Encryption

In this new era we live in, the age of computers, all aspects of our lives are becoming increasingly reliant on computer systems. More and more of the devices we use are equipped with internet capabilities, and almost all kinds of public and private information can be accessed through these networks.  As a result of this unprecedented level of interconnectivity, this information has never been more vulnerable to outside threats from hackers and viruses alike. More than just private information as at risk however; lives are very much at stake as well. Everything from the financial system, to basic utilities, and even medical equipment can be compromised through a competent cyberattack, and encryption is the basis for all cybersecurity protections. In 1994, the United States Air Force’s central command facility was completely compromised by several hackers, giving them access to classified information and several other public and private institutions including NASA. In 2007, the home goods company TJX was hacked, aimed at the financial information of hundreds of thousands of customers. Seven years later, both Target and Home Depot were hacked as well, leading to the theft of more than one hundred million credit card numbers. In 2015, what are believed to be Chinese hackers accessed the personal information such as social security numbers and date of birth of government employees and anyone who had ever received a government background check. Cybersecurity is one of the single most important concerns we have a society today, and the most crucial part …

Food Halls/ Virtual Food Halls

The idea of having a public space allocated for the sale of food products is as old as civilization itself, starting with open air markets in the streets. Street vendors selling already prepared food came along sometime later, but remain popular to this day. Hot dog stands and food trucks are popular across the world, and have been for quite some time. However, having a number of restaurants and food vendors all grouped together inside of a building is a relatively new concept that can be argued to have started with food courts. Generally, food courts are an indoor plaza within a larger facility that contains multiple food vendors and a common area for customers to sit and eat as well. The first of these food courts was built in a Toronto shopping center in the early nineteen seventies, and soon after they became ubiquitous worldwide in every shopping center and mall across the globe. As shopping malls have become less popular, so have food courts. They have been usurped by something called food halls instead. Food courts typically contain a number of fast food chains like McDonalds, Burger King, or Subway. Food Halls, on the other hand, typically contain a mixture of artisanal local restaurants, butcher shops, and other food selling businesses like bakeries. Food halls originated several decades ago in the United Kingdom, and are typically found there within a specific section of department stores. Outside of the United Kingdom, and sometimes within it, food halls are often …

FinTech

Financial technology, often shortened to the term FinTech, is any kind of technology or innovation that is being developed as a replacement or alternative to more traditional financial methods typically used to deliver financial services. Basically, in layman’s terms, FinTech or financial technology is a newly developing industry that uses modern technology to improve various activities in finance. This definition encompasses a wide variety of different companies and services, including everything from online banking to cryptocurrencies.  Today, almost every individual working and living in technologically advanced societies relies on technology in every aspect of their lives. For more than a decade, most people have made the transition from traditional banking to online banking as a result of the spread of smart phone technology across the world. Once they have opened an account with a bank, there is rarely any need to actually step foot within a bank at all. Most employers offer the option of having your paycheck deposited directly into your bank account, and ATMs can be found at most gas stations and grocery stores in America.  Due to the increased proliferation of smart phone technology across the world, most individuals have completely changed the way they manage their finances. Mobile payment applications and services such as Square have allowed consumers to make all of their purchases without needing a wallet at all, simply using their phone to buy products. This increased reliance on the usage of smart phones has allowed FinTech to make inroads in every aspect of …

Digital Banks

Digital banks are a result of the increased movement from traditional banking methods to online banking that has occurred over the previous two decades. More and more commonly every day, banking services are provided over the internet. Digital banks take this trend to the logical conclusion, by operating entirely digitally. While for many people, the shift to online banking remains ongoing, digital banks are an attempt to get ahead of the curve and do business exclusively via the internet.  The beginning of the transition from traditional banking to online banking took place in the nineteen sixties, with the advent of ATMs and credit cards. As the internet became more and more widespread, online banking services became more and more popular as well, and today they are the norm. More than half of all customers in the United States today use their smart phones in order to do their online banking, and that number gets higher every day. Because of this, it seems logical to many people to stop using traditional banks such as Wells Fargo or Chase entirely, and use banks that only exist on the internet. The first of these digital banks is called Simple, and was started ten years ago in 2009 as a result of its founders’ frustration with the flaws of online banking systems. They offer free accounts and do not bill their customers with a number of charges for the services rendered. Today there are dozens of digital banks just like Simple, that exist solely …

Vaping

Tobacco has been used for more than three thousand years in the Americas, smoked both recreationally and as a part of ceremonies such as peace treaties or trade agreements. After the first European settlers began to colonize the ‘New World’, tobacco became increasingly popular as a trade item worldwide. It was so popular that in the Jamestown colony it was used as currency as well as being sold as a cash crop, and many historians credit tobacco as being the export that single handedly kept Virginia financially profitable. During the middle of the nineteen hundreds, it became known that there were numerous diseases and conditions being caused by the use of tobacco. It is well known that tobacco is a major cause of a number of conditions such as lung cancer, and a number of other circulatory and respiratory illnesses. As a result of the public becoming increasingly aware of the numerous diseases they could get from smoking cigarettes, the popularity of tobacco products has been on a steady decline over the last several decades. However, because nicotine is such an incredibly addictive substance, the demand for nicotine containing products is still quite high. The most popular of these products developed as an alternative to tobacco usage are vaporizers.  The use of electronic cigarettes or vaporizers as they are more commonly known is called vaping. The first known version of an electronic cigarette was developed in the early nineteen sixties by Herbert A Gilbert, although there were other vaporizers patented …

