rising sea levels. The panel’s report was released in 2010, and it projected that the city could see sea levels rise by up to a foot, causing what we consider a 100-year storm (meaning that the chances of it are one in 100 in any given year) to be two to three times more common.

Though that research began well before Sandy, the city has continued to get panels together to update climate projections and and advise the city about where to focus its resiliency efforts. The third panel’s report came out in 2015, and provides projections through 2100 for the first time.



The city is building more emergency shelters.

In 2014, the capacity of New York’s emergency shelters was just 10,000. Though more haven’t been built yet, the city has created plans to bring that number up to 120,000.

These shelters are meant for New Yorkers with disabilities who are unable to evacuate their homes without support. Existing shelters are also slated to be retrofitted to have accessible entrances, restrooms, and other upgrades.



A program called RISE:NYC is funding technology projects that will enable small businesses to bounce back after the next storm.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation is distributing 30 million of federal grant money to fund tech projects that will help small businesses survive the next storm.

The money is being divided among 11 initiatives, including goTenna  a startup that allows users to send text messages and create a mesh network between their cell phones when internet or phone networks go down — and the Red Hook Initiative, which created a free local wifi network in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood that stayed live after Sandy.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Oldest Mummies in the World Are Turning into Black Slime

The Chinchorro mummies of Chile, which have been preserved for at least 7,000 years, are turning into black slime due to rising humidity levels causing bacterial growth on the skin. More than one hundred mummies – the oldest in the entire world – are turning gelatinous as a result of the rapidly spreading bacteria. Chilean researchers are now seeking funds to preserve the deteriorating mummies before they are lost for good.

The Chinchorros were a people who inhabited the coast of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and southern Peru between 7000 and 1500 B.C. The people of this culture relied on fishing, hunting and gathering for subsistence. Whilst the earliest known Chinchorro sites date to 7000 B.C., mummification, based on current evidence, dates to 5000 B.C. The Chinchorro mummies were first identified in 1917 by the German archaeologist, Max Uhle. Further excavations showed that such mummies were spread along the coast and concentrated between Arica and Camerones. It was in 1983, however, that the largest and best-preserved find of Chinchorro mummies was discovered. This discovery was made not by archaeologists, but by the Arica water company whilst laying a new pipeline near the foot of El Morro.

 

 

Dr. Belisa Vranich, psychologist and author of "Breathe," explains a breathing technique that will calm you down, even in the most stressful of situations — like a battlefield. 

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Lincoln Navigator Concept

Kumar Galhotra is what you might call the right man for the job, and the job happens to be one of the toughest in the entire auto industry.

Galhotra runs Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand. Since roughly 2013, the brand has been attempting to stage a comeback, with billions in funding from the mothership in Dearborn, Michigan.

Born in India, Galhotra — who has a degree in engineering from the University of Michigan — came to Ford in 1988 and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the vice president who oversaw how all Ford and Lincoln vehicles were screwed together. In 2014, Ford CEO Mark Fields tapped him to take on the Lincoln challenge, promoting him to president of the marque.

Founded in 1917 by Henry Leland, one of the most successful automotive entrepreneurs of the early 20th century, Lincoln was a magnificent American brand for almost its entire history. Leland had also started Cadillac, selling it to General Motors in 1902 for the then vast sum of 4.5 million. Premium cars were Leland`s specialty, along with a Roaring Twenties version of mergers and acquisitions: Lincoln went to Ford in 1922.

In the mid-1950s, when the US auto industry was at its postwar apex, Lincoln created the iconic Continental. The 1961 Continental is one of the most famous cars ever designed, distinguished by its rear suicide doors and its sober avoidance of flash. It was as close a big four-door could come to being a perfectly tailored tuxedo. It announced itself with reserve. The ’61 Continental was powerful, but there was almost no point in driving it fast. It wanted to cruise along in an aura of serene self-confidence.

Enter the Navigator

Lincoln Navigator

In the late `90s, Lincoln gave birth to its first large luxury SUV, the Navigator. That massive vehicle capitalized on the SUV boom of the 1990s and early 2000s, when gas prices fell in defiance of earlier predictions that Middle East oil supplies would dry up, spawning a permanent gas crisis that would make the crunches of the 1970s look tame by comparison.

