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If you take a look at app stores in the US right now, you might be surprised to find they are dominated by Chinese programs.
On Monday, the three most downloaded free apps on Apple’s App Store were Temu, TikTok, and CapCut (a TikTok video editor); the same chart in the Google Play Store was led by Temu, TikTok, and Shein. All four programs are made by Chinese social media or e-commerce companies.
While TikTok and Shein have been popular for a long time, the recent ascension of Temu, a discount shopping app that we first covered in October, is making a new reality clear: Chinese-made apps are having a moment in the US.
Their success is partly because Chinese tech companies, having survived a decade of cutthroat competition in the domestic consumer tech industry, can now be even better than Silicon Valley at making easy-to-use and addictive apps. But it’s also because they are spending generously on marketing: Temu is estimated to have spent some $14 million on its two Super Bowl ads (in which it also promised a $10 million giveaway).
The unprecedented popularity of Chinese apps is a bit jarring juxtaposed against another story currently dominating the news cycle: expanding bans of TikTok use on government devices. The US has been trying to limit the app’s reach at the state and federal level since December. This week, it was joined by the European Commission and the Canadian government, both of which decided to ban TikTok on staffers’ work phones. The premise of these bans is that the Chinese government could use TikTok to manipulate what federal workers see or to acquire sensitive information like their GPS locations.
The same treatment could easily spread to other Chinese apps. Although public awareness of their links to the Chinese government might not be as strong, some people are trying to change that. For example, the Special Competitive Studies Project, a new think tank founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, specifically named Shein, Temu, and CapCut (as well as WeChat) as apps that “could pose similar challenges” as TikTok in a February 15 post.
There are real concerns about these apps’ privacy protocols. But I believe most of the anxiety around having Chinese apps on our phones is overblown and politicized.
I’m not alone. Kevin Xu, a technologist and the author behind the bilingual newsletter Interconnected, wrote last week that “the DC policymaking circle has moved beyond TikTok to construct an all-encompassing worldview where all apps made by Chinese tech companies are bad.”
And Xu says even the risks surrounding TikTok have been overblown. “There is currently an evidentiary gap of actual harm that TikTok has done to any actual American that’s of a national security nature,” he tells me.
Lotus Ruan, who has conducted technical analyses of Chinese apps like WeChat and is currently a senior research fellow at the Toronto-based research group Citizen Lab, echoes this view: “With the rise of TikTok and the Chinese apps going global, [people] are looking at the Chinese apps with a magnifying glass.” As a result, the risks are often exaggerated.
The actual differences between these apps and American apps are pretty small, Ruan says. In 2021, a technical review of TikTok, conducted by a colleague of Ruan’s, reported that it “did not observe [TikTok or its Chinese version Douyin] collecting contact lists, recording and sending photos, audio, videos or geolocation coordinates without user permission.” (WeChat, on the other hand, was found to surveil chats even in accounts not registered in China.)
“We have a tendency to securitize everything now,” Ruan says, “It’s important, but we have to be very careful when we apply a national security framework to data.” Concerns about what these apps could have been doing should be built on actual technical research instead of speculation and insinuation, she says.
Even so, journalists and those in policy circles should closely watch how these apps process their data, with particular attention to whether any user data is being transferred back to China.
As Xu tells me, there’s a legitimate national security concern about what happens to US user data once it is inside China’s borders. China has been developing a legal framework for protecting personal data, but it is focused on holding private companies accountable, not restricting what kind of data the government gets from companies or what it does with that data.
There are things companies like ByteDance, which owns TikTok, can do to address the concerns. For years, ByteDance has vowed to store and process US data only in the US, but there are still reports that company engineers in China are inappropriately
By: Zeyi Yang
Title: Why the stress around Chinese apps in the US is overblown
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/03/01/1069247/chinese-apps-risks-us-overblown/
Published Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2023 11:00:00 +0000
I’m a beaver. You’re a beaver. We are beavers all.
For more than 20 million years, beavers have been, well, busy. They’ve been felling trees for that long, and building dams and lodges for at least the last few million years, earning a well-deserved reputation for industriousness and ingenuity. It seemed only fitting, then, that MIT saw fit to claim the beaver as its mascot in 1914. By 1921, The Tech reported that gray beaver hats had become “the distinguishing mark of an Institute man” at college gatherings. The toothy, mainly nocturnal rodent has appeared on every rendition of the MIT class ring—now lovingly called the brass rat—since it was introduced in 1929.
Read on to learn more about Castor canadensis, the remarkable four-legged engineers.
The North American beaver is the largest rodent in the Northern Hemisphere, typically weighing in at 35 to 65 pounds. (Only the South American capybara weighs more.) They make their homes in ponds, rivers, streams, and wetlands throughout most of North America.
