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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 ubiquitous keyboard software puts hundreds of millions of Chinese users at risk

For millions of Chinese people, the first software they download onto devices is always the same: a keyboard app. Yet few of them are aware that it may make everything they type vulnerable to spying eyes.

QWERTY keyboards are inefficient as many Chinese characters share the same latinized spelling. As a result, many switch to smart, localized keyboard apps to save time and frustration. Today, over 800 million Chinese people use third-party keyboard apps on their PCs, laptops, and mobile phones.

But a recent report by the Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto–affiliated research group, revealed that Sogou, one of the most popular Chinese keyboard apps, had a massive security loophole. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Why we should all be rooting for boring AI

Earlier this month, the US Department of Defense announced it is setting up a Generative AI Task Force, aimed at “analyzing and integrating” AI tools such as large language models across the department. It hopes they could improve intelligence and operational planning.

But those might not be the right use cases, writes our senior AI reporter Melissa Heikkila. Generative AI tools, such as language models, are glitchy and unpredictable, and they make things up. They also have massive security vulnerabilities, privacy problems, and deeply ingrained biases.

Applying these technologies in high-stakes settings could lead to deadly accidents where it’s unclear who or what should be held responsible, or even why the problem occurred. The DoD’s best bet is to apply generative AI to more mundane things like Excel, email, or word processing. Read the full story.

This story is from The Algorithm, Melissa’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things AI. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

The ice cores that will let us look 1.5 million years into the past

To better understand the role atmospheric carbon dioxide plays in Earth’s climate cycles, scientists have long turned to ice cores drilled in Antarctica, where snow layers accumulate and compact over hundreds of thousands of years, trapping samples of ancient air in a lattice of bubbles that serve as tiny time capsules.

By analyzing those cores, scientists can connect greenhouse-gas concentrations with temperatures going back 800,000 years. Now, a new European-led initiative hopes to eventually retrieve the oldest core yet, dating back 1.5 million years. But that impressive feat is still only the first step. Once they’ve done that, they’ll have to figure out how they’re going to extract the air from the ice. Read the full story.

—Christian Elliott

This story is from the latest edition of our print magazine, set to go live tomorrow. Subscribe today for as low as $8/month to ensure you receive full access to the new Ethics issue and in-depth stories on experimental drugs, AI assisted warfare, microfinance, and more.

The must-reads

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

1 How AI got dragged into the culture wars
Fears about ‘woke’ AI fundamentally misunderstand how it works. Yet they’re gaining traction. (The Guardian)
Why it’s impossible to build an unbiased AI language model. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Researchers are racing to understand a new coronavirus variant
It’s unlikely to be cause for concern, but it shows this virus still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. (Nature)
Covid hasn’t entirely gone away—here’s where we stand. (MIT Technology Review)
Why we can’t afford to stop monitoring it. (Ars Technica)

3 How Hilary became such a monster storm
Much of it is down to unusually hot sea surface temperatures. (Wired $)
The era of simultaneous climate disasters is here to stay. (Axios)
People are donning cooling vests so they can work through the heat. (Wired $)

4 Brain privacy is set to become important
?
Scientists are getting better at decoding our brain data. It’s surely only a matter of time before others want a peek. (The Atlantic $)
How your brain data could be used against you. (MIT Technology Review)

5 How Nvidia built such a big competitive advantage in AI chips
Today it accounts for 70% of all AI chip sales—and an even greater share for training generative models. (NYT $)
The chips it’s selling to China are less effective due to US export controls. (Ars Technica)
These simple design rules

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By: Charlotte Jee
Title: The Download: spying keyboard software, and why boring AI is best
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/08/22/1078236/the-download-spying-keyboards-boring-ai/
Published Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2023 12:10:00 +0000

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Why China’s EV ambitions need virtual power plants

This story first appeared in China Report, MIT Technology Review’s newsletter about technology in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The first time I heard the term “virtual power plants,” I was reporting on how extreme heat waves in 2022 had overwhelmed the Chinese grid and led the government to restrict electric-vehicle charging as an emergency solution. I was told at the time that virtual power plants (VPPs) could make grid breakdowns like that less likely to happen again, but I didn’t have a chance to delve in to learn what that meant.

If you, like me, are unsure how a power plant can be virtual, my colleague June Kim just published an insightful article explaining the technology and how it works. For this week’s newsletter, I took the chance to ask her some more questions about VPPs. It turns out the technology has a particularly good synergy with the EV industry, which is why the Chinese government has started to invest in VPPs.

“VPPs are basically just aggregations of distributed energy resources that can balance electricity on the grid,” June says—resources including electric-vehicle chargers, heat pumps, rooftop solar panels, and home battery packs for power backups. “They’re working in coordination to replace the function of a centralized coal plant or gas plant … but also add a whole host of other functionalities that are beneficial for the grid,” she says.

