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The Download

The Download: AI drugs, and how AI is improving soccer tactics

Plus: Microsoft has hired a major AI player

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.

A wave of drugs dreamed up by AI is on its way

Alex Zhavoronkov has been messing around with artificial intelligence for more than a decade. In 2016, the programmer and physicist was using AI to rank people by looks and sort through pictures of cats.

Now he says his company, Insilico Medicine, has created the first “true AI drug” that’s advanced to a test of whether it can cure a fatal lung condition in humans.

Popular forms of AI can draw pictures and answer questions. But there’s a growing effort to get AI to dream up cures for awful diseases, too. The problem they are solving, however, is an old one. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

Google DeepMind’s new AI assistant helps elite soccer coaches get even better

The news: Soccer teams are always looking to get an edge over their rivals. They might want to add a new AI assistant developed by Google DeepMind to their arsenal. It can suggest tactics for soccer set-pieces that are even better than those created by professional club coaches.

How it works: The system, called TacticAI, works by analyzing a dataset of 7,176 corner kicks taken by players for Liverpool FC, one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world. It uses predictive and generative AI models to analyze each scenario and produce recommendations and predictive outcomes. Read the full story.

—Rhiannon Williams

Chinese platforms are cracking down on influencers selling AI lessons

Over the last year, a few Chinese influencers have made millions of dollars peddling short video lessons on AI, profiting off people’s fears about the as-yet-unclear impact of the new technology on their livelihoods. 

But the platforms they thrived on have started to turn against them. Just a few weeks ago, WeChat and Douyin began suspending, removing, or restricting their accounts. While influencers on these platforms have been turning people’s anxiety into traffic and profits for a long time, the latest actions show how Chinese social platforms are trying to contain the damage before it goes too far. Read the full story.

Zeyi Yang

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things happening 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 DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman is joining Microsoft 
He’ll head up the company’s consumer arm, developing AI-infused products. (Bloomberg $)
+ Suleyman will leave his startup, Inflection AI, along with a load of its staff. (NYT $)
+ Inflection’s investors won’t be left out of pocket, though. (The Information $)
+ Check out our interview with Suleyman about why he thinks generative AI is just a phase. (MIT Technology Review)

2 China is sending a satellite to the dark side of the moon
It’ll play a crucial role in the country’s bid to leapfrog the US in moon exploration. (Reuters)
+ Some scientists aren’t sure if exploring Mars is a wise investment. (Undark Magazine)

3 Anonymous career site Glassdoor exposed its users’ real names
Which, unsurprisingly, has upset users who posted honest reviews of their former workplaces. (Ars Technica)

4 The concrete industry has a major carbon problem
Now, emission-capturing formulas could make a difference. (Wired $)
+ The climate solution beneath your feet. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Artists who use AI are more productive
But, crucially, they’re less original. (New Scientist $)
+ This artist is dominating AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Saudi Arabia is poised to become an AI superpower
To the tune of a $40 billion sinking fund. (NYT $)
+ We’re just five years away from artificial general intelligence, according to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, at least. (TechCrunch)
+ Google DeepMind wants to define what counts as artificial general intelligence. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Brace yourself—dynamic pricing is coming
Emboldened by Uber’s surge pricing model, other businesses want in. (Vox)

8 Indonesia’s ebike shops are dicing with danger 
They’re creating souped-up batteries that prioritize power over safety. (Rest of World)
+ Three things to love about batteries. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Did you just poke me on Facebook? 👉
The social network has quietly restored one of its weirdest features. (Insider $)

10 This unknown Swedish composer has racked up more Spotify plays than ABBA
Johan Röhr is the mastermind behind more than 650 different artists on the platform. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“It feels very self-centered. Everyone is like, ‘I’ve got somewhere to be, out of my way.’”

—Tamara Siemering, an actor who recently moved to Los Angeles, explains her shock at the city’s driving culture as it tries to embrace autonomous cars, the New York Times reports.

The big story

Inside the enigmatic minds of animals

October 2022

More than ever, we feel a duty and desire to extend empathy to our nonhuman neighbors. In the last three years, more than 30 countries have formally recognized other animals—including gorillas, lobsters, crows, and octopuses—as sentient beings.

A trio of books from Ed Yong, Jackie Higgins, and Philip Ball detail creatures’ rich inner worlds and capture what has led to these developments: a booming field of experimental research challenging the long-standing view that animals are neither conscious nor cognitively complex. Read the full story.

—Matthew Ponsford

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ One for fans of The Strokes: a thread of cool references throughout their artwork.
+ A Japanese pig cafe sounds like a pretty relaxing place to hang out. 🐷
+ If Dolly Parton was Welsh, this is what Jolene would sound like.
+ A happy belated Nowruz to all those who celebrate!

Deep Dive

The Download

The Download: defining AI, and China’s driverless ambitions

Plus: Apple and Microsoft are walking away from OpenAI's board

The Download: AI agents, and how to detect a lie

Plus: Chinese EVs have hit an EU-shaped blockade

The Download: fish-safe hydropower, and fixing space debris

Plus: Apple is planning to bring AI features to the Vision Pro

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

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