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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.

Worldcoin just officially launched. Why is it already being investigated?

It’s possible you’ve heard the name Worldcoin recently. It’s been getting a ton of attention—some good, some … not so good.

It’s a project that claims to use cryptocurrency to distribute money across the world, though its bigger ambition is to create a global identity system called “World ID” that relies on individuals’ unique biometric data to prove that they are humans.

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI and one of the biggest tech celebrities right now, is one of the cofounders of the project, which launched on July 24 in more than 20 countries. But it’s already being investigated in at least four jurisdictions around the world. Read our story to find out why.

This story is from The Technocrat, Tate Ryan-Mosley’s weekly newsletter all about tech, policy and power. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

+ If you want to learn more about Worldcoin, read our investigation into the company, based on more than 35 interviews with executives, contractors, and test users recruited primarily in developing countries. We found some vast gaps between its idealistic rhetoric and the realities on the ground, not least when it comes to handling people’s private biometric data.

The must-reads

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

1 Climate change is messing with your favorite foods 
?
Farmers rely on knowing what grows where, but increasingly unpredictable weather makes that very challenging. (Wired $)
A group of older Swiss women are suing their government for allegedly violating their rights by failing to curb emissions. (NYT $)
New AI systems could speed up our ability to create weather forecasts. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Can gene therapies help to de-age us?
Even if they can (big if), any eventual treatments that hit the market will cost millions. (Proto.Life)
Inside the billion-dollar meeting for the mega-rich who want to live forever. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Longevity enthusiasts want to create their own independent state. They’re eyeing Rhode Island. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Russia’s pro-war bloggers are increasingly fighting each other
Which is perhaps not a huge surprise, given the tensions within Russia’s military itself. (NYT $)

4 Scientists say they’ve repeated a fusion power breakthrough 
This is bound to stoke a great deal of excitement, though many believe fusion power stations are decades away. (FT $)
+ This startup says its first fusion plant is five years away. Experts doubt it. (MIT Technology Review)

5 AI chatbots are becoming our friends
Lonely people are turning to them for companionship, but they could actually deepen their isolation. (WSJ $)
Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready? (MIT Technology Review)

6 TikTok’s algorithm will be optional in Europe
In order to comply with EU laws which require giant platforms to let users opt out of receiving personalized content. (The Verge)
 TikTok is being fined in the EU for breaching childrens’ privacy. (The Guardian)
TikTok’s live streaming section is deeply weird. (The Atlantic)

7 The FBI is investigating a ransomware attack on hospitals in four states
These kinds of attacks happen all the time, but this seems to have been a particularly big one. (CBS)

8 Elon Musk has said he’ll pay problem tweeters’ legal bills
He’s yet to elaborate on how anyone takes him up on the offer, though. (NPR)
 Twitter (sorry, X) is failing to even pay content creators as it is. (The Verge)

9 How Indian women were lured into the gig economy—then forced out
Urban Company promised them flexibility and empowerment. It didn’t last long. (Wired $)

10 A Mom and daughter duo have won the chance to go into space 
?
They’ll become the first people from the Caribbean to do so. (BBC)

Quote of the day

“I’m ready today. I suggested August 26 when he first challenged, but he hasn’t confirmed. Not holding my breath.”

—Mark Zuckerberg confirms in a Threads post yesterday that he’s still up for that cage fight for Elon Musk.

The big story

How mobile money supercharged Kenya’s sports betting addiction

20220318 075142 0E5A1371 1 scaled Read More

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By: Charlotte Jee
Title: The Download: Worldcoin under investigation, and food’s complex climate future
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/08/07/1077296/the-download-worldcoin-investigation-foods-climate-future/
Published Date: Mon, 07 Aug 2023 12:10:00 +0000

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Tech

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

Read 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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Tech

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

Read More

————

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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