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There are two things I love to do at social gatherings: play board games and talk about climate change. Don’t I sound like someone you should invite to your next dinner party?

Given my two great loves, I was delighted to learn about a board game called Catan: New Energies, coming out this summer. It’s a new edition of the classic game Catan, formerly known as Settlers of Catan. This version has players building power plants, fueled by either fossil fuels or renewables.

So how does an energy-focused edition of Catan stack up against the board game competition, and what does it say about how we view climate technology?

Catan debuted in 1995, and today it’s one of the world’s most popular board games. The original and related products have sold over 45 million copies worldwide.

Given Catan’s superstar status, I was intrigued to learn late last year that the studio that makes it had plans in the works to release this new version. I quickly got in touch with the game’s co-creator, Benjamin Teuber, to hear more.

“The whole idea is that energy comes to Catan,” Teuber told me. “Now the question is, which energy comes to Catan?” Power plants help players develop their society more quickly, amassing more of the points needed to win the game. Players can build fossil-fuel plants, represented by little brown tokens. These are less resource-intensive to build, but they produce pollution. Alternatively, players can elect to build renewable-power plants, signified by green tokens, which are costlier but don’t have the same negative effects in the game.

As a climate reporter, I feel that some elements of the game setup ring true—for example, as players reach higher levels of pollution, disasters become more likely, but there’s still a strong element of chance involved.

One aspect of the game that didn’t quite match reality was the cost difference between fossil fuels and renewables. Technologies like solar and wind have plummeted in price over the last decade—today, building new renewable projects is generally cheaper than operating existing coal plants in the US.

I asked if the creators had considered having renewables get cheaper over time in the game, and Teuber said the team had actually built an early version with this idea in place, but the whole thing got too complicated. Keeping things simple enough to be playable is a crucial component of game design, Teuber says.

Teuber also seemed laser focused on not preaching, and it feels as if New Energies goes out of its way not to make players feel bad about climate change. In fact, as a story by NPR about the game pointed out, the phrase “climate change” hardly appears in any of the promotional materials, on the packaging, or in the rules. The catch-all issue in the game’s universe is simply “pollution.” 

Unlike some other climate games, like the 2023 release Daybreak, New Energies isn’t aimed at getting the group to work together to fight against climate change. The setup is the same as in other versions of Catan: the first player to reach 10 victory points wins. In theory, that could be a player who leaned heavily on fossil fuels. 

“It doesn’t feel like the game says, ‘Screw you—we told you, the only way to win is by building green energy,’” Teuber told me.

However, while players can choose their own pathway to acquiring points, there’s a second possible outcome. If too many players produce too much pollution by building towns, cities, and fossil-fuel power plants, the game ends early in catastrophe. Whoever has done the most to clean up the environment does walk away with the win—something of a consolation prize.

I got an early copy of the game to test out, and the first time I played, my group polluted too quickly and the game ended early. I ended up taking the win, since I had elected to build only renewable plants. I’ll admit to feeling a bit smug.

But as I played more, I saw the balance between competition and collaboration. During one game, my group came within a few turns of pollution-driven catastrophe. We turned things around, building more renewable plants and stretching out play long enough for a friend who had been quicker to build her society to cobble together the points she needed to win.

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Our game board after a round of New Energies, with my cat, who acted as our unofficial referee. 
Photo: Casey Crownhart

Board games, or any other media that deals with climate change, will

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By: Casey Crownhart
Title: This classic game is taking on climate change
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/06/1093305/classic-game-climate-change-catan/
Published Date: Thu, 06 Jun 2024 08:00:00 +0000

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The Download: video-generating AI, and Meta’s voice cloning watermarks

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

I tested out a buzzy new text-to-video AI model from China

You may not be familiar with Kuaishou, but this Chinese company just hit a major milestone: It’s released the first ever text-to-video generative AI model that’s freely available for the public to test.

The short-video platform, which has over 600 million active users, announced the new tool, called Kling, on June 6. Like OpenAI’s Sora model, Kling is able to generate videos up to two minutes long from prompts.

But unlike Sora, which still remains inaccessible to the public four months after OpenAI debuted it, Kling has already started letting people try the model themselves. Zeyi Yang, our China reporter, has been putting it through its paces. Here’s what he made of it.

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter covering tech in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

Meta has created a way to watermark AI-generated speech

The news: Meta has created a system that can embed hidden signals, known as watermarks, in AI-generated audio clips, which could help in detecting AI-generated content online.

Why it matters: The tool, called AudioSeal, is the first that can pinpoint which bits of audio in, for example, a full hour-long podcast might have been generated by AI. It could help to tackle the growing problem of misinformation and scams using voice cloning tools. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

The return of pneumatic tubes

Pneumatic tubes were once touted as something that would revolutionize the world. In science fiction, they were envisioned as a fundamental part of the future—even in dystopias like George Orwell’s 1984, where they help to deliver orders for the main character, Winston Smith, in his job rewriting history to fit the ruling party’s changing narrative. 

