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The future of everything

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As a part of the wild experiment known as Verge Hack Week 2014, we turned the keys to the site over to some of the great, smart people working across every part of our parent company, Vox Media. We issued a simple challenge: write about the future. Here are the wonderful stories that we got in response.

  • Mike Case

    Aug 23, 2014

    Mike Case

    Our future government will work more like Amazon

    There is a lot of government in the United States. Several hundred federal agencies, 535 voting members in two houses of Congress, more than 90,000 state and local governments, and over 20 million Americans involved in public service.

    We say we have a government for and by the people. But the way American government conducts its day-to-day business does not feel like anything we, the people weaned on the internet, would design in 2014. Most interactions with the US government don’t resemble anything else we’re used to in our daily lives. When we need to shop, we’re used to using our smart phones to visit Amazon where we know we’ll see carefully customized suggestions based on our purchase history. We pay for same day delivery and can track the location of our package as it moves around the warehouse, onto a truck, and towards our home. Hell, we can do the same thing with a pizza order.

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  • Ryan Gantz

    Aug 22, 2014

    Ryan Gantz

    The future of self-driving cars: welcome to Autocon 2035

    Good evening ladies, gentlemen, and fellow Sentients! Welcome to the 20th annual Autocon, presented by Google Motors and Lockheed-Uber. I know you’re all excited for new product demos, and to learn what the pending merger of our two companies means for your job and future. But to kick things off, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at a few important milestones from the past two decades. So join me for a little “drive” down memory lane.


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  • Aug 22, 2014

    Dan Rubenstein

    In the future, we'll all be like my grandfather

    As essentially impossible as it is to be completely encouraged about the future of media or technology, there may be nothing that drives my optimism and ability to (hopefully) put things in their proper perspective than my grandfather Ben, who passed away the better part of 20 years ago.

    His life spanned many, if not all of the huge cultural shifts of the 20th century, and he toed that fantastic old man line of being both in awe and skeptical of technology. What still stands out to me, though, is the degree to which he was blown away by how clear Arizona Wildcats basketball games were on my family’s relatively ordinary 32" CRT standard definition TV. This was the mid ‘90s, obviously well before consumer HD was even close to being a thing, and yet… BLOWN AWAY.

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  • Russ Frushtick

    Aug 22, 2014

    Russ Frushtick

    Will owning a FitBit finally make me cool?

    In the early 1990s, the power of the slap bracelet was unquestioned. It was a dangerous tool, wielded by the most popular and fashionable members of my second grade class. Wannabes would cluster around, ogling the latest acquisition, be it a sparkly, hypnotic number or one featuring the likeness of a preferred Ninja Turtle. I was drawn in by the fame of it, a wearable social weapon with which to gain friends and intimidate enemies. I was profoundly late to the party, though, acquiring one long after the fad had exploded and just two weeks before the sheathed metal bands were deemed contraband.

    At the age of 30, I am reliving that experience on a daily basis. You see, I do not have a FitBit.

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  • Leslie Price

    Aug 22, 2014

    Leslie Price

    Screw perfection: the new normal on social media is just normal

    Aesthetically driven, the fashion, beauty, and health industries have glommed on to Instagram and other visual-sharing platforms, with users uploading streams of inspirational, FOMO-inducing photos. Whether it's hot dog legs on the beach; a pretty manicure; or a latte with a designer handbag artfully arranged next to it, these unblemished vignettes play right into our collective insecurities. Let’s be honest: It's a game of whose life is better. There are winners and there are losers. And the losers are looking at the winners’ photos.

    On the social web, we’re supposed to be posting real, in-the-moment snaps — not altered fabrications. Still, the urge to "improve" reality has proven hard to ignore. In June, the news that 11 percent of #nofilter photos actually utilize a filter — confirmed by social media marketing company Spredfast — quickly made headlines. A filter is the least of it. More insidious are the perfectly-crafted veneers of online fashion and health personalities, whose constant outfit and lifestyle documentation has grown into a cottage industry.

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  • Christopher Grant

    Aug 21, 2014

    Christopher Grant

    Why 'P.T.' is more exciting than 'Silent Hills,' and the future of the video game demo

    A mysterious new horror game for PlayStation 4 — simply titled P.T. — was revealed last week during Sony's Gamescom press conference in Germany. Not only that, it was in development by the wholly unknown 7780s Studio... and a demo was available right then on the PlayStation Store. Something seemed off.

    Does this sound familiar?

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  • Aug 21, 2014

    Amanda Kludt

    Can the restaurants of the future be good to people?

    The future of the restaurant industry — if all the startups and venture firms have their way — will be devoid of inefficiencies. Apps like Foursquare, Yelp, and many others aim to improve discovery, getting diners to the food they want when and where they want it. A swath of apps and sites — OpenTable, SeatMe, City Eats, Resy, Zurvu, and more — are battling for dominance in for paid and unpaid reservations with a good deal of venture money on the line. Priceline-owned OpenTable is getting into the payment game, and serious investors are also backing nascent payment apps, including Cover and Settle. Meanwhile a Chicago restaurateur hopes to change the model entirely with a new offering called Tickets which (among other features) treats restaurant reservations like concerts or theater — pay in advance in full, and pay more for premium times and seats. Others are finding ways to share Big Brother-style diner intelligence, providing restaurants with data on diners from nut aversions to anniversary dates, seat preference, and average wine spends. Behind the scenes, various services offer to connect farmers to restaurants, wine suppliers to sommeliers, and cut out other annoyances of the notoriously inefficient supply chain.

