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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.

An ALS patient set a record for communicating via a brain implant

The news: Eight years ago, a patient lost her power of speech because of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which causes progressive paralysis. Now, after volunteering to receive a brain implant, the woman has been able to rapidly communicate phrases at a rate approaching normal speech.

Why it matters: Even in an era of keyboards, thumb-typing, emojis, and internet abbreviations, speech remains the fastest form of human-to-human communication. The scientists from Stanford University say their volunteer smashed previous records by using the brain-reading implant to communicate at a rate of 62 words a minute, three times the previous best.

What’s next: Although the study has not been formally reviewed, experts have hailed the results as a significant breakthrough. The findings could pave the way for experimental brain-reading technology to leave the lab and become a useful product soon. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

Resolving to live the Year of the Rabbit to the fullest

By Zeyi Yang, China reporter

This past Sunday was the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday for Chinese and several other Asian cultures. It’s supposed to be an opportunity for us to reset and seize new opportunities.

In that spirit, I’ve recently revisited some of my favorite China-focused MIT Technology Review stories from the last year and gone back to the people I interviewed. I asked them whether they’d resolved any troubling challenges, and what they’re hoping for in the Year of the Rabbit.

I’m very grateful to everyone who has let me tell their stories—which I hope have helped all of us understand more about tech and China and, more broadly, the people around us. Read the full story.

Zeyi’s story is from China Report, his weekly newsletter covering all the major happenings 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 Germany and the US are sending tanks to Ukraine
They could help to usher in a turning point in the war with Russia. (BBC)
Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency is stepping up its efforts. (The Guardian)

2 The US Justice Department is suing Google (again)
It’s accusing the company of abusing its dominance in the digital advertising market. (Vox)
It’s unlikely it would ever actually break Google up, though. (Ars Technica)
Google is axing its spam exemption measures for political emails. (WP $)

3 Ticketmaster blamed a cyberattack for its Taylor Swift fiasco
But senators think its stranglehold on the ticket market is the real cause. (Bloomberg $)
Ticketmaster is the definition of a ticketing superpower. (Vox)

4 Crypto bank Silvergate is tanking
To the point that its future is now in serious doubt. (NY Mag $)
What’s next for crypto. (MIT Technology Review)

5 China is the world leader in facial recognition tech exports
Experts are worried the intrusive software can fuel human rights violations. (Wired $)

6 Amazon has warned staff not to share secrets with ChatGPT
It’s not clear how the system uses confidential company data. (Insider $)

7 How Nextdoor became a breeding ground for housing hostility
Neighbors quickly become enemies in a “permanent online cage match.” (Motherboard)

8 Artificial skin senses objects better than humans
It can even discern the kind of material it’s made of. (New Scientist $)

9 Meet the daters using questionnaires to screen potential matches
Champions say it helps them weed out romantic time-wasters. (The Guardian)
Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Online marketplace Zazzle is locked in a font war
The popular font “Blooming Elegant” is at the heart of it. (Slate $)

Quote of the day

“The way that artists are embracing crazy capitalist, hyper-technology culture is just really disheartening.”

—Art student Marla Chinbat explains why she finds the generative AI boom so depressing to Motherboard.

The big story

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

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February 2021

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

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: a brain implant breakthrough, and China tech reflections
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/01/25/1067277/download-brain-implant-breakthrough-china-tech-reflections/
Published Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2023 13:10:00 +0000

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The great commercial takeover of low Earth orbit

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Washington, DC, was hot and humid on June 23, 1993, but no one was sweating more than Daniel Goldin, the administrator of NASA. Standing outside the House chamber, he watched nervously as votes registered on the electronic tally board. The space station wasn’t going to make it. The United States had spent more than $11 billion on it by then, with thousands of pounds of paperwork to show for it—but zero pounds of flight hardware. Whether there would ever be a station came down, now, to a cancellation vote on the House floor.

Politically, the space station was something of a wayward orphan. It was a nine-year-old Reagan administration initiative, expanded by George H.W. Bush as the centerpiece of a would-be return to the moon and an attempt to reach Mars. When voters replaced Bush with Bill Clinton, Goldin persuaded the new president to keep the station by pitching it as a post-Soviet reconstruction effort. The Russians were great at building stations, which would save NASA a fortune in R&D. In turn, NASA’s funding would keep Russian rocket scientists employed—and less likely to freelance for hostile foreign powers. Still, dissatisfaction with NASA was a bipartisan affair: everyone seemed to agree that the agency was bloated and ossified. Representative Tim Roemer, a Democrat from Indiana, wanted to make some big changes, and he introduced an amendment to the NASA authorization bill to kill the station once and for all.

Goldin had made more than 100 phone calls in the day and a half before the vote, hoping to sway lawmakers to endorse the station, which he saw as critical for studying biomedicine, electronics, materials engineering, and the human body in a completely alien environment: microgravity. Things down to the molecular level behave profoundly differently in space, and flying experiments a week at a time on the shuttle wasn’t enough to learn much. Real research required a permanent presence in space, and that meant a space station.

