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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.

How open-source drug discovery could help us in the next pandemic

When the covid pandemic hit, our antiviral coffers were bare. After all, developing drugs for diseases that don’t pose an immediate threat isn’t exactly lucrative. But what would happen if we took profit out of the equation and made drug discovery a collaborative process rather than a competitive one?

The researchers behind the Covid Moonshot, an open-science initiative to develop antivirals that began back in March 2020, published their results this week. The effort produced 18,000 compound designs that led to the synthesis of 2,400 compounds. One of those became the basis for what is now the project’s lead candidate: a compound that targets the coronavirus’s main viral enzyme.

Maybe that doesn’t feel like a huge win. Even if the compound works, it will likely take many more years to develop it into a drug. But the need for another antiviral that’s ready for the next pandemic or next outbreak or the next variant is still very relevant. Read the full story.

—Cassandra Willyard

This story is from The Checkup, MIT Technology Review’s weekly biotech newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

How this Turing Award–winning researcher became a legendary academic advisor

Every academic field has its superstars. But a rare few achieve superstardom not just by demonstrating individual excellence but also by consistently producing future superstars.

Computer science has its own such figure: Manuel Blum, who won the 1995 Turing Award—the Nobel Prize of computer science. He is the inventor of the captcha—a test designed to distinguish humans from bots online.

Three of Blum’s students have also won Turing Awards, and many have received other high honors in theoretical computer science, such as the Gödel Prize and the Knuth Prize. More than 20 hold professorships at top computer science departments. But is there some formula to his success? Read the full story.

—Sheon Han

This story is from our most recent print issue of MIT Technology Review, which is all about society’s hardest problems, and how we should tackle them. If you don’t already, subscribe now to get future issues when they land.

The must-reads

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

1 Humane wants to sell us a future of ‘ambient computing’ 
The company wants to liberate us from smartphones—via even more technology. (NYT $)
The voice and touch-only interface sounds pretty fiddly. (TechCrunch)
What are we supposed to use it for, exactly? (The Verge)

2 Google has launched a new anti-terrorism content tool
Altitude gives smaller platforms the ability to track, detect and remove terror content. (Wired $)
Google has a new tool to outsmart authoritarian internet censorship. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Apple’s €14.3 billion tax dispute is back on the agenda  
An EU court decision from 2020 has been called into question, and a new assessment could be on the horizon. (FT $)
It’s been ordered to pay $25 million in a hiring discrimination case, too. (The Verge)

4 Video chat site Omegle is no more
After a recent lawsuit found it gave sexual predators free rein online. (Fast Company $)
The site had a long, problematic history of sexual abuse issues. (Wired $)

5 Meta is staging a bold return to China
More than a decade after Facebook was blocked from operating there. (WSJ $)
The company needs China more than it’s willing to admit. (Rest of World)

6 Labcorp’s workers say they’re burnt out
The healthcare company’s rigid productivity targets are pushing them to the brink. (404 Media)

7 Amazon is officially a fashion flop
🛍
Its hopes of becoming a bricks and mortar clothing giant have been dashed. (The Information $)
The war over fast fashion is heating up. (MIT Technology Review)

8 For adult content creators, OnlyFans is the pathway to mainstream success
The platform dominates the industry, but its stars don’t care. (WP $)
Fame in the age of AI looks a little different these days. (Economist $)

9 Meet the disaster microbiologists
Catastrophes can alter the environment, and microbes that affect our health, forever. (Proto.Life)
Your microbiome ages as you do—and that’s a problem. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Hollywood’s old guard are unlikely TikTok sensations
Iconic directors are staring down entirely different lenses—and they like what they see. (The Guardian)

Quote of the

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: how to fight pandemics, and a top scientist turned-advisor
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/11/10/1083258/the-download-how-to-fight-pandemics-and-a-top-scientist-turned-advisor/
Published Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2023 13:10:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/i-tried-lab-grown-chicken-at-a-michelin-starred-restaurant/

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The Download: Big Tech’s climate claims, and reducing your music streaming carbon footprint

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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.

Google, Amazon and the problem with Big Tech’s climate claims

Last week, Amazon trumpeted that it had purchased enough clean electricity to cover the energy demands of all its global operations, seven years ahead of its sustainability target.

That news closely followed Google’s acknowledgment that the soaring energy demands of its AI operations helped ratchet up its corporate emissions by 13% last year—and that it had backed away from claims that it was already carbon neutral.

If you were to take the announcements at face value, you’d be forgiven for believing that Google is stumbling while Amazon is speeding ahead in the race to clean up climate pollution.

But while both companies are coming up short in their own ways, Google’s approach to driving down greenhouse-gas emissions is now arguably more defensible. To learn why, read our story.

—James Temple

This piece is part of MIT Technology Review Explains, our series untangling the complex, messy world of technology to help you understand what’s coming next. You can read more from the series here

Five ways to make music streaming better for the climate

As K-pop sweeps the world and accumulates a massive, devout fan base, these fans have been turning their power into action. Zeyi Yang, our China reporter, recently published a story about Kpop4planet, a group of activists who are using K-pop’s influence to hold large corporations accountable for their carbon footprints.

