Supply chain. Finance. Accounting. Inventory. Manufacturing. Procurement. HR. Name a mission-critical application that operates in the background to keep businesses running, and it falls under the umbrella of enterprise resource planning (ERP). Until recently, the sprawling, interconnected sets of ERP modules that ran these essential functions were configured and managed manually. In the context of an organization whose IT systems were relatively static and running in a consistent, predictable environment, this might not be a problem. Those well-established conventional IT systems, however, can no longer be taken for granted. Companies are accelerating their digital transformation efforts, automating, optimizing, and reinventing their business processes. The pace of change continues to accelerate: Deloitte reports, for example, that 58% of organizations have stepped up their modernization plans due to the covid-19 pandemic. Many ERP apps are now being moved to public cloud services, such as AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud, while others are being replaced with SaaS-based alternatives, including Salesforce and Workday. The previously monolithic ERP platform is being deconstructed. Enterprises now find themselves with a mixed-bag, hybrid cloud environment: some legacy core applications remain on premises, while new applications are cloud native and run in containers or as microservices. This new ERP landscape is more distributed and more complex than ever before. And failure to effectively monitor these ERP apps could result in business outages that can cost the company dearly. Shawn Windle, founder and managing principal at ERP Advisers Group, puts it bluntly: “The intrinsic value of these systems is that they run the business. Without these apps, you don’t have a business.” This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.
This is today’s edition of , our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. Overwhelmed by the rapid pace of new tech? Let us help. It’s been a busy year. Over the past 12 months, we’ve witnessed the explosion of generative AI, the collapse of crypto, and a whole lot of promises from lawmakers pledging to slow the march of climate change. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all this rapid change, we’re here to help. Our section is dedicated to untangling the complex, sometimes messy, world of science and technology to help you understand what’s happening. Our series of explainers cut through the noise and get to the heart of the issues that really matter, covering everything from biotechnology and cryptocurrency to quantum computing and what’s going on in China’s tech industry. Take a look over some of our fascinating explainers: + Our quick guide to the 6 ways we can regulate AI. A handy guide to all the most (and least) promising efforts to govern AI around the world. .+ Ethereum moved to proof of stake. Why can’t Bitcoin? There is no technical obstacle to making the notoriously energy-hungry cryptocurrency far more efficient—just a social one. . + ChatGPT is everywhere. Here’s where it came from. OpenAI’s breakout hit was an overnight sensation—but it is built on decades of research. . + Everything you need to know about the wild world of alternative jet fuels. Find out more about how trash, cooking oil, and green electricity could power your future flights. . + How to log off. Sick of spending all your time staring at your devices? Here’s how to strike a healthier balance. . Is there a particular topic you’d like to see our writers tackle in the future? Get in touch with your suggestions! The must-reads I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology. 1 Apple wants to make you care about augmented realityIn theory, it’s got a better shot at success than companies that lack its elusive cool factor. ()+ Its rumored new mixed reality headset is worrying the competition. ( $)+ The launch could be a much-needed shot in the arm for VR startups. ( $)+ The metaverse is still fundamentally uncool, though. ( $)+ The metaverse is a new word for an old idea. () 2 A new antibiotic is thwarting resistant bugsIf approved, it’d be the first of its kind to be green-lit in more than two decades. ( $)+ The next pandemic is already here. Covid can teach us how to fight it. () 3 ChatGPT has pumped the tech industry back up But the AI boom has been far from good news for everyone. ( $)+ It could take over 10 years for some economies to reap the rewards. ( $)+ ChatGPT is about to revolutionize the economy. () 4 A biotech company mistakenly told 400 patient they may have cancerIt’s a harrowing example of the dangers of over-relying on detection tech. ( $) 5 China has had enough of AI-driven fraudIts tight internet restrictions mean it could be relatively successful in cracking down on it, too. ( $) 6 We still can’t seem to quit coalIt’s a lifeline for Asia, in particular—and demand is likely to grow. ( $)+ Climate scientists are worried about the cooling upper atmosphere. ( $) 7 Bitcoin enthusiasts are agonizing over what to do with memecoinsPurists argue the system is being abused by a proliferation of junk coins. ( $) 8 An Irish town has banned children from owning smartphonesIt’s a voluntary system that can only really work if everyone agrees. () 9 Takeout customers are increasingly picking up their orders themselvesThe apps’ high delivery fees are to blame. ( $) 10 Recycling is rarely as simple as it should beA new AI system makes it easier to tell whether that container should be chucked in the trash instead. ()+ Why you might recycle a battery—and how to do it. () Quote of the day “They know how to build a religion.” —Inga Petryaevskaya, CEO of virtual and augmented reality startup ShapesXR, tells the why Apple might give her industry a much-needed boost. The big story The FBI accused him of spying for China. It ruined his life. June 2021 In April 2018, Anming Hu, a Chinese-Canadian associate professor at the University of Tennessee, received an unexpected visit from the FBI. The agents wanted to know whether he’d been involved in a Chinese government “talent program,” offering overseas researchers incentives to bring their work back to Chinese universities. Not too long ago, American universities encouraged their academics to build ties with Chinese institutions, but the US government is now suspicious of these programs, seeing them as a spy recruitment tool. Despite Hu’s denial he was involved in such programs, a little less than two years later, they showed up again—this time to arrest him. . —Karen Hao & Eileen Guo 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 .) + is the loneliest in the known universe + Wow: 100 women in San Francisco managed to . Seriously inspiring stuff (thanks Stefan!)+ This is an incredibly talented artist, to boot. + You never know what you’re going to find .+ Google’s , which allows you to merge emojis into a brand new creation, is hours of endless entertainment. Top image credit: LEON NEAL/GETTY IMAGES
This is today’s edition of , our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. Welcome to the new surreal. How AI-generated video is changing film. The Frost nails its uncanny, disconcerting vibe in its first few shots. Vast icy mountains, a makeshift camp of military-style tents, a group of people huddled around a fire, barking dogs. It’s familiar stuff, yet weird enough to plant a growing seed of dread. There’s something wrong here.Welcome to the unsettling world of AI moviemaking. The Frost is a 12-minute movie from Detroit-based video creation company Waymark in which every shot is generated by an image-making AI. It’s one of the most impressive—and bizarre—examples yet of this strange new genre. . —Will Douglas Heaven Microplastics are everywhere. What does that mean for our immune systems? Microplastics are pretty much everywhere you look. These tiny pieces of plastic pollution, less than five millimeters across, have been found in human blood, breast milk, and placentas. They’re even in our drinking water and the air we breathe. Given their ubiquity, it’s worth considering what we know about microplastics. What are they doing to us? The short answer is: we don’t really know. But scientists have begun to build a picture of their potential effects from early studies in animals and clumps of cells, and new research suggests that they could affect not only the health of our body tissues, but our immune systems more generally. . —Jessica Hamzelou This story is from The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly newsletter covering all things biotech. to receive it in your inbox every Thursday. The must-reads I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology. 1 Apple is preparing to reveal its mixed reality headset But if the Reality Pro device lacks that essential killer app, Apple’s got an uphill slog ahead of it to convince us to care. ( $)+ The latest product says a lot about how Apple wants to defend its existing products. ( $)+ Meta managed to announce its latest Quest 3 headset just in time. ( $)+ Human moderators in the metaverse are proving essential to digital safety. () 2 A blood test for 50 kinds of cancer is showing promiseIt could help doctors to find the cancer’s source and how best to treat it. ()+ How AI analysis of disease in primates could help us humans. ( $) 3 Elon Musk has been accused of insider tradingHe’s been accused of using his influence to push Dogecoin, for the third time. () 4 Boeing has delayed its crewed spaceflight for NASA againOriginally slated to take off in April, the flight has been dogged with issues. ()+ SpaceX has eclipsed Boeing in recent years. ( $)+ Future moon missions’ large landers could make things seriously dusty. ( $) 5 How India built a sprawling hacker for hire industryWhile Russia, China and Iran’s hackers are notorious, India’s networks are growing rapidly. ( $)+ The hacking industry faces the end of an era. () 6 All that leftover hand sanitiser is ruining people’s livesThe stench after old stock caught on fire is unbearable for California residents.( $) 7 Apple customers are struggling to withdraw their cashEarly adopters of its savings account have been left feeling like guinea pigs. ( $)+ They’re starting to complain about the long transaction times. ( $) 8 Online adverts are already terribleBut the generative AI boom means they’re poised to get even worse. ( $) 9 You don’t need an app for thatOur phones are becoming app graveyards for pointless applications we simply do not use. () 10 Fans in China have resurrected a dormant pop star’s careerBut Stefanie Sun isn’t too happy about them cloning her voice with AI. ()+ Google’s new AI can hear a snippet of a song—and then keep on playing. () Quote of the day “If I could guarantee it wasn’t a scam, I would pay up to $250 for it.” —Arick Jones, a publicist, tells the how much he’d be willing to pay for an invitation code to join Bluesky, the exclusive social network backed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. The big story The delivery apps reshaping life in India’s megacities June 2022 Every day, N. Sudhakar sits in his hole-in-the wall grocery store in the Indian city of Bangalore. Packed floor to ceiling with everything from 20-kilogram sacks of rice to one-rupee ($.01) shampoo sachets, this one-stop shop supplies most of the daily needs for many in the neighborhood. It’s one of the roughly 12 million family-run “kiranas” found on almost every street corner in India. Increasingly, the technology industry is presenting stores like his with a new challenge. Across the road, a steady stream of delivery drivers line up to grab groceries from a mini-warehouse built to enable ultra-fast deliveries. In India’s megacities, the urban middle class is gradually getting hooked on online shopping. These shoppers make up a fraction of the population, but their spending power is considerable. The battle for India’s street corner is well underway. . —Edd Gent 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 .) + We still don’t fully understand why we find , but this fun video helps to shed some light on how it seems to influence our behavior.+ Today marks 21 years since The Wire debuted on HBO. Where does it rank among your ?+ This is a true artist, and no one can convince me otherwise.+ Buckle up: we’re going on an !+ The ancient art of is hypnotic.
