The Download April 12, 2022: The future of money, and restyling the metaverse

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.

Money is about to enter a new era of competition

We’re on the cusp of a giant upheaval to the ways we pay for things. The digital technologies that will replace cash could change the nature of money. Today, central bank money functions as a unit, a medium for exchange, and a store value. However, cryptocurrencies and other new technologies could allow for these functions to be separated. This shift could weaken central banks’ dominance and lead to a new wave of currency competition that could have long-lasting consequences for many countries.

Cash seems outdated to many people. People around the globe use their smartphones to pay for goods and services. This shift could be a driver of inequality. If cash disappears, one imagines that it could disenfranchise the elderly and the poor as well as those at a technological disadvantage. In reality, however, many countries are near saturation with cell phones. Digital money, if used correctly, could be a force in financial inclusion. Now, the big questions are about how we proceed and whether the massive digital money shift actually benefits humanity–or worsens existing domestic and international inequalities. Read full story .

–Eswar Prasad

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Fears are growing that Russia has used chemical weapons in Mariupol
Both the US and UK are investigating. (BBC)
Why it’s so difficult to confirm chemical weapons allegations. (Axios)
China is parroting Russian war propaganda. (NYT $)
The people of Bucha experienced a month of sheer horror under Russian occupation. (NYT $)
Ukraine has asked its allies for tens of billions of dollars. (FT $)
Twitch streamers in Ukraine are streaming the war to their Russian followers. (Motherboard)

2 Experimental fashion designers are pushing boundaries in the metaverse
And they’re optimistic it’ll translate into real-world sales. (Wired $)
Meta’s taken its first steps towards monetizing the metaverse. (The Verge)
Shockingly, pixel-flavored Coca-Cola does not taste good. (The Verge)
Meta spent more than $15 million protecting Mark Zuckerberg last year. (Bloomberg $)

3 Shanghai’s locked-down residents are living and sleeping in their offices
While trying to respect each others’ privacy. (AFP)
They’re also concerned about false-positive results. (SCMP)
A lawyer ended up in quarantine in China for three months. (NYT $)
Japan has reported its first case of new covid strain omicron XE. (CNBC)

4 China has green-lit its first new online games for nine months
Following concerns the country’s youth was addicted to gaming. (FT $)

5 AI is helping hospitals to treat deadly sepsis infections
Algorithms can plug the gaps in how medics diagnose the complicated condition. (WSJ $)
Hundreds of AI tools have been built to catch covid. . was not helped by any of these tools. (TR)

6 How social media ushered in a decade of stupidity
Because we’re all scared of getting caught in a firestorm. (The Atlantic $)
Is it possible to rid social media of hatred? (The Observer)

7 More pet owners are cloning their beloved fluffy friends
But they don’t share the same quirks as their predecessors. (WP $)

8 Tesla fans are struggling to convert loves ones to ‘full-self driving’
Their families, quite reasonably, have some concerns about its safety. (CNN)

9 Why Netflix has added a double thumbs-up icon
When a single thumbs-up just isn’t enough to show your appreciation. (Protocol)
Streaming platforms are revitalizing Indian actors’ careers. (BBC)

10 A love letter to slow, old email
The real beauty of it? You can reply at any time. (NYT $)

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