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The Download

The Download: Quantum computing has a hype problem

Also: how Nokia’s tech aided digital surveillance in Russia

Also: how Nokia’s tech aided digital surveillance in Russia

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.

Quantum computing has a hype problem

As a buzzword, quantum computing probably ranks only below AI in terms of hype. Large tech companies now have substantial research and development efforts in quantum computing. A host of startups have sprung up as well, some boasting staggering valuations.

A real quantum computer will have applications unimaginable today, just as when the first transistor was made in 1947, nobody could foresee how it would ultimately lead to smartphones and laptops. But even quantum computing experts are starting to become disturbed by some of the grand claims, particularly when it comes to claims about how—and how quickly—it will be commercialized.

The systems we have today are a tremendous scientific achievement, but they take us no closer to a quantum computer that can solve a problem that anybody cares about. We don’t know how long that will take, but it is much further away than the burgeoning industry and its marketeers would have you believe. Read the full story.

Sankar Das Sarma is the director of the Condensed Matter Theory Center at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The must-reads

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

1 Nokia’s tech aided digital surveillance in Russia
The Finnish company’s equipment and software was used to track opposition supporters. (NYT $)
  + How Putin became the tyrant he is today. (NYT $)
  + Why Europe is still playing catch up with Russia’s spying efforts. (FT $)

2 China’s covid strategy is crumbling
Xi Jinping’s party faces little choice but to abandon its hopes of a zero-covid policy. (Economist $)
  + Shanghai has locked down as cases rise across China. (Guardian
  + Elsewhere in Asia, covid restrictions are being dropped - despite the spread of omicron. (NYT $)

3 Around a third of NFT collections have basically expired
Insiders insist the bubble isn’t bursting, but interest certainly seems to be cooling. (Bloomberg $)
  + Museums are jumping on the NFT bandwagon—but do buyers want masterpieces? (NYT $)
  + Turns out buying property in the metaverse is just as expensive as IRL.(IEEE Spectrum)
  + A plain text internet is beckoning. (Protocol)

4 Keanu Reeves has been wiped from the Chinese internet 
The Canadian actor (and beloved web figure) participated in a pro-Tibet concert, to the chagrin of Chinese authorities. (LA Times)

5 Black Tesla workers allege rife racial abuse in the company’s factories
They report having to work under utterly grim conditions. (LA Times)
  + Screaming, threats to sue and angry emails are just the tip of the iceberg for auto regulators  dealing with Elon Musk. (WP $)
  + Musk thinks he can be “helpful in conflicts.’ (Insider)
  + Tesla bros are making it harder to report problems with Full Self-Driving software. (Observer)
  + A primer in parallel parking. (The Conversation)

6 News about a study on fake news turns out to be…fake 🤥
Does anyone else’s head hurt? (The Atlantic $)
  + Scientists are using Twitter to monitor whether their work is misunderstood.(Science)
  + Conservative influencers are worried that right wing platforms are echo chambers. (NBC)

7 Maybe we don’t want jetpacks after all
It’d actually be total chaos to have tons of them flying about all over the place. (Slate $)

8 Are mental health tech startups making it too easy to get ADHD drugs?
The lines between ‘patient’ and ‘customer’ look concerningly blurry here. (WSJ $)

9 Billions of genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in California 🦟
It’s a vast experiment to control the potential spread of dangerous diseases. (Guardian)

10 Is this the end of the teenage houseparty? 
Smart home tech is getting in the way of Gen Z letting their hair down. (The Information $)

Quote of the day

“What’s the point of doing politics in Russia if you’re not willing to protest against war at such a historic moment?”

—Ilya Yashin, political activist, tells the Observer that he has no plans to flee Russia despite tens of thousands of people leaving the country amid fears of border closure.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ Not only was Taylor Hawkins an excellent drummer, he loved singing Queen songs. Here’s to a real one.
+ Lord of the Rings fans will be delighted that a new illustrated version of The Silmarillion is due to be published in October.
+ All the drama of the Oscars red carpet—minus the slaps.
+ A fun imagining of what the Capitol Hill rioters left behind - camouflage condoms, anyone?
+ This interview with Hollywood Unlocked’s Jason Lee is a wild ride.
+ This peaceful moose family would be most welcome in my garden.
+ A foot tickling machine designed to induce uncontrolled laughter is my worst nightmare.

Deep Dive


AI-powered 6G networks will reshape digital interactions

The convergence of AI and communication technologies will create 6G networks that make hyperconnectivity and immersive experiences an everyday reality for consumers.

The power of green computing

Sustainable computing practices have the power to both infuse operational efficiencies and greatly reduce energy consumption, says Jen Huffstetler, chief product sustainability officer at Intel.

Using data, AI, and cloud to transform real estate

AI can enable business transformation to deliver positive outcomes for clients and propel sustainability goals, according to Sandeep Davé, chief digital and technology officer at CBRE.

How this Turing Award–winning researcher became a legendary academic advisor

Theoretical computer scientist Manuel Blum has guided generations of graduate students into fruitful careers in the field.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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