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The Download

The Download: how ChatGPT was made, and a boost for infertility treatment

Plus: US regulators are worried about the safety of Elon Musk's brain chip company

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 inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it

When OpenAI launched ChatGPT, with zero fanfare, in late November 2022, nobody inside the company was prepared for a viral mega-hit. It was viewed in-house as a “research preview,” a tease of a more polished version of a two-year-old technology and a way to iron out some of its flaws.

But then it absolutely blew up. The firm has been scrambling to catch up—and capitalize on its success—ever since.

To get the inside story behind the chatbot—how it was made, how OpenAI has been updating it since release, and how its makers feel about its success—our senior AI editor Will Douglas Heaven talked to four people who helped build what has become the most popular internet app ever.

—Will Douglas Heaven

The idea of using a “three-parent baby” technique for infertility just got a boost

This week, my colleague Jessica Hamzelou published a big story about a controversial treatment that creates babies with three genetic parents. The “three-parent baby” technique was thought to help parents avoid passing diseases on to their kids. But new findings suggest it doesn’t always work—and could create babies at risk of severe diseases.

The evidence comes from two babies born after the procedure was used to help couples with a different problem: infertility. It’s lucky we found the problem in these cases—these babies didn’t have parents with disease-causing mutations, so they should be fine.

And there’s another silver lining. The results add to growing evidence that the “three-parent” technique might help treat infertility and shed light on why some people struggle to conceive. Read the full story.

This story is from The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly newsletter covering all sorts of biotech breakthroughs. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

The must-reads

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

1 US regulators rejected Neuralink’s bid to test brain chips in humans
They’re got major safety concerns and dozens of issues with the project. (Reuters)
+ An ALS patient set a record for communicating via a brain implant. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Solar geoengineering is our “only option” to rapidly cool the planet  
That’s the consensus of the United Nations, which is calling for a full-scale review of the controversial climate-cooling technique. (Motherboard)
+ Climate scientists are also calling for more research. (The Guardian)
+ Researchers launched a solar geoengineering test flight in the UK last fall. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Major crypto firms have severed ties with the industry’s favorite bank
Silvergate Bank warned yesterday it was reviewing its books. (CoinDesk)
+ What’s next for crypto. (MIT Technology Review)

4 A technique called Cell Painting could speed drug discovery
A consortium has released a huge collection of image-based cell profiles. (MIT Technology Review)
+ AI is dreaming up drugs that no one has ever seen. Now we’ve got to see if they work. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Moonshots are dead
Silicon Valley’s favorite risky ventures have run out of road. (WP $)

6 DeepMind and LinkedIn’s founders are getting into the AI personal assistant game
They’re looking to raise millions of dollars to back their ambitious plans. (FT $)
+ Apple has blocked a ChatGPT-powered app update. (WSJ $)
+ ChatGPT is a poor online dating wingman. (Slate $)

7 South Korea isn’t happy about the US chips subsidies conditions
Mainly because it doesn’t fancy sharing excess profits. (FT $)
+ These simple design rules could turn the chip industry on its head. (MIT Technology Review)

8 How generative AI fuels conspiracy theories
They’re changing the ways in which disinformation is spread online.(The Atlantic $)

9 Why pregnant Russian women are flocking to Argentina 
One wildly-popular momfluencer has a lot to do with it. (Rest of World)

10 What to do when your therapist is also an influencer
The ethical guidelines are clear, but therapists don’t always stick to them. (Wired $)

Quote of the day

“There’s all these people trying to make the AI look stupid. It’s fine, there’s no threat.” 

—Bill Gates shuts down scaremongering over AI’s capabilities in an interview with the Financial Times.

The big story

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

August 2022

In a search for novel forms of longevity medicine, a biotech company based in Israel says it intends to create embryo-stage versions of people in order to harvest tissues for use in transplant treatments.

The company, Renewal Bio, is pursuing recent advances in stem-cell technology and artificial wombs. Starting with mouse stem cells, the lab could form highly realistic-looking mouse embryos and keep them growing in a mechanical womb for several days until they developed beating hearts, flowing blood, and cranial folds.

It’s the first time such an advanced embryo has been mimicked without sperm, eggs, or even a uterus. Now Renewal Bio has set its sights on extending the technology to humans—it’s already experimenting with human cells and hopes to eventually produce artificial models of human embryos. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

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.)

+ Wow, I had no idea sushi restaurants basically sent their dirty plates on a lazy river ride.
+ Photographing priceless artifacts sounds incredibly stressful to me.
+ A load of The Last of Us easter eggs you might have missed.
+ I’m sorry to report that if a university professor in the UK dressed like Joe from You, they’d be laughed out of the lecture hall.
+ I enjoyed this list of words from other languages with no English equivalent.

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