Spark

 
 

Spark

Spark brings you the latest in technology and culture. With an eye on the future, host Nora Young guides you through this dynamic era of technology-led change, and connects your life to the big ideas changing our world right now.

Updated: Fridays
Download episodes from this podcast for: 6 months
Visit Show Site: http://www.cbc.ca/spark

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Use the links below to download a file.

Spark 440: Designing better bikes, YouTube's carbon footprint, life in a gamer house, and the culture of coders.

A 200-year-old bicycle inspires design for climate change. A simple fix for the huge carbon footprint of YouTube videos. Video games and ramen noodles: A look inside an esports team house. The surprising ways coders shape our lives.

Download Spark 440: Designing better bikes, YouTube's carbon footprint, life in a gamer house, and the culture of coders.
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Spark 439: Innovation award restored after accusations of sexism, safety and privacy in smart prisons, Windows Solitaire, and Ian McEwan's new book about an AI love triangle

Booker-prize-winning author Ian McEwan talks about AI and his latest book, Machines Like Me. CES restores its 'Innovation Award' to women's pleasure product, The Osé. And are 'smart' prisons necessary for safety, or an invasion of privacy?

Download Spark 439: Innovation award restored after accusations of sexism, safety and privacy in smart prisons, Windows Solitaire, and Ian McEwan's new book about an AI love triangle
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Spark 438 : Robo umpires, the first AI-designed sport, spy plane archeology, and the internet gets a health check-up

MLB umpires need tech help at the plate, says researcher. Introducing Speedgate: the world's first AI-designed sport. Cold War spy plane images illustrate human development-and destruction. The health of the internet in 2019: Deepfakes, biased AI and addiction by design.

Download Spark 438 : Robo umpires, the first AI-designed sport, spy plane archeology, and the internet gets a health check-up
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Spark 437: Mental-health stigma in tech, therapy games in Nunavut, here comes WiFi6, and reclaiming boredom from our devices

Ryerson's DMZ breaks the stigma around mental health in startup culture. Kids in Nunavut use role-playing computer games to manage depression. What we can expect from "Wifi 6." And philosopher Mark Kingwell reclaims boredom in his new book, "Wish I Was Here."

Download Spark 437: Mental-health stigma in tech, therapy games in Nunavut, here comes WiFi6, and reclaiming boredom from our devices
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Spark 436: Smart cities

From Stockholm to Sidewalk Labs, smart-city technology is rapidly expanding. Sensors embedded in roads, video surveillance, and connected devices everywhere. Will this make urban life a utopian dream, or privacy nightmare? In a special edition of Spark, Nora Young speaks to urban design experts, community leaders and academics to see what the city of the future might look like.

Download Spark 436: Smart cities
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Spark 435: Playing music to cheese, the power of emoji, the value of our free services, and Canadian stars of AI research.

Cheese wheels bombarded by music taste different. New doc looks at the evolution of emoji. Study suggests cash values for 'free' digital services. From neuroscience to neural nets, Canadian researchers are on the vanguard of AI.

Download Spark 435: Playing music to cheese, the power of emoji, the value of our free services, and Canadian stars of AI research.
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Spark 434: Taking things apart, selling our own data, tricking AI to do the wrong thing, and a gender-inclusive stock photo library that goes beyond clichés

Why we shouldn't be afraid to take our tech apart. AI can be easily fooled and this could have serious implications. Sell your own data instead of giving it away to big tech. New stock photo collection features trans and non-binary models.

Download Spark 434: Taking things apart, selling our own data, tricking AI to do the wrong thing, and a gender-inclusive stock photo library that goes beyond clichés
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FIXED Spark 433: Smart homes getting smarter. Cybersecurity's reliance on AI. The art market embraces AI creators. How Wikidata aims to catalogue everything.

How the smart home might imprison us, AI and the war on cybersecurity, whether an AI can be an artistic collaborator, and Wikidata's catalogue of the universe.

Download FIXED Spark 433: Smart homes getting smarter. Cybersecurity's reliance on AI. The art market embraces AI creators. How Wikidata aims to catalogue everything.
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Spark 433: Smart homes getting smarter. Cybersecurity's reliance on AI. The art market embraces AI creators. How Wikidata aims to catalogue everything.

How the smart home might imprison us, AI and the war on cybersecurity, whether an AI can be an artistic collaborator, and Wikidata's catalogue of the universe.

Download Spark 433: Smart homes getting smarter. Cybersecurity's reliance on AI. The art market embraces AI creators. How Wikidata aims to catalogue everything.
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Spark 432: Grocery store technology

Tech at the Food Retail Lab, the impact of self checkout, grocery delivery services, and reducing food waste.

