The takeaway: climate liability and AI training data shortages

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 US and China are pointing fingers at each other over climate change

The UN climate conference ended at the weekend after marathon negotiations that came to an end. The most notable result was the creation of a fund to help poor countries pay for climate damage, which was hailed as a victory. In addition, some leaders are concerned that not enough progress has been made at this year’s talks.

Consequently, everyone is pointing fingers, blaming others for not acting fast enough on climate finance. Activists call the US “the colossal fossil fuel”, while American leaders complain that they are being blamed while China is currently the leading source of emissions.

But when it comes to determining who should pay what in taking responsibility for climate damage, we need to look beyond current emissions. When you add up historical emissions, it becomes super clear: the US is the largest total source of emissions, responsible for about a quarter. Read the full story.

— Casey Crownhart

Casey’s story is from Spark, her weekly newsletter that addresses the complex science of climate change. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Wednesday.

We may run out of data to train AI language programs

What is happening? Large language models are one of the hottest areas of AI research right now, with companies racing to release programs like GPT-3 that can write impressively coherent articles and even computer code. But there’s a problem looming on the horizon, according to a team of AI predictors: We may run out of data to train them on.

How much time do we have? As researchers build more powerful models with greater capabilities, they must find more and more text to train them on. The types of data typically used for these models could be used in the near future — as early as 2026, according to a report by researchers at Epoch, an AI research and forecasting organization. Read the full story.

— Tammy Sue

Podcast: Want a Job? AI will see you now.

In the past, hiring decisions were made by people. Today, some key decisions that lead to whether someone gets a job or not are made by algorithms. In this episode of our award-winning podcast, In Machines We Trust, we meet some of the big players building this technology, including the CEOs of HireVue and myInterview—and test some of these tools ourselves.

Listen to it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you normally are.

The required readings

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

1 The collapse of FTX should be a major cautionary tale for the crypto industry
Unfortunately, this does not necessarily lead to better regulations. (New Yorker $)
+ After all, crypto isn’t known for heeding bad omens. (Vox)
+ FTX has invested millions in, err, a small bank. (NOW $)
+ Sam Bankman-Freid’s favorite ideology of the “long-term plan” rings false. (Motherboard)
+ Nor has he done the effective altruism movement any favors. (Atlantic $)

2 Elon Musk probably won’t file for bankruptcy
However, this does not mean that his financial backers can rest easy. (Atlantic $)
+ Here’s who’s paying for Twitter right now. (NOW $)
+ Former Twitter employees fear the platform may only last weeks. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Measles is a growing global threat
Vaccination rates are down and it’s incredibly contagious. (Axios)

4 Maybe it’s time to stop automatically trusting billionaires
Being healthy cynicism is not the same as being a hater. (Vox)
+ Many big tech bosses wrongly assumed their covid peaks would last forever. (Slate $)

5 The real cost of America’s war on Chinese chips
The more expensive the components, the more expensive the final product will be. (FT$)
+ Workers at the world’s largest iPhone factory are on strike. (Bloomberg $)
+ Inside the software that will become the next battlefront in the US-China chip war. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Rocks on Mars suggest it was once habitable
Organic molecules found in rocks may support life forms. (WP$)
+ A British-made rover returns to the red planet. (BBC)

7 Why future concrete may contain bacteria
Bioconcrete is strong and – most importantly – more environmentally friendly. (Economist $)
+ These living bricks use bacteria to build themselves. (MIT Technology Review)

8 The Amazon shopping experience really sucks these days
And that’s because it’s all advertising. (WP$)

9 What it’s like to love the technology the world is abandoning
From Walkmans to BlackBerrys, these ardent fans don’t let go. (The Keeper)
+ Smartphones have survived all attempts to be replaced. (On the edge)

10 Comments on YouTube videos are works of art
Literally – an artist has turned them into real art. (New Yorker $)

Quote of the day

“He’s always trying to laugh, so he makes all his cars suicidal.”

— Drill, one of the main figures in the humorous corner of “weird Twitter,” reflects on Elon Musk’s surreal leadership to the Washington Post.

The big story

What does breaking Big Tech really mean?

June 2021

For Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet, covid-19 has been an economic boon. Even as the pandemic sent the global economy into a deep recession and decimated the profits of most companies, these companies — often referred to as tech’s “Big Four” — not only survived, but thrived.

Yet at the same time, they have come under unprecedented attack from politicians and government regulators in the US and Europe in the form of new lawsuits, proposed bills and regulations. There’s no denying that the pressure to rein in the power of Big Tech is mounting. But what would that mean? Read the full story.

— James Surowiecki

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.)

+ It’s a kitten goalkeeping it’s just extraordinary.
+ I really like it color combinations this Twitter bot invents (thanks Niall!)
+ Atarah Ben-Tovim sounded like an incredibly inspiring music teacher.
+ How to expand your movie-watching horizons and venture into something new.
+ After the recent chess cheating scandal, I can no longer trust anyone. Here’s how to spot a crafty opponent.

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