This article is from The Checkup, MIT Technology Review’s weekly biotech newsletter. To receive it in your inbox every Thursday, . Microplastics are pretty much everywhere you look. These tiny pieces of plastic pollution, less than five millimeters across, have been found in human blood, , and . Yes, they are in our drinking water and the air we breathe. But they’ve also been found in regions of the planet that you might think of as pristine, such as the , the Galápagos Islands, and —the deepest part of the ocean. Most recently, we’ve heard that the recycling process can release tons of microplastics into the environment. Given their horrifying ubiquity, it’s worth considering what we know about microplastics. What are they doing to us? The short answer is: we don’t really know. But scientists have begun to build a picture of their potential effects from early studies in animals and clumps of cells. This week, I came across that looks at the impact microplastics might have on our immune cells. It is really difficult to do this kind of research in people—you can’t ethically inject a person with tiny bits of plastic, for a start. So the researchers looked at cells in a dish. Specifically, they looked at macrophages—a type of white blood cell that kills foreign invaders and helps get rid of dead cells. Thierry Rabilloud at the French National Centre for Scientific Research and his colleagues investigated how macrophages responded to beads of polystyrene. Tests revealed that some types of macrophages engulf the beads of plastic entirely. Others don’t. The cells that get loaded up with plastic behave differently, suggesting they may not work as well at providing protection from harmful bacteria and other invaders that might cause disease. Rabilloud and his colleagues write that microplastics could have wider effects on the immune system more generally, as well as on the health of the body tissues that the particles infiltrate. One remaining question is what happens after the plastic is taken into our cells. It’s possible that our bodies can find a way to eliminate it. But if not, it could stick around for the rest of our lives, and damage or kill those cells it has infiltrated. Microplastics could have other health consequences. You might remember a recent Tech Review about some research into their effects on seabirds, for example. These poor animals are often exposed to a lot of plastic because garbage ends up floating about on the sea, degrading extremely slowly. Here, bits of plastic can end up collecting various types of bacteria, which cling to their surfaces. Seabirds that ingest them not only end up with a stomach full of plastic—which can end up starving them—but also get introduced to types of bacteria that they wouldn’t encounter otherwise. It seems to disturb their gut microbiomes. There are similar concerns for humans. These tiny bits of plastic, floating and flying all over the world, could act as a “Trojan horse,” introducing harmful drug-resistant bacteria and their genes, as . It’s a deeply unsettling thought. As research plows on, hopefully we’ll learn not only what microplastics are doing to us, but how we might tackle the problem. Read more from Tech Review’s archive It is too simplistic to say we should ban all plastic. But we could do with revolutionizing the way we recycle it, as my colleague Casey Crownhart pointed out in an published last year. We can use sewage to track the rise of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, as in a previous edition of the Checkup. At this point, we need all the help we can get … … which is partly why scientists are also exploring the possibility of . Phages were discovered around 100 years ago and are due a comeback! Our immune systems are incredibly complicated. And sex matters: there are important differences between the immune systems of men and women, as Sandeep Ravindran wrote in , which ran in our magazine issue on gender. It is difficult to work out how the pollutants in our environments might be affecting us. But . From around the web An eating disorder helpline sacked its staff and used a chatbot to support people instead. Within weeks, the National Eating Disorder Association had to take the chatbot offline—it had been found to give information that was “harmful and unrelated to the program,” a spokesperson said. () Members of the billionaire Sackler family will be protected from future legal claims surrounding the involvement of their company in opioid prescriptions. The family, which owns Purdue Pharma, is receiving immunity in exchange for a $6 billion payment, which will go toward victim compensation and overdose rescue medication. () The people making lab-grown meat may argue that it’s better for animal welfare and the environment, but what about the religious perspectives of the people who might buy and eat it? According to surveys, 68% of Hindus would eat cultivated chicken, and 81% of Buddhist people surveyed said they’d eat cultivated beef. () What happens if you inject a psychedelic into the veins of healthy volunteers? Everything from mystical experiences and the transcendence of time and space to nausea, high blood pressure, and uneasiness. () Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. Now it appears that the microbiome of the Pacific coral reef is as diverse as that of the rest of the planet combined. Scientists found 2.87 billion genetic sequences in samples taken from 99 reefs. ()
The Frost nails its uncanny, disconcerting vibe in its first few shots. Vast icy mountains, a makeshift camp of military-style tents, a group of people huddled around a fire, barking dogs. It’s familiar stuff, yet weird enough to plant a growing seed of dread. There’s something wrong here. “Pass me the tail,” someone says. Cut to a close-up of a man by the fire gnawing on a pink piece of jerky. It’s grotesque. The way his lips are moving isn’t quite right. For a beat it looks as if he’s chewing on his own frozen tongue. Welcome to the unsettling world of AI moviemaking. “We kind of hit a point where we just stopped fighting the desire for photographic accuracy and started leaning into the weirdness that is DALL-E,” says Stephen Parker at Waymark, the Detroit-based video creation company behind The Frost. The Frost is a 12-minute movie in which every shot is generated by an image-making AI. It’s one of the most impressive—and bizarre—examples yet of this strange new genre. You can watch the film below in an exclusive reveal from MIT Technology Review. To make The Frost, Waymark took a script written by Josh Rubin, an executive producer at the company who directed the film, and fed it to . After some trial and error to get the model to produce images in a style they were happy with, the filmmakers used DALL-E 2 to generate every single shot. Then they used D-ID, an AI tool that can add movement to still images, to animate these shots, making tents flap in the wind and lips move. “We built a world out of what DALL-E was giving back to us,” says Rubin. “It’s a strange aesthetic, but we welcomed it with open arms. It became the look of the film.” “This is certainly the first generative AI film I’ve seen where the style feels consistent,” says Souki Mehdaoui, an independent filmmaker and cofounder of Bell & Whistle, a consultancy specializing in creative technologies. “Generating still images and puppeteering them gives it a fun collaged vibe.” The Frost joins a string of short films made using various tools that have been released in the last few months. The best generative video models can still produce only a few seconds of video. So the current crop of films exhibit a wide range of styles and techniques, ranging from storyboard-like sequences of still images, as in The Frost, to mash-ups of many different seconds-long video clips. In February and March, Runway, a , hosted an AI film festival in New York. Highlights include the otherworldly by Laen Sanches, a dizzying sequence of odd, plastic-wrapped sea creatures generated by the image-making model Midjourney; the dreamlike by Jake Oleson, which uses a technology called NeRF (neural radiance fields) that turns 2D photos into 3D virtual objects; and the surreal nostalgia of by Sam Lawton, a slideshow of Lawton’s old family photos that he got DALL-E 2 to extend beyond their borders, letting him toy with the half-remembered details of old pictures. Expanded Childhood / Sam Lawton Lawton showed the images to his father and records his reaction in the film: “Something’s wrong. I don’t know what that is. Do I just not remember it?” Fast and cheap Artists are often the first to experiment with new technology. But the immediate future of generative video is being shaped by the advertising industry.Waymark made The Frost to explore how generative AI could be built into its products. The company makes video creation tools for businesses looking for a fast and cheap way to make commercials. Waymark is one of several startups, alongside firms such as Softcube and Vedia AI, that offer bespoke video ads for clients with just a few clicks. Waymark’s current tech, launched at the start of the year, pulls together several different AI techniques, including large language models, image recognition, and speech synthesis, to generate a video ad on the fly. Waymark also drew on its large data set of non-AI-generated commercials created for previous customers. “We have hundreds of thousands of videos,” says CEO Alex Persky-Stern. “We’ve pulled the best of those and trained it on what a good video looks like.” To use Waymark’s tool, which it offers as part of a tiered subscription service starting at $25 a month, users supply the web address or social media accounts for their business, and it goes off and gathers all the text and images it can find. It then uses that data to generate a commercial, using OpenAI’s GPT-3 to write a script that is read aloud by a synthesized voice over selected images that highlight the business. A slick minute-long commercial can be generated in seconds. Users can edit the result if they wish, tweaking the script, editing images, choosing a different voice, and so on. Waymark says that more than 100,000 people have used its tool so far. The trouble is that not every business has a website or images to draw from, says Parker. “An accountant or a therapist might have no assets at all,” he says. Waymark’s next idea is to use generative AI to create images and video for businesses that don’t yet have any—or don’t want to use the ones they have. “That’s the thrust behind making The Frost,” says Parker. “Create a world, a vibe.” The Frost has a vibe, for sure. But it is also janky. “It’s not a perfect medium yet by any means,” says Rubin. “It was a bit of a struggle to get certain things from DALL-E, like emotional responses in faces. But at other times, it delighted us. We’d be like, ‘Oh my God, this is magic happening before our eyes.’” This hit-and-miss process will improve as the technology gets better. DALL-E 2, which Waymark used to make The Frost, was released just a year ago. Video generation tools that generate short clips have only been around for a few months. The most revolutionary aspect of the technology is being able to generate new shots whenever you want them, says Rubin: “With 15 minutes of trial and error, you get that shot you wanted that fits perfectly into a sequence.” He remembers cutting the film together and needing particular shots, like a close-up of a boot on a mountainside. With DALL-E, he could just call it up. “It’s mind-blowing,” he says. “That’s when it started to be a real eye-opening experience as a filmmaker.” Chris Boyle, cofounder of Private Island, a London-based startup that makes short-form video, also recalls his first impressions of image-making models last year: “I had a moment of vertigo when I was like, ‘This is going to change everything.’” Boyle and his team have made commercials for a range of global brands, including Bud Light, Nike, Uber, and Terry’s Chocolate, as well as short in-game videos for blockbuster titles such as Call of Duty. Private Island has been using AI tools in postproduction for a few years but ramped up during the pandemic. “During lockdown we were very busy but couldn’t shoot in the same way we could before, so we started leaning a lot more into machine learning at that time,” says Boyle. The company adopted a range of technologies that make postproduction and visual effects easier, such as creating 3D scenes from 2D images with NeRFs and using machine learning to rip motion-capture data from existing footage instead of collecting it from scratch. But generative AI is the new frontier. A couple of months ago, Private Island posted a spoof beer commercial on its Instagram account that was produced using Runway’s video-making model Gen-2 and Stability AI’s image-making model Stable Diffusion. It became a slow-burn viral hit. Called , the video shows a typical backyard party scene where young, carefree people kick back and sip their drinks in the sunshine. Except many of these people have gaping holes instead of mouths, their beer cans sink into their heads when they drink and the backyard is on fire. It’s a horror show. Synthetic Summer / Private Island “You watch it initially—it’s just a very generic, middle-of-the-road Americana thing,” says Boyle. “But your hind brain or whatever is going, ‘Ugh all their faces are on backwards.’” “We like to play around with using the medium itself to tell the story,” he says. “And I think ‘Synthetic Summer’ is a great example because the medium itself is so creepy. It kind of visualizes some of our fears about AI.” Playing to its strengths Is this the beginning of a new era of filmmaking? Current tools have a limited palette. The Frost and “Synthetic Summer” both play to the strengths of the tech that made them. The Frost is well suited to the creepy aesthetic of DALL-E 2. “Synthetic Summer” has many quick cuts, because video generation tools like Gen-2 produce only a few seconds of video at a time that then need to be stitched together. That works for a party scene where everything is chaotic, says Boyle. Private Island also looked at making a martial arts movie, where rapid cuts suit the subject. This may mean that we will start to see generative video used in music videos and commercials. But beyond that, it’s not clear. Apart from experimental artists and a few brands, there aren’t many other people using it yet, says Mehdaoui. The constant state of flux is also off-putting to potential clients. “I’ve spoken with many companies who seem interested but balk at putting resources into projects because the tech is changing so fast,” she says. Boyle says that many companies are also wary of the ongoing lawsuits around the use of copyrighted images in the . Nobody knows for sure where this is headed, says Mehdaoui: “There are a lot of assumptions being thrown like darts right now, without a whole lot of nuanced consideration behind them.” In the meantime, filmmakers are continuing to experiment with these new tools. Inspired by the work of Jake Olseon, who is a friend of hers, Mehdaoui is using generative AI tools to make a short documentary to help destigmatize opioid use disorder. Waymark is planning a sequel to The Frost, but it is not sold on DALL-E 2. “I’d say it’s more of a ‘watch this space’ kind of thing,” says Persky-Stern. “When we do the next one, we’ll probably use some new tech and see what it can do.” Private Island is experimenting with other films too. Earlier this year it made a video with a script produced by and images produced by Stable Diffusion. Now it is working on a film that’s a hybrid, with live-action performers wearing costumes designed by Stable Diffusion. “We’re very into the aesthetic,” says Boyle, adding that it’s a change from the dominant imagery in digital culture, which has been reduced to the emoji and the glitch effect. “It’s very exciting to see where the new aesthetics will come from. Generative AI is like a broken mirror of us.”
This is today’s edition of , our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. The world is finally spending more on solar than oil production Money makes the world go round. And when it comes to energy, we’re seeing more investment than ever: companies, research institutions, and governments are all pouring money into technologies that could help power our world in the future. The International Energy Agency just published its annual report on global investment in energy, where it tallies up all that cash. The world saw about $2.8 trillion of investments in energy in 2022, with about $1.7 trillion of that going into clean energy. That’s the biggest single-year investment in clean energy ever, and where it’s all going is pretty interesting. Our climate reporter Casey Crownhart has some good news, some bad news, and a couple of surprising tidbits to share.. Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things climate. to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday. Check out some of our other recent renewable energy stories: + Yes, we have enough materials to power the world with renewable energy. We won’t run out of key ingredients for climate action, but mining comes with social and environmental ramifications. . + Busting three myths about materials and renewable energy. Here’s what you really need to know about mining and climate change. . + Inside the little-known group setting the corporate climate agenda. The Science Based Targets initiative has earned praise for pushing companies to take climate action, but can voluntary emissions targets really get the world where it needs to be? . The must-reads I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology. 1 Amazon has been fined $25 million for violating children’s privacyIt’s a warning to all companies using people’s data to train their AI models. ( $)+ It collected data from children who’d conversed with its Alexa assistant. ( $)+ The company is ruthless when it comes to axing its own projects. ( $) 2 Scientists have taken the first X-ray of a single atom It’s an achievement they say could pave the way to curing life-threatening diseases. () 3 New cars sold in the US will need automatic braking systemsSafety regulators are confident it will save lives. ()+ Cars getting so much larger is another major factor, too. ( $) 4 Greener steel is on the horizonIt makes a lot more sense to rely on electricity than hydrogen to produce it. ( $)+ How green steel made with electricity could clean up a dirty industry. () 5 Outer space has a cyberthreat problemWhile it’s tough to launch malware attacks in space, it’s not impossible. ()+ What are the mysterious orbs the Pentagon keeps spotting? () 6 Psychedelic experiments are getting even weirderErasing people’s memories of their trips is one way researchers are trying to better study the drugs’ effects. ( $)+ Mind-altering substances are being overhyped as wonder drugs. () 7 AI is a hit-and-miss coderWhile some of what models are able to generate is decent, other parts are shoddy. ( $)+ The open-source AI boom is built on Big Tech’s handouts. How long will it last? () 8 That laptop you’re trying to recycle may not be recycled at allIn fact, it could end up being sold on eBay. ( $) 9 How permanently sharing your location affects your relationshipsThe illusion of privacy is easily shattered if you’re always keeping tabs on each other. () 10 India’s Facebook groups are helping to rehome stray pets It’s an easy way to reach a huge audience of animal lovers. () Quote of the day “Fear is contagious, but so is courage.” —Heavy, a member of the Ukrainian army, describes her platoon leader’s philosophy to as she and her fellow recruits prepare a long-anticipated counteroffensive to recapture the city of Bakhmut. The big story How Bitcoin mining devastated this New York town April 2022If, in 2017, you had taken a gamble and purchased a comparatively new digital currency called Bitcoin, today you might be a millionaire many times over. But while the industry has provided windfalls for some, local communities have paid a high price, as people started scouring the world for cheap sources of energy to run large Bitcoin-mining farms. It didn’t take long for a subsidiary of the popular Bitcoin mining firm Coinmint to lease a Family Dollar store in Plattsburgh, a city in New York state offering cheap power. Soon, the company was regularly drawing enough power for about 4,000 homes. And while other miners were quick to follow, the problems had already taken root. . —Lois Parshley 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 .) + The secret to a truly delicious coffee cake? It’s all in the .+ A new exhibition claims to have unearthed some —from eBay, of all places.+ Morris dancing has had a .+ ’s incredible Renaissance World Tour outfits have to be seen to be believed.+ Here’s an interesting explanation for why every season .
