Silicon Valley Year in Review 2013

December 2013

Delivery drones Delivery drones

Delivery drones

Unmanned aerial robots could become a common sight if Amazon can unleash its fleet of delivery drones. The company announced the plan to deliver packages as quickly as 30 minutes using airborne robots. But don't hold your breath, the technology won't be ready for another few years—if it even gets approval. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who's also building a 10,000-year clock in the side of a mountain and pursuing private space flight, says these helicopter-like mechatronic vehicles will one day be as commonplace as a UPS truck. Just hope thieves don't shoot your incoming Amazon Wishlist goodies out of the sky.

Fake Google worker fights gentrification

Held up as a sign of everything that is wrong with the libertarian, self-absorbed startup culture in Silicon Valley, Max Bell Alper shouted down gentrification opponents blocking a bus for Google commuters that they should leave San Francisco if they can't afford their rent. ""You can't pay your rent? I'm sorry. Get a better job," he said. "This is a city for the right people who can afford it. You can't afford it? You can leave." What a dick, right? Turns out Alper is an activist actor who snuck on the bus just to create a viral video.

Held hostage

Merrill Newman spent his life traveling the world. But his latest—and most daring—adventure met with trouble when the 85-year-old Palo Alto resident was forced off a plane departing from Pyongyang and detained for several weeks in North Korea. Some called the detention a plea for attention by the totalitarian nation. But it probably had more to do with Merrill's history as a Korean War veteran. The Californian retiree appeared on North Korea's state TV apologizing for war crimes, in what was almost certainly a coerced statement.


Google went on a buying spree, snatching up several robotics companies as part of Android head Andy Rubin's robotics initiative. Venture Beat called the evident goal—to create a smart, agile robot that can work with or instead of humans—"as diverse as it is ambitious." We're pretty sure they said the same thing before Terminator.


Nothing shows more respect for the death of South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela than three dignitaries taking a selfie at his memorial with glowing smiles. President Obama joined U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish PM Helle Thorning Schmidt in an intimate photo at arm's length, enraging the world with their stupid duck faces.

Private Eyes

If the FBI wants your selfies, they found a way to cut out the middle man: the Washington Post reported that the agency acknowledged the ability to spy through webcams. So any telecommuters who enjoy a particularly relaxed dress code at home may want to cover up.

Meet a New Meat

Old-school vegans and vegetarians can "praise Seitan" all they want, but Mother Jones reported that a Silicon Valley-backed company, Beyond Meat, aims to create fake meat that so vastly improves on sawdusty Gardenburgers that it could one day serve not just as a meat substitute, but as a meat replacement. You know, even for meat eaters. The company is backed by Obvious Corp., the investing team launched by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. Its first product, already sold at Whole Foods, is fake chicken strips with a realistic texture. The convincing "bite" to the faux flesh is created by altering the shape of pea proteins. That old saying about how it's better not to see how the sausage is made should probably apply to this, too.

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