The Continental had been associated with the national well-being of the Kennedy years, and in many respects the Navigator was the Continental of the Clinton administration. It brought a new level of finish to the large yet utilitarian SUVs that Ford had considerable expertise in building.

Customers who never would have looked twice at the Expedition snapped up Navigators, which were marketed using jazzy TV commercials and smoothly urbane imagery that profitably overrode any hesitation over the sheer size of the vehicle, one of the biggest on the road.

Lincoln was selling a quarter of a million cars and SUVs annually in the late `90s, but that would turn out to be a peak for the brand, which then fell into a seemingly terminal decline. For one, gas prices began rising again in the mid-2000s, and the bottom fell out of the SUV market. A wave of hybrids took the US market by storm, led by the Toyota Prius. The Prius won the 2000s, while gas-guzzling hulks like the Navigator lost.

By the time gas prices in California hit almost 5 a gallon in 2009, it was widely assumed that luxury SUVs like the Navigator and Cadillac’s Escalade were woolly mammoths headed for extinction. The market shift was a disaster for the Lincoln brand, which couldn’t compete with the German luxury triumvirate of Mercedes, BMW, and Audi.

Kumar Galhotra Lincoln wasn’t matching up against the Japanese, either: Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti were hanging with the Germans. Lexus was a first choice with many buyers, and seemed to have figured out how to beat the Germans at their own game. Acura and Infiniti were “second-tier” luxury brands, but even the seconds were stronger than Lincoln, which was barely on anyone’s radar.

Cadillac, meanwhile, had set about reinventing itself with a new radically angular, Stealth-fighter-inspired art-and-science design vocabulary, which endeared the brand to customers who wanted something more aggressive than what BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus were selling. Caddy wasn’t moving a lot of product but its cars stood out.

Identity crisis

By the time the 2008 financial crisis hit, Lincoln had almost no brand identity left. The austerely sexy Continentals of the 1960s were a distant memory; the nameplate left the lineup in 2002, but by then the JFK associations had been replaced by the impression that Continentals were driven by livery-cab guys in New York City and hadn’t had a whiff of the country club in decades. A certain retro vibe had kept Lincoln afloat — barely. It was the brand of some aging hipsters and Hollywood coolios, making an appearance in the opening credits for the HBO bromantic series “Entourage” and oozing Rat Pack authenticity, particularly for the convertible versions.

Lincoln Continental 1961

But the reality of the brand was that its most important vehicle was out of favor and its sedans were both unexciting and beset with an aging customer base. The cars were perfectly competent, but unlike BMW’s or Mercedes’ sport sedans, Lincolns were throwback freeway cruisers, rebadged versions of Ford’s mass-market sedans. They came in various trim levels, to satisfy customers who might want a slightly peppier ride, but Lincoln had nothing like the high-performance M Sport or AMG divisions that amped up the cars sold by BMW and Mercedes, respectively.

Even Cadillac had a “V” designation for its high-performance division and was taking its cars to the legendary Nürburgring racetrack in Germany to vindicate their speed and handling. For all practical purposes, Lincoln had been left behind by this league when the Navigator ceased to carry the weight of the brand. By 2010, Lincoln was seen as competing with Buick, GM’s “near luxury” marque.

To top it all off, Ford was lagging behind GM, Toyota, VW, and the main German luxury brands in China, widely considered to be the world’s second most important market for autos, after the US. (Europe in the aggregate is larger than the US, but also fragmented, with some countries providing better customer bases than others; growth in Europe has also been relatively flat over the past decade and half, leading Ford and others to make ill-advised forays into the Russian market.) Bolstering the Ford brand in China was critical for the carmaker, but it couldn’t afford to be a bit player in the exceptionally profitable luxury space.

Why Lincoln?

In 2016, Mark Fields dropped by Business Insider for an interview and explained the luxury stakes for Lincoln. In the US alone, he said, luxury can make up 13% of the entire industry and upwards of 9% worldwide. “But is represents over a third of the profits,” he added.

mark fields reuters

That’s a datapoint that’s impossible to ignore. If Ford let Lincoln go, it would become the only major global carmaker without a luxury brand, because it had shed its premium portfolio as part of then-CEO Alan Mulally’s pre-financial crisis home-improvement plan. Some global automakers are of course luxury brands first — BMW, Mercedes — and some like Ferrari, after its 2015 IPO, are independent. But Ford’s competition — GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and even Hyundai and Kia — all maintain luxury marques in their stables.

