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The Download

The Download: Nick Clegg on electoral misinformation, and AI’s carbon footprint

Plus: a second human has contracted bird flu

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.

Meta says AI-generated election content is not happening at a “systemic level”

Meta has seen strikingly little AI-generated misinformation around the 2024 elections despite major votes in countries such as Indonesia, Taiwan, and Bangladesh, said the company’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, on Wednesday.

“The interesting thing so far—I stress, so far—is not how much but how little AI-generated content [there is],” said Clegg during an interview at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

As voters will head to polls this year in more than 50 countries, experts have raised the alarm over AI-generated political disinformation and the prospect that malicious actors will use generative AI and social media to interfere with elections. And even well-resourced tech giants like Meta are struggling to keep up. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

To read more about elections and AI, check out:

+ How generative AI is boosting the spread of disinformation and propaganda. Governments are now using the tech to amplify censorship. Read the full story.

+ Eric Schmidt has a 6-point plan for fighting election misinformation. Read the full story.

AI is an energy hog. This is what it means for climate change.

Tech companies keep finding new ways to bring AI into every facet of our lives. But the  technology comes with rising electricity demand. You may have seen the headlines proclaiming that AI uses as much electricity as small countries, that it’ll usher in a fossil-fuel resurgence, and that it’s already challenging the grid.

So how worried should we be about AI’s electricity demands? Casey Crownhart, our climate reporter, has dug into the data. Read the full story.

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 A second human has been diagnosed with bird flu 
Thankfully, the Michigan farmworker has since recovered. (NY Mag $)
+ Shares in vaccine makers are rising as a result. (FT $)
+ Here’s what you need to know about the current outbreak. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Nvidia has reported stratospheric growth
The chipmaker’s revenue grew a whopping 262% over the past quarter. (FT $)
+ That’s $14 billion worth of profit. (The Verge)
+ What’s next in chips. (MIT Technology Review)

3 News Corp has struck a deal with OpenAI
News from the media giant’s newspapers will appear in ChatGPT responses. (WP $)
+ The deal is valued at more than $250 million. (WSJ $)
+ Meta is reported to be interested in making deals with news outlets, too. (Insider $)

4  The US is planning on suing Ticketmaster
A collection of states and the Justice Department will accuse it of running a monopoly. (NYT $)

5 We know that Russia wants to put a nuke in space
But beyond that, details are pretty unclear. (Vox)
+ How to fight a war in space (and get away with it) (MIT Technology Review)

6 The US House of Representative has passed a crypto bill
Despite the Securities regulator’s misgivings. (Reuters)

7 Amazon wants a new challenge: tackling your returns
It’s running a pilot at several warehouses to test if it can manage returns as well as deliveries. (The Information $)

8 Weight loss drugs are really expensive
Their high price tag is forcing doctors to get creative. (The Atlantic $)
+ Weight-loss injections have taken over the internet. But what does this mean for people IRL? (MIT Technology Review)

9 What we lose when we use apps to speed read books
Squishing down books into brief summaries doesn’t exactly make for a joyful reading experience. (New Yorker $)

10 How to make your phone work for you
No more doomscrolling! (WSJ $)
+ How to log off. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“The AI revolution starts with Nvidia, and in our view, the AI party is just getting started.”

—Analyst Dan Ives, from Wedbush Securities, explains why investors will be following chipmaker Nvidia even more closely after the company announced blockbuster financial results, the Guardian reports.

The big story

The quest to learn if our brain’s mutations affect mental health

August 2021

Scientists have struggled in their search for specific genes behind most brain disorders, including autism and Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike problems with some other parts of our body, the vast majority of brain disorder presentations are not linked to an identifiable gene.

But a University of California, San Diego study published in 2001 suggested a different path. What if it wasn’t a single faulty gene—or even a series of genes—that always caused cognitive issues? What if it could be the genetic differences between cells?

The explanation had seemed far-fetched, but more researchers have begun to take it seriously. Scientists already knew that the 85 billion to 100 billion neurons in your brain work to some extent in concert—but what they want to know is whether there is a risk when some of those cells might be singing a different genetic tune. Read the full story.

—Roxanne Khamsi

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.)

+ Who knew that Sting had been secretly working on a ferry all this time?
+ That's some seriously impressive skipping.
+ America is home to some of the most beautiful train rides on Earth.
+ This Middle Earth tattoo is bonkers.

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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