They are one of the few species in the world that typically mate for life. Their offspring, known as kits, can swim within days of birth, but their childhoods are among the longest in the animal world. They generally live for two years with their parents, which both take part in raising them. It takes that long for the parents and older siblings to show them, by example, how to build dams and lodges, how to plan and dig channels, and how to select food, harvest it, and store it for the winter. It’s kind of like going to engineering school. Beavers then move on to form their own families, often building their own colonies. They typically live to age 10 or 12 in the wild.
Beavers are vegetarians but with a twist. They favor the inner bark of certain tree species, including willow, poplar, aspen, birch, and maple, feasting on the cambium, the soft, sap-laden layer immediately under the outer bark. Conifers, however, are not considered a delicacy. Beavers eat them only rarely, and tend to fell them mainly for dam building and to encourage growth of things they’d rather eat. In summer they consume readily available grasses, leaves, herbs, fruit, and aquatic plants. To prepare for winter in cold climates, they create an underwater cache of sticks and logs they’ve gnawed from trees they’ve felled. First they assemble a floating raft of not-so-delicious branches above a deep part of their pond; then they stash their preferred branches beneath them. The pile absorbs water and sinks to the bottom, with the less-favored branches often freezing in the ice at the surface and acting as a protective covering that secures the more-desirable lower branches, which remain accessible below the ice. The cold water preserves the nutritional value of the branches.
While humans can’t digest cellulose, beavers have a small sac between the large and small intestines containing microorganisms that ferment this material, helping them digest up to 30% of it.
chieving the perfect pelt
Forget mink, ermine, and sable. Of all fur-bearing animals, beavers have the coat that is rated the warmest. So it’s no surprise that European demand for hats made of warm, water-resistant, and durable beaver felt led to lucrative trapping and fur-trading ventures in North America. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as many as 200,000 North American beaver pelts were exported annually to Europe. (Fierce competition to monopolize the fur trade led to a series of so-called Beaver Wars between 1628 and the Treaty of Montreal in 1701: the Iroquois Confederation, backed by the Dutch and British, battled the Huron Confederation, backed by France.) These enterprises gave rise to many European settlements and trading centers in North America—and nearly wiped out the continent’s beaver population.
On January 17, 1914, MIT President Richard Maclaurin accepted the Technology Club of New York’s proposal that the beaver—nature’s engineer—serve as MIT’s mascot. In 1977, TIM the beaver first showed up on campus to celebrate the 50th reunion of the Class of 1927
By: William Miller ’51, SM ’52
Title: I’m a beaver. You’re a beaver. We are beavers all.
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/02/28/1087624/im-a-beaver-youre-a-beaver-we-are-beavers-all/
Published Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2024 12:00:00 +0000
Did you miss our previous article…
Allison V. Thompkins, PhD ’11, used to spend her days steeped in statistical analysis, digging into economic data to understand how the world works. These days, you’re more likely to find her writing about how to modify prayer or meditation practices to make them more accessible for people with disabilities.
From the outside, the shift from economic policy research to a career writing and teaching about spirituality might seem like a substantial one. But for Thompkins, the instincts behind both pursuits flow from the same place.
“From my perspective, the main connecting thread of economics and spirituality is their power to improve the world,” she says.
That drive to transform the world around her into a more equitable and just place has been with Thompkins for as long as she can remember. As a kid living with cerebral palsy, she was involved in disability advocacy from a young age. At age six, she was interviewed by PBS about her love for Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of someone who fought for people’s rights, and as a nine-year-old she wrote an essay about the need for disability representation in radio programming.
As an adult, that same drive led her to MIT to study under labor economists David Autor and Joshua Angrist, both of whom are Ford professors of economics. She was one of the first people with cerebral palsy and the first power-chair user to earn a PhD from the Institute. While working on her dissertation, which focused on disability policy, she also began consulting for the World Bank. Upon graduating, she found work in economic policy at the research firm Mathematica.
When her health required that she take a step back from full-time work, she decided to share her growing spiritual practice, first on her blog and then in the form of a book, Spirituality Is for Every Body: 8 Accessible, Inclusive Ways to Connect with the Divine When Living with Disability, which was published in February.
“People are most likely more accustomed to thinking about the role of spirituality or the Divine when speaking about professions such as singing or painting or writing poetry, rather than professions that are data driven … [But] for me, the goal of practicing economics was always to improve the world,” she says. The goal of making life better for others—not just oneself—is, in her view, also “the most important reason to engage in spirituality.”
Thompkins worked as an
intern to Senator John Kerry during graduate school. This group shot captures the senator
and her fellow interns.
Thompkins prepares for
a run during an MIT Snowriders ski trip.
Thompkins has always looked for meaningful patterns where others might see only randomness and chance. As an economist, she takes unruly piles of numbers and transforms them into useful data that can inform things like microlending programs for people living with disabilities in India. As a spiritual seeker, she’s adopted the perspective that everything happens for a reason.
