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The Download

The Download: The Money Issue, and the problems with open sourcing Twitter’s algorithms

Plus: More than half of Americans have had covid at least once

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.

 Introducing: The Money Issue

Money is weird now.

Whether it’s a biometric-based universal cryptocurrency meant to underpin Web3, cities built by Bitcoin, digital currencies that are replacing cash, or the way iBuying is transforming the housing market, technology is fundamentally changing the ways we buy, spend, and save money. Even the way we gamble.

The latest print issue of MIT Technology Review delves deep into this weird new world of money. Here’s a selection of some of the new stories in the edition, guaranteed to get you thinking about what money means to you.

We hope you enjoy it, and that it reveals something new to you about the present that helps you better understand and prepare for the future.

Read the full magazine, and if you haven’t already, you can subscribe to MIT Technology Review for as little as $80 a year. 

The problems with Elon Musk’s plan to open source the Twitter algorithm

Just hours after Twitter announced it was accepting Elon Musk’s buyout offer, the SpaceX CEO made his plans for the social network clear. In a press release, Musk outlined the sweeping changes he intended to make, including opening up its algorithms, which determine what users see in their feed.

Musk’s ambition to open-source Twitter’s algorithms is driven by his longstanding concern about potential political censorship on the platform, but it’s unlikely that doing so will have the effect he desires. Instead, it may bring a number of unexpected problems in its wake, experts warn. Read the full story

—Chris Stokel-Walker

Quote of the day

“Control your soul's desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing."

—A surveillance drone warns angry Shanghai residents not to shout from their windows, as the city’s extensive lockdown continues, reports CNN.

The must-reads

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

1 Nearly 60% of Americans have had covid at least once
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be contracted again (and again.) (Bloomberg $)
+ Vaccines for under-fives have been delayed by incomplete data. (NYT $)
+ Millions of Beijing residents are being tested to try and prevent a local outbreak snowballing. (Reuters)

2 Congress is weighing up new privacy laws
Unsurprisingly, Big Tech is attempting to control the narrative. (WSJ $)
+ The European Union has warned Elon Musk that Twitter still has to follow its rules. (FT $)
+ The progress Twitter has made on moderation could be squandered. (NBC)

3 Tech giants were duped into handing over data used to sexually extort minors
By imitating police agencies and forging legal requests. (Bloomberg $)
+ Inside police departments’ cozy relationships with surveillance tech firms. (Motherboard)
+ Computer monitoring software is making workers’ lives a misery. (The Guardian)

4 Even Facebook doesn’t know what it’s doing with your data
And that lack of control makes it very difficult to change its data-sharing policies. (Motherboard)

5 Could changing how we perceive time make everything less awful? 🕒
For a brighter political future, it could be worth a try. (Wired $)

6 Internet blackouts are now the weapon of choice for authoritarian regimes
They’ve gone from last to first resort.  (Rest of World)
+ But the public is getting quicker and smarter at circumventing censors. (TR)

7 The shine is coming off Netflix
It’s getting more expensive just as the steady stream of quality new content dries up. (The Atlantic $)
+ Could video games provide it with a crucial new source of revenue? (WP $)
+ Can Netflix weather the cost of living crisis? (FT $)

8 These days, even toddlers are potential NFT customers
So they can practice becoming “tomorrow’s digital citizens,” apparently. (NYT $)

9 Virtual reality might help ease chronic pain
But affordability remains the obvious obstacle to wider adoption. (NYT $)

10 How iPhone autocorrect actually works 📱
Hint: turning it off altogether is a humbling exercise in how we’ve forgotten to spell. (WSJ $)

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.)+ I really enjoyed this reminder of how different cultures enjoy their tea.
+ Very cool: music from video games including Pokémon will feature at this year’s BBC Proms classical music season in London.
+ Finally—an official guide on how to submit your great idea for an emoji.
+ If returning to the office holds little allure, these sweet little bunnies could change your mind.
+ This informative look inside the weird and wonderful world of gummy candy is making me hungry.
+ This ancient shoe uncovered in Norway is surprisingly fashionable.
+ Maybe Moby was right and we really are all made of stars—the building blocks of DNA have been found inside meteorites.

Keep Reading

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A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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