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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.

It’s high time for more AI transparency

In less than a week since Meta launched its open source AI model, LLaMA 2, startups and researchers have already used it to develop a chatbot and an AI assistant. It will be only a matter of time until companies start launching products built with it.

LLaMA 2 makes a lot of sense. A nimble, transparent, and customizable model that is free to use could help companies create AI products and services faster than they could with a big, sophisticated proprietary model like OpenAI’s GPT-4.

By allowing the wider AI community to download the model and tweak it, Meta could help to make it safer and more efficient. And crucially, it could demonstrate the benefits of transparency over secrecy when it comes to the inner workings of AI models—at a point when that could not be more timely, or more important. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

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

If you’re interested in learning more about AI, check out some of our excellent recent reporting:

+ A quick guide to all the most (and least) promising efforts to govern AI around the world.

+ How existential risk became the biggest meme in AI.

+ Generative AI risks concentrating Big Tech’s power. Here’s how to stop it.

The must-reads

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

1 Twitter’s name change will cost its brand billions
‘Tweeting’ is part of our cultural lexicon—but Elon Musk doesn’t seem to care. (Bloomberg $)
He’s trying to destroy Twitter’s legacy and chart a risky new course. (WP $)

+ Musk is also projecting ‘s3xy’ on the company’s HQ walls. (NYT $)
If you’re a little bit sad over Twitter’s demise, you’re not alone. (Vox)
The letter X does have an enduring kind of appeal, though. (The Guardian)

2 The world isn’t prepared for what OpenAI’s been working on
Sam Altman says his staff have created a dangerous AI they’ll never release. (The Atlantic $)
His ambitions are increasingly at odds with regulators. (FT $)
It’s time to talk about the real AI risks. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Mastodon is rife with child abuse images
It’s a grim reminder of how much harder it is to moderate decentralized platforms. (WP $)

4 China is fed up of Western sanctions
And it has no qualms about retaliating. (Economist $)
China is fighting back in the semiconductor exports war. (MIT Technology Review)

5 It’s harder for governments to flag people’s social media posts now
While the US has already been restricted, the same kinds of checks are also coming to Europe. (Wired $)

6 America’s farmland is being turned into AI data centers
Sprawling centers are springing up in rural expanses. (Insider $)

7 The FBI ran a secret encrypted phones business for years
Now, a team of lawyers want a judge to name the country that aided them. (Motherboard)
Erik Prince wants to sell you a “secure” smartphone that’s too good to be true. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Ozempic doesn’t have to cost this much
But drug companies exist to make money, after all. (Slate $)
Weight-loss injections have taken over the internet. But what does this mean for people IRL? (MIT Technology Review)

9 Influencers are emerging as a powerful tool for Indian politicians
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third term next year, and doesn’t want to take any chances. (Rest of World)

10 We’re getting closer to learning more about asteroids
☄
A mission over a decade in the making is heading back to Earth—complete with some precious rock and dust cargo. (Ars Technica)

Quote of the day

“Is this what we want?”

—A senior designer at Adobe questions the extent to which the company should integrate AI into its products if it risks humans losing their jobs, Insider reports.

The big story

This company is about to grow new organs in a person for the first time

bUNFKMvYLvoPN7qgd9tNuy5OE0A92IF 1TsD4NqlZ1GjUB3Frjj hPLdDIgdhu2wt EK9ZhR7Fe12Ih8kGZjQSCmLiE7EZhJzSQSJZwk4kkQOy4EeAXwGfU2snyxoMR29

August 2022

In the coming weeks, a volunteer in Boston, Massachusetts, will be the first to trial a new treatment that could end up creating a second liver in their body. And that’s just the beginning—in the months that follow, other volunteers

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: AI transparency, and Twitter’s transformation
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/07/25/1076701/the-download-ai-transparency-and-twitters-transformation/
Published Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2023 12:10:00 +0000

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The Download: inside the first CRISPR treatment, and smarter robots

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 lucky break behind the first CRISPR treatment

The world’s first commercial gene-editing treatment is set to start changing the lives of people with sickle-cell disease. It’s called Casgevy, and it was approved last month in the UK. US approval is pending this week.

