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.
Inside the decades-long fight over Yahoo’s misdeeds in China
When you think of Big Tech these days, Yahoo is probably not top of mind. But for Chinese dissident Xu Wanping, the company still looms large—and has for nearly two decades.
In 2005, Xu was arrested for signing online petitions relating to anti-Japanese protests. He didn’t use his real name, but he did use his Yahoo email address. Yahoo China violated its users’ trust—providing information on certain email accounts to Chinese law enforcement, which in turn allowed the government to identify and arrest some users.
Xu was one of them; he would serve nine years in prison. Now, he and five other Chinese former political prisoners are suing Yahoo and a slate of co-defendants—not because of the company’s information-sharing (which was the focus of an earlier lawsuit filed by other plaintiffs), but rather because of what came after. Read the full story.
Five things you need to know about the EU’s new AI Act
Two and a half years after it was first introduced—after months of lobbying and political arm-wrestling, plus grueling final negotiations—EU lawmakers have reached a deal over the AI Act. It will be the world’s first sweeping AI law.
The AI Act was conceived as a landmark bill that would mitigate harm in areas where using AI poses the biggest risk to our rights, as well as banning uses that pose an “unacceptable risk.”
The new legislation should introduce important rules and enforcement mechanisms to a sector that is currently a Wild West. Melissa Heikkilä, our senior AI reporter, has five key takeaways—check them out.
This story is from The Algorithm, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things AI. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.
Human brain cells hooked up to a chip can do speech recognition
The news: Brain organoids, clumps of human brain cells grown in a dish, can be hooked up to an electronic chip and carry out simple computational tasks, a new study shows. The hybrid system is capable of processing, learning, and remembering information. It was even able to carry out some rudimentary speech recognition.
Why it matters: Scientists have been trying to build computers based on advanced biological systems for decades. Such computers could overcome some challenges of silicon-based computers, such as bottlenecks in data processing, and usher in a new age of biocomputing. Read the full story.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Google’s Play app store is a monopoly
That’s the unanimous decision of the jury in its antitrust trial against Epic Games. (The Verge)
+ Now it’s down to the judge to decide the appropriate remedies Google should face. (FT $)
+ It’s major news for the app industry. (Bloomberg $)
2 Democrats are splashing out on thousands of X ads
Just as other advertisers abandon the troubled platform in droves. (WP $)
+ Other X ads these days include those for DIY artificial insemination kits. (404 Media)
+ The rich can afford to banish adverts altogether. What about the rest of us? (Economist $)
3 The COP28 climate summit’s draft deal was met with fury
The 198 participant countries can’t agree on how we ditch fossil fuels. (BBC)
4 New York wants to sink $1 billion into chip research
The state wants to become a major semiconductor player. (NYT $)
+ The biggest investor in AI companies? The firm that makes their chips. (FT $)
+ Inside the software that will become the next battle front in US-China chip war. (MIT Technology Review)
5 Taylor Swift is the focus of another wild conspiracy theory
QAnon believers are convinced she’s been weaponized to alter next year’s US Presidential election. (Wired $)
6 What’s next for the US’s nuclear ambitions
Money is dwindling, and regulators are circling. (FT $)
+ We were promised smaller nuclear reactors. Where are they? (MIT Technology Review)
7 SBF was the worst witness his lawyer has ever seen
So bad, in fact, he’s reconsidering his future in criminal law altogether. (Bloomberg $)
+ There are few crypto leaders left right now. (NYT $)
+ Slowly but surely, bitcoin is bouncing back. (Reuters)
8 TikTok hosted its first live concert this weekend
In what looked like a weird collision of virtual and analogue worlds. (Insider $)9 Meet the highly competitive spreadsheeters
Excel is more than office software to these dedicated fans—much more. (WSJ $)
10 Where’s our flatworm emoji?
Researchers are calling for greater representation for microorganisms and fungi. (The Guardian)
Quote of the day
“We will not sign our death certificate.”
—Cedric Schuster of Samoa, the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States at the COP28 summit, explains that they refuse to sign an agreement without strong commitments to phase out fossil fuels, The Guardian reports.
The big story
How Silicon Valley hatched a plan to turn blood into human eggs
A few years ago, a young man from California’s technology scene began popping up in the world’s leading developmental biology labs that research embryos. Matt Krisiloff had an interest in the artificial-egg technology, and said he wanted to help them.
The company Krisiloff started, called Conception, is the largest commercial venture pursuing what’s called in vitro gametogenesis, which refers to turning adult cells into gametes—sperm or egg cells.
Their goal is ambitious, to say the least. If scientists can generate supplies of eggs, it would cancel the age limits on female fertility—and break the rules of reproduction as we know them. Read the full story.
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.)
+ This uilleann pipe version of Fairytale of New York is something special.
+ Get your kicks on your state’s quietest route doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
+ The UK is home to countless wonderful small galleries—make sure you check these out.
+ Why Mariah Carey is the undisputed queen of Christmas. 🎄
+ Love to read but short on time? Never fear: these classic novels are all under 200 pages.
Source : Technology Review