The Download: what to expect from US Congress’s first AI meeting

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

What to know about Congress’s inaugural AI meeting

The US Congress is heading back into session, and they’re hitting the ground running on AI. We’re going to be hearing a lot about various plans and positions on AI regulation in the coming weeks, kicking off with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s first AI Insight Forum on Wednesday. 

This and planned future forums will bring together some of the top people in AI to discuss the risks and opportunities it poses and how Congress might write legislation to address them.

Although the forums are closed to the public and press, our senior tech policy reporter Tate Ryan-Mosley has chatted with representatives from attendee AI company Hugging Face about what they are expecting, and what exactly these forums are hoping to achieve. Read the full story.

Tate’s story first appeared in The Technocrat, her weekly newsletter covering policy and Silicon Valley. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

Why regulating AI is such a challenge

Lawmakers around the world are trying to work out how to regulate AI. We’re holding the second MIT Technology Review Roundtable tomorrow at 12pm ET: a 30-minute conversation with our writers and editors—and this one will dig deep into what it’ll take to govern AI properly.

Melissa Heikkilä, our senior reporter for AI, will be chatting with news editor Charlotte Jee about what should be done to keep AI companies in line. Roundtables are free for MIT Technology Review subscribers, so if you’re not already, you can become one today from just $80 a year.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Meta is working on a AI large language model
Which, if it all goes to plan, will be as powerful as OpenAI’s ChatGPT. (WSJ $)
+ The company is focusing on AI and turning its back on news. (Wired $)
+ Meta’s AI leaders want you to know fears over AI existential risk are “ridiculous.” (MIT Technology Review)

2 Google is preparing for a historic new antitrust case
It’s a crucial test of President Biden’s efforts to hold Big Tech to account. (FT $)
+ Google is accused of unlawfully quashing its competition. (Wired $)

3 Starlink should keep supplying Ukraine with satellite internet
That’s according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after it was revealed Elon Musk had turned off the system to scupper a Ukrainian drone attack. (Bloomberg $)
+ A Ukrainian official accused Musk of “committing evil.” (The Guardian)

4 Island nations are hoping to legally force polluters to clean up their act
Carbon emissions are causing them to sink. Now, they want to punish the perpetrators. (Bloomberg $)+ The state of the climate is pretty dire right now. (Vox)
+ What’s changed in the US since the breakthrough climate bill passed a year ago? (MIT Technology Review)

5 Tax evaders in the US are risking detection by AI
It’s helping the US tax agency to complete audits on a previously-unachievable scale. (NYT $)

6 X is host to more bot activity than ever before
Which suggests the company’s anti-bots campaign isn’t really working. (The Guardian)

7 How Lisbon quietly became a crypto paradise
The picturesque Portuguese city has embraced crypto as many others shun it. (CNBC)
+ How Bitcoin mining devastated this New York town. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Silicon Valley’s great and the good are getting full body medical scans
Despite the fact that no official medical body has sanctioned it. (WP $)

9 Why streaming is such a mess
Choosing what to watch isn’t as tough a quandary as how to watch it. (The Atlantic $)
+ Live sports is caught in a major TV battle. (Slate $)

10 Super apps are not so super
They reinforce monopolies and encourage more tracking than ever. (Wired $)

Quote of the day

“People just thought we were insane. Google was the best thing since sliced bread.”

—Barry Lynn, executive director of the Open Markets Institute and a veteran antitrust activist, explains to the Washington Post how he wasn’t taken seriously when he tried to push US officials to take antitrust action against Google in the early 2000s.

The big story

This super-realistic virtual world is a driving school for AI

February 2022

Building driverless cars is a slow and expensive business. After years of effort and billions of dollars of investment, the technology is still stuck in the pilot phase.

Autonomous technology company Waabi thinks it can do better. Last year it revealed the controversial new shortcut to autonomous vehicles it’s betting on. The big idea? Ditch the cars.

Waabi has built a super-realistic virtual environment called Waabi World. Instead of training an AI driver in real vehicles, it plans to do it entirely inside the simulation. But simulation alone is a bold strategy, and how far it can go depends on how realistic Waabi World really is. Read the full story

—Will Douglas Heaven

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Imagine being a professional royal impersonator.
+ Preparing for the cheese olympics sounds profoundly stressful to me. 🧀
+ The surface of Mars is home to some seriously weird things.
+ The trailer for Cat Person, a new movie based on the viral short story of the same name, has landed.
+ We’re witnessing a rise in Omani art.

The Download: how to talk to kids about AI, and China’s emotional chatbots

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

You need to talk to your kid about AI. Here are 6 things you should say.

In the past year, kids, teachers, and parents have had a crash course in artificial intelligence, thanks to the wildly popular AI chatbot ChatGPT.

In a knee-jerk reaction, some schools banned the technology—only to cancel the ban months later. Now that many adults have caught up with what ChatGPT is, schools have started exploring ways to use AI systems to teach kids important lessons on critical thinking. 

At the start of the new school year, here are MIT Technology Review’s six essential tips for how to get started on giving your kid an AI education. Read the full story.

—Rhiannon Williams & Melissa Heikkilä

My colleague Will Douglas Heaven wrote about how AI can be used in schools for our recent Education issue. You can read that piece here.

Chinese AI chatbots want to be your emotional support

Last week, Baidu became the first Chinese company to roll out its large language model—called Ernie Bot—to the general public, following regulatory approval from the Chinese government.

Since then, four more Chinese companies have also made their LLM chatbot products broadly available, while more experienced players, like Alibaba and iFlytek, are still waiting for the clearance.

One thing that Zeyi Yang, our China reporter, noticed was how the Chinese AI bots are used to offer emotional support compared to their Western counterparts. Given that chatbots are a novelty right now, it raises questions about how the companies are hoping to keep users engaged once that initial excitement has worn off. Read the full story.

