The Download: CRISPR crops, and busting renewables myths
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.
How CRISPR could help save crops from devastation caused by pests
For decades, the grape-growers of California have battled Pierce’s Disease, a nasty infection which causes vines to wither. The arrival of an invasive insect around the late ‘80s supercharged the spread of the disease, turning it from a nuisance to a nightmare.
The disease still has no cure, and it’s at risk of getting worse due to climate change. But an unlikely solution has arrived in the form of CRISPR gene-editing technology, which allows researchers to change the pest’s genome so that it can no longer spread the bacterium. Read the full story.
—Emma Foehringer Merchant
Busting three myths about materials and renewable energy
When it comes to renewable energy, there are certain myths that are difficult to shake. The raw materials we need to fight climate change are often found at the center of some of the most pervasive untruths or misunderstandings.
Our climate reporter Casey Crownhart dove into three of the biggest myths linked to climate change-combatting materials and renewable power—demonstrating just how important it is to ignore the hype, and follow the science. Read the full story.
Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly energy and climate newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Remember Amazon’s drone delivery program?
It’s still struggling to take off. (The Information $)
2 These videos show how Iran violently suppresses protests
Security forces are beating and opening fire on civilians. (WP $)
Thousands of demonstrators continue to rail against authorities, though. (WSJ $)
3 Whisper is ChatGPT’s quieter cousin
The accuracy of the transcription model, also made by OpenAI, is near-perfect. (New Yorker $)
ChatGPT is launching a subscription tier for $20 a month. (Gizmodo)
Microsoft’s wasted no time integrating ChatGPT into Teams. (Reuters)
OpenAI is a real breeding ground for AI talent. (The Information $)
People are already using ChatGPT to create workout plans. (MIT Technology Review)
4 The crucial role satellites will play in space warfare 🛰️
They collect data to reveal rivals’ locations and weapons systems. (Wired $)
How to fight a war in space (and get away with it) (MIT Technology Review)
5 Instagram’s founders have launched a AI-aggregated news app
They believe Artifact can bust the news echo chambers popularized by Twitter. (FT $)
6 We don’t fully know how psychedelics can alter our brains
All the more reason to exercise caution before you expand your mind. (The Atlantic $)
Mind-altering substances are being overhyped as wonder drugs. (MIT Technology Review)
7 Are you ready to feel the metaverse?
Haptic tech is the next step to making immersive experiences more life-like. (Economist $)
Meanwhile, Meta’s metaverse labs are still hemorrhaging money. (Insider $)
8 Forget 3D-printers, this is a 3D-printing factory
It’s all about scale, baby. (Bloomberg $)
Meet the designers printing houses out of salt and clay. (MIT Technology Review)
9 Voice-dictated text messages are riddled with errors
Goof duck interpreting them! (WSJ $)
10 TikTok’s ‘lucky girl syndrome’ is just another term for manifesting 🍀
Gen Z has discovered the power of positive thinking. (Vox)
Tiktok’s ‘dark psychology’ trend sounds a lot like gaslighting to me. (Vice)
Quote of the day
“Privacy has been extinguished. It is now a zombie.”
—Shoshana Zuboff, professor emerita at Harvard Business School, highlights a similarity between western tech giants and China’s surveillance state in an interview with the Financial Times.
The big story
How megacities could lead the fight against climate change
In 2050, 2.5 billion more people will live in cities than do today. As the world grows more urbanized, many cities are becoming more populous while also trying to reduce carbon emissions and blunt the impacts of climate change.
In the coming decades, cities will be engines of economic growth. But they must also play a key role in confronting climate change. Learn how some of the world’s biggest cities—called megacities—are rising to this challenge. Read the full story.
—Gabrielle Merite & Andre Vitorio
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)
Atlas has fallen—and I’m cackling at the blooper reel (thanks Will!)
Don’t worry if your home’s looking a bit untidy these days, even the queen of clean Marie Kondo is easing off on the dusting.
These exhibitions are well worth trotting the globe for.
I’m desperate to visit this breathtaking sea serpent sculpture on a French beach.
This cat is some kind of well-hydrated genius.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.