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#440330 These Were Our Favorite Tech Stories ...

Every Saturday we post a curated collection of our favorite articles and news from the week. But now that the year’s over, we’ll curate 2021 as a whole. It was another wild one.

Tech companies continued to draw criticism for their roles in political and social scandals, most notably when whisteblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testified to lawmakers. Undeterred, Facebook rebranded itself Meta and said it would now focus on building the metaverse. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down and likewise changed the name of his company Square to Block in a not-so-subtle nod to the blockchain.

Meanwhile, volatile cryptocurrencies set new records, their prices jumping and crashing on a tweet. NFTs, a once-obscure type of cryptoasset, went on an eye-watering tear as redditors pushed meme stocks skyward. It was also the year of ever-bigger AI. Machine learning models surpassed a trillion parameters, designed computer chips, and tackled practical problems in biology, math, and chemistry. Elsewhere, billionaires went to space, regular folks bought 3D printed houses, fusion power attracted billions in investment, gene editing trials hit their stride, and “flying car” companies hit the New York Stock Exchange.

For this year’s list of fascinating stories in tech and science, we sifted our Saturday posts and selected articles that looked back to where it all began, glanced ahead to what’s coming, or otherwise stood out from the chatter to stand the test of time.

The Secret Auction That Set Off the Race for AI Supremacy
Cade Metz | Wired
“How the shape of deep learning—and the fate of the tech industry—went up for sale in Harrah’s Room 731, on the shores of Lake Tahoe. …[The auction for Geoff Hinton’s newly formed AI company] was the beginning of a global arms race, and this race would quickly escalate in ways that would have seemed absurd a few years before.”

The Chase for Fusion Energy
Philip Ball | Nature
“An emerging industry of nuclear-fusion firms promises to have commercial reactors ready in the next decade. …advocates of fusion technology say it has many parallels with the space industry. That, too, was once confined to government agencies but is now benefiting from the drive and imagination of nimble (albeit often state-assisted) private enterprise. This is ‘the SpaceX moment for fusion,’ says [General Fusion CEO] Mowry, referring to Elon Musk’s space-flight company in Hawthorne, California.”

The Gene-Synthesis Revolution
Yiren Lu | The New York Times
“If the first phase of the genomics revolution focused on reading genes through gene sequencing, the second phase is about writing genes. Crispr, the gene-editing technology whose inventors won a Nobel Prize last year, has received far more attention, but the rise of gene synthesis promises to be an equally powerful development. Crispr is like editing an article, allowing us to make precise changes to the text at specific spots; gene synthesis is like writing the article from scratch.”

The Profound Potential of Elon Musk’s New Rocket
Robert Zubrin | Nautilus
“Starship won’t just give us the ability to send human explorers to Mars, the moon, and other destinations in the inner solar system, it offers us a two-order-of-magnitude increase in overall operational capability to do pretty much anything we want to do in space.”

Need to Fit Billions of Transistors on Your Chip? Let AI Do It
Will Knight | Wired
“Google, Nvidia, and others are training algorithms in the dark arts of designing semiconductors—some of which will be used to run artificial intelligence programs. …This should help companies draw up more powerful and efficient blueprints in much less time.”

Renewables Are Set to Soar
James Temple | MIT Technology Review
“New renewable electricity capacity will set another record this year, at 290 gigawatts, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. …By 2026, global capacity from these carbon-free sources will rise more than 60% over last year’s levels, the intergovernmental research organization now projects. That will add up to some 4,800 gigawatts, on par with all the world’s fossil-fuel and nuclear plants today. In addition, renewables will account for 95% of the overall capacity growth in the power sector over that period.”

3D Printed Home Technologies Scaling Up Around the World
Payal Dhar | IEEE Spectrum
“Despite the high capital investment needed for automated 3D-printing construction compared to conventional technologies, there are concomitant advantages, Satish says, such as in terms of safety, speed, scale and design complexity. ‘We still build using techniques and equipment and tools…that someone building 100 years ago would be familiar with,’ Ruben says. ‘It is the last major industry that hasn’t embraced new technology as a way to increase productivity.’i”

Why I’m a Proud Solutionist
Jason Crawford | MIT Technology Review
“Debates about technology and progress are often framed in terms of ‘optimism’ vs. ‘pessimism.’ …It’s tempting to choose sides. …But this represents a false choice. History provides us with powerful examples of people who were brutally honest in identifying a crisis but were equally active in seeking solutions.”

