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Inside a battery recycling facility

Hello and welcome to the first-ever edition of The Spark! Thanks so much for joining me for this weekly climate newsletter, where we’ll explore tech that could help combat the climate crisis. I’m so glad you’re here! This week, we’re kicking things off with a special travel edition of the newsletter. So buckle up, because we’re headed to the mountains just outside Reno, Nevada to...

The porcelain challenge didn’t need to be real to get views

Despite what you may have heard, the teens are not stealing their family’s fine dinnerware, tossing it in a blender, and snorting the resulting dust for the “porcelain challenge.” That’s just what Sebastian Durfee, a 23-year-old actor and TikTok creator, hoped you might believe when he spread the word on social media of the latest dangerous teen challenge.  Never mind that it was...

DeepMind’s game-playing AI has beaten a 50-year-old record in computer science

DeepMind has used its board-game playing AI AlphaZero to discover a faster way to solve a fundamental math problem in computer science, beating a record that has stood for more than 50 years. The problem, matrix multiplication, is a crucial type of calculation at the heart of many different applications, from displaying images on a screen to simulating complex physics. It is also fundamental...


TUESDAY 4. OCTOBER 2022


How the covid pop-up window is wreaking havoc on daily life in China

Welcome back! Hope you are not stuck in highway traffic if you are enjoying the National Day holiday in China.  Though maybe it’s still better than staying at home—after all, travel feels like such a luxury in China today. While the rest of the world drops its remaining covid-related travel restrictions, even a short trip in China is plagued by flight cancellations, mandatory...

The White House just moved to hold AI more accountable 

The White House wants Americans to know: The age of AI accountability is coming.  US President Biden has today unveiled a new AI Bill of Rights, which outlines five protections Americans should have in the AI age.  While Biden has in the past called for stronger protections for privacy and for tech companies to stop collecting data, the US — home to some of the world’s biggest...


MONDAY 3. OCTOBER 2022


Get ready for the next generation of AI

To receive The Algorithm in your inbox every Monday, sign up here. Welcome to the Algorithm!  Is anyone else feeling dizzy? Just when the AI community was wrapping its head around the astounding progress of text-to-image systems, we’re already moving on to the next frontier: text-to-video.  Late last week, Meta unveiled Make-A-Video, an AI that generates five-second videos from...

Here’s how the Nord Stream gas pipelines could be fixed

Until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines were a key part of Europe’s energy infrastructure. In the fourth quarter of 2021, the Nord Stream lines supplied 18% of all Europe’s gas imports. Half of Russia’s gas imports to Europe came through Nord Stream 1—a record high. (Nord Stream 2, which has been completed, has not yet come online after Germany withheld...


SATURDAY 1. OCTOBER 2022


The EU wants to put companies on the hook for harmful AI

The EU is creating new rules to make it easier to sue AI companies for harm. A bill unveiled this week, which is likely to become law in a couple of years, is part of Europe’s push to prevent AI developers from releasing dangerous systems. And while tech companies complain it could have a chilling effect on innovation, consumer activists say it doesn’t go far enough.  Powerful AI...


FRIDAY 30. SEPTEMBER 2022


Can we find ways to live beyond 100? Millionaires are betting on it.

Hello, hallo, and bonjour! This week’s Checkup is coming to you from Switzerland. It’s still dark when I arrive at the Grand Bellevue hotel at 7 a.m., and it’s tipping with rain. But I’ve braved the elements to make it to an early “longevity workout.” It’s the first event scheduled at an aging conference I’m attending this week in Gstaad, an upmarket, picture-postcard...

China is betting big on another gas engine alternative: methanol cars

As the Chinese government works to reach ambitious carbon goals—an emissions peak by 2030 and neutrality by 2060—the country has become a global leader in the adoption of electric vehicles. But that’s not the only greener car alternative it’s pursuing.  Earlier this month, on September 16, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said it would “accelerate the...


THURSDAY 29. SEPTEMBER 2022


Meta’s new AI can turn text prompts into videos

Meta has today unveiled an AI system that generates short videos based on text prompts.  Make-A-Video lets you type in a string of words, like “A dog wearing a superhero outfit with a red cape flying through the sky,” and then generates a five-second clip that, while pretty accurate, has the aesthetics of a trippy old home video.  Although the effect is rather crude, the system...

Amazon has a new plan for its home robot Astro: to guard your life

Amazon announced Wednesday that its home robot, Astro, will be getting a slew of major updates aimed at further embedding it within homes—and in our everyday lives. Broadly speaking, the new features offer more home monitoring. The capabilities include some  standard fare: Astro will be able to, for example, watch pets and send a video feed of their activities to users. But Astro will also...


WEDNESDAY 28. SEPTEMBER 2022


A bionic pancreas could solve one of the biggest challenges of diabetes

In a recent trial, a bionic pancreas that automatically delivers insulin proved more effective than pumps or injections at lowering blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a serious condition that causes a person’s level of glucose, or sugar, to become too high because the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin, a hormone that keeps blood glucose under...

Growth means composability, brick by brick

Business leaders are heading for composable infrastructures, putting aside large and bulky traditional systems. Demand for increased flexibility and scale is driven by rapidly advancing technology and rising customer expectations. Gartner likens composable infrastructures to a structure made of simple building blocks. This modular structure permits fast changes and responds quickly to...


TUESDAY 27. SEPTEMBER 2022


How the false rumor of a Chinese coup went viral

Hi, and welcome back to China Report! If you are on Twitter and follow news about China, you likely have heard a pretty wild rumor recently: that President Xi Jinping was under house arrest and that there was about to be a major power grab in the country. First of all, let me be very clear: this report is false and should not be taken seriously. No credible sources on China have bought it....

