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The Download

The Download: Meta’s AI giveaway, and abortion clinic data tracking

Plus: Data brokers are selling the location information of people visiting abortion clinics

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.

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it's giving it away for free

Open to ideas: Meta’s AI lab has created a massive new language model, and in an unprecedented move for Big Tech, it is giving it away to researchers—together with details about how it was built. Large language models—powerful programs that can generate paragraphs of text and mimic human conversation—have become one of the hottest trends in AI in the last couple of years. But they have deep flaws, parroting misinformation, prejudice, and toxic language.

Wider scrutiny:  Meta’s decision represents the first time that a fully trained large language model will be made available to any researcher who wants to study it.  In theory, putting more people to work on the problem should help. So far, the wider research community has been shut out, with large language models solely the domain of rich tech firms. 

Improved discoveries: The news has been welcomed by many as a win for transparency. However, some researchers question why large language models are being built at all, given their potential for harm. Read the full story

—Will Douglas Heaven

The must-reads

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

1 Brokers are selling the location data of people who visit abortion clinics
This is an old problem, but it’s taking on a new urgency in the light of the potential repeal of Roe v Wade. (Motherboard)
+ Overturning Roe v Wade could force tech companies to help states punish people seeking abortions. (Protocol)
+ It could also criminalize women making even cursory online searchers linked to abortion. (Gizmodo)
+ Amazon’s $4,000 abortion travel benefit does not extend to many of its poorest workers. (Motherboard)

2 Elon Musk says he may charge businesses to use Twitter 
But whether we should take this suggestion seriously is anyone’s guess. (BBC)
+ Twitter’s testing a new feature to share tweets with a select number of people. (Mac Rumors)
+ NFT scammers appear to be targeting Twitter users with blue ticks. (The Atlantic $)
+ It’s getting harder to know what Twitter’s users actually want. (The Atlantic $)
+ Maybe it’s Neuralink that Musk should be concentrating on, not Twitter. (WP $)

3 India and Pakistan’s heatwave is testing the limits of survivability
Last month, New Delhi saw seven consecutive days that topped 104°F (40°C.) (CNN)
+ Climate change is making these brutal heat waves worse. (TR)

4 A Shanghai resident was mistakenly declared dead and put in a body bag
The horrifying incident highlights the pressures of the city’s grueling lockdown. (The Guardian)
+ Shanghai’s lockdown is giving China’s online grocery apps a second chance. (TR)

5 NFT sales have plummeted 
But does it mean the market is evaporating, or just that the initial hype cycle is over? (WSJ $)

6 Sensor-equipped offices may be smart, but they’re vulnerable to hacks
Which is a major problem if your staff are locked out from their workplace. (WSJ $)

7 Black voters are being targeted by online misinformation campaigns
And the volume of lies is likely to intensify during the midterm elections. (NBC)
+ What you need to know about the midterms. (NYT $)

8 Start-ups manned by former executives are trying to fix Big Tech’s mistakes
By employing “conflict coordinators” to crack down on rule violations. (WSJ $)

9 The crypto executive who wasn’t
A cautionary tale for entrepreneurs who ask too few questions. (NYT $)
+ Crypto lobbyists are following the money—to Albany. (Fast Company $)

10 A sailor’s love song went viral on TikTok 64 years after he wrote it
The timeless melody has charmed a new generation of listeners. (WP $)
+ Meanwhile, StudyTok is still enormously popular. (BBC)

Quote of the day

“The phone is everything to me.”

—Paola, an inmate in an Argentinian prison, tells Rest of World about the difference having access to a mobile phone has made to her life.

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.)

+ Happy Star Wars day to all who celebrate! This potted history of the phrase “May the 4th be with you” is really interesting.
+ When TLDR doesn’t mean what you thought it meant.
+ The latest episode of podcast Reply All, which involved host Emmanuel calling everyone in his phone, brought me out in a cold sweat.
+ These two galaxies have been in the process of merging for a staggering 400 million light years.
+ If you’ve been dreaming of inbox zero, this could be exactly the motivation you need.
+ In New York, even an abandoned mansion costs $22 million.
+ This Pokémon rug is perfection.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

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.

An AI startup made a hyperrealistic deepfake of me that’s so good it’s scary

Synthesia's new technology is impressive but raises big questions about a world where we increasingly can’t tell what’s real.

Is robotics about to have its own ChatGPT moment?

Researchers are using generative AI and other techniques to teach robots new skills—including tasks they could perform in homes.

Taking AI to the next level in manufacturing

Reducing data, talent, and organizational barriers to achieve scale.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

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