This is today’s edition of The Download, our daily newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
The three-parent baby technique could put babies at risk of serious illness
When the first baby born with a controversial procedure that meant he had three genetic parents was born in 2016, it made headlines. The baby boy inherited most of his DNA from his mother and father, but also had a small amount from a third person.
The idea was to avoid the baby inheriting a deadly disease. His mother carried genes for a disease in her mitochondria. Swapping these with genes from a donor – a third genetic parent – could prevent the baby from developing it. The strategy seemed to be working.
But it may not always be successful. The MIT Technology Review can reveal two cases in which babies conceived through the procedure have shown what scientists call a “reversion.” In both cases, the percentage of mitochondrial genes from the child’s mother has increased over time, from less than 1% in both fetuses to about 50% in one baby and 72% in another.
Fortunately, both babies were born to parents without genes for mitochondrial disease. But the scientists behind the work believe that around one in five babies born using the three-parent technique could end up inheriting high levels of their mother’s mitochondrial genes.
For babies born to people with disease-causing mutations, this could spell disaster – leaving them with devastating and potentially fatal diseases. Read the full story.
Researchers launched a test flight of solar geoengineering in the UK last year
Last September, researchers in the United Kingdom launched a high-altitude weather balloon that released a few hundred grams of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, a possible scientific first in the field of solar geoengineering, according to MIT Technology Review.
In theory, spraying sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere could mimic a cooling effect that occurs in the wake of large volcanic eruptions, reflecting more sunlight into space in an effort to ease global warming. It is highly controversial given concerns about possible unintended consequences, among other issues.
But the UK’s effort was not an experiment in geoengineering. Rather, the stated goal was to evaluate a low-cost, controllable, recoverable balloon system. And some are concerned that the effort went ahead without broader public disclosures and commitment up front. Read the full story.
The 11th breakthrough technology of 2023 begins flight
It’s official—after over a month of open voting, hydrogen airplanes are our readers’ choice for the 11th item on our list of breakthrough technologies for 2023!
There also happens to be some exciting news about hydrogen planes this week. Startup Universal Hydrogen is planning a test flight today. If all goes according to plan, it will be the largest hydrogen fuel cell aircraft yet to fly.
But even if the test flight is successful, there is still a long way to go before cargo or passengers can board a hydrogen-powered plane. Read the full story.
Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly climate change and energy newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.
Vote for our amazing magazine covers
MIT Technology Review has been nominated for the Readers’ Choice Awards of the Society of American Magazine Editors Best Cover Contest! Just like your favorite cover from Astyphilia theme, Money subject, and Genus edition on Twitter to make your vote count (or even vote all three!) You have until March 31st.
The essential readings
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most entertaining/important/scary/exciting stories about technology.
1 OpenAI wants to make AI smarter than humans
However, the rush to build such models does not exactly fill ethicists with confidence. (Voice)
+ AI search is getting very messy. (Joking $)
+ Chatbots are not human and we would do well to remember that. (NY Mag$)
+ OpenAI could do with a little less hype, according to executive Mira Murati. (Fast Company $)
+ How to responsibly build, release and share productive artificial intelligence. (MIT Technology Review)
2 The hunt for greener ink is on
It is essential for EV batteries and supplies are running low. (Economist $)
+ A village in India has been targeted by a lithium mining explosion. (Wired $)
3 Twitter has reached a tipping point
It’s running on a skeleton, and glitches and outages keep popping up. ($WSJ)
+ Had a major outage just yesterday. (BBC)
+ Twitter is becoming a very boring place. (FT$)
+ What happened to Elon Musk’s plan to turn it into an “app for everything”? (Ars Technica)
+ Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break. (MIT Technology Review)
4 NASA’s SpaceX crew is en route to the ISS
They are expected to spend a full year in orbit. (CBS News)
5 psychedelics are being tested as a treatment for anorexia
Scientists are keenly interested in how distancing from reality might benefit patients. (FT$)
+ The UK has opened its first psychedelic treatment clinic. (Vice)
+ Psychedelics are having a moment, and women could be the ones to benefit. (MIT Technology Review)
6 TikTok’s screen time limit for teenagers is easily bypassed
But the company insists it’s still a meaningful intervention. (NPR)
7 Turkey shut down its most popular social platform
Residents had used Ekşi Sözlük to organize relief in the aftermath of the earthquakes. (The Guardian)
8 How greenwashing finally went out of fashion
Fiscal regulations will make it much more difficult to escape. (The Atlantic $)
9 What AI Art Can Teach Us About Real Art
There are no memories or lived experience behind the AI images, for example. (New Yorker $)
+ This artist masters AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it. (MIT Technology Review)
10 How the Xerox Alto Changed the World
The 50-year-old computer paved the way for modern laptops. (IEEE Spectrum)
The quote of the day
“If you enjoyed your ride, don’t forget to give us five stars.”
—A SpaceX mission control manager jokes with the crew aboard the Falcon 9 rocket en route to the International Space Station, Reuters reports.
The big story
We have a better idea of the true carbon footprint of AI
Large language models have a dirty secret: they require huge amounts of energy to train and run. But it’s still a bit of a mystery just how big the carbon footprints of these models really are. But AI startup Hugging Face believes it has found a new, more accurate way to calculate it.
The startup’s work could be a step toward more realistic data from tech companies about the carbon footprint of their AI product — and comes at a time when experts are calling for the industry to do a better job of assessing its environmental impact. artificial intelligence. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Do you have any ideas? Call me the tweet them to me.)
+ Tidycore is a TikTok trend that sounds rewarding, albeit exhausting.
+ Giant armadillos are very cute—and seriously endangered.
+ This is so heartwarming: Turkey’s baklava makers are back in business after the devastating earthquake.
+ I love these recipes for fun at home: make my own Vodka Horseradish Bloody Mary.
+ The Internet has a lot of Thoughts on the recently announced Lord of the Rings movies.