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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.

Zinc batteries that offer an alternative to lithium just got a big boost

The news: One of the leading companies offering alternatives to lithium batteries for the grid has just received a nearly $400 million loan from the US Department of Energy. Eos Energy makes zinc-halide batteries, which the firm hopes could one day be used to store renewable energy at a lower cost than is possible with existing lithium-ion batteries.

What they’re made of: Eos’s batteries are primarily made from zinc, the fourth most produced metal in the world, and use a water-based electrolyte (the liquid that moves charge around in a battery) instead of organic solvent. This makes them more stable than lithium-ion cells, and means they won’t catch fire.

Why it matters: While the cost of lithium-ion batteries has plummeted over the past decade, there’s a growing need for even cheaper options. The zinc-based technology Eos hopes to commercialize could store electricity for hours or even days at low cost. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

How water could make safer batteries

Batteries’ electrolytes dictate a lot about how they work, as well as how safe they are. A growing number of alternative battery makers are turning to an interesting ingredient to use in their electrolyte to lower the risk of them catching fire: water.

Casey has dug further into the fascinating technology behind alternative batteries in the latest edition of The Spark, her weekly climate newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

How should we regulate AI?

AI is everywhere, but few experts can agree just how it should be regulated. Next week, on September 12, we’re holding the second MIT Technology Review Roundtable: a 30-minute conversation with our writers and editors—and this one’s all about AI.

Melissa Heikkilä, our senior reporter for AI, will be chatting with news editor Charlotte Jee about what should be done to keep AI companies in line. Roundtables are free for MIT Technology Review subscribers, so if you’re not already, what more reason do you need to sign up? Become one today from just $80 a year.

The must-reads

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

1 China is forcing tech firms to disclose their products’ vulnerabilities
The valuable information essentially allows Chinese authorities to hack their own customers. (Wired $)
Microsoft has uncovered how Chinese hackers infiltrated US officials’ accounts. (Reuters)

2 Apple is spending millions of dollars a day training its AI
It’s got big plans for overhauling how iPhone owners control their devices. (The Information $)

3 Google is cracking down on AI-generated election ads
Synthetic content will need to be declared clearly, or risk deletion. (Bloomberg $)
Google’s being investigated in a major monopoly trial. (NYT $)
Six ways that AI could change politics. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Japan’s rocket is on its way to the moon
?
It’s the country’s fourth lunar attempt this year, and, so far, the most successful. (BBC)
The startup behind it is rife with challenges, though. (FT $)
What’s next for the moon. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Phoenix is America’s hottest city
Residents are finding it increasingly difficult to live in its punishing temperatures. (New Yorker $)

6 Europe is building an ambitious new fighter jet
But it comes with a colossal price tag. (FT $)
Inside the messy ethics of making war with machines. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Robots have been killing people for decades
But we’re failing to take the policy steps needed to make them safer. (The Atlantic $)

8 Modern cars are privacy nightmares
They’re packed full of sensors tracking your every move. (Motherboard)
China’s carmakers are doing big business overseas. (NYT $)

9 ChatGPT can’t handle languages that don’t exist much online
It even included characters that don’t exist in the Tigrinya language. (Rest of World)
Why it’s impossible to build an unbiased AI language model. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Crypto is basically a giant slot machine
In hindsight, the signs were all there. (NY Mag $)
It’s okay to opt out of the crypto revolution. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“I think we are the last generation that has lived in a world without GenAI.”

—Kirsten Rulf, a former head of digital policy at the German Federal Chancellery, tells Reuters about how the rapid rise of generative AI is exposing age gaps

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: promising new batteries, and how to regulate AI
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/09/07/1079196/the-download-promising-new-batteries-and-how-to-regulate-ai/
Published Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2023 12:10:00 +0000

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These board games want you to beat climate change

DAY0101 DaybreakQuickstart e30 c2

It’s game night,and I’m crossing my fingers, hoping for a hurricane.

I roll the die and it clatters across the board, tumbling to a stop to reveal a tiny icon of a tree stump. Bad news: I just triggered deforestation in the Amazon. That seals it. I failed to stop climate change—at least this board-game representation of it.

The urgent need to address climate change might seem like unlikely fodder for a fun evening. But a growing number of games are attempting to take on the topic, including a version of the bestseller Catan released this summer.

As a climate reporter, I was curious about whether games could, even abstractly, represent the challenge of the climate crisis. Perhaps more crucially, could they possibly be any fun?

My investigation started with Daybreak, a board game released in late 2023 by a team that includes the creator of Pandemic (infectious disease—another famously light topic for a game). Daybreak is a cooperative game where players work together to cut emissions and survive disasters. The group either wins or loses as a whole.

When I opened the box, it was immediately clear that this wouldn’t be for the faint of heart. There are hundreds of tiny cardboard and wooden pieces, three different card decks, and a surprisingly thick rule book. Setting it up, learning the rules, and playing for the first time took over two hours.

the components of the game Daybreak which has Game cards depicting Special Drawing Rights, Clean Electricity Plants, and Reforestation themed play cards
Daybreak, a cooperative board game about stopping climate change.COURTESY OF CMYK

Daybreak is full of details, and I was struck by how many of them it gets right. Not only are there cards representing everything from walkable cities to methane removal, but each features a QR code players can use to learn more.

