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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.

These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up to 9 million people in a zero-carbon megacity, 170 kilometers long and half a kilometer high but just 200 meters wide. Within its mirrored, car-free walls, residents would be whisked around in underground trains and electric air taxis. 

Satellite images of the $500 billion project obtained exclusively by MIT Technology Review show that the Line’s vast linear building site is already taking shape. Visit The Line’s location on Google Maps and Google Earth, however, and you will see little more than bare rock and sand.

The strange gap in imagery raises questions about who gets to access high-res satellite technology. And if the largest urban construction site on the planet doesn’t appear on Google Maps, what else can’t we see? Read the full story.

—Mark Harris

Why babies sleep so much

Babies can spend as much, if not more, time asleep than they do awake. Scientists still aren’t exactly sure why, but technologies like EEG caps and MRI scanners are starting to shed a bit more light on this mystery—and could help reveal what is going on inside the rapidly developing brain of a newborn.

During the first few months, babies’ brains are developing connections at a rate of roughly a million synapses a second. These connections are thought to play a key role in helping babies learn to make sense of the world around them, setting crucial foundations for the rest of their life. Read the full story.

This story is from The Checkup, a weekly newsletter by our senior reporter Jessica Hamzelou which gives you the low-down on all things biomedicine and biotechnology. 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 Covid data is starting to disappear in China
It’s about to enter its deadliest phase of the pandemic. How deadly? We won’t know. (FT $)
A letter from Foxconn’s founder may have helped to persuade China’s leaders to abandon zero-covid. (WSJ $)
The policy pivot has been met with relief—but also worry and confusion. (NYT $)
Here’s what scientists have to say about it. (Nature)

2 AI selfies are everywhere
You can thank the app Lensa, and the fact people can’t resist sharing how sexy it makes them look. (WP $)
However, it generates troublingly NSFW images. Even when the photo is of a child. (Wired $)
AI is getting better and better at producing convincing text too. (Vox)
Can you tell a real tweet from one written by an AI? (WSJ $)

3 Americans are flocking to climate danger zones
Migration patterns are mostly away from safer areas, towards hotter, drier regions with more wildfires. (Wired $)
These three charts show who is most to blame for climate change. (MIT Technology Review)

4 A lawsuit claims women were targeted for Twitter layoffs
In engineering roles, 63% of women lost their jobs compared to 48% of men. (NBC)
Musk’s plan to encrypt Twitter messages seems to be on hold. (Forbes)
Twitter is planning to change the cost of ‘Twitter Blue’ after a spat with Apple. (The Information $)
Elon Musk is openly courting a far-right, conspiracy obsessed fan base. (Wired $)

5 CoinDesk’s FTX scoop shot its own parent company in the foot
Ownership structures in crypto are complex—and in this case, a bit too cozy for comfort. (The Verge)
Crypto execs exchanged frantic texts as FTX collapsed. (NYT $)

6 Exhausted by the internet? You’re not alone.
It’s beginning to feel like a dying mall full of stores you don’t want to visit. (New Yorker $)
Amazon is launching a TikTok clone. Yes, Amazon. (WP $)

7 The hype around esports is fading
A wider economic downturn is causing sponsors and investors to flee. (Bloomberg $)
The FTC is trying to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of video game giant Activision Blizzard. (Vox)

8 What causes Alzheimer’s?
A stream of recent findings suggest that it’s more complex than the build-up of amyloid plaques. (Quanta)
The miracle molecule that could treat brain injuries and boost your fading memory. (MIT Technology Review)

9 The global spyware industry has spiraled out of control
And the US is playing both arsonist and firefighter, adopting the very same tools it condemns. (NYT $)
It’s hard to control spyware technology when it’s in such high demand from governments around the world. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Xiaomi taught a robot to play the drums
Professional musicians can rest easy for now though, if the demo clip is anything

Read More

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By: Charlotte Jee
Title: The Download: the Saudi sci-fi megacity, and sleeping babies’ brains
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2022/12/09/1064666/the-download-the-saudi-sci-fi-megacity-and-sleeping-babies-brains/
Published Date: Fri, 09 Dec 2022 13:05:00 +0000

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The Download: hyperrealistic deepfakes, and using math to shape wood

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.

