The Future – As Read in Fiction

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Books That Predicted

the Future

With Eerie Accuracy

When authors write about the future, they have to predict what technology and life might be like decades down the road. While the books are often written as a metaphor for their contemporary society, some authors have made amazingly accurate predictions about what modern life has actually become.

 These are all fiction books that, somehow, managed to predict the future. 

10. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? By Horace McCoy

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a relentlessly bleak book that was published in 1935. It’s about a young man named Robert who moves to Los Angeles to get into the film industry. When Robert tries to get work as an extra on a movie, he meets Gloria, a young woman who wants to be an actress. After failing to get jobs, they decide to join a dance marathon. The problem is that these marathons are death marches that can go on for weeks. The only breaks that the contestants get are 10 minute time-outs after an hour and fifty minutes of dancing. The couple that lasts the longest gets $1,000, and all the contestants are fed.

Throughout the contest, new gimmicks are added to liven up the marathon. Like at the end of the night, there’s a speed walk and the couple that comes in last is eliminated. Another twist that is added to the marathon is two contestants get married, and are saved from elimination. Other times, celebrities show up at the marathon for cameos.

Published in the mid-1930s, They Shoot Horses was written as a metaphor of the plight of people during the Great Depression. However, today it can be seen as a frightfully accurate precursor to reality TV shows.

In reality shows, people voluntarily do things that are physically and mentally grueling and/or humiliating, all for money and their 15 minutes of fame. Reality shows are also known for using gimmicks to make the show more exciting. Finally, celebrities of varying degrees of fame are known to pop up on all types of reality shows, from Big Brother toMasterChef.

The question is, is a grueling dance marathon any more dehumanizing than making someone eat something likehorse rectum or blended rats, like some contestants on Fear Factor had to do?

9. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest is a long and unwieldy book; the story is nearly a thousand pages and there are over 100 pages of footnotes. It’s believed that the book takes place around 2009, in an alternate timeline where the years aren’t numbered. Instead, they are sponsored by companies. For example, there is the Year of the Whopper and the Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment.

Due to the scope of the book, the plot is impossible to summarize in a few sentences, but it’s mostly set at a tennis academy and a halfway house for addicts. Both are in Boston, which is part of the Organization of North American Nations, or O.N.A.N. In this reality, the United States forced Canada and Mexico to join America as one big super state.

There are several groups of characters in the book and some of those people are looking for a lost film called “Entertainment.” The film is supposedly so entertaining that if someone starts to watch it, they can’t stop. They will do nothing else but watch the film. This includes stopping eating and drinking, and eventually, they will die while watching it.

In many ways, Wallace’s novel predicted contemporary life fairly accurately. Most notably, he predicted the way people would consume media and their obsession with entertainment. In the book, people watch teleputers, which are combinations of televisions, phones, and computers. People can get movies and TV shows off the InterLace to watch whenever they want, and then they listen to their teleputers with white ear plugs.

Of course, all of those inventions are now commonplace, albeit not exactly the way that Wallace envisioned it. Teleputers sound a lot like smart phones, Wallace just didn’t predict that they would be mobile and fit in the palm of your hand, while the InterLace is a lot like Netflix. However, Wallace thought that a system like the Interlace would be the death of TV advertising. Finally, the earplugs are, of course, Apple’s earbuds.

Wallace also wrote about video phones, which had been predicted by many other writers before him, but Wallace had an interesting insight. In Infinite Jest, videophones were just a fad because people don’t like seeing themselves on the screen. In real life, there are many reasons people don’t use video chat as frequently as texting. One reason is that people don’t like seeing pictures of themselves.

Finally, Wallace predicted the rise of Donald Trump. In his book, the President is the loudest and brashest right wing sensationalist of the mid-1990s – Rush Limbaugh

8. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood’s End, by famed sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke, is about an invasion of Earth by a group of aliens called the Overlords. The Overlords aren’t violent, but they hide themselves from human eyes. Through a spokesperson at the United Nations, they say that they will reveal themselves to humankind in 50 years. 

During those 50 years, the Overlords improve life on Earth in many ways – ignorance, poverty, hunger, and disease are all things of the past. Of course, the Overlords also help advance human technology. One of those technologies was a type of virtual reality that is like a movie, but it is so realistic that you can’t tell the difference between the movie and real life. “The program,” as Clarke called it, would appeal to all the senses and would allow the person to be someone completely different from themselves, or even a plant. Why someone would want to be a plant is beyond us, but that isn’t the only head scratching prediction Clarke made.

He also predicted that in the early 2000s, people might watch TV for three hours a day. The only way someone would be able to watch all the programming would be to never sleep, as opposed to it being impossible.

So while Clarke didn’t foresee cable TV or YouTube, he did correctly predict video games and virtual reality. This is pretty impressive considering that when the book was published in 1953, televisions in homes were just becoming common.

7. The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth

In Phillip Roth’s 2004 book, The Plot Against America, a well-known celebrity gets into politics and starts to spew conspiracy theories about minorities. Finding his niche, the celebrity, with no political experience, panders to racists and anti-Semites. Surprisingly, he wins the nomination of the Republican Party and then goes on to win the presidency. As president, he aligns himself with a notorious and brutal world leader and this creates global tension and conflict. He also begins to persecute the minorities that he villainized in his campaign.

The Plot Against America takes place in an alternate timeline and it starts in 1940. The celebrity who is running for president is Charles Lindbergh, who uses a platform rife with anti-Semitism to become president. After he’s elected, the world leader that Lindbergh associates himself with is Adolf Hitler.

Of course, the parallels in Roth’s book to real life should be obvious to anyone who wasn’t living under a rock in 2016. But if you were in a coma or something, let us fill you in. Celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump ran for the Republican ticket with no political experience. His platform included racist conspiracy theories and he spoutedoffensive rhetoric about minorities. He found popularity among white nationalists and people who were anti-immigration and then shamelessly pandered to them. Amazingly, he not only won the Republican nomination, but he went on to win the presidency.

So far, as president, Trump has alienated several of America’s allies, but talks glowingly about Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government has a horrendous record of human rights violations, which includes state-sponsored human trafficking.

The final similarity between President Trump and President Lindbergh is that after Trump became President, he started to persecute those he villainized in his campaign,specifically Muslims and undocumented immigrants.

6. Neuromancer by William Gibson

William Gibson’s 1984 novel, Neuromancer, not only gave birth to the cyberpunk genre, but it also predicted cyberspace and the internet.

The book follows Case, a former computer hacker and drug addict. Before the book starts, Case was fired from his job and his central nervous system was poisoned, so he couldn’t “jack in” to cyberspace, which is called “the matrix.” Millions of people can jack into the matrix, which is a 3D virtual world that appeals to all the senses. One day, Case meets a mysterious employer who says he will help Case get back into the matrix, but in exchange, Case has to complete an incredibly difficult hack.

In 1984, there was an internet, but only a handful of universities used it. Gibson foresaw that it would eventually connect millions of computers. Of course, the internet isn’t as immersive as the matrix Gibson predicted (yet) but he did predict the rise of technological addiction and people’s need to be online.

5. Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut’s debut novel, Player Piano, was published in 1952, and it takes place in the near future, 10 years after the Third World War. Since people were needed to fight the war, factories were designed to be more autonomous. Also, the stock market is controlled by a computer that tells the factories how many products the world needs. Unfortunately, this automation leads to massive unemployment. Only managers and engineers, who have doctorates, are employed and everyone else can either join the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps, where they do meaningless work like fill potholes, or they can join the army. However, being in the army has kind of lost its meaning as well, because there is nothing to fight for. Essentially, Player Piano is about how automation could make life purposeless for many people.

Of course, we are a long way from the world of Player Piano, but Vonnegut did correctly predict the rise of automation in society, and that it would cause people to lose their jobs. Many people have blamed these job losses on China, or immigrants, but that isn’t exactly the case. Since 2000, America has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs, but American manufacturing output has increased during that time; meaning the jobs are being lost to computers and robots, not to other countries or people.