In each turn, players deploy technologies or enact policies to cut climate pollution. Just as in real life, emissions have negative effects. Winning requires slashing emissions to net zero (the point where whatever’s emitted can be soaked up by forests, oceans, or direct air capture). But there are multiple ways for the whole group to lose, including letting the global average temperature increase by 2 °C or simply running out of turns.

In an embarrassing turn of events for someone who spends most of her waking hours thinking about climate change, nearly every round of Daybreak I played ended in failure. Adding insult to injury, I’m not entirely sure that I was having fun. Sure, the abstract puzzle was engaging and challenging, and after a loss, I’d be checking the clock, seeing if there was time to play again. But once all the pieces were back in the box, I went to bed obsessing about heat waves and fossil-fuel disinformation. The game was perhaps representing climate change a little bit too well.

I wondered if a new edition of a classic would fare better. Catan, formerly Settlers of Catan, and its related games have sold over 45 million copies worldwide since the original’s release in 1995. The game’s object is to build roads and settlements, setting up a civilization.

In late 2023, Catan Studios announced that it would be releasing a version of its game called New Energies, focused on climate change. The new edition, out this summer, preserves the same central premise as the original. But this time, players will also construct power plants, generating energy with either fossil fuels or renewables. Fossil fuels are cheaper and allow for quicker expansion, but they lead to pollution, which can harm players’ societies and even end the game early.

Before I got my hands on the game, I spoke with one of its creators, Benjamin Teuber, who developed the game with his late father, Klaus Teuber, the mastermind behind the original Catan.

To Teuber, climate change is a more natural fit for a game than one might expect. “We believe that a good game is always around a dilemma,” he told me. The key is to simplify the problem sufficiently, a challenge that took the team dozens of iterations while developing New Energies. But he also thinks there’s a need to be at least somewhat encouraging. “While we have a severe topic, or maybe even especially because we have a severe topic, you can’t scare off the

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By: Casey Crownhart
Title: These board games want you to beat climate change
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/14/1093384/catan-climate-change-board-games/
Published Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/the-download-milk-beyond-cows-and-geoengineerings-funding-boom/

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The Download: milk beyond cows, and geoengineering’s funding boom

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.

Biotech companies are trying to make milk without cows

The outbreak of avian influenza on US dairy farms has started to make milk seem a lot less wholesome. Milk that’s raw, or unpasteurized, can actually infect mice that drink it, and a few dairy workers have already caught the bug.

The FDA says that commercial milk is safe because it is pasteurized, killing the germs. Even so, it’s enough to make a person ponder a life beyond milk—say, taking your coffee black or maybe drinking oat milk.

But for those of us who can’t do without the real thing, it turns out some genetic engineers are working on ways to keep the milk and get rid of the cows instead. Here’s how they’re doing it.

—Antonio Regalado

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly biotech and health newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

This London non-profit is now one of the biggest backers of geoengineering research

A London-based nonprofit is poised to become one of the world’s largest financial backers of solar geoengineering research. It’s just one of a growing number of foundations eager to support scientists exploring whether the world could ease climate change by reflecting away more sunlight.

The uptick in funding will offer scientists in the controversial field far more support than they’ve enjoyed in the past. This will allow them to pursue a wider array of lab work, modeling, and potentially even outdoor experiments that could improve our understanding of the benefits and risks of such interventions. Read the full story.

—James Temple

How to opt out of Meta’s AI training

If you post or interact with chatbots on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, or WhatsApp, Meta can use your data to train its generative AI models beginning June 26, according to its recently updated privacy policy.

Internet data scraping is one of the biggest fights in AI right now. Tech companies argue that anything on the public internet is fair game, but they are facing a barrage of lawsuits over their data practices and copyright. It will likely take years until clear rules are in place.

In the meantime, if you’re uncomfortable with having Meta use your personal information and intellectual property to train its AI models, consider opting out. Here’s how to do it.

—Melissa Heikkila

The must-reads

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

1 The US Supreme Court has upheld access to the abortion pill
It’s the most significant ruling since it overturned Roe v Wade in 2022. (FT $)
The decision represents the aversion of a major crisis for reproductive health. (Wired $)
But states like Kansas are likely to draw out legal arguments over access. (The Guardian)

2 Amazon is struggling to revamp Alexa
It’s repeatedly missed deadlines and is floundering to catch up with its rivals. (Fortune)
OpenAI has stolen a march on Amazon’s AI assistant ambitions. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Clearview AI has struck a deal to end a privacy class action
If your face was scraped as facial recognition data, you may be entitled to a stake in the company. (NYT $)
The startup doesn’t have the funds to settle the lawsuit. (Reuters)
It was fined millions of dollars for its practices back in 2022. (MIT Technology Review)

