If you want to know someone, ask them about their politics. But if your goal is to understand someone—how they think, what they value, how they view the task of moving through this life—ask them what’s in their liquor cabinet.

News flash: all those people ripping through the pages of the Harry Potter novels, the Divergent series, and the Hunger Games trilogy—on their lunch break, on the train home, during that layover at Pearson—not all of them were teenagers.

Since their emergence on Japanese cellphones some 19 years ago, emoji have become a standard feature of conversation in the digital age.

Earlier this year, a group of 21 prominent universities united to form the Public Interest Technology University Network, a group putting forward a collaborative, open-source approach that views high tech through the lens of social, ethical, legal, and public policy implications.

For years, recycling in the Western world has been based on the idea that we can simply stuff our dirty plastic, obsolete electronics, and broken toys into a shipping container, and send it to the other side of the world. Until now.

A look at the worlds most common passwords—ranging from sequential numbers to the word ‘password’ itself—bring to light a new age of digital apathy, where our most personal information is thinly blocked by our most lacklustre passwords.

Developed in 2009 as an unregulated, decentralized payment system that bypasses banks and other middlemen, bitcoin has become perhaps the definitive example of financial speculation.

Robots are expanding past their home on the factory floor and starting to threaten human employment in a variety of professions.

A new app puts professional-level concussion diagnosis in the hands of amateur coaches and officials, parents, or anyone with a smartphone.

The Cybathlon is a different sort of competition, in which performance enhancement is not only perfectly acceptable, it’s actively encouraged.

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Derek Miller is dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that—because Miller himself told us. His final words, uploaded posthumously by a close friend on May 4, 2011, were both pithy and poignant: “Here it is. I’m dead, and this is the last post to my blog.” He was 41.

Dramatic. Momentous. Revolutionary. Earth-shattering. Such peacockery has typically been confined to Hollywood puff pieces and high-tech product launches, until now.

To co-founder Joe Gebbia, what Airbnb is actually selling is a kind of antidote to a peculiar sense of 20th century alienation.

Did you feel that? That little stretch as your legs pulled away from your body, that little squeeze as your sides squished together for a fraction of a moment?

Wheels Up isn’t the only company offering private aviation. But they do business differently, functioning more like a private club than an ownership group.

The script reads like something Spielberg would have cooked up back in the eighties: a nefarious group of black-hooded malcontents arise from the desert, hell-bent on burning Western civilization to the ground.

China fired first. Maybe it was Brazil. It could have been Mexico. Or perhaps Japan. Whoever pulled the trigger, one thing is certain: the currency war is on. And the one who can debase their money furthest, and fastest, wins.

You’re behind the wheel when suddenly the radio starts blaring—strange, because you just shut it off. Then the turn signal turns on. Your pulse picks up; you wonder what the heck is going on—and that’s when the engine cuts out.

When hackers bust into your phone, you could go after the hackers. Or, you could go after the phone—by building a new one. At least, that’s what the mandarins in the People’s Republic have decided to do.

Down in the basement there’s a box. The box is a bit of a contradiction, made of ordinary cardboard, but filled with the most extraordinary things: houses and castles, cars and trucks, monsters and machines both real and fantastic, all crafted from a wonder-filled geometry of multi-coloured bricks.

Let’s be clear about one thing: the explosion was real. Fully 173 people lost their lives; a further eight remain unaccounted for. The blast levelled the commercial heart of the city, damaging 17,000 homes and destroying 3,000 vehicles.

Thirteen years, three billion dollars. That’s the size of the investment made to map the human genome in its entirety, give or take a few months and a few million. While scientists completed the effort over a decade ago, we’re only starting to reap the returns.

Odysseus had Scylla and Charybdis; in the present day, Greeks have been forced to choose between austerity and bankruptcy. The devil and the deep blue sea—either way, the chances of coming out in one piece are pretty slim.

He is an imposing figure, this walking man: fully six feet tall, naked, his stick-thin limbs disproportionately long, his metallic skin clearly showing the rough handiwork of his creator.

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Ross William Ulbricht is in jail. And if the FBI has its way, he’ll be there for quite some time. The charges: drug trafficking, money laundering, computer hacking, and ordering a hit on a resident of White Rock, B.C., who had piqued his ire.

On the road of life, there are passengers and there are drivers. At least, there used to be.

It’s the way you feel after downing one too many Singapore Slings the night before: after years of binging on high oil prices, Canada’s energy sector is experiencing the mother of all hangovers.

And now for some good news: the ozone layer might actually be repairing itself.

Let’s all just agree on this one, at least: no one deserves to spend life atop a garbage dump, living hand to mouth by rifling through the refuse and waste of the better-off. Yet many do—120 million, in fact, according to World Housing, a Vancouver-based initiative that’s made it their mission to do something about it.

