The Download

What's up in emerging technology

Today Photo of the statue of liberty with New York in the background

The Big Apple is getting tough on biased AI

New York City has a new law on the books demanding “algorithmic accountability,” and AI researchers want to help make it work.

Background: At the end of 2017, the city’s council passed the country’s first bill to ban algorithmic discrimination in city… Read more

Image credit:
  • George Hodan | Public Domain Pictures

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Lab-grown miniature tumors

Personalized mini-tumors could predict when cancer drugs will work

Researchers used cells taken from 71 patients with colon and rectal cancer and grew miniature tumors that were specific to each person.

What they did: Scientists tested 55 different drugs—including ones that are currently available as well as experimental… Read more

Image credit:
  • Nicola Valeri

Editor's Pick

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2018

Every year since 2001 we’ve picked what we call the 10 Breakthrough Technologies. People often ask, what exactly do you mean by “breakthrough”? It’s a reasonable question—some of our picks haven’t yet reached widespread use, while others may be on the...

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A child using a smartphone

Turns out we have no idea how tech affects our kids

We think our children are addicted to phones—but are we right to be worried about the fallout?

Parents always worry: A survey by Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey featured in USA Today says 60 percent of US children own a smartphone or tablet that… Read more

Image credit:
  • Pan Xiaozhen | Unsplash
Trending, going down?

It might be time to kill off trending topics on social media

Sites are trying to crack down on awful content, but fakes just keep rising to the top.

The news: On Wednesday YouTube briefly put an inaccurate conspiracy video, claiming that a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting was an actor,… Read more

Image credit:
  • Mike Ashley for Noun Project
A robotic production line

Retraining may be the best way to ease impending tech-driven job losses

It’s inevitable that automation will put some people out of work—but our attention may be best focused on helping those individuals, not slowing the march of tech. So says a new report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Spencer Cooper | Flickr
Neural network with a bomb as one layer

AI time bombs could sneak cyberattacks past watchful eyes

Malicious code hidden inside neural networks could hijack things like image recognition algorithms long after people start using them.

The situation: Image recognition AIs can be tricked quite easily, which raises the specter of, say, a cyberattack convincing… Read more

Image credit:
  • Bomb by anbileru adaleru | Noun Project. Neural network | Wikimedia.

Editor's Pick

A smarter smart city

On Toronto’s waterfront, where the eastern part of the city meets Lake Ontario, is a patchwork of cement and dirt. It’s home to plumbing and electrical supply shops, parking lots, winter boat storage, and a hulking silo built in 1943 to store soybeans—a...

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Chatbots may need to offend you

If chatbots are going to get better, they might need to offend you

AIs have gotten better at holding a conversation, but tech firms are wary of rolling them out for fear of PR nightmares.

Better bots: The New York Times says recent AI advances helped Microsoft and Facebook build a “new breed” of chatbots that carefully… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Oksana Latysheva from the Noun Project

AI is learning how to spot risky websites for you

Machine learning can sniff out tell-tale signs of shady URLs so you don’t get phished.


The problem: The internet is riddled with websites set up for the sole purpose of stealing a user’s information or installing malware on a victim’s machine. Antivirus… Read more

Image credit:
  • Jackie Snow