In real life, the tubes were expected to transform several industries in the late 19th century through the mid-20th. The technology involves moving a cylindrical carrier or capsule through a series of tubes with the aid of a blower that pushes or pulls it into motion, and for a while, the United States took up the systems with gusto.

But by the mid to late 20th century, use of the technology had largely fallen by the wayside, and pneumatic tube technology became virtually obsolete. Except in hospitals. Read the full story.

—Vanessa Armstrong

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.

The must-reads

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

1 Nvidia has become the world’s most valuable company 
Leapfrogging Microsoft and Apple thanks to the AI boom. (BBC)
Nvidia’s meteoric rise echoes the dot com boom. (WSJ $)
CEO Jensen Huang is now one of the richest people in the world. (Forbes)
The firm is worth more than China’s entire agricultural industry. (NY Mag $)
What’s next in chips. (MIT Technology Review)

2 TikTok is introducing AI avatars for ads
Which seems like a slippery slope. (404 Media)
India’s farmers are getting their news from AI news anchors. (Bloomberg $)
Deepfakes of Chinese influencers are livestreaming 24/7. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft will stay in space for a little longer
Officials need to troubleshoot some issues before it can head back to Earth. (WP $)

4STEM students are refusing to work at Amazon and Google
Until the companies end their involvement with Project Nimbus. (Wired $)

5 Google isn’t what it used to be
But is Reddit really a viable alternative? (WSJ $)
Why Google’s AI Overviews gets things wrong. (MIT Technology Review)

6 A security bug allows anyone to impersonate Microsoft corporate email accounts
It’s making it harder to spot phishing attacks. (TechCrunch)

7 How deep sea exploration has changed since the Titan disaster
Robots are taking humans’ place to plumb the depths. (NYT $)
Meet the divers trying to figure out how deep humans can go. (MIT Technology Review)

8 How the free streaming service Tubi took over the US
Its secret weapon? Old movies.(The Guardian)

9 A new AI video tool instantly started ripping off Disney
Raising some serious questions about what the model had been trained on. (The Verge)
What’s next for generative video. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Apple appears to have paused work on the next Vision Pro
Things aren’t looking too bright for the high-end headset. (The Information $)
These minuscule pixels are poised to take augmented reality by

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: video-generating AI, and Meta’s voice cloning watermarks
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/19/1094041/the-download-video-generating-ai-and-metas-voice-cloning-watermarks/
Published Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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Scaling green hydrogen technology for the future

Thyssenkrupp Nucera green

Unlike conventional energy sources, green hydrogen offers a way to store and transfer energy without emitting harmful pollutants, positioning it as essential to a sustainable and net-zero future. By converting electrical power from renewable sources into green hydrogen, these low-carbon-intensity energy storage systems can release clean, efficient power on demand through combustion engines or fuel cells. When produced emission-free, hydrogen can decarbonize some of the most challenging industrial sectors, such as steel and cement production, industrial processes, and maritime transport.

Thyssenkrupp Nucera green hydrogen 1200px 1

“Green hydrogen is the key driver to advance decarbonization,” says Dr. Christoph Noeres, head of green hydrogen at global electrolysis specialist thyssenkrupp nucera. This promising low-carbon-intensity technology has the potential to transform entire industries by providing a clean, renewable fuel source, moving us toward a greener world aligned with industry climate goals.

ccelerating production of green hydrogen

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and its availability is key to its appeal as a clean energy source. However, hydrogen does not occur naturally in its pure form; it is always bound to other elements in compounds like water (H2O). Pure hydrogen is extracted and isolated from water through an energy-intensive process called conventional electrolysis.

Hydrogen is typically produced today via steam-methane reforming, in which high-temperature steam is used to produce hydrogen from natural gas. Emissions produced by this process have implications for hydrogen’s overall carbon footprint: worldwide hydrogen production is currently responsible for as many CO2 emissions as the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined.

A solution lies in green hydrogen—hydrogen produced using electrolysis powered by renewable sources. This unlocks the benefits of hydrogen without the dirty fuels. Unfortunately, very little hydrogen is currently powered by renewables: less than 1% came from non-fossil fuel sources in 2022.

A massive scale-up is underway. According to McKinsey, an estimated 130 to 345 gigawatts (GW) of electrolyzer capacity will be necessary to meet the green hydrogen demand by 2030, with 246 GW of this capacity already announced. This stands in stark contrast to the current installed base of just 1.1 GW. Notably, to ensure that green hydrogen constitutes at least 14% of total energy consumption by 2050, a target that the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates is required to meet climate goals, 5,500 GW of cumulative installed electrolyzer capacity will be required.

