The Download: Bill Gates’s new climate plans, and an AI bug bounty

The Download: Bill Gates’s new climate plans, and an AI bug bounty
The news: Bill Gates’s climate-oriented venture capital fund has expanded its mission and added adaptation to its investment categories. It also established a later-stage fund that will help clean-tech startups start building plants and scaling their technologies. Yesterday’s announcement was made at the Breakthrough Energy Summit in Seattle.

What it means: The fund’s focus has been on “climate mitigation,” which focuses largely on reducing climate pollution. Climate adaptation is the development of ways to increase protections against the dangers posed by climate change, and not just prevent it.

How it is possible: This firm will be focusing on ways to help farmers and communities cope with increasing severe or common droughts and how to ensure that crops are productive in a changing world. This could be done through indoor farming or genetic alteration. The firm will also investigate ways to strengthen the infrastructure of global ports that are increasingly at risk from rising sea levels and stronger storms. Read full story .

–James Temple

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Bill Gates and John Kerry, the US energy secretary, made cautiously positive remarks at the conference. They pointed out that despite all the progress in tackling climate problems in recent years, there are still significant obstacles to reducing emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Read the complete story .

Why scientists want to help plants absorb more carbon dioxide

Last Wednesday, Casey Crownhart, a colleague, sat down at ClimateTech, MIT Technology Review’s inaugural climate conference. They discussed Ronald’s latest project, which focuses primarily on using crops to remove carbon dioxide using a variety of methods, including photosynthesis. Read full story .

Casey’s story is from The Spark, MIT Technology Review’s new weekly climate newsletter. Sign up and receive it in your email every Wednesday.

A bias bounty for AI will help to catch unfair algorithms faster

What’s happening: While AI systems are deployed all the time, it can take months or even years until it becomes clear whether, and how, they’re biased. A group of machine-learning and AI experts launched a new bias bounty competition today. They hope it will accelerate the process of uncovering hidden prejudices.

What’s the first? The first ever bias bounty competition will focus on biased image detection. The winner will take home a $6,000 prize committed by Microsoft and startup Robust Intelligence, which has been hailed as a strong incentive for the machine learning community to winkle out bias. Read the full story.
–Melissa Heikkila

Should you believe in, or even want, immortality?

Twenty years have passed since Jonathan Weiner met Aubrey de Grey (the man with the Methuselah mustache). Aubrey de Grey was already a True Believer in the quest to immortality back then. He wasn’t yet famous or well-known. He wasn’t yet a man in shame.

Weiner first met Aubrey in 2002, when Aubrey was still working as a computer programmer in the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge, in England. To the dismay of many scientists in the field of aging, he quickly became a secular guru and a prophet of immortality. However, Aubrey’s eagerness for believers to believe they could live for centuries, millennia or longer raises important questions about what it means to want something we may not even believe. Read the full story.

This piece is from our forthcoming mortality-themed issue, available from 26 October. If you want to read it when it comes out, you can subscribe to MIT Technology Review for as little as $80 a year.

The must-reads

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

1 The majority of US lithium is found near tribal land
Native American communities are warning the appetite for EV batteries could come at the expense of their ancestral homelands. (The Guardian)
Driving electric cars eventually cancels out the pollution created by their production. (NYT $)
A thin sheet of nickel could make EV batteries recharge much quicker. (IEEE Spectrum)

2 There’s still a lot we don’t know about how antidepressants work
Medical guidance is inconsistent, and patients are suffering as a result. (Economist $)

3 When you lose weight, where does it go?
Essentially, you breathe it out (no, really!) (MIT Technology Review)

4 Supply chains are still a mess
We can’t blame the pandemic anymore, either. (Vox)
How AI digital twins help weather the world’s supply chain nightmare. (MIT Technology Review)

5 What it’s like to get hands-on with image-generating AI
Fun, and more than a little creepy. (WSJ $)
Neurodivergent workers are deftly training AI models. (Bloomberg $)
AI art generators are super Euro-centric. (Vox)
The AI sector has already moved onto the latest breakthrough: text-to-video. (MIT Technology Review)

6 How to equip cities to survive deadly heat waves
Cutting down on cars is a good place to start. (Knowable Magazine)
How megacities could lead the fight against climate change. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Why US internet speeds vary so much between neighborhoods
Lower-income areas where residents are from minority ethnic communities are likely to experience distinctly slower speeds. (The Markup)

8 Arranged marriage apps aren’t really for the bride and groom
In India, it’s their parents swiping for prospective matches. (Slate $)

9 How to stop accidentally turning on your iPhone’s flashlight
It’s not just you–it’s happening to everyone. (WP $)

10 Paper isn’t dead yet
Just ask any American sorting out their taxes. (FT $)

Quote for the day

“It will be a long time before we can regain the trust we have lost .”

–Namkoong Whon, co-chief executive of South Korean super app Kakao, apologizes after a fire at a data center caused an app outage for several days, the New York Times reports.

The big story

The FBI accused him of spying for China. It cost him 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. Agents wanted to find out if he was involved in a Chinese government talent program that offered overseas researchers incentives to return their work to Chinese universities.

Not too long ago, American universities encouraged academics to establish ties with Chinese institutions. However, the US government is now suspicious, considering these programs a spy recruitment tool. Despite Hu’s denial that he was involved with such programs, less than two years later they returned to arrest him. Read the full story.

–Karen Hao & Eileen Guo

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. Have any other ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me. )

Why we simply cannot resist stories about what celebrities eat.
Meanwhile, in Paris…
Life is short. Savor your time with your kids, if you have them.
I think I need to lie down after reading this Twitter thread.
I can only imagine an eight-day “Gone Girl” themed cruise. You’d be right.

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