It was the kind of story that sends the financial press into spasms of ecstasy. Back in November, a smiling Mr. Harper stepped in front of the cameras at the Great Hall of the People and announced that Canada secured the rights to become the first North American trading hub for the renminbi, China’s official currency.

It wasn’t the service. Or the ambience. And let’s be honest with ourselves—it wasn’t the coffee or the doughnuts either. No, it was a feeling that turned Tim Hortons into our national coffee shop. Call­­ it a sense of humble comfort: a small-town, aw-shucks goodness its customers liked to see in themselves.

New. Improved. Throw in free and you’ve got the three most powerful words in the English language. A lesson Silicon Valley learned very early.

Sometime next year, if you look up—way up—at just the right time, you might see something in the sky that wasn’t there before. That’d be the Dragon V2, the next generation of space “taxi” shuttling astronauts, cosmonauts, and the occasional space tourist across the cosmos.

If it is nothing else, the new Apple Watch is a wish—a fervent hope that lightning may indeed strike twice. You know, much like it did back in 2007, when the indomitable Steve Jobs pulled a nondescript glass-and-plastic brick out of his pocket and started a high-tech revolution the likes of which the world had never seen.

Consider yourself on the road. Consider yourself part of a traffic jam. You’re moving, sure, but you’re in a thick soup of bumper-to-bumper mayhem with nothing but tailpipes to the left and road rage to the right. But wait; up ahead, the road widens. A luxury sedan whips down the open road. Then another. And another. But hang on, you’re not allowed. It’s for first-class customers only.

Whoever thought up the “war is good for business” thing might want to check out the action on the Moscow Exchange this year. As the crisis in Ukraine came to a boil at the end of February, investor appetite for Russian equities went into a deep freeze, and the country’s benchmark Russian Trading System (RTS) stock-market index lost 19 per cent in a matter of weeks.

Never mind dropping out; as far as turning on and tuning in go, there’s never been a better time. Over the past decade, both cable and the major networks have upped their game, giving us better writing, better characters, better jokes, and better plot twists than we’ve ever seen on the small screen. As for the advertising—well, that’s another story.

Take everything you know about energy—burning oil, falling water, spinning windmills, splitting atoms—and forget it. All of it. Now, what does the world look like? Given what scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have just managed to do, you may want to mull it over.

By now, you’ve probably heard about Elon Musk. He’s the 42-year old serial entrepreneur with the funny name and a chinful of three-day stubble who’s trying to make the internal combustion engine go the way of the great auk.

Even the name sounds sketchy: “shadow bank”. An apt moniker for a business that lends like a bank, earns interest like a bank, has a pleasant and confidence-inspiring name like a bank, yet isn’t exactly a bank—particularly when it comes to regulations, transparency, and risk control.

The first time you see Google Glass in real life, sitting astride some stranger’s nose, it’s hard not to be taken aback by the idea that the future—some form of it, at least—has indeed arrived.

Remember the meltdown of 2008? You know—the one where America’s housing market fell down a deep, dark hole, the world’s banks teetered on the edge of insolvency, stock markets did a face plant, and stockbrokers from here to Timbuktu considered (however briefly) defenestration as their next career move? Sure you do.

No matter how it finishes, a bad year holds one consolation: eventually, it ends. Except when it doesn’t. Can “brand-as-business” overcome basic executionary missteps? Can the idea of a product (or an entire company, for that matter) overcome the reality?

You’d figure it’d be a pretty easy business. Find a hole with some gold in it, then dig; whatever comes out is essentially money. In reality, the business of gold mining is one of the most dangerous there is.

In normal times, the business of fertilizer is only slightly more interesting than the soil one spreads it on: one of those super-simple, steady-Eddie, boring-but-profitable businesses every investor loves.

Lower than the used-car salesman. Or the telemarketer. The repo man, too. Maybe one notch above that guy from Nigeria who’s always sending you e-mail. That’s a good approximation of the esteem with which the patent troll is held within the pantheon of the world’s professions.

Another day, another dollar. Or several billion of them, if you happen to work for social media giant Twitter. Last Thursday marked the first day of public trading for the San Francisco-based company, which put about 70-million of its shares (about 13% of its horde) up for sale. Needless to say, things went well.

How to get rich quick: (a) find a cache of pirate booty buried underneath the shed, (b) discover a long-lost Picasso behind the camping gear in the attic, or (c) get in on the ground floor of the next social networking IPO.