To really make the most of these resources, VPPs introduce another layer: a central smart system that coordinates energy consumption and supply.

This system allows utility companies to handle times of higher energy demand by making adjustments like shifting EV charge time to 2 a.m. to avoid peak hours.

The US government is working to triple VPP capacity by 2030, June says. That capacity is equivalent to 80 to 160 fossil-fuel plants that don’t have to be built. “They expect that EV batteries and the EV charging infrastructure are going to be the biggest factor in building up this additional VPP capacity,” she says.

Considering the significant impact that EVs have on the grid, it’s no surprise that China, where an EV revolution is taking place faster than in any other country, has also turned its attention to VPPs.

By the end of 2023, there were over 20 million EVs in China, almost half the global total. Together, these cars can consume monstrous amounts of energy—but their batteries can also be an emergency backup source. The power shortage that happens in China almost every summer is an urgent reminder that the country needs to figure out how to incorporate these millions of EVs into the existing grid.

Luckily, there are already some moves in this area, both from the Chinese government and from Chinese EV companies.

In January 2024, China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planning authority, released a blueprint for integrating EV charging infrastructure into the grid. The country plans to start pilot programs with dynamic electricity pricing in a few cities: lower prices late at night can incentivize EV owners to charge their vehicles when the grid is not stressed. The goal is that no more than 40% of EV charging will take place outside these “trough hours.” There will also be a batch of bidirectional charging stations in public and private spaces. At these chargers, batteries can either draw electricity from the grid or send it back.

Meanwhile, NIO, a leading Chinese EV company, is transforming its own charging networks. Last month, 10 NIO charging stations opened in Shanghai that allow vehicles to feed energy back into the grid. The company also has over 2,000 battery-swapping stations across the country. These are ideal energy storage resources for the VPP network. Some of them have already been connected to VPP pilot programs in eastern China, the company said in July 2023.

One of the key obstacles to adoption of VPPs is getting people to sign up to participate. But there’s a compelling reward on offer: money.

If the reverse-charging infrastructure grows larger, millions of Chinese EV owners could make a little income by charging at the right times and selling electricity at others.

We don’t know how much earning potential there is, since these pilot programs are still in their very early stages in China. But existing VPP projects in the US can offer some reference. Over the course of one summer, a Massachusetts home can make an estimated $550; participants in a separate VPP project in Texas can earn an estimated $150 per year. “It’s not huge, but it’s not nothing,” June says.

Obviously, it will take a long time to transform our electric grids. But developing VPPs along with the EV charging network seems like a win-win situation for China: it helps the country maintain its lead in the EV industry, and it also makes the grid more

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By: Zeyi Yang
Title: Why China’s EV ambitions need virtual power plants
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/02/21/1088748/virtual-power-plant-electric-vehicle/
Published Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2024 11:00:00 +0000

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The Download: deep diving, and virtual power plants in China

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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.

Meet the divers trying to figure out how deep humans can go

Two hundred thirty meters into one of the deepest underwater caves on Earth, Richard “Harry” Harris knew that not far ahead of him was a 15-meter drop leading to a place no human being had seen before.

Getting there had taken two helicopters, three weeks of test dives, two tons of equipment, and hard work to overcome an unexpected number of technical problems. But in the moment, Harris was hypnotized by what was before him: the vast, black, gaping unknown.

Staring into it, he felt the familiar pull—maybe he could go just a little farther. Instead, he and his diving partner, Craig Challen, decided to turn back. They weren’t there to exceed 245 meters—a depth they’d reached three years earlier. Nor were they there to set a depth record—that would mean going past 308 meters.

They were there to test what they saw as a possible key to unlocking depths beyond even 310 meters: breathing hydrogen. Read the full story.

—Samantha Schuyler

This story is from the next print issue of MIT Technology Review, all about exploring hidden worlds. Want to get your hands on a copy when it publishes next Wednesday? Subscribe now

Why China’s EV ambitions need virtual power plants

Virtual power plants (VPPs) are an idea whose time has arrived. They’re basically a layer on top of resources like electric vehicle chargers, solar panels, and battery packs, which allow you to coordinate energy consumption and supply. This lets utility companies handle times of higher energy demand by adjusting the end use of electricity, for example reducing the efficiency of an EV charger so it takes longer to finish and thus puts less burden on the grid.

In China, which is adopting electric vehicles faster than any other country, VPPs could be transformational. The country has just started testing programs which incentivize EV owners to charge their vehicles late at night, when there’s less demand on the grid.