This article is from The Spark, MIT Technology Review’s weekly climate newsletter. To receive it in your inbox every Wednesday, Money makes the world go round. And when it comes to energy, we’re seeing more investment than ever: companies, research institutions, and governments are all pouring money into technologies that could help power our world in the future. The International Energy Agency just published , where it tallies up all that cash. The world saw about $2.8 trillion of investments in energy in 2022, with about $1.7 trillion of that going into clean energy. That’s the biggest single-year investment in clean energy ever, and where it’s all going is pretty interesting. I have some good news, some bad news, and a couple of surprising tidbits to share. So grab some popcorn and let’s dive into the data. Fossil fuels are faltering Let’s start with what I consider to be good news: there’s a lot of money going into clean energy—including renewables, nuclear, and things that help cut emissions, like EVs and heat pumps. And not only is it a lot of money, but it’s more than the amount going toward fossil fuels. In 2022, for every dollar spent on fossil fuels, $1.70 went to clean energy. Just five years ago, it was dead even. Clean energy’s growing dominance is especially clear when it comes to solar power. In 2023, for the first time, investment in solar energy is expected to beat out investment in oil production. It’s a stark difference from what the picture looked like a decade ago, when oil spending outpaced solar spending by nearly six to one. While we’re on oil and gas, I think it’s worth pointing out one really interesting point: while there’s a lot of money flowing to clean energy, it doesn’t make up a big share of spending by fossil-fuel companies. See those tiny dark slivers in 2021 and 2022? That’s the share of oil and gas companies’ spending that went toward clean energy. Spending on oil infrastructure has fallen (which is what’s allowed solar to catch up), but companies are making up for it by paying out dividends, buying back stock, and paying back debt rather than putting more into low-emissions tech. Any investment and attention going to renewables and innovations that could help cut emissions is great, and I do think oil and gas companies can play a role in boosting new technologies, especially those where they have expertise (I’m looking at you, geothermal!). But I think it’s important to keep that spending in context—oil and gas companies are putting less money into renewables than . Bring it on Within clean energy, the vast majority of spending is going into renewables like wind and solar, grid upgrades, and efforts to improve energy efficiency. But smaller sectors are growing quickly, especially when you look at projections for this year. I’m really excited to see how fast money is moving into electric vehicles: spending went from $29 billion as recently as 2020 to an expected $129 billion in 2023. And spending on batteries for energy storage is set to double between 2022 and 2023. All that new money could change everything, and there are already big shifts in the battery industry because of it. We can’t seem to go more than a few days without an announcement of a new battery factory (most recently, yet in Georgia). If all these plans take shape, we’re going to reach nearly seven terawatt-hours of manufacturing capacity for lithium-ion batteries in 2030. That’s enough for over 100 million EVs annually. Most of it’s going to be in China, but the US and Europe are starting to make a dent in that country’s dominance of all things EV. The road ahead So this all sounds like a lot of money … but is it enough? To keep global warming below 1.5 °C over preindustrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to reach net-zero emissions around 2050. If we’re going to hit that goal, according to the IEA, annual investment needs to reach $4.5 trillion in 2030—nearly triple current spending. Some technologies are actually in great shape. Solar spending just needs to keep growing as it has been for that sector to keep pace with the 2050 goal. But there needs to be much more spending in other areas, especially technologies like energy storage and transmission lines—that will help balance the grid as more solar and other intermittent renewable power sources come online. There’s also a huge geographical imbalance, and poorer countries will need a significant boost to help build up their electrical grids and establish new technologies. Investments are broadly on the right track, and I’m excited to see what next year’s report will hold. But there’s still definitely a long road ahead and a lot of building left to do. Keeping up with climate Induction stoves could replace your polluting gas range. They might seem like magic, but these futuristic appliances are powered by magnets. () This is a great comprehensive guide to “permitting reform,” a crucial policy fight in the energy space with what’s possibly the most boring name possible. () Electric cooktops, heat pumps, and EV chargers can help save money and address emissions in homes. But progress isn’t always so simple when your landlord has the final say over changes. () → We’re going to need a lot more EV chargers. () China was already the world’s largest EV exporter, and now the country is shipping even more cars around the world. () The first new nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle in Georgia finally reached its full power output this week, only seven years late and $17 billion over budget. () → Smaller nuclear reactors have been held up as a potential solution to delays and cost inflation. So where are they? () Starting up on summer yard work? Here’s a guide for all the electric yard tools your heart could possibly desire. ()
This is today’s edition of , our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. Longevity enthusiasts want to create their own independent state. They’re eyeing Rhode Island. —Jessica Hamzelou Earlier this month, I traveled to Montenegro for a gathering of longevity enthusiasts, people interested in extending human life through various biotechnology approaches. All the attendees were super friendly, and the sense of optimism was palpable. They’re all confident we’ll be able to find a way to slow or reverse aging—and they have a bold plan to speed up progress. Around 780 of these people have created a “pop-up city” that hopes to circumvent the traditional process of clinical trials. They want to create an independent state where like-minded innovators can work together in an all-new jurisdiction that gives them free rein to self-experiment with unproven drugs. Welcome to Zuzalu. . China isn’t waiting to set down rules on generative AI Back in April, the Chinese internet regulator published a draft regulation on generative AI. The document doesn’t call out any specific company, but the way it is worded makes it clear that it was inspired by the incessant launch of large-language-model chatbots in China and the US. The draft regulation is a mixture of sensible restrictions on AI risks and a continuation of China’s strong government tradition of aggressive intervention in the tech industry. But while many of the clauses in the draft regulation are principles that AI critics are advocating for in the West, it also contains rules that other countries would likely balk at. . —Zeyi Yang Zeyi’s story is from China Report, his weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on what’s going on in China. to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday. The must-reads I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology. 1 Elizabeth Holmes has started her 11-year prison sentenceIt’s a remarkable fall from grace for the entrepreneur, who was convicted of defrauding Theranos’ investors. () + Her fellow prisoners are nonplussed by her arrival, though. ( $)+ Holmes and her business partner have to pay $452 million in restitution. ( $) 2 Nvidia has become the first trillion dollar chipmakerThanks to the AI boom. ( $)+ Fellow chipmaker Intel is feeling the pressure. ( $)+ These simple design rules could turn the chip industry on its head. () 3 Researchers are worried that ChatGPT can’t stop hallucinatingMaking up answers to simple queries is more of a feature than a bug. ( $)+ Chatbots can be useful for people with autism looking to practice interactions. ( $)+ A lawyer is in trouble after using ChatGPT to cite non-existent cases. () 4 Twitter is experimenting with crowdsourced fact checksWhich seems… risky, to say the least. () 5 Pandemic simulations can never fully prepare usA lot of them aren’t adequately challenging, for one. ( $)+ One key element to prevent future pandemics? Lots of money. ( $)+ AI could help with the next pandemic—but not with this one. () 6 An eating disorder helpline has disabled its chatbotThe bot, which was designed to replace human volunteers, doled out harmful weight-loss advice. () 7 Surveilled workers are feeling the pressureArbitrary metrics don’t paint the full picture of how hard someone’s working. () 8 The seriously complicated reality of food delivery appsIt’s virtually impossible for ordinary customers to work out where their money goes. ( $) 9 The menopause is an untapped resource for understanding agingThe problem, as ever, is getting funding for research into women’s health. ( $)+ The debate over whether aging is a disease rages on. () 10 Who gets to colonize the moon? A moon activity registry could be one way to find out. ( $)+ The US is brushing up on its space diplomacy rules. ( $)+ Future space food could be made from astronaut breath. () Quote of the day “We feel a lot like the filling sandwiched in the middle of a biscuit.” —Ryan, a software startup founder based in Shenzhen, China, tells about the frustration he and other entrepreneurs feel at the barriers facing Chinese companies hoping to expand into the US due to trade restrictions. The big story What if aging weren’t inevitable, but a curable disease? August 2019 Since ancient times, aging has been viewed as simply inevitable, unstoppable, nature’s way. “Natural causes” have long been blamed for deaths among the old, even if they died of a recognized pathological condition. The medical writer Galen argued back in the second century AD that aging is a natural process. His view, the acceptance that one can die simply of old age, has dominated ever since. But a growing number of scientists are questioning our basic conception of aging. What if you could challenge your death—or even prevent it altogether? And what would change if we classified aging itself as the disease? . —David Adam 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 .) + I’ve got some beef with the order, but this is good fun (thanks Stefan!)+ Who doesn’t love a ?+ Why aren’t always the bad guys we make them out to be. + Dire news from the UK: because of what they say is a downgrade in the quality of chocolate flakes.+ The hipster is dead: .
China Report is MIT Technology Review’s newsletter about technology developments in China. to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday. Back in April, there was a major development in the AI space in China. The Chinese internet regulator published a draft regulation on generative AI. Named call out any specific company, but the way it is worded makes it clear that it was inspired by the incessant launch of large-language-model chatbots and . Last week, ” to talk about the draft regulation—and what it means for the Chinese government to take such quick action on a still-very-new technology. As I said in the podcast, I see the draft regulation as a mixture of sensible restrictions on AI risks and a continuation of China’s strong government tradition of aggressive intervention in the tech industry. Many of the clauses in the draft regulation are principles that AI critics are advocating for in the West: data used to train generative AI models shouldn’t infringe on intellectual property or privacy; algorithms shouldn’t discriminate against users on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, gender, and other attributes; AI companies should be transparent about how they obtained training data and how they hired humans to label the data. At the same time, there are rules that other countries would likely balk at. The government is asking that people who use these generative AI tools register with their real identity—just as on any social platform in China. The content that AI software generates should also “reflect the core values of socialism.” Neither of these requirements is surprising. The Chinese government has regulated tech companies with a strong hand in recent years, punishing platforms for lax moderation and into the established censorship regime. The document makes that regulatory tradition easy to see: there is frequent mention of other rules that have passed in China, on personal data, algorithms, deepfakes, cybersecurity, etc. In some ways, it feels as if these discrete documents are slowly forming a web of rules that help the government process new challenges in the tech era. The fact that the Chinese government can react so quickly to a new tech phenomenon is a double-edged sword. The strength of this approach, which looks at every new tech trend separately, “is its precision, creating specific remedies for specific problems,” , a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The weakness is its piecemeal nature, with regulators forced to draw up new regulations for new applications or problems.” If the government is busy playing whack-a-mole with new rules, it could miss the opportunity to think strategically about a long-term vision on AI. We can contrast this approach with that of the EU, which has been working on a “hugely ambitious” AI Act for years, as . (A recent revision of the AI Act draft included regulations on generative AI.) There’s one point I didn’t get to make in the podcast but that I think is fascinating. Despite the restrictive nature of the document, it’s also a tacit encouragement for companies to keep working on AI. The maximum proposed fine set for violating the rules is 100,000 RMB—about $15,000, a minuscule number for any company that has the capacity to build large language models. Of course, if a company is fined each time its AI model violates the rules, the amounts can pile up. But the size of the fine suggests that the rules are not made to scare the companies away from investing in AI. As Angela Zhang, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, , the government is playing multiple roles: “The Chinese government should not only be viewed as a regulator, but also as an advocate, sponsor, and investor in AI. Ministries championing AI development, along with state sponsors and investors, are poised to become a potent counterbalance against stringent AI regulation.” It may take a few months still before regulators finalize the draft, and months after that before it goes into effect. But I know that many people, including me, will be keeping a close eye on any changes. Who knows? By the time the regulation goes into effect, there could be another new viral AI product that compels the government to come up with yet more rules. You never know. Have you observed anything interesting about China’s generative AI regulation? All opinions are welcome. Send them to email@example.com. Catch up with China 1. China sent its new ambassador, Xie Feng, to the US. He was a leading negotiator for Beijing in a prisoner-exchange deal in 2021 that involved a Huawei executive and two Canadian citizens. () 2. Nvidia’s chief warned US lawmakers to be “thoughtful” about restricting semiconductor trade with China. () 3. C919, China’s first large homegrown passenger jet, completed its first commercial flight this weekend. () 4. The Hong Kong government mandated this year that all SIM cards be registered with real names. One man is challenging that rule in the court. () 5. Chinese hackers have targeted Kenyan government institutions for years, potentially to gain information on debt owed to Beijing. () 6. Though the company claims that it has strict data protection practices, TikTok employees regularly posted user information on a messaging and collaboration tool called Lark, also developed by ByteDance. () 7. The Vietnamese government is planning to launch a massive probe into TikTok. Unlike the US, Vietnam thinks the app needs more censorship. () Lost in translation The biggest news in China’s auto industry this week is that BYD, a world-leading hybrid and EV company whose EV production surpassed Tesla’s this year, was publicly accused by a Chinese competitor of violating car emission regulations. On May 25, Great Wall Motor, a domestic auto brand, posted on social media that it had reported two BYD plug-in hybrid models to the government for using gas tanks that fail to comply with the rules. Just two hours later, BYD publicly responded and denied the accusation, but it didn’t release more details on the hybrid models in question. According to the Chinese publication , the accusation is a good example of business competition between the two companies. Great Wall Motor used to lead domestic gas car sales but is struggling to adapt to the global energy transition. BYD’s hybrid and EV offerings, on the other hand, have allowed it to dominate the domestic market and take off internationally. It’s not clear yet how this saga will end, as people are waiting on the government to comment on the validity of the accusation. If it’s true, it could deal a big blow to BYD’s brand image and commercial prospects.