The treatment, which will be sold in the US by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, employs CRISPR, which can be easily programmed by scientists to cut DNA at precise locations they choose.

But where do you aim CRISPR, and how did the researchers know what DNA to change? That’s the lesser-known story of the sickle-cell breakthrough, which doesn’t rely on fixing the genes responsible for the mutation that leaves patients’ hemoglobin molecules misshapen. Instead, it’s a kind of molecular bank shot—thankfully, one with a happy ending. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

Read more about the sickle-cell breakthrough:

+ I received the new gene-editing drug for sickle cell disease. It changed my life. As a patient enrolled in a clinical trial for Vertex’s new exa-cel treatment, Jimi Olaghere was among the first to experience CRISPR’s transformative effects. Read the full story.

+ The first CRISPR cure might kick-start the next big patent battle. Vertex Pharmaceuticals plans to sell a gene-editing treatment for sickle-cell disease. A patent on CRISPR could stand in the way. Read the full story.

These robots know when to ask for help

The news: A new robot training model, dubbed “KnowNo,” aims to teach robots to ask for our help when orders are unclear. At the same time, it ensures they seek clarification only when necessary, minimizing needless back-and-forth. The result is a smart assistant that tries to make sure it understands what you want without bothering you too much.

Why it matters: While robots can be powerful in many specific scenarios, they are often bad at generalized tasks that require common sense. That’s something large language models could help to fix, because they have a lot of common-sense knowledge baked in. Read the full story.

—June Kim

Medical microrobots that travel inside the body are (still) on their way

The human body is a labyrinth of vessels and tubing, full of barriers that are difficult to break through. That poses a serious hurdle for doctors. Illness is often caused by problems that are hard to visualize and difficult to access. But imagine if we could deploy armies of tiny robots into the body to do the job for us. They could break up hard-to-reach clots, deliver drugs to even the most inaccessible tumors, and even help guide embryos toward implantation.

We’ve been hearing about the use of tiny robots in medicine for years, maybe even decades. And they’re still not here. But experts are adamant that medical microbots are finally coming, and that they could be a game changer for a number of serious diseases. Read the full story.

—Cassandra Willyard

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly biotech newsletter. 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 Use of deepfake pornography apps is soaring  
Links to the disturbing AI ‘nudifying’ services are rife on X and Reddit. (Bloomberg $)
The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent. (MIT Technology Review)

2 TikTok is embarking on an anti-hate speech campaign
Spurred by the criticism the platform received over Israel-Hamas videos (The Information $)
TikTok’s algorithm means everyone’s feed is siloed, though. (The Verge)
The conflict has forced Meta’s oversight board to investigate two posts. (Wired $)
Republicans are repeating bogus claims to try and get TikTok banned. (Motherboard)

3 A major Abu Dhabi-based AI company is cutting ties with China
G42 is ditching its Chinese hardware contracts in favor of US suppliers. (FT $)

4 We’re learning more about how vaping affects us
It’s better than smoking. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you, either. (New Scientist $)
Social media is full of posts promoting vaping to young users. (The Guardian)

5 The US wants to build the next revolutionary particle collider
But it could take years to get the project off the ground. (NYT $)

6 The Milky Way is likely to devour the galaxies surrounding it
It’s looking like dark matter could have something to do with it. (Ars Technica)

7 Our microbiomes aren’t diverse enough
And our sedentary lifetimes and antibiotics are to blame. (Proto.Life)
We’re learning a lot more about the vaginal microbiome. (Scientific American $)
How gene-edited microbiomes could

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: inside the first CRISPR treatment, and smarter robots
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/12/08/1084760/the-download-inside-the-first-crispr-treatment-and-smarter-robots/
Published Date: Fri, 08 Dec 2023 13:10:00 +0000

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The lucky break behind the first CRISPR treatment

dr. stuart orkin analyzing chromosomal spectra march 1985 crop jpg

The world’s first commercial gene-editing treatment is set to start changing the lives of people with sickle-cell disease. It’s called Casgevy, and it was approved last month in the UK. US approval is pending this week.