It’s also piloting bidirectional charging stations, which would let EV owners not only use electricity, but even sell it back into the grid at times of peak demand, earning them a little extra cash. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter giving you behind-the-scenes insights into China and its tech scene. 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 Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are ‘children’
It’s a worrying development, especially for people seeking infertility treatments. (CNN)
The first IVF babies conceived by a robot have been born. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Inside AI startup Anthrophic’s funding spree
Investors cannot hand money over to promising AI companies quickly enough right now, it seems. (NYT $)
OpenAI is now valued at a staggering $86 billion. (Bloomberg $)
Why the New York Times could win against OpenAI. (Ars Technica)

3 The EU is setting up rules for sucking CO2 out of the sky
It’s creating a first-of-its-kind certification framework for carbon removal technologies. (The Verge)
How carbon removal technology is like a time machine. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Researchers are imbibing AI with human-like qualities
No one is immune from anthropomorphism, it seems. (New Scientist $)
If you’ve posted on Reddit, your words are probably being used to train AI. (Ars Technica)

5 What mind-reading devices can teach us
They’re restoring functions like speech and movement. But they’re also shining a light on how the brain works. (Nature)
Elon Musk claims the first Neuralink patient can now control a computer mouse with their thoughts. (CNBC)

6 Fake funeral livestream scams are proliferating on Facebook
Beyond grim, and Meta’s doing almost nothing to prevent it. (404 Media)

7 A spacecraft is about to try to snag some space junk
If it works, it’ll be an important development for the effort to clear Earth’s orbit of debris. (Ars Technica)

8 People are breeding pythons to have ‘emoji’ patterns
🐍
But, as always amid a gold rush, some of them are doing some deeply unethical things in the process. (New Yorker $)

9 How scientists predicted Iceland’s vast volcanic eruption
And saved a lot of lives in the process. (Quanta)
How machine learning might unlock earthquake prediction. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Older people are among VR’s most enthusiastic adopters
And studies

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————

By: Charlotte Jee
Title: The Download: deep diving, and virtual power plants in China
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/02/21/1088754/deep-diving-virtual-power-plants-china/
Published Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2024 13:10:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/cryptocurrency-payments-for-insurance-are-insurance-companies-really-embracing-bitcoin-and-altcoins-2/

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Cryptocurrency Payments for Insurance: Are Insurance Companies Really Embracing Bitcoin and Altcoins?

Inguard Crypto Payment for Insurance 587x330 1 jpg

It is no longer unusual to hear that a bank accepts savings in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the like. Or that a loan company helps businesses with crypto. After all, the traditional financial and insurance industries were among the first to adopt cryptocurrencies. The latter ones have found more than one way to incorporate these means of payment into their business. This approach proved useful not only for companies but also for policyholders.

The above claim was confirmed by several recent surveys, including that of Goldman Sachs, which showed that 6% of respondents (over 300 financial executives in the insurance sector) verified that their companies invest in crypto.

Benefits for Policyholders and Insurance Companies

Several things make cryptocurrencies attractive, not only for insurance companies but also for policyholders. Some of them are beneficial to both parties, and some are specific.

So, when it comes to policyholders, they can expect several advantages of using crypto. One of the most notable is the opportunity for diversification. Thanks to crypto, they can get another asset (on top of the traditional ones) to add to their diversification strategy. By doing this, they can spread risk and keep their funds protected.

Also, policyholders can count on speedy transactions because crypto transactions are usually processed much faster than wire transfers. Receiving claim payouts on time in urgent situations is possible thanks to cryptocurrency.

We should also note that they get more privacy because they can stay pseudonymous.

On the other hand, insurance companies benefit from reduced transaction costs, faster settlements, improved security, and a few other things.

Successful Examples

It’s one thing to discuss things in theory and another to see how they work in real life. Fortunately, there are many successful examples of insurance companies accepting crypto as a payment plan.

INGUARD

Inguard Crypto Payment for Insurance 587x330 2 jpg

INGUARD is one of the leading digital insurance companies based in the U.S. It provides its services in all 50 U.S. States. What makes INGUARD truly special is that they were the first insurance companies in North America to accept Bitcoin payments in 2013.

Interestingly, this brand is partnered with numerous tech companies who share their vision for insurance, including Fitbit and Michelin.

Lemonade

Some insurance companies rely on the blockchain. Lemonade is an excellent example of this. This brand throws blockchain technology and artificial intelligence into the mix or provides pet, car, home, and other types of insurance. It goes without saying that policyholders can use cryptocurrency as a payment plan.

XA

Insurance Axa Accepting Bitcoin 587x330 1 jpg

Compiling a list of insurance companies accepting crypto without mentioning

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By: CryptoNinjas.net
Title: Cryptocurrency Payments for Insurance: Are Insurance Companies Really Embracing Bitcoin and Altcoins?
Sourced From: www.cryptoninjas.net/2023/11/20/cryptocurrency-payments-for-insurance-are-insurance-companies-really-embracing-bitcoin-and-altcoins/
Published Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2023 06:07:04 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/inside-the-hunt-for-new-physics-at-the-worlds-largest-particle-collider/

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