It’s a Friday morning in early May, and I’ve woken up to the sound of waves crashing against the rocks in a small bay on the coast of the Adriatic. The sky is completely gray, and there are continual rumbles of thunder. The weather has been bad since I arrived in Montenegro. It was too stormy for the pilot to land the plane I was traveling on, and we ended up touching down in neighboring Croatia. I’m here for a gathering of longevity enthusiasts, people interested in extending human life through various biotechnology approaches. One attendee, with whom I ended up sharing a cross-border taxi ride, told me half of his luggage was “supplements and powders.” Most attendees seem to be wearing “longevity” stickers. Everyone is super friendly, and the sense of optimism is palpable. Everyone I speak to is confident we’ll be able to find a way to slow or reverse aging. And they have a bold plan to speed up progress. Welcome to Zuzalu Humans have been searching for the fountain of youth for thousands of years. But progress has been slow, to say the least. Though plenty of companies are working on ways to slow or reverse the process, it’s incredibly difficult and expensive to run a study to find out whether a treatment has helped people live longer. And health agencies like the World Health Organization . Now a community of people is working on an alternative setup, including perhaps even establishing an independent state. Aging is “morally bad,” they argue, and it’s a problem that needs to be solved. They see existing regulations as roadblocks to progress and call for a different approach. Less red tape allows for more innovation, they say. People should be encouraged to self-experiment with unproven treatments if they wish. And companies shouldn’t be held back by national laws that limit how they develop and test drugs. Around 780 such people gathered at this “pop-up city” in Montenegro to work out how they might create such a state—a place where like-minded innovators can work together in an all-new jurisdiction that gives them free rein to self-experiment with unproven drugs. Some attendees are just visitors, passing through. But the dedicated among them have been living here for almost two months. Welcome to Zuzalu. I heard about through a contact who invests in longevity technologies. The gathering, held at a luxury resort in Tivat, Montenegro, runs until the end of May. Each week has a different theme, ranging from synthetic biology to artificial intelligence, although the overarching focus is on longevity, cryptocurrencies, and the idea of creating novel jurisdictions. “Zuzalu is not just a conference,” Laurence Ion, one of the core organizers, told an audience at the event. “It’s an experiment in co-living and exploring what the physical presence of an online tribe would look like.” The concept came from the mind of Vitalik Buterin, the inventor of the cryptocurrency Ethereum, although the organizers stress that it was a collaborative effort. The word Zuzalu doesn’t mean anything, says co-organizer Janine Leger, who works at Gitcoin, a blockchain platform. The name was generated using ChatGPT, using multiple prompts. The event’s logo was also AI generated. Buterin “spent hours on that one,” Leger says. Over a cup of tea, Leger and Ion told me that they wanted as little hierarchy as possible. Members of the core team behind the event were each given 10 invitations, and those invitees were also given their own set of invitations. Leger and Ion won’t tell me who made the invite list, but other attendees gave me the names of celebrities, politicians, and billionaires who were rumored to have dropped in. A temporary home The resort itself feels more like a very small town on part of the steep, hilly coastline. There’s a fancy hotel, but there are also hundreds of luxury apartments, where many of Zuzalu’s residents made a temporary home. Over the two months, the organizers planned several themed conferences. But residents have been encouraged to set up their own events too. And there are plenty of social activities, including a daily cold plunge in the sea and community breakfasts. Other events included a “social VR baptism + beat saber party,” a truth-or-dare night, and meditation sessions. I was disappointed to learn that I’d missed out on the Pony Art Garden Party. I arrived just in time for the launch of Zuzalu’s longevity biotech conference—a three-day event that brought together people from universities, startups, and longevity clinics around the world. We heard from startups working on ways to keep people healthier for longer, and ultimately to extend our life spans. But one of the core goals of attendees is to develop what they call a network state. “It’s a highly aligned online community with the capacity for collective action,” , a PhD student at the National University of Singapore who hopes to find a cure for aging, told the crowd during a panel session. “On top of that, it crowdfunds territory around the world and aims to gain diplomatic recognition as a state.” This particular network state would be dedicated to longevity, and to fast-tracking technologies that might possibly add more healthy years to our lives. Life is good, and death is morally bad, said Nathan Cheng, who leads the Longevity Biotech Fellowship, an online community for people working in the field. “We have this moral imperative to do something about death, about aging,” he said. “This is the moral philosophy that we believe in, that guides most of the actions of our lives. We’re trying to get more people to rally around it.” A longevity state Cheng made the case for what he calls a longevity state: “a state that prioritizes doing something about aging.” The state could encourage biotech companies to set up bases there by offering tax perks, supporting biohacking, and loosening regulations on clinical trials, panel members said. It should be up to individuals to decide how much risk they are willing to accept—doctors shouldn’t have the final say on whether a person is able to access an experimental treatment. The plan is modeled on , a movement launched just over 20 years ago with the goal of encouraging 20,000 libertarians to move to New Hampshire. The idea is that once enough people with a particular ideology move to a region, their votes can begin to alter regional policies and state laws. (It’s worth noting that the outcome of the New Hampshire project has not been entirely rosy, and there were of an increase in violent crime and bear attacks in the town at the project’s center.) There are no firm plans for a longevity state just yet, and Zuzalu’s organizers stress that they want any decisions to be made collaboratively. The new state could find a home in a special economic zone, or even on the high seas. But the idea is appealing to biotech companies working on treatments that target aging. Plenty of companies are trying to develop drugs that target the aging process, whether by rejuvenating cells or clearing away aged ones, for example. For those companies, “the number-one issue at the moment is that there is no regulatory path to market,” says Zuzalu attendee Josef Christensen, chief business development officer at the stem-cell company StemMedical. Part of the issue is that . This makes it difficult to approve a trial for an aging treatment, and unlikely that a longevity drug could be medically approved for that purpose. Even if aging were a disease, it would be incredibly difficult and expensive to show that a treatment slowed or reversed it. Trial participants would have to be monitored for decades. The alternative would be to use biomarkers that indicate how biologically old a person is, or to use “aging clocks.” In theory, instead of waiting for someone to die of old age, you could take a spit or blood sample and estimate the person’s rate of aging from certain DNA markers. But we don’t yet have truly reliable biomarkers or . As a result, in the current regulatory environment a potential longevity drug might be shown to extend the life span of mice but still be years away from human trials. And given how long those trials could take, who knows when, if ever, such a drug might become available to consumers outside of clinical trials. “You cannot get to market with an anti-aging drug,” says Christensen. “The hypothesis is that if we have a longevity state, we could create that pathway.” Human guinea pigs One of the key features of this proposed state is that it would allow, and possibly encourage, self-experimentation and biohacking. That means enabling people to get their hands on experimental drugs that have not yet been proved to be safe or effective. Christensen supports the idea. “I’m sufficiently ultra-liberal … who am I to prevent you from trying a compound?” he says. “We’re all adults, and if you understand what you’re doing and understand the risk, then do it.” Regulators are “too restrictive about validating efficacy,” says Yuri Deigin, cofounder and director of Youth Bio, a biotech company trying to develop rejuvenating gene therapies. “I’m all for validating the safety of novel therapies,” he says. But he thinks that the bar is too high when it comes to proving how well a drug works—and that this is holding back progress. “I think we as a field could benefit [from allowing] people to try novel therapies earlier,” he says. Oliver Colville, a speaker at Zuzalu who works at Apeiron, an organization that invests in biotech and technology companies, likes the sound of a state in which self-experimenting inhabitants have their health tracked. “If you had a longevity state where one of the premises was … offering yourself up as a guinea pig for monitoring,” he says, “I think that could go a long way to understanding some of the key things [about healthy aging].” But while investors, libertarians, and some biotech companies support the idea, not everyone is keen on stripping away regulations. There’s a good chance that doing so could end up hampering progress in the field, says Patricia Zettler, a legal scholar at Ohio State University. “[Food and Drug Administration] requirements force individuals or companies to conduct rigorous scientific research to demonstrate that the claims they’re making are, in fact, supported by scientific evidence,” she says. Without those, we’d end up in a world where companies can make up any old claims about their products, she warns. We wouldn’t know which would work, and people could lose trust in the field more generally. “Should companies be able to distribute products without evidence that their products work for medical uses?” she says. “My answer is no.” At any rate, the problems faced by those developing longevity drugs go way beyond regulation, she says: “These are just difficult scientific and medical problems.” Christensen acknowledges other potential problems with lifting regulations. “If you lower the bar [of evidence], the logical conclusion is that you’ll see more adverse events … more potential deaths from these things,” he says. He also points out that even if a drug did go through some kind of fast-tracked trial in a longevity state, it might not be accepted by other jurisdictions—including the major worldwide players like Europe and the federal government of the US. A home in Rhode Island? Exactly where a longevity state might be developed is currently being worked out. The backers, Ion suggests, could take their lead from the founders of—a crypto city set up in a special economic zone in Honduras, designed to offer companies a low-tax environment with “innovation-friendly” regulations. Zuzalu’s organizers have been in talks with politicians in Montenegro, where they are exploring the possibility of creating a similar long-term home for pro-longevity devotees. “Basically what we’re trying to do is get people to take proactive political action, which could include relocation to, potentially, certain states and jurisdictions around the world, so you can vote and transform the policies of the state to benefit all the people within that state,” Cheng said. He also raised the possibility of setting up a longevity state in the US, since the country is home to plenty of longevity supporters and biotech companies that might not be willing to move internationally. Specifically, he has his sights set on Rhode Island. It’s close to Boston, a well-established biotech hub. And it has a small population. If enough people who believed in his moral philosophy moved there, they could have enough voting power to influence mayoral and state elections, he said. “Five to ten thousand people—that’s all we need,” he told the attendees. But the structure of the US government might complicate the plan. “No state can eliminate federal law,” says Zettler. “It’s not as though Rhode Island can exempt individuals … from the requirements of the FDA.” That’s one reason why other attendees suggested the new state be located somewhere in Latin America, such as Costa Rica. The week after I left, Montenegro’s prime minister was due to arrive at Zuzalu. Some planned to discuss the idea of a longevity state there, during “Montenegro Day.” Whatever the outcome of Zuzalu, it was certainly a fascinating event that has brought together a diverse group of people to bat about some bold ideas. During my brief visit, I heard people propose everything from longevity fashion brands to cryonics. Deigin told me that for him, a highlight was “living among people who are your tribe.” Another attendee, who had already been there for six weeks when I spoke to him, likened Zuzalu to a religion. The organizers hope to plan other, similar gatherings in the future. Whether any result in a new state for life-extending drugs, we’ll have to wait and see.
