Skip to Content
The Download

The Download: Worldcoin under investigation, and food’s complex climate future

August 7, 2023

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.

Worldcoin just officially launched. Why is it already being investigated?

It’s possible you’ve heard the name Worldcoin recently. It’s been getting a ton of attention—some good, some … not so good. 

It’s a project that claims to use cryptocurrency to distribute money across the world, though its bigger ambition is to create a global identity system called “World ID” that relies on individuals’ unique biometric data to prove that they are humans.

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI and one of the biggest tech celebrities right now, is one of the cofounders of the project, which launched on July 24 in more than 20 countries. But it’s already being investigated in at least four jurisdictions around the world. Read our story to find out why

This story is from The Technocrat, Tate Ryan-Mosley’s weekly newsletter all about tech, policy and power. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

+ If you want to learn more about Worldcoin, read our investigation into the company, based on more than 35 interviews with executives, contractors, and test users recruited primarily in developing countries. We found some vast gaps between its idealistic rhetoric and the realities on the ground, not least when it comes to handling people’s private biometric data.

The must-reads

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

1 Climate change is messing with your favorite foods 🚜
Farmers rely on knowing what grows where, but increasingly unpredictable weather makes that very challenging. (Wired $)
A group of older Swiss women are suing their government for allegedly violating their rights by failing to curb emissions. (NYT $)
New AI systems could speed up our ability to create weather forecasts. (MIT Technology Review)
 
2 Can gene therapies help to de-age us?
Even if they can (big if), any eventual treatments that hit the market will cost millions. (Proto.Life)
+  Inside the billion-dollar meeting for the mega-rich who want to live forever. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Longevity enthusiasts want to create their own independent state. They’re eyeing Rhode Island. (MIT Technology Review)
 
3 Russia’s pro-war bloggers are increasingly fighting each other
Which is perhaps not a huge surprise, given the tensions within Russia’s military itself. (NYT $)
 
4 Scientists say they’ve repeated a fusion power breakthrough 
This is bound to stoke a great deal of excitement, though many believe fusion power stations are decades away. (FT $)
+ This startup says its first fusion plant is five years away. Experts doubt it. (MIT Technology Review)
 
5 AI chatbots are becoming our friends
Lonely people are turning to them for companionship, but they could actually deepen their isolation. (WSJ $)
Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready? (MIT Technology Review)
 
6 TikTok’s algorithm will be optional in Europe
In order to comply with EU laws which require giant platforms to let users opt out of receiving personalized content. (The Verge)
+ TikTok is being fined in the EU for breaching childrens’ privacy. (The Guardian)
TikTok’s live streaming section is deeply weird. (The Atlantic)
 
7 The FBI is investigating a ransomware attack on hospitals in four states
These kinds of attacks happen all the time, but this seems to have been a particularly big one. (CBS)
 
8 Elon Musk has said he’ll pay problem tweeters’ legal bills
He’s yet to elaborate on how anyone takes him up on the offer, though. (NPR)
+ Twitter (sorry, X) is failing to even pay content creators as it is. (The Verge)
 
9 How Indian women were lured into the gig economy—then forced out
Urban Company promised them flexibility and empowerment. It didn’t last long. (Wired $)
 
10 A Mom and daughter duo have won the chance to go into space 🚀
They’ll become the first people from the Caribbean to do so. (BBC)

Quote of the day

“I’m ready today. I suggested August 26 when he first challenged, but he hasn’t confirmed. Not holding my breath.”

—Mark Zuckerberg confirms in a Threads post yesterday that he’s still up for that cage fight for Elon Musk.

The big story

How mobile money supercharged Kenya’s sports betting addiction

BRIAN OTIENO

April 2022

Mobile money has mostly been hugely beneficial for Kenyans. But it has also turbo-charged the country’s sports betting sector.

Experts and public figures across the African continent are sounding the alarm over the growth of the sector increasingly loudly. It’s produced tales of riches, but it has also broken families, consumed college tuitions, and even driven some to suicide. Read the full story.

—Jonathan W. Rosen

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ I thoroughly enjoyed this nerdy joke. 
+ How learning to draw helps you learn to see.
+ I can’t get over this skyscraper in Manhattan, which manages to look ancient despite being completely new.
+ If you’re rocking curls, you’re staying cool(er) this summer.

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

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.