    In the near future, these new companies will battle for dominance, some will win out, and some may eventually offer cost savings to restaurateurs and time savings to consumers.

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  • Aug 21, 2014

    Joe Alicata

    The future of the home screen isn't about apps

    "Have you seen this?"

    "This" could be anything; a song, a video clip, a great gallery of photos. Regardless, if that seemingly innocuous question leads me to an app store where I search for 10 minutes through 50 variations of the same name and keyword, then wait for the download, open the app, and finally find the content, we have massively failed at moving media consumption and discovery forward.

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  • Cory Williams

    Aug 20, 2014

    Cory Williams

    I'm the victim of a Spotify bully

    Spencer Hall has been been laughing at me for weeks.

    Spencer qualifies highly on my list of coworkers that I am genuinely excited to see in the Vox Media office. Having not seen him in months, I spotted him rummaging through our snack bin in the kitchen, and approached to say hello.

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  • Lockhart Steele

    Aug 20, 2014

    Lockhart Steele

    The retro-futuristic future of blogging

    I've been thinking about ecosystems lately. As we're digging deeper into YouTube at Vox Media, I'm coming to appreciate the ways YouTube personalities interact with each other, recommending each other's work with in-video shout-outs. It feels a lot like the early days of blogging. Back then, linking to and recommending each others' posts was the whole fun of it; Technorati existed mostly just to validate this behavior.

    Today everyone in the media world is launching email newsletters. Jason Hirschorn, Ian Schafer, Ann Friedman, Lauren Sherman — as I'm typing these words I see that Dan Shanoff is soliciting signups for his forthcoming dailyish email (I signed up) — my inbox fills anew each day with emails. So many emails. Great. But what I miss from emails is the sense of community, the shared experience of shared linking in real time. Obviously Twitter replaced parts of that; Facebook others. Still, it's a far noisier conversation these days, and perhaps there's something to be said for good old blogging itself.

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  • Aug 20, 2014

    Ezra Klein

    The future is awesome, unless you're following politics

    The future looks good when I read The Verge. The watches are smarter, the televisions are curvier, and the buckets of ice are icier.

    But honestly, the future looks less good from where I sit in Washington.

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  • Aug 19, 2014

    Amy Schellenbaum

    Hey architects, the future of architecture is not about you

    Architecture is largely a discipline that sits on stilts, away from the floodlands of the people that use it in everyday life. These supports, which keep the art and science of building design (and, to some extent, the appreciation of buildings themselves) accessible primarily to card-carrying intellectuals, were erected, consciously or otherwise, in the last forty years by a team of masterful thinkers and artists (starchitects like Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid) and journalists who are quick to glamorize the field (like, say, by using terms like "starchitects").

    In the last few years, people have started to shake the pillars architecture sits on, building their own weird little houses, crowdfunding their own architectural projects, and using buildings to solve small-scale problems. Architecture started gurgling up from the grasses; non-architects began building community centers in Haiti and apartments made of garbage Dumpsters in New York. These projects are not blessed by the powers that be in the architectural world, but they’re happening anyway.

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  • Aug 19, 2014

    Spencer Hall

    The future of sports is drugs, gambling, and an immortal FIFA

    The future of sports will be a nightmarish universe without bundled cable, meaning you will either pay individually for network’s programming or write a hefty check to ESPN (or its logical successor) in order to subsidize its production of league content. It will not be a nightmare for you, the person who does not like sports, but it will be a pain for those of us who will have to remember all those passwords to our WWE, NFL, SEC Network, La Liga, and International Cornhole Championship accounts.

    (You, Verge readers, are smart nerds who probably use automated password management. Most sports fans do not.)

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  • Lauren Rabaino

    Aug 18, 2014

    Lauren Rabaino

    If you have no surprises in your life, you’re doing it wrong

    "I have no surprises in my life at all," my friend Ryan said. "We can’t go out and do anything anymore without knowing exactly how it’s going to go."

    I reflected on that statement for a moment. The night before, my Google Now notification told me — by searching my inbox and checking against my recent Google Maps search — that I was a 13-minute subway ride or a 20-minute Uber ride or a 24-minute bike ride from the place where I had a dinner reservation. And a Yelp review of said restaurant showed me what the exterior would look like, what was on the menu and what to expect of the staff. And after I ate a delectable seared tuna dish followed by truffle oil mac n’ cheese, I got a MyFitnessPal notification that I’ll gain four pounds in six weeks if I keep eating like this.

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  • Mandy Brown

    Aug 18, 2014

    Mandy Brown

    Byron the bulb: how the velocity of journalism is changing

    In Thomas Pynchon’s famous and famously unreadable 1973 novel, Gravity’s Rainbow, a short story about a sentient and immortal light bulb named Byron includes a moment when a technician is sent out to test Byron for irregularities. Wearing seven-inch spiked heels in order to extend her reach, she gently unscrews Byron from the sconce he’s plugged into. At that moment, a hush goes out across the electrical grid, as every bulb everywhere "at something close to the speed of light," knows what has happened.

    Information traveling at the speed of light was largely fantastical in the time period in which the novel is set, though it’s commonplace today. But as fast as we can distribute information, we are still figuring out how to learn from it at anything close to the speeds at which it can be conveyed.

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