Download Spark 432: Grocery store technology
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Spark 431: The quest for immortality, designing for seniors, Google gets into the gaming game, your genome and privacy

The quest for immortality through extreme fasting and radical life extension. Designing tech for the older crowd. Google's new streaming service aims to be Netflix for gaming. Your genome could be a privacy nightmare.

Download Spark 431: The quest for immortality, designing for seniors, Google gets into the gaming game, your genome and privacy
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Spark 430: Surveilling strangers, social media data can set insurance rates, Girl Guides and Scouts now earn STEM badges, online habits of people in the developing world

The ethics of posting photos of strangers online. How social media data could be used to set your insurance rates. The Girl Scouts introduce a 'cybersecurity' badge. New research shows online habits of people in the developing world aren't that different from ours.

Download Spark 430: Surveilling strangers, social media data can set insurance rates, Girl Guides and Scouts now earn STEM badges, online habits of people in the developing world
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Spark 429: Designing a safer YouTube, self-harm on social media, an embroidered computer and how to embrace your 'inner elder' at work

From the so-called Momo Challenge to secret, illegal content exchanged in comments, YouTube is facing huge challenges in moderating its content. If we could redesign it, how could it be safer? Earlier this year, Facebook and Instagram announced they would remove or censor images of self-injury or self-harm. But some say that could harm those recovering and wanting to share their experiences. Artist Irene Posch has designed an embroidery 8 bit computer using historic patterns of gold embroidery and beads. In Silicon Valley years, you're considered old once you hit middle age. A luxury retreat centre in Mexico is a place for middle-aged participants to share their experiences dealing with ageism in the workplace.

Download Spark 429: Designing a safer YouTube, self-harm on social media, an embroidered computer and how to embrace your 'inner elder' at work
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Spark 428: A special look at some surprising, and scary, uses for Artificial Intelligence.

Algorithms that set the price of things online are becoming more common. But what happens if those price-setting algorithms get together? Collusion. Beer-makers around the world are now using machine learning to optimise beer recipes. New approaches to AI mean computers are getting much better at creating things that can trick us. Thanks to open source software anyone can create video and images of people that Do. Not. Exist. How do they do it, and what does this mean for our ability to tell what's real anymore?

Download Spark 428: A special look at some surprising, and scary, uses for Artificial Intelligence.
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Spark 427: Robot reporters, menstruation emoji and security in a 5G world

Chinese tech giant could be a 5G security threat: There's a push in Canada and internationally to upgrade our cellular networks to 5G. But there are also potential security concerns about the leading provider of that technology: Chinese tech giant, Huawei. Christopher Parsons is a research associate at The Citizen Lab at The University of Toronto. He talks to Spark host Nora Young about what could potentially go wrong, and what it shows us about security in a networked age. ---------- Protecting your personal data: In the past couple of years, we've seen high profile breaches of customer data, cyber espionage, and interference in the election process. All of which makes maintaining our privacy and security a personal issue of protecting our data, but also, a national and international concern. While at the recent Privacy and Security Conference in Victoria, BC, Spark host Nora Young spoke with Scott Jones, the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security about his thoughts on the current state of cyber espionage. ---------- Robot reporters are on the job! Human NY Times reporter Jaclyn Peiser reports on how various journalism outlets are increasingly employing "robot reporters." Plus, AI expert Jerry Kaplan shares his analysis of whether automated tech is a threat to journalists' jobs. ---------- How an emoji can help destigmatize menstruation: Until now, there's never been a specific emoji to represent menstruation. Although Unicode's newly approved "drop of blood" emoji doesn't exclusively indicate periods, many health advocates are hailing this as an important digital step in destigmatizing menstruation. Carmen Barlow, the digital strategy and development manager at Plan International UK, explains why.

Download Spark 427: Robot reporters, menstruation emoji and security in a 5G world
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Spark 426: Memes grown up, Man vs AI debate, robot decisions, hanging on the landline, and the case for paper maps

