Skip to Content
The Download

The Download: chaos at OpenAI, and building a better power grid

Plus: Sam Altman is back in charge of OpenAI

November 22, 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.

What’s behind the chaos at OpenAI?

Sam Altman has been reinstated as the CEO of OpenAI, rounding off a wild few days for the industry’s hottest AI firm.

If you’re as intrigued by all the drama as we are, join MIT Technology Review’s AI experts Will Douglas Heaven and Melissa Heikkilä, along with executive editor Niall Firth, for a LinkedIn event today at 11.30am EST. 

They’ll be analyzing the chaos at OpenAI, who will benefit, who will suffer, and how all of this will impact the future development of this very powerful technology. Register now to join us!

Four ways AI is making the power grid faster and more resilient

The power grid is growing increasingly complex as more renewable energy sources come online. Increasingly unpredictable weather adds to the challenge of balancing demand with supply. To manage the chaos, grid operators are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence. 

AI’s ability to learn from large amounts of data and respond to complex scenarios makes it particularly well suited to the task of keeping the grid stable, and a growing number of software companies are bringing AI products to the notoriously slow-moving energy industry.

MIT Technology Review’s editorial fellow June Kim has dug into four of the ways that AI is already changing how grid operators do their work. Read the full story.

This Chinese map app wants to be a super app for everything outdoors

When Zeyi Yang, our China reporter, was in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, he went to a park with dozens of strangers to play the “cat-and-mouse game,” which combines old-fashioned hide-and-seek with modern technology.

Instead of trying to guess where everyone was, the group shared live locations and monitored each other’s paths as the “cats” and “mice” tried to capture or avoid each other. A grassroots invention of the Chinese internet, the game went viral sometime earlier this year and now draws thousands of people every week. 

The map app they used, Amap, is one of the most widely used navigation apps in China today. It’s also a perfect example of how in the Chinese app ecosystem, every app is trying to be something it isn’t. Read the full story.

This story first appeared in China Report, MIT Technology Review’s newsletter about technology in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The must-reads

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

1 Sam Altman is CEO of OpenAI again
And he’s got a new board, to boot. (WP $) 
+ Altman’s relationship with the company’s board has been fraught for months. (NYT $)
+ Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is fine with the changes, apparently. (FT $)

2 Binance’s CEO has plead guilty to money laundering charges
The crypto exchange has been accused of helping Hamas and ISIS to receive funds. (CNBC)
+ Changpeng Zhao is facing jail time in addition to a $50 million fine. (NYT $)

3 Huawei’s chipmaker is China’s secret sanction-busting weapon
While local investors are thrilled by its recent successes, the US is suspicious. (Bloomberg $)+ Huawei’s 5G chip breakthrough needs a reality check. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Palantir has signed a huge contract with England’s health service 
It’s agreed to build a controversial new platform for storing patient data. (FT $)
+ Palantir’s reputation is worrying civil rights activists. (The Guardian)

5 Twitter’s former head of safety is ready to talk
After years of trying to make the least bad decision possible. (Wired $)
+ Over at X, things are going from bad to worse. (New Yorker $)

6 Tesla knew that its cars had a defective Autopilot system
But kept selling them anyway, according to a Florida judge. (Reuters)

7 How to build a more resilient power grid
Look to your roofs and basements. (New Yorker $)
+ Stitching together the grid will save lives as extreme weather worsens. (MIT Technology Review)

8 For some startups, grief is a commodity
But communicating with simulations of the dead isn’t for everyone. (Vox)
+ Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready? (MIT Technology Review)

9 Online shopping’s convenience isn’t always a good thing
Don’t fall into the trap of buying stuff you don’t even want. (The Atlantic $)
+ Fast fashion is going all out this Black Friday. (Wired $)

10 ‘Hallucinate’ is the Cambridge Dictionary’s word of the year
It demonstrates just how deeply AI has permeated pretty much all parts of our lives. (Insider $)

Quote of the day

“Using new technology to break the law does not make you a disruptor. It makes you a criminal.”

— US Attorney General Merrick B Garland criticizes crypto exchange Binance for turning a  blind eye to its legal obligations in the pursuit of profit.

The big story

Why we can no longer afford to ignore the case for climate adaptation

August 2022

Back in the 1990s, anyone suggesting that we’d need to adapt to climate change while also cutting emissions was met with suspicion. Most climate change researchers felt adaptation studies would distract from the vital work of keeping pollution out of the atmosphere to begin with.

Despite this hostile environment, a handful of experts were already sowing the seeds for a new field of research called “climate change adaptation”: study and policy on how the world could prepare for and adapt to the new disasters and dangers brought forth on a warming planet. Today, their research is more important than ever. Read the full story

—Madeline Ostrander

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.)

+ Take a moment out of your day to appreciate these truly remarkable rivers.
+ The bizarre tale of Dogs in Elk was a seriously early viral internet sensation.
+ If you’re a fan of muscle car chase scenes from classic movies (and who isn’t?), Car Chase Wonderland 2 is the YouTube channel for you.
+ Sausage casserole? Don’t mind if I do.
+ To become a better tourist, you should embrace the joys of slow travel.

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.