Our favorite stories of 2022

Our favorite stories of 2022 thumbnail

We like to think that we had a great year at MIT Technology Review. Our stories have won many awards (this story from our magazine won the AAAS Gold awards) and our investigations helped shed light on unjust policies ..

So this year we asked our writers and editors to comb back through the past 12 months and try to pick just one story that they loved the most–and then tell us why.

This is what they said.


Will Douglas Heaven

Senior editor, AI

Longevity Prize winner celebrates with raised arms as confetti falls and she receives an oversized check

LONGEVITY INVESTORS CONFERENCE

Story: Inside the billion-dollar meeting for the mega-rich who want to live forever

Reason: Jessica Hamzelou gets to the heart of pretty much everything she writes about. This piece is particularly good. Reporting from a special billionaires’ event at a Swiss luxury hotel, she introduces us all to longevity researchers and their benefactors. These people are wealthy enough to believe they might be able buy their way out.

Jess takes a look at this murky world to show us the hidden relationships that drive this exciting, but still sci-fi field forward. These details are horrifying, with stories about conference attendees performing DIY blood tests at banquets between courses and doing press-ups in aisles between talks. We are expertly guided throughout between real science and Hail Mary quackery. This is Jess at its best.


Zeyi Yang

Reporter, China

conceptual illustration

NHUNG LE

Story: Meet the scientist at the center of the covid lab leak controversy

Reason: There’ve been countless stories in the news that claimed to be the big scoop taking readers one step closer to the origin of covid-19; few delivered on their promises. Jane Qiu, our freelance journalist, reports this story. It is unique. This story combines extraordinary access to the people at the center of the lab leak theory with genuine patience to hear all sides. I’ve been consuming stories about covid origins for a while and this story was the result. It is condensed with details from the ground reporting. I didn’t feel pressured to agree with the author but have more information to make my own decision.


Antonio Regalado

Senior editor, biotech

baidu worker (left) and autonomous vehicle driving on highway (right)

COURTESY OF BAIDU

Story: A day in the life of a Chinese robotaxi driver

Reason: Sometimes you can see the future in small details. Zeyi Yang was told by a Chinese driver that he would enter his car on the wrong side after a hard day at work. Zeyi wrote about a robotaxi safety officer. It’s a strange job. You spend the day in the passenger seat. It’s not a career with great prospects. Automated taxis will make safety drivers (and you) obsolete.


Amy Nordrum

Executive editor, operations

psychedlic experience via VR headset concept

STEPHANIE ARNETT/MITTR | SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY (CT/MRI IMAGE)

Story: VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

Reason: I learned from this story that certain VR experiences can be as effective as psychedelics in evoking feelings of connectedness with others. This surprised me greatly! Hana Kiros, a fellow reporter, tried one of these VR experiences for herself. Her vivid descriptions really give you a sense what it was like to go there and what she learned from it.


Charlotte Jee

News editor

bomb made of generated text with lit fuse

STEPHANIE ARNETT/MITTR

What does GPT-3 “know” about me?

Reason: This was a brilliant story. It used something abstract, large language AI models, to explain that even though they don’t know anything about us, they might. These AI models are trained using data sets gathered from all the digital debris we leave on the internet. Melissa showed this by digging into the thoughts of one of the top models, GPT-3, as well as Mat Honan, our editor in chief. The result is engaging, personal, and funny. It also raises serious issues about privacy and data protections in the AI training data world. Anyone who reads it will be able to see the crappy posts and drunken photos they have left scattered across the internet in a new, more frightening light.


Linda Lowenthal

Copy chief

Concept photo illustration of a dog on sofa with past dogs in framed portraits behind

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: MS TECH | ENVATO, GETTY. NYPL, NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

Story: These scientists are working to extend the life span of pet dogs–and their owners

Reason: Literally the only thing wrong with dogs is that they don’t live long enough. Jess explored how scientists are trying to improve the lives of dogs and how their work could be used to help humans. This story was captivating even before I saw the art.


Allison Arieff

Editorial director, print

Female worker in the foreground of a room of 1950s era computers

GETTY IMAGES

Story: Why can’t tech fix its gender problem?

Reason: This story by the historian Margaret O’Mara is a fascinating but somber historical look back at how women became marginalized in the tech industry as it increasingly morphed more and more into an insider-y boys’ club. Over the years, funding and support have not always gone to the brightest and most well-connected people. O’Mara shows that the problem of gender in tech doesn’t just stem from a lack of STEM talent or a shortage of pipelines. It’s also a money problem. She writes that the tech industry loves to talk and show how it is changing the world. “But, tech’s incredible moneymaking machine has been fuelled by retrograde, gendered habits and patterns for a long time. Breaking out of them might ultimately be the most innovative move of all.”