This story originally appeared in China Report, Zeyi’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things happening in tech in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 China’s chips are far more advanced than we realized
Huawei’s latest phone has US officials wondering how effective their sanctions have really been. (Bloomberg $)
+ It suggests China’s domestic chip tech is coming on in leaps and bounds. (Guardian)
+ Japan was once a chipmaking giant. What happened? (FT $) 
+ The US-China chip war is still escalating. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Meta’s AI teams are in turmoil 
Internal groups are scrapping over the company’s computing resources. (The Information $)
+ Meta’s latest AI model is free for all. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Conspiracy theorists have rounded on digital cash 
If authorities can’t counter those claims, digital currencies are dead in the water. (FT $)
+ Is the digital dollar dead? (MIT Technology Review)
+ What’s next for China’s digital yuan? (MIT Technology Review)

4 Lawyers are the real winners of the crypto crash
Someone has to represent all those bankrupt companies. (NYT $)
+ Sam Bankman-Fried is adjusting to life behind bars (NY Mag $)

5 Renting an EV is a minefield
Collecting a hire car that’s only half charged is far from ideal. (WSJ $)
+ BYD, China’s biggest EV company, is eyeing an overseas expansion. (Rest of World)
+ How new batteries could help your EV charge faster. (MIT Technology Review)

6 US immigration used fake social media profiles to spy on targets
Even though aliases are against many platforms’ terms of service. (Guardian)

7 The internet has normalized laughing at death 
The creepy groups are a digital symbol of human cruelty. (The Atlantic $)

8 New York is purging thousands of Airbnbs  
A new law has made it essentially impossible for the company to operate in the city. (Wired $)+ And hosts are far from happy about it. (NY Mag $)

9 Men are already rating AI-generated women’s hotness
In another bleak demonstration of how AI models can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. (Motherboard)
+ Ads for AI sex workers are rife across social media. (NBC News)

10 Meet the young activists fighting for kids’ rights online
They’re demanding a say in the rules that affect their lives. (WP $)

Quote of the day

“It wasn’t totally crazy. It was only moderately crazy.”

—Ilya Sutskever, co-founder of OpenAI, reflects on the company’s early desire to chase the theoretical goal of artificial general intelligence, according to Wired.

The big story

Marseille’s battle against the surveillance state

June 2022

Across the world, video cameras have become an accepted feature of urban life. Many cities in China now have dense networks of them, and London and New Delhi aren’t far behind. Now France is playing catch-up.

Concerns have been raised throughout the country. But the surveillance rollout has met special resistance in Marseille, France’s second-biggest city.

It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that activists are fighting back against the cameras, highlighting the surveillance system’s overreach and underperformance. But are they succeeding? Read the full story.

—Fleur Macdonald

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ How’d ya like dem apples? Quite a lot, actually.
+ Why keeping cocktails cold without ice isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
+ There’s no single explanation for why we get creeped out.
+ This fearless skater couldn’t be cuter.
+ Here’s how to get your steak perfectly tender.

The Download: China’s AI chatbots go public, and how climate change is affecting hurricanes

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Chinese ChatGPT alternatives just got approved for the general public

The news: Baidu, one of China’s leading artificial-intelligence companies, has announced it’s opening up access to its ChatGPT-like large language model, Ernie Bot, to the general public.

The context:  Launched in mid-March, Ernie Bot was the first Chinese ChatGPT rival. Since then, many Chinese tech companies, including Alibaba and ByteDance, have followed suit and released their own models. Yet all of them force users to sit on waitlists or go through approval systems, making the products mostly inaccessible for ordinary users

What’s next: On August 30, Baidu posted on social media that it will also release a batch of new AI applications within the Ernie Bot as the company rolls out open registration today. But even with the new access, it’s unclear how many people will use the products. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Here’s what we know about hurricanes and climate change

It’s now possible to link climate change to all kinds of extreme weather, from droughts to flooding to wildfires.

Hurricanes are no exception—scientists have found that warming temperatures are causing stronger and less predictable storms. That’s a concern, because hurricanes are already among the most deadly and destructive extreme weather events around the world. In the US alone, three hurricanes each caused over $1 billion in damages in 2022. In a warming world, we can expect the totals to rise.

But the relationship between climate change and hurricanes is more complicated than most people realize. Here’s what we know, and—as Hurricane Idalia batters the Florida coast—what to expect from the storms to come. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

Casey’s story is part of MIT Technology Review Explains, designed to help you make sense of what’s coming next. Check out the rest of the stories in the series.

If you’d like to read more about how climate charge can supercharge hurricanes, take a look at the most recent edition of The Spark, Casey’s weekly climate newsletter. To receive it in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 X wants to collect your biometric data
Elon Musk’s ongoing crusade to rid the platform of bot accounts has taken a sinister turn. (Bloomberg $)
+ Audio and video calls are also in the company’s pipeline. (Mashable)

2 The United Arab Emirates is getting into generative AI
It hopes to bring bilingual LLMs to more than 400 million Arabic speakers worldwide. (FT $)
+ German startup Aleph Alpha wants to be the European OpenAI. (Wired $)
+ How AWS spectacularly fumbled its AI lead. (The Information $)
+ The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Meta has declined to suspend the account of Cambodia’s leader
Despite the request coming from its own board. (WP $)
+ The company has internally admitted stifling legitimate political speech. (The Intercept)

4 A grocery delivery app encouraged its workers to brave Hurricane Idalia  
‘Bad Weather = Good Tips,’ it told them. (Motherboard)
+ Georgia has declared a state of emergency. (The Guardian)
+ Conspiracy theorists are attempting to downplay natural disasters online. (NYT $)

5 YouTube’s radicalization crackdown appears to have worked
Extremist videos are harder to find, but learning from the past remains critical. (The Atlantic $)
+ YouTube’s algorithm seems to be funneling people to alt-right videos. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Cheap Chromebooks aren’t the good deal they used to be
And schools end up stuck with piles of increasingly useless machines. (WSJ $)

7 It’s scarily easy to track someone on the NYC subway
Your journey history is available to anyone with your financial details. (404 Media)

8 Burning Man is seriously bad for the planet
Just traveling to the festival comes has a high environmental cost. (Vox)

9 Smashing up asteroids creates new space debris ☄
Which we need to keep an eye on to make sure it’s not more dangerous than the original threat. (Wired $)
+ Watch the moment NASA’s DART spacecraft crashed into an asteroid. (MIT Technology Review)

10 We’re learning more about how to treat chronic pain
For some patients, electrical nerve stimulation is offering relief when nothing else works. (Economist $)
+ Brain waves can tell us how much pain someone is in. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“It just gives me a negative vibe.”