During his reporting, he talked to several experts about how to correctly understand the climate impact of music streaming, and one thing became clear: It all comes down to how we stream—the content, the device, the length, etc. Read on for their tips to help any music streaming user leave a smaller carbon footprint.

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter examining the relationship between tech and power in the country. 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 Donald Trump’s allies are already working on a sweeping AI order 
Which many AI investors in Silicon Valley would favor over President Biden’s approach. (WP $)
Elon Musk is among the first big names in tech to pledge support for Trump. (WSJ $)
Trump’s former FDA commissioner wants to peer inside AI’s black boxes. (Politico)

2 TikTok’s attempt to swerve the EU’s Digital Markets Act has been dismissed
The EU’s General Court ruled TikTok was powerful enough to have to comply. (Bloomberg $)
It’s good news for European antitrust regulators. (Reuters)
Here’s what you need to know about the Digital Markets Act. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Bitcoin miners are signing deals with AI firms
Putting all those vast data centers to good use. (FT $)
How Bitcoin mining devastated this New York town. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Amazon’s Prime Day sale causes a spike in injuries among warehouse workers
A new report accuses the company of prioritizing speed over safety. (WSJ $)
Not everything that looks like a deal is, in fact, a deal. (The Atlantic $)

5 We’re learning more about how deadly pancreatic cancer spreads
The disease shuts down molecules in key genes. (The Guardian)
An AI-based risk prediction system could help catch pancreatic cancer cases earlier. (MIT Technology Review)’

6 The Milky Way is full of free-floating planets
These scientists are on a mission to track these rogue worlds down. (IEEE Spectrum)

7 Beware the rise of fake AI-powered therapists
It’s just one example among a rising wave of AI scams. (Vice)
Five ways criminals are using AI. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Black women are listing their race as white on dating apps
And report receiving higher-quality matches as a result. (NY Mag $)

9 The JWST just celebrated its second year in space
And the photographs it captures are still awe-inspiring. (The Atlantic $)

10 Lab-grown meat for pets has been green-lit in the UK
🐈‍⬛

🐕
For the discerning pet palate. (Wired $)
Here’s what a lab-grown burger tastes like. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“This country is on fire, Mr. Altman.”

—Jennifer Loving, who runs a nonprofit that administers basic-income pilot programs in Silicon Valley, tells OpenAI CEO Sam Altman it’s time to act on all the research

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: Big Tech’s climate claims, and reducing your music streaming carbon footprint
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/07/17/1095061/the-download-big-techs-climate-claims-and-reducing-your-music-streaming-carbon-footprint/
Published Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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Music streaming can be a drag on the environment. These K-pop fans want to clean it up.

On Valentine’s Day 2023, five K-pop fans came to a bustling street in the center of Seoul, one of them in a bee costume. Then they started dancing to “Candy” by the boy band NCT Dream and unfurled a banner with a message for Korea’s largest domestic music streaming platform: “Melon, let’s use 100% renewable energy and happily be together with Kpop for the next 100 years.”

KPOP4PLANET

A few weeks later, Melon, which has over 4 million active users in Korea, promised to do just that—pledging to adopt 100% renewable energy for its data centers by 2030.

It was the culmination of a campaign organized by Kpop4planet, a small group of volunteers that is achieving surprising success in mobilizing K-pop fans to act against the energy-intensive practices of the music industry. In recent years it has led a series of actions for climate causes, secured pledges to reduce the carbon footprint of music streaming, and pressured international brands to turn their supply chains away from fossil fuels.

K-pop fans have for years been known for their incredible organizing power. As their numbers have grown around the world, they have become influential political forces, shaping elections and advocating for social change. It was these actions that inspired two young fans, Dayeon Lee from South Korea and Nurul Sarifah from Indonesia, to found Kpop4planet in 2021. Particularly concerned about environmental issues, they began to think about how some aspects of K-pop culture can exacerbate environmental degradation. For example, excessive music streaming can generate carbon emissions at every step, from the data centers that process requests to the devices that play the music. 

“I [initially] thought the physical-album-waste issue was much more important,” says Lee, who is a 21-year-old university undergraduate, currently living in Japan. “But I was really surprised when I did some background research … [and] realized that the streaming issue is much more serious because it is a long-term issue.”

While producing and selling physical recordings does, of course, have a carbon footprint, most of the environmental issues end after the initial purchase. That’s not the case with digital distribution. Streaming an album more than 27 times, according to 2019 research at Keele University in the UK, will likely end up using more energy than it takes to produce a CD. This kind of listening happens frequently in K-pop culture, which often encourages fans to host “streaming parties” where they play the same song on repeat.

Buoyed by the success of its streaming campaign, Kpop4planet has recently targeted companies outside the music industry that have benefited from working with K-pop idols; it’s asked them to make similar pledges on renewable energy or other climate goals in order to secure continuous support from the fans. The group has put pressure on Tokopedia, Indonesia’s largest e-commerce company, to set up a decarbonization plan. And it’s gone after Hyundai—which uses the K-pop band BTS as brand ambassadors—over a business deal to source aluminum from a company relying on a new coal power plant. This led to another big victory: In March 2024, Hyundai agreed to seek alternative suppliers for its aluminum.

