Our Favorite WIRED Longreads of the Year

This was one hell of a year, with no end of important stories. WIRED traveled the world covering hundreds of stories, from celebrating the triumph of AI over an ancient game to exploring how ISIS mastered social media to meeting a woman with no autobiographical memory. We even convincedPresident Obama to guest-edit an entire issue.

But we know you’re busy. You’ve got jobs and kids and lives, so we understand if you missed some of these features. Not to worry.Our editors choose a handful of stories that we believe reflect our very best work.

So now that you’ve cleaned up the last of the wrapping paper and you’ve gota little time to relax, pour yourself a glass of something nice and settle in with our favorite WIRED longreads of 2016.

That Dragon, Cancer

That Dragon, Cancer”tells the story of Ryan and AmyGreen and their creation of a videogame about the most painful experience a parent can endure—the deathof a child. WIRED editor-at-large Jason Tanz masterfully recounts thedeeply personal process of creating a truly innovative game, and the agonizing decision of how to portray the last moments of their son Joel’s life.
 

Credit: COURTESY OF THE GREEN FAMILY

That Dragon, Cancer”tells the story of Ryan and AmyGreen and their creation of a videogame about the most painful experience a parent can endure—the deathof a child. WIRED editor-at-large Jason Tanz masterfully recounts thedeeply personal process of creating a truly innovative game, and the agonizing decision of how to portray the last moments of their son Joel’s life.
 

The Sadness and Beauty of Watching Googles AI Play Go

A pivotal moment in the development of artificial intelligence occurred at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul last March, when a computer finally beat a human at the ancient game of Go. During a keymatch, Google’s AlphaGo made a move that puzzled even Lee Sedol, the Go master that the computer defeated. In “The Sadness and Beauty of Watching Googles AI Play Go,” Cade Metz explores howAlphaGo’s victory changes the game, changes AI, and may even change the future.

Credit: Geordie Wood

A pivotal moment in the development of artificial intelligence occurred at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul last March, when a computer finally beat a human at the ancient game of Go. During a keymatch, Google’s AlphaGo made a move that puzzled even Lee Sedol, the Go master that the computer defeated. In “The Sadness and Beauty of Watching Googles AI Play Go,” Cade Metz explores howAlphaGo’s victory changes the game, changes AI, and may even change the future.

Netflixs Grand, Daring, Maybe Crazy Plan to Conquer the World

The company that made its name sending DVDs through the mail wants to take over the world by streaming content online—and become the first global content network. In “Netflixs Grand, Daring, Maybe Crazy Plan to Conquer the World,” Brian Barrett explains how Netflix harnessed unfathomable amounts of data and an immense infrastructure to create an online entertainment juggernaut capable of delivering contentto everyone, everywhere, at any time.
 

Credit: Netflix

The company that made its name sending DVDs through the mail wants to take over the world by streaming content online—and become the first global content network. In “Netflixs Grand, Daring, Maybe Crazy Plan to Conquer the World,” Brian Barrett explains how Netflix harnessed unfathomable amounts of data and an immense infrastructure to create an online entertainment juggernaut capable of delivering contentto everyone, everywhere, at any time.
 

In a Perpetual Present

Susie McKinnon can remember who she is, but she can’t remember her vacation, her wedding, orkey moments of her childhood. McKinnon doesnt have core memories: her mental recall is more of an index, without the stories themselves. In a Perpetual Present, by Erika Hayasaki, explores life without autobiographical memory, and who we are without our recollections.

Credit: Alma Haser

Susie McKinnon can remember who she is, but she can’t remember her vacation, her wedding, orkey moments of her childhood. McKinnon doesnt have core memories: her mental recall is more of an index, without the stories themselves. In a Perpetual Present, by Erika Hayasaki, explores life without autobiographical memory, and who we are without our recollections.

Check In With the Velociraptor at the World’s First Robot Hotel

When you go on vacation, do you long for a wake-up call from an automated bedside turnip? Would you entrust your luggage to a go kart-like porter? How about an incessant Musak version of the 2001 theme song? Welcome to the service sector of the future. In Check In With the Velociraptor at the Worlds First Robot Hotel, Gideon Lewis-Krauss takes a trip to the Henn-na Hotel,staffed entirely by androids, located in a faux-Dutch theme park in Japan.

Credit: Brian Finke

When you go on vacation, do you long for a wake-up call from an automated bedside turnip? Would you entrust your luggage to a go kart-like porter? How about an incessant Musak version of the 2001 theme song? Welcome to the service sector of the future. In Check In With the Velociraptor at the Worlds First Robot Hotel, Gideon Lewis-Krauss takes a trip to the Henn-na Hotel,staffed entirely by androids, located in a faux-Dutch theme park in Japan.