—Belinda Davey, a 36-year-old retail worker in Australia, tells the Wall Street Journal why she created a shortcut that replaces X’s new logo with the original Twitter bird.

The big story

We used to get excited about technology. What happened?

October 2022

As a philosopher who studies AI and data, Shannon Vallor’s Twitter feed is always filled with the latest tech news. Increasingly, she’s realized that the constant stream of information is no longer inspiring joy, but a sense of resignation.

Joy is missing from our lives, and from our technology. Its absence is feeding a growing unease being voiced by many who work in tech or study it. Fixing it depends on understanding how and why the priorities in our tech ecosystem have changed. Read the full story.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ I’m loving these photos of the blue supermoon from across the world (did you see it?)
+ Wait, is that Bob Dylan?
+ Dreaming isn’t just for humans—spiders may do it too.
+ It’s officially time to bring back 1930s slang (it’ll blow your wig)
+ Who doesn’t love pistachios?

The Download: how to test AI, and the hidden victims of pig-butchering scams

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Large language models aren’t people. Let’s stop testing them as if they are.

In the past few years, multiple researchers claim to have shown that large language models can pass cognitive tests designed for humans, from working through problems step by step, to guessing what other people are thinking. 

These kinds of results are feeding a hype machine predicting that these machines will soon come for white-collar jobs; that they could replace teachers, doctors, journalists, and lawyers. Geoffrey Hinton has called out GPT-4’s apparent ability to string together thoughts as one reason he is now scared of the technology he helped create.

But there’s a problem. There’s little agreement on what those results really mean. Some people are dazzled by what they see as glimmers of human-like intelligence, while others aren’t convinced one bit. And the desire to anthropomorphize such models is confusing people about what they can and cannot do. Read the full story.

—William Douglas Heaven

The involuntary criminals behind pig-butchering scams

Pig-butchering scams are everywhere. The scams, the term for which refers to the lengthy, trust-building process of raising a pig for slaughter, have extorted victims out of millions, if not billions, of dollars.

But in recent weeks, growing attention has been granted to the scammers behind these crimes, who are often victims themselves. A new book in English, a movie in Chinese, and a slew of media reports are shining a light on the fascinating (and horrifying) aspects of a scary trend in human trafficking, where victims leave their homes in the hope of gaining stable employment, but end up held captive and unable to leave. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Zeyi’s story first appeared in China Report, his weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things tech in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The FBI has dismantled a colossal malware botnet
It had infected more than 700,000 computers across the world. (The Verge)
+ It’s the most sophisticated botnet the authorities have ever encountered. (The Register)
+ Russian cybercrime forums are offering big cash prizes for scam tutorials. (Wired $)

2 Big Tech is propping up deepfake porn
Its hosting infrastructure spreads non-consensual material to wide audiences. (Bloomberg $)
+ A horrifying AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Google has unveiled a suite of new corporate AI tools
The goal is to put its AI-powered office software in the hands of as many customers as possible. (WSJ $)

4 Amazon is facing legal action over the sales of unapproved drugs
It’s been warned multiple times in the past year to stop selling unproven medicines. (FT $)

5 A new nuclear arms race is beckoning
Relations between the US, Russia, and increasingly China, are growing increasingly fraught. (Economist $)

6 Arizona’s chip factory is struggling to get online
America’s home-built chip ambitions are off to a rocky start. (The Guardian)
+ The $100 billion bet that a postindustrial US city can reinvent itself as a high-tech hub. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Alternative meats are hot right now 🍗
Governments have sunk $1 billion into no-kill meat. But will we eat it? (Vox)
+ Will lab-grown meat reach our plates? (MIT Technology Review)

8 How to talk to whales—using AI 🐋
Scientists are deciphering the mammals’ speech patterns, and creating their own along the way. (Wired $)
+ Under-represented languages pose a major obstacle for AI models. (Rest of World)

9 These materials are being used to build the cities of the future
Greener wood, cement, and glass is on the horizon. (Bloomberg $)
+ How green steel could clean up a dirty industry. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Robotaxis are weird now
Just ask the people who live in the cities they’re clogging up. (The Atlantic $)
+ Robotaxis are here. It’s time to decide what to do about them. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“The lack of crouching is probably the most glaring issue.”

—Virtual reality enthusiast Brad Lynch offers his opinion on Meta’s decision to finally add legs to its VR avatars.

The big story

We asked Bill Gates, a Nobel laureate, and others to name the most effective way to combat climate change


February 2021

Despite decades of warnings and increasingly devastating disasters, we’ve made little progress in slowing climate change.

Given the lack of momentum, how do we make faster, more significant progress? We asked 10 experts a single question: “If you could invent, invest in, or implement one thing that you believe would do the most to reduce the risks of climate change, what would it be and why?” Read the full story.

—James Temple

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ If you’re lucky enough to see the super blue moon this week, here’s how to maximize your chances of taking the best photo possible.
+ What did druids really get up to?
+ McDonald’s McFlurry machines are always broken just when you need them. Here’s why.
+ The making of Jamiroquai’s Virtual Insanity music video is actually insanely cool.
+ Congratulations to Python, which has been named this year’s top programming language.