Lincoln was going through its roughest patch ever. But without it, Ford could be giving up billions in revenue and profits.

By 2010, after the worst of the financial crisis had passed, Ford was stuck with a tough call: Fix Lincoln? Or let the brand go? The Mercury brand was rolled up in 2011, leaving Ford with nothing to take into battle against Buick. If Lincoln went away as well, the core Ford brand would be all that remained.

Mulally wanted to put Lincoln out of its misery, and many auto-industry commentators leaned that way as well. He had already released Ford from the responsibility of managing its portfolio of foreign luxury brands: Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, and Aston Martin.

In doing so he was following a playbook written by none other than Mark Fields, head of Ford’s North American business. Fields oversaw the all-important US market and had developed a plan to streamline Ford and force it into more reliable profitability. Fields titled his plan the “Way Forward,” and he thought it might get him the nod as CEO. But the Ford board of directors went for Mulally, leaving Fields in an awkward position: watch as someone else took over his master vision, or become a willing and loyal colonel in the new general’s army.

Fields chose what was best for Ford, not Fields, and went on to become an executive who was ideally positioned to both vacuum up everything he could learn from Mulally and work on convincing the former Boeing man what he thought was really right for a global car company. (Mullaly had come to Ford in an unexpected move from the planemaker before the 2008 financial crisis hit.)

Keeping Lincoln was one of those things that Fields thought was right. The brand has him to thank for its existence.

Comeback

And so there was Galhotra in March 2016, standing on a rotating dais at a cool event space in Manhattan’s West Chelsea art-gallery district to introduce Lincoln’s newest lineup. The cars drove out from behind a scrim, up a ramp, and onto the dais, accompanied by a few quick licks from a jazz combo. It was pure auto-industry theater, presented to journalists eating a three-course dinner — some of the same journalists who might have been calling for Lincoln’s demise a few years earlier.

Galhotra was at ease in the role of Lincoln’s impresario, more so than he had been a year earlier, when at the 2015 New York Auto Show the carmaker had nabbed useful attention by revealing its Continental concept car. Galhotra seemed slightly less confident then in Lincoln’s new tagline, “quiet luxury,” and the brand’s capacity to embody the suave reserve of that message. He had come across as someone still practicing the message, although he certainly looked the part: trim, in tailored suits and a small Lincoln badge pin in his lapel, and speaking in impeccable, complete sentences.

Lincoln Continental

But the 2015 Continental concept was, no question, something. It was blue — very blue — inside and out. It was also big. Lincoln had brought what was effectively a limo to New York, to fulfill the demand that the brand bring back its most famous nameplate and signal that it was ready to move aggressively into the China market, where affluent car owners don’t drive but are driven.

For Galhotra, it must have been a difficult car to stand next to and talk up the virtues of quiet luxury. So far the new Continental — and the new Lincoln — had conveyed anything but quiet. For one thing, a group of television spots for Lincoln, meant to showcase the carmaker`s compact crossover, the MKC, had gone massively viral.

They starred Matthew McConaughey, fresh off his stint on HBO’s “True Detective” series and just before he won a best actor Oscar for his performance in "Dallas Buyers Club." Directed by the legendary indie-film auteur Gus Van Sant, the spots featured a trippy stream-of-consciousness voiceover by McConaughey, blending the gauzy existential musings of his “True Detective” character with borderline hallucinogenic meditations on the nature of moving forward and backward in time. Strange soliloquies of revival.

It didn’t seem to matter whether or not, strictly speaking, they made sense. Parodies were swiftly created by Ellen DeGeneres and “Saturday Night Live,” massively intensifying the spot’s coolness credibility and almost overnight transforming McConaughey into one of the most influential celebrity pitchmen for a car company.

These new Lincoln commercials had a subtle power in spite of their pretense. They demonstrated, almost subliminally, that quiet luxury was a preoccupation of the contemporary thinking person. And they memorably served up the idea that Lincoln was on the road to someplace different, even if initially, as Galhotra seemed to know, the destination wasn’t entirely certain.