The United States Department of Energy wants to solve the world’s energy problems—one sunbeam at a time. Held every two years, the Department’s Solar Decathlon is a student design competition that celebrates the latest in clean-energy home building practices in an attempt to show both home builders and homeowners how good green can be.

For a company worth at one time something north of $200-billion, it is indeed an inglorious end. As for a surprise— well, no.

Ahhh, those were the days. In 2008, the world economy was swooning. Stock markets on all five continents were in freefall. The titans of Wall Street were drowning in an ocean of red ink—as were several European countries. There, amidst the financial apocalypse stood Canada.

And then there were two. Tech giant Apple has released not one, but two brand-new versions of its trend-setting, buzz-generating, profit-making phone.

It was all Jim O’Neill’s fault. In November 2001, the chair of Goldman Sachs’ asset management division started talking about how the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China—would soon outstrip the developed nations and come to rule the economic world.

Bread. Cabbage. Dough. Green. Moolah. Scratch. Call it what you will—it makes the world go round. But the day is rapidly nearing when consumers need never get their hands sullied by filthy lucre again—mostly because they will never see it.

“Run, run. Run, Dick, run. Run and see.” From such humble beginnings many of us were introduced to the wonders of the written word. By studiously following the adventures of the sprightly Dick and his spunky sister Jane, we were taught not only the building blocks of grammar, but the basics of plot, character, and point-of-view.

That street vendor hawking Japanese-style hot dogs in front of your office tower. That place on Main Street that’s been selling carpet since forever. That multi-billion-dollar conglomerate that’s into everything from automotive retailing to radio broadcasting to apple juice. They all have something in common: they’re all privately owned. And they’re all making money hand over fist.

Have and have-not: in the post-industrial age, the border between the two will not be defined by wealth or bloodline, but by education—by what initials you’re entitled to put behind your name, and what income you’re able to extract from them.

Death, taxes, and the lengths to which we will go to avoid either: three things of which we can be reasonably certain in this increasingly uncertain world. Such wisdom accounts for the ongoing popularity of, among other things, organized religion and offshore tax havens. It also goes a long way to explaining why health care may be the best investment idea of all time.

It was all such a noble idea: the ability to talk to, learn from, and work with people from all over the world. The liberty to exchange opinions, to explore bold new ideas. But in practice, the freedom offered by the Internet has proven to be something of a double-edged sword.

People invest for many reasons, but at the foundation of them all is the expectation of your investment appreciating over time; to get more money out of the effort than you put in. Someone has apparently forgotten to pass the memo on to bond investors.

Confession time: when was the last time you actually paid for music? As in, visited a record store (either bricks-and-mortar or virtual) and anted up for the latest and/or greatest from Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum, Ladytron, or whoever sits at the top of your favourite playlist. Been a while? You’re not alone.

Whether it be an uninsulated shack on the side of a distant mountain or a 10-bedroom mansion on the shore of a lake, the cottage is the ultimate escape —from noise, pollution, people, routine, responsibilities, the rat race, civilization itself—if only from Victoria Day to Labour Day. It can also be a darn fine investment.

A wide cesspool, the flotsam and jetsam of a thousand cities half-submerged in its moss-green water. Garbage piled in haphazard heaps. Fires belching acrid, jet-black smoke into the pale blue sky. A mob of grubby, half-dressed children poking a burning pile of plastic with charred sticks. All that’s missing are the Four Horsemen.

The anything-goes scripto-anarchy of online culture has made electronic censorship a rather elusive goal. Short of pulling the plug on the entire Internet (and accepting the resultant economic consequences), it’s difficult for state-controlled agencies to monitor an ever-increasing mountain of user-generated blogs, articles, video, comments, and tweets. As fast as it’s taken down, it goes right back up.

Hard drives, silicon wafers, evil robots bent on destroying humanity—just a few of the things that come to mind when one’s thoughts turn to technology. But there is another side to technology, one that has nothing to do with either Silicon Valley or galaxies far, far away. A technology expressed not in ones and zeros, but in the complex sequences of proteins and amino acids that form the building blocks of life itself.

Keep your eye on the register as your cashier rings up your groceries. Notice something? That’s right: you’re paying more than you used to for everything that passes by the bar code scanner. And that, dear reader, could very well be the best investment idea you’re likely to hear over the next decade.

Golf is a game of inches, both literal and figurative. A slight shift from front foot to back; an additional degree of inclination on a club face; a ball that rolls a little to the left rather than the right—any of these can make the difference between an afternoon spent dreaming about turning pro and one spent ruing the day you first put hand to club.

Thirty pounds: it doesn’t sound like too much of a burden. But when it’s thrashing and jumping on the end of 18 metres of thin nylon line as your boat rises and falls in a two-metre swell—well, 30 pounds might as well be a full-sized car.