Melissa Heikkila

Senior reporter, AI

resistance concept

EDEL RODRIGUEZ

Story: An MIT Technology Review Series: AI Colonialism

Reason: This series is a must-read on the AI industry’s murky practices that repeat the patterns of colonial history. The former senior editor for AI Karen Hao spoke with communities around the globe to examine how AI is creating a colonialist world order. This included South Africa’s private surveillance system and Venezuela’s exploitative labor practices. It tells stories of hope and resistance, and introduces us the gig workers in Indonesia fighting against algorithms and an Indigenous couple from New Zealand revitalizing their language using AI.


Juliet Beauchamp

Engagement editor

woman petting a crow at a kitchen table

GETTY IMAGES

Story: How to befriend a crow

Reason: Abby’s reporting on digital culture is always top-notch, but this particular story sticks out as a favorite of mine. Yes, you will find out how to become pals with your neighborhood crows. This story is important because it focuses on the power of social media algorithms, and how distinctly online trends translate IRL. (spoiler alert: they are not always successful). It was funny, I admit.


Tanya Basu

Senior reporter, humans and technology

screenshot of the SculptGL interface

FLORENCIA SOLARI

Story: The fight for “Instagram face”

Reason: Online beauty filters might seem like a fluffy subject on the surface–but they can have a huge impact on how we view ourselves. Tate’s piece is about the conflict between platforms’ efforts to ensure safety and the huge demand for these filters. Her reporting has one thing that sticks with me: The filters that create deformation are the ones that go viral the most. It’s amazing to think about how these filters can impact how we see ourselves and the world around us. AR makes the distinction between physical and virtual even more blurred. It’s both disturbing and enlightening, without being preachy. Tate’s work is unique and important in this area, and she is a great guide through this messy and confusing world.


Rachel Courtland

Commissioning editor

Story: Inside the experimental world of animal infrastructure

Reason: I never really thought about how much roads have fractured our landscapes and ecosystems until I read freelance reporter Matthew Ponsford’s feature, for the urbanism issue of the magazine. Researchers have been trying to find ways to help wildlife cross roads by building bridges or other infrastructure for years. These strategies work? It turns out that this question is more difficult to answer than you might think.

A motorcycle rider on his phone in Eldoret, Kenya

BRIAN OTIENO

Story: How mobile money supercharged Kenya’s sports betting addiction

Reason: Maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that a technology that has made it vastly easier to move money around has also made it a lot easier to gamble it all away. Jonathan Rosen’s dispatch from Kenya highlights an under-reported aspect to the mobile money ecosystem. It shows Kenyans tackling the problem and fighting back.


Rhiannon Williams

Reporter

NAJEEBAH AL-GHADBAN

Story: Technology that lets us speak to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready?

Reason: This piece is such a sensitive exploration of grief and our willingness to test the technological limits of whether we can try to replicate the essence of a loved one, knowing it’s never going to quite be the same. It is also a courageous confrontation of the inherent risks of loving our family and friends.


Eileen Guo

Senior reporter, investigations

human remains on a copy stand to be photographed

MIKE BELLEME

Story: What happens when you donate your body to science?

Reason: Sometimes the best stories answer questions you didn’t even know you had, and Abby’s beautifully written story on body farms is a perfect example. It tackles a topic we don’t often talk about–death, and more specifically, our dead bodies. It does so with a difficult-to-balance mixture of curiosity, compassion and great attention to detail. This was a joy to read. If you missed it the first round, I highly recommend it.


Abby Ivory-Ganja

Senior engagement editor

A worker from Wuhan Guangsheng Photovoltaic Company installs a solar panel project on the roof of a building

KEVIN FRAYER/GETTY IMAGES

Story: Who’s responsible for climate change? These charts provide an explanation.

Reason: I learned so much from Casey Crownhart’s stellar climate reporting this year, but I feel this piece about who is responsible for climate change will stick with me long past 2022. She does an amazing job of contextualizing the big problems ahead of us and behind us, without making it seem doom-y. (Her newsletter The Spark is always a great read, too. )


Tate Ryan-Mosley

Senior reporter, tech policy

Worldcoin has done field testing in Indonesia

WORLDCOIN

Story: Deception, exploited workers, and cash handouts: How Worldcoin recruited its first half a million test users

Reason: One of my favorite stories this year was the Worldcoin investigation by Eileen and Adi. This story was so extensive and examined the predatory data extraction practices of so many companies.

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