3.30.16: Bias of Facial Recognition, Designer Milk, & The Cult of Sleepytime Tea

Mar 30, 2016

Facial recognition software is now everywhere - in airports, stores, on our gadgets and on social media. The goal is improving security and improving public safety, but along with our growing dependency on biometrics comes a problem: not all faces are treated equally. Today, the inherent bias of facial recognition software.

Plus, once the drug of choice for dropping out of the rat race, LSD is now being touted as a "hot new business trend".  We'll talk to a journalist who tried out the new Silicon Valley method of taking tiny doses of acid to improve performance at work. 

Listen to the full show. 

The Bias of Facial Recognition

There is little doubt that facial recognition software is going to play a large role in the technological landscape of the future. It's already in use by law enforcement, by social media platforms, and in personal gadgets like digital cameras. 

Increasingly, facial recognition and other biometrics are also being considered as replacements for the increasingly outmoded written password.  But this software, thus far, has had some very disconcerting side effects, and not everybody is getting recognized equally.

Rose Eveleth is host of the podcast Flash Forward, and a contributor to Vice, where she wrote about the inherent bias of facial recognition software

Perfect Security

As we mentioned, facial recognition and other forms of biometrics are being touted as a critical tool for personal security and pubic safety - but no form of personal protection, whether it's a padlock or a password, is one-hundred percent secure.  At least, not anymore.  This story comes to us from Roman Mars and Sam Greenspan of 99% Invisible.

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org

Why Coke is Buying Into Designer Milk

Got milk? How about filtered, high-protein, low-sugar, lactose-free milk? With soda sales sliding downward, beverage colossus Coca-Cola is betting that designer milk could become a billion-dollar brand.  Bloomberg news reporters Shruti Singh and Jennifer Kaplan looked into Coke's new venture. Shruti Singh joins us to tell us more about it.

Related: Coke Thinks Designer Milk Could Be a Billion-Dollar Brand 

The Cult of Sleepytime Tea

Sleepytime Tea. It's like a package of goodness in the cupboard - a bear in a night shirt and cap dozing off by the fire...that soothing smell...that innocuous herbal taste. Some 1.6 billion cups were sold last year - making it by far the best selling tea for Celestial Seasonings.

With its mystical name, and vaguely flower child aesthetic, you might not guess that the company was founded in the 1970s by devotees of a quasi-religious cult that was, in the terms of the day - far out.  Its teachings were thought to be were dictated by aliens to a human and many early followers were prominent eugenicists, plotting to rid our nation of inferior races.  

Megan Giller is a freelance writer who looked into the twisted history of Sleepytime Tea for Van Winkles.

StoryCorps: Erin Ryan

In 1978, California congressman Leo Ryan was murdered on a fact-finding mission to Guyana - where cult leader Jim Jones had set up the settlement that came to be known as Jonestown and where more than 900 of his followers would eventually be ordered to drink deadly poison. In this episode of StoryCorp, Leo Ryan's daughter Erin, remembers her father. 

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org

LSD Microdosing

"If you remember the 1960s, you weren't really there" - that quote has been attributed to about a dozen icons of the anti-establishment. For them and countless others, LSD was the psychedelic ticket to tune in to the deeper meaning of life and drop out of societal constraint…and aspirations…and mind-deadening jobs.  

Now, taking tiny doses of LSD - or microdosing - is being touted as a way to drop in to workaday life. Publications from the Huffington Post to Forbes report that microdosing is a "hot new business trend" and silicon valley "job enhancer". The journalist & author Baynard Woods was intrigued by the idea of acid making improving job performance. So, he decided to try it, and wrote about the experience for Vox

A note here that we are talking about the use of a drug that while becoming popular in many circles, is still illegal.