This is today’s edition of , our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. How to talk about AI (even if you don’t know much about it) Everyone is talking about AI, it seems. But if you feel overwhelmed or uncertain about what the hell people are talking about, don’t worry. We’ve got you. Melissa Heikkilä, our senior AI reporter, asked some of the best journalists in the business to share their top tips on how to talk about AI with confidence.Given that they spend their days obsessing over the tech, listening to AI folks and then translating what they say into clear, relatable language with important context, it’s fair to say they know a thing or two about what they’re talking about. to learn the seven things you ought to pay particular attention to when talking about AI. This story is from The Algorithm, Melissa’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things AI. to receive it in your inbox every Monday. The future of TikTok bans Montana recently banned TikTok in the most dramatic move US legislators have made against the company to date. US policymakers have been scrutinizing the app intensely in recent months over concerns about Chinese espionage, and under the new changes, marketplaces like Google Play and Apple’s App Store could face fines of $10,000 per day if they make TikTok available to users in Montana from 1 January next year. So are we really proceeding down a path where we might have to delete and re-download certain apps as we cross state lines? What is the future of TikTok bans, and could they ever actually be enforced? Tate Ryan-Mosley, our senior tech policy reporter, has dug into it all. . For more incisive analysis, to The Technocrat, Tate’s weekly tech policy newsletter, and receive it in your inbox every Friday. The must-reads I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology. 1 AI could pose as big a threat to humanity as nuclear war That’s what some AI leaders are warning, but it’s a deeply contested message. ( $)+ Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build. () 2 Germany is betting big on fusion energyA promising startup is the latest to take on the challenge. ( $)+ This startup says its first fusion plant is five years away. Experts doubt it. () 3 China has sent its first civilian astronaut into spaceIt’s the latest step in the country’s plans to make it to the moon by 2030. ()+ It’s also part of China’s plans to appear prepared in the event of a war in space. ( $)+ How to fight a war in space (and get away with it) () 4 Who really benefits from the AI rush?Savvy chipmakers and infrastructure suppliers are laughing all the way to the bank. ( $)+ Nvidia says that AI is turning everyone into a programmer. ( $) 5 California has a serious EV charger shortageIt’d better get a move on before its new electric-only regulations come into force. ( $)+ EVs just got a big boost. We’re going to need a lot more chargers. () 6 Texas is cooling on Elon MuskIn typical Musk fashion, he’s moving fast and breaking things ( $) 7 Sex workers love Twitter SpacesEven if the rest of the platform is falling apart before our eyes. ( $) 8 Blank screens are getting tens of millions of YouTube viewsThe days-long videos are surprising productivity tools. () 9 Vintage radio lovers are ready for the apocalypse If cellular networks fail, these enthusiasts will know exactly what to do. () 10 Social media can’t get enough of bad poetrySimple verses lend themselves to brief posts—but that doesn’t make them good. () Quote of the day “No such thing as a high pay low stress job in tech.” —An anonymous Amazon employee responds to a fellow tech worker seeking advice on online career community Blind on how to find a less stressful job, reports. The big story The metaverse is a new word for an old idea February 2022 In less than a year, the metaverse graduated from a niche term to a household name. Its metamorphosis began in July 2021, when Facebook announced that it would dedicate the next decade to bringing the metaverse to life: an immersive, rich digital world combining aspects of social media, online gaming, and augmented and virtual reality. But we would be remiss if we didn’t take a step back to ask where the metaverse comes from. It’s not nearly as new as it looks, and knowing its history can reveal potential pitfalls and lessons already learned. . —Genevieve Bell 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 .) + aren’t just bygone figures—they’re also the names of some of the world’s oldest trees.+ I challenge you to take a look at these and not immediately rush to book a vacation.+ If you’re mourning the end of Succession as well, don’t worry— are here for you.+ There is no , so far as we know, which is somewhat comforting.+ This timelapse of is quite something.
This story originally appeared in The Algorithm, our weekly newsletter on AI. To get stories like this in your inbox first, . Everyone is talking about AI, it seems. But if you feel overwhelmed or uncertain about what the hell people are talking about, don’t worry. I’ve got you. I asked some of the best AI journalists in the business to share their top tips on how to talk about AI with confidence. My colleagues and I spend our days obsessing over the tech, listening to AI folks and then translating what they say into clear, relatable language with important context. I’d say we know a thing or two about what we’re talking about. Here are seven things to pay attention to when talking about AI. 1. Don’t worry about sounding dumb “The tech industry is not great at explaining itself clearly, despite insisting that large language models will change the world. If you’re struggling, you aren’t alone,” says Nitasha Tiku, the Washington Post’s tech culture reporter. It doesn’t help that conversations about AI are littered with jargon, she adds. “Hallucination” is a fancy way of saying an AI system . And “prompt engineers” are just people who know to get what they want. Tiku recommends watching YouTube . “Skip the AI influencers for the more subdued hosts, like Computerphile,” she says. “IBM Technology is great if you’re looking for something short and simple. There’s no channel aimed at casual observers, but it can help demystify the process.” And however you talk about AI, some people will grumble. “It sometimes feels like the world of AI has splintered into fandoms with everyone talking past each other, clinging to pet definitions and beliefs,” says Will Douglas Heaven, MIT Technology Review’s senior editor for AI. “Figure out what AI means to you, and stick to it.” 2. Be specific about what kind of AI you’re talking about “‘AI’” is often treated as one thing in public discourse, but AI is really a collection of a hundred different things,” says Karen Hao, the Wall Street Journal’s China tech and society reporter (and the !). Hao says that it’s helpful to distinguish which function of AI you are talking about so you can have a more nuanced conversation: are you talking about natural-language processing and language models, or computer vision? Or different applications, such as chatbots or cancer detection? If you aren’t sure, of various practical applications of artificial intelligence. Talking about “AI” as a singular thing obscures the reality of the tech, says Billy Perrigo, a staff reporter at Time. “There are different models that can do different things, that will respond differently to the same prompts, and that each have their own biases, too,” he says. 3. Keep it real “The two most important questions for new AI products and tools are simply: What does it do and how does it do it?” says James Vincent, senior editor at The Verge. There is a trend in the AI community right now to talk about the long-term risks and potential of AI. It’s easy to be distracted by hypothetical scenarios and imagine what the technology could possibly do in the future, but discussions about AI are usually better served by being pragmatic and focusing on the actual, not the what-ifs, Vincent adds. The tech sector also has a tendency to overstate the capabilities of their products. “Be skeptical; be cynical,” says Douglas Heaven. This is especially important when talking about AGI, or artificial general intelligence, which is typically used to mean software that is as smart as a person. (Whatever that means in itself.) “If something sounds like bad science fiction, maybe it is,” he adds. 4. Adjust your expectations Language models that power AI chatbots such as ChatGPT often “hallucinate,” or make things up. This can be annoying and surprising to people, but it’s an inherent part of how they work, says Madhumita Murgia, artificial-intelligence editor at the Financial Times. It’s important to remember that language models aren’t search engines that are built to find and give the “right” answers, and they don’t have infinite knowledge. They are predictive systems that are generating the most likely words, given your question and everything they’ve been trained on, Murgia adds. “This doesn’t mean that they can’t write anything original … but we should always expect them to be inaccurate and fabricate facts. If we do that, then the errors matter less because our usage and their applications can be adjusted accordingly,” she says. 5. Don’t anthropomorphize AI chatbots have captured the public’s imagination because they generate text that looks like something a human could have written, and they give users the illusion they are interacting with something other than a computer program. But programs are in fact all they are. It’s very important not to anthropomorphize the technology, or attribute human characteristics to it, says Chloe Xiang, a reporter at Motherboard. “Don’t give it a [gendered] pronoun, [or] say that it can feel, think, believe, et cetera.” Doing this helps that AI systems are more capable and sentient than they are. I’ve found it’s really easy to slip up with this, because our language has not caught up with ways to describe what AI systems are doing. When in doubt, I replace “AI” with “computer program.” Suddenly you feel really silly saying a computer program told someone to ! 6. It’s all about power While hype and nightmare scenarios may dominate news headlines, when you talk about AI it is crucial to think about the role of power, says Khari Johnson, a senior staff writer at Wired. “Power is key to raw ingredients for making AI, like compute and data; key to questioning ethical use of AI; and key to understanding who can afford to get an advanced degree in computer science and who is in the room during the AI model design process,” Johnson says. Hao agrees. She says it’s also helpful to keep in mind that AI development is very political and involves massive amounts of money and many factions of researchers with competing interests: “Sometimes the conversation around AI is less about the technology and more about the people.” 7. Please, for the love of God, no robots Don’t picture or describe AI as a scary robot or an all-knowing machine. “Remember that AI is basically computer programming by humans—combining big data sets with lots of compute power and intelligent algorithms,” says Sharon Goldman, a senior writer at VentureBeat. Deeper Learning Catching bad content in the age of AI In the last 10 years, Big Tech has become really good at some things: language, prediction, personalization, archiving, text parsing, and data crunching. But it’s still surprisingly bad at catching, labeling, and removing harmful content. One simply needs to recall the spread of conspiracy theories about elections and vaccines in the United States over the past two years to understand the real-world damage this causes. The ease of using generative AI could turbocharge the creation of more harmful online content. People are already using AI language models to create . But could AI help with content moderation? The newest large language models are much better at interpreting text than previous AI systems. In theory, they could be used to boost automated content moderation. Bits and Bytes Scientists used AI to find a drug that could fight drug-resistant infectionsResearchers at MIT and McMaster University developed an AI algorithm that allowed them to find a new antibiotic to kill a type of bacteria responsible for many drug-resistant infections that are common in hospitals. This is an exciting development that shows how AI can accelerate and support scientific discovery. () Sam Altman warns that OpenAI could quit Europe over AI rulesAt an event in London last week, the CEO said OpenAI could “cease operating” in the EU if it cannot comply with the upcoming AI Act. Altman said his company found much to criticize in how the AI Act was worded, and that there were “technical limits to what’s possible.” This is likely an empty threat. I’ve heard Big Tech say this about one rule or another. Most of the time, the risk of losing out on revenue in the world’s second-largest trading bloc is too big, and they figure something out. The obvious caveat here is that many companies have chosen not to operate, or to have a restrained presence, in China. But that’s also a very different situation. () Predators are already exploiting AI tools to generate child sexual abuse materialThe National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has warned that predators are using generative AI systems to create and share fake child sexual abuse material. With powerful generative models being rolled out with safeguards that are inadequate and easy to hack, it was only a matter of time before we saw cases like this. () Tech layoffs have ravaged AI ethics teams This is a nice overview of the drastic cuts Meta, Amazon, Alphabet, and Twitter have all made to their teams focused on internet trust and safety as well as AI ethics. Meta, for example, ended a fact-checking project that had taken half a year to build. While companies are racing to roll out powerful AI models in their products, executives like to boast that their tech development is safe and ethical. But it’s clear that Big Tech views teams dedicated to these issues as expensive and expendable. ()
This article is from The Technocrat, MIT Technology Review’s weekly tech policy newsletter about power, politics, and Silicon Valley. To receive it in your inbox every Friday, . Recently, I drove from Washington, DC, to New York and passed through Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey on the way while scrolling through Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. Crossing all those state lines got me thinking about Montana and its recent ban on TikTok, the massive social media app owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance. Are we really proceeding down a path where I might have to delete and re-download certain apps as I cross state lines? What is the future of TikTok bans, and could they ever actually be enforced? US policymakers have been scrutinizing the app intensely in recent months over concerns about Chinese espionage, but Montana’s ban is the most dramatic move so far. Legislators structured the law to target marketplaces like Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Starting on January 1, 2024, those companies could face a fine of $10,000 per day if they make TikTok available to users in Montana. A lot of pundits, politicians, and technologists have as ridiculous, unconstitutional, and. And it’s already seeing legal challenges. On Monday, TikTok filed a following a from a group of users, citing Constitutional grounds. Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University and co-director of the law school’s High Tech Law Institute, told me that he doubts the bans are anything more than a political play, intended to deliver a message: “It’s just propaganda, not actually an effort to keep Montanans safe.” There is still that TikTok is handing over user data to the Chinese government on the scale that US politicians are claiming. But proposed TikTok bans are cropping up all over the US with mostly bipartisan support, and President Biden has threatened a national ban as well. It’s also not the first time US lawmakers have pushed a TikTok backlash; in 2020, the Trump administration tried to ban the app but was blocked after . As for its enforceability, what would happen if Montana’s ban did go into effect? Would I have to delete the app if I went to visit Glacier National Park? That’s not at all likely, and the current law looks to cut off access to the app at the point of initial download—not for people who already have it on their phones. have already started the potential loss of their platforms and communities on the app, but they might not need to worry too much, as the law also doesn’t directly threaten to punish TikTok users. Removing TikTok from app stores would significantly reduce its ability to gain new users, and the stores would be tasked with policing access according to device location. TechNet, a lobby group that represents Apple and Google, says that enforcement of such a policy is as the stores don’t have the ability to “geofence” by state. Goldman says Montana lawmakers likely never intended to craft a truly enforceable bill. “They pass bills that aren’t likely to ever work, but they’re not intended for that purpose. They’re intended to show that the legislatures care about certain constituents,” he said. Governor Greg Gianforte hasn’t replied to my questions. Montana’s ban seems unlikely to survive all the legal challenges, but we might see similar bills pass in other states, which is even more interesting within the broader context of how internet speech regulation is playing out in the US. State legislatures influence each other and serve as laboratories for the national political strategies of both parties. And right now, everyone is experimenting with how to increase limitations on social media and the harm it can do, especially in the absence of national internet speech and privacy laws. I’ve recently written about the wave of , efforts to that host relevant websites, and the fragmented patchwork of state-based laws that we’re creating in the US. Many of these sorts of bills, like the TikTok ban, are highly politicized and unlikely to survive judicial review, but they drain effort, money, and attention from productive national conversations about how to make the internet a safe, open space. The ACLU of Montana and other free-speech organizations have come out in opposition of the ban. Keegan Medrano, policy director at the ACLU of Montana, said in a statement, “We will never trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points.” Ultimately, that seems like the real danger posed by experimenting with these bans—that politics is encroaching on policymaking. It’s a tale as old as time. Unfortunately for us, this era of junk internet bills seems here to stay. What else I’m reading Speaking of the China-US tech war, on Wednesday that Chinese malware and other places in the US. US intelligence agencies found out about the hack back in February; it appeared as mysterious code that enables remote access to a server in “critical” cyber infrastructure. The attack, , appears to be ongoing. Guam is an essential location for any US military response in Taiwan. Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president in 2024 on Twitter Spaces yesterday in an interview with Elon Musk. The , but the event was monumental for reasons beyond the promotion of the site’s premier audio feature. It marked a clear call to a more right-wing politics that to the platform. What I learned this week We’re starting to learn a bit about the mess of online mis- and disinformation around covid-19 vaccines over the past few years. A from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that some efforts to combat bad information were effective. Exposure to good information did more to change people’s minds than direct rebuttals, which could actually backfire and make people less likely to take the vaccine. The expertise and trustworthiness of the information source were also important factors, and the researchers found that doctors were effective messengers.