Synthesia’s hyperrealistic deepfakes will soon have full bodies

Startup Synthesia’s AI-generated avatars are getting an update to make them even more realistic: They will soon have bodies that can move, and hands that gesticulate.

The new full-body avatars will be able to do things like sing and brandish a microphone while dancing, or move from behind a desk and walk across a room. They will be able to express more complex emotions than previously possible, like excitement, fear, or nervousness.

These new capabilities, which are set to launch toward the end of the year, will add a lot to the illusion of realism. That’s a scary prospect at a time when deepfakes and online misinformation are proliferating. Read the full story and watch our reporter’s avatars meet each other.

—Melissa Heikkilä

Meet the architect creating wood structures that shape themselves

Humanity has long sought to tame wood into something more predictable, but it is inherently imprecise. Its grain reverses and swirls. Trauma and disease manifest in scars and knots.

Instead of viewing these natural tendencies as liabilities, Achim Menges, an architect and professor at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, sees them as wood’s greatest assets.

Menges and his team at the Institute for Computational Design and Construction are uncovering new ways to build with wood by using algorithms and data to simulate and predict how wood will behave within a structure long before it is built. He hopes this will help create more sustainable and affordable timber buildings by reducing the amount of wood required. Read our story all about him and his work.

—John Wiegand

This story is from the forthcoming print issue of MIT Technology Review, which explores the theme of Play. It’s set to go live on Wednesday June 26, so if you don’t already, subscribe now to get a copy when it lands.

Live: How generative AI could transform games

Generative AI could soon revolutionize how we play video games, creating characters that can converse with you freely, and experiences that are infinitely detailed, twisting and changing every time you experience them.

Together, these could open the door to entirely new kinds of in-game interactions that are open-ended, creative, and unexpected. One day, the games we love playing may not have to end. Read our executive editor Niall Firth’s story all about what that future could look like. 

If you want to learn more, register now to join our next exclusive subscriber-only Roundtable discussion at 11.30ET today! Niall and our editorial director Allison Arieff will be talking about games without limits, the future of play, and much more.

The must-reads

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

1 Big Tech firms are going all-in on experimental clean energy projects
Due to the fact AI is so horribly polluting. But the projects range from ‘long shot’ to ‘magical thinking’. (WP $)
Making the grid smarter, rather than bigger, could help. (Semafor)
How virtual power plants are shaping tomorrow’s energy system. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Google is about to be hit with a ton of AI-related lawsuits
Its AI Overviews keep libeling people—and they’re lawyering up. (The Atlantic $)
Why Google’s AI Overviews gets things wrong. (MIT Technology Review)
Another AI-powered search engine, Perplexity, is running into the exact same issues. (Wired $)
Worst of all? There’s currently no way to fix the underlying problem. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Apple is exploring a deal with Meta
To integrate Meta’s generative AI models into Apple Intelligence. (Wall Street Journal $)
Apple is delaying launching AI features in Europe due to regulatory concerns. (Quartz)

4 NASA is indefinitely delaying the return of Starliner
In order to give it more time to review data. (Ars Technica)

5 Chinese tech companies are pushing their staff beyond breaking point
As growth slows and competition rises, work-life balance is going out the window. (FT $)

6 Used electric vehicles are now less expensive than gas cars in the US
It’s a worrying statistic that reflects the cratering demand for EVs. (Insider $)
The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Check out these photos of San Francisco’s AI scene
The city is currently buzzing with people hoping to make their fortune off the back of the boom. (WP $)

8 The next wave of weight loss drugs is coming
The hope is that they might be cheaper, and come with fewer side effects. (NBC)

9 Elon Musk is obsessed with getting us to have more babies
He’s funding

Read More

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By: Charlotte Jee
Title: The Download: hyperrealistic deepfakes, and using math to shape wood
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/24/1094179/the-download-hyperrealistic-deepfakes-math-shape-wood/
Published Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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Is this the end of animal testing?

In a clean room in his lab, Sean Moore peers through a microscope at a bit of intestine, its dark squiggles and rounded structures standing out against a light gray background. This sample is not part of an actual intestine; rather, it’s human intestinal cells on a tiny plastic rectangle, one of 24 so-called “organs on chips” his lab bought three years ago.

Moore, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, hopes the chips will offer answers to a particularly thorny research problem. He studies rotavirus, a common infection that causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and even death in young children. In the US and other rich nations, up to 98% of the children who are vaccinated against rotavirus develop lifelong immunity. But in low-income countries, only about a third of vaccinated children become immune. Moore wants to know why.

His lab uses mice for some protocols, but animal studies are notoriously bad at identifying human treatments. Around 95% of the drugs developed through animal research fail in people. Researchers have documented this translation gap since at least 1962. “All these pharmaceutical companies know the animal models stink,” says Don Ingber, founder of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard and a leading advocate for organs on chips. “The FDA knows they stink.”

But until recently there was no other option. Research questions like Moore’s can’t ethically or practically be addressed with a randomized, double-blinded study in humans. Now these organs on chips, also known as microphysiological systems, may offer a truly viable alternative. They look remarkably prosaic: flexible polymer rectangles about the size of a thumb drive. In reality they’re triumphs of bioengineering, intricate constructions furrowed with tiny channels that are lined with living human tissues. These tissues expand and contract with the flow of fluid and air, mimicking key organ functions like breathing, blood flow, and peristalsis, the muscular contractions of the digestive system.

More than 60 companies now produce organs on chips commercially, focusing on five major organs: liver, kidney, lung, intestines, and brain. They’re already being used to understand diseases, discover and test new drugs, and explore personalized approaches to treatment.

As they continue to be refined, they could solve one of the biggest problems in medicine today. “You need to do three things when you’re making a drug,” says Lorna Ewart, a pharmacologist and chief scientific officer of Emulate, a biotech company based in Boston. “You need to show it’s safe. You need to show it works. You need to be able to make it.”

All new compounds have to pass through a preclinical phase, where they’re tested for safety and effectiveness before moving to clinical trials in humans. Until recently, those tests had to run in at least two animal species—usually rats and dogs—before the drugs were tried on people.

But in December 2022, President Biden signed the FDA Modernization Act, which amended the original FDA Act of 1938. With a few small word changes, the act opened the door for non-animal-based testing in preclinical trials. Anything that makes it faster and easier for pharmaceutical companies to identify safe and effective drugs means better, potentially cheaper treatments for all of us.

Moore, for one, is banking on it, hoping the chips help him and his colleagues shed light on the rotavirus vaccine responses that confound them. “If you could figure out the answer,” he says, “you could save a lot of kids’ lives.”

While many teams have worked on organ chips over the last 30 years, the OG in the field is generally acknowledged to be Michael Shuler, a professor emeritus of chemical engineering at Cornell. In the 1980s, Shuler was a math and engineering guy who imagined an “animal on a chip,” a cell culture base seeded with a variety of human cells that could be used for testing drugs. He wanted to position a handful of different organ cells on the same chip, linked to one another, which could mimic the chemical communication between organs and the way drugs move through the body. “This was science fiction,” says Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, a professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University whose lab works with cardiac tissue on chips. “There was no body on a chip. There is still no body on a chip. God knows if there will ever be a body on a chip.”

Shuler had hoped to develop a computer model of a multi-organ system, but there were too many unknowns. The living cell culture system he dreamed up was his bid to fill in the blanks. For a while he played with the concept, but the materials simply weren’t good enough to build what he imagined.

