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The Download

The Download: more amazing space images, and Twitter is suing Elon Musk

Plus: How the internet's efforts to become more hospitable to visually-impaired users aren't working

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.

The James Webb Space Telescope just delivered some incredible new images of the universe

NASA has released the second set of images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, revealing galaxies, planets, and stars in unprecedented detail.

The new pictures include an incredible study of the atmosphere of a gas giant planet 1,000 light-years from Earth, called WASP-96 b, a dying star throwing off its outer layers, and an exquisite view of Stephan’s Quintet, a group of five galaxies about 300 million light-years from Earth. Take a look at them here.

—Jonathan O'Callaghan

AI’s progress isn’t the same as creating human intelligence in machines

The term “artificial intelligence” really has two meanings. AI refers both to the fundamental scientific quest to build human intelligence into computers and to the work of modeling massive quantities of data. These two endeavors are very different, both in their ambitions and in the amount of progress they have made in recent years.

The bulk of the rapid progress today is in data-centric AI, and we’ve got an impressive line-up of people making inroads in the field in this year’s MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35. Read more about their work and what’s needed to help them to succeed in this essay by Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for AI.

This essay is part of MIT Technology Review’s 2022 Innovators Under 35 package recognizing the most promising young people working in technology today. See the full list here.

The must-reads

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

1 Twitter is suing Elon Musk
The company said it “bent over backwards” to give him the data he asked for. (WSJ $)
+ It also claims a lot of the data he asked for is essentially useless, anyway. (NY Mag)
+ The case will be heard in Delaware, where many corporate rulings are thrashed out. (NYT $)
+ A fond look back at some of Twitter’s wildest moments. (The Guardian)
+ Twitter “relished” being Donald Trump’s favorite platform, a former employee told the Jan 6 committee. (WP $)

2 The internet is failing visually impaired users
Tweaks to web pages designed to help often end up hindering instead. (NYT $)

3 Sri Lanka has warned citizens not to use crypto amid its political chaos
Bad news for Sri Lankans who invested in crypto after their local currency tanked. (TechCrunch)
+ Crypto companies are leaning toward litigation. (Protocol)
+ Actor Seth Green reportedly lost valuable NFTs as part of a multi-million dollar scam. (Motherboard)
+ Snap is experimenting with adding NFTs to its platform. (FT $)

4 Conscious experience is still one of AI’s biggest obstacles
Mainly because some experts argue it’s unique to humans. (CNET)
+ What an octopus’s mind can teach us about AI’s ultimate mystery. (MIT Technology Review

5 How Trump’s tweets have come back to bite him
His message encouraging followers to join his protest has been presented as key evidence to the January 6 committee. (The Atlantic $)
+ Trump’s aides repeatedly told him he was wrong, but he carried on anyway. (Wired $)
+ The 76-year old is still the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination. (New Yorker $)

6 China’s recruiters are livestreaming vacancies to desperate jobseekers
Millions are tuning in in the hopes of securing a new job. (SCMP)
+ China wants to control how its famous livestreamers act, speak, and even dress. (MIT Technology Review)

7 India’s rural workers are being punished by a glitchy government app 
It often doesn’t work in poorly-connected areas and often crashes. (Rest of World)
+ The villagers fighting to survive India’s deadly heatwaves. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Sensor-equipped sea turtles make useful cyclone trackers
And provide valuable insight into the ocean’s changing structure, too. (Hakai Magazine)

9 An unmanned aircraft has spent 26 days airborne
The Airbus craft has broken its own record in the process. (BBC)

10 In praise of 80s video game compilations 
They don’t make ‘em like they used to. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“When Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin, I think that he was divinely inspired, that a benevolent God of some sort either sent him or sent him the idea.”

—Henry Romp, founder of the online Church of Bitcoin community, explains his unwavering faith in both the cryptocurrency and God to Slate.

The big story

Predictive policing algorithms are racist. They need to be dismantled.

July 2020

Inequality and the misuses of police power don’t just play out on the streets or during school riots. For digital rights activists, the focus is now on where there is most potential for long-lasting damage: predictive policing tools and the abuse of data by police forces. 

A number of studies have shown that these tools perpetuate systemic racism, and yet we still know very little about how they work, who is using them, and for what purpose. All of this needs to change before a proper reckoning can take place, but a clear principle is emerging: if we can’t fix them, we should ditch them. Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

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.)

+ So that’s what the James Webb Space Telescope was actually taking a picture of.
+ An Egyptian mummy once believed to be a male priest was actually a pregnant woman.
+ Caracas is undergoing a cultural rebirth. Here are the young people leading the charge.
+ I don’t know what’s going on here and I don’t want to—or do I?
+ What screams “summer” more than a true crime podcast recommendation?

Deep Dive

The Download

troops ID'ed by AI concept
troops ID'ed by AI concept

The Download: a military AI boom, and China’s industrial espionage

Plus: Apple's new government spyware-thwarting security feature

measuring AI's carbon footprint concept
measuring AI's carbon footprint concept

The Download: Tweaking AI for energy efficiency, and China’s leaked data

Plus: The Large Hadron Collider has helped scientists to discover three never-before-seen particles

LDL cholesterol meter rigged to a liver
LDL cholesterol meter rigged to a liver

The Download: Cutting cholesterol with CRISPR, and the James Webb Space Telescope’s first image

Plus: The creators of a new large language model called BLOOM want to democratize AI

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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