This is today’s edition of , our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. A brain implant changed her life. Then it was removed against her will.Sticking an electrode inside a person’s brain can do more than treat a disease. Take the case of Rita Leggett, an Australian woman whose experimental brain implant designed to help people with epilepsy changed her sense of agency and self. Leggett told researchers that she “became one” with her device. It helped her to control the unpredictable, violent seizures she routinely experienced, and allowed her to take charge of her own life. So she was devastated when, two years later, she was told she had to remove the implant because the company that made it had gone bust. The removal of this implant, and others like it, might represent a breach of human rights, ethicists say in a paper published earlier this month. And the issue will only become more pressing as the brain implant market grows in the coming years and more people receive devices like Leggett’s. . —Jessica Hamzelou You can read more about what happens to patients when their life-changing brain implants are removed against their wishes in the , Jessica’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things biotech. to receive it in your inbox every Thursday. If you’d like to read more about brain implants, why not check out: + Brain waves can tell us how much pain someone is in. The research could open doors for personalized brain therapies to target and treat the worst kinds of chronic pain. . + An ALS patient set a record for communicating via a brain implant. Brain interfaces could let paralyzed people speak at almost normal speeds. . + Here’s how personalized brain stimulation could treat depression. Implants that track and optimize our brain activity are on the way. . The must-reads I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology. 1 Chipmaker Nvidia is hurtling towards a trillion dollar valuationThe AI boom has sent the company’s value skyrocketing. ( $)+ It’s gaining ground on the likes of Apple and Microsoft. ( $)+ But Nvidia is still reliant on third parties to actually manufacture its chips. ( $)+ These simple design rules could turn the chip industry on its head. () 2 Neuralink has FDA approval to study brain implants in humansBut the company is still under investigation for how it conducted trials in animals. ()+ The agency refused Neuralink permission to start testing in humans last year. ( $)+ Elon Musk’s Neuralink is neuroscience theater. () 3 North and South Korea are locked in a new space race They want to use spy satellites to gain an edge on each other. ( $) 4 The success of mRNA vaccines could pave the way for cancer jabsBut experts are, understandably, still treading very cautiously. ()+ What’s next for mRNA vaccines. () 5 Deep sea mining is threatening newly-discovered speciesIt could devastate the precious eco-systems before we have the opportunity to protect them. () 6 US authorities are demanding Big Tech hands over migrant dataBut we don’t know how often the platforms comply with the subpoenas. () 7 Our organs are aging at different ratesAging clocks can help us to keep an eye on our deterioration—but they don’t always provide a full picture of health. ()+ A test told me my brain and liver are older than they should be. () 8 How the internet birthed a new pan-Asian beauty idealAnd erased facial asymmetry along the way. ( $)+ The fight for “Instagram face” () 9 Sergey Brin’s not giving up on his airship dreamsIt’s been a passion project for years—but costs are mounting. ( $) 10 It’s time to break free from push notifications They’re intrusive and annoying, so why not get rid? ( $) Quote of the day “There will be an awful lot of losing lottery tickets.” —Trevor Greetham, an investment strategist at Royal London Investment Management, tells why investors rushing to make a quick buck on AI-themed stocks would do well to remember the lessons of the dotcom crash. The big story Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI June 2022Around a year and a half ago, Yann LeCun realized he had it wrong. LeCun, who is chief scientist at Meta’s AI lab and a professor at New York University, is one of the most influential AI researchers in the world. He had been trying to give machines a basic grasp of how the world works—a kind of common sense—by training neural networks to predict what was going to happen next in video clips of everyday events. But guessing future frames of a video pixel by pixel was just too complex. He hit a wall. Now, after months figuring out what was missing, he has a bold new vision for the next generation of AI, which he thinks will one day give machines the common sense they need to navigate the world. But his vision is far from comprehensive; indeed, it may raise more questions than it answers. . —Melissa Heikkilä & Will Douglas Heaven 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 .) + These are adorable.+ Wow, was released on this day in 1967.+ At last, my life-long dream of is about to be realized—if I can make it to a McDonalds in China, that is.+ The fight for the right to is rumbling on.+ If you’ve been meaning to get into for a while, consider this a sign.
This article is from The Checkup, MIT Technology Review’s weekly biotech newsletter. To receive it in your inbox every Thursday, . Ian Burkhart sustained a severe spinal cord injury while he was on vacation at 19 years old. “It left me as a quadriplegic,” he says. “I had a little bit of movement in my arms, but nothing in my hands.” He wanted something that could give him more independence. And that’s how he came across a clinical trial for a brain implant that would change his life. Experimental brain-computer interfaces are being trialed to help treat paralysis and epilepsy, among other things. They can transform a person’s health, independence, and very sense of self. So if a company or research team runs out of money and wants to remove the implant, it can have devastating consequences for the recipient. Burkhart’s device was implanted in his brain around nine years ago, a few years after he was left unable to move his limbs following a diving accident. He volunteered to trial the device, which enabled him to move his hand and fingers. But it had to be removed seven and a half years later. His particular implant was a small set of 100 electrodes, carefully inserted into a part of the brain that helps control movement. It worked by recording brain activity and sending these recordings to a computer, where they were processed using an algorithm. This was connected to a sleeve of electrodes worn on the arm. The idea was to translate thoughts of movement into electrical signals that would trigger movement. Burkhart was the first to receive the implant, in 2014; he was 24 years old. Once he had recovered from the surgery, he began a training program to learn how to use it. Three times a week for around a year and a half, he visited a lab where the implant could be connected to a computer via a cable leading out of his head. “,” says Burkhart. “We started off just being able to open and close my hand, but after some time we were able to do individual finger movements.” He was eventually able to combine movements and control his grip strength. He was even able to play Guitar Hero. “There was a lot that I was able to do, which was exciting,” he says. “But it was also still limited.” Not only was he only able to use the device in the lab, but he could only perform lab-based tasks. “Any of the activities we would do would be simplified,” he says. For example, he could pour a bottle out, but it was only a bottle of beads, because the researchers didn’t want liquids around the electrical equipment. “It was kind of a bummer it wasn’t changing everything in my life, because I had seen how beneficial it could be,” he says. At any rate, the device worked so well that the team extended the trial. Burkhart was initially meant to have the implant in place for 12 to 18 months, he says. “But everything was really successful … so we were able to continue on for quite a while after that.” The trial was extended on an annual basis, and Burkhart continued to visit the lab twice a week. The device changed his life. “It definitely gave me a lot of hope for the future,” he says. But there was bad news ahead. “It was probably around the five-year mark that we started running into some issues with funding,” he says. When the team did manage to secure funding, it was only for six to eight months. At one point, Burkhart says, he was told to have the implant removed, but assured that he could have it put back in once funding had come through. “That’s not the way to handle it,” he says. “It’s a big risk to have the device removed, and then to put one back in right away.” In 2021, he started developing an infection at the point where the cable led into his scalp. “That was the final nail in the coffin,” he says. He agreed to have the device removed in August of 2021 and has been without it since. Having the implant removed was difficult, he tells me. “When I first had my spinal cord injury, everyone said: ‘You’re never going to be able to move anything from your shoulders down again,’” he says. “I was able to restore that function, and then lose it again. That was really tough.” I spoke to a neurologist involved in clinical trials for brain-computer interfaces, who told me that informed consent is vital—trial volunteers need to know exactly what’s going to happen. But it’s not that simple, as Burkhart’s experience makes clear. “I knew the device was going to have to come out at some point,” Burkhart says. “But I didn’t know what it was going to feel like.” Today, Burkhart is optimistic. And busy. He runs his own foundation, which provides support for people with spinal cord injuries. He consults for medical device manufacturers and works with an organization aiming to ensure that relevant medical research incorporates the voices and experiences of those with spinal cord injuries. And he and others who have volunteered in similar trials have formed the BCI Pioneers Coalition. Members work with companies developing devices and advise on their design. Burkhart and his colleagues also advocate for the technology at conferences—“to get people excited about not just the science fiction aspect of what’s possible, but about the reality of what’s possible for … individuals with disabilities,” he says. The BCI Pioneers Coalition is advocating for companies to be required to set up some sort of fund to support and care for trial volunteers when clinical trials go wrong or come to an end. After all he’s been through, Burkhart says he would do it all again. “I definitely look forward to having another type of device implanted at some point in the future,” he says. “I’m really passionate about seeing this type of technology progress and get to the point where people can use it in their day-to-day life.” Read more from Tech Review’s archive Nathan Copeland has a similar brain implant, and describes himself as a cyborg. He that if he had a wireless device implanted, he would probably use it to play video games. Last year, a completely paralyzed man used a brain implant to communicate entire sentences. He requested soup and beer and asked to play games with his son, as I last March. And a woman with the motor neuron disease ALS was able to type her thoughts at a record-breaking rate of 62 words per minute, as Antonio earlier this year. Others are using brain implants in slightly different ways—to understand and treat disorders like depression. One man I spoke to last year . Brain implants might be able to improve memory in people with brain damage. That was the preliminary finding of researchers who have developed what they call a memory prosthesis, as I last year. From around the web Gene therapies can be eye-wateringly expensive. The most expensive drug of 2023 is a treatment for hemophilia B, with a $3.5 million price tag. Here are the other most expensive drugs in the US in 2023. () A novel class of injected weight-loss drugs have made a big splash in recent months. Now an oral version of semaglutide, the drug marketed as Ozempic and Wegovy, appears to have comparable results. People who took a daily tablet lost 15% of their body weight over 17 months, according to drug manufacturer Novo Nordisk. () Curiously, people who are already taking Ozempic injections say they have also stopped drinking, shopping, smoking, and nail-biting. Did scientists accidentally create an anti-addiction drug? () Ever had a lightbulb moment? A pair of researchers reckon they’ve found a pattern of brain activity associated with what they call “the Eureka effect,” and that it requires the cooperation of brain regions involved in memory, creative thinking, and the control of attention. () Millionaire tech entrepreneur Bryan Johnson is taking part in an intergenerational blood swap with his son and father in an attempt to keep the older men young. Johnson is already spending millions on various treatments to try to slow or even reverse his rate of aging. ()