Your Face Is Not Your Own
Kashmir Hill | The New York Times Magazine
“It seemed entirely possible that Clearview AI would be sued, legislated or shamed out of existence. But that didn’t happen. With no federal law prohibiting or even regulating the use of facial recognition, Clearview did not, for the most part, change its practices. Nor did it implode. …’Our growth rate is crazy,’ Hoan Ton-That, Clearview’s chief executive, said.”

Alternative Rocket Builder SpinLaunch Completes First Test Flight
Michael Sheetz | CNBC
“The company is developing a launch system that uses kinetic energy as its primary method to get off the ground—with a vacuum-sealed centrifuge spinning the rocket at several times the speed of sound before releasing. ‘This is about building a company and a space launch system that is going to enter into the commercial markets with a very high cadence and launch at the lowest cost in the industry,’ SpinLaunch CEO Jonathan Yaney told CNBC.”

One Vaccine to Rule Them All
James Hamblin | The Atlantic
“i‘A universal SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is step one,’ [Anthony] Fauci said. Step two would be a universal coronavirus vaccine, capable of protecting us not only from SARS-CoV-2 in all its forms, but also from the inevitable emergence of new and different coronaviruses that might cause future pandemics. The race to create such a vaccine may prove one of the great feats of a generation.”

The Facebook Whistleblower Says Its Algorithms Are Dangerous. Here’s Why.
Karen Hao | MIT Technology Review
“Frances Haugen’s testimony at the Senate hearing today raised serious questions about how Facebook’s algorithms work—and echoes many findings from our previous investigation. …We pulled together the most relevant parts of our investigation and other reporting to give more context to Haugen’s testimony.”

Kill the 5-Day Work Week
Joe Pinsker | The Atlantic
“People who work a four-day week generally report that they’re healthier, happier, and less crunched for time; their employers report that they’re more efficient and more focused. These companies’ success points to a tantalizing possibility: that the conventional approach to work and productivity is fundamentally misguided.”

The Internet Is Rotting
Jonathan Zittrain | The Atlantic
“The glue that holds humanity’s knowledge together is coming undone. …By making the storage and organization of information everyone’s responsibility and no one’s, the internet and web could grow, unprecedentedly expanding access, while making any and all of it fragile rather than robust in many instances in which we depend on it.”

How Vulnerable Is the World?
Nick Bostrom and Matthew van der Merwe | Aeon
“Sooner or later a technology capable of wiping out human civilization might be invented. How far would we go to stop it? …We call this ‘the vulnerable world hypothesis’. The intuitive idea is that there’s some level of technology at which civilization almost certainly gets destroyed, unless quite extraordinary and historically unprecedented degrees of preventive policing and/or global governance are implemented.”

With This CAD for Genomes, You Can Design New Organisms
Eliza Strickland | IEEE Spectrum
“Imagine being able to design a new organism as easily as you can design a new integrated circuit. That’s the ultimate vision behind the computer-aided design (CAD) program being developed by the GP-write consortium. ‘We’re taking the same things we’d do for design automation in electronics, and applying them to biology,’ says Doug Densmore, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Boston University.”

How the World’s Biggest Brain Maps Could Transform Neuroscience
Alison Abbott | Nature
“To truly understand how the brain works, neuroscientists also need to know how each of the roughly 1,000 types of cell thought to exist in the brain speak to each other in their different electrical dialects. With that kind of complete, finely contoured map, they could really begin to explain the networks that drive how we think and behave.”

Lost Passwords Lock Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes
Nathaniel Popper | The New York Times
“Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of this week, about $220 million. The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 Bitcoin.”

A 25-Year-Old Bet Comes Due: Has Tech Destroyed Society?
Steven Levy | Wired
“Much more than a thousand bucks was at stake: The bet was a showdown between two fiercely opposed views on the nature of progress. In a time of climate crisis, a pandemic, and predatory capitalism, is optimism about humanity’s future still justified? [Kevin] Kelly and [Kirkpatrick] Sale each represent an extreme side of the divide. For the men involved, the bet’s outcome would be a personal validation—or repudiation—of their lifelong quests.”