Internet of Things

Each and every day, technology seems to expand further and further into every aspect of our lives. Increasingly, things that have never before been computerized are becoming not only technologically advanced, but also connected to the internet. Everything from your washing machine to your wristwatch is slowly being turned into a computer as advanced as a laptop, with similar capabilities as well. Slowly but surely, internet enabled technology is beginning to encroach on every aspect of our lives, connecting us to our environment in an unprecedented way. The term commonly used to describe the phenomenon in which seemingly every technological device being used has wireless capabilities is the internet of things. The concept of creating something like the internet of things can be traced back to the early nineteen eighties, when the first internet connected appliance was put into use at Carnegie Mellon University. The device in question was a vending machine that was able to give reports on the contents of its inventory and the temperature of each individual drink within it. After this, it took almost a decade for papers to be published postulating an evolution of technology that would allow for all technological devices to have similar capabilities, creating a network of interlinked smart devices that could allow us to automate more and more aspects of day to day life. The term ‘internet of things’ was first coined to describe this phenomenon by Kevin Ashton in 1999, who held the belief that eventually this kind of technology …

Big Data

Big Data, while also the name of an American electronic music group, is a field of study dedicated towards examining ways of analyzing and extracting information from a set of data that is too large to be analyzed using the more traditional, old-fashioned methods of analysis. As the world has become more and more technologically advanced, all of us as a people have suddenly been given access to more information than any human being could ever sift through and attempt to make sense of. In every field of study, from microbiology to sociology, people now have at their fingertips an unbelievable amount of information to sort through. The various types of software programs that are commonly used when dealing with smaller data sets are simply not equipped to deal with such massive amounts of data. When it has been said that they are not equipped to deal with such massive amounts of data, what is really meant is that the amount of time it would take them to perform the task would be unacceptably large, and subsequently that the information extracted would not be worth the time and energy. See, the term ‘Big Data’ doesn’t just refer to very large amounts of information being analyzed, but sometimes also the sheer value of the analysis being performed rather than the size of the data set. The difficulties implicit with accomplishing tasks like this are easy to underestimate, especially a layman. But because of just how many different areas of life this …

The Effects of Automation

Technological development is in many ways the only useful metric we have available to us as historians in order to measure the advances being made throughout different societies across the world over time. We have named the earliest periods of recorded human history after the level of technological development historians believe had taken place by those times, such as the iron age, the bronze age and the steel age. Essentially, we have divided up these eras into clusters almost solely due to which of the alloys in question were being used predominantly for warfare at the time. Most of our history as a species can be grouped in much the same way, at least until the middle of the eighteenth century. Everything changed due to the first industrial revolution. The effects that this industrial revolution have had on the course of human history are all but impossible to quantify in any meaningful way, but it is safe to conclude that every aspect of human life has changed because of this event. The second industrial revolution, which took place almost a century later, had a similarly important impact on the development of our new more globalized society. Both of these industrial revolutions have drastically changed the way economies across the world function, and have increased the quality of life of the average person in unprecedented ways. One of the most important legacies of these events is the concept and the implementation of the concept of automation.  Automation can be generally defined …

Motherless Meat

Factory farming is a process that not only does an incredible amount of damage to the environment, but is also unethical due to the horrifying treatment of the animals involved. They lead short, painful lives in unpleasantly unhygienic conditions that would disgust any reasonable person. The process of factory farming does damage to the environment in a variety of different ways, the most significant of which is the production of large amounts of greenhouse gasses. The effects that this has had on the ozone layer and the process of global climate change have been significantly impactful and harmful on a large scale. Furthermore, the antibiotics and hormones and other drugs and chemicals that the factory farm animals are exposed to do not simply vanish after they are killed and butchered for their meat. We, the consumers, consume them along with the delicious juicy meat we love to enjoy. And the demand for meat across the world will only continue to grow as time goes by. The increased popularity of meat free diets is insignificant when compared to the clear trend towards higher amounts of meat being eaten in places where there previously was not a high demand for the products. As people across the world, particularly in less developed nations, have experienced an increase in the amount of money they are able to spend, many of them have been able to afford to purchase meat in quantities that would have not been possible before. This alone would put an increased …

The Decline of Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages have been a part of human society for more than twelve thousand years. Since around the year 10,000 B.C, human beings have been purposefully producing alcoholic beverages through the process of fermentation. The ethanol produced through this process of fermentation is a depressant, causing euphoria at lower doses and unconsciousness at higher doses. Because of how good it makes people feel, and how easy it is to make, alcohol is by far the most popular recreational substance ever discovered in recorded human history. When they have been given the opportunity, many different kinds of animals have also gladly consumed alcohol, but simply lack the ability to deliberately make it themselves. It has been estimated that approximately one third of the world’s population consume alcoholic beverages on somewhat of a regular basis. Currently, there are less than twenty countries in the world that have a prohibition on the sale of alcoholic drinks. While most countries have had a period of prohibition in the past, today it is almost solely countries that have a predominately devout muslim population which have banned alcoholic beverages. As a result of this nearly ubiquitous popularity in every human society that has ever existed, the production and selling of alcoholic beverages has always been a lucrative industry to be a part of. Last year, the global sales of alcoholic drinks in 2018 reached more than one trillion dollars, making the alcohol industry one of the most valuable industries in the world. Despite what all of …