This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
Meta’s new AI can turn text prompts into videos
What happened: Meta has introduced an AI system that generates short videos based on text prompts. Make-A-Video lets you type in a series of words, such as “A dog in a superhero costume with a red cape flying through the sky,” and then generates a five-second clip that, while fairly accurate , has the aesthetic of an old home video.
How it works: Meta combined data from three open-source image and video datasets to train its model. Standard image-text datasets of labeled still images helped the AI learn what objects are called and what they look like. And a video database helped learn how these objects are supposed to move in the world.
Why it matters: Although the effect is quite crude, the system offers an early glimpse of what’s coming next for generative artificial intelligence, and is the obvious next step from the text-to-image AI systems that have caused so much buzz excitement this year. But it also raises big ethical questions. Read the whole story.
China is betting big on another alternative to the gas engine: methanol cars
As the Chinese government works to meet ambitious carbon targets, the country has become a global leader in the adoption of electric vehicles. But that’s not the only greener car alternative he’s pursuing.
Although methanol fuel has been discussed and tested in China for a decade, its adoption has been delayed for a long time. Now that the government is trying to accelerate the adoption of methanol cars, along with other state efforts over the past year to draft methanol car standards and support relevant industries, they reaffirm their commitment to the alternative fuel.
This is important because, like electric vehicles, the technology could become a commercial success and a political boost for China’s technological ambitions. Read the whole story.
— Zeyi Yang
Can we find ways to live past 100? Millionaires bet on it.
Scientists and biotech companies reached out to ultra-rich investors at a posh conference in Switzerland this week, backing longevity science and anti-aging strategies. My colleague Jess Hamzelou, our senior biomedical reporter, joined them and took a look at some of the most cutting-edge work in the field. Read about what he discovered.
Jess’ story comes from The Checkup, her new weekly newsletter that brings you the inside track on all things health and tech. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox every Thursday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you the funniest/important/scary and fascinating stories about technology.
1 Hurricane Ian has left large areas of Florida under water
As he heads into South Carolina, Biden has warned that it could become the deadliest in Florida history. (The Guardian)
+ Coral reefs are an effective natural defense against hurricanes. (Voice)
+ The storm is a potent mix of powerful and unpredictable. (The Atlantic $)
+ It could be about to join the list of storms as severe as Katrina. (New Yorker $)
2 Iran is increasing internet blackouts and censorship
So far, the desired result of the government is not being achieved. (Blackboard $)
+ A niche tech publisher is illustrating China’s surveillance machine. (The Atlantic $)
3 What makes plastic so useful also makes recycling a nightmare
A new method to crack it might help. (Economist $)
+ A French company is using enzymes to recycle one of the most common single-use plastics. (MIT Technology Review)
4 Why Russia’s Cyber War Never Really Materialized
The attacks he made did not have the intended consequences. (FT$)
+ This is how the war in Ukraine could end. (New Yorker $)
+ Russian men are reportedly faking HIV to escape mandatory military service. (Rest of the World)
5 Jack Dorsey tried to get Elon Musk a place on the Twitter board
But the other members saw the appointment as too risky. (CNBC)
+ The former CEO also tried to get Musk and CEO Parag Agrawal off on the right foot. (WSJ$)
+ Musk wanted to search for “Trump” in his bot data search. (Bloomberg$)
+ Musk also toyed with appointing Oprah to Twitter’s board. (The $ info)
6 The Arctic Ocean is rapidly becoming more acidic
Not surprisingly, the culprit is climate change. (motherboard)
+ China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is suffering. (Voice)
7 Reactivating the Hubble telescope would give it new life
NASA and SpaceX believe they could do just that. (BBC)
+ NASA has taken stunning photos of Jupiter’s moon Europa. (New Scientist $)
8 Prepare for a new wave of tests at home
Nor are they just because of covid. (Neo.Life)
+ Genome sequencing has never been cheaper or easier. (via cable $)
9 Why Voice Memos Are So Controversial
Send yours with caution. (WSJ$)
+ Lasers can send a whispered audio message directly into a person’s ear. (MIT Technology Review)
10 AI is creating horrible new Pokemon
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. (WP$)
+ This artist masters AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it. (MIT Technology Review)
quote of the day
“I guess you learn who your real friends are when you can’t get the allotment in their opening round “
—Maia Bittner, an angel investor, jokingly tweets about the pitfalls of investing in friends’ startups, Bloomberg reports.
The great story
Meet the aspiring kids fighting for stardom
On YouTube, kids can become millionaires, seemingly overnight, without even trying. The highest paid of them, eight-year-old Ryan Kaji, earned $22 million in 2018 playing with toys on his channel Ryan ToysReview (now Ryan’s World). Now there are thousands of equally famous kid YouTubers: babies vlogged from the moment they were born, 10-year-old streamers showing off video game tricks, teenagers dishing out acne advice from their bedrooms.
Why do so many kids want to be YouTubers? Are they just looking for fame, or is there more to it: creativity, community, and a future career? How do their parents help them? And what if, after spending thousands of dollars or dropping out of school, it doesn’t work? Read the whole story.
— Amelia Tait
We can still have beautiful things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? Drop me a line ortweet them to me.)
+ Francis Ford Coppola’s excellent chiller Bram Stoker’s Dracula returns to theaters this Halloween. Enjoy the opulent 4K trailer here.
+ These scallops can’t get enough bright lights.
+ Cher’s sprawling home is as lavish as you’d expect.
+ No, it’s not a joke, they really are turning The Matrix into a dance show.
+ Controversial take horn: Are these really the best songs of the 90s?