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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.

OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

OpenAI has built a striking new generative video model called Sora that can take a short text description and turn it into a detailed, high-definition film clip up to a minute long. It’s seriously impressive-looking.

Based on four sample videos that OpenAI shared with MIT Technology Review, the firm has pushed the envelope of what’s possible with text-to-video generation (a hot new research direction that we flagged as a trend to watch in 2024).

It’s hard to know exactly how impressive a step this is until we get more information from OpenAI—and we may have a wait on our hands. The company has no plans to release it to the public currently, though it does hope to in future. For now, mindful of the potential for misuse, OpenAI will be doing extensive safety testing. Read the full story—and check out some of the videos!

—Will Douglas Heaven

Google’s new version of Gemini can handle far bigger amounts of data

The news: Google DeepMind has launched the next generation of its powerful artificial-intelligence model Gemini, which has an enhanced ability to work with large amounts of video, text, and images.

For example: In one demonstration video shown by Google, the model was fed the 402-page transcript of the Apollo moon landing mission. Then they showed Gemini a hand-drawn sketch of a boot, and asked it to identify the moment in the transcript that the drawing represents. The model was also able to identify moments of humor.

What it means: These sorts of AI capabilities are very impressive, Oren Etzioni, former technical director of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, told us. However, he did give one major caveat: “Never trust an AI demo.” Read the full story.

—James O’Donnell

How bacteria-fighting viruses could go mainstream

Lynn Cole had a blood infection she couldn’t shake. For years, she was in and out of the hospital. Each time antibiotics would force the infection to retreat. Each time it came roaring back.

In the summer of 2020, the bacteria flooding Cole’s bloodstream stopped responding to antibiotics. She was running out of time. Her doctors decided they had to try a different approach: phages, which are tiny viruses that infect and destroy bacteria.

The phages worked. Cole recovered with remarkable speed. But then the therapy failed. Cole’s case highlights the enormous promise of phage therapy, but it also shows just how much we have to learn. Read the full story.

—Cassandra Willyard

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly newsletter all about biotech and health. 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 The Senate could be about to pass some major tech regulation
If it passes, the Kids Online Safety Act will be the biggest piece of tech regulation in the US in decades. (WP $)
Why child safety bills are popping up all over the US. (MIT Technology Review)
New York City is suing TikTok and Instagram for ‘addicting’ kids. (NBC) 

2 A new era of deepfakes is colliding with pivotal elections 
And it’ll be very hard to figure out how big an impact AI-generated content has on results, even after the fact. (WSJ $)
A Chinese influence campaign is using AI-generated content to amplify division in the US. (NYT $)

3 TikTok has released an app for the Vision Pro
YouTube says it’s building an app for the headset too. (The Verge)

4 AI is nothing to fear for white collar workers
That’s because it’s not really a substitute for expertise—it’s a lever for its application.  (Noema)
People are worried that AI will take everyone’s jobs. We’ve been here before. (MIT Technology Review)
Here’s how AI is shaking up the way we work. (The Verge)

5 What it’s like to be a content moderator in Pakistan
Pretty soul-crushing—and with little hope of a promotion or transferable skills. (Rest of World)

6 Hardware still matters
In fact, in the AI era, it’s about as important as it’s ever been. (FT $)

7 Discredited health claims are getting a second airing on TikTok
It’s giving new life to lectures by a woman permanently banned from providing health services in Australia. (Vox)

8 Electric vehicles aren’t great at handling extreme heat
But they could get better, thanks to new materials. (Scientific American $)
Tesla’s stainless steel Cybertrucks are already rusting. (Futurism)

9 Meat-injected rice, anyone? 
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By: Charlotte Jee
Title: The Download: impressive new AI capabilities
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/02/16/1088579/download-impressive-new-ai-capabilities/
Published Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2024 13:01:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/uruguay-wants-to-use-gene-drives-to-eradicate-devastating-screwworms/

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Open-sourcing generative AI

Smith forwebh

The views expressed in this video are those of the speakers, and do not represent any endorsement or sponsorship.

Is the open-source approach, which has democratized access to software, ensured transparency, and improved security for decades, now poised to have a similar impact on AI? We dissect the balance between collaboration and control, legal ramifications, ethical considerations, and innovation barriers as the AI industry seeks to democratize the development of large language models.

