Skip to Content
The Download

The Download: the EU AI Act is here, and preventing deadly cancer

Plus: Alex Jones has been allowed back on X

December 11, 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.

Why the EU AI Act was so hard to agree on

On Saturday, European Union lawmakers announced they’d finally agreed the terms of the final version of the EU AI Act, a major package of laws regulating the industry. To get the full low-down on what’s happened, sign up to read our AI newsletter, The Algorithm, later today.

First proposed back in 2021, the Act is now the world's first comprehensive AI legislation. But it’s been a long and rocky road: the governing bodies missed an initial deadline for a final package last Wednesday, and details are still emerging. 

Tate Ryan-Mosley, our senior tech policy reporter, has dug into the key sticking points of the legislation—and what comes next. Read the full story.

This story is from The Technocrat, our weekly tech policy newsletter, which was sent before the legislation was finalized. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

How to prevent the deadliest gynecological cancer 

—by Golda Arthur, an audio journalist and podcast producer

In 2018, we found out that my mom, Teresa, had stage 4 ovarian cancer. While the odds were stacked against her, she somehow survived after a brutal six months of chemotherapy.

When the cancer came back 11 months later, she tested positive for a gene mutation, which contributed to the development of her cancer. She urged her three kids to get tested to see if we have it too. My results revealed that I do. 

I’ll shortly have surgery for prophylactic removal of my ovaries and my fallopian tubes, as a way to make sure I don’t go through what my mom has gone through: four rounds with this cancer in the last five years.

In some ways, things are looking up. But there’s no getting away from those grim statistics—most women who get ovarian cancer die from it. So while removing my organs is not an ideal plan of action, it’s the only one we’ve got so far. Read the full story.

5 things we didn’t put on our 2024 list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies

No one can predict the future, but at MIT Technology Review we spend much of our time thinking about what it might hold. 

Each year, we put together a list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies, picking the advances that we think have the greatest potential to change our lives (for better or worse). We’ve done this for more than 20 years, and next month we’ll reveal our picks for the 2024 list. 

Every year, our reporters and editors nominate technologies that they think deserve a spot, and we spend weeks debating which ones should make the cut. Here are some of the technologies we didn’t pick this time—and why we’ve left them off, for now. Read the full story.

—Amy Nordrum

The must-reads

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

1 Elon Musk has restored conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ X account  
After conducting yet another poll gauging X users’ opinions. (CNN)
+ Jones was first banned in 2018 for spreading antisemitism and hate speech. (WP $)
+ Musk now says users should only be banned in response to illegal activity. (Bloomberg $)
+ There’s still no sign of X becoming the promised ‘everything app’. (NY Mag $)

2 AI’s Effective Accelerationism movement wants progress—at any cost
No guardrails, no gatekeepers—and few rules. (NYT $)+ You’re either an E/acc or a decel, according to its followers. (Bloomberg $)

3 SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy spaceplane will launch today
After its launch on Sunday was postponed due to poor weather conditions. (NBC News)
+ China launched its second methane-powered rocket over the weekend. (Bloomberg $)

4 The next generation of semiconductors is here

And the world’s biggest chipmakers are locked in a race to be first to make them. (FT $)
+ A US university is building a major chip research facility. (WSJ $)
+ Huawei’s 5G chip breakthrough needs a reality check. (MIT Technology Review)

5 These engineers are working to make the internet feel faster

A new internet standard could eradicate buffering and glitches for good. (The Verge)
+ How to fix the internet. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Americans bought more than a million electric cars this year
But not every state is equipped to keep them charged. (NY Mag $)
+ Why getting more EVs on the road is all about charging. (MIT Technology Review)

7 We need to grow more resilient crops
Extreme weather events and the changing climate mean we have to switch up how we approach agriculture. (Undark Magazine)
+ Heat is bad for plant health. Here’s how gene editing could help. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Not every robot needs to look like a human
In fact, a lot of them would be more effective if they didn’t. (Insider $)
+ These robots know when to ask for help. (MIT Technology Review)

9 What it’s like to go cold turkey on Google Maps
You’d better get used to factoring in extra time for getting lost! (The Guardian)

10 Inside the meteoric rise of Skibidi Toilet 🚽
The YouTube animated series is wildly popular—and seriously weird. (WP $)

Quote of the day

"We have a deal, but at what cost?”

—Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, director general of business group DigitalEurope, tells Reuters she believes the EU AI Act will amount to yet more red tape for companies to navigate.

The big story

Why it’s so hard to make tech more diverse

June 2021

Tracy Chou has a long history of working to expose Silicon Valley’s diversity issues. As an engineer at Pinterest, she published a widely circulated blog post calling for tech companies to share data on how many women worked on their engineering team, and collected their responses in a public database that revealed how homogeneous many technical teams still were. 

About a year later, she started a company called Block Party that targets online harassment by giving Twitter users more control over which tweets appear in their feed and mentions.

Here, we check in with Chou, who is based in San Francisco, to learn more about what it takes to make change in the tech sector, and what entrepreneurs like her are up against. Read the full story.

—Wudan Yan

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.)

+ Eight hours of department store Christmas music, what could be better?
+ Doom is 30 years old!
+ It’s here: 2023 in memes (shout out Kendall Roy!)
+ We just can’t get enough of home pizza ovens.
+ If you pride yourself in resolving disputes among family and friends, you might just have what it takes to manage conflicts between actual grizzly bears.

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 with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.