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When Technology Hates Us

There’s a word for when the machines in your life seem to be out to get you: Resistentialism

3 min read
When Technology Hates Us
Illustration: Richard Mia
Go into any of the little cafés or horlogeries on Paris’s Left Bank…and sooner or later you will hear someone say, “ Les choses sont contre nous.” “Things are against us.”

—Paul Jennings

Our lives are immeasurably easier and more connected than we could ever have imagined just 20 years ago. But to reap these benefits, we’ve had to cozy up to our tech. So close, in fact, that it has become personal, almost a part of who we are. But every now and then, that closeness enables us to see a darker side of the relationship: Sometimes, it seems, our devices are actively working against us. The phone that spontaneously reboots just when you need it most; the computer that crashes only when you have unsaved changes; a bug that suddenly appears when you demo your code.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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