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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.

Introducing: Our TR35 list of innovators for 2022

Spoiler alert: our annual Innovators Under 35 list isn’t actually about what a small group of smart young people have been up to (although that’s certainly part of it.) It’s really about where the world of technology is headed next.

As you read about the problems this year’s winners have set out to solve, you’ll also glimpse the near future of AI, biotech, materials, computing, and the fight against climate change.

To connect the dots, we asked five experts—all judges or former winners—to write short essays about where they see the most promise, and the biggest potential roadblocks, in their respective fields. We hope the list inspires you and gives you a sense of what to expect in the years ahead.

Read the full list here.

The Urbanism issue

JA22 cover

The modern city is a surveillance device. It can track your movements via your license plate, your cell phone, and your face. But go to any city or suburb in the United States and there’s a different type of monitoring happening, one powered by networks of privately owned doorbell cameras, wildlife cameras, and even garden-variety security cameras. 

The latest print issue of MIT Technology Review examines why, independently of local governments, we have built our neighborhoods into panopticons: everyone watching everything, all the time. Here is a selection of some of the new stories in the edition, guaranteed to make you wonder whether smart cities really are so smart after all:

– How groups of online neighborhood watchmen are taking the law into their own hands.

– Why Toronto wants you to forget everything you know about smart cities.

– Bike theft is a huge problem. Specialized parking pods could be the answer.

– Public transport wants to kill off cash—but it won’t be as disruptive as you think.

– How a rebellious French city is fighting back against its growing network of police surveillance cameras.

Correction: A story in yesterday’s newsletter stated that the US had 60,000 charging stations for electric vehicles. There are in fact 6,000. We apologize for the error.

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 online supporters are confusing themselves 
They’re tying themselves in knots trying to debunk former aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony—despite what the evidence says. (WP $)
Hutchinson’s January 6 testimony is the most damning yet. (The Atlantic $)
A summary of the most shocking revelations she made. (Vox) 

2 A pro-China influence campaign is targeting the rare earths industry
The group wants to undermine trust in Western companies to further China’s dominance of the sector. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Instagram is hiding posts that mention abortion
Posts offering to sell and mail guns are fine though, apparently. (AP)
Facebook was quick to label an abortion rights vandalism group ‘terrorists.’ (The Intercept)
Big Tech remains silent on questions about data privacy in a post-Roe US. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Bitcoin is poised to drop even further
Just as investors were starting to feel optimistic again. (Bloomberg $)
A guy nicknamed ‘Crypto Jesus’ has allegedly racked up a $47 million crypto debt. (Motherboard)
We’re still waiting for regulators to get their heads around crypto. (Slate $)
Life, death, taxes, bitcoin volatility? (FT $)

5 Solar panels that shield crops from extreme heat are showing promise
But if the crops taste bad, it’s all a colossal waste of money. (NYT $)
These materials were meant to revolutionize the solar industry. Why hasn’t it happened? (MIT Technology Review)
Readying the US for solar power is a thankless task. (Motherboard)

6 Debate streamers are guiding conspiracy theorists back to reality
Thanks to a combination of a light touch, logic and gentle compassion. (CNET)
How to talk to conspiracy theorists—and still be kind. (MIT Technology Review)

7 A lot of seals look the same to us

Facial recognition can help researchers tell them apart. (Hakai Magazine)
A UK independent legal review wants to ban facial recognition. (FT $)

8 How a deported hacker’s skills helped him to reenter the US
But also made him a target. (Rest of World)
A former Uber security chief has been accused of hacking.

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: Introducing our TR35 list, and the death of the smart city
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Published Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2022 13:43:00 +0000


The Download: sleeping in VR, and promising clean energy projects




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.

Inside the cozy but creepy world of VR sleep rooms

People are gathering in virtual spaces to relax, and even sleep, with their headsets on. VR sleep rooms are becoming popular among people who suffer from insomnia or loneliness, offering cozy enclaves where strangers can safely find relaxation and company—most of the time.

Each VR sleep room is created to induce calm. Some imitate beaches and campsites with bonfires, while others re-create hotel rooms or cabins. Soundtracks vary from relaxing beats to nature sounds to absolute silence, while lighting can range from neon disco balls to pitch-black darkness.

The opportunity to sleep in groups can be particularly appealing to isolated or lonely people who want to feel less alone, and safe enough to fall asleep. The trouble is, what if the experience doesn’t make you feel that way? Read the full story.

—Tanya Basu

Inside the conference where researchers are solving the clean-energy puzzle

There are plenty of tried-and-true solutions that can begin to address climate change right now: wind and solar power are being deployed at massive scales, electric vehicles are coming to the mainstream, and new technologies are helping companies make even fossil-fuel production less polluting.

But as we knock out the easy climate wins, we’ll also need to get creative to tackle harder-to-solve sectors and reach net-zero emissions.

