The download: CRISPR crops and debunking renewable energy myths

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

How CRISPR can help save crops from devastation caused by pests

For decades, California grape growers have battled Pierce’s disease, a nasty infection that causes vines to wither. The arrival of an invasive insect in the late 1980s boosted the spread of the disease, turning it from a nuisance to a nightmare.

The disease still has no cure and is at risk of worsening due to climate change. But an unlikely solution has emerged in the form of CRISPR gene-editing technology, which allows researchers to alter the pest’s genome so it can no longer spread the bacterium. Read the full story.

— Emma Fehringer Merchant

Busting three myths about materials and renewable energy

When it comes to renewable energy, there are some myths that are hard to shake. The raw materials we need to fight climate change are often at the center of some of the most common falsehoods or misunderstandings.

Our climate reporter Casey Crownhart dives into three of the biggest myths surrounding climate change materials and renewable energy—demonstrating the importance of ignoring the hype and following the science. Read the full story.

Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly energy and climate newsletter. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The required readings

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

1 Remember Amazon’s drone delivery program?
Still struggling to take off. (The $ info)

2 These videos show Iran violently suppressing protests
Security forces beat and open fire on civilians. (WP$)
+ Despite this, thousands of demonstrators continue to rebel against the authorities. (WSJ$)

3 Whisper is ChatGPT’s quieter cousin
The accuracy of the transcription model, also created by OpenAI, is almost perfect. (New Yorker $)
+ ChatGPT has launched a subscription tier for $20 per month. (Gizmodo)
+ Microsoft wasted no time integrating ChatGPT into Teams. (Reuters)
+ OpenAI is a true breeding ground for AI talent. (The $ info)
+People are already using ChatGPT to create workout plans. (MIT Technology Review)

4 The crucial role satellites will play in space warfare
They collect data to reveal the location and weapons systems of adversaries. (with cable $)
+ How to wage war in space (and get away with it) (MIT Technology Review)

5 Instagram’s founders launched an AI-aggregated news app
They believe that Artifact can break the echo of news promoted by Twitter. (FT$)

6 We don’t fully know how psychedelics can change our brains
Another reason to be careful before expanding your mind. (Atlantic $)
+ Mind-altering substances are over-hyped as miracle cures. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Are you ready to experience the metaverse?
Haptic technology is the next step towards making immersive experiences more realistic. (Economist $)
+ Meanwhile, Meta Labs for the metaverse is still pouring money. (Domestic $)

8 Forget 3D printers, this is a 3D printing factory
It’s all about scale, honey. (Bloomberg $)
+ Meet designer salt and clay printers. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Voice-dictated text messages are riddled with errors
Silly duck interprets them! (WSJ$)

10 TikTok’s “Happy Girl Syndrome” is just another term for a manifestation 🍀
Gen Z has discovered the power of positive thinking. (Vox)
+ Tiktok’s “dark psychology” trend sounds a lot like gaslighting to me. (Deputy)

Quote of the day

“Privacy is extinguished. He’s a zombie now.

— Shoshana Zuboff, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, highlights the similarity between Western tech giants and China’s surveillance state in an interview with the Financial Times.

The big story

How megacities can lead the fight against climate change

April 2021

In 2050, 2.5 billion more people will live in cities than today. As the world becomes more urbanized, many cities are becoming more populated while trying to reduce carbon emissions and blunt the effects of climate change.

In the coming decades, cities will be the engines of economic growth. But they also have a key role to play in tackling climate change. Learn how some of the world’s largest cities – called megacities – are tackling this challenge. Read the full story.

— Gabriel Merite and Andre Vittorio

We can still have good things

A place of comfort, entertainment and distraction in these strange times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet them to me.)

+ Atlas has fallen – and I’m giggling at the gaffe drum (thanks Will!)
+ Don’t worry if your home is looking a little messy these days, even the queen of cleanliness, Marie Kondo, is slacking off on dusting.
+ These exhibitions are worth touring the globe.
+ I desperately want to visit this breathtaking sea serpent sculpture on a French beach.
+ This cat is a species a well-hydrated genius.

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