We’re seeing automation take over jobs more and more every day. Just a few examples include with self-checkout lanes at the grocery store or McDonald’s automated menus. In the future, more jobs are expected to be lost to automation. Drones are already being tested for deliveries by companies like Amazon. Notably, by 2020, self-driving cars are expected to be the norm and this will eliminate all driving jobs. It is expected to get so bad that, over the next 20 years in a country like Canada, four out of 10 jobs will be lost to automation.

So what do you want to do? Join the army or the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps?

4. Earth by David Brin

David Brin is best known for writing the book The Postman, which was made into one of Kevin Costner’s worst movies (and that is saying something). In 1989, Brin published the novel Earth, which takes place in the year 2038. While the novel does have a plot, the book is more or less Brin’s predictions about the future. If you’re curious what the plot is, it’s that an artificial black hole has fallen into the Earth’s core. Scientists have a year to fix it, or the Earth may be destroyed.

The book has a large cast of characters and through these characters, Brin explores what life might be like in the future. Currently, there is a website that keeps track of his predictions, and there are 14 predictions confirmed to have come true and another eight that are likely.

Some of the predictions that Brin did get right are global warming, rising sea levels, and the breaking of the levees on the Mississippi River. Another natural disaster that is postulated in the book that came true was the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.

In 1990, people knew about the internet, but Brin accurately predicted the World Wide Web that was invented by Tim Berners-Lee a year after the book was published. On the “net,” as Brin calls it, there are pages full of hyperlinks. Brin also thought that the net would be used by major news outlets and citizen reporters, along with everyday people who wanted to express themselves. Finally, he also foresaw spam and Trojan horse viruses.

At the time of this list, Brin still has about 21 years to be proven right on the rest of his predictions. So far, only one prediction from his book has been disproven. In Earth, the characters haven’t discovered any Earth-like planets and they didn’t think they would be found any time soon. In reality, we have found several Earth-like planets that are in habitable zones around their star. The first was Kepler-186f; its discovery was announced by NASA in 2014.

3. The World Set Free by H.G. Wells

In The World Set Free, H.G. Wells predicted atomic bombs, even going as far to use the term “atomic bomb” in his book. His bombs are uranium-based and they are about the size of an orange. The explosion is caused by the splitting of atoms and after the explosion, there is corrosive radiation left over. What is so impressive about this is that Wells wrote the book in 1913, 32 years before the first nuclear bomb was tested.

The World Set Free also has an interesting role in the technology it predicted – it helpedinspire its invention.

In 1932, English scientists had successfully split an atom through artificial means and the experiment didn’t show any evidence that splitting an atom would cause a huge release of energy. Later that year, Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard read The World Set Free and thought that Wells was correct. Splitting an atom would probably release a lot of energy; the question was how to split the atom. A year later, he had a eureka moment. Szilard said, “It suddenly occurred to me that if we could find an element which is split by neutrons and which would emit two neutrons when it absorbed one neutron, such an element, if assembled in sufficiently large mass, could sustain a nuclear chain reaction.”

Szilard patented the idea in 1933, but he was disturbed by The World Set Free. He didn’t want the patent to become public because it might fall into the wrong hands. Something else that worried him was the rise of Nazism. So in 1939, he drafted the letter that was sent by Albert Einstein to Franklin Roosevelt, saying that Germany was stockpiling uranium. This letter, in turn, gave birth to the Manhattan Project. Szilard and some British scientists worked with the Americans, and this eventually led to the first nuclear bombs. Two of those bombs were dropped on Japan in August 1945 at the tail end of World War II.

Wells died in 1946, after having seen the weapon that he warned against used on civilians in a war.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Yeah, you knew this one was coming.

Published in 1935, Brave New World takes place in the year 632 A.F., which is actually 2540 A.D. (A.F. stands for After Ford, as in the industrialist Henry Ford). In the future, babies are born in labs, meaning the family unit is dead. When they are children, they are told in whispers while they sleep to buy things and to love consumer products. When they are older, the state demands that they be sexually promiscuous, and women wear their birth control on their belts. No one has any real worries about life because mood enhancing drugs are widely available and its usage is encouraged.

Of course, contemporary society isn’t quite to the point of Brave New World, but in all fairness to its author, Aldous Huxley, we still have over 520 years to go. However, he did accurately depict several aspects of contemporary culture, including our consumerist-heavy society. He also predicted antidepressants and their prevalence in modern society.

What’s interesting about Brave New World‘s relationship to contemporary society, is that in 1985, writer and media critic Neil Postman published the non-fiction book Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the book, Postman accurately predicts the rise of a candidate like Donald Trump and the prevalence of fake news in society. In the introduction of the book, Postman explains that he got the idea in 1984, when he was participating in a panel on parallels between George Orwell’s 1984 and real life in 1984.

What Postman realized is that modern life is becoming more like Brave New World than1984. Postman wrote:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that therewould be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.”

Essentially, what Postman says Huxley was warning us against is the dangers of beingoppressed by our own amusement; meaning we use endless streams of entertainment to distract ourselves and fail to engage with real life.

1. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Stand on Zanzibar is probably the least well known book on the list, but it is the most accurate prediction of what life would be like in the future. 

The book, which was written in 1968, follows a large cast of characters, but many chapters are backstory and information about the world of 2010. According to the website The Millions, there are at least 17 amazingly accurate predictions that Brunner makes about 2010 in Stand on Zanzibar.

In the book, a major problem in society is that individuals are committing random acts of violence, often at schools. Terrorists also threaten American interests and attack American buildings. Between 1960 and 2010, Brunner predicted that prices would increase six fold because of inflation; it actually increased sevenfold. America’s biggest rival is China, and not the Soviet Union. It’s also a different dynamic because instead of warfare or a weapons race, the competition is seen in economics, trade, and technology. 

As for the rest of the world, the countries of Europe have formed into one union. Britain is part of it, but they tend to side with the United States, while the other European countries are critical of American actions. Africa is behind the rest of the world, while Israel’s existence is still a source of tension in the Middle East.

When it comes to the lives of everyday people, marriage still happens but young people prefer to have short-term relationships instead of committing to someone long-term. Society is also much more liberal. Homosexuality and bisexuality is accepted. Black people are in a better position in society, but racial tension is still prevalent.

When it comes to technology, Brin predicted that cars would run on electric fuel cells. Honda and General Motors are the two biggest manufacturers. And even though General Motors is a Detroit based company, Detroit is a rundown ghost town, but they have a unique techno music scene, which really did emerge in the 1990s.

TV channels are played all over the world thanks to satellites and the TV system allows people to watch shows on their own schedule. Inflight entertainment on planes is in the back of the seats and they feature videos and news. Also, in the book the characters can phone each other on video screens, but instead of a picture of themselves, they use avatars, which can look like the caller or someone completely different. There are also laser printers, which print documents.

Pharmaceuticals are used to help sexual performance, and they are advertised. Due to a societal and political backlash, tobacco has been marginalized and marijuana has become decriminalized. Finally, the President of the United States is President Obomi, which is an amazing fluke or actual evidence that Brunner somehow saw or experienced 2010.

In all, Stand on Zanzibar is a pretty remarkable vision of the future. Unfortunately, the author, John Brunner, did not get to see many of his predictions come true – he died in 1995 at the age of 60.


The Future

– As Read in Fiction

Facebook Turns 13 – WIF Facts and Figures

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Facts About

Facebook

Facebook was launched on February 4, 2004 as TheFacebook.com by Mark Zuckerberg, who was studying psychology at Harvard at the time. 24 hours later,1,200 students at Harvard had registered and then within a month, over half of the undergraduate students were signed up.

 From there, Facebook expanded to other universities throughout the United States and in August 2005, they became Facebook.com, after purchasing the domain for $200,000.

