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.
Welcome to the AI gym staffed by virtual trainers
Like any good gym, Lumin Fitness prides itself on the quality of its trainers. Chloe, an energetic young coach, promises to help you crush your fitness goals. The disciplined Rex, who has the air of a drill sergeant, encourages his clients to strive for excellence, but he is quick to warn that there won’t be any shortcuts. If you’re after a more mellow approach, Emma and Ethan are warm and quietly confident.
But Lumin Fitness is no ordinary gym. These trainers don’t exist—at least not physically. They’re virtual AI coaches, designed to guide gym goers through vigorous workouts on the tall LED screens that line the walls of the company’s first studio, which opened last month in Las Colinas, Texas.
The company’s founders say AI trainers could encourage people to start working out even if they were previously put off gyms. And there’s reason to believe they might be right. Read the full story.
How to fight for internet freedom
You may not be shocked to hear that governments are using generative AI to manipulate conversations and censor what’s online. But now we have a better sense of how this is happening, when, and where.
A new report published last week shows that political actors in 16 countries, including Pakistan, Nigeria, and the United States, have used generative AI over the past year to exert increased control over the internet.
This comes at a time when global internet freedom has never been lower. But Freedom House, the human rights advocacy group behind the report, has three actionable things that tech companies and lawmakers should do to make the internet safer and freer. Read the full story.
This story is from The Technocrat, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things power in Silicon Valley. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.
Leah Stokes on the challenges ahead for the Inflation Reduction Act
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), often dubbed the “Climate Bill,” was signed into law more than a year ago in the US and catalyzed more than $390 billion of investment in the clean energy sector. But what changes has it brought about, and what obstacles remain?
Leah Stokes, an environmental policy professor at UC Santa Barbara who frequently advises Democrats on climate legislation, spoke with James Temple, our senior editor for climate and energy, at MIT Technology Review’s ClimateTech conference last week about the IRA’s early impact on the energy transition. Watch the full video of their chat here.
2023 Climate Tech Companies to Watch: Ørsted and its offshore wind factories
Offshore wind power has tremendous potential to help the world meet its climate goals. Former fossil-fuel company Ørsted is leading the charge to unlock that potential by building massive offshore wind farms in Europe and installing some of the first turbines in US waters.
Ørsted is part of our 2023 list of 15 Climate Tech Companies to Watch. Read the rest of the list here.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Effective Accelerationism is the new Effective Altruism
Silicon Valley’s AI crowd have moved on, and this new movement prioritizes growth at any cost. (The Information $)
+ The G7 will ask AI firms to agree to new safeguarding rules. (Bloomberg $)
+ Why don’t firms seem to care that generative AI is problematic? (Motherboard)
+ Inside effective altruism, where the far future counts a lot more than the present. (MIT Technology Review)
2 Hackers have leaked the 23andMe user data of Ashkenazi Jews
The personal information was listed for sale on dark web forums last week. (Wired $)
3 The second week of Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial promises more drama
FTX’s former chief executive Caroline Ellison, who has already pleaded guilty, should testify tomorrow. (Slate $)
+ The trial is painting a picture of a seriously flawed company. (New Yorker $)
+ How FTX frittered away billions of customer dollars. (WSJ $)
4 You can’t report garbage clickbait ads on X
It’s hard to tell whether it’s a deliberate experiment, or yet another glitch. (The Verge)
5 Taiwan’s commitment to chips is wavering
All that chipmaking isn’t environmentally-friendly. Some Taiwanese officials say enough is enough. (WP $)
+ Microsoft is reportedly planning to debut its own AI chip. (The Information $)
+ As is OpenAI, apparently. (Reuters)
+ China, meanwhile, is doubling down on its AI commitments. (Bloomberg $)
+ The chip patterning machines that will shape computing’s next act. (MIT Technology Review)
6 Where does social media go from here?
Each platform reflects its users. What happens when the users leave? (The Atlantic $)
8 Big Tech is already looking to the next wave of mixed reality headsets
Current models aren’t comfy enough, apparently. (Bloomberg $)
Quote of the day
“The public space gets boring because everyone’s being boring. Everyone’s in their own entertaining world.”
—Mack Hagood, a professor at Miami University, laments how noise-canceling headphones discourage people from speaking with each other, he tells the Wall Street Journal.
The big story
The US agency in charge of developing fossil fuels has a new job: cleaning them up
In his first month in office, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for the nation to eliminate carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and achieve net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050.
That move redefined the mandate of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, the research agency whose mission has been to develop more effective ways of producing fossil fuels for almost half a century. Now it’s responsible for helping to clean up the industry.
While the agency continues to research the production of oil, gas, and coal, its central task is now to minimize the impacts from the production of those fossil fuels. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
+ Now it’s October, it’s only right we get appropriately spooky.👻
+ This is very cool: evidence of a massive solar storm thousands of years ago has been found within ancient tree rings.
+ I had no idea that there was such an amusing term for a group of guineafowl (thanks Janelle!)
+ The burnt Basque cheesecake has a long and illustrious history.
+ It’s the wrong trousers, Gromit!
The Download: Introducing MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2024
Plus: a mission heading to the moon has successfully taken off
The Download: what’s next for AI, and quantum computing challenges
Plus: SpaceX has been accused of illegally firing workers
The Download: gene-edited pig liver transplants, and AI to fight apartheid
Plus: Meta's joining the race to create AGI
The Download: super-efficient solar cells, and helpful robots
Plus: Turkey is upping its internet censorship
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