Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

Once upon a time, unpaid humans did a job that AI does today.

The Google Image Labeler was a web-based game that Google launched in mid-2006. It was simple in concept, with two players attempting to guess what the other person thought a random image should be labeled as, but it didn’t take long for players to find ways to exploit it. The year after the game launched was filled with conspiracy theories, allegations of unpaid labor, and nine words that ultimately ruined the game for nearly a year.

Google’s work in AI has resulted in truly incredible advancements in everything from screening for breast cancer to inventing new recipes. The company’s algorithms…

Fixing things is human nature, so why are companies so against it?

Photo: Mike Wehner

In the late 1980s, somebody bought a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) from a physical store, brought it home, and presumably enjoyed it for untold years. The console, with serial number N12180601, suffered greatly in the decades to come, eventually landing on eBay in a condition that can only be described as “junk.” The seller, located in Angleton, Texas, was asking a modest price of $11.99 for the system, which was not only nonfunctional and damaged, but missing a plethora of parts.

I bought it.

Temporary popularity may permanently fool an otherwise intelligent algorithm

Photo illustration: Mike Wehner. Source: Riyaz Hyder/Unsplash

Join me in an experiment. We’re going to search for various times of day using Google’s Image Search. We’ll use a fresh Google Chrome Incognito window to ensure our results aren’t skewed. This is scientific, after all, and we want the most accurate results possible.

First, let’s try “sunrise.”

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash / Edits by Mike Wehner

For an American icon, death is just the beginning

In December of 2019, Troy Fairbanks and his son, Majestic Fairbanks, pleaded guilty to charges brought against them by the Federal Government. The Fairbanks duo was accused of illegally trafficking the body parts of bald and golden eagles. The case implicated dozens of others and took undercover investigators two years to build.

The operation, dubbed Project Dakota Flyer, offered the world a tiny glimpse into the bizarre and often surreal dead eagle trade, where two sides wage an unseen war over the decaying remains of the most protected animals in the United States.

Hands Off

In the United States, the bald eagle…

A simple technique that anyone can use, and the science of why it works

Photo by Robin Weermeijer on Unsplash

The human brain is an incredible thing. It’s optimized for your survival, and it’s a problem-solving master. When it comes to writing, your brain is obviously quite important, but it can also trip you up by doing what it does best. It’s not a perfect machine, and some of its tendencies can turn a good piece of writing into a slog of misspellings and poor word choices. Here’s how I fought back and improved my writing by engaging parts of my brain that are normally dormant while writing.

The ears have it

Let’s go ahead and get the big reveal out of the way…

Lessons learned from a decade of writing for an online audience

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

I didn’t realize I wanted to become a writer until I was already in my mid-20s. I hated English class in high school. I was good at it, tested highly for language skills, and was placed in advanced English courses, but I didn’t enjoy it. As a result, I avoided anything related to literature or writing in college. I was sure that my career, whatever it would end up being, would have nothing to do with putting words on a page, digital or otherwise.

After college, I landed in a cubicle. Five years of working for a cable company has…

We could all use a dose of chill right about now

(Photo via Mitchel Haindfield / Flickr Creative Commons)

It’s common to use music as a tool to reduce anxiety. Even if you don’t realize that you’re doing it specifically to calm your nerves, putting on a favorite playlist after a rough day is a safe, time-tested way of taking the edge off.

Quantifying the level of anxiety reduction your favorite tunes provide is difficult. It makes you feel good, and that’s enough for most people, but not for scientists.

Lyz Cooper, a sound therapist and founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy asked Marconi Union, a UK-based band specializing in ambient music, to create a song specifically…

Everything was fine until the Panda showed up

Photo by Tayler Smith. Prop Styling by Caroline Dorn

“Our current writer and editor roles have ended,” the email read. “Effective immediately.”

There were many predictable phrases in the 700-word email that arrived in my inbox late in the day on December 1, 2011. Things like “fast-changing environment” and “some hard decisions,” but those two words — “effective immediately” — are what stuck with me the longest.

In the blink of an eye, my writing career appeared to be dead in the water. It felt so sudden, so terribly final. But it had been brewing behind the scenes for some time.

There was no doubt about it: Google was…

Let’s demystify meditation.

Kashirin Nickolai / Flickr Creative Commons

My eyelids fly open. For a moment, the world seems distant, but soon my brain starts firing in all directions. It’s morning, and that means another day of routines, chores, obligations, and racing thoughts.

This is just how my brain works. For the majority of the day, it doesn’t see relaxation as an option. Being lazy is an accomplishment for me because it means I was able to quiet my mind long enough to do nothing for a while.

I began dipping my toes into meditation years ago, though it took a lot of trial and error before it stuck…

There’s a lot of anxiety floating around right now. I’ve been feeling a lot of it myself, and if you’re in the same boat it’s important to know that you’re not alone.

We have a tiny Boston Terrier named Mindy. Mindy is my little angel and I love her with every fiber of my being… but Mindy has a bad habit. Mindy growls and barks at things outside that often aren’t really there, or at least aren’t a threat to her or anyone in our home. It could be a kid on the opposite sidewalk or a loud car. …

Mike Wehner

Writing interesting, overlooked stories. Enjoy my work? You can buy me a ☕ here:

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