Quartz Weekend Brief—GM in perspective, baseball’s future, overfishing, sexbots

June 6, 2014
June 6, 2014

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Whether it was 13, as GM says, or 74, as Reuters asserts, the lives lost in cars fitted with the automaker’s faulty ignition switches are a tragedy. GM this week began its long march to rehabilitation by admitting to a “pattern of incompetence and neglect” that led millions of cars to be fitted with the faulty switches over nearly a decade.

But still, let’s keep some perspective.

From 2003 to 2010, the period in question, 287,586 people died in the US in car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s 98 people every single day. In 2010 alone, the agency estimates (pdf), 3,353 lives would have been saved if only everyone riding in a car always wore a seatbelt, and another 708 if every motorcyclist always wore a helmet. That’s 11 lives saved every day. “Distraction-related” accidents, which include texting or phone-calling while driving, killed 3,328 people in 2012 alone; nine lives every day.

And of course, that’s just in the US. Worldwide, around 1.24 million people die in road accidents each year.

Why is there so much scandal around GM’s ignition switches, while the daily scandal of carnage on the roads is, on most days, largely forgotten? GM should certainly fix its culture, which seems to discourage employees from reporting potentially fatal problems. But if just a fraction of the energy spent on chastising GM went into improving daily road safety, it could save a lot more lives. —Gideon Lichfield

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

The future of Major League Baseball is… not baseball? The American baseball league has an interesting side-business: a tech startup whose video-streaming, ticket-sales and other tech infrastructure platforms are being used by a growing array of clients; it could even contribute to up-ending the future of television, writes John McDuling.

How the internet looks after it’s been censored. Around this week’s 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, the Chinese government blocked web search results for dozens of terms. Nikhil Sonnad’s interactive compares side-by-side what people inside and outside China would be seeing.

Microsoft was eerily prescient. Max Nisen goes through a 1999 video made by Microsoft imagining the home of the future, and finds that—clothes and hairstyles aside—the software giant predicted a surprising number of things that are now pretty commonplace.

Maybe you should stop eating fish. Gwynn Guilford reports on some worrying new statistics suggesting that overfishing may be driving Atlantic bluefin tuna to extinction; and on another new discovery showing that fish help trap carbon dioxide in the oceans, so overfishing may, besides everything else, contribute to making global warming worse. Oh, and things aren’t looking good for the sawfish either.

Why Marriott’s Mormon owner is fine with gay tourism. Unlike some of his deeply religious CEO counterparts, Bill Marriott has long welcomed LGBT customers and staff. Yitz Jordan examines how the economics of the now $200-billion-a-year LGBT travel industry makes Marriott’s decision a smart one.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

How Jews designed the American home. Fleeing Hitler’s attacks on modernism (“degenerate,” the Führer called it), a cohort of Jewish designers settled in the US and played a big part in creating the mid-century modern style, with its clean elegance, that did much to define the “American” look. Steven Heller in the Atlantic recaps the history.

Could sexbots make us better lovers? Although the first sex toys go back some 20,000 years, technology is just now allowing us to build humanoid sexual companions that can, in a limited way, respond to interaction. Leah Reich in Aeon argues that these machines could help liberate people with hangups—but only if we don’t design them to match our existing sexual stereotypes.

The man who built—and bilked—American soccer. Ahead of next week’s World Cup, and in a week where more reports swirled about corruption within FIFA, the world game’s governing body, Buzzfeed’s Ken Bensinger tracked down Chuck Blazer, the suburban US soccer dad who has allegedly raked in millions of dollars from his involvement in running the sport in America.

The origins of modern mapping. We take it for granted that a computerized map can show us everything from the frequency of traffic accidents to where to find a decent burger. But someone had to come up with the system for marrying points on a map to infinite varieties of data. Jessica Camille Aguirre on Smithsonian.com recounts the invention of Geographic Information Systems, or GIS.

Be happy with sugar. Is sugar bad for you? And what kind of sugar? Agave syrup was once touted as a healthy substitute for refined sugar, but now doctors are warning that the fructose in it is even worse. Is it all just fashion? James Hamblin in the Atlantic takes a cool, calm, and ultimately non-committal look at the medical claims around sweet stuff.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, sexbot designs, and pre-GIS maps to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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