How AI Is Reinventing What Computers Are
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
“[Today’s computers are] smaller and faster, but they’re still boxes with processors that run instructions from humans. AI changes that on at least three fronts: how computers are made, how they’re programmed, and how they’re used. Ultimately, it will change what they are for. ‘The core of computing is changing from number-crunching to decision-­making,’ says Pradeep Dubey, director of the parallel computing lab at Intel. Or, as MIT CSAIL director Daniela Rus puts it, AI is freeing computers from their boxes.”

Can Digital Reality Be Jacked Directly Into Your Brain?
Adam Rogers | Wired
“The idea of uploading a synthetic experience into a mind has been a load-bearing member in science fiction for at least 75 years… But in real life (that’s what this is, right?), we’re a long way from a data port in the nape of every neck. Neuroscientists can decode the signal coming out of the brain well enough to move a cursor or a robotic arm, though they can’t achieve the fluid elegance of a biological connection. Signal going in is even trickier.”

What an Octopus’s Mind Can Teach Us About AI’s Ultimate Mystery
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
“It’s possible that one day there could be as many forms of consciousness as there are types of AI. But we will never know what it is like to be these machines, any more than we know what it is like to be an octopus or a bat or even another person. There may be forms of consciousness we don’t recognize for what they are because they are so radically different from what we are used to.”

The Worldview Changing Drugs Poised to Go Mainstream
Ed Prideaux | BBC
“The ‘psychedelic renaissance’ promises to change far more about our societies than simply the medical treatments that doctors prescribe. Unlike other drugs, psychedelics can radically alter the way people see the world. They also bring mystical and hallucinatory experiences that are at the edge of current scientific understanding. So, what might follow if psychedelics become mainstream?”

Why Electric Cars Will Take Over Sooner Than You Think
Justin Rowlatt | BBC
“This isn’t a fad, this isn’t greenwashing. Yes, the fact many governments around the world are setting targets to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles gives impetus to the process. But what makes the end of the internal combustion engine inevitable is a technological revolution. And technological revolutions tend to happen very quickly.”

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#440253 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Deepmind Says Its New Language Model Can Beat Others 25 Times Its Size
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
“DeepMind’s main [new] result is an AI with a twist: it’s enhanced with an external memory in the form of a vast database containing passages of text, which it uses as a kind of cheat sheet when generating new sentences. Called RETRO (for ‘Retrieval-Enhanced Transformer’), the AI matches the performance of neural networks 25 times its size, cutting the time and cost needed to train very large models.”

ROBOTICS
A Quadruped Humanoid Robot Might Be Able to Do It All
Evan Ackerman | IEEE Spectrum
“Swiss-Mile’s robot can stand on two legs, walk on four legs, and drive like a car. Last year, we wrote an article arguing that for legged robots, motorized wheels offer a number of significant advantages over feet. Locked wheels can behave similarly to point feet, and unlocking them gives legged robots the ability to travel both faster and more efficiently.”

NEUROSCIENCE
New Brain Maps Can Predict Behaviors
Monique Brouillette | Quanta
“Large-scale connectomics could give neuroscience the same kind of huge boost that fast, simple genome sequencing brought to genomics. …Recent work with C. elegans has demonstrated the power of large-scale connectomics. One experiment showed that it’s sometimes possible for scientists to predict the behavior of an animal from a knowledge of its connectome; another hinted at rules governing the linkage of neurons into working circuits.”

CRYPTOCURRENCY
A Bitcoin Boom Fueled by Cheap Power, Empty Plants and Few Rules
Corey Kilgannon | The New York Times
“Soaring Bitcoin values may be the investment talk of Wall Street, but a few hours north, in upstate New York, the buzz is about companies that are scrambling to create the digital currency by ‘mining’ it virtually with all types and sizes of computer farms constantly whizzing through transactions. In just a few years, a swath of northern and western New York has become one of the biggest Bitcoin producers in the country.”

SPACE
How Spacex’s Massive Starship Rocket Might Unlock the Solar System—and Beyond
Jonathan O’Callaghan | MIT Technology Review
“Much has already been made of Starship’s human spaceflight capabilities. But the rocket could also revolutionize what we know about our neighboring planets and moons. ‘Starship would totally change the way that we can do solar system exploration,’ says Ali Bramson, a planetary scientist from Purdue University. ‘Planetary science will just explode.’i”

SCIENCE
To See Proteins Change in Quadrillionths of a Second, Use AI
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan | Wired
“Researchers have long wanted to capture how protein structures contort in response to light. But getting a clear image was impossible—until now. …[Researchers] have combined machine learning and quantum mechanical calculations to get the most precise record yet of structural changes in a photoactive yellow protein (PYP) that has been excited by light. Their study, published in Nature in November, showed that they were able to make movies of processes that occur in quadrillionths of a second.”