In September 2005, high school students in the United States could sign up, and then it moved overseas to universities in the United Kingdom in October. After originally only being available to people with a “.edu” email account, Facebook finally started to allow anyone with any email address to sign up in September 2006. Since then, it’s grown to be an indelible part of world culture, to the point where the point where rumors persist that Zuckerberg may eventually run for president. Yes, of the United States.

Of course, things didn’t exactly go smoothly for Zuckerberg and Facebook, but there is a whole movie dedicated to their problems. These are 10 facts about Facebook that you won’t find in The Social Network.

10. Crazy Language Settings

If someone leaves their Facebook open and you want to prank them, don’t pose as them and post something stupid on their wall, because that could lead to some unintended problems. Instead, we recommend changing their language settings.

For people who speak English, there are two fun options that allows the person to use Facebook as normal, but things will seem a bit… off.

The first is the Pirate setting, which it changes things around to be more of a pirate theme. Duh. For example, your wall is called the Captain’s Log, the post box asks “What’s troublin’ ye?” and the smiley emoji says “Yo ho ho,” while the shocked face is “Shiver Me Timbers.”

However, if that prank is a bit too lighthearted and you really want to mess with someone, there is another language setting that turns all the text upside down. We tried it, and it can make you dizzy.

To change the languages, go to Settings, Language, and then “What language do you want to use Facebook in?” And you’re all set.

9. The Most Popular People on Facebook

The most popular person on Facebook is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the star player of Real Madrid. But since he’s so popular, we figure you already knew that.

Ronaldo also became the first athlete to break 100 million likes, and he is currently at 119.57 million likes. In second place is Colombian pop singer Shakira, who has 104.49 likes, then in third it’s the bald headed star of The Fast and the Furious series. Oh wait, you say that nearly all the male stars of The Fast and the Furious are bald? Well, it’s Vin Diesel. He has 101.22 million likes.

8. Someone Will Always Have More Friends Than You

Do you ever get the feeling that your Facebook friends have more friends than you? Well, according to statistics, nearly everybody has a friend who has more friends than themselves.

The reason everyone has a friend who has more friends is because of a strange thing that happens in statistics called the Friendship Paradox. How it works: let’s say you have a small amount of Facebook friends. You’re bound to have at least one friend who is popular, because people with lots of friends are more likely to be your friend. Secondly, popular people are misrepresented when it comes to averages. By being popular, they spread themselves out when it comes to averages, and this effects probability.

While this concept might be a little hard to wrap your head around, you can check it yourself by seeing if any of your Facebook friends have more friends than you. Except you, Larry. We both know it’d be a waste of your time to check, because we already know the answer, don’t we.

7. The Yellow Facebook

One thing that made Facebook different from MySpace and other social media sites at the time was its uniformity. Everyone’s Facebook page layout was similar, and you couldn’t change the coding on it to add media, like music or pictures, which you could on MySpace. That uniformity is still prevalent today and everyone has very similar looking Facebook layouts. Well, nearly everyone.

The employees of Facebook have a more advanced version of the application that has a yellow icon instead of Facebook’s famous blue color. Mark Zuckerberg gave people a glimpse at the employee version in 2016, when he announced that live video streaming was heading to Facebook. In the video, Zuckerberg shows some features that have yet to be added, like being able to post slideshows and music from their music service. However, Zuckerberg said that some of the features on the yellow Facebook may never be made public.

Besides that video, not a whole lot is known about the yellow Facebook, but it is thought that it’s used by the upper echelon of Facebook to test new features.

6. Facebook Friends

According to a study from Oxford University, the average amount of friends a Facebook user has is 155. The same study, which looked at a group of 3,300 students, also found that they only had four real friends.

Why people have so many Facebook friends, but very few real, close friends, is explained by Dr. Robin Dunbar, who authored the study. He said:

“Social media certainly helps to slow down the natural rate of decay in relationship quality that would set in once we cannot readily meet friends face-to-face but no amount of social media will prevent a friend eventually becoming ‘just another acquaintance’ if you don’t meet face-to-face from time to time.”

These findings are consistent with other studies on close friendships, like an American study from 2011 that found that people, on average, only have two close friends. Another study from Dunbar found that, on average, people know up to 150 people, but they are only intimate with 15, and only five of those 15 are trustworthy.

5. It Can Wreak Havoc on Your Romantic Relationship

Saying that things that happen on Facebook can wreak havoc on your real life shouldn’t be a surprise. Perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself, or you may have witnessed it happen to one of your friends on your news feed. If you haven’t, humor websites have massive collections of them.

Besides anecdotal evidence, there are studies that show that Facebook can add more stress to a romantic relationship. One study that was conducted on 2,000 married people in Britain found that one-in-seven had thought about divorcebecause of something that happened on Facebook. In another British study, a quarter of the people surveyed said Facebook led to a fight once a week with their romantic partner, and 17 percent said a fight happened every day because of Facebook.

Meanwhile, between 2005 and 2010, divorce courts in the United States saw a dramatic increase in Facebook being used as evidence. Finally, a study from the Loyola University Health System found that 20 percent of all cases cited problems stemming from Facebook as part of the reason for divorce.

4. MySpace Had Two Chances to Buy Facebook

In the mid 2000s, the monster of social media was MySpace. Facebook was started essentially as an imitator; it was just better organized and more uniform, and at the time, it was more exclusive because you needed to have a university email address to get an account. These two aspects proved to be popular and Facebook started to gain a lot of traction. As they started to amass users, MySpace had the opportunity to buy Facebook… twice.

In the spring of 2005, MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe visited Zuckerberg and company. At the meeting, Zuckerberg offered to sell him Facebook for $75 million and DeWolfe turned him down. They met again later in 2005, and this time Zuckerberg wanted 10 times his original offer, $750 million. DeWolfe turned Zuckerberg down again.

Just two years later, Microsoft purchased 1.6% of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a $15 billion valuation. By 2009, Facebook was getting twice as many visitors as MySpace. Today, well, Facebook is the thing that everyone uses and MySpace is something you have to Google to see if it’s still online (it is).

At the time of this posting, Facebook market capitalization is over $400 billion and some people think it could grow to be worth a trillion dollars in the next few years.

3. What Happens to Your Facebook When You Die?

Before 2015, when someone died, their family could contact Facebook with proof, like a death certificate, and request that the deceased’s Facebook profile be memorialized.

Memorializing the profile removed the deceased from public searches and notifications, like for their birthdays. Their memorialized profile could also only be viewed by people who were Facebook friends with the deceased before it was memorialized. Nothing else could be done with the account and some people found this upsetting. A notable example was Hollie Gazzard, who lived in Gloucester, United Kingdom. She was stabbed to death by her boyfriend Asher Maslin in February 2014. Her family had her Facebook memorialized and this included memorializing pictures of Gazzard and her murderer. Obviously, the family was upset by this and repeatedly asked Facebook to remove the pictures. For months, Facebook refused to take the pictures down and finally only removed them because of copyright infringements.

This type of dilemma prompted Facebook to allow users to pick a “legacy contact.” The legacy contact is able to pin a notice to your wall with information like funeral services. It also allows the contact to respond to new friend requests, change your cover and profile photos, and archive your Facebook posts and photos. The one thing that the legacy contact will not be able to do is read your private messages. So don’t worry about your loved ones finding Facebook messages expressing your profound love for Nickelback after you pass away.

To add a legacy contact, go to your security settings and it should be there. When you set the legacy contact, it will send a message, which you can edit, to the friend with information about the policy.

2. Every Minute Facebook Goes Down Costs Them $52,583

One of Facebook’s best qualities is that it is reliable. When was the last time you remember Facebook not being available when you tried logging on? It’s so rare that when Facebook went down in 2014, people called 9-1-1.

When it did go down in 2014, The Atlantic figured out how much money Facebook lost per minute by looking at their profits. They concluded that every minute the site was down, it cost them $24,420. This is over $1.4 million an hour and over $35.1 million a day.