All of this has imbued her life with a deep sense of purpose, whether she’s working on disability policy or writing about meditation.
“Love and beauty—I know you don’t always hear those [words] when discussing economics,” she says with a smile on a Zoom call. “But whatever I do, I seek to allow the love and the light that I have to shine through whatever thing I choose.”
The road to economics
Thompkins’s experiences as a youth advocate set her up to dream big about what she might accomplish on behalf of the disabled community. Her hope as a teenager had been to go to law school and become a disability rights attorney—that is, until she surprised herself by falling in love with an economics course in high school. She majored in mathematical economics at Scripps College. And by the time she arrived on MIT’s campus
By: Whitney Bauck
Title: Divine economics
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/02/28/1087629/divine-economics/
Published Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2024 12:00:00 +0000
Did you miss our previous article…
Brothers in arms
William Warin Bainbridge Jr., Class of 1922, and Kenneth Tompkins Bainbridge, Class of 1926, grew up on Manhattan’s Riverside Drive, the eldest of three sons of an upwardly mobile stationer who dabbled in real estate. Both went to MIT. And both would play important roles in World War II—one on the front lines at Normandy and at the Battle of the Bulge, the other with J. Robert Oppenheimer in Los Alamos.
William Warin Bainbridge Jr., Class of 1922COURTESY OF DAVID BAINBRIDGE
Before making their way to MIT, the brothers attended the Horace Mann School, where they participated in athletics and Ken wrote for the newspaper and the humor magazine. But while Bill was playing hockey, Ken was busy exploring the new medium of radio. “I had a radio with an antenna on the roof [of the family townhouse],” he recalled in 1991. “The antenna and ground were connected across the vibrating contacts, which energized a commercial ultraviolet unit. I must have violated every bandwidth law.” Ken’s five-watt ham radio station had just three call letters: 2WN.
In 1918, Bill arrived at the Institute, where he majored in engineering administration. He belonged to a dizzying number of organizations, including two fraternities (Alpha Tau Omega and Theta Tau), the football team, the wrestling team (which he managed), and the finance and budget committees. Ken joined Bill at MIT in the fall of 1921 to study electrical engineering, ultimately earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree through a co-op program with General Electric that required him to spend time at GE’s offices in Lynn, Massachusetts, and summers at the GE campus in Schenectady, New York. Ken, too, pledged Alpha Tau Omega, and he served on the board of MIT’s Voo Doo humor magazine. Master’s in hand, Ken and an MIT friend were admitted in 1926 to the doctoral program in physics at Princeton, where the dean reportedly told them, “You’re nice boys, but it’s too bad you never went to college.”
Despite the dean’s skepticism, Ken rose quickly in the academic ranks—first at Princeton, where he became a pioneering mass spectroscopist; then at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Labs on a Guggenheim fellowship; and then at Harvard, where he built cyclotrons. Along the way, he published the results of an experiment confirming Einstein’s most famous equation, EMC2. He returned to MIT in 1940 to help found the Radiation Laboratory and played a key role in recruiting scientists and developing radar.
But on September 22, 1943, a letter to the local War Office from President Karl Taylor Compton noted that Bainbridge was unavailable for new local work because his “services were urgently requested by another scientific project of extreme urgency and secrecy.” Since MIT couldn’t refuse, Compton wrote that “Bainbridge was released from the Radiation Laboratory to participate in this new activity.”
The “activity” was “Project Y” at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where Ken and his cyclotron helped develop the first nuclear bomb.
Ken settled at Los Alamos with his wife, Margaret, formerly a member of the Swarthmore College faculty, and their three children. Under Oppenheimer’s direction, he took charge of the Initiator Committee and joined the “high-explosives” group. Then he was given the enormous responsibility of leading the effort to test the atomic bomb, which required working through countless technical and theoretical challenges. He was named head of Group E-9, “to study full-scale implosion assemblies and prepare for the Trinity test,” and Group E-2, which developed instrumentation for the test. In October 1944, Ken became a member of the detonator committee.
The other members of the Bainbridge family also threw themselves into the war effort. Mae, the matriarch, volunteered for the American Red Cross. Youngest brother Don, a Cornell grad, became a lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. Bill, who’d been working in construction for US Gypsum, was commissioned at age 39 as a first lieutenant of the 342nd Engineers (he’d served previously as a second lieutenant early in his career). He headed to the UK in 1942 to become a regimental operations officer, using his building experience to supervise road stabilization and work that required the use of heavy earthmoving machines. By year’s end he’d been promoted to captain, and in 1943 he was transferred to the 254th Engineer Combat Battalion, V Corps.
By: Elisabeth C. Rosenberg
Title: Brothers in arms
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/02/28/1087635/brothers-in-arms/
Published Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2024 12:00:00 +0000
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