FUTURE
Optimism Is the Only Way Forward’: The Exhibition That Imagines Our Future
David Smith | The Guardian
“i‘It’s a needle we tried to thread throughout the whole exhibition,’ says Rachel Goslins, director of the Arts and Industries Building. ‘How do we be hopeful without being naive and how do we surface challenges without creating more anxiety? Everybody wanted to be part of this exhibition because there’s a real hunger on the part of artists, designers and scientists to be part of a narrative that allows people to imagine the future they want and not the future they fear.’i”

ENVIRONMENT
We’re a Step Closer to Geoengineering the Oceans
Brian Kahn | Gizmodo
“The US government has moved one step closer to turning science fiction into reality. On Wednesday, the federally funded National Academy of Sciences released a new report laying out six avenues to alter the oceans in an attempt to suck more carbon dioxide out of the sky and store it for centuries to come.”

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#440200 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
AI Training Is Outpacing Moore’s Law
Samuel K. Moore | IEEE Spectrum
“The increase in transistor density would account for a little more than doubling of performance between the early version of the MLPerf benchmarks and those from June 2021. But improvements to software as well as processor and computer architecture produced a 6.8-11-fold speedup for the best benchmark results.”

SENSORS
Tiny Salt-Grain-Sized Camera Snaps Hi-Res Full-Color Images
Michael Irving | New Atlas
“Researchers at Princeton and the the University of Washington have developed a tiny camera, the size of a grain of salt, which can snap sharp, full-color images. It’s made with a metasurface that captures light, which could be scaled up to turn entire surfaces into sensors. …The resulting images are far more crisp than other small sensors.”

ROBOTICS
Grasping Robotic Drone Can Land on a Branch Like a Freakin’ Bird
George Dvorsky | Gizmodo
“SNAG’s feet and legs were modeled after those of peregrine falcons, but instead of wings, this robot achieves flight with a quadcopter drone. Made from lightweight materials, it can carry 10 times its own weight. The bot’s ‘bones’ are made from 3D-printed plastic, while its muscles and tendons are built from motors and fishing line.”

COMPUTING
Microsoft Makes Breakthrough in Quest to Use DNA as Data Storage
Phillip Tracy | Gizmodo
“The company announced in a new research paper the first nanoscale DNA storage writer, which the research group expects to scale for a DNA write density of 25 x 10^6 sequences per square centimeter, or ‘three orders of magnitude’ (1,000x) more tightly than before. What makes this particularly significant is that it’s the first indication of achieving the minimum write speeds required for DNA storage.”

ENERGY
Renewables Are Set to Soar
James Temple | MIT Technology Review
“New renewable electricity capacity will set another record this year, at 290 gigawatts, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. …By 2026, global capacity from these carbon-free sources will rise more than 60% over last year’s levels, the intergovernmental research organization now projects. …In addition, renewables will account for 95% of the overall capacity growth in the power sector over that period.”

SCIENCE
Quantum Simulators Create a Totally New Phase of Matter
Charlie Wood | Quanta
“Today the Cambridge group unveiled their most significant discovery yet: the detection of an elusive state of matter known as a quantum spin liquid, which exists outside the century-old paradigm outlining the ways in which matter can organize. It confirms a nearly 50-year-old theory predicting the exotic state. It also marks a step toward the dream of building a truly useful universal quantum computer.”

COMPUTING
How Much Has Quantum Computing Actually Advanced?
Dan Garisto | IEEE Spectrum
“Lately, it seems as though the path to quantum computing has more milestones than there are miles. …For a measured perspective on how much quantum computing is actually advancing as a field, we spoke with John Martinis, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the former chief architect of Google’s Sycamore.”

