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The Download

The Download: Twitter killers, and how China regulates AI

Plus: sharing deepfake pornography could become a federal crime

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.

Twitter killers: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

For the better part of 17 years, the roiling, rolling, fractious, sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying, never-ever-ending global conversation had a central home: Twitter. If you wanted to know what was happening and what people were talking about right now, it was the only game in town. 

But then Elon Musk purchased Twitter, renamed it X, fired most of its employees, and more or less eliminated its moderation and verification systems. Many people have begun casting about for a replacement service—ideally one that is beyond any individual’s control. 

The dream of a decentralized Twitter-like service has been around for years. History is littered with failed attempts, but a real competitor never broke out because not enough people had a strong reason to leave Twitter, or a place to go if they did. Now they have both. Read the full story.

—Mat Honan

Twitter killers is one of MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2024. Check out the rest of the list and vote for the final 11th breakthrough—we’ll reveal the winner in April.

Four things to know about China’s new AI rules in 2024

Last year was a banner year for artificial intelligence. Thanks to products like ChatGPT, many millions of people are now directly interacting with AI, talking about it, and grappling with its impact every day.

The Chinese government is already good at reacting to new technologies swiftly. China was probably the first country in the world to introduce legislation on generative AI mere months after ChatGPT’s big break. But a new comprehensive law could give China even more control over how AI disrupts (or doesn’t disrupt) the way things work today.

Zeyi Yang, our China reporter, has looked into what Chinese regulators are planning for AI in 2024. Read the full story.

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter covering tech 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 Sharing deepfake nudes of real people could eventually become a federal crime
A new proposed law could also allow victims to sue offenders in civil court. (WSJ $)
+ Celebrities are likely to champion—and benefit from—the suggested bills. (Motherboard)
+ A high school’s deepfake porn scandal is pushing US lawmakers into action. (MIT Technology Review)

2 A rhesus monkey has been successfully cloned for the first time 🐒
A new cloning technique appears to have helped researchers overcome previous challenges. (Economist $)

3 Semiconductors are a crucial part of the US economy
Chips—and the jobs they create—are a key element of the Biden administration’s economic policy. (WP $)
+ The US-China chip war is still escalating. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Early impressions of Apple’s Vision Pro are a mixed bag
The eye tracking seems great, but typing is a nightmare. (Engadget)
+ Reviewers are uncertain how useful the headset will actually be. (The Verge)
+ These minuscule pixels are poised to take augmented reality by storm. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Stakes in tech startups are going cheap
Funding may be down, but second-hand shares are doing a roaring trade. (FT $)

6 A new kind of climate change denial is surfacing on YouTube
This sort of denial, questioning clean energy, slips through the platform’s moderation net. (The Verge)

7 Millions of devices could be at risk of data theft
Due to vulnerable graphics processing unit chips. (Wired $)
+ Light sensors can be hijacked into becoming spy devices. (IEEE Spectrum)

8 AI’s next big thing? Smaller models
Investors are backing systems capable of operating with less data. (Bloomberg $)
+ AI phones too, are on the way. (The Verge)

9 How we can make autonomous vehicles safer
They don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be good enough. (Quanta Magazine)
+ The big new idea for making self-driving cars that can go anywhere. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Food delivery has gone downhill 🍕
Old-school pizza delivery drivers had a proximity to the food that today’s gig workers simply don’t. (The Atlantic $)

Quote of the day

“It’d be like if somebody you love went bankrupt and then you’re bidding on the remains.”

—Matt Grave, former communications director at Twitter, describes his mixed feelings at bidding on relics that previously adorned the company’s offices to the Wall Street Journal.

The big story

The future of urban housing is energy-efficient refrigerators

June 2022

The aging apartments under the purview of the New York City Housing Authority don’t scream innovation. The largest landlord in the city, housing nearly 1 in 16 New Yorkers, NYCHA has seen its buildings literally crumble after decades of neglect. It would require at least $40 billion to return the buildings to a state of good repair.

Despite the scale of the challenge, NYCHA is hoping to fix them. It has launched a Clean Heat for All Challenge which asks manufacturers to develop low-cost, easy-to-install heat-pump technologies for building retrofits. The stakes for the agency, the winning company, and for society itself could be huge—and good for the planet. Read the full story.

—Patrick Sisson

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.)

+ Believe it or not, these video games are completely unbeatable.
+ You can study the science of humor all you want, some people are just naturally funnier than others.
+ Where to explore in 2024, courtesy of your very own travel moodboard.
+ What a beautiful giant crepe.
+ Crash Bandicoot’s soundtrack is a portal straight to the 90s.

Deep Dive

The Download

The Download: Apple’s AI plans, and a carbon storage boom

Plus: Elon Musk has withdrawn his lawsuit against OpenAI

The Download: more energy-efficient AI, and the problem with QWERTY keyboards

Plus: an FDA panel has voted against approving MDMA as a treatment for PTSD

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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