But that was three years ago. Since then, Facebook’s revenues have gone up and in 2016, they made $27.638 billion. If the crash were to happen in early 2017, it would cost them $52,583 a minute, which is $3.1 million an hour and $75 million a day.

1. Everyone is Connected by 3.57 People

The theory of six degrees of separation was put forth in 1929 by Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, in his 1929 short story “Chains.” In the story, the characters came up with a game, where:

“We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth – anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.”

There have been several attempts to prove the theory over the years, including one by famed psychologist Stanley Milgram, and all the tests have resulted in varying degrees of success. The jury is still out on whether or not we’re connected to Kevin Bacon, as well.

In 2016, on its 12th anniversary, Facebook released some data that shows that everyone on Facebook is separated by 3.57 degrees. This, however, does not pertain to the real world, and it is just the world of Facebook. That being said, even if someone doesn’t use Facebook, they just have to know a Facebook user to be connected with the rest of the world. And really, there are good odds nearly everyone on the planet knows someone who uses Facebook. As of April 2017, Facebook has 1.86 billion monthly active users; that is almost a quarter of the entire population of the world.


Facebook Turns 13

– WIF Facts and Figures

Double Takes – WIF Photography

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Photographs

That’ll Make

You Look Twice

You know the famous idiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” For the most part, it’s true. But those thousand words we make up for ourselves can be completely off if we don’t have the right backstory or any context in which that photo was taken. So, with that in mind, we’re going to show you some photos here that are pieces of history in their own right, and we’ll also give you the circumstances in which they were taken. The rest you’ll have to fill in for yourselves… but only within a thousand words, right?

 10. Arnold Schwarzenegger Walking Down a Munich Street – 1967

This particular photo was taken back in 1967 in downtown Munich, Germany. Nothing out of the ordinary in this particular description so far, but as we can all see here, Arnold was wearing only a Speedo, and nothing else. And by the look of those people in the background and the ladies wearing scarves around him, this wasn’t a common sight in Munich back 1967. Heck, it probably isn’t one today, either. He was 20 years old when this photo was taken, and given his physique, nobody was really complaining even back then.

By this time, he already won several bodybuilding contests and titles, including the Mr. Universe. He was the youngest participant ever to do so. During his time in Munich in 1967, he was training six hours per day, attending business school, and promoting his own gym he acquired that same year. In fact, this was exactly what he was doing here in this photo – promoting his gym and the benefits of bodybuilding.

9. Marilyn Monroe’s White Dress – 1954

This photo will definitely make you look twice, regardless of whether you know the whole story behind it or not. But even if that’s the case, let’s, nevertheless, talk a bit about it. This iconic moment in cinematic history was captured back in 1954, during the filming of the Seven Year Itch, a movie that came out one year later. The scene was filmed and photographed at 1:00 a.m. in New York City at the corner of Lexington Ave and 52nd Street and took 14 takes and about three hours to finish. But because of the 100 photographers and roughly 4,000 onlookers who were, let’s say, reacting every time her dress was lifted by the soft, upward breeze, they had to re-shoot it in California. But to be fair, she prepared herself accordingly by wearing two pairs of white underwear.

Nevertheless, this scene almost certainly cost Monroe her marriage to baseball star Joe DiMaggio, who viewed it as an “exhibitionist” scene. Two weeks later, and following a fight at their hotel room after the filming, Marilyn filed for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty. The late Debbie Reynolds, a fellow actress, singer, and businesswoman (not to mention Carrie Fisher’s mother), bought the dress for $200back in 1971. In 2011, she sold it for a whopping $4.6 million.

8. The Guatemala City Sinkhole – 2010

The sudden appearance of this gaping hole in the middle of a street in Guatemala City is still largely a mystery. Its almost perfect cylindrical shape does make it seem to be man-made, and done intentionally no less, but it isn’t, even though human causes may have contributed here. Sam Bonis, a geologist at Dartmouth College who is living in Guatemala City, does have a theory about what happened. The 60 feet (18 meters) wide and 300 feet (100 meters) deep hole was caused, it seems, by leaking pipes. Yes, this is true. This is what happens if you leave the water running, apparently. Bonis believes that the city’s poor infrastructure and leaking pipelines have eroded the soil underneath over an extended period of time and in 2010, with the arrival of the severe tropical storm Agatha, the ground finally gave in and collapsed, forming that huge chasm.

But before you start calling a plumber to come and investigate your pipes, you should also know that the ground’s composition also had something to do with what happened here. As it turns out, Guatemala City is located in a somewhat volcanic region and the soil underneath is made out of pumice – a very porous and light volcanic material. Normally, over long periods of time, this pumice is turned into hard stone. But this time, however, the city was built before this was allowed to happen and the soil beneath is quite brittle. Combined with seeping water, over time one such sinkhole can happen. What’s funny about this is that this exact phenomenon doesn’t really have a name of its own. Since it’s partly man-made, Bonis says it should actually be called a piping feature and not a sinkhole, per se. This is because a sinkhole is entirely natural, and this one is not.

7. China’s Rainbow Mountains

The Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park is China’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon. And even though it isn’t as huge, it definitely has its charm – as can be seen in this photo. It’s a geologic marvel, to say the least, and a jewel given to us by Mother Nature. The layer upon layer of color tells the history of Planet Earth in the most amazing way possible. The story behind this colorful mountain range goes back for many millions of years. Over time, layer upon layer of stone and minerals were deposited, but then, some 50 million years ago, India slammed into Asia. Pushing ever further at a speed of 27 feet per century, it was able to form the mighty Himalayas, as well as these mountains. Each differently-colored layer speaks to another period in Earth’s history.

Interestingly enough, these rainbow mountains weren’t always as popular as they are now. They were first mapped back in the 1930s, and only after the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site did more people began to learn about its existence. There are some other somewhat similar places in other parts of the world, like the United States or Peru. But none of those are so striking as these rainbow mountains in China.

6. Picture, or Painting? – 2011

It’s not so easy to tell whether this is a photograph or a painting, right? Now, it does resemble a somewhat alien and surreal painting, with the trees looking almost like silhouettes and the color contrasts faintly resembling something by Edvard Munch. But no, it’s a real picture taken by photographer Frans Lanting while on an assignment by National Geographic to Namibia. The photo was taken in the early morning, just as the sun was rising over the horizon and flooding the orange sand dune in the backdrop. The barren ground in front is still under the partial cover of darkness, having a slightly bluish tint, reflecting the sky above.

Back in 2011, Lanting was in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, in a region called Sossusvlei. This is the largest conservation area in Africa and Namibia’s most sensational landmark. The sand dune in the background is known as Big Daddy, so yes, and it’s the largest in the area, measuring 1,066 feet (325 meters) in height. Though not the largest in the Namib Desert, it nevertheless dominates the surrounding area.

5. Two (or More) Heads are Better Than One – 1895

Severed human heads always have the capacity of drawing people’s attention, right? Here we have a huge collection of mokomokai, or tattooed Maori heads, and the man sitting with them is Major-General Horatio Gordon Robley. He was a British officer who was stationed in New Zealand during the New Zealand Wars, during the second half of the 19th century. As an artist and as an antiques collector, he became fascinated with Maori tattoos and these mokomokai. After the wars, the art and tradition of these tattooed heads disappeared among the Maori people of the islands, but before the arrival of the Europeans, these denoted a high social status. Now, even though predominantly males wore these tattoos on their entire faces,women of prominence had them on their lips and chin. These symbolized the wearer’s connection with the ancestors.

General Robley was also an illustrator and wrote a book called Maori Tattooing, published one year after this photo was taken. During his stay in New Zealand, he collected these mokomokai. Later, he decided to sell them back to New Zealand for £1,000, but he was refused. He later sold them to the Natural History Museum in New York for 250 pounds more. The heads themselves went through an entire process of boiling, steaming, smoking, drying, and embalming before they were preserved. They were usually kept by the families and brought out during sacred ceremonies. The mokomokai belonging to enemy chiefs were also taken as spoils of war. After a peace was brokered between two tribes, these heads were exchanged as a sign of good will.

