This is today’s edition of The Download,our weekday newsletter providing a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
What does GPT-3 “know” about me?
One of the biggest stories in technology this year has been the rise of large language models (LLMs). These are AI models that produce text that a human might have written — sometimes so convincingly that they’ve tricked people into thinking they’re sane.
These models’ power comes from a bunch of publicly available man-made text siphoned off the Internet. If you’ve posted anything, even remotely personal, in English on the internet, chances are your data could be part of some of the world’s most popular LLMs.
My colleague Melissa Heikkilä, our AI reporter, recently began to wonder what data these models might have about her—and how it might be misused. A bruising experience a decade ago left her paranoid about sharing personal details online, so she put OpenAI’s GPT-3 to the test to see what it “knew” about her. Read about what she found.
How ammonia can help clean up global shipping
The news: Unlikely ammonia may seem like an unlikely fuel to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it could also play a key role in the decarbonisation of global shipping, providing an efficient way to store the energy needed to power large ships on long voyages.
What is happening: The US Bureau of Shipping recently granted early-stage approval for some ammonia-powered ships and fuel infrastructure, meaning such ships could hit the seas within the next few years. While the fuel will require new engines and fuel systems, replacing it with fossil fuels that ships burn today could help make a significant dent in global carbon emissions.
What is next: Some companies are looking even further into the future, with New York-based Amogy raising nearly $50 million earlier this year to use the chemical for fuel cells that promise even greater emissions reductions. If early tests for ammonia work out, this new technology could help the shipping industry significantly reduce its emissions. Read the full story.
– Casey Crownhart
The must read
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s funniest/most important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Pakistan is reeling from its devastating floods
Poor policy-making, mixed with a climate change-driven monsoon, has displaced millions of people and destroyed homes, food and livelihoods. (vox)
+ These images highlight the extent of the destruction. (The Guardian)
+ Residents try to save their belongings from the water. (BBC)
2 California passed new online child safety rules
The legislation will force websites and apps to add safeguards for under-18s. (NYT $)
+The state also wants to punish doctors who spread misinformation about health. (NYT $)
3 NASA will try again to launch its Artemis rocket on Saturday
An inaccurate sensor reading is believed to have caused the failed liftoff on Monday. (BBC)
4 Elon Musk has found a new tactic to try to get away from buying Twitter
He uses the recent allegations of whistleblowers. (FT$)
+ What you need to know about the upcoming legal battle. (WSJ $)
+ Twitter is failing to adequately tackle self-harming content. (Ars Technica)
5 Deepfakes are infiltrating the mainstream
The technology is improving by the day, and we should be concerned. (WP$)
+ A scary new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click. (MIT Technology Review)
6 Cyber insurance is not equipped to deal with cyber warfare
Insurers cannot agree on what should and should not be covered. (Thread $)
7 A program to clean up polluted Nigerian wetlands has exacerbated the problem
Ogoniland residents were left to deal with the oil soaked lands. (Bloomberg$)
+ The companies that caused an oil spill in California were fined $13 million. (CNN)
8 How giant isopods became so giant
The roly-poly relative’s genes explain why it can grow to the size of a chihuahua. (Hakai Magazine)
+ The primordial coelacanth was an energy-saving expert. (New Scientist $)
9 Gen Z is really into making collages
There’s an app for that, of course. (The information $)
10 Dadcore fashions have gone viral
Leaving a generation of iconic fishing fans in his wake. (Import)
Quote of the day
“I’ve definitely had days where I’ve achieved it all, but it’s exhausting.”
—Dynasti deGouville, 22, describes the pressure she felt to subscribe to the #ThatGirl lifestyle of early risers, grueling exercise and restrictive diets peddled by TikTok clips of thin, white women to the Wall Street Journal.
The big story
Humanity is stuck in short-term thinking. Here’s how we escape.
Humans have evolved over millennia to grasp an ever-expanding sense of time. We have minds capable of imagining a future far in the distance. Although we have this ability, it is rarely deployed in daily life. If our descendants were to diagnose the ills of 21st-century civilization, they would observe a dangerous short-termism: a collective failure to escape the present moment and look further ahead.
The world is saturated with information, and living standards have never been higher, but so often it’s a struggle to see beyond the next news cycle, political term or business quarter. How to explain this contradiction? Why are we so stuck in the “now”? Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line ortweet them to me.)
+ This dog slide seems like an infinite delight.
+ Three hours of underground 90s hip hop guaranteed to put you in a good mood.
+ After a two-year hiatus, the World Gravy Wrestling Championship is back!
+ Electro icon Gary Numan has some interesting words of wisdom.
+ The Perseverance Rover is digging around for evidence of past life on Mars.