The treatment, which will be sold in the US by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, employs CRISPR, the Nobel-winning molecular scissors that have had journalists scrambling for metaphors: “Swiss Army knife,” “molecular scalpel,” or DNA copy-and-paste. Indeed, CRISPR is revolutionary because scientists can so easily program it to cut DNA at precise locations they choose.

But where do you aim CRISPR? That’s the lesser-known story of the sickle-cell breakthrough. The disease is caused by faulty hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood. To cure it, though, Vertex and its partner company, CRISPR Therapeutics, aren’t fixing the genes responsible for the mutation that leaves those molecules misshapen. Instead, the new treatment involves a kind of molecular bank shot—an edit that turns on fetal hemoglobin, a second form of the molecule which we have in the womb but lose as adults.

You can think of how the edit works as a kind of double negative. It adds a misspelling to the turbo-booster of another gene, BCL11A, that is itself what inhibits the production of fetal hemoglobin in adult bodies. Without that booster, there’s less inhibition, and more fetal hemoglobin. Got it?

“When you inhibit the enhancer, you inhibit the inhibitor,” says Daniel Bauer, a professor at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University, who helped work it out. “It is kind of complicated.”

The important thing is a happy ending—and this edit really works. Some patients say they lived in fear of dying, either from an acute attack of sickling (when their red blood cells start blocking vessels) or from slow, insidious organ damage. Now early volunteers say they’re grateful—and, after living with disease their whole lives, even a little shocked—to be cured.

Newborn theory

The idea that fetal hemoglobin can protect against the disease is an old one. Sickle-cell is most common in people with African ancestry. A doctor on Long Island, Janet Watson, had noticed in 1948 that newborns never showed its signs—the main one being misshapen, crescent-shaped red blood cells. That was pretty odd for an inborn condition.

“Sickle-cell disease should occur in infancy as often as later in life,” Watson wrote. But since it didn’t, Watson hypothesized that the fetal form of the molecule, active in the womb, was protecting babies for a few months after birth, until it was replaced by the adult version: “The theory that at once presents itself is that fetal hemoglobin is unable to produce sickling.”

She was right. But it took another six decades to learn how the switch-over worked—and how to flip it back. Many of those discoveries were made in the laboratory of Stuart Orkin, a Harvard researcher who published his first paper in 1967 and who’s lived through several eras of research on blood diseases, starting near the dawn of molecular biology.

“I am one of the last men standing,” Orkin told me with a grin when I met him for a corned-beef sandwich.

Dr. Stuart Orkin analyzing chromosomal spectra
Stuart Orkin analyzing DNA from individuals with blood disorders in his lab in 1985.BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

He’s a clever scientist who a long time ago decided to study how the blood system is regulated. Logistically, it was a great topic; blood cells are easy to get hold of and study.

“I like to solve a problem, and here is a problem that could be solved,” Orkin says. “How does the system work, and then can you do anything about it?”

Special sauce

Bill Lundberg, the former chief scientific officer of CRISPR Therapeutics, the biotech that first started developing the treatment eight years ago (Vertex later joined as a partner), says the company’s sickle-cell project directly made use of Orkin’s findings. “Stu’s role is really underappreciated,

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By: Antonio Regalado
Title: The lucky break behind the first CRISPR treatment
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/12/07/1084629/lucky-break-crispr-vertex/
Published Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2023 14:00:09 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/the-download-googles-gemini-is-here-and-sundar-pichai-talks-ai/

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The Download: Google’s Gemini is here, and Sundar Pichai talks AI

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.

Google DeepMind’s new Gemini model looks amazing—but could signal peak AI hype

Hype about Gemini, Google DeepMind’s long-rumored response to OpenAI’s GPT-4, has been building for months. Now, the company has finally revealed what it has been working on in secret all this time. Was the hype justified? Yes—and no.