4. The Kiss – 1979

We could’ve gone with the kiss scene from Gone with the Wind, the sailor and nurse in Times Square, or even the kiss between Britney Spears and Madonna, but no –we chose this one. It’s not every day you see two old ‘geezers’ kissing, let alone two Soviet-era leaders from the Cold War period. The man on the left is Leonid Brezhnev, the leader of the Soviet Union, while the man on the right is President Erich Honecker of East Germany. The photo was taken in 1979, during the 30th anniversary of the Soviet German Republic. Now, in its proper context, the kiss itself is not so out of the ordinary. Known as the socialist fraternal kiss this was a customary greeting between socialist leaders from the former soviet bloc. It stemmed from the old East European tradition of cheek kissing between family and friends, which itself can be associated with the East Orthodox Easter Kiss.

So, the kiss wasn’t so shocking in and of itself. What was shocking, however, was the enthusiasm shown between the two the moment they locked lips. The photo was taken by Regis Bossu and when it was published it quickly made it around the world. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall went down, former Soviet artist, Dmitri Vrubel, decided to paint it. The painting still exists in Berlin as part of the East Side Gallery. The caption running underneath it says: “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.”

3. The Eyes of Madness – 1916

Whoever says that war is cool or glorious obviously has no idea what they’re talking about. This photograph was taken back in 1916, during WWI, and this man’s look is the living embodiment of war and what it actually stands for. That is the look of one’s reality made nightmare. This British soldier was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or shell shock, as it was called back then. Massive artillery fire was introduced during this time – weapons so powerful and devastating that they denied any chance of courage, heroism, or skill in battle, bringing only constant pummeling and misery. This was no longer an adversary one could see or even face head on – it was perpetual death raining from the sky, and there was absolutely nothing one could do about it. As writer and lecturer Adam Hochschild describes it:“Simply put, after even the most obedient soldier had enough shells rain down on him, without any means of fighting back, he often lost all self-control.”

Shell shock presented itself with a wide variety of symptoms like crippling fatigue, confusion, uncontrollable tremors, constant nightmares, impaired vision and hearing, hysterical paralysis, as well as the inability to reason, among others. But for the better part of the war, this horrific mental disorder went unrecognized and countless shell shock sufferers were convicted of cowardice or desertion and then executed. Only after officially recognizing it as an actual disease did the British government pardon those who were put to death.

2. The Guardian Angels of NYC – 1980

The New York subway scene was not pretty during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Acts of vandalism, robberies, and even shootings became widespread, and taking the underground became a serious risk for daily commuters. This came at a time when the NYPD was completely overwhelmed and some citizens took it upon themselves to make their lives and the lives of their fellow New Yorkers a little bit safer. This is civic duty in action, and it’s never more beautiful or powerful than in periods of hardship. Led by Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angels, as they came to be known, were a group of young men who had to deal with the crime-related problems in their own neighborhoods, and who were now looking to make the city a safer place to live.

Over 500 members joined, all wearing their emblematic red berets, leather jackets, or white t-shirts with the Guardian Angels logo on them. Though their numbers weren’t nearly enough to successfully tackle the rampant crimes happening in New York at the time, they were, nevertheless, a comforting presence for any late night subway commuter. Bruce Davidson, the man who took this photo, describes his feelings and general atmosphere of taking the city’s subway in the early ’80s:

“As I went down the subway stairs, through the turnstile, and on to the darkened station platform, a sense of fear gripped me. I grew alert, and looked around to see who might be standing by, waiting to attack. The subway was dangerous at any time of the day or night … Passengers on the platform looked at me, with my expensive camera around my neck, in a way that made me feel like a tourist – or a deranged person.”

1. The Rockefeller Salute – 1976

This is Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, flipping off a group of protesters back in 1976. When this photo was taken, Rockefeller was on a campaign tour through upstate New York, alongside Senator Bob Dole, President Gerald Ford’s running mate for that election. So, after a group of SUNY students from Binghamton showed him the finger, he responded in kind. That’s Dole in the background there, smiling at the exchange. As you can imagine, this gesture of “political maturity” was not received kindly by the media and the country’s citizens, who then started referring to it as The Rockefeller Salute. When confronted about his outburst, Rockefeller refused to apologize by cleverly avoiding the point that his apology was actually meant for the general public, and not just the students themselves.

As governor of New York, Rockefeller was constantly attacked throughout his political career. His fellow Republicans saw him as too liberal, while the Democrats viewed him simply as a Republican. In fact, during this time, all liberal Republicans were called “Rockefeller Republicans.”


Double Takes

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– WIF Photography

Internet Crazes – At Your Own Risk

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10 Terrible (and Dangerous)

Internet Crazes

The internet is a force for both good and evil. On the one hand, it’s given us moreawesome top ten sites and videos of cats falling over than you can shake a proverbial stick at. On the other, it’s sparked endless crazes that run the whole gamut of awful from “really stupid” to “probably deadly.” Here we round up the top 10 worst internet fads of all-time, from dumbass dances, to stupid poses, to shoving condoms up your noses (yeah, really)…

10. Pokémon Go

Landmines and Accidents

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At time of writing, Pokémon Go is the biggest thing happening on the entire internet. It’s so big, in fact, that reptilian creatures living on Mars can see it with the naked eye. An‘augmented’ reality game that allows players to track Pokémon across locations in the real world, it has been responsible for players getting more exercise, for Americans learning the metric system…and for endless horrific accidents and acts of obnoxiousness.

First, the accidents. Because Pokémon Go requires players to stare at their phones as they walk around places they’ve never been to before, the game has led to many people wandering into situations they really shouldn’t be in. In America, for example, armed robbers have used the game’s Pokestop feature to lure people into darkened alleyways. If you’re talking about other places, it’s even worse. In Bosnia, players have been lured out into the middle of active minefields.

Then there’s the obnoxious side. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recently had to beg people not to come onto their premises to catch Pokemon. That’s right: some players are so dead inside that they will actually go looking for Pikachu inside a memorial to the Jewish victims of Nazi genocide. If that doesn’t prove we’re living in an idiocracy, we don’t know what will.

9. #YOLO – Car Crashes and Spoiled Rich Kids

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If a week is a long time in politics, in internet terms it’s probably closer to ice ages. The #YOLO craze only struck in 2012, but already it feels like it happened in another lifetime. An acronym for You Only Live Once, it was something people tweeted, usually with a selfie, just before doing something slightly odd or dangerous.

That’s not hyperbole. People really were doing some stupid stuff in the name of YOLO. A 21-year old wannabee rapper named Ervin McKinness tweeted a shot of himself drunk driving at 120 MPH with the caption #YOLO. In his case, he probably should’ve taken the acronym’s meaning to heart. His dumb stunt caused him to lose control of the car and die in a fiery crash that killed four other people. The moron.

Even when YOLO wasn’t dramatically shortening peoples’ only lifespans, it was still annoying. Nearly everyone who tweeted it was an annoying rich kid on the verge of doing some annoying rich kid thing, like bungee jumping, or sky diving, or (hopefully) sticking their stupid rich faces into a whirring fan.

8. Owling –

The Poor Man’s Planking

owling

Planking was a short-lived craze from the UK, which involved people taking pictures of themselves lying flat (like a plank of wood) in bizarre locations. Sure, it annoyed some people, but we didn’t really have a problem with it. It was what came next that made us slowly lose faith in the idea of a loving God. The creation of Owling.

Owling involved people squatting hunched-over on their feet, staring into the distance. Yes, like an owl. Gangs of smug twenty-somethings would get together and do it in groups, post the photos to the internet, and a new craze was born.

Or not, which is exactly why we hate it so much. Planking came out of people’s natural desire to do something silly and put it online. Owling came out of peoples’ natural desire to get mildly-famous for starting an internet trend. It was just a bunch of hipsters riding the coattails of a genuine, bottom-up craze. Pro tip: when you have to title your first video ‘the new planking!’ you don’t have the new planking. You have Owling. And nobody wants Owling.

