The Download: China’s social credit law, and robot dog navigation
It’s easier to talk about the what than the what of China’s credit system. Ever since 2014, when China announced plans to build it, it has been one of the most misunderstood things about China in Western discourse. New documents were released in November and there is an opportunity to correct this record.
Most people outside China think it will act as a Black Mirror-esque technology that automatically scores every Chinese citizen based upon their actions. It’s actually a mixture of attempts to regulate the financial sector, to allow government agencies to share data, and to promote state sanctioned moral values, however vague that may sound.
Although the system will take some time to develop, China released a draft law last week that shows how it will look and how it will impact the lives of millions. Read more .
Watch this robot dog scramble over tricky terrain just by using its camera
The news: When Ananye Agarwal took his dog out for a walk up and down the steps in the local park near Carnegie Mellon University, other dogs stopped in their tracks. Agarwal’s dog was a robot, and it was very special.
Why it matters: While other attempts to use cues from cameras to guide robot movement have been limited to flat terrain, Agarwal and his fellow researchers managed to get their robot to walk up stairs, climb on stones, and hop over gaps. Their work will make it easier for robots in the real world to be deployed and greatly improve their mobility. Read the complete story .
Trust large language models at your own peril
When Meta launched Galactica, an open-source large language model, the company was hoping for a big PR win. It got a lot of flak on Twitter and a blog post from one its most vocal critics. The company then decided to remove the public demo of the model after three days.
Galactica was intended to help scientists by summarizing academic papers, and solving math problems, among other tasks. However, outsiders quickly prompted the model’s “scientific research” to offer information on the benefits of homophobia and anti-Semitism
. This demonstrated not only how premature its launch was but also how inadequate AI researchers’ efforts have been to make large-language models safer. Read full story .
This story is from The Algorithm. Our weekly newsletter gives you the inside scoop on all things AI. Sign up and receive it in your email every Monday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Verified anti-vax Twitter accounts are spreading health misinformation
And perfectly demonstrating the problem with charging for verification in the process. (The Guardian)
Maybe Twitter wasn’t helping your career as much as you thought it was. (Bloomberg $)
A deepfake of FTX’s founder has been circulating on Twitter. (Motherboard)
Some of Twitter’s liberal users are refusing to leave. (The Atlantic $)
Twitter’s layoff bloodbath is over, apparently. (The Verge)
Twitter’s potential collapse could wipe out vast records of recent human history. (MIT Technology Review)
2 NASA’s Orion spacecraft has completed its lunar flyby
Paving the way to humans returning to the moon. (Vox)
3 Amazon’s warehouse-watching algorithms are trained by humans
Poorly-paid workers in India and Costa Rica are reviewing thousands of hours of mind-numbing footage. (The Verge)
The AI data labeling industry is deeply exploitative. (MIT Technology Review)
4 How to make sense of climate change
Accepting the hard facts is the first step towards avoiding the grimmest ending for the planet. (New Yorker $)
The world’s richest nations have agreed to pay for global warming. (The Atlantic $)
These three charts show who is most to blame for climate change. (MIT Technology Review)
5 Apple uncovered a cybersecurity startup’s dodgy dealings
It compiled a document that illustrates the extent of Corellium’s relationships, including with the notorious NSO Group. (Wired $)
The hacking industry faces the end of an era. (MIT Technology Review)
6 The crypto industry is still feeling skittish
Shares in its largest exchange have dropped to an all-time low. (Bloomberg $)
The UK wants to crack down on gamified trading apps. (FT $)
7 The criminal justice system is failing neurodivergent people
Mimicking an online troll led to an autistic man being sentenced to five and a half years in jail. (Economist $)
8 Your workplace could be planning to scan your brain
All in the name of making you a more efficient employee. (IEEE Spectrum)
9 Facebook doesn’t care if your account is hacked
A series of new solutions to rescue accounts doesn’t seem to have had much effect. (WP $)
Parent company Meta is being sued in the UK over data collection. (Bloomberg $)
Independent artists are building the metaverse their way. (Motherboard)
10 Why training image-generating AIs on generated images is a bad idea
The ‘contaminated’ images will only confuse them. (New Scientist $)
Facial recognition software used by the US government reportedly didn’t work. (Motherboard)
The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images. (MIT Technology Review)
Quote of the day
“It feels like they used to care more.”
–Ken Higgins, an Amazon Prime member, is losing faith in the company after a series of frustrating delivery experiences, he tells the Wall Street Journal.
The big story
What if you could diagnose diseases with a tampon?
On a quiet side street in Oakland California, Ridhi Takriyal and Stephen Gire try to change the way women monitor their health.
Their plan is to collect blood from old tampons and use it as a diagnostic tool. They hope to identify early signs of endometriosis from the menstrual blood. If it works, the simplicity and ease of this procedure will be a significant improvement on current care. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. Have any other ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me. )
Happy Thanksgiving–in your nightmares!
Why Keith Haring‘s legacy is more visible than ever, 32 years after his death.
Even the gentrified world of dinosaur skeleton assembly isn’t immune to scandals.
Pumpkins are a Thanksgiving staple–but it wasn’t always that way.
If I lived in a frozen wasteland, I’m pretty sure I’d be the world’s grumpiest cat too.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.