Explore more from Booz Allen Hamilton on the future of AI

bout the speakers

Smith forwebh 1

lison Smith, Director of Generative AI, Booz Allen Hamilton

Alison Smith is a Director of Generative AI at Booz Allen Hamilton where she helps clients address their missions with innovative solutions. Leading Booz Allen’s investments in Generative AI and grounding them in real business needs, Alison employs a pragmatic approach to designing, implementing, and deploying Generative AI that blends existing tools with additional customization. She is also responsible for disseminating best practices and key solutions throughout the firm to ensure that all teams are up-to-date on the latest available tools, solutions, and approaches to common client problems.

In addition to her role at Booz Allen which balances technical solutions and business growth, Alison also enjoys staying connected to and serving her local community. From 2017-2021, Alison served on the board of a non-profit, DC Open Government Coalition (DCOGC), a group that seeks to enhance public access to government information and ensure transparent government operations; in November 2021, Alison was recognized as a Power Woman in Code by DCFemTech.

Alison has an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a BA from Middlebury College.

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By: Elana Wilner
Title: Open-sourcing generative AI
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/04/09/1087440/open-sourcing-generative-ai/
Published Date: Tue, 09 Apr 2024 18:35:09 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/is-robotics-about-to-have-its-own-chatgpt-moment/

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Is robotics about to have its own ChatGPT moment?

henry evans P0005882 scaled

Silent. Rigid. Clumsy.

Henry and Jane Evans are used to awkward houseguests. For more than a decade, the couple, who live in Los Altos Hills, California, have hosted a slew of robots in their home.

In 2002, at age 40, Henry had a massive stroke, which left him with quadriplegia and an inability to speak. Since then, he’s learned how to communicate by moving his eyes over a letter board, but he is highly reliant on caregivers and his wife, Jane.

Henry got a glimmer of a different kind of life when he saw Charlie Kemp on CNN in 2010. Kemp, a robotics professor at Georgia Tech, was on TV talking about PR2, a robot developed by the company Willow Garage. PR2 was a massive two-armed machine on wheels that looked like a crude metal butler. Kemp was demonstrating how the robot worked, and talking about his research on how health-care robots could help people. He showed how the PR2 robot could hand some medicine to the television host.

“All of a sudden, Henry turns to me and says, ‘Why can’t that robot be an extension of my body?’ And I said, ‘Why not?’” Jane says.

There was a solid reason why not. While engineers have made great progress in getting robots to work in tightly controlled environments like labs and factories, the home has proved difficult to design for. Out in the real, messy world, furniture and floor plans differ wildly; children and pets can jump in a robot’s way; and clothes that need folding come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. Managing such unpredictable settings and varied conditions has been beyond the capabilities of even the most advanced robot prototypes.

That seems to finally be changing, in large part thanks to artificial intelligence. For decades, roboticists have more or less focused on controlling robots’ “bodies”—their arms, legs, levers, wheels, and the like—via purpose-­driven software. But a new generation of scientists and inventors believes that the previously missing ingredient of AI can give robots the ability to learn new skills and adapt to new environments faster than ever before. This new approach, just maybe, can finally bring robots out of the factory and into our homes.

Progress won’t happen overnight, though, as the Evanses know far too well from their many years of using various robot prototypes.

PR2 was the first robot they brought in, and it opened entirely new skills for Henry. It would hold a beard shaver and Henry would move his face against it, allowing him to shave and scratch an itch by himself for the first time in a decade. But at 450 pounds (200 kilograms) or so and $400,000, the robot was difficult to have around. “It could easily take out a wall in your house,” Jane says. “I wasn’t a big fan.”

More recently, the Evanses have been testing out a smaller robot called Stretch, which Kemp developed through his startup Hello Robot. The first iteration launched during the pandemic with a much more reasonable price tag of around $18,000.