Matthew-McConaughey-Lincoln

The actor and the role

A year after the Continental debut, Galhotra was fully inhabiting his role, preparing to unveil Lincoln’s second show-stealing concept at the 2016 New York Auto Show: the new Navigator. The Continental had been spectacular, but the Navigator was over the top, with its pair of massive gullwing doors swung up, concertina steps unfolded, and an interior inspired by luxury yachts, complete with nautical teak details.

The old Navigator was large and in charge, one of the most impressive vehicles on the road. But the fact was that the SUV had become somewhat undermined in its premium identity by its association with car services. It was the SUV you rode in to the airport, not the SUV you parked in front of your vacation house.

The immense form of the Navigator was retained in the revised model, but this one was quite literally a land yacht.

Galhotra was more than up to the task of standing next to it when its turn to roll up onto the dais arrived, right after the production version of the Continental had left the stage.

I’d met with Galhotra earlier in the day, for a mellow preview of the Navigator. He was tie-less, sitting with his lead engineer and Lincoln’s designer, David Woodhouse. The wary executive I’d encountered a year earlier, clearly feeling the pressure of a job he’d been in for only a few months, had been transformed into an almost Zen-like raconteur, a man whose neat gray hair cast him as a distinguished leader who didn’t need to seek the spotlight. The spotlight sought him.

In 2015, his chief competition had been Johan de Nysschen, the South Africa-born president of Cadillac, which had just moved its sales and marketing operations to New York City to merge GM’s own top brand with the world of global luxury. De Nysschen is a tall, booming guy, a lordly towering strategist who reminds one of the men who built the airline business in the `50s and `60s, like Pan Am’s Juan Trippe. He gives the impression that he’s always working, and with his two-tone Breitling watch and clipped mustache, it seems as though he was built to lead Cadillac into battle against BMW and Mercedes.

I interviewed him at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, in a massive Cadillac booth outfitted with an ersatz office suite that replicated his space in Manhattan. As I watched him stand up from behind his desk, rising from an ever-present sheaf of work, it reminded me that some executives need a gigantic office simply to suit the scale of their expectations.

Galhotra is more low-key. He doesn’t exactly speak quietly, but he doesn’t raise his voice, either. Instead, he gradually increases the amplification, depending on the occasion, like a musician slowly upping the volume as a composition heads for its crescendo.

De Nysschen is a robust-handshake type, but Galhotra is firm and lingering, drawing you in. He knows the trick of speaking just softly enough to compel you to stand closer, without ever losing a word. He’s like a diplomat, the ambassador from a country called “Lincoln.” He can loosen up a bit, lose the necktie — even though it doesn’t look entirely right — but it’s hard to picture him wearing anything besides a slim, European-cut suit that nevertheless evokes the Detroit of the 1960s. He specializes in sly smiles, while De Nysschen relies on hearty guffaws. If you worked for either man, you wouldn’t want them mad at you, but they’d express their displeasure in diametrically opposed ways.

Lincoln Navigator Concept car

Catching up with Cadillac

By early 2016, Galhotra had no meaningful displeasure to express. The Lincoln revival was in full swing, and the automaker was picking up the pace in China. Sales lagged Cadillac by roughly seven to one, but as one of GM’s key China brands (along with Buick), Cadillac had a substantial head start. On balance, Lincoln was making up ground in a hurry, and it had an almost perfect mix of vehicles, unlike Caddy, which in the US was still trying to take it to BMW 3- and 5-Series sedans.

In 2015, when Lincoln was breaking out the Continental “quiet luxury” concept, Cadillac had hosted a party of epic scale at a pier in Brooklyn to introduce its CT6 sedan. It was the most extravagant auto-show shindig I’d ever attended. The flower arrangements were as big as the car, and the attendees were representative of the art-and-fashion crowd that Cadillac wanted to associate with the brand. R&B artist Raphael Saadiq provided the entertainment. And there was a distinct absence of the usual bearded middle-aged auto-journalist set. Instead, chic scenesters ruled the bars and gourmet-food lines. It was more like an elite music festival in Monaco.

Johan de Nysschen Cadillac head

The BMW fight was an old one — Cadillac had the Bavarians in its sights for decades, trying to prove to customers that Caddys weren’t grandpa cruisers and pimpmobiles. The brand worked hard to shake off its soft, chrome-laden aura of the 1970s for some bold 0-60 mph times and eye-watering engine specs. Cadillacs were even taking it to the racetrack, competing in a sports car class. But as De Nysschen said during our interview, the portfolio was off. He needed crossovers, and although the Cadillac XT5 arrived in 2016, Lincoln had more of these versatile vehicles to sell, at a time when sedan sales were tanking.