The Download: brain signals as speech, and faster-charging batteries

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Brain implants helped create a digital avatar of a stroke survivor’s face

The news: A woman who lost her ability to speak after a stroke 18 years ago was able to replicate her voice and even convey a limited range of facial expressions via a computer avatar. A pair of papers published in Nature yesterday about experiments that restored speech to women via brain implants show just how quickly this field is advancing.

How they did it: Both teams used recording devices implanted into the brain to capture the signals controlling the small movements that provide facial expressions. Then they used AI algorithms to decode them into words, and a language model to adjust for accuracy. One team, led by Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, San Francisco, even managed to capture emotions.

The caveats: Researchers caution that these results may not hold for other people, and either way, we are still a very long way from tech that’s available to the wider public. Still, these proofs of concept are hugely exciting. Read the full story

—Cassandra Willyard

How new batteries could help your EV charge faster

The news: Chinese battery giant CATL has unveiled a new fast-charging battery—one that the company says can add up to 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) of range in 10 minutes. That’s faster than virtually all EV charging today, and CATL claims the new cells, which it plans to produce commercially by the end of 2023, will “open up an era of EV superfast charging.”

Why it matters: Although EVs are increasingly popular, drivers can be held back by worries about the limited range of their batteries, and the need to charge for upwards of half an hour. Innovation in battery materials, if matched with progress in charging infrastructure, could help mimic the convenience of gas-powered cars and encourage adoption of EVs. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

If you want to learn more about why fast charging is so crucial to the future of EVs, and what it’ll take to speed things up, read this week’s edition of The Spark, Casey’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things energy and climate. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday. 

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 India’s moon landing was a success 🚀
Great news for all of us, as it means we’ll learn more about the moon’s largely unexplored south pole. (Reuters)
Here’s why it’s significant, and what’ll come next. (Wired $)
India seems to be replacing Russia as a space power. (Quartz $)
2 Greece is battling its biggest wildfires yet
It’s having to tackle scores of simultaneous blazes across the country. (NYT $)
Why Lahania’s wildfires were so dreadful. (Wired $)
+ Locals say the inferno began after firefighters left a ‘contained’ fire. (NYT $)
The G20 pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies—then quadrupled them. (Quartz $)
Norway has opened the world’s biggest floating wind farm. (Reuters)
3 Google is trying to have it both ways with AI and copyright
It’s acknowledging musicians deserve to be paid for their data… but not publishers.  (The Verge)
Some of the thorniest questions about AI will be answered in court. (WSJ $)
How judges, not politicians, could dictate America’s AI rules. (MIT Technology Review)
4 Nvidia posted insanely good financial results
It’s now the sixth-most valuable public company in the world, as it profits from the AI boom. (WP $)
5 AI is everywhere… yet also nowhere
CEOs talk a good game, but drill into the details, and it’s yet to make any real impact for the vast majority of companies. (FT $)
Artificial intelligence is infiltrating health care. We shouldn’t let it make all the decisions. (MIT Technology Review)
6 Instagram is still riddled with criminal activity
It’s not only failing to moderate the sale of guns, drugs, and counterfeit cash—it’s actively promoting and profiting from it.  (404 Media)
7 TikTok Shop is hemorrhaging money in the US
But whether the $500 million it’s spent so far this year is really a loss or an investment remains to be seen. (The Information $)
8 How to talk to your kids about social media
Step one? Set a good example yourself. (Wired $)
+ How to log off. (MIT Technology Review)
9 It’s official: gifs just aren’t cool these days
I’m as gutted as you are. (The Guardian)
10 Netflix has given up asking for its DVDs back 📀
If you’ve still got a DVD player, you’ve still got a short window of time to nab some free discs. (Vox)

Quote of the day

“They are going to grow up in a world where this is the norm.”

—Yazmin Bahena, a middle school social studies teacher, tells the New York Times why she thinks schools are better off teaching students how to use AI tools than banning them.

The big story

The next act for messenger RNA could be bigger than covid vaccines

February 2021

Many covid vaccines were built and tested in under a year, thanks to a previously unproven technology made 20 years earlier: messenger RNA.

In the near future, researchers believe, shots that deliver temporary instructions into cells could also lead to vaccines against herpes and malaria, better flu vaccines.

But researchers also see a future well beyond vaccines. They think the technology will permit cheap gene fixes for cancer, sickle-cell disease, and maybe even HIV. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ You may not be ready to hear this, but pumpkin spice season is almost upon us.
+ Tanaka Tatsuya creates adorable miniature art
+ We all know exercise is great, but starting can be daunting. Here’s how to ease yourself into it. 
+ I’d wholeheartedly welcome a slice of this pie into my life.

The Download: introducing the Ethics issue

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Introducing: the Ethics issue 

As technology is embedded deeper and further into our lives, it’s becoming increasingly important for us to properly grapple with ethical concerns. For example, how do we nurture the development of AI in a way that avoids societal harm? Who should get access to cutting-edge, experimental drugs? If a machine tells soldiers when to pull the trigger, who is responsible? These are just some of the questions we explore in the latest edition of our print magazine. If nothing else, this issue is guaranteed to make you think. 

It’s worth diving in and reading the whole magazine cover-to-cover, but if you’re pressed for time, I’d recommend kicking off with these knock-out pieces:

+ This feature looks at the tricky, painful questions that surround who ought to get access to which experimental medical treatments (it can be a far harder decision than you might imagine.)

+ An article about All Tech Is Human, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting ethics and responsibility in tech, which forms a sort of non-religious congregation for our modern times. 

+ This feature delves into the complex and messy ethics of making war with machines—a pressing topic as cutting-edge tech is being tested in Ukraine, often with little-to-no oversight. 

+ This story examines the occasionally heated debates that go on behind the scenes in the open source community, and where it seems to be heading next. + Our online lives are plagued with scams, hacks and fraud. And technology is never going to magically fix that—it’s down to us, as this piece explains.

The fascinating evolution of typing Chinese characters

Back in the ’80s, there was no way of processing Chinese characters on personal computers. It posed a tricky problem to fix, but one Chinese engineer named Wang Yongmin had a stab. He developed the first popular way to input Chinese characters into a computer in 1983, by breaking down a character into different strokes and assigning several strokes to each letter on the QWERTY keyboard.

