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The Download, Mar 1, 2017: Amazon’s Cloud Fail, Uber’s No Good Month, and Robot Insecurities

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

Amazon’s Cloud Fail Takes Down Swathes of the Web
When the cloud breaks, it doesn’t rain—it pours. Yesterday, large parts of the Internet—including Slack, Trello, and, yes, MIT Technology Review—broke. The cause: Amazon’s S3 cloud storage system failed, for reasons unknown, taking down the Internet services that rely upon it, and it took several hours to fix. Amazon is the world’s largest cloud provider and claims to offer 99.99 percent uptime over the course of a year, but the failure is the latest—and certainly not the last—demonstration of how centralized Web services are wonderful, until they fail spectacularly

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Uber’s No Good, Very Bad Month
February couldn’t end soon enough for Uber. Rounding out a terrible four weeks was a video showing the company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, entangled in an argument with one of his firm’s drivers. (He’s since apologized and admitted he needs leadership help.) You can add to the February list: Kalanick’s departure from Trump’s advisory council over #DeleteUber, allegations of widespread discrimination, the exit of a top engineer over sexual harassment claims, and an explosive lawsuit with Alphabet over self-driving car technology. At least March can’t be any worse—can it?

Clean Energy Research Faces Trump's Cuts
Shifting budgets could put American clean energy moonshots at risk. The Department of Energy’s ARPA-E, set up to fund research into audacious new energy technologies, this week held a summit to share its successes. But it also took the opportunity to assert just how important federal funding is to its mission—because, as our own James Temple reports, there is mounting concern that Trump’s budget cuts could see the clean energy agency axed altogether. The Environmental Protection Agency is also bracing for similarly huge change.

Ten Fascinating Things

Robots may be changing our homes and factories, but it seems that in many cases they’re also insecure as hell.

Fed up with your cable subscription? YouTube thinks that its new $35 per month streaming TV service could help you cut the cord for good.

As nations seek to hit their climate promises, scientists are working out how to keep tabs on CO2 emissions of individual countries.

With 149 satellites in orbit, taking new pictures of the entire Earth every day, Planet Labs now commands the world’s largest private satellite fleet.

When your startup is failing, where do you turn? For some founders, to a Buddhist business coach who will make them cry.

A new report pegs the total cost to the U.S. of stolen trade secrets, pirated software, and counterfeiting at up to $600 billion per year.

Smiles all round, please: the 360-degree selfie is here to change the way we share our view of the world.

Here’s how Republicans in Congress are employing a rarely-used law to strip away environmental protections from public lands.

Human cases of H7N9 bird flu are surging and, perhaps more worryingly, the virus appears to be mutating as it spreads.

The climate has been changing for some time. But this 1991 video, made by Shell, contained some particularly prescient warnings that we failed to heed.

Quote of the Day 

"Our new approach injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market. And uncertainty is the enemy of growth."

— Ajit Pai, the new head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, explains what he thinks is wrong with net neutrality rules that apply utility-style regulation to broadband networks.

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It’s time to retire the term “user”

The proliferation of AI means we need a new word.

The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers.

Plug-in hybrids are often sold as a transition to EVs, but new data from Europe shows we’re still underestimating the emissions they produce.

Sam Altman says helpful agents are poised to become AI’s killer function

Open AI’s CEO says we won’t need new hardware or lots more training data to get there.

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