The Download: AI’s life-and-death decisions, and plant-based steak

The Download: AI’s life-and-death decisions, and plant-based steak

Philip Nitschke oversees testing of his new assisted suicide device in a Dutch workshop. A person who has made the decision to die must answer three questions inside the small coffin-sized pod. Where are you? Do you know what happens when you push that button? The machine will then fill up with nitrogen gas, which causes the occupant to pass away in under a minute and then die by asphyxiation within five minutes.

Despite a 25-year campaign to “demedicalize death” through technology, Nitschke has not been able to sidestep the medical establishment fully. Switzerland has legalized assisted suicide. This requires that people who wish to die must have mental capacity. This is usually assessed by a psychiatrist.

A solution may come in the form Nitschke’s algorithm, which he hopes will allow people to do a sort of psychiatric self assessment. Although his mission may seem outrageous to some, it is not unusual for others to be interested in technology and AI in life-or death decisions. Read the complete story .

–Will Douglas heaven

This fascinating piece is from our forthcoming mortality-themed issue, available from 26 October. If you want to read it when it comes out, you can subscribe to MIT Technology Review for as little as $80 a year.

Impossible Foods has a big new offering in the works: filet mignon

Progress is being made on a truly impossible-seeming area of plant-based meat products: steak. Filet mignon is not just any steak.

At MIT Technology Review’s ClimateTech conference on Wednesday, Pat Brown, founder of Impossible Foods, said that although he could not give a date for when the company will have its steak product ready for consumers, there is a prototype and he tested it himself earlier this year. Read more about the challenges involved in replicating the best steaks from plants. Also, be sure to check out our live blog this morning for coverage of the second day at ClimateTech.

Elsewhere at Climate Tech, our climate reporter Casey Crownhart moderated a session on “Solving the Hard-to-Solve Sectors,” digging into the industries that are crucial to combating climate change, but tend to be overlooked.

She delved into the details of these sectors, as well as the challenges they face, and the solutions companies are using to address them in The Spark, her weekly newsletter that gives you the inside scoop on the latest climate innovations. Read this week’s edition, and sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

Human brain cells transplanted into baby rats’ brains grow and form connections

Human neurons transplanted into a rat’s brain continue to grow, forming connections with the animals’ own brain cells and helping guide their behavior, new research has shown.

A study published in Nature yesterday showed that lab-grown clumps made of human brain cells were transplanted to the brains and behavior of newborn rats. They grew and became integrated with the rodents’ neural circuits, eventually forming around one-sixth their brains. This discovery could shed light on neuropsychiatric disorders in humans. Read the full story.

–Jessica Hamzelou

The must-reads

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

1 How China’s chipmakers are preparing for US sanctions
Stockpiling components and planning to train AI models overseas are just some of the tools in their arsenal. (Wired $)
Samsung has been granted a year-long exemption from the rules. (WSJ $)
The regulations come at a very trying time for the industry. (Bloomberg $)

2 A robotic exoskeleton adapts to wearers to help them walk faster
Traditional exoskeletons are expensive and bulky, but this one is essentially a little robotic boot. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Amazon’s dream home is a surveillance nightmare
Its products gather swathes of data, detailing your routines and habits. (WP $)
Ring’s new TV show is a brilliant but ominous viral marketing ploy. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Alex Jones must pay the Sandy Hook victims’ families $1 billion
It’s a record-breaking amount for a defamation lawsuit. (Vox)

5 Ukraine’s Starlink systems are coming back online
The devices have suffered outages in the past few days, leaving soldiers without any way to communicate. (FT $)
Odessa’s officials have removed Elon Musk’s picture from a billboard. (Motherboard)
Russia’s train reliance is part of its problem during the war. (The Atlantic $)

6 The US midterms have a misinformation problem
Multilingual fact-checking groups are stepping up to try to combat the falsehoods. (NYT $)
Why midterm “October surprises” are rarely the revelations they seem. (Vox)

7 A long-standing malaria mystery has been solved
Experts simply couldn’t work out where mosquitoes went during hot weather. (Economist $)
The new malaria vaccine will save countless lives. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Fake vaccination certificates are circulating in India
It doesn’t bode well for the country’s claims of high vaccination rates. (Rest of World)

9 Even AI doesn’t like math
Some language models are failing to get to grips with tricky problems. (IEEE Spectrum)
A new AI tool can detect sepsis. (Undark)
DeepMind’s game-playing AI has beaten a 50-year-old record. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Consumer tech is going solar powered
If this Swedish startup has their way, that is. (The Next Web)

Quote of the day

“Compare that to Lord of the Rings, when they scan your eyeballs just to get in!”

–Charlie Vickers, the actor who plays Halbrand in The Rings of Power, discusses the intense biometric lengths that showmakers went to in order to keep the Tolkien show a secret with the Guardian.

The big story

The uneasy coexistence of Yandex and the Kremlin

August 2020

While Moscow was under coronavirus lockdown between March and June 2020, the Russian capital emptied out–apart from the streams of cyclists in the trademark yellow uniform of Yandex’s food delivery service. Yandex is often referred to as Russia’s Google. However, Yandex is more like Google and Uber. It’s not part of Russia’s Silicon Valley as much as it is a Russian Silicon Valley.

But Yandex has had to pay a heavy price for its success. The Kremlin views the internet as a battlefield in their escalating tensions against the West. It has become increasingly worried that Yandex with its huge data collection on Russian citizens could fall into foreign hands. Yandex’s problem may not be a Russian one. In a world that is increasingly concerned about protecting borders and regulating tech industry, Yandex’s story may not be unique. Read the full story.

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