This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
Inside the messy ethics of making war with machines
In recent years, intelligent autonomous weapons—weapons that can select and fire upon targets without any human input—have become a matter of serious concern. Giving an AI system the power to decide matters of life and death would radically change warfare forever.
But intelligent autonomous weapons that fully displace human decision-making have (likely) yet to see real-world use. Even the “autonomous” drones and ships fielded by the US and other powers are used under close human supervision.
However, these systems have become sophisticated enough to raise novel questions—ones that are trickier to answer than the well-covered wrangles over killer robots. What does it mean when a decision is only part human and part machine? And when, if ever, is it ethical for that decision to be a decision to kill? Read the full story.
—Arthur Holland Michel
If you’re interested in reading more about AI’s role in making life or death decisions, check out my colleague Will Douglas Heaven’s piece exploring the relationship between mortality and automation.
What’s changed in the US since the breakthrough climate bill passed a year ago?
When President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law one year ago this week, he set aside an estimated $369 billion to fight climate change. Researchers and others involved in climate have been speculating about what that vast amount of cash will all mean ever since.
Casey Crownhart, our climate reporter, dug into what has changed since then, and what’s next for the breakthrough climate law. Read the full story.
Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly climate newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Intel is abandoning its attempted Israeli chipmaker purchase
It was essentially scuttled by Chinese regulators. (FT $)
+ China missed a crucial deadline to approve the deal. (NYT $)
+ The US-China chip war is still escalating. (MIT Technology Review)
2 Google is testing a chatbot that offers life advice
But how seriously you take its suggestions (if it’s ever released) is up to you. (NYT $)
+ The therapists using AI to make therapy better. (MIT Technology Review)
3 Amazon’s first aiders are pushing injured employees to keep working
Staff claim their reports of serious injuries are being overlooked. (Wired $)
4 An algorithm-less TikTok is on the horizon
But is TikTok still TikTok without its hyper-personalized recommendations? (The Atlantic $)
+ New York City has jumped on the TikTok ban hype train. (Reuters)
5 A US court has attempted to ban an abortion drug
While the case lacks legal merit, it’s still a thorn in the side of health providers. (Vox)
+ For now, the ruling doesn’t affect access to mifepristone. (Ars Technica)
+ Texas is trying out new tactics to restrict access to abortion pills online. (MIT Technology Review)
6 A pig kidney transplant has worked for more than a month
The gene-edited transplant into a brain-dead person could help pave the way to more resilient, safer organs. (WSJ $)
+ Meet the pigs that could solve the human organ transplant crisis. (MIT Technology Review)
7 Computing is a major climate villain
However, researchers are confident that achieving net-zero carbon emissions is possible. (Economist $)
+ We’re getting a better idea of AI’s true carbon footprint. (MIT Technology Review)
8 Southeast Asia’s taxi drivers are born influencers
The natural storytellers are spellbinding online audiences. (Rest of World)
10 Chefs aren’t worried about chatbots
Even though others in the hospitality industry are growing increasingly curious. (The Guardian)
+ Nutritionally speaking, ChatGPT’s recipes are somewhat lacking. (WSJ $)
Quote of the day
“It’s the Wild West. There is literally no capacity.”
—Eric Jonas, who is in the process of starting an AI drug discovery company, is just one of many startup workers struggling to procure crucial AI chips amid a global shortage, he tells the New York Times.
The big story
Stitching together the grid will save lives as extreme weather worsens
The blistering heat waves that set temperature records across much of the US this summer strained electricity systems, and threatened to knock out power in vulnerable regions of the country. While the electricity largely stayed online, heavy use of energy-sucking air-conditioners and the intense heat contributed to scattered problems and close calls.
The nation’s isolated and antiquated grids are in desperate need of upgrades. One solution would be to more tightly integrate the country’s regional grids, stitching them together with more long-range transmission lines, allowing power to flow between regions to where it’s needed more urgently. However, that’s a mission that’s fraught with challenges. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
+ A dinner party for dogs?! Sign me up.
+ For fans of The White Lotus’ iconic theme tune, this classical arrangement by the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is incredible.
+ Enjoy these rap punchlines for the ages.
+ Zucchini in a dessert? If you say so.
+ There’s nothing this shredder won’t try and shred—even if it needs a bit of help sometimes.