Skip to Content
The Download

The Download: what’s next for AI, and quantum computing challenges

Plus: SpaceX has been accused of illegally firing workers

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 next for AI in 2024

This time last year our AI writers did something reckless. In an industry where nothing stands still, they had a go at predicting the future.

Turns out, their predictions were pretty on the money. They suggested that the next big thing in chatbots would be multimodal (check), and that policymakers would draw up tough new regulations (another check). Elsewhere, they were half-right when they forecast that Big Tech would feel pressure from open-source startups.

This year, they’re doing it again. Check out their predictions for the industry in 2024

—Melissa Heikkilä & Will Douglas Heaven

+ If you’re interested in this topic, why not check out how these six questions will dictate the future of generative AI?  Its future—and ours—will be shaped by what we do next.

Quantum computing is taking on its biggest challenge: noise

In the past 20 years, hundreds of companies have staked a claim in the rush to establish quantum computing. Investors have put in well over $5 billion so far. All this effort has just one purpose: creating the world’s next big thing.

But ultimately, assessing our progress in building useful quantum computers comes down to one central factor: whether we can handle the noise. The delicate nature of their systems makes them extremely vulnerable to the slightest disturbance, which can generate errors or even stop a quantum computation in its tracks.

In the last couple of years, a series of breakthroughs have led researchers to declare that the problem of noise might finally be on the ropes. Read the full story.

—Michael Brooks

This story is from the next magazine edition of MIT Technology Review, set to go live on January 8—and it’s all about innovation. If you don’t already subscribe, take advantage of our seasonal subscription offers to get a copy when it lands.

The online art catalogue that chronicles a stolen African heritage

When British forces raided the African kingdom of Benin in the late 19th century, they took with them thousands of sculptures dating back centuries. The artifacts, known as the Benin Bronzes, were sold to private collectors and museums in the Global North, and despite longstanding pressure, many institutions, particularly in Germany and the UK, have resisted calls to share information about the Benin Bronzes in their collection.

The launch in November 2022 of a pioneering platform called Digital Benin is helping to determine how many there are outside Nigeria, and where for the first time. But the site is just a step on the road to restoring the artifacts to the Edo people they belong to. Read the full story.

Gouri Sharma

The hidden climate cost of everything around us

The world is building and making things as never before, from roads and hospitals to vehicles and furniture. That’s good news for the people who benefit from them, but it’s also made industries like manufacturing and construction ravenous for raw materials.

This is a growing climate concern, because making, using, and disposing of certain materials can generate massive amounts of emissions. Adding it all up, global material production accounts for something like a quarter of global greenhouse-gas emissions today.

Our climate reporter Casey Crownhart has dug into why materials are the climate problem we don’t talk about enough. Read the full story.

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly climate and energy newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The must-reads

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

1 SpaceX has been accused of sacking workers critical of Elon Musk  
Eight employees who raised concerns about the company’s founder were reportedly illegally fired. (NYT $)
+ The workers claim that SpaceX is steeped in a toxic work culture. (BBC)

2 What happens when chatbots jailbreak each other?
Things get really messy, for one. (Motherboard)
+ Three ways AI chatbots are a security disaster. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Crypto scams are become ever-more convincing
Courtesy of easily-accessible deepfake tools. (The Verge)

4 Off-radar fishing is threatening depleted fish stocks
The vast majority of fishing vessels are untracked, and the ocean is suffering as a result. (FT $)
+ But AI tools could help to shine a light on nautical blind spots. (Economist $)
+ Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Women in the US are stockpiling abortion pills
Uncertainty over whether their area will curtail access abortion medication is spurring some women to stock up preemptively. (Wired $)
+ Texas is trying out new tactics to restrict access to abortion pills online. (MIT Technology Review)

6 US museums have been hit by a major cyber attack
Visitors have been unable to browse the institution’s online collections. (NYT $)

7 Chip manufacturers could soon spot vulnerabilities on the assembly line
Thanks to a revamped version of a familiar instability-detecting technique. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ The US will issue some early grants to boost native chip production. (Reuters)

8 Brands are clamoring to work with AI influencers
But there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to flog products more effectively. (NY Mag $)
+ Deepfakes of Chinese influencers are livestreaming 24/7. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Maybe think twice before you send that voice note
The recipient may not always be in the right frame of mind to listen. (The Atlantic $)

10 A teenager has become the first player to ‘beat’ Tetris
But Willis Gibson’s victory was far from conventional. (Bloomberg $)
+ The 13-year old used a revolutionary method to play the game quicker. (404 Media)

Quote of the day

“At SpaceX the rockets may be reusable but the people who build them are treated as expendable.”

—Paige Holland-Thielen, a former SpaceX employee who was fired after circulating a letter criticizing Elon Musk, takes aim at the company’s business practices, the Financial Times reports.

The big story

How tactile graphics can help end image poverty

June 2023

—Chancey Fleet

In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic lockdown, my husband and I bought a house in Brooklyn and decided to rebuild the interior. He taught me a few key architectural symbols and before long I was drawing my own concepts, working toward a shared vision of the home we eventually designed.

It’s a commonplace story, except for one key factor: I’m blind, and I’ve made it my mission to ensure that blind New Yorkers can create and explore images. As a blind tech educator, it’s my job—and my passion—to introduce blind and low-­vision patrons to tools that help them move through daily life with autonomy and ease. 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.)

+ Aww, maybe opposites don’t attract after all.
+ These twins born either side of midnight on New Year’s Eve won’t share the same birth date—or year!
+ If you’ve joined a gym in the past week, don’t forget these essential rules.
+ Lose yourself in the winning images of the latest International Landscape Photographer of the Year contest.
+ Are you lucky enough to live in one of the world’s coolest neighborhoods?

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.