The Download: introducing the Ethics issue

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: the Ethics issue 

As technology is embedded deeper and further into our lives, it’s becoming increasingly important for us to properly grapple with ethical concerns. For example, how do we nurture the development of AI in a way that avoids societal harm? Who should get access to cutting-edge, experimental drugs? If a machine tells soldiers when to pull the trigger, who is responsible? These are just some of the questions we explore in the latest edition of our print magazine. If nothing else, this issue is guaranteed to make you think.

It’s worth diving in and reading the whole magazine cover-to-cover, but if you’re pressed for time, I’d recommend kicking off with these knock-out pieces:

+ This feature looks at the tricky, painful questions that surround who ought to get access to which experimental medical treatments (it can be a far harder decision than you might imagine.)

+ An article about All Tech Is Human, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting ethics and responsibility in tech, which forms a sort of non-religious congregation for our modern times.

+ This feature delves into the complex and messy ethics of making war with machines—a pressing topic as cutting-edge tech is being tested in Ukraine, often with little-to-no oversight.

+ This story examines the occasionally heated debates that go on behind the scenes in the open source community, and where it seems to be heading next. + Our online lives are plagued with scams, hacks and fraud. And technology is never going to magically fix that—it’s down to us, as this piece explains.

The fascinating evolution of typing Chinese characters

Back in the ’80s, there was no way of processing Chinese characters on personal computers. It posed a tricky problem to fix, but one Chinese engineer named Wang Yongmin had a stab. He developed the first popular way to input Chinese characters into a computer in 1983, by breaking down a character into different strokes and assigning several strokes to each letter on the QWERTY keyboard.

It was handy, but came with a big downside: users need to memorize which keys correspond to which strokes, so the learning curve is quite steep. The next step in the evolution of Chinese IMEs was the invention of typing by phonetic spelling in the ‘90s. But that also came with its own trouble, as hundreds of Chinese characters can share the same phonetic spelling.

Eventually, far more efficient predictive keyboard software came along in 2006, and now that forms the foundation for how Chinese people interact with technologies and each other. But again (you guessed it) there’s a problem: these apps are a privacy nightmare. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

This story is from China Report, Zeyi’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on what’s happening 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 India is about to try to land on the moon

If it succeeds, it’ll become the first country to reach the lunar south pole. (FT $)
If you’re a fan of high-stakes space livestreams, watch it right now. (Engadget)

2 Meta released an AI model that can translate a ton of languages
These sorts of tools are improving at a dizzying pace. (TechCrunch)
Meta’s new AI models can recognize and produce speech for more than 1,000 languages. (MIT Technology Review)

3 The US is fighting extreme weather on many fronts
Floods, wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves are making for a turbulent time in every corner of the country. (NBC)
Climate change is redrawing the disaster map. (The Verge)

4 What did the €600 million Human Brain Project achieve?

It didn’t manage to simulate the whole human brain (a tall order)—but it still stacked up some useful findings. (Nature)
How big science failed to unlock the mysteries of the human brain. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Elon Musk is ridiculously powerful 
Ignore all the noise around X, and look at his intergovernmental reach via projects like Starlink. (New Yorker $)

6 Inside the AI porn marketplace where everyone is for sale
Generative AI tools make it terrifyingly easy to create non-consensual images of anyone. (404 Media)
Tips for ‘jailbreaking’ AI are already everywhere online. (New Scientist $)
Scammers used ChatGPT

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By: Charlotte Jee
Title: The Download: introducing the Ethics issue
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2023 12:10:00 +0000

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