The Download: a breakthrough climate bill, and Twitter’s terrible trends
Two weeks after blowing up hopes of a US climate deal, Senator Joe Manchin announced on Wednesday that he and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader, had struck a compromise agreement that would provide nearly $400 billion for climate and energy projects.
It remains to be seen whether the sprawling spending package proposed by the Senate Democrats will pass in its current form, but if so, it will mark a critical win for their efforts to address climate change.
The bill has been hailed as transformative by experts, containing hundreds of billions in grants, loans, federal procurements, and tax credits for research research and development, deployment, and manufacturing in clean energy, transportation, and other sectors like agriculture. Read our explainer of all the biggest technology wins in the breakthrough bill.
—James Temple & Casey Crownhart
Why Twitter still has those terrible Trends
When Twitter introduced a new feature called Trends in mid-2008, the company’s cofounder Jack Dorsey described it as an evolution of the morning media diet, condensing what the world considered important at any given time. While the feature may look a little different now, the fundamentals remain the same: there are still ranked lists of topics trending nationally and worldwide, with some of the topics people see customized to their interests and locations.
Examining just a week’s worth of Trends exposes what’s gravely wrong with it—hoaxes, conspiracy theories and hate speech abound, all algorithmically amplified to reach huge audiences while undermining the story Twitter would like to tell about itself. Read the full story.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Bitcoin traders don’t care about a recession
Debate over the definition of a recession, and whether we’re in one, feels like a distraction. (CoinDesk)
Technically the US may now be in recession, but much of the economy remains strong. (The Guardian)
Here’s why the popular definition of a recession isn’t official. (The Atlantic $)
Bitcoin’s value is heading towards its best month since 2021. (Bloomberg $)
3 The CHIPS Act isn’t going to fix the semiconductor shortage
Partly because the shortage seems to be easing anyway. (Recode)
The multi-billion package must be invested wisely. (Wired $)
Chipmakers say they urgently need the subsidies promised by the bill. (FT $)
4 The Democrats did not release a deepfake video of Joe Biden
Despite conspiracy theorists’ best efforts to convince the internet. (BBC)
The biggest threat of deepfakes isn’t the deepfakes themselves. (MIT Technology Review)
5 Online outrage is performative and fleeting
Refusing to stoop to their level can make the whole thing less annoying to deal with. (The Atlantic $)
6 Sticky patches could revolutionize how we take ultrasounds
Patients could wear them at home, instead of attending hospital appointments. (The Guardian)
7 China’s virtual idols are burnt out
Their adoring fans don’t always consider the humans behind the animations. (Rest of World)
How China’s biggest online influencers fell from their thrones. (MIT Technology Review)
8 TikTok is driven by strangers, not friends
The platform rejected the social model championed by Facebook, with great success. (New Yorker $)
Instagram has sheepishly (and only temporarily) retracted some of its much-hated recent changes. (NYT $)
Facebook has vowed to double the amount of AI-recommended feed content. (Motherboard)
Snap and TikTok offer richer, more interesting recommendations than Google. (Slate)
9 This aging research institute wants to help you live better, not longer
But the shadow of the promise of immortality looms large. (Neo.Life)
Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging. (MIT Technology Review)
10 Meet the humans keeping the cloud online ☁️
Often under incredibly punishing conditions. (Aeon)
Quote of the day
“What frustrates me most is when I’m accused of twisting the truth. As meteorologists, we report facts. There is no conspiracy.”
—Meteorologist and weather presenter Tomasz Schafernaker tells his employer, the BBC, about his frustration at the online abuse he received from climate change deniers during the UK’s recent severe heatwave.
The big story
Meet the wounded veteran who got a penis transplant
Penis transplantation is a radical frontier of modern medicine: extremely rare, expensive, and difficult to perform. Replacing a major organ like a damaged liver is one thing: it contains just one type of tissue. But grafting a penis from a deceased donor onto a living recipient is a chaotic amalgamation that entails stitching millimeters-wide blood vessels and nerves with minuscule sutures.
Ray, a military veteran, lost his genitals in a bomb blast while he was on patrol in Afghanistan—eight years before he got the call to say the hospital had a donor penis ready for him. The procedure would be the most extensive penis transplant ever performed, and the first for a military veteran anywhere in the world. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
Florida’s WGCU radio station hosts an informative ‘Song of the Day’ segment every week (this entry is particularly amusing. Thanks Terry!)
Turns out the internet’s preoccupation with the Mandela effect is well-founded.
This fictionalized romp through Lollapalooza in 1992 is a lot of fun.
Watching a monstera plant’s leaf unravel is totally mesmerizing.
Let’s go hunting for asteroids at twilight!
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.