Why ISIS Is Winning the Social Media War

The Islamic State is as much a media conglomerate as it is a fighting force, one that has thoroughly mastered modern digital tools and social media to sow fear around the world.In Why ISIS Is Winning the Social Media War, Brendan I. Koerner charts the evolution of its media strategy from grainy videos to social media and a glossy magazine, and how it completely transformed the creation and dissemination of propaganda.

Credit: Reuters

The Islamic State is as much a media conglomerate as it is a fighting force, one that has thoroughly mastered modern digital tools and social media to sow fear around the world.In Why ISIS Is Winning the Social Media War, Brendan I. Koerner charts the evolution of its media strategy from grainy videos to social media and a glossy magazine, and how it completely transformed the creation and dissemination of propaganda.

He Drew the Sun for 40 Years, But Now His Telescope Is Dying

Every morning at sunrise, Steve Padilla leaves his cottage on a mountaintop and walks 200 yards to the Mount Wilson solar observatory. There, he spends the day sketching sunspots, something he’s done for four decades despite waning funding and interest in older observatories. In He Drew the Sun for 40 Years, But Now His Telescope is Dying, Sarah Scoles introduces you to the remarkable man on the mountain who can’t stop staring at the sun.

Credit: Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Every morning at sunrise, Steve Padilla leaves his cottage on a mountaintop and walks 200 yards to the Mount Wilson solar observatory. There, he spends the day sketching sunspots, something he’s done for four decades despite waning funding and interest in older observatories. In He Drew the Sun for 40 Years, But Now His Telescope is Dying, Sarah Scoles introduces you to the remarkable man on the mountain who can’t stop staring at the sun.

The Crisis In Flint Isnt Over. Its Everywhere

By now, you’ve no doubt heard about Flint, Michigan, and the lead contamination of the city’s drinking water. But it’s just the beginning. InThe Crisis In Flint Isnt Over. Its Everywhere, Ben Paynterexplores how one folk hero scientist, Marc Edwards, and a grassroots group of residents hope to save the city, and highlight the aging, potentially poisonous problem facing cities nationwide.
 

Credit: Dan Winters

By now, you’ve no doubt heard about Flint, Michigan, and the lead contamination of the city’s drinking water. But it’s just the beginning. InThe Crisis In Flint Isnt Over. Its Everywhere, Ben Paynterexplores how one folk hero scientist, Marc Edwards, and a grassroots group of residents hope to save the city, and highlight the aging, potentially poisonous problem facing cities nationwide.
 

Like. Flirt. Ghost: A Journey Into the Social Media Lives of Teens

The myriad ways teenagers use social media mystifies anyone who isn’t, well, a teenager. Mary K. Choi wanted to understand the phenomena and make sense of the incrutible, and so she embedded with five high school students. InLike. Flirt. Ghost: A Journey Into the Social Media Lives of Teens, she navigates this rapidly changing, often confusing world. It’s a fascinating look at the rules of social media, from the perspective of those who often write them.
 

Credit: Ian Allen

The myriad ways teenagers use social media mystifies anyone who isn’t, well, a teenager. Mary K. Choi wanted to understand the phenomena and make sense of the incrutible, and so she embedded with five high school students. InLike. Flirt. Ghost: A Journey Into the Social Media Lives of Teens, she navigates this rapidly changing, often confusing world. It’s a fascinating look at the rules of social media, from the perspective of those who often write them.
 

Could This Be the Year Movies Stop Mattering?

A star-studded cast, high-powered director, and unlimited marketing budget are no guarantee of a blockbuster these days. In an era when a hit likeLemonade lands on a streaming service,Jigglypuffs appear on the street, and Twitter can make or break just about anything, the idea of going to a theater for entertainment seems almost quaint. Brian Raftery argues inCould This Be the Year Movies Stop Mattering?that at a time when every other medium has the ability to surprise and delight,the big screen doesnt hold quite the same impact.

Credit: Giles Keyte/Universal Studios

A star-studded cast, high-powered director, and unlimited marketing budget are no guarantee of a blockbuster these days. In an era when a hit likeLemonade lands on a streaming service,Jigglypuffs appear on the street, and Twitter can make or break just about anything, the idea of going to a theater for entertainment seems almost quaint. Brian Raftery argues inCould This Be the Year Movies Stop Mattering?that at a time when every other medium has the ability to surprise and delight,the big screen doesnt hold quite the same impact.