It was handy, but came with a big downside: users need to memorize which keys correspond to which strokes, so the learning curve is quite steep. The next step in the evolution of Chinese IMEs was the invention of typing by phonetic spelling in the ‘90s. But that also came with its own trouble, as hundreds of Chinese characters can share the same phonetic spelling.

Eventually, far more efficient predictive keyboard software came along in 2006, and now that forms the foundation for how Chinese people interact with technologies and each other. But again (you guessed it) there’s a problem: these apps are a privacy nightmare. Read the full story

—Zeyi Yang

This story is from China Report, Zeyi’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on what’s happening in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 India is about to try to land on the moon 🚀
If it succeeds, it’ll become the first country to reach the lunar south pole. (FT $)
If you’re a fan of high-stakes space livestreams, watch it right now. (Engadget)

2 Meta released an AI model that can translate a ton of languages
These sorts of tools are improving at a dizzying pace. (TechCrunch)
Meta’s new AI models can recognize and produce speech for more than 1,000 languages. (MIT Technology Review)

3 The US is fighting extreme weather on many fronts
Floods, wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves are making for a turbulent time in every corner of the country. (NBC)
Climate change is redrawing the disaster map. (The Verge)

4 What did the €600 million Human Brain Project achieve? 🧠
It didn’t manage to simulate the whole human brain (a tall order)—but it still stacked up some useful findings. (Nature)
How big science failed to unlock the mysteries of the human brain. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Elon Musk is ridiculously powerful 
Ignore all the noise around X, and look at his intergovernmental reach via projects like Starlink. (New Yorker $)

6 Inside the AI porn marketplace where everyone is for sale
Generative AI tools make it terrifyingly easy to create non-consensual images of anyone. (404 Media)
Tips for ‘jailbreaking’ AI are already everywhere online. (New Scientist $)
Scammers used ChatGPT to spam X with dodgy links. (Wired $)
Three ways AI chatbots are a security disaster. (MIT Technology Review)

7 LinkedIn is kinda… cool now
If corporate blandness is as bad as it gets, it still beats the unappealing alternatives. (Bloomberg $)

8 What we can learn from Taiwan’s myopia epidemic 
Poor eyesight is a growing problem around the world, but there are ways to stop it becoming even worse. (Wired $)

9 ‘Subliminals’ claim to transform teens’ lives 
These videos could make you better and more attractive. They might also do nothing. Or even make you feel worse. (The Atlantic $)

10 Your encrypted apps might not be as private as you think
The devil, as always, is in the details. (WP $)

Quote of the day

“Because he’s following his principles, he is literally now subsisting on bread and water.”

—Spare a thought for Sam Bankman-Fried, alleged to have defrauded people out of billions of dollars via his company FTX, who his lawyer says isn’t getting the vegan diet he requested, Reuters reports. 

The big story

The fight for “Instagram face”

screenshot of the SculptGL interface


August 2022

Through beauty filters, platforms like Instagram are helping users achieve increasingly narrowing beauty standards—though only in the digital world—at a stunningly rapid pace. There is evidence that excessive use of these filters online has harmful effects on mental health, especially for young girls.

“Instagram face” is a recognized aesthetic: ethnically ambiguous with the flawless skin, big eyes, full lips, small nose, and perfectly contoured curves made accessible in large part by filters. And while Instagram has banned filters that encourage plastic surgery, massive demand for beauty augmentation on social media is complicating matters. Read the full story.

—Tate Ryan-Mosley

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Do I need more salt in my diet? Probably not. Do I still want to try a salted soda anyway? Uh, yes.
+ The origin of the word ‘hangover’ may be more literal than I’d imagined. 
+ Photographer Ken Hermann’s portraits are amazing. 
+ Constantly surrounded by screens? Don’t forget to breathe. (NYT $)

The Download: reusing heat from computers, and period research

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

This startup has engineered a clever way to reuse waste heat from cloud computing

The idea of using the wasted heat of computing to do something else has been mooted plenty of times before. Now, UK startup Heata is actually doing it. When you sign up, it places a server in your home, where it connects via your Wi-Fi network to similar servers in other homes—all of which process data from companies that pay it for cloud computing services. 

Each server prevents one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent per year from being emitted and saves homeowners an average of £250 on hot water annually, a considerable discount in a country where many inhabitants struggle to afford heat.

The clever thing is that it provides a way to use electricity twice—providing services to the rapidly growing cloud computing industry and also providing domestic hot water—at a time when energy efficiency matters more than ever. Read the full story.

—Luigi Avantaggiato

Tiny faux organs could crack the mystery of menstruation

A group of scientists are using new tools akin to miniature organs to study a poorly understood—and frequently problematic—part of human physiology: menstruation. 

Heavy, sometimes debilitating periods strike at least a third of people who menstruate at some point in their lives, causing some to regularly miss work or school. Anemia threatens about two-thirds of people with heavy periods. Many people desperately need treatments to make their period more manageable, but it’s difficult for scientists to design medications without understanding how menstruation really works.

That understanding could be in the works, thanks to endometrial organoids—biomedical tools made from bits of the tissue that lines the uterus. The research is still very much in its infancy. But organoids have already provided insights into why menstruation is routine for some people and fraught for others. Some researchers are hopeful that these early results mark the dawn of a new era. Read the full story

—Saima Sidik

Both of the stories featured today are from the new ethics-themed print magazine issue of MIT Technology Review, set to go live on Wednesday. Subscribe to read it, if you don’t already!

