The Download: 2022’s best stories, and what’s next for AI
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.
Our favorite stories of 2022
We like to think we’ve had a great year here at MIT Technology Review. Our stories have won many awards (this article won Gold in the AAAS Awards) and our investigations have helped shed light on unjust policies ..
So this year we asked our writers and editors to comb back through the past 12 months and try to pick just one story that they loved the most–and then tell us why. This was what they said .
What’s next for AI
In 2022, AI got creative. AI models can now produce convincing pieces of text, photos, and videos with very little prompting. OpenAI launched DALL-E 2 in September, a deep-learning model capable of producing images from text instructions. This is only nine months after the OpenAI generative AI explosion. This was followed by breakthroughs from Google and Meta: AIs capable of producing videos from text. It’s been only a few weeks since OpenAI launched ChatGPT, the latest large-language model that has set the internet ablaze. This model is known for its remarkable eloquence as well as coherence.
The pace of innovation in this year’s year has been incredible, and sometimes overwhelming. Who could have predicted it? How can we predict the future?
Our in-house experts Will Douglas Heaven and Melissa Heikkila tell us the four biggest trends they expect to shape the AI landscape in 2023. Read the full story
Brain stimulation might be more invasive than we think
Today, there are lots of neurotechnologies that can read what’s going on in our brains, modify the way they function, and change the wiring. Deep brain stimulation is a method of implanting electrodes deep within the brain to stimulate neurons and control how brain regions fire. It is considered quite invasive in the medical sense.
Other treatments, such as transcranial magnet stimulation, which involves placing a device shaped like an 8 over the head of a person to deliver a magnetic pulse in certain parts of the brain to disrupt its activity, are considered noninvasive because they operate from outside the brain. How noninvasive is technology if we can reach inside a person’s brain, even without having to penetrate the skull? Read the full story.
Jessica’s story is from The Checkup, her weekly newsletter covering everything worth knowing in biotech. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.
Podcast: the future of farming lies in space
AI is used in agriculture to precisely target weeds and optimize irrigation practices. It is also used in other ways that you might not have expected, such as to monitor the health of cow pastures from space. In the first part of a series on satellites, AI and agriculture, we travel from orchards to test farms.
Listen on Apple Podcasts or wherever you normally get your podcasts.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Sam Bankman-Fried has been released on $250 million bail
He’s facing home detention while he awaits trial. (BBC)
It’s one of the largest bails in US history. (Bloomberg $)
Crypto Twitter is not impressed by his cushy conditions. (CoinTelegraph)
3 We don’t know how effective nasal covid vaccines are
And because we’re not collecting the right kind of data, we may never know. (The Atlantic $)
Two inhaled covid vaccines have been approved–but we don’t know yet how good they are. (MIT Technology Review)
Life expectancy in the US has fallen again. (Axios)
4 Twitter is starting to show how many people have seen your tweets
It’s yet another of Elon Musk’s wheezes. (TechCrunch)
Twitter looks like it’s crumbling right now. (The Atlantic $)
We’re witnessing the brain death of Twitter. (MIT Technology Review)
5 ByteDance has been tracking journalists
Its staff improperly gained access to their IP addresses to try and work out if they’d crossed paths with ByteDance workers. (Forbes)
After all that, the company failed to find any leaks. (FT $)
TikTok is desperately trying to curry favor in the US. (Reuters)
7 Immigrant tech workers who’ve been laid off are caught in limbo
Losing their jobs means their families are also unable to work, leaving many with no choice but to leave the US. (The Guardian)
For this startup founder, his business going bust came as a bit of a relief. (The Information $)
9 Japan’s space agency is sending a toy-like rover to the moon
The cute ball is designed by popular toymaker Tomy. (New Yorker $)
The Perseverance rover has dropped off its first sample tube. (The Register)
10 We’re living through the first ever BeReal Christmas
Unfortunately, originality is vanishingly rare. (Vice)
Quote of the day
“Against all odds, and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking.”
–Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanks the US Congress for its financial support of Ukraine and its people 10 months after Russia invaded, CNN reports.
The big story
Like many mothers, Leila Strickland found breastfeeding difficult. She struggled to breastfeed her son and, three years later, her daughter.
Strickland is a professor in vascular physiology at Maastricht University, Netherlands. She began to think about how she might use a process similar to that used by Dutch food technology company Mosa Meat, to create artificial beef. However, it could also be used to produce breast milk cells.
For years, she struggled to fund the project and was close to giving up. But in May 2020, Biomilq, a company she had founded, received $3.5 million from a group of investors led by Bill Gates. Biomilq is now in a race with competitors to shake up the world of infant nutrition in a way not seen since the birth of the now $42 billion formula industry. Read the full story.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.