Maximize data outcomes by investing in people and systems

In any enterprise, digital transformation is not only a technology transformation but enables business transformation itself, driving new products, solutions and innovations. Having an efficient data strategy is critical to any successful digital transformation but requires careful investment into both people and systems. “To achieve that goal, availability of good data, of the right...

How robots and AI are helping develop better batteries

Around the start of the year, Carnegie Mellon researchers used a robotic system to run dozens of experiments designed to generate electrolytes that could enable lithium-ion batteries to charge faster, addressing one of the major obstacles to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles The system of automated pumps, valves, and instruments, known as Clio, mixed various solvents, salts, and...

The Download: asteroid deflection, and Florida’s approaching hurricane

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. Watch the moment NASA’s DART spacecraft crashed into an asteroid What’s happened: NASA is celebrating the success of humanity’s first test of a planetary defense system: crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid in…

Watch the moment NASA’s DART spacecraft crashed into an asteroid

NASA is celebrating the success of humanity’s first test of a planetary defense system: crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid in order to change its orbit. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, or DART, was intentionally smashed into the asteroid Dimorphos at 7:14 p.m. US Eastern time last night, spelling the end to a successful 10-month mission. A small camera mounted on...


MONDAY 26. SEPTEMBER 2022


Audio Postcard: Real-time farming

This episode, we’re doing something a little bit different. Join us as we take a trip to a Californian vineyard to learn about how it’s deploying sensors and other forms of AI. We meet:  Dirk Heuvel, vice president of vineyard operations, McManis Family Vineyards Credits: This episode was produced by Jennifer Strong with help from Anthony Green and Emma Cillekens. It was...

Hybrid cloud wins rely on data protection

After silicon chipmaker Broadcom acquired CA Technologies in 2018 and Symantec Enterprise in 2019, it decided to invest in hybrid cloud environments, which integrate and orchestrate public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises services. The CA and Symantec acquisitions onboarded vastly different tech stacks and operation workflows, with a variety of hosting scenarios: on-premises, colocation, and...

YouTube wants to lure creators away from TikTok with cash, but it won’t say how much

In 2007, YouTube made a decision that created a career out of what was previously just a hobby: the company announced it would give over half of the revenue it earned running ads on videos to creators themselves. Fifteen years later, that creator cut—55%—supports the nearly 400,000 people in the US working 40-hour weeks as YouTubers.  Now, YouTube is trying to pull off a similar...

This startup’s AI is smart enough to drive different types of vehicles

Wayve, a driverless-car startup based in London, has made a machine-learning model that can drive two different types of vehicle: a passenger car and a delivery van. It is the first time the same AI driver has learned to drive multiple vehicles. The news comes less than a year after Wayve showed that it could take AI trained on the streets of London and use it to drive cars in four other cities...


SATURDAY 24. SEPTEMBER 2022


Russia’s battle to convince people to join its war is being waged on Telegram

When Vladimir Putin declared the partial call-up of military reservists on September 21, in a desperate effort to try to turn his long and brutal war in Ukraine in Russia’s favor, he kicked off another, parallel battle: one to convince the Russian people of the merits and risks of conscription. And this one is being fought on the encrypted messaging service Telegram, with pro-Putin actors...


FRIDAY 23. SEPTEMBER 2022


How we’ll transplant tiny organ-like blobs of cells into people

To the naked eye, organoids aren’t much to look at. They’re basically tiny blobs. Closer inspection reveals their true complexity: these lab-grown balls of cells can resemble miniature organs. So far, organoids have mostly been used for research. But teams have started transplanting them into animals with the hope of curing disease. Humans are next—albeit some way off. Let’s say in 10...


THURSDAY 22. SEPTEMBER 2022


DeepMind’s new chatbot uses Google searches plus humans to give better answers

The trick to making a good AI-powered chatbot might be to have humans tell it how to behave—and force the model to back up its claims using the internet, according to a new paper by Alphabet-owned AI lab DeepMind.  In a new non-peer-reviewed paper out today, the team unveils Sparrow, an AI chatbot that is trained on DeepMind’s large language model Chinchilla.  Sparrow is...

The world is moving closer to a new cold war fought with authoritarian tech

Despite President Biden’s assurances at Wednesday’s United Nations meeting that the US is not seeking a new cold war, one is brewing between the world’s autocracies and democracies—and technology is fuelling it. Late last week, Iran, Turkey, Myanmar, and a handful of other countries took steps toward becoming full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization…


WEDNESDAY 21. SEPTEMBER 2022


Patients immersed in virtual reality during surgery may need less anesthetic

Immersing patients in virtual reality could help reduce the amount of local anesthetic needed for surgery, a new study has found. A team of researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston split 34 patients undergoing elective hand surgery into two equal-size groups. One group was given a VR headset and offered a range of relaxing immersive programs to view during surgery, while...

Watch this team of drones 3D-print a tower

A mini-swarm’s worth of drones have been trained to work together to 3D-print some simple towers. One day, the method could help with challenging projects such as post-disaster construction or even repairs on buildings that are too high to access safely, the team behind it hopes. Inspired by the way bees or wasps construct large nests, the process has multiple drones work together to build...

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

During the past two decades, the health care sector has undergone a rapid and far-reaching digital transformation. But digitalization has generated a new challenge: information overload. According to one estimate, the volume of health care-related data being generated digitally doubles every 73 days. Much of it is stored in discrete silos—such as digital imaging and communications in medicine...

Broadband funding for Native communities could finally connect some of America’s most isolated places

The rolls of fiber-optic cable currently unwinding in a remote corner of northwest Montana represent a vital, long-overdue change for the region.  Rural and Native communities in the US have long had lower rates of cellular and broadband connectivity than urban areas, where four out of every five Americans live. Outside the cities and suburbs,…