The Filter Bubble

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This weekend, I met Gabriel Weinberg, an MIT grad living in the Philadelphia suburbs who created a search engine called DuckDuckGo. It’s a simple website that weeds out spam search results and promises not to save your search requests like Google does. Time magazine’s Techland blog featured the site just two weeks ago. What makes the search engine especially intriguing now is that its promoted features dovetail perfectly with a new book warning about the perils of sites like Google filtering the information you receive based on data it has collected from you. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, by Eli Pariser, former executive director of MoveOn.org, went on sale in May and is stirring a growing debate about how dominant Internet companies such as Google and Facebook are limiting your exposure to a diversity of ideas for the sake of selling ads that target you. More

Bitcoin: Future of Money, or Scam?

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I haven’t posted for a while because I have been researching Bitcoin, an anonymous form of online “crypto-currency” that has been popping up in the news. Some are calling it the future of money. The most popular answer from a software developer posting on the Q&A site Quora calls it “a scam.” I still don’t fully grasp the mechanics of how Bitcoin works, but the news is piling up. What has gotten the most attention is the use of Bitcoins to pay for drugs through a peer-to-peer network called Silk Road. It was first widely reported on June 1 on Gawker. That attracted the attention of two U.S. senators who are now calling for a federal investigation of Silk Road. The association of Bitcoin with Silk Road is triggering official scrutiny of Bitcoin. Obviously, governments do not like unofficial currency floating around. But it is not clear whether authorities can do anything to end its use. Bitcoin likely will thrive or fail based on whether users remain confident that it has transferable value. I figured that a good way to help me understand Bitcoin is to try and get some for myself. That, however, is not something simple and easy to do. More