There’s a moment in James Vlahos’ piece—”A Son’s Race to Give His Dying Father Immortality”—that made me tear up the first time I read it. Vlahos has just finished a prototype of a chatbot that speaks much like his father, who’s dying of lung cancer. The system has been trained on hours and hours of recordings of the father’s life story. It actually works, and now, after demonstrating it to his parents for the first time, Vlahos has a question for his dad. “Does it give you any comfort, or perhaps none—the idea that whenever it is that you shed this mortal coil, that there is something that can help tell your stories and knows your history?”
I won’t spoil the story by revealing the father’s response. But it’s a profound moment as we think about technology in the past year. We’re building tech now that doesn’t just change the way we live; it changes the way we die.
That article was one of the twelve most-read magazine stories we published in WIRED during the past twelve months, as measured by total time spent reading and arranged chronologically. But each of the other eleven deals with big questions like that too: what does truth mean online? What does it mean to build a robotic copy of yourself, or even of someone you don’t know? How do you stay safe online when everything you do can be weaponized against you? To read through these pieces is to get to think about some of the most interesting questions we all face—and to learn some of the answers too.
The Macedonian Teens Who Mastered Fake News
These guys didn’t care if Trump won or lost the White House. They only wanted pocket money. But the consequences of what they did shook the world.
—Samanth Subramanian, March 2017
The Curse of the Bahia Emerald, a Giant Green Rock That Ruins Lives
It’s a one-of-a-kind geological artifact. What’s it worth? Maybe $100 million, maybe nothing. But those who’ve pursued it have definitely paid a price.
—Elizabeth Weil, March 2017
Inside the Hunt for Russia’s Most Notorious Hacker
A mysterious cybercriminal deployed an invincible botnet to steal a fortune from US banks. Then the FBI discovered what else he was after.
—Garrett Graff, April 2017
How a Single Gene Could Become a Volume Knob for Pain
Her skin is perpetually on fire. He can’t even feel a bone break. Together they might hold the key to ending America’s opioid epidemic.
—Erika Hayasaki, May 2017
Apple’s New Campus: An Exclusive Look Inside the Mothership
Flawless curves, milled aluminum, endless glass, walled garden—sounds like an Apple product. In fact, it’s the company’s biggest launch ever.
—Steven Levy, June 2017
Russia’s Cyberwar on Ukraine Is a Blueprint For What’s to Come
Blackouts in Ukraine were just a trial run. Russian hackers are learning to sabotage infrastructure—and the US could be next.
—Andy Greenberg, July 2017
A Son’s Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality
For months, he recorded his dying father’s life story. Then he used it to re-create his dad as an AI.
—James Vlahos, August 2017
Chill: Robots Won’t Take All Our Jobs
Everyone thinks automation will take all our jobs. The evidence disagrees.
—James Surowiecki, September 2017
Meet the CamperForce, Amazon’s Nomadic Retiree Army
Inside the grueling, rootless lives of the RV dwellers who are spending their golden years working in the e-tail behemoth’s warehouses.
—Jessica Bruder, October 2017
The Replicant: Inside the Dark Future of Blade Runner 2049
What a sequel 35 years in the making can tell us about the state of sci-fi and America’s appetite for dystopia.
—Brian Raftery, October 2017
Are We Ready for Intimacy With Androids?
Hiroshi Ishiguro builds robots. Beautiful, realistic, uncannily convincing human replicas. His quest? Untangle the ineffable nature of human connection.
—Alex Mar, November 2017
How One Woman’s Digital Life Was Weaponized Against Her
A rare court case exposes the all-too-common horror of online harassment that followed when one woman broke off a relationship.
—Brooke Jarvis, December 2017