Download: Twitter’s edit button and fossil fuel cleanup

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

The edit button won’t solve Twitter’s problems

The low level: After years of requests, Twitter is finally introducing an edit button that gives its users the ability to change their tweets up to 30 minutes after they’re sent. But the feature is unlikely to solve any of the biggest problems facing the company, and in some cases could make them worse.

What this means: Twitter has resisted adding the ability to edit tweets for years, despite it being the most requested feature by users, including future owner Elon Musk. Now paying subscribers to the platform will be the first users to be able to edit their tweets “multiple times” 30 minutes after they’re sent, as Twitter investigates ways the feature could be abused.

The problem is that: Experts have repeatedly pointed out that the ability to edit tweets could allow bad actors to rewrite history and spread misinformation, even if a full history of tweet edits is available. Read the full story.

– Rhiannon Williams

The US agency in charge of developing fossil fuels has a new task: cleaning them up

In his first month in office, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling on the nation to eliminate carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and achieve net zero emissions across the economy by 2050.

The move redefines the mandate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, the research agency whose mission has been to develop more efficient ways to produce fossil fuels for nearly half a century. He is now responsible for helping to clean up the industry.

While the agency continues to explore the production of oil, gas and coal, its main task is to minimize the impacts of the production of these fossil fuels. He must also decide where billions of dollars in a series of recent federal laws will be used, while addressing concerns about carbon sequestration and the continued harm of fossil fuels. Read the full story.

— James Temple

The required readings

I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scary/fascinating tech stories.

1 Jackson is entering his fifth day without water
Residents of Mississippi’s capital are bearing the brunt of decades of government neglect. (The Keeper)
+ For years, the city has been forced to live without money for infrastructure and repairs. (Vox)
+ It is not yet clear when the water supply will be restored. (NOW $)

2 The impact of overturning Roe v. Wade is global
The decision encouraged pro-life activists in other countries as well. (Knowable Magazine)

3 California asked EV owners to delay charging
Which is pretty terrible timing, coming just days after the recent announcement to phase out gas-powered cars. (NYT$)
+ The current heat wave is pushing the power grid to its limits. (LA Times)
+ A solar company wants to build microgrids of solar panels in California neighborhoods. (NOW $)
+ The US only has 6,000 EV fast charging stations. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Meta’s AI can “read” brain waves
Not exactly, though. (New Scientist $)

5 This is what an exoplanet looks like
The world, nearly 400 light-years away, was imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope. (quanta)
+ NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission will try to lift off again tomorrow. (Interval)

6 How Police Track US Citizens’ Phones
And without an order. (Motherboard)
+ Cops set up a shadowy surveillance machine in Minnesota after George Floyd’s murder. (MIT Technology Review)

7 A moth’s sensitive ears are like the best microphone
Scientists want to better understand how they work. (IEEE spectrum)

8 What it’s like to vacation in the metaverse
The strange, unusual wilderness is all the more unsettling as there is no one to interact with. (Slate $)
+ VRChat users teach visitors how to operate a virtual Kmart. (with cable $)
+ The metaverse is a new word for an old idea. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Video games are not treated as serious cultural artifacts
But archivists hope to give them the recognition they deserve. (New Yorker $)

10 Musicians Making Serious Money From Their Poop Songs
They can thank kids who yell “poop” at Alexa. (BuzzFeed News)

Quote of the day

“There are no white people there.”

— Gino Womack, program director of the nonprofit Operation Good Jackson, tells Salon how the city’s basic infrastructure, including its water systems, has been left to decay.

The big story

Keynes is wrong. Gen Z will be worse.

December 2019

The founder of macroeconomics predicted that capitalism would last about 450 years. This is the time period between 1580 and 2030, the year in which John Maynard Keynes suggested that humanity would have solved the problem of our needs and moved on to higher problems.

It is true that today the system seems on the verge of transformation, but not in the way Keynes had hoped. Gen Z’s destiny was to relax into a life of leisure and creativity. Instead, it is preparing for wage stagnation and an environmental crisis.

What the hell happened? To understand why Generation Z will not be Generation EZ, we need to ask some fundamental questions about economics, technology, and progress. After a century of assuming that a better world would emerge on top of our accumulated stuff, the assumptions seem unfounded. Things are getting worse. Read the full story.

— Malcolm Harris

We can still have good things

A place of comfort, entertainment and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? Email me ortweet them to me.)

+ Turn off those audiobooks – your dog prefers classical music.
+ This vegan risotto sounds absolutely delicious.
+ A reminder that teenagers loved phones long before the smartphone.
+ I’m still not entirely sure I understand why a group of researchers decided to eat a 55,000-year-old bison.
+ I love the look of these cute lil Pokemon squishmallows.

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