7. The Duct Tape Challenge – Terrifying Head Injuries

duct tape

Man. In our day, tying someone up with duct tape and daring them to escape used to be called ‘kidnapping’. Now apparently it’s a ‘challenge’. Semantics aside, the duct tape challenge blew up in early 2016 on YouTube. To play, you just get your friends to wind as much duct tape around you as possible. Then you try to escape. Simple, right?

Sure. Unless things happen to go badly wrong, leaving you with horrific brain injuries.

14-year old Skylar Fish was the unlucky recipient of these injuries. Whilst doing the challenge, he slipped and fell. Since his arms were duct taped to his side, he couldn’t break his fall. The sharp corner of a window ledge did it for him.

Skylar’s eye socket was crushed, blinding him in one eye. The teenager also suffered a brain aneurysm and required over 40 metal staples to be shot into his skull to (essentially) keep his brain from falling out. We’d make a joke about how duct tape could hold head together as well, but that’d probably be crass.

6. Gallon Smashing – Industrial-grade Obnoxiousness and Arrests

Listen: we know that teenage boys are natural troublemakers. We didn’t spend our teenage years trying to build planet-destroying superweapons without picking stuff like that up. But Gallon Smashing took troublemaking to Everest-like heights of obnoxiousness. A short-lived fad in 2013, it basically involved going to your local store, grabbing a container of milk, and smashing it on the floor.

 That was it. Sometimes, you might throw it into other produce and try to smash that as well. Others, you might fall down into the smashed remnants of your dignity and beg passers-by to help you up (the ‘prank’ element). But, really, basically, you were just smashing stuff up and posting videos to the internet, like a drunken redneck at a NASCAR rally.

The craze quickly petered out when everyone realized The Man really isn’t cool with you smashing other peoples’ property up. A bunch of teenage boys got arrested and charged with misdemeanors, and the world gave a collective ‘meh.’

5. Cone-ing – The Prank that Isn’t a Prank

We’re going to have to go right back into the Dark Ages for this one. Cone-ing (or coning, whatevs) is an internet craze from the prehistoric era of 2011. We know, right? It’s also one of the dumbest ‘pranks’ in history. Not because its harmful. If anything, it’s pleasingly restrained. No, cone-ing was absurd because it was a prank that managed to not have any element of pranking to it whatsoever.

The idea was pretty simple. You’d order an ice cream from a drive-thru place. When you got to the window and the bored guy behind the counter handed it over, you’d grab the ice cream and not the cone. At which point… literally nothing would happen. Not one thing. You’d take the cone the incorrect way and drive off. The guy would shrug and go ‘huh, that was an odd way to hold an ice cream’ and go back to work. We can’t stress enough howliterally not a single other thing would happen.

That isn’t a prank. It isn’t even a joke. It isn’t even a vaguely-humorous thought. It’s holding an ice cream cone the incorrect way. And yet it got so popular that even Justin Bieber was doing it.

4. The Kylie Jenner Challenge – Unavoidable Grossness

kylie jenner

Imagine, for a second, that you are an imbecile. You see a picture of Kylie Jenner’s brand new, puffy lips (circa 2015) and decide it’d be fun to temporarily give yourself a look like that. So you get a glass, put it over your lips and create a vacuum by sucking all the air out. What do you think happens next?

If you answered ‘unbridled horror,’ congratulations, you’re cleverer than all the lunatics who climbed onboard this out-of-control bandwagon.

Artificially puffing up your lips using dubious methods turns out to be very bad for your lips and looks in general. The luckiest got away with having horrendous big, swollen, painful lips that made them look like monsters for a short period of time. The unluckiest had blood vessels explode, their lips tear open, blood spray out, and an avoidable trip to the plastic surgeon. Ironically, opting to go straight for surgery would’ve allowed them to get Kylie Jenner-lips with half the pain, half the cost, and only 90 percent of the self-loathing involved.

3. The Harlem Shake – A Manufactured Viral Hit

In 2012, Gangnam Style became the biggest thing in the history of the internet. Psy’s silly dance caught on to such a degree that the official video racked up 2.6 billion views on YouTube. You could literally make a video, upload it to YouTube, and force every single person in China to watch it twice at gunpoint and still have fewer views than Gangnam Style.

Fast forward a year, and the world was looking for the ‘next Gangnam Style‘. Only there was nothing out there. So a bunch of PR guys got together and decided to cynically manufacture a viral hit that would make them rich. Like fools, everyone fell for it. The name of that faux-viral hit? The Harlem Shake.

In 2013, Quartz magazine published a damning analysis of how corporations manufactured the viral spread of the Harlem Shake to make money. It’s a little complicated, but it basically involves a Warner Bros subsidiary, Maker Studios, ‘borrowing’ somebody’s idea and using their PR machine to get everyone on Earth watching it. Feeling cynical yet? If you could see the size of Maker Studio’s bank balance immediately after everyone started doing the Harlem Shake you would be.

2. The Condom Challenge(s) – Repeated Risk of Suffocation

There are two ‘condom challenges’ that became internet sensations, incredibly. We say ‘incredibly’ because not only should the very words ‘condom challenge’ make all right-thinking people start running as fast as they can in the other direction, but also because both involved a serious risk of suffocation.

The first iteration was probably the worst. In the hazy, halcyon days of 2013, some teens decided to outdo all previous challenges by daring one another to snort a condom. You read that right. Against everything Mother Nature had ever intended for us to experience, those who did the challenge sniffed a condom up one nostril and pulled the long, horrible bit of rubbery grossness out of their mouths. That no-one suffocated is kinda amazing.

The second iteration was also crazy. At its most-basic, it involved filling a condom with water and then putting it over your head and filming the results as you nearly drowned inside a device designed to go on men’s wieners. Although rumors of a teen suffocating surfaced in December 2015, these were only rumors and it’s thought no one actually died from the challenge. Some people claimed this was evidence the game was safe, which is kinda like miraculously surviving a multiple car pile-up and deciding you’re therefore invincible to automobiles.

1. Twerking – Cultural Appropriation and Way Too Much Miley Cyrus

miley

Twerking is a move born in the dance halls of Jamaica and the cities of West Africa. It’s a highly-sexualized dance with a complex history and a whole load of cultural baggage. People have been arguing for decades whether it’s sexy, misogynistic, empowering, disgusting, or just plain fun. Then 2013 rolled around, and suddenly all anyone could discuss was Miley Cyrus’s backside and Robin Thicke’s stupid song.

Twerking became an internet-powered craze after Cyrus rubbed her rump against Thicke’s stump during a TV performance of Blurred Lines. Aside from giving every single person on Earth who saw it lasting nightmares that will never cease to haunt the darkest regions of their psyches, it instantly robbed twerking of any semblance of cool and made it the least hip thing you could possibly do (with the possible exception of using ‘hip’ in a sentence). A whole history of alternative culture was wiped out in a single second by Miley’s nightmarish thrusting.

Luckily, this was one of the few times everybody seemed to unanimously agree an Internet Thing was awful. The BBC even named it their most-annoying word of the year.


Internet Crazes

– At Your Own Risk

The Internet – There is a 1st for Everything

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Internet Firsts That

Changed Everything

The Internet has made the world a smaller place, with a far reaching influence that’s altered the way we view cats and laugh at kids whacked out on drugs after a trip to the dentist. But apart from giving us easier ways to cackle at dumb things, it’s also put more information at our fingertips than any invention in the history of mankind.

It’s had a profound effect on the lives of people around the world in many different ways, yet everything we’ve come to take for granted online came from humble beginnings. Who knows, the next big thing may have already happened in a garage or a basement somewhere and we’re just waiting for it to change the world.