Its Time for Shows to Start Saying No To Season Two

It’s hard to let go of something you love, but sometimes it’s best to make a clean break before things get messy. Although that’s true of relationships, we’re talking about television. InIts Time for Shows to Start Saying No To Season Two, Angela Watercutter argues that a gripping and masterful first season of a television program like HBOs The Night Of is all you really need.

Credit: HBO

It’s hard to let go of something you love, but sometimes it’s best to make a clean break before things get messy. Although that’s true of relationships, we’re talking about television. InIts Time for Shows to Start Saying No To Season Two, Angela Watercutter argues that a gripping and masterful first season of a television program like HBOs The Night Of is all you really need.

Reflexology: Inside the Groan-Inducing World of Pun Competitions

It has been said that puns are the lowest form of humor. Of course, people who say that have never witnessedcompetitive punning. It’s a bit like a rap battle—if 8 Mile featured pudgy programmers riffing on diseases. Our own punmaster Peter Rubin dove headlong into this world and emerged withReflexology: Inside the Groan-Inducing World of Pun Competitions.

Credit: Paula Scher

It has been said that puns are the lowest form of humor. Of course, people who say that have never witnessedcompetitive punning. It’s a bit like a rap battle—if 8 Mile featured pudgy programmers riffing on diseases. Our own punmaster Peter Rubin dove headlong into this world and emerged withReflexology: Inside the Groan-Inducing World of Pun Competitions.

Barack Obama on Neural Networks, Autonomous Cars, and the Future of the World

President Obama made hope and optimism a keystoneof his presidency. He shares WIRED’s unwavering belief that world benefits from inclusion and invention, the unfettered flow ofinformation and ideas, and by civil discourse, scientific discovery, and innovation. And so when the White House expressed interest in working with WIRED, we invited the president to guest-edit our November issue. The centerpiece of the issue is a lengthy discussion between President Obama, Joi Ito of the MIT Media Lab, and our editor-in-chief, Scott Dadich,about the role of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and other technology will play in shaping the future, and about howStar Trek provides a much-needed optimistic vision of the future.

Credit: Christopher Anderson/Magnum

President Obama made hope and optimism a keystoneof his presidency. He shares WIRED’s unwavering belief that world benefits from inclusion and invention, the unfettered flow ofinformation and ideas, and by civil discourse, scientific discovery, and innovation. And so when the White House expressed interest in working with WIRED, we invited the president to guest-edit our November issue. The centerpiece of the issue is a lengthy discussion between President Obama, Joi Ito of the MIT Media Lab, and our editor-in-chief, Scott Dadich,about the role of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and other technology will play in shaping the future, and about howStar Trek provides a much-needed optimistic vision of the future.

Now, More than Ever, Designers Must Transform America

Thoughtful design has always had the ability to effect political change. And yet, in days following the election,the power of design feltat least momentarily diminished. Liz Stinson argues inNow, More than Ever, Designers Must Transform America,that designers, who by nature tend to be optimistic and forward-thinking, must play a key role in unifying a divided country and bringing clarity to confusion and obfuscation.

Credit: 520 Design

Thoughtful design has always had the ability to effect political change. And yet, in days following the election,the power of design feltat least momentarily diminished. Liz Stinson argues inNow, More than Ever, Designers Must Transform America,that designers, who by nature tend to be optimistic and forward-thinking, must play a key role in unifying a divided country and bringing clarity to confusion and obfuscation.

Three Days In America

Social media made everyone a witness to the deaths of Alton Stirling and Philando Castile at the hands of police, and to the killing of five police officers in Dallas. Regardless of your views, it was impossible to look away. And things will never be the same.In Three Days In America, four reporters—Lexi Pandell, Bryn Stole, Brandt Williams, and Mitch Mitchell—interview31 participants and witnesses of these watershed moments about what’s gained and lost in an era when death is broadcast in real time, and how three terrible days forever changed how all Americans view race, the police, and protests.

Credit: Getty Images

Social media made everyone a witness to the deaths of Alton Stirling and Philando Castile at the hands of police, and to the killing of five police officers in Dallas. Regardless of your views, it was impossible to look away. And things will never be the same.In Three Days In America, four reporters—Lexi Pandell, Bryn Stole, Brandt Williams, and Mitch Mitchell—interview31 participants and witnesses of these watershed moments about what’s gained and lost in an era when death is broadcast in real time, and how three terrible days forever changed how all Americans view race, the police, and protests.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/2016/12/favorite-wired-longreads-2016/