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The Download

The Download: who pays for climate change, and blockchain gaming

Plus: Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, isn't buying FTX anymore

November 10, 2022

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.

Why this year's UN climate conference is all about the money

This week has seen the start of COP27, the UN’s two-week climate conference, where world leaders have met in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, to thrash out global solutions for the climate crisis.

Money is at the heart of many of these discussions, particularly the key question of who should be footing the bill for climate change. This is particularly important given that the countries who contribute the least towards global emissions tend to suffer the most from its effects. 

But we don’t know whether talks around funding for “loss and damages” to help less wealthy countries cope with rising temperatures will make actual progress, or amount to a whole lot more hot air. 

Any potential optimism is tempered by the fact that countries are already falling behind on their previous climate finance obligations—raising further questions about what can be considered a fair share, and who is and isn’t meeting it. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

This story is from The Spark, our weekly climate and energy newsletter. Interested in keeping up-to-date with COP27? Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

This sci-fi blockchain game could help create a metaverse that no one owns

Dark Forest is a vast universe, and most of it is shrouded in darkness. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to venture into the unknown, avoid being destroyed by opposing players who may be lurking in the dark, and build an empire of the planets you discover and can make your own.

But while the video game seemingly looks and plays much like other online strategy games, it doesn’t rely on the servers running other popular online strategy games. Instead, Dark Forest runs completely on a blockchain, in a way that means no one is in control of how it plays out. 

The game’s success demonstrates that blockchains can be used in far more interesting and complex ways than simply moving digital money around, something some blockchain champions have been repeating since the technology first emerged.

And it may point to something even more profound: the possibility of a metaverse that isn’t owned by a big tech company. Read the full story.

—Mike Orcutt

The must-reads

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

1 Crypto exchange Binance isn’t buying its rival FTX after all
We still don’t know the full extent of FTX’s financial woes, though. (WSJ $)
+ Nothing and no one in crypto is too big to fail. (NYT $)
+ Crypto markets are even more volatile than normal right now. (Bloomberg $)
+ Meanwhile, crypto is back on the agenda for New York’s new Governor. (The Verge)

2 Why the Republicans’ ‘red wave’ failed to materialize
The specter of Donald Trump and the Dobbs decision loomed large. (Vox)
+ Trumpism’s appeal certainly seems to be waning. (The Atlantic $)
+ Conspiracy theories linked to the results failed to take off, too. (NYT $)
+ That didn’t stop election deniers from trying, though. (Bloomberg $)
+ Here’s how to avoid being tricked by misinformation. (WP $)

3 Brace yourself for a winter of illness
It’s a triple threat of flu, covid, and a respiratory virus. (Wired $)
+ The respiratory bug wave has hit before we have a vaccine. (Slate $)
+ Is a covid and flu “twindemic” on the horizon? (MIT Technology Review)

4 How Donald Trump unwittingly helped the Paris Agreement
His withdrawal from the treaty actually spurred other countries into action. (The Atlantic $) 
+ Reparations could finally compensate the hardest-hit nations. (Wired $)
+ Climate action is gaining momentum. So are the disasters. (MIT Technology Review)

5 A viral app has been falsely accused of being a front for sex trafficking
It’s just the latest in a long line of buzzy apps to be targeted by trafficking hoaxes. (WP $)

6 There are fewer ransomware attempts than there used to be
An unwillingness to pay ransoms could be one factor behind the decline. (FT $)
+ The world’s biggest ransomware gang has disappeared from the internet. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Twitter’s sacked workers have been inundated with job offers
Despite the tech hiring freeze, they’re in hot demand. (The Information $)
+ More than 11,000 Meta employees will be joining them. (Motherboard)
+ Twitter’s verification and ‘official’ rollout has been a mess. (WP $)

8 How cryptography is preparing for quantum attacks
Engineers are confident that lattice cryptography will weather cracking attempts. (Quanta Magazine)
+ What is post-quantum cryptography? (MIT Technology Review)

9 Workfluencers are oversharing about their jobs 💼
Occasionally, that vulnerability is backfiring. (Insider $)

10 Uber’s homegrown rivals are thriving across Latin America
It ignored smaller towns in favor of big cities. Now, local rivals are filling the void. (Rest of World)

Quote of the day

“Sad day. Tried, but 😭”

—Changpeng Zhao, CEO of crypto exchange Binance, takes to Twitter to express his regret at failing to buy FTX, the company’s biggest rival.

The big story

Running Tide is facing scientist departures and growing concerns over seaweed sinking for carbon removal

June 2022

Running Tide, an aquaculture company based in Portland, Maine, has said it expected to set tens of thousands of tiny floating kelp farms adrift in the North Atlantic between this summer and next. The hope is that the fast-growing macroalgae will eventually sink to the ocean floor, storing away thousands of tons of carbon dioxide in the process.

The company has raised millions in venture funding and gained widespread media attention. But it struggled to grow kelp along rope lines in the open ocean during initial attempts last year and has lost a string of scientists in recent months, sources with knowledge of the matter tell MIT Technology Review.

At least several of the departures were due to concerns that the company’s executives weren’t paying sufficient attention to the potential ecological effects of its plans. And that’s just for starters. 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.)

+ If you’re easily overwhelmed, kindly but firmly setting boundaries is a good place to start.
+ An AI video inspired by Black Sabbath’s War Pigs? Count me in.
+ The Tech Review office has really enjoyed the fruits of this House of the Dragon quiz. 🐉
+ Why we all need to pay attention to the beautiful things that surround us.
+ Felix Flicker is the definition of a multitalented polymath.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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