Gemini is Google’s biggest AI launch yet—its push to take on competitors OpenAI and Microsoft in the race for AI supremacy. There is no doubt that the model is pitched as best-in-class across a wide range of capabilities—an “everything machine.”

But while it’s a big step for Google, but not necessarily a giant leap for the field as a whole. Judging from its demos, it does many things very well—but few things that we haven’t seen before. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkiläa & Will Douglas Heaven

Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Gemini and the coming age of AI

This last year has largely been defined by the AI releases from one company: OpenAI. The rollout of DALL-E and GPT-3.5 last year, followed by GPT-4 this year, dominated the sector and kicked off an arms race between startups and tech giants alike

Now, with the release of Gemini, Google has thrown its hat into the ring. The new AI model reflects years of efforts from inside Google, overseen and driven by its CEO, Sundar Pichai.

Our editor-in-chief Mat Honan sat down with Pichai at Google’s offices in Mountain View, California, on the eve of Gemini’s launch to discuss what it will mean for the company, its products, AI, and society writ large. Read the full interview.

How carbon removal technology is like a time machine

By burning fossil fuels, we’ve released greenhouse gases by the gigaton. There’s a lot we can (and need to) do to slow and eventually stop these planet-warming emissions. But carbon removal technology has a different promise: turning the clock back.

Well, sort of. Carbon removal can’t literally take us back in time. But this time-machine analogy for thinking about carbon removal—specifically when it comes to the scale that will be needed to make a significant dent in our emissions—is a favorite of climate scientist David Ho.

Casey Crownhart, our climate reporter, has taken a look at what it might take for carbon removal to take us back far enough in time to reverse our mistakes—well, the emissions-related ones, anyway. Read the full story.

This story is from The Spark, our weekly climate and energy newsletter. 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 The EU is racing to regulate AI 
Meanwhile, it seems like the US Congress is forging a very different regulatory path. (WP $)
EU lawmakers are believed to have made a provisional deal. (Reuters)
AI advances far more rapidly than policy. (NYT $)

2 Celebrities have been tricked into recording Russian propaganda
Trolls paid famous faces to record supportive clips for ‘Vladimir’ over the Cameo app. (WSJ $)
The clips rapidly spread across Russian networks and news organizations. (NYT $)

3 Startups are imploding all over the place
Once-promising multi-million dollar ventures are failing—and it’s only getting worse. (NYT $)

4 This man blew the whistle on Amazon’s abuse of teenager labor
But four years on, nothing has changed. (FT $)

5 A load of EVs are due to lose their tax credits
Cars with battery materials sourced from China will lose out on the $7,500 credit. (The Verge)
Ford doesn’t think its Mustang electric cars will qualify. (Reuters)+ EV tax credits could stall out on lack of US battery supply. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Building a gaming empire is seriously hard work
Just ask the TV streaming giants who are trying, and failing. (The Information $)

7 Forget microplastics—it’s time to worry about nanoplastics
Because they’re even smaller, they’re potentially even worse for our health. (Motherboard)
Microplastics are everywhere. What does that mean for our immune systems? (MIT Technology Review)

8 It’s time to revive the humble dry stone wall
Concrete isn’t great for the environment. Can stone walls take over? (The Atlantic $)
Inside a high-tech cement laboratory. (MIT Technology Review)

9 An AI drive-thru needed humans to handle 70% of its orders
It raises questions over how capable AI really is at these kinds of tasks. (Bloomberg $)
Even McDonald’s wants a slice of the generative AI pie. (The Verge)

10 Space telescopes are getting even bigger 
Move over JWST—the Extremely Large Telescope is here. (Economist $)

Quote of the day

“Even if Musk were

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————

By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: Google’s Gemini is here, and Sundar Pichai talks AI
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/12/07/1084648/the-download-googles-gemini-is-here-and-sundar-pichai-talks-ai/
Published Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2023 13:10:00 +0000

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