10. First Picture

Les_Horribles_Cernettes_in_1992

The very first picture ever uploaded to the World Wide Web was a picture of the all-girl comedy group Les Horrible Cernettes. The group was made up of administrative assistants and partners of researchers at The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Silvano de Gennaro, the group’s manager, took the picture backstage at a music festival that was hosted annually by CERN. He Photoshopped it and saved it as a .gif file.

How this particular picture, instead of something artistic or science-based, came to be the first ever picture uploaded to the Web stemmed from the fact that de Gennaro worked at CERN near Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. When it came time to choose a picture to upload, Berners-Lee used the picture of the band because he wanted to show the heads at CERN that rather than just being a way for scientists to communicate, the Internet could also be fun. He uploaded the picture on July 18, 1992, forever immortalizing a badly photoshopped picture of a comedy band that sang jokes about science.

9. First Email

tomlinson

Email got its start in the early 1960s, when researchers would leave messages in a mailbox for their colleagues, who could only access the notes on the same terminal. Computer-to-computer email got its start in 1968, when Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) was hired by the United States Defense Department to work on ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. A BNN employee named Ray Tomlinson started working on an experimental file transfer protocol called CYPNET and noticed that it could be used in conjunction with SNDMSG, the program designed to leave electronic messages. In doing so, he discovered he could send a message from one computer to another.

Tomlinson realized that in order to do this, he needed to have an identifier that basically equated to a mailing address. That’s when he came up with one of the most innovative, yet simple ideas of the 20th century: he chose the “@” symbol to connect the user and network, simply because it made the most sense to him. It would include the user’s name and the host where it should be sent.

In July of 1971 Tomlinson sent the first email to the computer next to his, which read, “QWERTYIOP”. After figuring out how to send messages from computer to computer, the idea flourished into the staple of everyday life that we know now.

8. First YouTube Video

The world’s third most popular website got its start in early 2005 when it was created by PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. The popular story, which Karim now disputes, is that Hurley and Chen were at a dinner party and were struggling to show videos, and those difficulties planted the seed that grew into YouTube.

They first registered the domain on February 14, 2005, and worked on YouTube out of a garage for a few months. On April 23, 2005, at 8:27 p.m. they posted the first video called Me at the zoo. The 19-second video features Karim standing in front of elephants at the San Diego Zoo, talking about his interest in “really, really, really long trunks.”

Since its launch, YouTube has become the dominant video streaming site and is synonymous with online videos. Only Facebook and Google are more popular websites, with YouTube receiving three billion visitors every day.

7. First Domain Name

symbolics

Symbolics Inc. registered the first domain name, Symbolics.com, on March 15, 1985. Symbolics Inc. grew out of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence lab, and was the first company to make workstation computers. They were actually so far ahead of the game that “workstation computer” wasn’t even a term at that point. The company went bankrupt in the late 1980s, but the owner of the domain kept paying the dues on the website until August of 2009, when it was sold to XF.com Investments for an undisclosed price. The website is now a museum of sorts, where you can visit and learn random facts about the Internet.

6. First Website

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While Symbolics was the first domain registered, it wasn’t the first website. After all, the internet and the World Wide Web are actually two different things. In the simplest terms, the Internet is what you connect to and the Web is how you view it.

You may remember CERN from the Les Horrible Cernettes photo or maybe the Large Hadron Collider, but they also launched very first website on August 6, 1991. It was a simple page, similar to a Word document with black lettering on a white background with blue hyperlinks. It briefly described project W3, better known now as the World Wide Web.

On April 30, 2013 – the 20th anniversary of the announcement of the World Wide Web – CERN announced they would re-launch the website. They found a copy that dated back to 1992, with the hopes of digging even deeper into the archives for the earliest possible version.

5. First Live Music Stream

severetiredamage

A major difference between the advent of the World Wide Web and other mediums like the radio and television is that the Web didn’t rely on live feeds of sound or video. Instead, the Web was essentially an update of the printing press. At first it was just text, and as technology became more sophisticated the possibility for live video arose in 1993. So what music superstar of 1993 played the first online concert? Bjork? Counting Crows? Celine Dion?

Actually, it was a little-known band called Severe Tire Damage, who played live on the Internet for the first time on June 24, 1993. STD was a rock band made up of computer technologists from Digital Equipment Corp., Xerox, Apple, and Sun, giving them inside knowledge of a technology called Multicast Backbone (M-bone). M-bone utilized voice and video and was used by the Internet Engineering Task Force.

At the time, not many people saw the concert and they may not have received any recognition for their breakthrough, had it not been for The Rolling Stones. On November 22, 1994, the Stones were going to stream 20 minutes from their concert in Dallas utilizing M-bone, and the record label was promoting it as the first rock band in cyberspace. Already well versed in M-bone, STD jumped on the same stream and played before and after the Rolling Stones, a move that garnered them recognition as the first band to play live online.

4. First Item Sold on eBay

laserpointer

The “story” of eBay has become legendary, with its creation supposedly stemming from a programmer named Pierre Omidyar wanting to give his wifea platform to trade her Pez dispensers. Naturally, the legend is more interesting than the actual story.

In 1995, Omidyar was thinking that the web might make for a great marketplace, specifically utilizing an auction format for fair pricing on items. He launched the website AuctionWeb on September 3, 1995. The first item to sell was a broken laser pointer, which went for $14.83. Confused by someone paying for that much for a defective item, Omidyar discovered the buyer collected broken laser pointers.

Where Pez comes into the story is that, at the time Omidyar launched AuctionWeb, his future wife was big into Pez and traded a lot on AuctionWeb. Omidyar thought it was interesting that collectors were so passionate about ordinary items, obviously not realizing he was about to create a billion dollar empire on that very notion.

3. First Book Sold on Amazon

amazon

Amazon.com got its start in 1995 when founder Jeff Bezos left his position as a vice president of a Wall Street firm. He moved to Seattle and began working on his website, which he originally called Cadabra. Bezos eventually changed it to Amazon in part because Cadabra sounded too much like cadaver, but more importantly because it started with an A, meaning it would be high up on lists ordered alphabetically.

Amazon originally launched as an online book retailer, and the first book sold in July of 1995 was Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models Of The Fundamental Mechanisms Of Thought, by Douglas Hofstadter. A computer scientist named John Wainwright purchased the book, and to thank him for his business, Amazon named a building on their campus after him. Man, all they ever do for us is offer lousy recommendations on bad movies.

2. First Downloadable Music

IUMA

It’s hard to say definitively what the first song on the Internet was, since no one really knew what relationship the web would have with music in the early 1990s. However, it’s widely believed that the first people to put a song online were two guys named Jeff Patterson and Rob Lord. Sometime in early 1993, they uploaded some .MP2 audio files by a punk band that Lord played in called The Ugly Mugs to a file transfer protocol (FTP) portal.

The Ugly Mugs mostly played in Santa Cruz, but wanted to find a wider audience. Soon after getting their own music online, they started uploading other local bands, effectively creating the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA). Eventually, they had over 25,000 bands and artists, and over 680,000 songs.

The first Internet single released by a major label happened a little later in 1993, when Geffen Records released the single “Head First” by Aerosmith on the Internet in .WAV format.

1. First Banner Ad

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They may be the bane of your online existence, but banner ads are essential in keeping the Internet humming along, providing revenue streams for all of those free websites you scramble to delete from your browser history.

The origin of this basic staple of the Internet and e-commerce dates back to October 27, 1994. Joe McCambley, who ran a small digital advertising company, created the first banner ad for AT&T. The all-text ad – which said “Have you ever clicked your mouse here?” – appeared on Hotwired.com, the first digital magazine. When the user clicked on it, the link took them to a site where they could do a virtual tour of seven of the world’s top museums. The idea was to show that AT&T could take you anywhere on the Internet.