This was a substantial positive for Lincoln in China, where the market was shaping up to look at lot like it did in the US — just bigger. In 2016, 17.5 million new cars and truck sales in the US was a record, but the China market was already doing 20 million by then, with some very bullish analysts predicted that it could climb as high as 40 million as the vast population began to mirror the rest of the world’s percentages for car ownership.

So Galhotra`s task was twofold: Revive the Lincoln brand in the US and establish it in China. By 2016, the objectives were in place and the execution phase was underway. The plan called for dozens of new dealerships and a clear canting of Continental and Navigator toward limo duty. The impressive thing about many of the interior features of both vehicles, at the concept stage, was that most would make it to the production versions.

There is a difference between the way American and Chinese see large sedans and SUVs. Americans drive themselves. When it comes to big sedans, they want horsepower, comfort, and legroom, but they don’t much care if the back seat emulates their living rooms. On the SUV side, the want all the same, but more, with utility thrown in: room for pets and gear and the ability to facilitate an outdoorsy lifestyle.

The Navigator concept may have looked like the sort of thing that Beyoncé would saunter out of in a music video, but Galhotra emphasized that the truck has impressive towing capacity, a land yacht that could tow one intended for the water. Chinese customers haven’t yet crossed that recreational Rubicon — the wealthy rural gentlemen who likes his Navigator because of its style and its ability to transport his horses to dressage competitions hasn’t yet found his counterpart in the Middle Kingdom.

Galhotra had every reason to believe that he eventually would, however. That’s why he insisted on the Navigator’s ongoing importance for the brand. Strategically, Lincoln needs a big SUV to go along with the full-size Continental sedan to be fully competitive in the Chinese luxury market.

Lincoln Continental 1

Getting it right in China

Getting the product mix and features right in China is just part of the battle. Unlike GM with Buick, Lincoln is a new arrival in the Chinese market for Ford. There are advantages with this: Lincoln has a blank slate in the country. Luxury-car buyers don’t know the brand, and so Lincoln is free of its stodgy American associations. On the other hand, the Chinese luxury market has been treated as a gold rush by Western carmakers. Lincoln, a near-luxury brand in the US, is billing itself as a true luxury brand in China, taking on the most well-known and established marques in the world, all while lacking Buick’s history.

As dowdy as Buick had seemed as a brand before the financial crisis, an “old person`s’” car in reputation with a 65-plus ownership base to boot, this was still the car that China’s last emperor, Henry Pu Yi, had owned during his reign from the early 20th century until just before the end of World War I. The brand carries immense weight in China to this day; it punches well above its weight.

So the challenge for Lincoln, which lacks Buick’s roots and BMW’s global name recognition, is daunting, but many aspects of Lincoln’s new brand makeup will allow it to ease more seamlessly into the Chinese market than carmakers that have organized their identities around high-performance.

High-performance means big engines, for the most part, and big engines are a problem in China. There’s room for 500-plus-horsepower sport sedans, but the bulk of engines produced in the country must be smaller in displacement. Lincoln’s V6s fit better into this paradigm. Lincoln also isn’t marketing itself anywhere as the car for the demanding driver. The “theory,” so to speak, that supports the brand is about comfort, ease, and service — all values that Chinese buyers are looking for.

Galhotra is always quick to point out that Lincoln’s customers have little to no interest in the technical specifications that thrill the gearhead readers of Motor Trend. For them, “performance” isn’t measured in 0-60 mph but rather in how smooth and powerful a car feels when accelerating up an on-ramp. And luxury isn’t necessarily measured in how glitzy their car is but rather in how the vehicle envelops driver and passengers and creates a respite from the stresses of everyday life.

Lincoln China

China is a Bizarro World for Western luxury brands in several other respects.

For starters, the German carmakers — Mercedes, BMW, Audi — are considered the choice of older people and dreary business types. They’re cursed by decades of success in the luxury realm and serve as brands for younger Chinese buyers to react against.

“Mercedes, BMW, even Audi, skew more towards businessmen,” a 26-year-old Chinese buyer, Ge Di, told Reuters in 2016. “The comfort level is a bit higher, but as a young person I care more about performance and design.”