Supporters of the space station had gone into the vote expecting to win. Not by much—20 votes, maybe. But the longer the vote went on, the closer it got. Each side began cheering as it pulled ahead. The 110 new members of Congress, none of whom had ever before cast a vote involving the station, revealed themselves to be less reliable than expected.

Finally, the tally reached 215–215, with one vote remaining: Representative John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights legend. As Lewis walked down the hall toward the legislative chamber, Goldin’s legislative aide, Jeff Lawrence, told the administrator to say something—anything—to win him over. As Lewis walked by, Goldin had only one second, maybe two, and the best he could get out was a raw, honest, “Congressman Lewis, the future of the space program depends on you.” He added: “The nation is counting on you. How will you vote?”

Lewis smiled as he walked by. He said, “I ain’t telling you.”

The station, later named the International Space Station, survived by his single vote, 216–215. Five years later, Russia launched the first module from Kazakhstan, and since November 2000, not a single day has elapsed without a human being in space.

NASA designed the International Space Station to fly for 20 years. It has lasted six years longer than that, though it is showing its age, and NASA is currently studying how to safely destroy the space laboratory by around 2030. This will involve a “deorbit vehicle” docking with the ISS, which is the size of a football field (including end zones), and firing thrusters so that the station, which circles the Earth at five miles per second, slams down squarely in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, avoiding land, injury, and the loss of human life.

As the scorched remains of the station sink to the bottom of the sea, however, the story of America in low Earth orbit (LEO) will continue. The ISS never really became what some had hoped: a launching point for an expanding human presence in the solar system. But it did enable fundamental research on materials and medicine, and it helped us start to understand how space affects the human body. To build on that work, NASA has partnered with private companies to develop new, commercial space stations for research, manufacturing, and tourism. If they are successful, these companies will bring about a new era of space exploration: private rockets flying to private destinations. They will also demonstrate a new model in which NASA builds infrastructure and the private sector takes it from there, freeing the agency to explore deeper and deeper into space, where the process can be repeated. They’re already planning to do it around the moon. One day, Mars could follow.

From the dawn of the space age, space stations were envisioned as essential to leaving Earth.

In 1952, Wernher von Braun, the primary architect of the American space program, called them “as

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By: David W. Brown
Title: The great commercial takeover of low Earth orbit
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/04/17/1090856/international-space-station-axiom-low-earth-orbit/
Published Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2024 08:00:00 +0000

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The Download: commercializing space, and China’s chip self-sufficiency efforts

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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 great commercial takeover of low-Earth orbit

NASA designed the International Space Station to fly for 20 years. It has lasted six years longer than that, though it is showing its age, and NASA is currently studying how to safely destroy the space laboratory by around 2030.

The ISS never really became what some had hoped: a launching point for an expanding human presence in the solar system. But it did enable fundamental research on materials and medicine, and it helped us start to understand how space affects the human body.

To build on that work, NASA has partnered with private companies to develop new, commercial space stations for research, manufacturing, and tourism. If they are successful, these companies will bring about a new era of space exploration: private rockets flying to private destinations. They’re already planning to do it around the moon. One day, Mars could follow. Read the full story.

— David W. Brown

This story is for subscribers only, and is from the next magazine issue of MIT Technology Review, set to go live on April 24, on the theme of Build. If you don’t already, sign up now to get a copy when it lands.

Why it’s so hard for China’s chip industry to become self-sufficient

Inside most laptop and data center chips today, there’s a tiny component called ABF. It’s a thin insulating layer around the wires that conduct electricity. And over 90% of the materials around the world used to make this insulator are produced by a single Japanese company named Ajinomoto.

As our AI reporter James O’Donnell explained in his story last week, Ajinomoto figured out in the 1990s that a chemical by-product from the production of the seasoning powder MSG can be used to make insulator films, which proved to be essential for high-performance chips. And in the 30 years since, the company has totally dominated ABF supply.

Within China, at least three companies are developing similar insulator products to rival Ajinomoto’s. For decades, the fact that the semiconductor supply chain was in a few companies’ hands was seen as a strength, not a problem. But now, both the US and Chinese governments increasingly see it as a problem to be fixed. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter covering tech and policy within 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 Starlink is cracking down on internet thieves
Users have been connecting to its services from countries where it’s not licensed to operate. (WSJ $)
Antarctica’s history of isolation is ending—thanks to Starlink. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Microsoft has invested more than $1 billion into an Abu Dhabi AI firm 
The company, called G42, recently cut its links with its Chinese hardware supplier. (FT $)
Behind Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s push to get AI tools in developers’ hands. (MIT Technology Review)

3 How wartime British scientists worked how how to keep humans alive underwater
Their extraordinary findings played a key part in making D-Day a success. (Wired $)

4 The longevity movement is full of contradictory arguments
But who really wants to live forever anyway? (New Yorker $)
The quest to legitimize longevity medicine. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Audiobooks are a hit with Spotify subscribers
But they’re limited to 15 hours’ of listening per month. (Bloomberg $)