These wins may be surprising for a group with just 10 full-time members. Hyundai and Melon did not immediately respond to requests for comment, so it’s hard to know exactly why they changed course. But for her part, Lee believes the group’s success comes from how it is able to represent the genuine feelings of a massive fan base and draw companies’ attention to those demands. In total, Kpop4planet’s online petitions have collected signatures from nearly 60,000 fans in 223 countries. And the group doesn’t stop until it gets what it wants.

“We have to be the messenger between corporations and K-pop fans,” Lee says. “We also want to expand our campaigns to more global corporations, because we believe that K-pop fans have enough power and influence to make our society more sustainable.”

The carbon footprint of “streaming parties”

Even as streaming has become the dominant way to listen to music, its energy consumption—in faraway data centers or via invisible telecommunication transmissions—remains hard for the end user to recognize.

“I think streaming is especially nefarious because those negative impacts are happening so far away and in such an invisible way,” says Joe Steinhardt, an assistant professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia who studies the music industry and is the author of the book Why to Resist Streaming Music & How. He calls streaming music “a disposable listen” because of the way an app keeps pulling data from the cloud and not storing it locally.

Still, it’s hard to draw a definitive conclusion on whether streaming damages the environment more than buying physical copies; its actual carbon

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By: Zeyi Yang
Title: Music streaming can be a drag on the environment. These K-pop fans want to clean it up.
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/07/16/1094982/music-streaming-climate-kpop-fan/
Published Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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The Download: K-pop stans’ climate plans, and what AI isn’t

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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.

Music streaming can be a drag on the environment. These K-pop fans want to clean it up.

K-pop fans have for years been known for their incredible organizing power. As their numbers have grown around the world, they have become influential political forces, shaping elections and advocating for social change.

It was these actions that inspired Kpop4planet. It’s a small group of volunteers that is achieving surprising success in mobilizing K-pop fans to act against the energy-intensive practices of the music streaming industry.

And, buoyed by its success, Kpop4planet has started targeting companies outside the music industry; it’s asked them to make similar pledges on renewable energy or other climate goals. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

A short history of AI, and what it is (and isn’t)

It’s the simplest questions that are often the hardest to answer. That applies to AI, too. Even though it’s sold as a solution to the world’s problems, nobody seems to know what it really is.

For months, my colleague Will Douglas Heaven has been on a quest to go deeper to understand why everybody seems to disagree on exactly what AI is, and why you’re right to care about it.

He’s been talking to some of the top thinkers in the field, asking them, simply: What is AI? The end result is a great piece that looks at the past and present of AI to see where it is going next. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

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 Silicon Valley is backing Donald Trump to become US President
Major VCs and tech leaders are lining up to pledge their financial support. (FT $)
JD Vance, Trump’s VP candidate, used to be a VC himself. (TechCrunch)
Wealthy far right activists are preparing for Trump to win. (New Yorker $)
The FBI has gained access to the phone of the suspected Trump shooter. (404 Media)

2 This site sells selfie ID verification photos and videos
Allowing customers to sign up for accounts using other people’s likenesses. (404 Media)

3 Bird flu cases could be undetected among US dairy workers
Health officials are struggling to keep track of who has been exposed. (New Scientist $)
What’s next for bird flu vaccines. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Scientists have discovered a cave on the moon
It could serve as a base for astronauts to shelter from radiation. (BBC)
It could be part of a hidden network of lunar caves. (New Scientist $)

5 China’s state support for AI is a double-edged sword
Its robust regulatory regime forces startups to jump through hoops. (WSJ $)
Critics aren’t happy about the EU’s new rules for AI. (FT $)
Why the Chinese government is sparing AI from harsh regulations—for now. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Google tried to ruin a pact between EU cloud firms and Microsoft
It offered the firms a $512 million package to uphold a complaint against Microsoft—but failed in its endeavor. (Bloomberg $)

7 Cloaking healthy cells could protect them from intensive cancer treatments
Drugs and therapies usually target all cells indiscriminately. (Ars Technica)
Cancer vaccines are having a renaissance. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Artists in Latin America can’t opt out of Meta’s AI training project
The company failed to notify users in the region about its plans. (Rest of World)
Here’s how to opt out of Meta’s AI training if you’re in the US, UK, or Europe. (MIT Technology Review)

9 How to safeguard yourself against online conspiracy theories
It can be easy to share misinformation in the heat of the moment. (WP $)

10 Poker is essentially a math game
🃏
Which explains why computers are getting so good at it. (Vox)
Facebook’s poker-playing AI could wreck the online poker industry—so it’s not being released. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“I have questions. My biggest one: why??”

—Hebba Youssef, chief people officer at Workweek, reacts to HR company Lattice’s new tool designed to help organizations make employee records for AI bots, the Verge reports.

The big story

This scientist is trying to create an accessible, unhackable voting machine

Read More

————

By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: K-pop stans’ climate plans, and what AI isn’t
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/07/16/1095006/the-download-k-pop-stans-climate-plans-and-what-ai-isnt/
Published Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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