Behold The Office Music Democratizer

Democracy is a great concept, but its micro-implementations in matters as petty and mundane as agreeing with coworkers on what music to stream at the office can be a messy matter that would leave any political theorist flummoxed. To address that particular problem, innovation think-tank Breakfast New York engineered a brilliantly simple solution: The Office Music Democratizer – essentially, an oversized, real-life version of the feedback button on and Pandora, allowing listeners to indicate whether they like a song or would rather skip it.

Normally, feedback helps these platforms' smart algorithms "learn" a user's music taste and make better recommendations over time. This device raises the interesting question of whether a group of people can have a collective taste that can be identified and honed over time. Or, would the process eventually suffer from the "Diggification of democracy," where a few power users end up dominating the feedback in a way not representative of the larger group's cohesive opinion?

via Swiss Miss

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, Design Observer and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.

California wildfires death toll climbs to 50

Firefighters in California are still struggling to contain several wildfires nearly one week after they broke out.

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Hundreds of people are still missing after three wildfires spread across Northern and Southern California last week.
  • 48 of the 50 deaths occurred after the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento.
  • On Tuesday night, a fourth wildfire broke out, though it's mostly contained.
Keep reading Show less

Too much sleep results in cognitive decline, researchers find

We know the dangers of too little sleep. Now for the other side of the story.

Photo: Vladislav Muslakvo / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Western University researchers found that sleeping over eight hours per night results in cognitive decline.
  • Oversleepers suffer similar difficulties on certain cognitive tests as those who sleep under seven hours.
  • Not all the news is bad: One night of oversleeping results in a cognitive boost.
Keep reading Show less

Russian reporters discover 'tortured' orcas and belugas jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less