The Download: Hope for renewable energy and the role of AI in journalism
This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
We have enough materials to power the world with renewable energy
The news: Powering the world with renewable energy will require a lot of raw materials. The good news is that when it comes to aluminum, steel and rare-earth metals, there’s a lot to do, according to a new analysis.
Biggest gain: Although emissions are an unavoidable side effect of material extraction, over the next 30 years they represent less than one year of global emissions from fossil fuels. Experts are confident that the upfront cost of emissions will be more than offset by savings from clean energy technologies replacing fossil fuels.
But there is a catch: Although we technically have enough of the materials we need to build renewable energy infrastructure, extracting and processing them can be a challenge. If we do not do so responsibly, bringing these materials into usable form could result in environmental harm or human rights violations. Read the full story.
Could ChatGPT do my job?
—Melissa Heikkilä, Senior Artificial Intelligence Journalist
There has been a lot of talk lately about whether journalists or editors could or should be replaced by AI. So far, newsrooms have taken very different approaches to incorporating the hottest new tool, ChatGPT, into their work: tech news site CNET has secretly used it to write articles, while BuzzFeed (more transparently) announced plans to use it to generate quiz answers.
But here’s the dirty secret of journalism: a surprisingly large amount of it could be automated. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if we can outsource some of the boring and repetitive parts of the job to the AI. The real problems arise when you give the AI too much control. Read the full story.
Melissa’s story is from The Checkup, her weekly newsletter that gives you information on all things AI. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.
I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scariest/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Elon Musk wants to turn Twitter into a fintech platform
It’s part of his plan to look beyond advertising to make money. (PI $)+ Ex-Twitter employees don’t know what to do with their old laptops. (Wired $)
+ The company made its first interest payment on its massive debt. ($Bloomberg)
2 Inside FTX’s Dark PR Influencer Campaigns
A new filing reveals an undisclosed network of powerful political figures. (The Interception)
+ Things get even more complicated for the collapsed crypto exchange. (NY Mag$)
+ FTX victims are still furious. (Atlantic $)
3 The United States has stopped allowing companies to export to Huawei
This is just the latest in a series of China-related sanctions. (BBC)
4 The race for AI supremacy heats up
But we do not know if the American or Chinese laboratories will emerge victorious. (Economist $)
+ Generative AI changes everything. But what’s left when the hype is gone? (MIT Technology Review)
5 You Don’t Necessarily Need A Helmet To Enter The Metaverse
Our everyday reality is getting closer to dystopia every day. (Atlantic $)
+ Kpop could help improve the image of the metaverse. (NYT$)
6 celebrity voice deepfakes were co-opted to spew racist hate
Unfortunately, it seemed inevitable. (Motherboard)
+ AI voice actors sound more human than ever. (MIT Technology Review)
7 Boeing Made Its Last 747
Once a symbol of accessible travel, it is likely to end up carrying goods. (NYT$)
+ Hydrogen planes take off with startup test flight. (MIT Technology Review)
8 Social media has a dark obsession with being #kind
Is it really a good deed if you film it for clickbait? (The Guardian)
9 Spanish-speaking livestreamers are really hot right now
Twitch is booming in Latin America, creating new opportunities for gamers. ($Bloomberg)
10 dogs love to swallow AirTags
Following your four-legged friend is not without danger. (WSJ$)
quote of the day
“I could press the red button, shut down my laptop and get under my covers for a few hours.”
—Phoebe Gavin, former executive director of talent and development at news site Vox, reflects on the benefits of being fired via video call rather than in person at The Wall Street Journal.
The big story
A private security group routinely sent Minnesota police misinformation about protesters
When U.S. marshals shot and killed a 32-year-old black man named Winston Boogie Smith Jr. in a parking lot in Minneapolis on June 3, 2021, the city was already in the midst of a police crisis. George Floyd had been murdered by a member of the police force the previous May. As protests resumed across the city, cops couldn’t keep up.
Into the void have entered private security groups, hired primarily to prevent damage to property. But the organizations have often ended up handling protest activities – a task usually reserved for the police and for which most private security guards are not trained.
One company, Conflict Resolution Group (CRG), routinely provided Minneapolis police with information about activists that was sometimes false and deeply politicized. Read the full story.
—Tate Ryan-Mosley and Sam Richards
We can still have beautiful things
A place of comfort, pleasure and distraction in these strange times. (Have ideas? Message me or tweet them to me.)
+ This one-page calendar seriously blows my mind.
+ I love that the actors rehearse Shakespeare in the dystopian video game Fallout (thanks Will!)
+ Quick—I need an emergency picture of a bearstatus!
+ Can you believe these awesome plants are carved out of wood?
+ Ambient melodies are massive right now, and I can see why.