ETHICS
The Movement to Hold AI Accountable Gains More Steam
Khari Johnson | Wired
“New York’s City Council last month adopted a law requiring audits of algorithms used by employers in hiring or promotion. The law, the first of its kind in the nation, requires employers to bring in outsiders to assess whether an algorithm exhibits bias based on sex, race, or ethnicity. Employers also must tell job applicants who live in New York when artificial intelligence plays a role in deciding who gets hired or promoted.”

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#440047 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

NEUROSCIENCE
Can Digital Reality Be Jacked Directly Into Your Brain?
Adam Rogers | Wired
“The idea of uploading a synthetic experience into a mind has been a load-bearing member in science fiction for at least 75 years… But in real life (that’s what this is, right?), we’re a long way from a data port in the nape of every neck. Neuroscientists can decode the signal coming out of the brain well enough to move a cursor or a robotic arm, though they can’t achieve the fluid elegance of a biological connection. Signal going in is even trickier.”

VIRTUAL REALITY
Someone Just Bought a Strip of Virtual ‘Land’ for Over $2.4 Million
Shoshana Wodinksy | Gizmodo
“For that mega-investment, the firm got 116 virtual land ‘parcels,’ which adds up to about 6,090 square feet of land—a little larger than the size of your average basketball court. For reference, while prices for IRL plots of land vary wildly by state, some estimates put the average price per square foot in the US at around $123, meaning that the real-world equivalent of this purchase would have cost about $750,000, instead of…$2.4 million.”

HEALTH
Could One Shot Kill the Flu?
Matthew Hutson | The New Yorker
“Until recently, it’s been beyond the reach of molecular biology. But new technologies are extending our abilities, and researchers are learning how to see through the flu’s disguises. Without knowing it, we’re living on the cusp of a remarkable scientific achievement. One of the world’s longest pandemics could soon be coming to an end.”

COMPUTING
Supercomputers Flex Their AI Muscles
Samuel K. Moore | IEEE Spectrum
“MLCommons, the industry organization that’s been setting realistic tests for AI systems of all sizes…released results from version 1.0 of its high-performance computing benchmarks, called MLPerf HPC, this week. …Compared to MLPerf HPC version 0.7, basically a warmup round from last year, the best results in version 1.0 showed a 4- to 7-fold improvement.”

CRYPTOCURRENCY
Japanese Firms Will Test a Bank-Backed Cryptocurrency in 2022
I. Bonafacic | Engadget
“Japan is about to take a significant step toward developing a digital currency. Per Reuters, a consortium made up of approximately 70 Japanese firms said this week they plan to launch a yen-based cryptocurrency in 2022. What’s notable about the project, tentatively called ‘DCJPY,’ is that three of the country’s largest banks will back it.”

GENOMICS
The UK Government Wants to Sequence Your Baby’s Genome
Grace Browne | Wired
“In October, the government announced that Genomics England, a government-owned company, would receive funding to run a research pilot in the UK that aims to sequence the genomes of between 100,000 and 200,000 babies. Dubbed the Newborn Genomes Programme, the plan will be embedded within the UK’s National Health Service and will specifically look for ‘actionable’ genetic conditions—meaning those for which there are existing treatments or interventions—and which manifest in early life…”

BIOTECH
The Gene-Synthesis Revolution
Yiren Lu | The New York Times
“If the first phase of the genomics revolution focused on reading genes through gene sequencing, the second phase is about writing genes. Crispr, the gene-editing technology whose inventors won a Nobel Prize last year, has received far more attention, but the rise of gene synthesis promises to be an equally powerful development. Crispr is like editing an article, allowing us to make precise changes to the text at specific spots; gene synthesis is like writing the article from scratch.”

ROBOTICS
Robots Won’t Close the Warehouse Worker Gap Anytime Soon
Will Knight | Wired
“A rush to adopt more automation does not mean that artificial intelligence and robots will solve the worker shortage. Amazon’s prototype robots are not yet capable of doing the most challenging, and important, work inside its fulfillment centers: picking the many products stored on its shelves. They’re simply not smart enough.”

TRANSPORTATION
The Hyperloop Is Hyper Old
Vaclav Smil | IEEE Spectrum
“The artist, William Heath (1794–1840), shows many futuristic contraptions, including a four-wheeled steam-powered horse called Velocity, a suspension bridge from Cape Town to Bengal, a gun-carrying platform lifted by four balloons, and a giant winged flying fish conveying convicts from England to New South Wales, in Australia. But the main object is a massive, seamless metallic tube taking travelers from East London’s Greenwich Hill to Bengal, courtesy of the Grand Vacuum Tube Company.”

