The Download: Twitter’s user exodus, and fixing bridges
The news: In the days since Elon Musk confirmed his purchase of Twitter on October 27, tweeting “the bird is freed,” many Twitter users have threatened to leave. Although people are often reluctant to make threats to leave Twitter, new data suggests that there is a substantial number of people who have abandoned the platform.
How they did it: The firm Bot Sentinel, which tracks behavior on Twitter, believes that around 877,000 accounts were deactivated and a further 497,000 were suspended between October 27 and November 1. This is more than twice the usual number.
Why it Matters: Anecdotal evidence on social media suggests that people are upset about Elon Musk buying Twitter and have decided to deactivate their accounts as a protest. If they continue to do this en masse, it could become a problem for the platform and its new owner. Read more .
Smartphone data from drivers could help spot when bridges need urgent repairs
Smartphones can be used to monitor safety of bridges more quickly and cheaper than is currently possible. This will provide engineers with data that they can use to repair the structures before they become dangerously unstable. Usually, bridges are monitored by either visual inspection for cracks or faults or sensors that collect vibration and movement data. Researchers at West Point Military Academy and other universities have developed a new method to collect accelerometer data from cars while they drive over bridges. Read more .
Here’s how personalized brain stimulation could treat depression
Sending a jolt of electricity through a person’s brain can do remarkable things. Watch the videos of Parkinson’s patients who have electrodes in their brains. With a simple flick of a switch, they can transform from being unable to walk to being able to confidently move across a room.
A similar approach might be possible to lift our moods, which could prove life-changing for those with depression. We’re not talking about general brain zaps. The goal is to create personalized devices that monitor your brain activity and optimize it. Read the complete story .
This story is from The Checkup, our new weekly newsletter covering everything you need to know that’s going on in the world of healthcare and biotech. Sign up and receive it in your email every Thursday.
This week, MIT Technology Review held our annual EmTech conference, our flagship event covering emerging technology and global trends. Check out our liveblogs from the two days of fascinating conversations with global changemakers and industry veterans. We try to figure out what’s possible, plausible, and achievable with tomorrow’s breakthrough technologies.
Day one focused on some of the exciting technologies promising to change our lives, including clean energy and CRISPR, while the second day unpacked what the future holds for the internet, augmented reality, body tech, and AI.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Shadowy algorithms are calling the shots in Washington, DC
And the vast majority of residents don’t have a clue about them, or how they work. (Wired $)
How the pandemic bolstered China’s surveillance state. (Slate)
Marseille’s battle against being spied upon. (MIT Technology Review)
2 What Mark Zuckerberg has taught Elon Musk
The one constant between the two companies? Unhappy employees. (NYT $)
L’Oreal has paused its advertising spend on Twitter. (FT $)
Musk is attempting to spark a war between Twitter factions. (Motherboard)
Here’s why Twitter users should, unfortunately, prepare for the worst. (The Atlantic $)
3 Republican midterm candidates are pushing Stop the Steal lies
Just because the narrative isn’t true doesn’t stop it from resonating. (Bloomberg $)
Swing voters are more powerful than ever. (NY Mag $)
4 What will it take to regulate space?
One thing’s clear–it won’t be easy. (Vox)
5 World leaders must accept that they’ve failed to curb climate change
The 1.5degC Paris agreement is no longer enough–we need action, and fast. (Economist $)
Scientists are questioning the sector’s biggest oversight group. (FT $)
We must fundamentally rethink “net-zero” climate plans. (MIT Technology Review)
6 What it’s like inside a Chinese covid detention center
All-night lights, strict routines, and endless dust. (FT $)
Vietnam wants to steal China’s tech manufacturing crown. (Rest of World)
7 Social media wasn’t ready for photos of early pregnancies
But looking at them is essential for honest abortion conversations. (The Verge)
The cognitive dissonance of watching the end of Roe unfold online. (MIT Technology Review)
8 Loving the conspiracy theorist in your life can be tough
Treating them with compassion can help to bridge the divide. (The Atlantic $)
How to talk to conspiracy theorists–and still be kind. (MIT Technology Review)
9 The heartbreak of a very modern breakup
Agonizing over whether to block your ex on Instagram just prolongs the pain. (The Guardian)
10 How to model the other planets we could call home
The simulations are part of the quest to find alien life. (Quanta Magazine)
A new source of high-energy cosmic neutrinos has been discovered. (New Scientist $)
Quote of the day
“We’re all working for the Trump White House.”
–A disgruntled Twitter worker describes what it’s like to work under the new Elon Musk regime to the Washington Post.
The big story
I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them
A few years ago, Ron Srigley, a writer who teaches at Humber College and Laurentian University, performed an experiment in a philosophy class he was teaching. He suspected that his students had failed a test and that their use of cell phones and laptops in class had played a part in this.
He offered them extra credit by allowing them to keep their phones for nine consecutive days and then write about how they live without them. Twelve students, or about a third of the class, accepted the offer. They wrote remarkable and consistent writing. Read the full story.
We can still have nice
A place for comfort, enjoyment, and distraction in these strange times. Have any other ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me. )
These beautiful homes built into cliffs aren’t for the faint of heart.
Weighing a baby emperor penguin is more challenging than you’d expect.
I know Halloween is over, but these spooky stories are too good not
Hear me out: eels are cool.
It’s not just you–plenty of people feel nostalgic for places they’ve never been.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.