6 Farewell to Atlas the robot
🤖
Boston Dynamics’ dancing, backflipping humanoid robot is retiring after 11 years in the spotlight. (The Verge)
Is robotics about to have its own ChatGPT moment? (MIT Technology Review)

7 Everything is so expensive these days
And covert personalized pricing systems are set to make things even pricier. (The Atlantic $)
It turns out Gen Z is a lot richer than their elders. (Economist $)

8 Amazon is a swamp of trashy ebooks
They were a problem before the AI boom, but generative AI has made the issue significantly worse. (Vox)

9 TikTok’s hottest product is industrial-grade glycine from China
The amino acids are feeding the platform’s insatiable appetite for ironic obsessions. (WP $)

10 Behold—the straw that won’t give you wrinkles
Unsurprisingly, it’s the kind of nonsense that will take off on social media. (NYT $)

Quote of the day

“People can giggle and say, ‘Oh, look, there’s Brutus plunging a knife into the back of Julius Caesar

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: commercializing space, and China’s chip self-sufficiency efforts
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/04/17/1091462/the-download-commercializing-space-and-chinas-chip-self-sufficiency-efforts/
Published Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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The Download: the problem with police bodycams, and how to make useful robots

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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

AI was supposed to make police bodycams better. What happened?

When police departments first started buying and deploying bodycams in the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a decade ago, activists hoped it would bring about real change.

Years later, despite what’s become a multibillion-dollar market for these devices, the tech is far from a panacea. Most of the vast reams of footage they generate go unwatched. Officers often don’t use them properly. And if they do finally provide video to the public, it’s often selectively edited, lacking context and failing to tell the complete story.

A handful of AI startups see this problem as an opportunity to create what are essentially bodycam-to-text programs for different players in the legal system, mining this footage for misdeeds. But like the bodycams themselves, the technology still faces procedural, legal, and cultural barriers to success. Read the full story.

—Patrick Sisson

Three reasons robots are about to become more way useful

The holy grail of robotics since the field’s beginning has been to build a robot that can do our housework. But for a long time, that has just been a dream. While roboticists have been able to get robots to do impressive things in the lab, these feats haven’t translated to the messy realities of our homes.

Thanks to AI, this is now changing. Robots are starting to become capable of doing tasks such as folding laundry, cooking and unloading shopping baskets, which not too long ago were seen as almost impossible tasks.

In our most recent cover story for the MIT Technology Review print magazine, senior AI reporter Melissa Heikkilä looked at how robotics as a field is at an inflection point.

A really exciting mix of things are converging in robotics research, which could usher in robots that might—just might—make it out of the lab and into our homes. Read the three reasons why robotics is on the brink of having its own “ChatGPT moment.”

This story is from The Algorithm, our weekly AI newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

The must-reads

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

1 AI startups are covertly developing their chatbots using OpenAI data
Which raises questions about why investors are paying them, exactly. (The Information $)
Training an AI model is seriously expensive. (IEEE Spectrum)
We could run out of data to train AI language programs. (MIT Technology Review)

2 SpaceX is running rings around its competition
🚀
But for how much longer is unclear. (WP $)

3 Why the dream of flying cars refuses to die
Hundreds of startups are committed to making the fantastical vehicles a reality. (New Yorker $)
These aircraft could change how we fly. (MIT Technology Review)

4 The future of advanced chips hangs on how they’re packaged
Stacking semiconductors closely together makes them more efficient. (FT $)
Why China is betting big on chiplets. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Meta is working on a new VR product for schools
It’s part of the company’s latest foray into populating the metaverse. (Bloomberg $)
How many schools will be able to afford it, though? (The Verge)
Welcome to the oldest part of the metaverse. (MIT Technology Review)

6 The US government keeps giving Microsoft free passes
It keeps buying the company’s products, despite a series of cybersecurity failures. (Wired $)

7 We don’t know what taking Ozempic for 20 years could do to someone
We should look at how we treat diabetes as a cautionary tale. (The Atlantic $)
Hundreds of drugs are in short supply across the US. (Ars Technica)

8 How to save a coral reef
🪸
Reefs in East Asia are thriving when others are struggling to survive. (Vox)
The race is on to save coral reefs—by freezing them. (MIT Technology Review)

9 What it’s like to eat at an autonomous restaurant 
CaliExpress in Los Angeles encourages its customers to “pay with your face.” (The Guardian)
An Argentine startup gives gig workers coffee in exchange for their data. (Rest of World)

10 We may be living in a colossal cosmic void
🪐
If it can be proved, it would upend everything we know about the cosmos.

Read More

————

By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: the problem with police bodycams, and how to make useful robots
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/04/16/1091317/the-download-the-problem-with-police-bodycams-and-how-to-make-useful-robots/
Published Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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https://mansbrand.com/how-to-stop-a-state-from-sinking/

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