Sticking an electrode inside a person’s brain can do more than treat a disease. Take the case of Rita Leggett, an Australian woman whose experimental brain implant changed her sense of agency and self. She told researchers that she “became one” with her device. She was devastated when, two years later, she was told she had to remove the implant because the company that made it had gone bust. The removal of this implant, and others like it, might represent a breach of human rights, ethicists say . The issue will only become more pressing as the brain implant market grows in the coming years and more people receive devices like Leggett’s. “There might be some forms of human rights violations that we haven’t understood yet,” says ethicist Marcello Ienca at the Technical University of Munich, a coauthor of the paper. “Being forced to endure removal of the [device] … robbed her of the new person she had become with the technology,” Ienca and his colleagues wrote. “The company was responsible for the creation of a new person … as soon as the device was explanted, that person was terminated.” Leggett received her device during a clinical trial for a brain implant designed to help people with epilepsy. She was diagnosed with severe chronic epilepsy when she was just three years old and routinely had violent seizures. The unpredictable nature of the episodes meant that she struggled to live a normal life, says Frederic Gilbert, a coauthor of the paper and an ethicist at the University of Tasmania, who regularly interviews her. “She couldn’t go to the supermarket by herself, and she was barely going out of the house,” he says. “It was devastating.” Leggett was recruited for the clinical trial when she was 49 years old, says Gilbert. A research team in Australia was testing the effectiveness of a device designed to warn people with epilepsy of upcoming seizures. Trial volunteers had four electrodes implanted to monitor their brain activity. Recordings were sent to a device that trained an algorithm to recognize patterns preceding a seizure. A handheld device would signal how likely a seizure was to occur in the coming minutes or hours—a red light indicated an imminent seizure, while a blue light meant a seizure was very unlikely, for example. Leggett signed up and had the device implanted in 2010. Human-machine symbiosis While trial participants enjoyed varying degrees of success, the device worked brilliantly for Leggett. For the first time in her life, she had agency over her seizures—and her life. With the advance warning from the device, she could take medication that prevented the seizures from occurring. “I felt like I could do anything,” she told Gilbert in interviews undertaken in the years since. “I could drive, I could see people, I was more capable of making good decisions.” Leggett herself, now 62, declined an interview; she is recovering from a recent stroke. She also felt that she became a new person as the device merged with her. “We had been surgically introduced and bonded instantly,” she said. “With the help of science and technicians, we became one.” Gilbert and Ienca describe the relationship as a symbiotic one, in which two entities benefit from each other. In this case, the woman benefited from the algorithm that helped predict her seizures. The algorithm, in turn, used recordings of the woman’s brain activity to become more accurate. But it wasn’t to last. In 2013, NeuroVista, the company that made the device, essentially ran out of money. The trial participants were advised to have their implants removed. (The company itself no longer exists.) Leggett was devastated. She tried to keep the implant. “[Leggett and her husband] tried to negotiate with the company,” says Gilbert. “They were asking to remortgage their house—she wanted to buy it.” In the end, she was the last person in the trial to have the implant removed, very much against her will. “I wish I could’ve kept it,” Leggett told Gilbert. “I would have done anything to keep it.” Years later, she still cries when she talks about the removal of the device, says Gilbert. “It’s a form of trauma,” he says. “I have never again felt as safe and secure … nor am I the happy, outgoing, confident woman I was,” she told Gilbert in an interview after the device had been removed. “I still get emotional thinking and talking about my device … I’m missing and it’s missing.” Leggett has also described a deep sense of grief. “They took away that part of me that I could rely on,” she said. If a device can become part of a person, then its removal “represents a form of modification of the self,” says Ienca. “This is, to our knowledge, the first evidence of this phenomenon,” he says. Ian Burkhart, who received an experimental brain implant to restore movement to his hands following a spinal cord injury, has also experienced feelings of loss. “When I signed up … I knew the device would be explanted at the end of the trial,” says Burkhart, who had his device removed in 2021. “I would say I lost a sense of myself to some degree.” “When I first had my spinal cord injury, everyone said: ‘You’re never going to be able to move anything from your shoulders down again’” Burkhart says. “I was able to restore that function, and then lose it once again. That was really tough.” Burkhart’s case is different from Legget’s. He was only able to use his device in a lab setting, which he said helped him compartmentalize its benefits. And while the team that implanted his device also struggled with funding, it was an infection that eventually led to its removal. But his implant changed his life, and losing it was challenging, he says: “It can be a big emotional and psychological and physical effort to have those devices removed.” Neuro rights as human rights This removal could be seen as a violation of human rights, Ienca says. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights incorporates a right to mental integrity. But this can be interpreted in different ways. Most legal systems seem to see it as a right to access mental-health care rather than specific protections against harm, says Ienca. And the right to freedom of thought enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is similarly open to interpretation. It was historically put in place to protect freedoms surrounding beliefs, religion, and speech. But that could change, says Ienca. “Rights are not static entities,” he says. He is among the ethicists and legal scholars investigating the importance of “neuro rights”—the subset of human rights concerned with the protection of the human brain and mind. Some, or whether we need new laws. “A patient should not have to undergo forcible explantation of a device,” says Nita Farahany, a legal scholar and ethicist at Duke University in North Carolina, who has written a book about neuro rights. “If there is evidence that a brain-computer interface could become part of the self of the human being, then it seems that under no condition besides medical necessity should it be allowed for that BCI to be explanted without the consent of the human user,” says Ienca. “If that is constitutive of the person, then you’re basically removing something constitutive of the person against their will.” Ienca likens it to the forced removal of organs, which is forbidden in international law. Mark Cook, a neurologist who worked on the trial Leggett volunteered for, has sympathy with the company, which he says was “ahead of its time.” “I get a lot of correspondence about this; a lot of people inquiring about how wicked it was,” he says. But Cook feels that outcomes like this are always a possibility in medical trials of drugs and devices. He stresses that it’s important for participants to be fully aware of these possibilities before they take part in such trials. Ienca and Gilbert, however, think something needs to change. Companies should have insurance that covers the maintenance of devices should volunteers need to keep them beyond the end of a clinical trial, for example. Or perhaps states could intervene and provide the necessary funding. Burkhart has his own suggestions. “These companies need to have the responsibility of supporting these devices in one way or another,” he says. At minimum, companies should set aside funds that cover ongoing maintenance of the devices and their removal only when the user is ready, he says. Burkhart also thinks the industry could do with a set of standards that allow components to be used in multiple devices. Take batteries, for example. It would be easier to replace a battery in one device if the same batteries were used by every company in the field, he points out. Farahany agrees. “A potential solution … is making devices interoperable so that it can be serviced by others over time,” she says. “These kinds of challenges that we’re now observing for the first time will become more and more common in future,” says Ienca. Several big companies, including and , are making significant investments in . And a search for “brain-computer interface” on an online clinical trials registry gives . Burkhart believes around 30 to 35 people have received brain-computer interfaces similar to his. Leggett has expressed an interest in future trials of brain implants, but her recent stroke will probably render her ineligible for other studies, says Gilbert. Since the trial ended, she has been trying various combinations of medicines to help manage her seizures. She still misses her implant. “To finally switch off my device was the beginning of a mourning period for me,” she told Gilbert. “A loss—a feeling like I’d lost something precious and dear to me that could never be replaced. It was a part of me.”
The e-mobility revolution is in high gear. Automakers are promising to launch dozens of electric models over the next decade. In August 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden set a target for 50% of new car sales to be electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030. And electric car registrations in Europe increased from 3.5% in 2019 to almost 18% in 2021, according to the European Environment Agency. Policy changes are driving the increasing popularity of e-mobility—the use of electric vehicles, such as cars, trucks, and buses, that obtain energy from a power grid. New policies include California’s Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) regulation, which requires manufacturers to sell increasing percentages of zero-emission heavy-duty trucks. Evolving consumer demands are also helping e-mobility gain mainstream traction. In fact, automotive consulting firm AutoPacific reports that consumer demand in the U.S. increased to 5.6% of total light vehicle sales in 2022. This number was 3.3% in 2021. One reason for this uptick is that consumers are looking for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional transportation vehicles, which contribute approximately one-quarter of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. These shifts in policy and consumer sentiment not only herald a new era for e-mobility, but highlight the need for continued technological advancement. “Scaling e-mobility technologies more efficiently is critical to speeding widespread adoption of electric vehicles and reducing carbon emissions across the globe,” said Jeff Harris, vice president of corporate and portfolio marketing at Keysight Technologies, a U.S.-based provider of design, emulation, and test equipment for electronics. He continues, “There are immediate opportunities for innovation across the e-mobility ecosystem that will help make EVs more affordable, convenient, and desirable to consumers.” As organizations rise to this challenge, innovations are emerging, from new battery designs to EV charging and EV supply equipment (EVSE) or charging infrastructures that, together, promise to push the envelope on electric vehicle adoption and contribute to a cleaner planet. This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.
This is today’s edition of , our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. IBM wants to build a 100,000-qubit quantum computer What’s happening: Last year, IBM took the record for the largest quantum computing system with a processor containing 433 quantum bits, or qubits, the fundamental building blocks of quantum information processing. Now, the company has set its sights on a much bigger target: a 100,000-qubit machine that it aims to build within 10 years. Why it matters: The project is part of IBM’s plans to push quantum computing into the realm of full-scale operation, where the technology could potentially tackle pressing problems that no standard supercomputer can solve. The potential: The idea is that the 100,000 qubits will work alongside the best “classical” supercomputers to achieve new breakthroughs in drug discovery, fertilizer production, battery performance, to name just a few fields. . —Michael Brooks Here’s what a lab-grown burger tastes like Eating meat has an undeniable impact on the planet. Animal agriculture makes up nearly 15% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, and beef is a particular offender, with more emissions per gram than basically any other meat. Intrigued by the promise of lab-grown meat, our climate reporter Casey Crownhart decided to see whether a cultivated Wagyu burger could ever live up to the lofty promises made by alternative meat companies. . Casey’s story is from The Checkup, her weekly climate and energy newsletter. to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday. If you’re interested in the future of alternative meats, why not check out: + Will lab-grown meat reach our plates? Ethical, environmentally friendly, mass-produced meat might be nothing more than a pipe dream. . + Your first lab-grown burger is coming soon—and it’ll be “blended.” Growing meat in a lab is still way too expensive. But mixing it with plants could help finally get it onto our plates. . The must-reads I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology. 1 Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign got off to a disastrous startThe launch on Twitter Spaces was besieged with glitches. ( $)+ Even without the bugs, launching the campaign on Twitter would have been weird. ()+ Elon Musk’s commitment to free speech is slanting sharply rightward. ( $) 2 OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman is on a global PR offensiveHowever, the protestors outside his talk in London aren’t buying it. ()+ OpenAI is backing regulation for “superintelligence,” which conveniently doesn’t exist. ( $)+ Our quick guide to the 6 ways we can regulate AI. () 3 Chinese hackers have compromised critical US infrastructureMicrosoft says they’ve been gathering intelligence across a staggeringly large range of sectors. ( $)+ The targets of the hack would be critical in an Asia-Pacific conflict. () 4 Moore’s Law is strugglingA new scheme might be the only hope to keep it going. ()+ Inside the machine that saved Moore’s Law. () 5 We can generate electricity out of thin air If it can be scaled up, it could be a future alternative to fossil fuels. ()+ This abundant material could unlock cheaper batteries for EVs. () 6 New Alzheimer’s drugs come with very high risksWhile they appear to slow the disease’s progression, they can make peoples’ brains swell and bleed. ( $)+ How AI is helping scientists to study human brains more closely. ( $) 7 This chatbot promises to protect your privacyData leaking is one of the biggest challenges facing today’s models.()+ Three ways AI chatbots are a security disaster. () 8 How Nextdoor blew up local politicsThe busy-body neighborhood app has been accused of politically-biased moderation. ( $) 9 Ticket sellers’ tech simply isn’t up to scratchDemand to see Latin America’s biggest stars perform is causing systems to buckle. () 10 How we can finally communicate with aliens Or interpret signals from elsewhere in the universe, at least. () Quote of the day “Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch. And that’s just the candidate.” —A Trump spokesperson savages US presidential candidate’s Ron DeSantis’ botched running announcement on Twitter, reports . The big story How technology helped archaeologists dig deeper April 2021 Construction workers in New York’s Lower Manhattan neighborhood were breaking ground for a new federal building back in 1991 when they unearthed hundreds of coffins. The site, known as the African Burial Ground, became one of the best-known archaeological discoveries in the country and is now a national monument. The African Burial Ground project was among the first to use a new constellation of “bioarchaeology” tools that went way beyond the traditional pickaxes and brushes. But this was simply the first stage of a much broader archaeological revolution that brought scientists and humanities scholars together to generate data about our ancestors. . —Annalee Newitz 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 .) + Goodbye to the one and only , you really were simply the best.+ Looking to book a vacation in June and need some inspiration? .+ The shimmering colors in butterflies’ wings have inspired a —the lightest paint in the world, in fact.+ How much cake is ?+ The Greek island of looks absolutely incredible.
