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The Download

The Download: the future of AI moviemaking, and what to know about plug-in hybrids

Plus: SBF will be sentenced today

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 generative video

When OpenAI revealed its new generative video model, Sora, last month, it invited a handful of filmmakers to try it out. This week the company published the results: seven surreal short films that leave no doubt that the future of generative video is coming fast.

The first batch of models that could turn text into video appeared in late 2022, from companies including Meta, Google, and video-tech startup Runway. It was a neat trick, but the results were grainy, glitchy, and just a few seconds long.

Fast-forward 18 months, and the best of Sora’s high-definition, photorealistic output is so stunning that some breathless observers are predicting the death of Hollywood. But fears of misuse are growing too. Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

This piece is part of MIT Technology Review’s What’s Next series, looking across industries, trends, and technologies to give you a first look at the future. You can read the rest of them here.

Interested in learning more about how filmmakers are already using Sora? Check out how three of them are already experimenting with it to create stunning videos—and find out what they told us they believe is coming next.

What to expect if you’re expecting a plug-in hybrid

Plug-in hybrid vehicles should be the mashup that the auto industry needs right now. They can run a short distance on a small battery or take on longer drives with fuel, cutting emissions without asking people to commit to a fully electric vehicle.

But all that freedom can come with a bit of a complication: plug-in hybrids are what drivers make them. That can wind up being a bad thing because people tend to use electric mode less than expected, meaning emissions from the vehicles are higher than anticipated, as I covered in my latest story.

So are you a good match for a plug-in hybrid? Here’s what you should know about the vehicles.

—Casey Crownhart

This story is from The Spark, 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 Sam Bankman-Fried will be sentenced today 
Undeterred, he’s said to be doling out crypto advice from prison. (Bloomberg $)
+ Attorneys argue he’d commit more fraud if he could. (The Guardian)
+ SBF’s particular brand of effective altruism deserves equal scrutiny. (Wired $)
+ Inside effective altruism, where the far future counts a lot more than the present. (MIT Technology Review)

2 The White House wants federal agencies to check AI for bias  
The policy requires departments to verify that AI tools won’t put Americans at risk. (Wired $)

3 New York City is welcoming robotaxis
But only if they’re accompanied by human safety drivers. (The Verge)
+ What’s next for robotaxis in 2024. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Kate Middleton conspiracy theories are still going 
Conspiracy theorists have convinced themselves her recent video has been AI-manipulated. (WP $)

5 How Palmer Luckey pivoted from VR wunderkind to AI surveillance mogul
He’s selling advanced weapons systems he’s likened to the atomic bomb. (FT $)
+ It’s still an uphill slog for startups to win Pentagon contracts. (The Information $)
+ Why business is booming for military AI startups. (MIT Technology Review)

6 How do your political views compare to a chatbot’s?
AI models’ political leanings matter—particularly when we know so little about how they’re trained. (NYT $)
+ The number of extremists doxxing executives is on the rise. (Bloomberg $)
+ AI language models are rife with different political biases. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Antarctica is melting
But the world’s attention is fixed on the Arctic. (Economist $)
+ How Antarctica’s history of isolation is ending—thanks to Starlink. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Europe’s longest hyperloop test track is now open
Although its top speeds are far from what it’s supposed to be capable of. (The Guardian)

9 Moving home is a colossal pain
But AI tool Yembo could help to take away some of the effort. (IEEE Spectrum)

10 The record for the most accurate clock has been broken
The clock could tick for 40 billion years without making a mistake. (New Scientist $)

Quote of the day

"His life in recent years has been one of unmatched greed and hubris; of ambition and rationalization; and courting risk and gambling repeatedly with other people's money."

—The US Attorney's office in Manhattan, which charged Sam Bankman-Fried in December 2022, criticizes the disgraced founder in a sentencing memorandum, Reuters reports.

The big story

Minneapolis police used fake social media profiles to surveil Black people

April 2022

The Minneapolis Police Department violated civil rights law through a pattern of racist policing practices, according to a damning report by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. 

The report found that officers stop, search, arrest, and use force against people of color at a much higher rate than white people, and covertly surveilled Black people not suspected of any crimes via social media. 

The findings are consistent with MIT Technology Review’s investigation of Minnesota law enforcement agencies, which has revealed an extensive surveillance network that targeted activists in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. Read the full story.

—Tate Ryan-Mosley and Sam Richards

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.)

+ Take a look at the winners of this year’s World Nature Photography Awards—they’re pretty special.
+ Homemade stock is well worth the effort, apparently.
+ Doctors are warning people in the UK not to eat a whole Easter egg in one go this weekend, but we can’t make any promises.
+ There’s gold in them thar Shropshire hills!

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

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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