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Canadian leaders are calling on Meta to reverse its news ban
They say the block has been preventing people from getting access to crucial information about wildfires. (WP $)
+ 850 people are still missing after the Maui wildfires, its mayor has said. (NBC)
Lahaina’s governor says the state ‘tipped too far’ in trying to preserve water. (NYT $)

2 Stars are inking deals to license their AI doubles 🎬
It creates new ways to make money—but also a hefty dose of anxiety for the future. (The Information $)
People are hiring out their faces to become deepfake-style marketing clones. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Despite early excitement, a lot of companies are struggling to meaningfully deploy AI. (Axios)
 + Most Americans want AI development to go more slowly. (Vox)

3 Russia’s bid to return to the moon failed
Its Luna 25 spacecraft slammed into the moon’s surface yesterday. (The Economist $)

4 Cruise has to halve its robotaxi fleet after two crashes in San Francisco
Just over a week after it gained approval to operate at all hours in the city. (Quartz)
Lidar on a chip will be crucial to the future of fully autonomous driving. (IEEE Spectrum)

5 Why some ships are getting back their sails
Shipping accounts for 2.1% of global CO2 emissions—using wind instead of fuel could help to cut that. (BBC)
How ammonia could help clean up global shipping. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Musk says X will no longer have a block function
Though it will remain for direct messages. (CNBC)
+ A glitch broke links from before 2014 on X. (The Verge)
+ Musk’s antics are starting to wear thin among some of his fans. (WSJ $)
+ Tesla is suing two former employees for allegedly leaking data. (Quartz $)

7 Here’s the trouble with getting your news from influencers
If you’re relying on a single creator, what happens when they’re wrong? (The Verge)

8 Can video games help people with ADHD?
As stimulant shortages drag on, people are starting to seek out help wherever they can. (Wired $)
We may never fully know how video games affect our wellbeing. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Haptic suits let you feel music through your skin
Groovy! (NYT $)

10 How Apple won US teens over
A recent survey found 87% have iPhones, and they’re unlikely to switch. (WSJ $)
Switching on subtitles is all the rage too. (Axios)

Quote of the day

“I used to think, ‘I’m concerned for my children and grandchildren.’ Now it’s to the point where I’m concerned about myself.”

—Mike Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, Canada, tells the LA Times how he feels about scientists’ most dire climate predictions coming true.

The big story

This fuel plant will use agricultural waste to combat climate change

Photograph of orchard


February 2022

A startup called Mote plans to build a new type of fuel-producing plant in California’s fertile Central Valley that would, if it works as hoped, continually capture and bury carbon dioxide, starting from 2024. 

It’s among a growing number of efforts to commercialize a concept first proposed two decades ago as a means of combating climate change, known as bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration, or BECCS.

It’s an ambitious plan. However, there are serious challenges to doing BECCS affordably and in ways that reliably suck down significant levels of carbon dioxide. Read the full story.

—James Temple

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Amused by a 2001 BBC news report that refers to camera phones as a “gimmick.”
+ It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this drink sounds delicious to me. 
+ Fan of Dave Grohl? I thoroughly recommend reading his autobiography
+ Today I discovered you can deter seagulls from stealing your food by staring them down.

The Download: open source’s future, and cancer drugs shortages

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

The future of open source is still very much in flux

When Xerox donated a new laser printer to MIT in 1980, the company couldn’t have known that the machine would ignite a revolution. 

While the early decades of software development generally ran on a culture of open access, this new printer ran on inaccessible proprietary software, much to the horror of Richard M. Stallman, then a 27-year-old programmer at the university. 

A few years later, Stallman released GNU, an operating system designed to be a free alternative to one of the dominant operating systems at the time: Unix. The free-software movement was born, with a simple premise: for the good of the world, all code should be open, without restriction or commercial intervention. 

Forty years later, tech companies are making billions on proprietary software, and much of the technology around us is inscrutable. But while Stallman’s movement may look like a failed experiment, the free and open-source software movement is not only alive and well; it has become a keystone of the tech industry. Read the full story.

—Rebecca Ackermann

Rebecca’s story is from the next upcoming issue of our print magazine, which is all about ethics. If you don’t subscribe already, sign up to receive a copy when it publishes.

What we can learn from the cancer drug shortage 

If you’ve been following health headlines, you may have heard that many prescription drugs are in short supply. ADHD medicines and steroids have also been hard to find. But for cancer patients, the lack of common chemotherapy drugs could mean the difference between life and death.

The current cancer drug crisis stems from a quality control incident in an Indian pharmaceutical manufacturing plant last fall. When it halted production, it was the first domino to fall in a chain that would lead to a nationwide shortage of cancer therapy drugs—and the impact on patients has been profound. Read the full story.

—Cassandra Willyard

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly biotech newsletter, which Cassandra is writing while Jessica Hamzelou is on sabbatical. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 AI-generated text is surfacing in academic journals
The problem is, it’s still incredibly difficult to detect reliably. (Wired $)
+ Meta wants to challenge OpenAI with new code-generating software. (The Information $)
+ AI-text detection tools are really easy to fool. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Bitcoin is plunging again
Prices have plummeted after traders raced to sell up. (CoinDesk)
+ One potential reason? SpaceX has sold its crypto holdings. (WSJ $)
+ The NFT ecosystem is spiraling into chaos. (The Verge)
+ Bored Ape owners are furious that their purchases turned out to be bad investments. (Ars Technica)

3 The world’s forests are rapidly dying  
Even including trees that scientists believed were virtually indestructible. (Knowable Magazine)
+ Inside the quest to engineer climate-saving “super trees.” (MIT Technology Review)

4 Boogaloo Facebook pages keep returning from the dead
Followers of the movement, who are preparing for a future US Civil War, have grown wise to the company’s algorithmic detection methods. (Vice)

5 Neurological device startups are booming
But many of them face a long wait for regulatory approval. (WSJ $)
+ A brain implant changed her life. Then it was removed against her will. (MIT Technology Review)

6 We need to change the way we recycle our waste
Unsurprisingly, AI is being touted as a solution. (The Atlantic $)
+ AI has a bad track record when it comes to climate change. (Slate $)
+ Why you might recycle a battery—and how to do it. (MIT Technology Review)

7 A Chinese company has pulled the plug on its romantic chatbot 💔
Leaving dedicated female fans completely heartbroken. (Rest of World)
+ Tinder and other dating apps are no longer background-checking users. (The Verge)

8 Financial influencers want to educate their audiences
And they’ve got the qualifications to back it up. (FT $)
+ If you want to make money from influencing, don’t rely on Amazon. (Bloomberg $)

9 The cult of Elon Musk is built on romance novel tropes
Just ask his long-suffering ex-wife. (Vox)

10 Counterfeit cheese is on the rise 🧀
But microchips are one high-tech way of making sure that fromage is the real deal. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“It thinks it’s a road and it ain’t, because it ain’t got a brain and it can’t tell that it’s freshly poured concrete.”