“You can force mice to menstruate, but it’s not really menstruation. You need the human being.”

Linda Griffith, founding

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By: Harriet Brown
Title: Is this the end of animal testing?
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/21/1093419/animal-testing-organ-on-chip-research/
Published Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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The Download: replacing animal testing, and underwater drones

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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.

Is this the end of animal testing?

Animal studies are notoriously bad at identifying human treatments. Around 95% of the drugs developed through animal research fail in people, but until recently there was no other option.

Now organs on chips, also known as microphysiological systems, may offer a truly viable alternative. They’re triumphs of bioengineering, intricate constructions furrowed with tiny channels that are lined with living human tissues that expand and contract with the flow of fluid and air, mimicking key organ functions like breathing, blood flow, and peristalsis, the muscular contractions of the digestive system.

It’s only early days, but if they work as hoped, organs on chips could solve one of the biggest problems in medicine today. Read the full story.

—Harriet Brown

This story is from the forthcoming print issue of MIT Technology Review, which explores the theme of Play. It’s set to go live on Wednesday June 26, so if you don’t already, subscribe now to get a copy when it lands.

How underwater drones could shape a potential Taiwan-China conflict

A potential future conflict between Taiwan and China would be shaped by novel methods of drone warfare involving advanced underwater drones and increased levels of autonomy, according to a new war-gaming experiment by the think tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, drones have been aiding in what military experts describe as the first three steps of the “kill chain”—finding, targeting, and tracking a target—as well as in delivering explosives. Drones like these would be far less useful in a possible invasion of Taiwan. Instead, a conflict with Taiwan would likely make use of undersea and maritime drones to scout for submarines. Read the full story.

—James O’Donnell

Should social media come with a health warning?

Earlier this week, the US surgeon general, also known as the “nation’s doctor,” authored an article making the case that health warnings should accompany social media. The goal: to protect teenagers from its harmful effects.

But the relationship between this technology and health isn’t black and white. Social media can affect users in different ways—often positively. So let’s take a closer look at the concerns, the evidence behind them, and how best to tackle them. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly health and biotech newsletter. 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 US government is banning Kaspersky’s antivirus software  
Officials claim the firm’s ties with Russia mean it poses a major security risk. (Reuters)
It’ll ban sales of software from 20 July, and updates from 29 September. (TechCrunch)
The ban follows a two-year probe into Kaspersky. (The Verge)

2 Americans are paying way too much for prescription drugs
And shadowy pharmacy benefit managers are partly to blame. (NYT $)
The UK has been hit by a drug shortage, too. (The Guardian)

3 How a secretive ocean alkalinity project in the UK spiraled into disaster
It raises important questions: who gets to decide where trials can take place? (Hakai Magazine)
This town’s mining battle reveals the contentious path to a cleaner future. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Car dealers have been locked out of their selling systems
Businesses have had to resort to paper and pen to close their sales. (WSJ $)
It’s unlikely to be resolved before the weekend. (Bloomberg $)

5 Make way for much less large language models
They’re a fraction of the size, but just as effective. (IEEE Spectrum)
Large language models can do jaw-dropping things. But nobody knows exactly why. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Inside the growing cottage industry of wildfire mitigation
In Boulder, Colorado, the solutions are increasingly experimental. (Bloomberg $)+ The quest to build wildfire-resistant homes. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Zimbabwe’s traditional healers are peddling financial advice on TikTok
But spirituality and tech are uneasy bedfellows. (Rest of World)

8 How to avoid falling for scams on Amazon
Read those product reviews super carefully. (Wired $)

9 Tech companies are still interested in making smart glasses
👓
Despite Meta being the sole big player. (The Information $)

10 The internet looked very different 30 years ago
A whole lot more

Read More

————

By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: replacing animal testing, and underwater drones
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/21/1094135/the-download-replacing-animal-testing-and-underwater-drones/
Published Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2024 12:10:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/how-generative-ai-could-reinvent-what-it-means-to-play/

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