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The Download

The Download: labeling AI, and Twitter’s transformation

Plus: another summer wave of covid could be on its way

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.

Cryptography may offer a solution to the massive AI-labeling problem 

The White House wants big AI companies to disclose when content has been created using artificial intelligence, and very soon the EU will require some tech platforms to label AI-generated content.

There’s a big problem, though: identifying material that was created by AI is a massive technical challenge. The best options currently available—detection tools powered by AI, and watermarking—are inconsistent, impermanent, and sometimes inaccurate.

But another approach has been attracting attention lately: C2PA. It’s an open-source internet protocol that relies on cryptography to encode details about the origins of a piece of content. The problem is, it’s far from a fix-all solution. Read the full story.

—Tate Ryan-Mosley

If you’re interested in reading more about the search for a better way to label AI, check out the latest issue of The Technocrat, Tate’s weekly newsletter covering policy and power in Silicon Valley. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

The must-reads

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

1 Twitter as we knew it is dead
What comes next, in its new guise of X, is anyone’s guess. (Wired $)
+ The company has reinstated Kanye West’s account after an eight-month ban. (WP $)
+ We’re not tweeting anymore—we’re just posting. (The Verge)
+ Why doesn’t Elon Musk understand that he’s not above needing permits? (NYT $)
+ We’re witnessing the brain death of Twitter. (MIT Technology Review)

2 It looks like another covid wave is brewing
Cases are slowly creeping up, but we still don’t know if covid exhibits a seasonal pattern. (The Atlantic $)
+ Cases are on the rise in the UK, too. (The Guardian)

3 Starlink controls nearly all satellite internet services
That disproportionate power doesn’t bode well for international relations. (NYT $)+ Starlink signals can be reverse-engineered to work like GPS. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Amazon is asking some of its remote workers to resign
If they can’t join office hubs, they’re being asked to vacate their positions. (Insider $)
+ Things aren’t great for UPS drivers either. (The Atlantic $)

5 Evangelical Christians are spying on sex workers online
Their surveillance tactics are helping police to obtain search warrants. (The Intercept)
+ Evangelicals are looking for answers online. They’re finding QAnon instead. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Why EV bikes keep catching fire
Though lithium-ion batteries are generally safe. (WSJ $)
+ The speed limit on certain e-bikes can be circumvented. (NYT $)

7 Military start-ups are booming
AI is supercharging weapons and systems, with potentially deadly consequences. (FT $)
+ Silicon Valley has been capitalizing on the war in Ukraine. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Creating prosthetic arms has always been challenging
The Boston Arm was among the first to harness electrical signals from its wearer’s muscles. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ These prosthetics break the mold with third thumbs, spikes, and superhero skins. (MIT Technology Review)

9 3D-printing is helping to protect rare species
By providing convincing replicas of animal body parts used to decorate traditional headdresses. (The Guardian)

10 Please don’t drink laundry detergent
Despite what you might see on TikTok. (Vox)

Quote of the day

“To them, we are like robots rather than people. The little things that make us human, you can feel them being ground out of you.”

—An anonymous Amazon worker in the UK describes the punishing reality of life inside the company’s warehouses to the Guardian.

The big story

Eight ways scientists are unwrapping the mysteries of the human brain

August 2021

There is no greater scientific mystery than the brain. It’s made mostly of water; much of the rest is largely fat. Yet this roughly three-pound blob of material produces our thoughts, memories, and emotions. It governs how we interact with the world, and it runs our body.

Increasingly, scientists are beginning to unravel the complexities of how it works and understand how the 86 billion neurons in the human brain form the connections that produce ideas and feelings, as well as the ability to communicate and react. Here’s our whistle-stop tour of some of the most cutting-edge research—and why it’s important. Read the full story.

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 cast of the US version of The Office were avid readers of an early fansite (but if you haven’t seen the British original, you really should.)
+ Timelapses of cakes rising is my latest obsession. 🍰
+ Bring back the women’s restroom lounge!
+ A pasta recipe for every week of the year is true public service journalism.
+ Clear your mind and your schedule—it’s time to take the perfect weekend nap.

Deep Dive

The Download

The Download: the problem with plug-in hybrids, and China’s AI talent

Plus: Silicon Valley is desperate to snap up top AI talent—before anyone else does

The Download: defining open source AI, and replacing Siri

Plus: the EU has announced a raft of new Big Tech probes

The Download: the mystery of LLMs, and the EU’s Big Tech crackdown

Plus: the trade secret war between China and the US is hotting up

The Download: new AI regulations, and a running robot

Plus: Nvidia has unveiled a whole load of new AI chips

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

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