—Paul Harvey, a San Francisco resident, tells news site SFGate about a driverless car that managed to lodge itself in wet concrete.

The big story

This chemist is reimagining the discovery of materials using AI and automation

October 2021

Alán Aspuru-Guzik, a Mexico City–born, Toronto-based chemist, has devoted much of his life to contemplating worst-case scenarios. What if climate change proceeds as expected, or gets significantly worse? Could we quickly come up with the materials we’ll need to cheaply capture carbon, or make batteries from something other than costly lithium?

Materials discovery—the science of creating and developing useful new substances—often moves at a frustratingly slow pace. The typical trial-and-error approach takes an average of two decades, making it too expensive and risky for most companies to pursue.

Aspuru-Guzik’s objective—which he shares with a growing number of computer-­savvy chemists—is to shrink that interval to a matter of months or years. And advances in AI, robotics, and computing are bringing new life to his vision. Read the full story.

—Simon Lewsen

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ The music of Brian Eno and soap: what more do you need for a relaxing start to your weekend?
+ Scandinavia may be the happiest area on earth, but they also love a bit of heavy metal.
+ This list of the best sci-fi movies set in space (as chosen by an astrophysicist) is fun.
+ Good luck to England’s lionesses, who’ll face Spain in the final of the women’s soccer World Cup on Sunday! 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
+ Oh, to be a cat chasing a sunbeam.

The Download: China’s autonomous race, and Kiva’s controversial changes

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

The race to lead China’s autonomous driving market

Chinese car companies all seem fixated on one goal: launching their own autonomous navigation services in more and more cities as quickly as possible. In just the past six months, nearly a dozen Chinese car companies have announced ambitious plans to roll out Navigation on Autopilot products to multiple cities across the country. 

But many of these features remain hard to access for those who don’t live in the pilot cities or own the high-end models. And the fierce competition the major players find themselves in is also having unintended side effects—confusing some customers and arguably putting other drivers at risk. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

What happened to the microfinance organization Kiva?

Since it was founded in 2005, the San Francisco-based nonprofit Kiva has helped everyday people make microloans to borrowers around the world. It connects lenders in richer communities to fund all sorts of entrepreneurs, from bakers in Mexico to farmers in Albania. Its overarching aim is helping poor people help themselves.

But back in August 2021, Kiva lenders started to notice that information that felt essential in deciding who to lend to was suddenly harder to find. Now, lenders are worried that the organization now seems more focused on how to make money than how to create change. Read the full story.

—Mara Kardas-Nelson

This story is from the next upcoming issue of our print magazine, which is all about ethics. If you don’t subscribe already, sign up to receive a copy when it publishes.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Young climate activists have successfully sued Montana

The judge agreed that the state’s pro-fossil fuel policies contributed to climate change. (BBC)
+ The US just invested more than $1 billion in carbon removal. (MIT Technology Review)

2 How Binance fumbled its grip on the crypto industry
Just a few months ago, it was poised to lead. Now, it’s struggling under the weight of regulatory expectations. (FT $)
+ It’s applied for protection from the US financial regulator. (Reuters)
+ No one seems to know who’s in control of the stablecoin TrueUSD. (WSJ $)
+ Meanwhile, things are looking bleak for Sam Bankman-Fried. (The Atlantic $)

3 Chinese hackers infiltrated the US government more deeply than realized
It appears that new victims are being notified that their emails were compromised. (WP $)

4 Writers are fighting back against literary AI projects
They’ve managed to shutter one startup, and others may follow.(Wired $)
+ Digital book lending is becoming increasingly controversial. (NYT $)
+ How to spot AI-generated text. (MIT Technology Review)

5 How to handle being accused of cheating by an AI
First step: don’t panic. (WP $)
+ International students are being victimized by AI detection systems. (The Markup)
+ ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Another fundamental particle could be hiding in plain sight
Physicists have detected a gap in the Standard Model that could indicate a new type of particle. (Inverse)

7 Giant black holes litter our early universe 
The James Webb Space Telescope is shedding light on just how many. (Quanta)
+ How the James Webb Space Telescope broke the universe. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Nigeria’s tech workers are flooding its second cities
They’re ditching big hubs like Lagos in favor of cheaper locations, and locals are paying the price. (Rest of World)
+ The country’s doctors are on the move, too. (Economist $)

9 LED lights are getting better and better 💡
Which is just as well, given that the US has banned most incandescent bulbs. (Vox)
+ Bright LEDs could spell the end of dark skies. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Threads is losing its appeal already
Engagement has plummeted following a promising first few weeks. (The Guardian)
+ At least some Twitter accounts are good for something. (Vox)

Quote of the day

“Humans are underrated.”

—Daron Acemoglu, an economics professor at MIT, explains to Insider why ChatGPT isn’t good enough to take our jobs just yet.

The big story

How Worldcoin recruited its first half a million test users

April 2022

In December 2021, residents of the village of Gunungguruh, Indonesia, were curious when technology company Worldcoin turned up at a local school. It was pitched as a “new, collectively owned global currency that will be distributed fairly to as many people as possible,” in exchange for an iris scan and other personal data.

Gunungguruh was not alone in receiving a visit from Worldcoin. MIT Technology Review has interviewed over 35 individuals in six countries who either worked for or on behalf of Worldcoin, had been scanned, or were unsuccessfully recruited to participate.

