The Download: worst tech of 2022, and crypto’s future

The Download: worst tech of 2022, and crypto’s future thumbnail
We’re back with our latest list containing the worst technologies for the year. These are anti-breakthroughs. They include the types of mishaps and misuses that can lead to technology failure, as well as bad ideas. One theme emerges from our disaster list: how badly policy–the rules and processes, institutions, as well as the ideals that govern technology’s usage–can fail us. China’s zero covid policies came to an abrupt and unexpected halt. Elon Musk, a Twitter user, deliberately destroyed the site’s governing policies and replaced them with a puckish, arbitrary mixture of free speech and personal vendettas. In the US, policy failures were evident in the highest levels of overdose deaths ever recorded, many of them due to a 60-year-old chemical compound: fentanyl.

In each of these mess, there are important lessons that can be learned about why technology fails. Read the complete story .

–Antonio Regalado

What’s next for crypto in 2023

Last month’s sudden implosion of the popular cryptocurrency exchange FTX has intensified a political war for the soul of crypto that was already raging. There are two sides to the story. There are two sides to the coin. On the other side, there are those who believe in “decentralization” and argue that cryptocurrency networks are essential to the future privacy and financial freedom. They also worry that regulation might be misguided.

In the next year, we will likely see this fight come to a head both in Congress and in US courts. The future of finance is in jeopardy. Read the complete story .

–Mike Orcutt

Why it’s so hard to tell porn spam from Chinese state bots

A few weeks ago, at the peak of China’s protests against stringent zero-covid policies, people were shocked to find that searching for major Chinese cities on Twitter led to an endless stream of ads for hookup or escort services in Chinese.

At the time, many believed that this was a Chinese government tactic to poison search results. However, a new Stanford Internet Observatory report has cast doubt on its involvement. Instead, spam was likely to be the work of the same commercial spam bots that plague Twitter for years. Read full story .

–Zeyi Yang

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter covering all things China. Sign up and receive it in your email every Tuesday.

The must-reads

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

1 Elon Musk says he will step down as Twitter’s CEO
As soon as he can find someone “foolish enough to take the job.” (The Guardian)
He maintains he’ll retain control of the software and servers teams. (WP $)
Musk appears to be coasting on vibes at this point. (FT $)
Twitter has settled with an executive who was shut out of her IT systems. (Bloomberg $)
Journalists that Musk banned and reinstated are still being silenced. (The Intercept)

2 One of the largest crypto mining firms in the US is going bust
Core Scientific is the industry’s latest victim after racking up too much debt. (CNBC)
Crypto miners and traders in Asia are selling off their expensive equipment. (Rest of World)

3The US is playing whack-a-mole with China’s chipmakers
American export sanctions are coming thick and fast to try and thwart new chip projects. (FT $)

4 The problem with trying to ban TikTok
The company has become a bogeyman for Big Tech in Washington. (Vox)

5 Optical computing’s future is looking bright
After decades of sluggish development, progress is finally being made. (Economist $)

6 Inside the implosion of music event startup Pollen
Drugs, sexual harassment allegations, and reckless spending all played a part. (Insider $)

7 Fake news is getting faker
But there’s still time to curb the most dangerous deepfake scenarios. (The Atlantic $)
People are hiring out their faces to become deepfake-style marketing clones. (MIT Technology Review)

8 NASA’s Insight Mars spacecraft has signed off
The lander is losing solar power after four years of relaying information back to Earth. (NPR)
The UK’s first space launch has been granted a license. (Engadget)

9 The joy of Reddit
Now that Google search results are increasingly less useful, Reddit is a rich hub of incredibly specific information. (New Yorker $)

10 How billionaires threaten our security
Capitalism isn’t always good for code. (Wired $)
2022 has been a bad year for billionaire reputations overall. (Vox)

Quote of the day

“Streaming makes music so easy and painless. It’s all too easy. Just one stroke of the ring finger, middle finger, one little click, that’s all it takes.”

–Legendary musician Bob Dylan bemoans the convenience of music streaming platforms to the Wall Street Journal.

The big story

The code must go on: An Afghan coding bootcamp becomes a lifeline under Taliban rule

December 2021

Four months after the Afghan government fell to the Taliban, 22-year-old Asad Asadullah had settled into a new routine. The former student in computer science spent his days in Afghanistan’s northern Samangan region, glued to his computer screen.

Asadullah has been taking part in a virtual bootcamp that CodeWeekend organizes for Afghan tech enthusiasts. The content is donated by Scrimba, an Norwegian company that offers online programming workshops.

Asadullah is one of the millions of young Afghans whose lives, and plans for the future, were turned upside down when the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan in August 2020. A coding bootcamp might seem odd in such dire circumstances. It offers hope for a better future for its participants. Read the full story.

–Eileen Guo

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. )

This cartoon cake is truly outstanding.
A decade after he went viral, the Ikea monkey is living his best life in Ontario.
Here’s how your role in your childhood nativity sets you up for later life.
Why Barbie’s Dreamhouse is an enduring design icon.
Take a look at how New Yorkers braved the winter blizzard of 1956.

Read More