4 What’s next for nanotechnology
Molecular machines to kill bacteria aren’t new—but they are promising. (New Yorker $)

5 The Pope is a surprisingly influential voice in the AI safety debate
Pope Francis will address G7 leaders who have gathered today to discuss AI regulation. (WP $)
Smaller startups are lobbying to be acquired by bigger fish. (Bloomberg $)
What’s next for AI regulation in 2024? (MIT Technology Review)

6 Keeping data centers cool uses colossal amounts of power
Dunking servers in oil could be a far more environmentally-friendly method. (IEEE Spectrum)

7 UK voters can back an AI-generated candidate in next month’s election
How very Black Mirror. (NBC News)

8 How to tell if your boss is spying on you
Checking your browser extensions is a good place to start. (WP $)

9We don’t know much about how the human body reacts to space
But with the rise of space tourism, scientists are hoping to find out. (TechCrunch)
This startup wants to find out if humans can have babies in space. (MIT Technology Review)

10 This platform is a who’s-who of rising internet stars
Famous Birthdays is basically a directory of hugely successful teenagers you’ve never heard of. (Economist $)

Quote of the day

“If it’s somebody on the right, I reward them. If it’s somebody

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: milk beyond cows, and geoengineering’s funding boom
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/14/1093797/the-download-milk-beyond-cows-and-geoengineerings-funding-boom/
Published Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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How gamification took over the world

It’s a thought that occurs to every video-game player at some point: What if the weird, hyper-focused state I enter when playing in virtual worlds could somehow be applied to the real one?

Often pondered during especially challenging or tedious tasks in meatspace (writing essays, say, or doing your taxes), it’s an eminently reasonable question to ask. Life, after all, is hard. And while video games are too, there’s something almost magical about the way they can promote sustained bouts of superhuman concentration and resolve.

For some, this phenomenon leads to an interest in flow states and immersion. For others, it’s simply a reason to play more games. For a handful of consultants, startup gurus, and game designers in the late 2000s, it became the key to unlocking our true human potential.

In her 2010 TED Talk, “Gaming Can Make a Better World,” the game designer Jane McGonigal called this engaged state “blissful productivity.” “There’s a reason why the average World of Warcraft gamer plays for 22 hours a week,” she said. “It’s because we know when we’re playing a game that we’re actually happier working hard than we are relaxing or hanging out. We know that we are optimized as human beings to do hard and meaningful work. And gamers are willing to work hard all the time.”

McGonigal’s basic pitch was this: By making the real world more like a video game, we could harness the blissful productivity of millions of people and direct it at some of humanity’s thorniest problems—things like poverty, obesity, and climate change. The exact details of how to accomplish this were a bit vague (play more games?), but her objective was clear: “My goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games.”

While the word “gamification” never came up during her talk, by that time anyone following the big-ideas circuit (TED, South by Southwest, DICE, etc.) or using the new Foursquare app would have been familiar with the basic idea. Broadly defined as the application of game design elements and principles to non-game activities—think points, levels, missions, badges, leaderboards, reinforcement loops, and so on—gamification was already being hawked as a revolutionary new tool for transforming education, work, health and fitness, and countless other parts of life.

Instead of liberating us, gamification turned out to be just another tool for coercion, distraction, and control.

Adding “world-saving” to the list of potential benefits was perhaps inevitable, given the prevalence of that theme in video-game storylines. But it also spoke to gamification’s foundational premise: the idea that reality is somehow broken. According to McGonigal and other gamification boosters, the real world is insufficiently engaging and motivating, and too often it fails to make us happy. Gamification promises to remedy this design flawby engineering a new reality, one that transforms the dull, difficult, and depressing parts of life into something fun and inspiring. Studying for exams, doing household chores, flossing, exercising, learning a new language—there was no limit to the tasks that could be turned into games, making everything IRL better.

Today, we live in an undeniably gamified world. We stand up and move around to close colorful rings and earn achievement badges on our smartwatches; we meditate and sleep to recharge our body batteries; we plant virtual trees to be more productive; we chase “likes” and “karma” on social media sites and try to swipe our way toward social connection. And yet for all the crude gamelike elements that have been grafted onto our lives, the more hopeful and collaborative world that gamification promised more than a decade ago seems as far away as ever. Instead of liberating us from drudgery and maximizing our potential, gamification turned out to be just another tool for coercion, distraction, and control.

Con game

This was not an unforeseeable outcome. From the start, a small but vocal group of journalists and game designers warned against the fairy-tale thinking and facile view of video games that they saw in the concept of gamification. Adrian Hon, author of You’ve Been Played, a recent book that chronicles its dangers, was one of them.

“As someone who was building so-called ‘serious games’ at the time the concept was taking off, I knew that a lot of the claims being made around the possibility of games to transform people’s behaviors and change the world were completely overblown,” he says.

Hon isn’t some knee-jerk polemicist. A trained neuroscientist who switched to a career in game design and development, he’s the co-creator of Zombies, Run!—one of the most popular gamified fitness apps in the world. While he still believes games can benefit and enrich aspects of our nongaming lives, Hon says a one-size-fits-all

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By: Bryan Gardiner
Title: How gamification took over the world
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/13/1093375/gamification-behaviorism-npcs-video-games/
Published Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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