It’s hard to believe now, but people actually loved it. Amazingly, 44 percent of Hotwired’s visitors clicked the ad, and some even shared it with friends. Compare that to today, when only about 0.0004 percent of website visitors click on banner ads, and sending one to your friends is a good way to lose those friends. McCambley believes his ad was successful because it was part of a marketing strategy, it was fun, and it wasn’t made with bad intentions. Unlike those “discreet encounters” today’s banner ads keep urging you to explore.

The Internet

– There is a 1st for Everything

Improving Education in the United States

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WIF Grammar 101-001

10 Major Changes Our

Schools Should Make

There haven’t been many major changes to the structure of school systems in the past century. We’ve learned so much more about how people learn, yet schools have pretty much stayed the same. And that’s unfortunate, because a few changes could make school better for students, teachers and society as a whole.

10. Healthier Environment

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With obesity rates rising, we’ve all heard calls to make the school environment healthier. This can be done by making physical activity mandatory and serving healthier food, which has been shown to improve grades and teach students healthy habits.

While gym class may not teach anything academic, it keeps students active. Studies have found that physical work is important and helps students learn. Gym is just as important as math, science and other academic classes because schools should take a healthy body and healthy mind approach to education.

Getting students active is only half the battle — it’s also important for them to eat nutritious food. Most schools don’t serve healthy food, simply because unhealthy food is cheaper. So while money would have to be spent to upgrade school lunches, it would be a smart investment because there’s a correlationbetween healthy meals and improved grades. Also, with better nutrition students tend to be in a better mood, making classes run smoother.

9. More Life Skills Classes

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If a person graduates at age 18 with a high school diploma, they’re probably versed in history, math, science and literature. But does this mean they’re ready for all the trappings of adulthood? Most simply aren’t. Experience and training in life skills like budgeting, time management, nutrition and even some social skills can be sorely lacking. For example, how many students coming out of high school know exactly how credit and credit cards work? Not enough of them, as many young people get into trouble with their first credit card. In fact, credit card companies are aware of their ignorance and prey on them. If time was taken to teach students important life skills, it could be one of the most useful things they learn.

The counter-argument is that parents should be teaching their children these things. While that’s true, not all parents will or even can. If life lessons were taught in class, it would ensure that everyone learned the basics of surviving in the real world.

8. Tenure Reform

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There are wonderful teachers that touch the lives of countless students. There are also teachers who haunt your dreams well into adulthood. These horrible teachers keep their jobs for decades, tormenting class after class. If they acted that way in other jobs, chances are they would have been fired. But because they’re teachers, they get to keep their jobs.

Bad teachers can also affect taxpayers. In New York City, there were facilities for teachers accused of misconduct called reassignment centers. There were about 600 teachers in 13 centers around the city, and they were paid to sit in a room and do nothing. They would sit there for months, or even years. It was estimated that in 2012 it cost $22 million to pay teachers to sit and do nothing. Some of the teachers had been accused of sexual harassment, yet were still paid.

While the reassessment centers have been shut down, they show a fundamental problem with teachers’ unions. Getting rid of poor and sadistic teachers is an incredibly hard thing to do, which is awful because a bad teacher could change the direction of a student’s life in profound ways. Teachers’ unions are important, but there has to be an easier way to get rid of the bad apples.

7. No Homework Over the Weekend or Holidays

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This may sound like coddling students, but why do people who work deserve a break on weekends and holidays more than students do? The truth is that everyone needs a break. People are more productive when they have them. Also, weekends off would give students time to be involved in extracurricular activities without their work suffering because they’re forced to rush through it. Instead, it would be better to have dedicated time for work and then free time to unwind and recharge.

6. Mandatory Study Hall

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It’s understandable that teachers would want to maximize their teaching time and then have students do their work at home. And studies have found that a reasonable amount of homework is correlated with higher achievement in school. But while homework is important, research has found that giving students a mandatory study period can be incredibly effective, simply because it’s a dedicated time to ensure some work gets done. When homework is done at home, students have to find the motivation to do the work. They may rush through it, get distracted or simply won’t attempt it. Mandatory study hall in place of one class guarantees them time to do homework, which leads to better test results.

5. Stop Standardized Testing

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In theory, standardized testing makes sense. It’s a quantifiable way to see if a student knows the material. But there are just too many problems with it. Standardized tests tend to be biased against people of lower income, as well as African-Americans and Latinos. In fact, the gap is so big that some school boards have a target percentage for each race. In Virginia, 46% of black students had to pass standardized math tests, while 68% of white students and 82% of Asian students had to pass. No one is sure why the gap exists, as studies have been inconclusive. It’s also important to note that standardized testing has prejudiced roots. According to Columbia University Professor Nicholas Lemann, standardized testing was developed in the 1940s as a way to keep Jewish students out of Ivy League schools.

Another problem is that the tests are created by companies who have little knowledge about the school system they’re testing. The tests are rigid and don’t take many factors into consideration…standardized testing programs often aim to judge students against measures that have little or nothing to do with what the classroom teacher has taught or is expected to teach.

Standardized testing is also expensive, with millions of dollars paid to companies to create and mark the tests. It’s an incredible amount of money that could be spent on more effective tools, like healthier food. Yet schools continue to use this biased and expensive system to measure the worth of their students.

4. Merit Pay for Teachers

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A fundamental aspect of capitalism is paying a person a competitive rate for their performance. In some lines of work, bonuses are also paid out for reaching certain quotas. But teachers aren’t paid this way — a good teacher and a poor teacher who have worked the same number of years are usually paid the same. That’s unfair to taxpayers, good teachers and students. And that’s why some people, including President Obama, think that merit pay is a better method. Merit pay would mean that teachers are given a salary based on their performance, and then given bonuses for meeting certain quotas.

There are two main roadblocks to merit pay. The first is that people are concerned that teachers may just focus on getting the bonus and manipulate the situation by giving students the answers rather than do real teaching. Unionsalso continuously block the idea, because it goes against their fair pay rules. But despite the criticism, studies have shown that merit pay does help students get better grades.

3. Pay Students

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Student motivation is a serious problem. How do you explain to a 14 year old that they need to do well on their math test so they can get into college and then get a good job? The human mind simply doesn’t work that way — the time spanbetween the task and the reward is too vast. However, if students were paid bonuses for doing well, then there’s a more immediate and tangible reward for completing the task. Paying students, even just to attend class and do their homework, has been found to help students in troubled areas. In schools that have paid students, grades improved, attendance increased and the percentage of people graduating went up.

2. Later Start Time for High Schools

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In the United States, the average starting time for high schools is 7:59 am. Schools start that early to save money on bussing, as bus drivers tend to do two different routes. First they pick up and drop off middle and high school students, and then handle grade school children.

While earlier start times may save money, it isn’t ideal for teenagers. It comes down to biology. At about the age of 14, circadian rhythms shift and teenager start to stay up and wake up later. Their brains don’t even release melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep, until after 11:00 pm. Also, teenagers need about nine hours of sleep to function at their best. To wake them up earlier interrupts their natural sleep cycle and makes them less productive students. In a study of 9000 schools, researchers found that grades in all classes got better if the classes started after 8:30. They also found that there was a decrease in the amount of car accidents involving teenagers, because they were much more alert.

1. Year Round Schooling

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School schedules aren’t very productive. Students spend nine months of the year building their knowledge and skills, and are then released for three months. Then in September they’re either expected to suddenly recall everything from the previous year, or spend the first few weeks reviewing and relearning.

The reason we have summer breaks is that before the early 20th century, many cities had different school schedules. The schedule then standardized across the country to make it easier to do standardized testing and distribute textbooks. Prior to summer vacations, cities had their students go to class for about the same amount of time as contemporary students, but their breaks were spread throughout the year. Studies have routinely shown that having students attend school all year round would be more productive and effective. There would be less review, and students would have continuous practice. But the idea of summer vacation is so ingrained in our cultural consciousness that change is difficult.

Improving Education in the United States

2014 – WIF Year in Review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys

prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Can you believe 144 different countries?

Click here to see the complete report.

“Thank you each & every one!”

2014 – WIF Year in Review