So if the luxury market is extremely codified and hierarchical in the US, with Mercedes, BMW, and Toyota’s Lexus at the top, Audi knocking at the door, and everyone else fighting for share in the tiers below, the Chinese luxury market is far more fluid and subject to the changing tastes of a younger population that wants to define itself against expectations.

This all serves to give Lincoln plenty of hope in its newest competitive forum. You could easily say that Lincoln’s revival is undergirded by the considerations of the Chinese luxury market first and foremost.

Not that it will be easy.

Auto sales in China topped 21 million vehicles in 2015, but according to Bloomberg, only about 2 million of those sales are luxury cars and SUVs, versus 12% in the US.

Most of the Chinese luxury market in 2016 was divvied up among the Germans, with Audi, BMW, and Mercedes accounting for 75% of annual sales, based on research from Bloomberg Intelligence. Cadillac and Volvo had a combined 4%, and Lincoln was beginning its ascent with a meager 1%.

Of course it could be worse. Lincoln could have zero.

Will it work?

The story of Lincoln is one of the best to emerge in the aftermath of the financial crisis. It has everything: a rich and varied history, a certain amount of Frank and Dino cool mixed with a whiff of sexy Kennedy-era dissoluteness, a near-death experience, a tentative recovery that at first looked unpromising but that took off with the unexpected McConaughey commercials, and finally the suave, low-key sales pitch, a relaxing of muscles when everyone else is flexing.

Lincoln Experience

Ford has abundant confidence that this will work, but Lincoln has more than a mountain to climb. The luxury market in the US is crowded, and even though Lincoln has made admirable progress in reversing its fortunes, most consumers don’t consider it a true contemporary luxury brand, in the vein on its German and Japanese rivals.

Lincoln benefits from nostalgia from a time in America before BMW and Mercedes arrived in force, when cars from Germany were considered “imports” and the Japanese hadn’t yet shown up with their small, plucky, fuel-efficient vehicles. Here and there, you had the odd Italian roadster and few Jaguars, Triumphs, MGs, and Aston Martins. Otherwise, as far as the eye could see, it was American iron laying claim to the new interstate highways and the fresh driveways of burgeoning suburban enclaves. A cupholder in 1965 was that space between your legs. More important were the Lincoln Continental’s legion of ashtrays.

So the circle that Galhotra and Fields are struggling to square implies a daunting balancing act: preserve that peculiar Lincoln mystique without allowing the brand to be a throwback. The effort comes through every time Lincoln shows a new vehicle. The interior of the Navigator concept that landed in Detroit may resemble something from the sixties, but Lincoln’s designers and executives don’t want to hear you make that observation. They would prefer that the legacy of the brand be as quiet as its take on luxury.

So far, so good

It’s a fair bet that they’ll succeed. Having seen many leaders of automotive divisions at American car companies over the years, I’d be hard pressed to conjure up someone as ideally suited to his role as Galhotra. He sets a highly cosmopolitan tone for the brand, sacrificing just enough of the traditional car-guy vibe to win over the large number of buyers who find car guys exhausting, with their endless enthusing over the specs and stats and macho aspects of driving.

Performance matters more in the luxury market, but not that much more. Galhotra`s emphasis is on the Gestalt of his cars and trucks, they way they anticipate owner needs and create a welcoming and calming environment. The man is, by the way, an engineer’s engineer, so he can talk cylinder displacement and compression ratios and torque bands with the best of them. But in an echo of Cary Grant’s definition of a gentleman as someone who could play the bagpipes, but declined, Galhotra can do all that but chooses not to.

The big question, of course, is whether Lincoln can achieve the most difficult feat in the auto industry: “conquesting” the loyal customers of less retro brands. As lovely as the Continental is, it doesn’t have an owner base (unless you count the hipsters who are still maintaining a vintage example). Lincoln is starting from scratch, pitching the big sedan at customers who might lean reflexively in the direction of Lexus.

By early 2016, the process was moving along nicely. Lincoln’s sales were advancing at an impressive double-digit pace, propelled by the crossovers in the portfolio — the right cars at the right time. The executive team was clearly clicking, and Mark Fields took the occasion of the New York Auto Show to unleash a C-suite Lincoln-palooza, making the brand and its revival one of his central talking points, alongside Ford’s other major initiative, the transformation of the company from a maker of cars to a provider of mobility in all its forms.

