How Smartphones Can Deliver Democracy & Health

Friction, or red tape, is the barrier to solving many problems like waiting ages in line to buy something, but also voter turnout and obesity rates. Luckily, technology is good at reducing friction. 

What's the Latest Development?


Technologist David Pogue recounts the story of visiting New York City's main Apple Store on December 23—surely a recipe for long lines and stuffy crowds, right? No, actually. Pogue was in and out in minutes thanks to the Apple Store app which allowed him to scan the code of the item he wanted and walk out the door with it, the charges being sent to his electronic account with Apple. That is a great example of how technology can be used to reduce what Pogue calls 'friction', or the red tape around practically everything we do. 

What's the Big Idea?

Using technology to reduce friction could solve some serious societal problems, argues Pogue. Take voter turnout. In the voter's mind, the benefits of democracy are weighed against the inconvenience of actually voting. It is not hard to image a much higher voter turnout if we could register to vote on our phones, or even fill out and send the ballot. Obesity, too, could be combated by using technology to decrease friction. Eating junk food has been streamlined by the companies who make it, but not so with healthy foods. "Change the friction coefficient," says Pogue, "and you change the game."

Photo credit: shutterstock.com


Car culture and suburbs grow right-wing populism, claims study

New research links urban planning and political polarization.

Pixabay
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
  • Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
  • People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Flickr / 13winds
Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less