Stretch weighs about 50 pounds. It has a small mobile base, a stick with a camera dangling off it, and an adjustable arm featuring a gripper with suction cups at the ends. It can be controlled with a console controller. Henry controls Stretch using a laptop, with a tool that that tracks his head movements to move a cursor around. He is able to move his thumb and index finger enough to click a computer mouse. Last summer, Stretch was with the couple for more than a month, and Henry says it gave him a whole new level of autonomy. “It was practical, and I could see using it every day,” he says.

a robot arm holds a brush over the head of Henry Evans which rests on a pillow
Henry Evans used the Stretch robot to brush his hair, eat, and even
play with his granddaughter.PETER ADAMS

Using his laptop, he could get the robot to brush his hair and have it hold fruit kebabs for him to snack on. It also opened up Henry’s relationship with his granddaughter Teddie. Before, they barely interacted. “She didn’t hug him at all goodbye. Nothing like

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By: Melissa Heikkilä
Title: Is robotics about to have its own ChatGPT moment?
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/04/11/1090718/household-robots-ai-data-robotics/
Published Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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https://mansbrand.com/a-brief-weird-history-of-brainwashing/

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A brief, weird history of brainwashing

Liang Qichao portrait jpg

On an early spring day in 1959, Edward Hunter testified before a US Senate subcommittee investigating “the effect of Red China Communes on the United States.” It was the kind of opportunity he relished. A war correspondent who had spent considerable time in Asia, Hunter had achieved brief media stardom in 1951 after his book Brain-Washing in Red China introduced a new concept to the American public: a supposedly scientific system for changing people’s minds, even making them love things they once hated.

But Hunter wasn’t just a reporter, objectively chronicling conditions in China. As he told the assembled senators, he was also an anticommunist activist who served as a propagandist for the OSS, or Office of Strategic Services—something that was considered normal and patriotic at the time. His reporting blurred the line between fact and political mythology.

portrait of Liang Qichao
Chinese reformists like Liang Qichao used the term xinao—a play on an older word, xixin, or “washing the heart”—in an attempt to bring ideas from Western science into Chinese philosophyWIKIMEDIA COMMONS

When a senator asked about Hunter’s work for the OSS, the operative boasted that he was the first to “discover the technique of mind-attack” in mainland China, the first to use the word “brainwashing” in writing in any language, and “the first, except for the Chinese, to use the word in speech in any language.”

None of this was true. Other operatives associated with the OSS had used the word in reports before Hunter published articles about it. More important, as the University of Hong Kong legal scholar Ryan Mitchell has pointed out, the Chinese word Hunter used at the hearing—xinao (), translated as “wash brain”—has a long history going back to scientifically minded Chinese philosophers of the late 19th century, who used it to mean something more akin to enlightenment.

Yet Hunter’s sensational tales still became an important part of the disinformation and pseudoscience that fueled a “mind-control race” during the Cold War, much like the space race. Inspired by new studies on brain function, the US military and intelligence communities prepared themselves for a psychic war with the Soviet Union and China by spending millions of dollars on research into manipulating the human brain. But while the science never exactly panned out, residual beliefs fostered by this bizarre conflict continue to play a role in ideological and scientific debates to this day.

Coercive persuasion and pseudoscience

Ironically, “brainwashing” was not a widely used term among communists in China. The word xinao, Mitchell told me in an email, is actually a play on an older word, xixin, or washing the heart, which alludes to a Confucian and Buddhist ideal of self-awareness. In the late 1800s, Chinese reformists such as Liang Qichao began using xinao—replacing the character for “heart” with “brain”—in part because they were trying to modernize Chinese philosophy. “They were eager to receive and internalize as much as they could of Western science in general, and discourse about the brain as the seat of consciousness was just one aspect of that set of imported ideas,” Mitchell said.

For Liang and his circle, brainwashing wasn’t some kind of mind-wiping process. “It was a sort of notion of epistemic virtue,” Mitchell said, “or a personal duty to make oneself modern in order to behave properly in the modern world.”

Meanwhile, scientists outside China were investigating “brainwashing” in the sense we usually think of, with experiments into mind clearing and reprogramming. Some of the earliest research into the possibility began in the 1890s, when Ivan Pavlov, the Russian physiologist who had famously conditioned dogs to drool at the sound of a bell, worked on Soviet-funded projects to investigate how trauma could change animal behavior. He found that even the most well-conditioned dogs would forget their training after intensely stressful experiences such as nearly drowning, especially when those were combined with sleep deprivation and isolation. It seemed that Pavlov had hit upon a quick way to wipe animals’ memories. Scientists on both sides of the Iron Curtain subsequently wondered whether it might work on humans. And once memories were wiped, they wondered, could something else be installed their place?

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By: Annalee Newitz
Title: A brief, weird history of brainwashing
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/04/12/1090726/brainwashing-mind-control-history-operation-midnight-climax/
Published Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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