Hey, Future Perfect readers!
To send you into the weekend, here are a few highlights from the mixed-up files of my mind:
1) Apple has deleted HK Map Live, an app being used by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters to track the presence of police, tear gas, and more. This app is an example of sousveillance (literally “watching from below”), which is when regular people monitor the authorities who are monitoring them. Some view HK Map Live’s creation and existence as an act of resistance against the Chinese government, so the decision to remove the app is controversial.
“Apple taking out this app that protesters in Hong Kong were using to coordinate is obviously a concession to the government,” The Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel told Reset host Arielle Duhaime-Ross in a recent episode of the podcast.
2) The opposite of sousveillance, of course, is surveillance — and there’s a new parental variety of it. Some parents are now using an array of apps to track their kids’ every move, whether said kids are still in diapers or off at college.
The app Famly gathers and analyzes data on when your newborn cries, poops, sleeps, etc; it offers you “the allure of the quantified baby,” but possibly at the cost of your own sanity, as one parent writes. Another app, Life360, enables you to see exactly where your teen is, how fast they’re driving, and more. These stories offer a look at how tech is infusing parent-child relationships with surveillance and maybe changing social norms around it.
3) The House passed a bipartisan bill that makes malicious animal cruelty a federal felony. Under the new Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, people can be prosecuted for drowning, suffocating, crushing, burning, or impaling animals, among other shudder-inducing actions. The punishment? Fines, federal felony charges, and up to seven years behind bars.
This bill aims to close a gap in the US legal framework, which currently bans the sale of videos showing such cruelty but doesn’t criminalize the cruelty itself. It’s a sign that US politicians are starting to take animal welfare more seriously (another sign: Julian Castro’s comprehensive animal welfare plan). The PACT Act heads to the Senate next.
4) Mindfulness meditation is so commonly studied in neuroscience labs nowadays that I’ve heard some scholars talk excitedly about “the Buddhification of cognitive science,” even as others critique that same trend.
“Whereas a total of 39 scientific papers [on mindfulness meditation’s effects] were published before the year 2000, today that number is a staggering 6,000+ papers,” according to the Mind and Life Institute. But now that mindfulness is so hyped up in the US, it can be tough to figure out which brain benefits are actually supported by evidence and which are just neuromythology. The Institute’s solution? They’ve invited over 100 scholars to write 57 new papers critically reflecting on the data neuroscientists have amassed so far. All the articles are free to download here through anytime, so if this is your jam, get on it!