By the time the New York show rolled around in March 2016, Ford had become an automaker standing on four pillars. The core brand, symbolized by the full-size pickups and Mustang, was strong, a vindication of Mulally’s vision.

Ford’s new performance division was taking its GT supercar racing, making sure that the halo car was proving itself on the track. (It would make history with an epic win in its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a near-repeat of Ford`s legendary 1-2-3 victory in 1966.)

A host of transformational programs were also being inculcated, and Ford would boast in early 2016 of having the largest fleet of self-driving cars under testing in the industry.

Finally, Lincoln was back in the game. As much as the recovery of the core Ford brand had shown that Mulally was a magician, the Lincoln comeback indicated that Fields could make calls that were risky but right.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this complete reinvigoration of Ford and its brands was that the company could shift its rhetoric from that of a slightly shell-shocked but foresighted survivor to that of a proud automaker with more than a century of history under its belt. In 2009 Ford was suffering from being an American company; by 2016 it relished that title.

Lincoln MKX

Timing is everything, and luck matters

Fields also knew that some of the unlikely success that Lincoln was experiencing could be chalked up to timing and luck. When the call was made to keep the brand alive, no one could have foreseen that gas prices would plummet in 2015, boosting the balance sheets of any automaker that had SUVs and crossover to sell.

When the first McConaughey ads hit, their druggy, meandering meditations and improvised art-film quality made sense, as a daring bet to kick-start the brand. Once their impact was felt, however, the marketing plan became more conservative. The moodiness was out, and there would be no more seemingly random encounters with wandering bulls on vacant Texas roads, as there had been with the first batch.

Later spots that aired in 2015 concentrated on their vehicles and normalized the character McConaughey was playing. He didn’t just drive around aimlessly as a freestyle stoner-philosopher, a spacey specialist in the craft of unearthing deep thoughts that had a sideways relationship to Lincoln and its comeback. Instead, he got dressed for a late-night poker game or took his dogs out for sushi, or found sunwashed vistas in Los Angeles to scrutinize. Some of the evocative danger, the threat that can attach to empty Western landscapes, slipped away, replaced of necessity by a more straightforward sales pitch.

In the end, however, the improved sales number and the respectable progress in China spoke for themselves. It could have been that Lincoln had located a sort of inadvertent sweet spot, a lacuna in the luxury market in the US that needed to be filled and an opportunity beckoning in China to introduce a fresh new brand with an identity that differed meaningfully from everyone else.

The demographics are in Lincoln’s favor. The biggest challenge for a near-luxury brand, especially one suffering from the lingering hangover of its glory days in the mid-`60s, bigger than taking on the mighty Germans, bigger than overcoming a once-in-a-generation financial crisis, is finding younger customers.

Long term, the amusing old observation goes, we’re all dead. This is fine for a brand if your customers are replaced as loyalists head for their final reward. But for Lincoln, the customer base had by the 2000s shifted to a familiar place for big American cars: They were aging fast.

By the mid-2010s, however, Lincoln had improved that — dramatically.

“Our fastest-growing group is 25 to 44,” Galhotra told me. He chalked this up to an important practical lifestyle change for younger buyers: “They just need more space.”

After years of dire prognostications in and around the auto industry about millennials not buying cars — because they had no job, no credit, no families — it now appears that the youngest Americans, as soon as they have any economic power, are taking the car-buying plunge. Typical factors are driving this: They have access to better jobs and an improved credit outlook. As their financial picture improves they are getting busy with family formation and an inevitable move from crowded cities to roomier suburbs. And finally they are showing a rising enthusiasm for car culture.

Ford, always a carmaker with a youthful streak – the Mustang was created explicitly for the young people of the `60s — is positioning itself to grab these buyers. And Lincoln is positioning itself to nab them if they think they need a bit more luxury than what the Ford marque has on offer, especially when it comes to crossovers and SUVs.

It’s working better that anyone could have expected.

By the 2016, Galhotra looked as though he`d hit his stride. And Lincoln, for the first time since the late `90s, looked like it was ready to run.

SEE ALSO: The comeback of Lincoln is the biggest surprise in the auto industry

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