Newsletter | Monday, October 24th 2016
This week we talk cyber attacks, robo cradles, Swedish Fish Theory, and design secrets.
Fun fact: “Yahoo” is an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”
Last Friday, you may have noticed something unusual happen when Internet browsing. Perhaps you were checking your Twitter, only to see something like this:
As you probably have heard, a number of popular websites—from Netflix to Spotify to Github to the New York Times—went down for some users in a massive cyberattack. The attack, known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), is basically an attempt to overwhelm a system with data by causing a web server to crash or become inoperable - sort of like knocking someone over by blasting them with a fire hose (Here’s a great video that explains how a DDoS attack works).
The attack on Friday was aimed at Dyn DNS, a New Hampshire-based company that essentially provides a phone book for the Internet. DNS companies make it easier for people to get exactly where they want to go by using domain names (i.e. Twitter.com) and translating them to machine friendly IP addresses (i.e. 126.96.36.199).
DDoS attacks aren’t anything new - you probably see them mentioned in the news all the time. What’s interesting to note is that while DDoS attacks have been happening for a while, the scope and sophistication of these cyberattacks have increased quite dramatically thanks to the proliferation of “Internet of Things” (IoTs) - devices ranging from security cameras to smart TVs to connected thermostats. What was responsible for the most recent Dyn attack was a piece of malware Mirai that targeted connected devices, like cameras and digital video recorders - the kind of stuff we don't usually worry about.
Point is, as IoTs become more mainstream (Gartner estimates that there will be 6.4 billion connected things this year, and 20.8 billion by 2020) it is important that cyber security is not just an afterthought but instead embedded into the IoT (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dyn-ddos-attack-two-key-lessons-cyber-security-satyamoorthy-kabilan) .
Swaddle, Side-stomach, Shush, Swing, Suck. This “5 S’s” baby calming technique created by pediatrician Harvey Karp has been incorporated into SNOO, Smart Crib - an MIT Media Lab-engineered “smart crib” designed to quiet a baby in under a minute by recreating the sounds and sensations experienced inside a mother’s womb.
So, how does this retro-looking bassinet actually work?
Here’s the lowdown: circular plates under the mattress swivel back and forth to stimulate rocking, and speakers emit a gentle swooshing sound to mimic the sound of a mother’s womb. The rocking will intensify if the baby stirs and cries, thanks to algorithms developed by engineers from the MIT Media Lab. These algorithms can differentiate crying from outside noise and can even determine the level of distress within a given wail. The idea behind this $1200 cradle is to give babies more stimulation and parents more sleep, essentially allowing a robot to do the work for them.
Ever heard of the “Swedish Fish Theory () ”? It’s an idea that went viral via a Reddit thread, suggesting that packaging candy when sending computer hardware items for repair can lead to a quicker turnaround and better service. The theory rests on the assumption that a personal gesture goes a long way in an increasingly impersonal world. For whatever reason it seems that when people open a box and find some candy and a friendly note, they often choose to reward the sender by expediting their order. But is it possible that the only reason it “works” is because these gestures are rare?
Here’s a design secret: ignore the Internet. Matias Corea, co-founder of Behance, an online portfolio platform that has become the place for creatives to showcase their work, shares some surprising thoughts on creativity and work. He urges us to stop relying on the Internet for inspiration, and instead go for a walk and immerse ourselves in the everyday subtleties that pique our curiosity.
We took away a key insight: creativity is not something that can be programmed, or a number you can punch into a calculator to get an answer. It starts with a happy state of mind - so if learning how to mountain climb makes you happy, then why not take the time out of your week to try? Creativity beyond your day job will probably make you a better worker, and companies that invest in human happiness get employees that have a more textured, nuanced, detailed approach to everything in life. Thanks for the wise words, Matias!
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