Pirates Take Over Iceland, and the Week’s Other Big News

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What the Hell Are We Doing?

Your toaster is connected to the Internet. Your fridge knows when it’s running out of eggs. Your watch is so advanced it can save your hand a trip to your pocket. Up until recently, the biggest risk of the internet of things was that it made us look pretty idiotic. But now we know better. And last week’s massive internet outage was a reminder of how our connected devices can be used against us.

+ NYT’s John Markoff: As Artificial Intelligence Evolves, So Does Its Criminal Potential.

+ The latest attack shouldn’t surprise us. Everything we attach to the internet comes with a risk. And our obsession with tech often leads us to play the part of the accomplice in an ongoing plot to obliterate our own privacy. There are a lot of ways to tell the story of the internet. Here’s one: With every advance, we dramatically increase the risk we face as individuals, nations, and societies. All of which leads me to ask: What the Hell Are We Doing? (Or, why ET phoned home).

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The NextDraft newsletter is now on WIRED.com. Every Friday, mastermind Dave Pell visits the far reaches of the web to bring the news you missed. Politics, tech, science—you name it, and it’s here.

(Original story reprinted with permission from NextDraft.)


This Is Your Brain on Greed

How did a class of highly addictive opioids make its way from your doctor’s prescription pad to high volume pill mills dealing destruction across many American cities? The short answer is that everything about the war on drugs is broken, and everything about the way big pharma pushes product is troubling. The long answer is even more depressing. From WaPo: The DEA slowed enforcement while the opioid epidemic grew out of control. Plus, How drugs intended for patients ended up in the hands of illegal users.

+ Who knew that a drug like Fentanyl could be so dangerous? Hint: The people who sold Fentanyl and the health care providers who prescribed it. From Vice: The First Fentanyl Addict.

Pirate Booty

“Its members are a collection of anarchists, hackers, libertarians and Web geeks. It sets policy through online polls — and thinks the government should do the same. It wants to make Iceland ‘a Switzerland of bits,’ free of digital snooping. It has offered Edward Snowden a new place to call home. And then there’s the name: In this land of Vikings, the Pirate Party may soon be king.” This year has been a weird one when it comes to politics. And it’s especially weird in Iceland, which is bracing for a Pirate Party takeover. (Hey, we’re not in any position to be pointing any fingers…)

Gaga Country

“Although it was a deeply personal endeavor, Gaga’s creation of the record shows a willingness to reach across the aisle. It’s a concept we hardly recognize anymore.” From CuePoint: Whatever Lady Gaga’s reaching for, she got it with excellent performances on SNL and on Monday’s Howard Stern Show.

Give the Devil His Due

“We have been able to verify Marlowe’s presence in those three plays strongly and clearly enough. We can now be confident that they didn’t just influence each other, but they worked with each other. Rivals sometimes collaborate.” With a little help from computers and big data, experts are now convinced that Christopher Marlowe deserves credit and should even be listed as a co-author on some of Shakespeare’s works.

+ Narratively: “Every year, half a million brawny bikers descend on one small South Dakota town. This is the first time they hopped off their Harleys to recite Shakespeare.”

+ Here’s a pretty incredible list of words and phrases coined by Shakespeare. (This guy would have killed on Twitter.)

Excuse the Type O

For decades, we’ve known that a French-Canadian flight attendant named Gaetan Dugas was Patient Zero, the person who first brought HIV/AIDS to the United States. And, all along, we’ve been wrong. As the author of a new study explains, “This individual was simply one of thousands infected before HIV/AIDS was recognized.” So how could we be so wrong for so long? It turns out that it all started with a typo. “Through a labeling error on Dugas’s case file, Patient O (the letter) became Patient 0 (zero).” And this all happened before the days of autocorrect errors and internet memes, before wrongness really had a platform where it could live up to its full potential.

Party Favors

The media is biased. It’s the one thing people on both sides of the aisle seem to believe. So, it’s probably safe to assume that belief is wrong. Poynter decided to ask a professor who’s been studying the issue by looking for examples of bias in presidential elections going back to 1948. What does he have to say? Basically, that we’re biased in favor of seeing bias: “There’s something called a hostile media effect. Basically whenever people are engaged in an issue — and there’s no one more engaged than a presidential candidate — they see coverage as biased against their position, no matter what is it.” And candidates complaining about media bias is almost as old as American media itself: “You can see complaints about the media in Jefferson’s writing … [he] wanted everyone to have a free press and then when he became president, he wanted to shut down the newspapers.”

Feeling Good Is Good Enough

“All the participants were told that the placebo was an inactive substance containing no medication. They were told that the body can automatically respond to placebos, that a positive attitude can help but isn’t necessary and that it was important to take the pills twice a day for the full three weeks.” Can a placebo work even if you know it’s a placebo?

+ And would you push a button even though that button does nothing? From the NYT: Pushing that crosswalk button may make you feel better, but…

Bottom of the News

Gingrich got Newtered during a heated interview with Megyn Kelly in which he demanded that she describe Bill Clinton as a sexual predator. He then insisted that she was “fascinated by sex.” To which Kelly responded: “You know what, Mr. Speaker, I’m not fascinated by sex. But I am fascinated by the protection of women.” Only Newt could get someone to say, “I’m not fascinated by sex” and — at that moment — totally mean it.

+ “This is my dad lecturing us on the meaning of social media.” Every parent gets ridiculed on social media. Even when that parent is the president.

+ New research suggests that cannabis may enhance night vision. (Sorry, stoners. You don’t have night vision. That’s just your fridge light.)

+ It’s “a $1,500 to $3,000 procedure that temporarily improves the look of the scrotum and decreases sweatiness for three to six months.” Yes, Scrotox is real.

This is a weekly best-of version of the NextDraft newsletter. For daily updates and to get the NextDraft app, go here. (Original story reprinted with permission from NextDraft.)

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