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to the US Congress, uses memes with panache, and is even teaching her fellow Democratic representatives how to properly use social media. So are memes now a serious part of the public discourse? Kenyatta Cheese, founder of the website KnowYourMeme and a blogger about internet media, tells Spark host Nora Young why he thinks memes are all grown up. ---------- Can AI be taught to mount a convincing argument ... with no time to prepare? IBM's Project Debate AI is focused on building a conversational artificial intelligence capable of engaging in continuous, stimulated debate. This week, it lost in a debate with Harish Natarajan, a World Universities Debating Championships Grand Finalist. Harish tells Spark host Nora Young what it was like to debate and defeat an artificial intelligence. ---------- Most algorithms we encounter evaluate risk in terms of making a decision, from giving you a loan to deciding where a spacecraft should land on the surface of Mars. But what about reward? A new robotic AI submersible designed to explore deep ocean trenches will consider destroying itself, if what it thinks it will find is worth it. Benjamin Ayton, one of its designers, explains how. ---------- Each year, fewer Canadian households report having landline telephones. Some countries, like Finland, plan to phase them out all together. Why do some of us still hang on to the ole landline? Spark contributor Denis Grignon brings us the story of his struggle to cut the cord. ---------- It's so easy just to use a digital map on your phone. Why bother with paper maps anymore? Author and journalism professor, Meredith Broussard, argues that paper maps facilitate "deep" knowledge, and are worth keeping in a digital age.

Download Spark 426: Memes grown up, Man vs AI debate, robot decisions, hanging on the landline, and the case for paper maps
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Spark 425: A special look at the mobile phone

This week on Spark, a special look at the mobile phone: no other technology has so dramatically changed the way people all over the world interact with each other. And it's all happened so fast-a lot of it within the lifetime of Spark as a show. We are looking back through 12 years of the cellphone as covered by Spark, from how phones affect our children and the way we parent, to the ever-present peril of notifications, to how to manage what has become, for many, a crippling addiction.

Download Spark 425: A special look at the mobile phone
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Spark 424: Pop-up office cubicles that reflect your personality, real-time political fact checking, blogging makes a comeback, cowboy drones and decluttering your digital life, 'Marie Kondo' style

A Duke University team, led by professor and Politifact founder Bill Adair, is developing a product that will allow television networks to offer real-time fact checks onscreen when a politician makes a questionable claim during a speech or debate. When's the last time you logged into your Blogger account? Or Wordpress? The overwhelming presence of social media, as well as essay-sharing platforms like Medium, have pretty much rendered the ol' personal weblog to the bin. But well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson thinks it's time blogs made a comeback-and he's leading by example. This month, he took his popular SignalvNoise blog back from Medium, and began publishing it independently. Remote-controlled quadcopter drones are just one of the many new technological tools that some ranchers have added to their operations. Over the last few years, a quiet technological revolution has been happening in the Canadian beef industry. Spark contributor Matt Meuse headed out to the mountains of southern Alberta to see firsthand how it's playing out. We're all different so why can't our office cubicles reflect our personality? A Toronto design firm, has created a flexible, pop-up workspace that can be reconfigured according to a person's workplace personality. Architect and SDI Design Creative Director Noam Hazan discusses how it works. Brian X. Chen shares his tips about tidying up your technology physically and digitally, Marie Kondo-style.

Download Spark 424: Pop-up office cubicles that reflect your personality, real-time political fact checking, blogging makes a comeback, cowboy drones and decluttering your digital life, 'Marie Kondo' style
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Spark 423: Facebook petitions, WhatsApp and the spread of misinformation, designing the modern airport, and the lives of digisexuals.

A look at how more and more people are identifying as "digisexuals," a new term describing those whose primary sexual identity comes through the use of technology. Whether bright and modernist, or dark and brutalist, one problem all airport designers consider is the distance people have to go between the check-in counter and departure gate. A new feature, called Community Actions, lets users start, sign, and comment on petitions that are tagged with local government officials. With a spotty record on controlling political content, will Facebook manage to protect this feature from abuse? New limits on forwarding messages in WhatsApp is an attempt by the messaging app to control the sometimes dangerous spread of misinformation on the service.

Download Spark 423: Facebook petitions, WhatsApp and the spread of misinformation, designing the modern airport, and the lives of digisexuals.
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Spark 422: Instagram egg, queer video games, inbox infinity, airline ticketing, and counterfactual explantions

What Instagram's world record egg says about us: Chris Stokel-Walker says the success of the Instagram egg is a rare victory in a world where most viral campaigns on social media are now paid for. Adrienne Shaw is part of the team behind "The Rainbow Arcade," a first-of-its-kind exhibit on LGBTQ representation in videogame culture happening at Berlin's Schwules Museum. Might ignoring all your emails might be the secret to a happy 2019? André Spicer weighs the pros and cons of 'Inbox infinity' Did you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes when you go to your favourite travel website and book a ticket on a plane? Taimur Abdaal does. And the data scientist and mathematician has unearthed a lot of interesting history about how a travel agent-real or virtual-makes it possible for you to get a seat on the correct flight, to the correct place, at the correct time, in a matter of seconds. AIs now make decisions about everything from jail sentences to job applications. But often they, or their creators, are unable or unwilling to explain just how a particular machine-learning decision is made. Sandra Wachter has a solution that doesn't involve opening the murky black box at the heart of many algorithms.

