The Download: how Twitter is breaking, and YouTube’s TV experiment

The Download: how Twitter is breaking, and YouTube’s TV experiment thumbnail

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.

Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks

On November 4, just hours after Elon Musk fired half of the 7,500 employees previously working at Twitter, some people began to see small signs that something was wrong with everyone’s favorite hellsite. They saw it through retweets.

A few users who clicked the retweet buttons were given a manual retweet. This was a rough, copy-and-paste approximation of what the function should look like. It wasn’t Musk’s latest attempt at appeasing users. It was actually the first public crack in Twitter’s codebase – a blip on the seismometer warning of a larger earthquake.

While Musk’s critics may wish that Twitter goes through the same process as thermonuclear devastation, the collapse of something such as Twitter happens slowly. Here is how it will likely play out .

–Chris Stokel-Walker

YouTube wants to take on TikTok and put its Shorts videos on your TV

What’s happening: YouTube Shorts, the video website’s TikTok-like feature, has become one of its latest obsessions, with more than 1.5 billion users watching short-form content on their devices every month. YouTube is now aiming to increase that number by bringing vertical, full-screen videos to your TV.

Why it matters: The team behind this initiative is still unsure how short-form video will be accepted into the YouTube on TV experience. It’s been difficult to take a traditional mobile format and find the right way to make it work on TV, admits the company. YouTube’s dedication to this model shows how important it is for its future. Read the complete story .

–Chris Stokel-Walker

Where will AI go next?

This year we’ve seen a dizzying number of breakthroughs in generative AI, from AIs that can produce videos from just a few words to models that can generate audio based on snippets of a song.

Melissa Heikkila, MIT Technology Review’s senior AI reporter, stopped by Google’s new Manhattan offices last week, where the company announced a slew of advances in generative AI, including a system that combines its two text-to-video AI models, Phenaki and Imagen.

While they’re impressive pieces of AI research, it’s unclear how Google could monetize them. Melissa spoke with several top executives from some of the most prestigious AI labs around the world to learn more about the potential and limitations of these models. Here’s what they had to say.

Melissa’s story is from The Algorithm, our weekly AI newsletter covering everything you need to know about the industry’s movers and shakers. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

Podcast: Decoding a Future of Fire

We take a look at how AI and other tech is being used to help predict, detect, and pinpoint the location of wildfires in the second of a two-part series. Refresh your memory by listening to the first part of the series on Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you usually listen.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 There’s no evidence that US voting machines have been tampered with
Humans tend to be the weakest link in the security chain. (New Yorker $)
Apps popular among immigrants are rife with political misinformation. (WP $)
The worst surge of misinformation could be yet to come. (NYT $)

2 Cop27’s Wi-Fi in Egypt is blocking human rights websites
Global rights groups are struggling to access their own sites. (The Guardian)
Greece will stop selling spyware following a series of accusations. (NYT $)

3 A German privacy activist is fighting Clearview AI over his face
Matthias Marx wants EU regulators to crack down on data scrapers. (Wired $)
A UK group has filed a similar complaint against PimEyes. (BBC)
The walls are closing in on Clearview AI. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Black Twitter influencers don’t know where to go next
Many of the workers who prevent racially-fueled hate speech have been fired. (LA Times $)
Mastodon is buckling under the influx of Twitter defectors. (Bloomberg $)
I made it big on Twitter. Now, I don’t believe I can stay. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Apple is China’s most profitable tech company
Its earnings outstrip native giants Alibaba and Tencent. (FT $)
But the relationship between the pair is growing increasingly fraught. (NYT $)

6 Inside the rise of the humanoid robot
They may be edging beyond the uncanny valley. (Economist $)

7 Self-driving cars may never actually self-drive
Which kind of defeats the entire point. (WSJ $)
The big new idea for making self-driving cars that can go anywhere. (MIT Technology Review)

8 How TikTok ate the world
Attempting to moderate videos is tough. TikTok’s explosive growth is making it harder. (The Atlantic $)

9 How psychedelics could play a role in end of life care
Some doctors argue they reduce anxiety and increase optimism in the face of death. (Slate $)
What do psychedelic drugs do to our brains? (MIT Technology Review)

10 The argument for fighting over text message
You don’t have to call it a ‘fext,’ though. (NYT $)

Quote of the day

“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”

–Antonio Guterres, the secretary general of the UN, warns world leaders of the grave dangers facing the planet at the opening of the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt, reports the Guardian.

The big story

How the AI industry profits from catastrophe

April 2022

It was meant to be a temporary side job. Oskarina Fuentes Anaya joined Appen, an AI data-labeling platform. She was still in college and wanted to get a job in the oil industry.

But then, the economy crashed in Venezuela. Her side gig was now full-time; the temporary now the future. Fuentes is now a Colombian refugee and migrant, living in Colombia.

She is trapped at home due to a chronic illness she developed after she was denied access to medical care. She also has to work and earn a living through opaque algorithms.

Despite threats from Appen to retaliate against her, she chose to go on the record as a named source. She wants people to see her life as a key part of the global AI pipeline, but for her beneficiaries to also mistreat and make her invisible. She wants to see the people who do this work. Read the full story.

–Karen Hao and Andrea Paola Hernandez

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. Have any other ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me. )

These angelic piglets are guaranteed to warm your heart.
Nothing but respect for these road crossing legends during the NYC marathon.
I’m sorry, you can’t improve on perfection.
This extremely cool-looking hotel is inside a working train station.
Take a minute out to relax with these award-winning landscapes (thanks Charlotte! )

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