This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
Brazilians turn to Instagram to identify far-right rebels
In the hours after far-right rebels vandalized government buildings in Brazil’s capital on Sunday, January 8, a new account appeared on Instagram.
Called Contragolpe Brasil, it quickly began posting photos of alleged rioters, reaching more than 1 million followers in just 24 hours. The idea was to collect information that could identify “people who attack democracy in Brazil,” making it easier for authorities to find and punish those who escaped custody on the day.
Shortly after the account started posting, comments started pouring in, including the people’s full names, the cities and states they live in, and their Instagram names. But trying to identify criminals online can be risky, especially if people get it wrong. Read the full story.
— Jill Langlois
NASA’s return to the moon gets off to a rough start
Five decades after man first set foot on the moon, NASA has a plan to send astronauts back. Project Artemis aims to visit a new area of the Moon and retrieve samples, this time with new faces behind the hoods — including the first woman and the first person of color.
Whether that plan will succeed — and whether another moon landing will inspire a new “Generation Artemis” in space exploration — is a matter of debate.
Although its first mission blasted into space in November, if something goes wrong, or if the powerful Space Launch System rocket that carried it is deemed too expensive or unsustainable, there’s a chance the entire lunar program could fail — or at least be judged by a similar way. Read the full story.
— Rebecca Boyle
Rebecca’s article is from the latest edition of our print magazine dedicated to the latest cutting edge technological innovations. Don’t miss future issues – sign up for a subscription.
TR10: Ancient DNA Analysis
Scientists have long sought better tools to study the teeth and bones of ancient people. In the past, they had to search countless ancient remains to find a sample preserved well enough for analysis.
Now, cheaper techniques and new methods that make damaged DNA readable by commercial sequencers are driving a boom in ancient DNA analysis and uncovering extinct species along the way.
Ancient DNA analysis is just one of our 10 revolutionary technologies that we feature one by one on The Download every day. You can check out the rest of the list for yourself and vote in our poll to help us decide what our latest 11th tech should do.
The required readings
I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scary/fascinating tech stories.1 China is bracing for a sharp spike in covid cases
People will mingle in large groups as they celebrate the Lunar New Year. (The Keeper)
+ The country has reported nearly 60,000 deaths related to the virus. (NOW $)
+ Paxlovid cyber scams in China are everywhere. (MIT Technology Review)
2 Open source intelligence in Ukraine is a double-edged sword
It can both help and hinder the war effort. (Economist $)
+ How Ukrainian tech workers work amid war. (On the edge)
3 Twitter appears to be abandoning third-party clients
Third-party developers are furious that they weren’t notified. (The $ info)
+ Laid-off workers cannot join in class action, judge rules. (Reuters)
+ Who would make a better CEO than Elon Musk? (On the edge)
+ Twitter’s New York office is full of cockroaches. (Domestic $)
4 Disgruntled investors sue Virgin Galactic
They claim that the malfunctions in the plane were not properly disclosed. (The Keeper)
5 The high stakes of tracking hate crimes in India
Religious violence is on the rise—and a data project that monitors it is under threat. (WP$)
+ Saudi prosecutors want to execute academic for using social media. (The Keeper)
6 The US government’s big chip bet is risky
This is an extremely expensive—and ambitious—undertaking. (WSJ$)
+ Chinese chips will continue to power your daily life. (MIT Technology Review)
7 England takes action against single-use plastics
Say goodbye to disposable plastic plates and utensils. (Engadget)
+ How chemists tackle the plastics problem. (MIT Technology Review)
8 Students Confused by Auburn University’s TikTok Ban
Mainly because there is an incredibly simple solution. (NYT$)
9 How El Salvador’s Biggest Economy Concert App Crashed and Burned
Hugo was so successful that it kept even Uber at bay — until it did. (Rest of the World)
10 Not all AI-generated art is impressive
In fact, a lot of it is pretty rubbish. (Atlantic $)
+ Artists lead class action lawsuit against AI art companies. (My city)
+ Generative AI changes everything. But what’s left when the ad is gone? (MIT Technology Review)
Quote of the day
“I would advocate no moving fast and breaking things.
— Demis Hassabis, co-founder and CEO of DeepMind, cautions against experimenting too freely with AI in an interview with Time.
The big story
China’s road to modernization has passed through my hometown for centuries
For generations, politicians and intellectuals have sought ways to build a strong China. Some imported tools and ideas from the West. Others left for better education, but the motherland kept calling.
Yangyang Cheng, a particle physicist at Yale Law School, is a product of their complex heritage. She grew up in Hefei, then a modest, medium-sized city in central eastern China that is now a burgeoning metropolis with new research centers, manufacturing plants and tech startups. For two of the city’s proudest sons, born a century apart, a strong motherland armed with science and technology was their life’s quest. Cheng grew up with their stories. They teach her about the forces that drove China’s rise and the way life can be squeezed by the pressures of geopolitics. Read the full story.
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.)
+ What can we learn about TV characters from the books they read?
+ Someone spent three months recreating Toto’s Africa in Minecraft and I’m in love (thanks, Charlotte!)
+ Oh to be a whisper of starfish.
+ Why are we on a perpetual quest to create even more work jargon?
+ Don’t call it a comeback—redheads never went out of style.