Download Spark 422: Instagram egg, queer video games, inbox infinity, airline ticketing, and counterfactual explantions
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Spark 421: Tumblr adult-content ban and LGBTQ youth, dark patterns and airline seating algorithms, e-scooter abuse and the history of the smart home

Today's internet-connected smart home gadgets actually have a long history, going back way further than The Jetsons' space age dream home. Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino is an interaction designer specializing in the Internet of Things. In her new book, she traces the history of the do-it-all techy home back to the 19th century, and explores what it takes to make a smart home that really works for today. Say goodbye to NSFW Tumblr! The social network no longer allows adult content. But that's not sitting well with some Tumblr users who came to rely on the site as a safe place for self-expression. Stefanie Duguay is an assistant professor of Communications at Concordia University. She argues that Tumblr's new rules aren't just bad for NSFW bloggers and artists, they're also bad for LGBTQ youth.Sure it's annoying when you're taking a flight and you're not seated with your family. But what if it's...deliberate? Harry Brignull is a user-experience consultant with an interest in what he calls dark patterns. Those are user interface designs that are intended to trick people. He takes a look inside the algorithms that find your seat.E-scooters were supposed to make getting around more convenient and environmentally friendly. Recently scooter sharing companies like Bird and Lime are expanding quickly all across North America. So why are so many electric scooters are being tossed into lakes, rivers, and even the ocean? April Glaser is a technology writer for Slate. She wrote a story about the problem called Bird Bath.

Download Spark 421: Tumblr adult-content ban and LGBTQ youth, dark patterns and airline seating algorithms, e-scooter abuse and the history of the smart home
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420: Health Tech Special

It's a new year and a new chance to get healthy. This week on Spark, a health tech show to help you out. How data-driven personalization is changing how people manage their own health. ----- We asked listeners about their experiences using tools that track health status. Holly Witteman is an associate professor in the department of family and emergency medicine at Laval University in Quebec City. She also has type 1 diabetes, and now uses a continuous glucose monitor.\ ----- With the growth in wearable technology, not to mention smartphone apps, it's easier than ever to count steps, monitor heart rate and more. But do all those scores really help us understand ourselves and our health? Bill Buxton, design thinker and Principal Researcher with Microsoft Research, argues that designers need to spend more time to help us learn to listen to our bodies, not just pump out stats. ----- Say goodbye to that bulky blood pressure cuff! Researcher Sheng Xu and his team have designed a flexible electronic patch, about the size of a postage stamp, that can measure blood pressure. It can potentially be used to easily monitor patients at risk of a heart attack. It also points to a future of non-invasive tools for continuous health monitoring. ----- Wearable sensors are for more than just tracking daily footsteps. They can help with monitoring early signs of medical conditions. Rosalind Picard, from MIT's Media Lab, works in affective computing: designing systems that can read human emotions. ----- Nutrition advice is often one-size-fits-all. But nutrigenetics, or nutrigenomics promises a more customized nutrition plan. Dylan Mackay is a nutritional biochemist at the University of Manitoba. Ahmed El-Sohemy is professor in nutritional sciences at University of Toronto, and the founder of Nutrigenomix which offers genetic testing for personal nutrition. We want to dig in on their research and differing views on this topic to help you make up your own mind.

Download 420: Health Tech Special
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Spark Prison Special: Tech Innovation and San Quentin State Prison

Ear Hustle is a podcast about daily life in San Quentin State Prison. The term ear hustle is prison slang for eavesdropping. Earlonne Woods, who was incarcerated for 21 years, is the co-producer and co-host along with Nigel Poor, an artist who volunteers. They discuss how the podcast builds bridges between the inside and the outside. We'll also hear about the future of Ear Hustle following Earlonne Woods' recent release from San Quentin. ---------- The Last Mile gives the men incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison business, tech startup, and entrepreneurial training. And in particular, teach them how the tech world functions. Today the program has expanded into other prisons and continues to help the participants break the cycle of incarceration. We look back at some Spark stories about the program and get an update from Aly Tamboura, one of the program's success stories, about life after his release from San Quentin.

