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The Download

The Download: how AI could change politics, and lifting the lid on Facebook

Plus: generative AI firms are after your data

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.

Six ways that AI could change politics

—Bruce Schneier & Nathan E. Sanders

When it comes to how AI may threaten our democracy, much of the public conversation lacks imagination. People talk about the danger of campaigns that attack opponents with fake images, audio or video because we already have decades of experience dealing with doctored images and misinformation spread by foreign governments.

Threats of this sort seem urgent and disturbing because we know what to look for, and we can easily imagine their effects. But the truth is, the future will be much more interesting. Here are six milestones that will herald a new era of democratic politics driven by AI. Read the full story.

Interested in AI and politics? Why not check out:

+ How AI could write our laws. ChatGPT and other AIs could supercharge the influence of lobbyists—but only if we let them. Read the full story.

+ Read our early guide to policymaking on generative AI.

+ How judges, not politicians, could dictate America’s AI rules. With politicians struggling to curb AI harms, it’s boom time for tech lawyers. Read the full story.

The must-reads

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

1 It’s tricky to know what to make of new studies into Facebook 
Meta disagrees with how independent researchers interpreted its data. (WSJ $)
+ The company collaborated with them on a multi-year project. (WP $)
+ The findings make it even more complicated to discern social media’s effects. (NYT $)
+ It also means there are no simple answers. (The Atlantic $)

2 Generative AI companies are desperate for your data 
And it’s incredibly difficult to stop them from scraping it. (Vox)
+ YouTube is dubbing videos with AI-generated voices. (Rest of World)
+ Meta’s Llama 2 might not be as open-source as it claims. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ It looks like LinkedIn is developing an AI job application coach. (The Verge)
+ OpenAI’s hunger for data is coming back to bite it. (MIT Technology Review)

3 The quest for EV metals comes with a human cost
Miners are dying in Indonesia attempting to extract nickel. (Rest of World)

4 Won’t somebody please think of the kidfluencers?
Regulators are circling, and it’s harder to make money than it used to be. (Economist $)
+ Meet the wannabe kidfluencers struggling for stardom. (MIT Technology Review)

5 US intelligence services are trying to preserve a spying loophole
They’re trying to convince lawmakers to keep phone surveillance measures in place. (Wired $)

6 Infusing older mice with young blood helps them live longer
However, it doesn’t prove it’d work for humans. (NYT $)
+ Aging clocks aim to predict how long you’ll live. (MIT Technology Review)

7 The Cook Islands don’t know what to do about deep-sea mining
Residents are reluctant to publicly oppose their government’s pro-mining stance. (Hakai Magazine)
+ These deep-sea “potatoes” could be the future of mining for renewable energy. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Gene-edited food is on the rise
CRISPR works like natural breeding, just much faster. (Proto.Life)
+ How CRISPR could help save crops from devastation caused by pests. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Maybe aliens really are out there 👽
That’s what a respected US intelligence official told a committee earlier this week. (FT $)
+ The internet didn’t seem too bothered by the revelation, though. (NBC News)
+ Some UFO whistleblowers are more reliable than others. (Vox)

10 TikTok is a shopping app now|
It’s basically QVC for Gen Z. (The Atlantic $)

Quote of the day

“When it comes to polarization, or people’s political beliefs, there’s a lot more that goes into this than social media.”

—Katie Harbath, Facebook’s former director of public policy, tells the Guardian why it’s so hard to tease out the effect social media has on people’s opinions. 

The big story

Inside Australia’s plan to survive bigger, badder bushfires

April 2019

Australia’s colonial history is dotted with fires so enormous they have their own names. The worst, Black Saturday, struck the state of Victoria on February 7, 2009. Fifteen separate fires scorched the state over just two days, killing 173 people.

While Australia is notorious for spectacular blazes, it actually ranks below the United States, Indonesia, Canada, Portugal, and Spain when it comes to the economic damage caused by wildfires over the past century.

That’s because while other nations argue about the best way to tackle the issue, the horrors of Black Saturday led Australia to drastically change its response—one of the biggest of which was also one of the most basic: taking another look at the way fire risk is rated. Read the full story.

—Bianca Nogrady

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.)

+ The friendship between a cat and rabbit is the most heartwarming thing you’ll see today.
+ Looking to buy your friend the weirdest gift possible? This website’s got your back.
+ These ancient glass artifacts discovered in the Czech Republic are really beautiful.
+ It’s time to embrace cabbage, in all its glory.
+ These never-before-seen photos of Chris Cornell in Paris are quite something.

Deep Dive

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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