However, scaling up green hydrogen production to these levels requires overcoming cost and infrastructure constraints. Becoming cost-competitive means improving and standardizing the technology, harnessing the scale efficiencies of larger projects, and encouraging government action to create market incentives. Moreover, the expansion of renewable energy in regions with significant solar, hydro, or wind energy potential is another crucial factor in lowering renewable power prices and, consequently, the costs of green hydrogen.

Electrolysis innovation

While electrolysis technologies have existed for decades, scaling them up to meet the demand for clean energy will be essential. Alkaline Water Electrolysis (AWE), the most dominant and developed electrolysis method, is poised for this transition. It has been utilized for decades, demonstrating efficiency and reliability in the chemical industry. Moreover, it is more cost effective than other electrolysis technologies and is well suited to be run directly with fluctuating renewable power input. Especially for large-scale applications, AWE demonstrates significant advantages in terms of investment and operating costs. “Transferring small-scale manufacturing and optimizing it towards mass manufacturing will need a high level of investment across the industry,” says Noeres.

Industries that already practice electrolysis, as well as those that already use hydrogen, such as fertilizer production, are well poised for conversion to green hydrogen. For example, thyssenkrupp nucera benefits from a decades-long heritage using electrolyzer technology in the

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By: MIT Technology Review Insights
Title: Scaling green hydrogen technology for the future
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/18/1092956/scaling-green-hydrogen-technology-for-the-future/
Published Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2024 14:00:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/the-download-ais-limitations/

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The Download: AI’s limitations

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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.

Why does AI hallucinate?

The World Health Organization’s new chatbot launched on April 2 with the best of intentions. The virtual avatar named SARAH, was designed to dispense health tips about how to eat well, quit smoking, de-stress, and more, for millions around the world. But like all chatbots, SARAH can flub its answers. It was quickly found to give out incorrect information. In one case, it came up with a list of fake names and addresses for nonexistent clinics in San Francisco.

Chatbot fails are now a familiar meme. Meta’s short-lived scientific chatbot Galactica made up academic papers and generated wiki articles about the history of bears in space. In February, Air Canada was ordered to honor a refund policy invented by its customer service chatbot. Last year, a lawyer was fined for submitting court documents filled with fake judicial opinions and legal citations made up by ChatGPT.

This tendency to make things up—known as hallucination—is one of the biggest obstacles holding chatbots back from more widespread adoption. Why do they do it? And why can’t we fix it? Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

Will’s article is the latest entry in MIT Technology Review Explains, our series explaining the complex, messy world of technology to help you understand what’s coming next. You can check out the rest of the series here

The story is also from the forthcoming magazine 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.

Why artists are becoming less scared of AI

Knock, knock. Who’s there? An AI with generic jokes. Researchers from Google DeepMind asked 20 professional comedians to use popular AI language models to write jokes and comedy performances. Their results were mixed. Although the tools helped them to produce initial drafts and structure their routines, AI was not able to produce anything that was original, stimulating, or, crucially, funny.

The study is symptomatic of a broader trend: we’re realizing the limitations of what AI can do for artists. It can take on some of the boring, mundane, formulaic aspects of the creative process, but it can’t replace the magic and originality that humans bring. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

This story is from The Algorithm, our weekly AI newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

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 suing Adobe over concealed fees
And for making it too difficult to cancel a Photoshop subscription. (The Verge)
Regulators are going after firms with hard-to-cancel accounts. (NYT $)
Adobe’s had an incredibly profitable few years. (Insider $)
The company recently announced its plans to safeguard artists against exploitative AI. (MIT Technology Review)

2 The year’s deadly heat waves have only just begun
But not everyone is at equal risk from extreme temperatures. (Vox)
Here’s what you need to know about this week’s US heat wave. (WP $)
Here’s how much heat your body can take. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Being an influencer isn’t as lucrative as it used to be
It’s getting tougher for content creators to earn a crust from social media alone. (WSJ $)
Beware the civilian creators offering to document your wedding. (The Guardian)+ Deepfakes of Chinese influencers are livestreaming 24/7. (MIT Technology Review)

4 How crypto cash could influence the US Presidential election 
‘Crypto voters’ have started mobilizing for Donald Trump, who has been making pro-crypto proclamations. (NYT $)

5 Europe is pumping money into defense tech startups
It’ll be a while until it catches up with the US though. (FT $)
Here’s the defense tech at the center of US aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. (MIT Technology Review)

6 China’s solar industry is in serious trouble
Its rapid growth hasn’t translated into big profits. (Economist $)
Recycling solar panels is still a major environmental challenge, too. (IEEE Spectrum)
This solar giant is moving manufacturing from China back to the US. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Brace yourself for AI reading companions
The systems are trained on famous writers’ thoughts on seminal titles. (Wired $)

8 McDonalds is ditching AI chatbots at drive-thrus
The tech just proved too unreliable. (The Guardian)

9 How ice freezes is surprisingly mysterious
🧊
It’s not as simple as cooling

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————

By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: AI’s limitations
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/18/1094001/the-download-ais-limitations/
Published Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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