Download Spark Prison Special: Tech Innovation and San Quentin State Prison
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419: New tech in museum, and learning from sci-fi movies

This week a look at some of the innovative approaches Canadian museums and galleries are taking to incorporate digital technology into their physical spaces. We explore the approaches of the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. ---------- In a world of technological convergence can ethical innovation survive? That's not a trailer for a new sci-fi flick but rather one of the bigger questions Andrew Maynard explores in his new book Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of SciFi Movies. The book explores technology through the lens of a dozen familiar and not so familiar science fiction films.

Download 419: New tech in museum, and learning from sci-fi movies
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418: Deciphering ancient text, finding birds on Street View, and more.

On social media, finding out who exactly who is responsible for targeted ads for political causes, parties, or social movements isn't easy. Jeremy Merrill is one of the people behind Propublica's Political Ad Collector. Jeremy and his colleagues at Propublica have continued to monitor how political ads thrive on Facebook - who's behind them, and why regular users should care. ------ What do you think the greatest films of all time are? And how would you go about defending your choices? Traditionally, movies are ranked by by how well they did at the box office, and by how they were critically reviewed -- which leaves many influential films out. Now, Livio Bioglio, an Italian computer scientist has developed a new algorithm that yields some surprising results. ------ Cuneiform is the oldest known form of writing, and was used to tell the story of the rise and fall of Assyria and Babylonia some 5,000 years ago. And although half a million of the etched stone tablets have been unearthed, 90 percent of them remain untranslated. Émilie Pagé-Perron hopes to change that, by enlisting the aid of AI to look for patterns and reveal the stories the cuneiform texts tell. ------ Google's Street View has yielded a trove of information, from illicit activities to acts of great kindness. And it turns out the service is really good for an activity usually done offline: birding. Nick Lund, a writer for the National Audubon Society and creator of the website, The Birdist, explains his latest avian adventure: Google Street View Birding. ------ We've all gone through breakups. That's why Ridwan Madon, a student at the TISCH school for the arts, created Breakup Aid. It's a chatbot created to be a substitute for those who need a listening ear but think they may actually feel more comfortable talking to a chatbot about the trials of breaking up.

Download 418: Deciphering ancient text, finding birds on Street View, and more.
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417: Getting ready for smart cities, Google's return to china, and more.

Google has come under fire for exploring the idea of bringing a version of it search engine back to China. This has led some Google employees to condemn the company for considering the idea. We asked Scott Romaniuk of the University of Alberta's China Institute to examine some of the issues. ----- There's been a lot of attention on Sidewalk Toronto's Quayside project, but many are having trouble imagining what a smart city might actually look like. Quayside is a smart city test-bed project by Sidewalk Labs, Google's sister company. Nabeel Ahmed is a tech consultant and smart cities researcher. He discusses what the project could mean for Canadian tech innovation. ----- Are tech giants doing enough for workers' rights? That's one of the issues tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar spoke about in a recent talk in Ottawa last week. Muzaffar is a tech-entrepreneur and founder of Tech Girls Can, and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada. She talks about why we need to consider the human labour behind tech conveniences. ----- Faxes seemed so magical back in the old days. But don't drop off your fax machine at the museum just yet. They're far from obsolete yet many industries still rely on the daily use of fax machines including medicine and the legal profession. Some young faxers take inside the curious persistence of the fax.

Download 417: Getting ready for smart cities, Google's return to china, and more.
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416: Questions about an app to screen babysitters, making space for non-white people in tech, hiring your own boss, and people in Sweden putting microchips in their hands.

A startup called Predictim wants to use AI to help parents and guardians find the best babysitter. With the potential caregivers' consent, the company analyzes social media files to deliver a risk assessment. But does this actually work? And what are the ethics of digging through people's social media files? We put these questions to Avi Goldfarb. He's one of the author's of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence. ========== Intersect To is what the intersection of tech and local activism looks like in Toronto. They are a group of artists, academics, and tech professionals who aim to build a tech community by and for people who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People Of Colour. They describe it as space to learn, make, and have critical discussions on technology. ========== Being self-employed can be great, but it can also be easy to procrastinate, especially if you work at home. The solution? Pay a fee for a boss to make sure you stick to deadlines! Manasvini Krishna is a software developer. She designed Boss as a Service to help people get more done in a day. ==========In Sweden, electronic devices implanted under the skin are becoming more common and useful for everyday things. The microchip devices have been implanted into 4,000 Swedes. Per Söderström is a consultant and biohacker in Sweden, who uses his device for everything from to entering his Stockholm office office to buying snacks at vending machines.

Download 416: Questions about an app to screen babysitters, making space for non-white people in tech, hiring your own boss, and people in Sweden putting microchips in their hands.
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