The Download: Sam Altman’s Big Longevity Bet and How CRISPR is Changing Lives

This is today’s edition of The Download, our daily newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.

Sam Altman has invested $180 million in a company that tries to delay death

When a startup called Retro Biosciences came out of stealth mode in mid-2022, it announced it had secured $180 million to fund a bold mission: add 10 years to the average human lifespan.

The business has always been vague about where its money comes from. Now, MIT Technology Reveal can reveal that the entire amount was raised by Sam Altman, the 37-year-old startup guru and investor who is CEO of OpenAI.

The amount is one of the largest ever invested by an individual in a startup pursuing human longevity, and will fund Retro’s “aggressive mission” to stop or even reverse aging. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

If you want to read more about OpenAI:

+ Read the inside story of how ChatGPT was created by the people who created it.
+ Sam Altman: This is what I learned from DALL-E 2.

Forget designer babies. See how CRISPR is really changing lives

Gene editing is a technology that many people tend to associate with its morally fraught ability to create designer babies. But this is also a distraction from the real story of how technology is changing people’s lives through treatments used in adults with serious illnesses.

There are now more than 50 experimental studies underway using gene editing in human volunteers to treat everything from cancer to HIV to blood diseases, according to a count shared with MIT Technology Review.

But these first-generation treatments will be extremely expensive and difficult to implement—and could quickly be replaced by a next generation of improved treatment drugs. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

How China is taking extreme measures to keep teenagers off TikTok

The American people and the Chinese people have much more in common than either side would like to admit. Take the common concern about how much time children and teenagers spend on TikTok (or the Chinese domestic version, Douyin).

Several US senators have pushed for bills that would limit underage users’ access to apps like TikTok. But ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is no stranger to these requests. In fact, it has been facing similar government pressure in China since at least 2018. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Zeyi’s story is from China Report, his weekly newsletter covering China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The essential readings

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

1 Google developed a powerful chatbot years before ChatGPT
However, he feared the system did not meet safety and fairness standards.(WSJ $)+ How technology’s obsession with artificial intelligence hides abuses of power. (Bloomberg$)
+ In theory, copyright law could derail genetic AI. (Insider $)
+ ChatGPT is everywhere. Here’s where it came from. (MIT Technology Review)

2 A pro-Ukrainian group may be orchestrating the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline
But there is no evidence that Ukrainian officials are involved. (NYT$)
+ Ukraine denied any involvement in the attack last year. (BBC)
+ See how the Nord Stream gas pipelines could be fixed. (MIT Technology Review)

3 How the FBI Pushed for Stronger Facial Recognition
It could be used to power a massive surveillance network. ($WP)
+ Fake CCTV footage is also on the rise. (Wired $)
+ South Africa’s private surveillance machine is fueling a digital apartheid. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Crypto Startups Fight for Funding
Times are tougher than ever since things went south for the industry’s beloved bank. (The $ info)

5 Meta’s large language model leaked on 4Chan
It is the first model from a major company to be leaked. (Motherboard)
+ Because Meta’s latest big language model only survived three days online. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Japan was forced to blow up its own missile
The vehicle’s second engine failed to ignite during takeoff. (Ars Technica)
+ What’s next in space. (MIT Technology Review)

7 YouTube Just Can’t Get Rid Of Andrew Tate
His misogynistic videos keep re-uploading, despite the existing ban. (The Atlantic $)

8 The hidden dangers of the share economy
When almost anything can be rented to strangers, not everyone is benevolent. (The Guardian)

9 TikTok viral drinks leave a bad taste in your mouth
Users are doing more and more bizarre concoctions in an effort to get views. (FT$)
+ The porcelain challenge didn’t have to be real to get views. (MIT Technology Review)

10 The work phone returns
Partly because of the companies that are destroying TikTok. (Bloomberg$)

The quote of the day

“I made my own money, instead I inherited an emerald mine.”

—Halli, a recently fired Twitter employee, fights back to his former boss Elon Musk, who accused Hali of shirking his job responsibilities.

The big story

Why can’t technology fix the gender problem?

August 2022

Despite the tech industry’s great wealth and self-proclaimed corporate commitments to the rights of women, LGBTQ+ people, and racial minorities, the industry remains largely a white man’s world.

It wasn’t always like that. Software programming was once an almost entirely female profession. As recently as 1980, women held 70% of programming jobs in Silicon Valley, but the ratio has since completely flipped. While many things have contributed to the shift, from the education pipeline to the tediously persistent fiction of technology as a gender-blind “meritocracy,” none fully explain it. What really lies at the core of tech’s gender problem is money. Read the full story.

—Margaret O’Mara

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.)

+ Oh, Dave Grohl has cemented his status as the nicest man in rock.
+ These photos of a baby cheetah and a puppy are the cutest thing you’ll see today.
+ If you like hearing emails from tech executives, This The Twitter account is right for you.
+ The 10 things actor Jeremy Strong can’t live without are typically unlimited.
+ This story sent a shiver down my spine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *