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The Download

The Download: China’s covid pop-up, and resolving Twitter’s ownership row

Plus: things aren't looking good for the financial markets

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.

How the covid pop-up window is wreaking havoc on daily life in China

In 2020, China rolled out a contact tracing program that assigns a QR code to everyone in the country. It shows your covid status and allows you to enter public venues or take public transportation. Part of China’s stringent zero-covid policy, the system has persisted, and some of the once-lauded features that kept deaths comparatively low in the country now feel more burdensome than beneficial to its citizens.
For example, the more than 20 million people who live in or visit Beijing are now being plagued by a pop-up window that can randomly show up on your phone to disrupt all your plans. The persistent pop-up is designed to mask the QR code, preventing access to just about everywhere in China, and won’t go away unless the user immediately takes a PCR test.
The problem is, despite being touted as a high-tech pandemic solution, the app’s risk-identifying mechanism tends to cast a wider-than-necessary net, meaning no one knows why they are receiving the pop-up window or when they will get it, and there’s no way to prepare for it. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

This story is from China Report, our new weekly newsletter getting you up to speed on everything that’s happening in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

Podcast: I Was There When AI Mastered Chess

In the late 90s, IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat Garry Kasparov—the reigning world champion of chess. It paved the way for a revolution in automation. In the latest episode of MIT Technology Review’s In Machines We Trust podcast, we meet Kasparov and hear the battle with Deep Blue told from his side of the chessboard. Listen to it on Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you usually listen.

The must-reads

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

1 Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter appears to be back on
The billionaire has offered to complete the deal at the originally proposed price, potentially as soon as this week. (NYT $)
+ A successful deal would make Musk’s to-do list even longer. (WSJ $)
+ It’s probably no coincidence this happened days before the court case. (FT $)
+ Twitter could end up folded into a superapp called ‘X’. (Bloomberg $)

2 It’s not looking good for financial markets
Inflation in the US appears to be on track to slowing, but at what price? (Economist $)
+ The UN has accused rich nations of risking a developing world-harming recession. (The Guardian

3 The dearth of Uber drivers is over
It follows two years of global driver shortages. (FT $)

4 There’s a whole new set of blood groups 
The new ‘Er’ grouping is the 44th to be confirmed. (Wired $)
+ Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO of blood testing firm Theranos, has requested a new trial. (BBC)

5 Adderall users are considering switching drugs
Pharmacies can’t keep up with the steep demand for it, and patients are suffering. (Motherboard)

6 How Ukraine’s tech workers built a new normal
Many displaced employees carried on working from other countries. Now, they’re returning home. (Rest of World)
+ It's tough for displaced Ukrainians to prove they own their homes. (Slate $)
+ Russia is increasingly relying on its private army of mercenaries. (LA Times

7 The dream of a decentralized web
Advocates for DWeb are resigned to fighting an uphill battle when there’s not vast amounts of money to be made. (The Atlantic $)
+ A big tech company is working to free the internet from big tech companies. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Here’s what quantum computing could do for us
But putting the theory into practice is the biggest challenge. (Vox)
+ What are quantum-resistant algorithms—and why do we need them? (MIT Technology Review)

9 YouTube was never neutral
Its powerful recommendation algorithm shaped the attention economy as we know it. (New Yorker $)
+ Hated that video? YouTube’s algorithm might push you another just like it. (MIT Technology Review)

10 America’s chess grandmaster may have cheated over 100 times ♟️
The plot thickens! (WSJ $)

Quote of the day

“Games tell us about the stories we want to tell about conflict.”

—Ian Kikuchi, co-curator at a new exhibition exploring war in video games, tells the Financial Times how games can rewrite the history of war by exaggerating the role of the individual.

The big story

The Atlantic’s vital currents could collapse. Scientists are racing to understand the dangers.

December 2021

Scientists and technicians are searching for clues about one of the most important forces in the planet’s climate system: a network of ocean currents known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Critically, they want to better understand how global warming is changing it, and how much more it could shift in the coming decades—even whether it could collapse.

The problem is the Atlantic circulation seems to be weakening, transporting less water and heat. Because of climate change, melting ice sheets are pouring fresh water into the ocean at the higher latitudes, and the surface waters are retaining more of their heat. Warmer and fresher waters are less dense and thus not as prone to sink, which may be undermining one of the currents’ core driving forces. Read the full story.

—James Temple

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.)

+ Is there anything more iconic than The Matrix’s green code? I don’t think so.
+ How big is infinity, really? Answers on a postcard.
+ These Pokemon town cardboard models are super cute.
+ Optical illusions are guaranteed to get your head in a spin.
+ There’s some real domestic falcon drama going down in Melbourne (thanks Kirsten!)

Deep Dive

The Download

The Download: defining AI, and China’s driverless ambitions

Plus: Apple and Microsoft are walking away from OpenAI's board

The Download: AI agents, and how to detect a lie

Plus: Chinese EVs have hit an EU-shaped blockade

The Download: fish-safe hydropower, and fixing space debris

Plus: Apple is planning to bring AI features to the Vision Pro

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

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