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#439893 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Are We on the Verge of Chatting With Whales?
Christoph Droesser | Hakai Magazine
“An ambitious project is attempting to interpret sperm whale clicks with artificial intelligence, then talk back to them. …If Bronstein’s idea works, it is quite realistic to develop a system analogous to human language models that generates grammatically correct whale utterances. The next step would be an interactive chatbot that tries to engage in a dialogue with free-living whales.”

COMPUTING
Brain Implants Could Be the Next Computer Mouse
Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review
“While other brain-interface researchers grabbed the limelight with more spectacular demonstrations, Shenoy’s group has stayed focused on creating a practical interface that paralyzed patients can use for everyday computer interactions. …’if you can click, then you can use Gmail, surf the Web, and play music.’ Shenoy says he is developing the technology for people with ‘the worst afflictions and the most need.’i”

ROBOTICS
Boston Dynamics Wants You to Know Its Spot Robot Has Moves Like Jagger
I. Bonifacic | Engadget
“Is this what TikTok will look like when the robots take over? …In a new solo display, we get to see [Spot] move to ‘Start Me Up’ from The Rolling Stones in honor of the 40th anniversary of their 1981 album Tattoo You. And if you thought Spot dancing was too close to the uncanny valley, wait until you see it lip-sync.”

AUTOMATION
This Chemist Is Reimagining the Discovery of Materials Using AI and Automation
Simon Lewson | MIT Technology Review
“i‘In the Matter Lab, we only attack a problem after asking three questions,’ says [Alán] Aspuru-Guzik. ‘Does it matter for the world? If not, then fuck it. Has somebody else already done it? If the answer is yes, there’s no point. And is it remotely possible?’ Here, the word ‘remotely’ is key. Aspuru-Guzik wants to tackle challenges that are within the range of feasibility, but barely so. ‘If a material is too easy,’ he says, ‘let other people find it.’i”

SPACE
A Once-Quiet Battle to Replace the Space Station Suddenly Is Red-Hot
Eric Berger | Ars Technica
“A Houston-based company called Axiom Space has been most public about its intentions, talking for a few years now about developing the world’s ‘first commercial space station.’ But this week, two other options emerged for NASA: Nanoracks and Lockheed Martin announced their intent to build a space station called ‘Starlab,’ and another team led by Blue Origin and Sierra Space revealed plans to construct an ‘Orbital Reef.’i”

ETHICS
‘Yeah, We’re Spooked’: AI Starting to Have Big Real-World Impact, Says Expert
Nicola Davis | The Guardian
“i‘The AI community has not yet adjusted to the fact that we are now starting to have a really big impact in the real world,’ [Stuart Russell] told the Guardian. ‘That simply wasn’t the case for most of the history of the field—we were just in the lab, developing things, trying to get stuff to work, mostly failing to get stuff to work. So the question of real-world impact was just not germane at all. And we have to grow up very quickly to catch up.’i”

IMPACT
Alphabet Designed a Low-Cost Device to Make Drinking Water From Air. Now It’s Open-Sourced
Adele Peters | Fast Company
“Because larger water infrastructure projects, like desalination plants, take many years to plan and build, the small devices could help fill the gap in the meantime. ‘This can leapfrog a lot of that and go directly to the source with a small device that’s solar powered,’ says Jackson Lord, lead author of the paper, who previously worked at X on the project.”

ART
Making This Album With AI ‘Felt Like Wandering in and Enormous Labyrinth’
James Vincent | The Verge
“The end result of this three-way trade [between humans and AI] is Shadow Planet, an atmospheric album in which snippets of folk songs and electronic hooks emerge like moss-covered logs from a fuzzy bog of ambient loops and disintegrating samples. It is a complete album in and of itself: a pocket musical universe to explore.”

TECHNOLOGY
Eight Things We Learned From the Facebook Papers
Russell Brandom, Alex Heath, and Adi Robertson | The Verge
“For months, Facebook has been shaken by a steady leak of documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen, beginning in The Wall Street Journal but spreading to government officials and nearly any outlet with an interest in the company. Now, those documents are going much more public, giving us the most sweeping look at the operations of Facebook anyone not directly involved with the company has ever had.”

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