Decoder Ring With Willa Paskin:
“To say that hydration is an invention is only a slight exaggeration. Back in the 1970’s and ‘80s, no one carried bottled water with them, but by the ‘90s it was a genuine status object. How did bottled water transform itself from a small, European luxury item to the single largest beverage category in America? It took both technological innovation, but even more importantly it took savvy marketing from brands like Gatorade and Perrier to turn the concept of hydration, and dehydration into problem they could solve via their wares. Today, hydration has branched out from athletics to wellness to skincare, but the actual science behind all of it is pretty sketchy.”
Gatorade, Perrier, and Evian invented hydration in the 1970s. Prior to then, athletes were actually advised to not drink water or any other beverage well playing, for fear that the liquid would slosh around and slow them down.
You do not need to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. There is no science to support this. Researchers have not even been able to figure out the origin of this belief.
Water is vital for your health, but hydration has become another thing that we have to do exactly right and beat ourselves up about when we fail to live up to our own imaginary standards. It’s fine to just drink when you’re thirsty.
If I die of an overdose they’ll find my body on the bathroom floor but I won’t have a needle and “works” next to my corpse — it’ll be empty cartons of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream.
Social service agencies in￼ 21 states have distributed tens of thousands of robot dogs and cats too lonely seniors, living alone and isolated from other human contact. The programs accelerated during the Covid pandemic social isolation.￼
Katie Engelhart reports in-depth at The New Yorker:
It felt good to love again, in that big empty house. Virginia Kellner got the cat last November, around her ninety-second birthday, and now it’s always nearby. It keeps her company as she moves, bent over her walker, from the couch to the bathroom and back again. The walker has a pair of orange scissors hanging from the handlebar, for opening mail. Virginia likes the pet’s green eyes. She likes that it’s there in the morning, when she wakes up. Sometimes, on days when she feels sad, she sits in her soft armchair and rests the cat on her soft stomach and just lets it do its thing. Nuzzle. Stretch. Vibrate. Virginia knows that the cat is programmed to move this way; there is a motor somewhere, controlling things. Still, she can almost forget. “It makes you feel like it’s real,” Virginia told me, the first time we spoke. “I mean, mentally, I know it’s not. But—oh, it meowed again!”
Engelhart makes a passing reference to the Turing Test, which posits that we’ll know we have achieved artificial intelligence when a machine can trick a person into thinking they’re conversing with another person. What Turing didn’t take into account is the person’s willingness to trick themself — to pretend that they’re conversing with another person. The pretending comes to closely resemble belief.
81-year-old Deanna Dezer holds conversations with her companion robot, ElliQ, which looks like a table lamp and does speech recognition and synthesis. Asked how she feels about ElliQ being a machine, Dezer responds, “My last husband was a robot, but he wasn’t as good as her … I know she can’t feel emotions, but that’s O.K. I feel enough for the both of us.”