Our investigation reveals wide gaps between Worldcoin’s public messaging, which focused on protecting privacy, and what users experienced. We found that the company’s representatives used deceptive marketing practices, and failed to obtain meaningful informed consent. Read the full investigation

—Eileen Guo and Adi Renaldi

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ This piece about one of the most sampled sounds in hip hop scratched my itch for musical nerdery. 
+ These drone photos are amazing. 
+ Loved this ode to Spanish vermouth. ($)
+ Fan of The Bear? You might enjoy this whimsical attempt to recreate the dishes featured.
+ How to get the perfect peanut butter swirl on your brownies.

The Download: corporate presentations, and carbon removal funding

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Next slide, please: A brief history of the corporate presentation

PowerPoint is everywhere. It’s used in religious sermons; by schoolchildren preparing book reports; at funerals and weddings. In 2010, Microsoft announced that PowerPoint was installed on more than a billion computers worldwide. 

But before PowerPoint, and long before even digital projectors, 35-millimeter film slides were king. They were the only medium for the kinds of high-impact presentations given by CEOs and top brass at annual meetings for stockholders, employees, and salespeople. 

Known in the business as “multi-image” shows, these presentations required a small army of producers, photographers, and live production staff to pull off. Read this story to delve into the fascinating, flashy history of corporate presentations

—Claire L. Evans

This story is from the next upcoming issue of our print magazine, which is all about ethics. If you don’t subscribe already, sign up to receive a copy when it publishes.

The US just invested more than $1 billion in carbon removal

The news: The US Department of Energy has announced that it’s providing $1.2 billion to develop regional hubs that can draw down and store away at least 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year as a means of combating climate change. 

The details: The first recipients will include Occidental Petroleum’s proposed carbon-removal project in Kleberg County, Texas, as well as a partnership between Battelle, Climeworks, and Heirloom to develop facilities in southwestern Louisiana. Billions of dollars more funding and more hubs are set to be announced further down the line. 

Why it matters: A growing body of research has found that, to keep climate change in check, nations may need to not only radically cut greenhouse gas emissions but also draw down billions of tons of carbon dioxide per year. This latest move represents a major step forward in the effort to establish a market for doing this. Read the full story

—James Temple

AI isn’t great at decoding human emotions. So why are regulators targeting the tech?

Recently regulators have been ramping up warnings against emotion recognition: the attempt to identify a person’s feelings or state of mind using AI analysis of video, facial images, or audio recordings.

The idea isn’t super complicated: the AI model may see an open mouth, squinted eyes, and contracted cheeks with a thrown-back head, for instance, and register it as a laugh, concluding that the subject is happy. 

But in practice, this is incredibly complex—and, some argue, a dangerous and invasive example of the sort of pseudoscience that artificial intelligence often produces. But why is this a top concern now? Read this story from senior reporter Tate Ryan-Mosley to find out

This story is from The Technocrat, Tate’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things tech, policy and power. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Survivors say there was no warning siren before the Lahaina wildfires
But it’s unclear what went wrong. (BBC)
+ Researchers are starting to take stock of the losses in Maui. (Science)
This is why the wildfires happened—and what can be done to prevent future ones. (Wired $)

2 The clean energy transition is happening faster than you might think
Renewables are now expected to overtake coal as the world’s largest source of electricity by 2025. (NYT $)
Yes, we have enough materials to power the world with renewable energy. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Regulators have approved a driverless taxi expansion in San Francisco
Autonomous cabs can now operate across the entire city 24/7. (CNN)

4 TikTok ‘dual’ videos are set to destroy our brains even further 
Pity our poor, over-stimulated, already-obliterated attention spans. (Wired $)
People are going to extreme lengths to make the perfect TikTok clip. (WSJ $)

5 Why is it so hard to create new types of pain relievers? 💊
The field is littered with failures, but a new study offers a small glimmer of hope. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Why everyone went so crazy over the LK-99 superconductor
The claims don’t seem to stand up. But the episode shows how desperate Silicon Valley is for the next big thing. (WP $)
A body of evidence has piled up that disproves the initial claims. (The Verge)

7 AI means hackers can just talk computers into misbehaving
Tools like ChatGPT radically lower the barriers for all sorts of attacks. (WSJ $)
Three ways AI chatbots are a security disaster. (MIT Technology Review)

8 How China is using apps to woo Taiwanese teenagers
A perfect example of soft power in action. (The Guardian)

9 How tech is changing how we grieve
We now leave behind reams and reams of stuff online for our families to pore over when we’re gone. (The Atlantic $)
Inside the metaverse meetups that let people share on death, grief, and pain. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Zuckerberg says that cage fight isn’t happening
It seems pretty obvious that Musk has chickened out. (BBC)

Quote of the day

“They had an understanding that I wasn’t the best choice — I was the only choice.”

—German director and actor Werner Herzog tells the New York Times why he’s voicing a new collection of AI-generated poems.  

The big story

Tech’s new labor movement is harnessing lessons learned a century ago


June 2021

Back in 2020, as the world struggled to cope with the pandemic, workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, were being pressed to work harder and longer. They felt dehumanized. They wanted dignity, not just higher wages.

Workers pushed to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, but Amazon waged war on the campaign, and eventually a vote passed in favor of keeping the status quo. Elsewhere, however, other workers across the country had started agitating. 

Their activity reflects a new groundswell of interest in organizing among tech workers, who are up against the world’s richest companies. But for both sides in this struggle, the bottom line is not money but power. Read the full story.

—Sarah Jaffe

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ London’s skater girls surely have to be some of the coolest people on the planet. 
+ Let the debate commence over the best 100 movies.
+ You can learn a lot about someone from how they spend their money.
+ Diane Morgan’s Netflix show Cunk on Earth had me in stitches last weekend. 
+ A little bit of knowledge can delude us into thinking we know a lot more than we really do. ($)