Our climate reporter Casey Crownhart spent last week in Washington, DC, at the annual Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy summit where high-risk, high-reward projects are showcased. Read about some of the most intriguing projects that caught Casey’s eye.

This story is from The Spark, Casey’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things climate and energy. 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 Convincing AI-generated images are mainstream now 
And Midjourney, the company behind many of them, has few rules and little oversight. (WP $)
What these kinds of images mean for the future of misinformation. (Vox)
AI image generator Midjourney blocks porn by banning words about the human reproductive system. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Restaurant chain Panera wants customers to pay with their palms
Privacy advocates worry the data is at high risk of being hacked. (The Guardian)
Tencent wants you to pay with your palm. What could go wrong? (MIT Technology Review)

3 South Korea has passed its own Chips Act
Like the US equivalent, it’s designed to boost native chip development. (Bloomberg $)
These simple design rules could turn the chip industry on its head. (MIT Technology Review)

4 ByteDance is thinking beyond TikTok
The next US-China war could be over its new app Lemon8, instead. (NYT $)+ TikTok could fall foul of the proposed US RESTRICT Act. (Rest of World)

5 Microsoft is experimenting with adverts in Bing Chat
There’s no way of blocking them with current tools. (TechCrunch)
Chatbots are being touted as solutions to problems that don’t necessarily exist. (Slate $)
ChatGPT runs rings around Bard in a personal assistant capacity. (NYT $)

6 The metaverse has been dealt another blow
Disney and Microsoft recently disbanded teams focused on building digital realms. (WSJ $)
Meta is desperately trying to make the metaverse happen. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Algorithms are savvy at predicting horse racing winners
But there’s still plenty of room for human intuition. (FT $)

8 We don’t know what’s trapped inside glaciers
New research suggests their contents could be more volatile than previously thought. (Wired $)

9 The search for a new Earth
There are six contenders in play. (The Atlantic $)
What’s next in space. (MIT Technology Review)

10 We still can’t get enough of Wordle
It attracts more visitors than the New York Times’ infamous crossword puzzle. (The Verge)

Quote of the day

“We’re going to stick with it.”

—Nick Clegg, Meta’s head of global affairs, insists the company is still committed to building the metaverse, Bloomberg reports.

The big story

How we drained California dry

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: sleeping in VR, and promising clean energy projects
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Published Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2023 12:10:00 +0000

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The Download: toxic chemicals, and Russia’s cyberwar tactics




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.

We’re consuming toxic chemicals. Now we need to figure out how they’re affecting us.

What are chemical pollutants doing to our bodies? It’s a timely question given that last week, people in Philadelphia cleared grocery shelves of bottled water after a toxic leak from a chemical plant spilled into a tributary of the Delaware River, a source of drinking water for 14 million people. And it was only last month that a train carrying a suite of other hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, unleashing an unknown quantity of toxic chemicals.

There’s no doubt that we are polluting the planet. In order to find out how these pollutants might be affecting our own bodies, we need to work out how we are exposed to them. Which chemicals are we inhaling, eating, and digesting? And how much? The field of exposomics, which seeks to study our exposure to pollutants, among other factors, could help to give us some much-needed answers.Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

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

Read more:

+ The toxic chemicals all around us. Meet Nicolette Bugher, a researcher working to expose the poisons lurking in our environment and discover what they mean for human health. Read the full story.

+ Building a better chemical factory—out of microbes. Professor Kristala Jones Prather is helping to turn microbes into efficient producers of desired chemicals. Read the full story.

+ Microplastics are messing with the microbiomes of seabirds. The next step is to work out what this might mean for their health—and ours. Read the full story.

The must-reads

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

1 Inside Russia’s secretive cyberwarfare tactics
A whistleblower has lifted the lid on the country’s hacking and disinformation methods. (The Guardian)
Ukrainian hackers claim to have infiltrated a Russian colonel’s accounts. (Motherboard)
Russia is risking the creation of a “splinternet.” (MIT Technology Review)

2 There’s an AI coding war brewing
Ensuring developers get their hands on the best AI tools could emerge as the next major tech battleground. (Wired $)
Tesla has created an immediate AI threat to humanity. (Slate $)

3 Extremist content is thriving on Twitter’s For You page
Its algorithms are amplifying hateful and racist content, too. (WP $)
The company won’t charge its top advertisers for blue checks. (NYT $)

4 The rise and rise of police surveillance tech
Countries in the Middle East and beyond are following China’s lead. (NYT $)
How US police use counterterrorism money to buy spy tech. (MIT Technology Review)

5 India is on the hunt for new powerful spyware 
The notorious Pegasus system is too well known, so officials are widening their search. (FT $)
Twitter is censoring users who criticize the Indian prime minister. (The Intercept)

6 Virgin Orbit is ceasing operations
Richard Branson’s troubled rocket company failed to secure much-needed funding. (CNBC)

7 Streaming algorithms aren’t built to handle classical music
But Apple is confident it has a solution. (WSJ $)

8 These startups want to make it easier to invest in property
That’s often bad news for renters. (Wired $)

9 Who are online business courses really benefiting?
It’s an extremely lucrative career path for the savvy creators behind them. (Vox)
There’s a new anime dating game that simultaneously does your taxes. (TechCrunch)

10 The woolly mammoth meatball is a colossal PR stunt
Who could have guessed? (The Atlantic $)
How much would you pay to see a woolly mammoth? (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“It was all held together with duct tape.”

