Category Archives: Articles

How Autonomous Vehicles Will Transform Cities and Suburbs

NwswkDriverlessCoverOnly181206Driverless cars are coming fast. That could be a big upgrade to life in America—or a complete nightmare, if we don’t quickly take control of the situation

From my cover story in the Dec. 14, 2018, issue of Newsweek.

At the dawn of the 20th century, the automobile was heralded as a way to free cities from the scourge of horse manure. Cars delivered on that promise, and they made us a far more mobile society. But they also stuck us with a slew of pervasive problems that haunt us today: urban blight, suburban sprawl, congestion, a rich-poor divide, a health-crushing lack of physical activity and enough pollution to upend the Earth’s climate.

Most U.S. cities seem positioned to once again allow technology to overwhelm them. New York City, for example, currently has no testing program in place for driverless cars—General Motors was planning one for 2019 but canceled it when the City Council raised concerns about safety. Singapore, some European countries and China are taking steps to prepare for AVs, but not one major U.S. city has introduced new traffic or development laws intended to boost AVs or push drivers to use them. If cities don’t get their development acts together soon, driverless vehicles will likely make traffic far worse in the coming years….Read more

How to Almost Learn Italian

Language apps like Duolingo are addictive—but not particularly effective.

From my article in the December 2018 issue of The Atlantic

Late one chilly evening last September, I excused myself from a small group huddled around a campfire to peck at and mumble into my phone.

No way was a camping trip going to make me miss my Italian lesson.

For most of the preceding year, I had religiously attended to my 15-minute-or-so daily encounters with the language-learning app Duolingo. I used it on trains, while walking across town, during previews at the movie theater. I was planning a trip to Rome in the late spring, and I’ve always been of the mind that to properly visit a country, you’ve got to give the language a shot.

But I had another reason for sticking with it: Duolingo is addictive….Read more

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How Traveling Abroad for Medical Care Can Make Surprising Sense

Americans whose treatments aren’t covered by insurance are saving thousands and getting good care by going outside the country

From my article in the November 2018 issue of Men’s Journal

MensMedTourismThree years ago, Justin Bull was goofing around with friends, swinging on a tree rope, when he lost his grip. The 29-year-old multi-sport athlete and dirt biker plunged 35 feet, landing on his right shoulder and snapping a tendon. Worse yet, he was uninsured, which meant getting surgery in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, would cost $40,000, all out-of-pocket. “I was looking at going into serious debt,” he says.

Then Bull’s mother made a surprising suggestion: Go abroad to get it done. A few years before, she’d traveled to the Czech Republic for surgery on her ankle. The procedure had been top-notch, complication-free, and a huge cost-saver. Bull did some research and opted for the Hospitales Amerimed in Cancún, Mexico—an orthopedic-surgery destination for professional athletes worldwide. Bull says it couldn’t have gone better. Total cost of airfare, a week in a resort for two, and all medical costs: $7,400. He checked with two U.S. surgeons afterward who said the work on his shoulder passed muster….Read more

Russia May Have Already Hacked the 2018 Midterms

NwswkHackCoverOnly181026Obsolete, easily hacked voting machines in counties with close congressional elections–and no way to do a recount. How could Russia resist?

From my cover story in the October 26, 2018, issue of Newsweek

Security is tight at the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Government Administration Building in Doylestown, a three-story brick structure with no windows. That’s where officials retreat on election night to tally the votes recorded on the county’s 900 or so voting machines. Unfortunately, Russian hackers won’t need to come calling there on Election Day. Cyberexperts warn that they could use more sophisticated means of changing the outcomes of close races or sowing confusion in an effort to throw the U.S. elections into disrepute. The 2018 midterms offer a compelling target: a patchwork of 3,000 or so county governments that administer elections, often on a shoestring budget, many of them with outdated electronic voting machines vulnerable to manipulation….Read more

Is Someone Stealing Your Health Data?

Facebook and others are turning your personal health information into a hot business commodity

From my article in the August 2018 issue of Men’s Journal

When the news broke that Facebook had allowed third-party apps to harvest troves of data from its users to influence U.S. elections, people (rightfully) freaked out. Now here’s something else to worry about: Facebook and others are turning your personal health MensJournalHealthDatainformation into a hot business commodity. Facebook and others have reportedly been looking into selling user information to hospitals and medical institutions eager to identify patients and build digital profiles that might include diagnoses, tests, prescriptions, and even sex-drive data.

This health data can be found in your posts, app downloads, fitness trackers, and phone activity, where it can be gathered and sold. And what Facebook has attempted to do is only a snippet of the kinds of health privacy violations hanging over the online world….Read more

What If Elon Musk Succeeds?

Everyone is fixating on whether Tesla can succeed—and ignoring how that success could drive us closer to a future of jobless automation

From my cover story in the August 17, 2018, issue of Newsweek

NwswkMuskCover180817Elon Musk has been making a habit of shocking. Tuesday afternoon he tweeted that he was ready to take publicly held Tesla private, and trading had to be halted as everyone from investors to the SEC tried to figure out if the Tweet was a weed joke (given the 420 reference), a potentially illegal effort to manipulate stock price, or a genuine financial disclosure of unheard-of magnitude and form.

That was just the latest Musk surprise. During a conference call with Wall Street investment analysts in May he refused to answer basic questions about Tesla’s faltering financial prospects. “Boring, bonehead questions are not cool,” he said. A few months before, he treated his 22 million Twitter followers to harassing rants against reporters who published critical pieces about Tesla.

But if you’re focusing on Musk’s bad manners, you’re missing the point. His plan to transform the car industry is picking up speed. Along the way, it could put tens of millions of people out of work, dismantling what has been a foundation of the nation’s social and economic life for a century. And it’s happening in the service of plying the wealthy with cooler cars. Read more

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Should You Let Your Kid Play Football?

The truth about concussions is more nuanced than most of what we’ve heard 

From my article in June 2018 in Men’s Journal

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What the public has heard about research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy—the degenerative brain disease that seems to be caused by repeated blows to the head—suggests that suffering concussions as a kid is likely to cause depression, memory problems, and violent behavior years later. But what if this new conventional wisdom doesn’t get it quite right? Christopher Giza has been calling for a bit of calm and context. A pediatric neurologist who heads UCLA’s BrainSport program, Giza is one of the world’s leading experts on concussions in contact-heavy sports. Before you pull your youngsters from football—or sign them up for it—Giza has some advice. Read more