Sitting in a booth in a hotel lobby in Brooklyn, I stared down the lineup of sliders, each on a separate bamboo plate. On the far left was a plant-based burger from Impossible Foods. On the right, an old-fashioned beef burger.And in the middle, the star of the show: a burger made with lab-grown meat. I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian. I drink whole milk in my lattes, and I can’t turn down a hot dog at a summer cookout. But as a climate reporter, I’m keenly aware of the impact that eating meat has on the planet. Animal agriculture makes up nearly , and beef is a particular offender, with than basically any other meat. So I’m really intrigued by the promise that cultivated meat could replicate the experience of eating meat without all that climate baggage. I had high hopes for my taste test. Could a lab-grown burger be everything I dreamed it might be? From left to right: an Impossible Foods plant-based burger, Ohayo Valley’s lab-grown burger, and a beef burger. The competition “We’re food-safe in this house,” said Jess Krieger, founder and CEO of the cultivated-meat company , as she pulled on a pair of black plastic gloves to lay out the three burgers I was about to try. My tasting would culminate in a sample of her company’s lab-grown Wagyu burger. We started with a plant-based burger from Impossible Foods. Founded in 2011, the company makes meat alternatives from plants. The special ingredient is heme protein, which is cranked out by genetically engineered microbes and sprinkled in for that meaty flavor. I took a small bite of the Impossible burger, and if you ask me, the taste was a pretty good approximation of the real thing, though the texture was a bit looser and softer than beef. (If you’re based in the US, you may have tried this one already yourself. In Europe, heme still hasn’t been approved by regulators, so Impossible’s products don’t include it there.) Next on the docket was the beef burger. By the way, none of these sliders had any sort of sauces or toppings on them, and Krieger says they were seasoned identically, for a fair comparison. I truly have nothing to say about this one—it was just a plain burger. Even as I was chewing, I had my eyes on the final item on my tasting menu for the day: the lab-grown version. The future of meat? Ohayo Valley’s Wagyu burgers start out as a small biopsy of muscle taken from a young cow. Cells from that sample, mostly muscle cells and fibroblasts (which can transform into fat cells as a cow grows), can then be cultivated in the lab, growing and dividing over and over again. Having a mix of muscle cells, fibroblasts, and mature fat cells in the final product is key for the flavor, Krieger says. Once the cells have proliferated enough, they’re washed with salt water to clear out the broth they’re grown in and stored in the fridge overnight. Then they can go into a burger as soon as the next day. Most of Ohayo’s work is still happening at a small lab scale, Krieger said, so altogether it took about three weeks to grow all the cells for my slider, along with four others the team planned to serve at an event later that day. The burger on my plate was actually only about 20% lab-grown material, Krieger explained. The company’s plan is to blend its cells with a base of plant-based meat (she wouldn’t tell me much about this base, just that it’s not Ohayo’s recipe). Plants can help provide the structure for alternative meats, Krieger says. One other major benefit to this blending technique is financial: the lab-grown components are expensive, so mixing in plants can help keep costs down. My colleague Niall Firth wrote about this process of (and Ohayo Valley) in 2020. The , served at a conference in 2013, cost an estimated $330,000 to make. The field has come a long way since, with Singapore becoming the first country to allow commercial sales of . And in November 2022, a company in the US passed one of the final hurdles from the Food and Drug Administration. All this context was swirling in my head as I picked up the lab-grown burger and took a bite. It was definitely different from beef, but maybe not in a bad way. To me, the lab-grown burger had a strong resemblance to the one from Impossible Foods. The texture was similar, which makes sense since it was mostly made from plants. Taste-wise, I thought the lab-grown meat may have been a bit closer to the beef burger, but I found myself wondering if I’d feel the same way if I didn’t know which was which. Was my brain tricking me into thinking it tasted more like meat, since I knew that there were animal cells in it? I took bites of all three burgers again to try to figure it out. I’m still not sure. There are a lot of unanswered questions about lab-grown meat, including whether companies will be able to produce it at commercial scale, how expensive it’ll turn out to be, what the climate impacts will actually look like, and whether anyone will eat this in the first place. Overall, we could probably use more options that are better for the climate than beef is today. I know that beans and tofu and lentils exist, and I’ve got some great vegetarian recipes I turn to sometimes. But I’m just not ready to give up burgers altogether. And I’m not alone—the vast majority of the world’s population . As the pressure of climate change ratchets up, more people are looking for compromises: alternatives that can replicate, or at least approximate, the experience of eating meat. I’m interested to see whether lab-grown meat can do anything to sway us from the old-fashioned version. Related reading Impossible Foods is apparently working on making a plant-based . My colleague Jess Hamzelou, who covers biotech, expressed some were on our list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies in 2019. For the occasion, our very own Niall Firth dove into the LEON NEAL/GETTY IMAGES Another thing People are getting really creative when it comes to making jet fuel. While the stuff that powers our planes today is mostly fossil fuels, there are increasingly other options on the table, made of everything from used cooking oil to carbon dioxide sucked out of the atmosphere. I’ve become obsessed with these new fuels, sometimes called sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). What I’ve learned is that the details really matter: some could be a great solution for cutting emissions from aviation. Others could turn out to be a climate nightmare. Keeping up with climate Finally, states in the western US have reached an agreement to keep the Colorado River from going dry. The deal calls for the US federal government to dole out about $1.2 billion to groups with water rights if they temporarily cut use. () This story about one reporter’s quest to find a sustainable cat litter bag is hilarious and disheartening in equal parts. My takeaways? Plastics are tricky (to say the least), and individual actions can only do so much when it comes to climate change. () I loved these visualizations that show just how dominant China is in every stage of making batteries, from mining to refining to manufacturing. () → EV batteries have become a huge point of political tension between China and the US. () Some people think Dolly Parton’s newest song is a climate anthem. For the record, Parton is a national treasure in my eyes, but she does have a history of tapping into the zeitgeist without really taking sides. () This is a solid explanation on CATL’s new “semi-solid state” battery (the pun is all mine, I’m sorry). These new cells have double the energy density of most lithium-ion batteries on the market today and could hit large-scale production this year. () Carbon removal startup Charm Industrial just got $53 million to remove 112,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere by 2030. The deal with Frontier, a coalition backed by tech companies, is one of the largest in the space to date. () → For more on how Charm’s bio-oil can store carbon and what questions remain, check out my colleague James Temple’s story from last year. ()
Late last year, IBM took the record for the largest quantum computing system with a processor that contained 433 quantum bits, or qubits, the fundamental building blocks of quantum information processing. Now, the company has set its sights on a much bigger target: that it aims to build within 10 years. IBM made the announcement on May 22 at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. The company will partner with the University of Tokyo and the University of Chicago in a $100 million dollar initiative to push quantum computing into the realm of full-scale operation, where the technology could potentially tackle pressing problems that no standard supercomputer can solve. Or at least it can’t solve them alone. The idea is that the 100,000 qubits will work alongside the best “classical” supercomputers to achieve new breakthroughs in drug discovery, fertilizer production, battery performance, and a host of other applications. “I call this quantum-centric supercomputing,” IBM’s VP of quantum, Jay Gambetta, told MIT Technology Review in an in-person interview in London last week. Quantum computing holds and processes information in a way that exploits the unique properties of fundamental particles: electrons, atoms, and small molecules can exist in multiple energy states at once, a phenomenon known as superposition, and the states of particles can become linked, or entangled, with one another. This means that information can be encoded and manipulated in novel ways, opening the door to a swath of classically impossible computing tasks. As yet, quantum computers have not achieved anything useful that standard supercomputers cannot do. That is largely because they haven’t had enough qubits and because the systems are easily disrupted by tiny perturbations in their environment that physicists call noise. Researchers have been exploring ways to make do with noisy systems, but many expect that quantum systems will have to scale up significantly to be truly useful, so that they can devote a large fraction of their qubits to correcting the errors induced by noise. IBM is not the first to aim big. Google has said it is targeting a million qubits by the end of the decade, though error correction means only 10,000 will be available for computations. Maryland-based IonQ is aiming to have 1,024 “logical qubits,” each of which will be formed from an error-correcting circuit of 13 physical qubits, performing computations by 2028. Palo Alto–based PsiQuantum, like Google, is also aiming to build a million-qubit quantum computer, but it has not revealed its time scale or its error-correction requirements. Because of those requirements, citing the number of physical qubits is something of a red herring—the particulars of how they are built, which affect factors such as their resilience to noise and their ease of operation, are crucially important. The companies involved usually offer additional measures of performance, such as “quantum volume” and the number of “algorithmic qubits.” In the next decade advances in error correction, qubit performance, and software-led error “mitigation,” as well as the major distinctions between different types of qubits, will make this race especially tricky to follow. Refining the hardware IBM’s qubits are currently made from rings of superconducting metal, which follow the same rules as atoms when operated at millikelvin temperatures, just a tiny fraction of a degree above absolute zero. In theory, these qubits can be operated in a large ensemble. But according to IBM’s own road map, quantum computers of the sort it’s building can only scale up to 5,000 qubits with current technology. Most experts say that’s not big enough to yield much in the way of useful computation. To create powerful quantum computers, engineers will have to go bigger. And that will require new technology. One example of what’s needed is much more energy-efficient control of qubits. At the moment, each one of IBM’s superconducting qubits requires around 65 watts to operate. “If I want to do 100,000, that’s a lot of energy: I’m going to need something the size of a building, and a nuclear power plant and a billion dollars, to make one machine,” Gambetta says. “That’s obviously ludicrous. To get from 5,000 to 100,000, we clearly need innovation.” IBM has already done showing that integrated circuits based on “complementary metal oxide semiconductor” (CMOS) technology can be installed next to the cold qubits to control them with just tens of milliwatts. Beyond that, he admits, the technology required for quantum-centric supercomputing does not yet exist: that is why academic research is a vital part of the project. The qubits will exist on a type of modular chip that is only just beginning to take shape in IBM labs. Modularity, essential when it will be impossible to put enough qubits on a single chip, requires interconnects that transfer quantum information between modules. IBM’s “Kookaburra,” a 1,386-qubit multichip processor with a quantum communication link, is under development and slated for release in 2025. Other necessary innovations are where the universities come in. Researchers at Tokyo and Chicago have already made significant strides in areas such as components and communication innovations that could be vital parts of the final product, Gambetta says. He thinks there will likely be many more industry-academic collaborations to come over the next decade. “We have to help the universities do what they do best,” he says. Google is of the same mind: in a separate deal, it is devoting $50 million to funding for quantum computing research in the same two universities. Gambetta says the industry also needs more “quantum computational scientists,” people skilled in bridging the divide between the physicists creating the machine and the developers looking to design and implement useful algorithms. Software that runs on quantum machines will be vitally important too. “We want to create the industry as fast as possible, and the best way to do that is to get people developing the equivalent of our classical software libraries,” Gambetta says. It’s why IBM has worked to make its systems available to academic researchers over the last few years, he says: IBM’s quantum processors can be put to work via the cloud using custom-built interfaces that require minimal understanding of the technicalities of quantum computing. He says there have been some 2,000 research papers written about experiments using the company’s quantum devices: “To me that’s a good indication of innovation happening.” There is no guarantee that the $100 million earmarked for this project will be enough to achieve the 100,000-qubit goal. “There’s definitely risk,” Gambetta says. Joe Fitzsimons, CEO of Horizon Quantum, a Singapore-based quantum software developer, agrees. “This is unlikely to be a completely smooth journey without surprises,” he says. But, he adds, it’s a risk that has to be taken: the industry has to face the fear of failure and make attempts to overcome the technical challenges facing large-scale quantum computing. IBM’s plan seems reasonable, Fitzsimons says, although there are plenty of potential roadblocks. “At this scale, control systems will be a limiting factor and will need to evolve significantly to support such a large number of qubits in a reasonably efficient way,” he says.