—An anonymous former Twitter employee describes the creaking system propping up the company’s blue checks to the Washington Post.

The big story

Should we believe in—or even want—immortality?

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October 2022

Twenty years have passed since writer Jonathan Weiner first met Aubrey de Grey, the man with the

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: toxic chemicals, and Russia’s cyberwar tactics
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Published Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2023 12:10:00 +0000

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The Download: AI films, and the threat of microplastics



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.

Welcome to the new surreal. How AI-generated video is changing film.

The Frost nails its uncanny, disconcerting vibe in its first few shots. Vast icy mountains, a makeshift camp of military-style tents, a group of people huddled around a fire, barking dogs. It’s familiar stuff, yet weird enough to plant a growing seed of dread. There’s something wrong here.

Welcome to the unsettling world of AI moviemaking. The Frost is a 12-minute movie from Detroit-based video creation company Waymark in which every shot is generated by an image-making AI. It’s one of the most impressive—and bizarre—examples yet of this strange new genre. Read the full story, and take an exclusive look at the movie

—Will Douglas Heaven

Microplastics are everywhere. What does that mean for our immune systems?

Microplastics are pretty much everywhere you look. These tiny pieces of plastic pollution, less than five millimeters across, have been found in human blood, breast milk, and placentas. They’re even in our drinking water and the air we breathe.

Given their ubiquity, it’s worth considering what we know about microplastics. What are they doing to us?

The short answer is: we don’t really know. But scientists have begun to build a picture of their potential effects from early studies in animals and clumps of cells, and new research suggests that they could affect not only the health of our body tissues, but our immune systems more generally. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

This story is from The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly newsletter covering all things biotech. 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 Apple is preparing to reveal its mixed reality headset

But if the Reality Pro device lacks that essential killer app, Apple’s got an uphill slog ahead of it to convince us to care. (Platformer $)
The latest product says a lot about how Apple wants to defend its existing products. (FT $)
Meta managed to announce its latest Quest 3 headset just in time. (Bloomberg $)
Human moderators in the metaverse are proving essential to digital safety. (MIT Technology Review)

2 A blood test for 50 kinds of cancer is showing promise
It could help doctors to find the cancer’s source and how best to treat it. (BBC)
How AI analysis of disease in primates could help us humans. (FT $)

3 Elon Musk has been accused of insider trading
He’s been accused of using his influence to push Dogecoin, for the third time. (Quartz)

4 Boeing has delayed its crewed spaceflight for NASA again
Originally slated to take off in April, the flight has been dogged with issues. (TechCrunch)
SpaceX has eclipsed Boeing in recent years. (WSJ $)
Future moon missions’ large landers could make things seriously dusty. (New Scientist $)

5 How India built a sprawling hacker for hire industry
While Russia, China and Iran’s hackers are notorious, India’s networks are growing rapidly. (New Yorker $)
The hacking industry faces the end of an era. (MIT Technology Review)

6 All that leftover hand sanitiser is ruining people’s lives
The stench after old stock caught on fire is unbearable for California residents.(Wired $)

7 Apple customers are struggling to withdraw their cash
Early adopters of its savings account have been left feeling like guinea pigs. (WSJ $)
They’re starting to complain about the long transaction times. (The Information $)

8 Online adverts are already terrible
But the generative AI boom means they’re poised to get even worse. (The Atlantic $)

9 You don’t need an app for that
Our phones are becoming app graveyards for pointless applications we simply do not use. (Vox)

10 Fans in China have resurrected a dormant pop star’s career
But Stefanie Sun isn’t too happy about them cloning her voice with AI. (Rest of World)
Google’s new AI can hear a snippet of a song—and then keep on playing. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“If I could guarantee it wasn’t a scam, I would pay up to $250 for it.”

—Arick Jones, a publicist, tells the Wall Street Journal how much he’d be willing to pay for an invitation code to join Bluesky, the exclusive social network backed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

The big story

The delivery apps reshaping life in India’s megacities

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June 2022 

Every day, N. Sudhakar sits in his hole-in-the wall grocery store in the

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: AI films, and the threat of microplastics
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2023 12:10:00 +0000

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