The Download: cancer-spotting AI and a new covid wave

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.

Doctors using AI catch breast cancer more often than either does alone

The news: Radiologists assisted by an AI diagnose breast cancer more successfully than when they work alone, according to new research. That same AI also produces more accurate results in the hands of a radiologist than it does when operating solo.

Why it’s important: The large-scale study, published this month in The Lancet Digital Health, is the first to directly compare an AI’s performance in breast cancer diagnosis according to whether it’s used alone or to assist a human expert. The process meant that close to three-quarters of screening studies didn’t need to be reviewed by a radiologist, which could help to ease the global shortage of specialists. 

What happens next: While the findings are promising, the next step would be to confirm how well the AI performs over a long period of time in actual clinics with real patients. The hope is that in the future, such systems could save lives by detecting cancers doctors miss, freeing up radiologists to see more patients, and easing the burden in places where there is a dire lack of specialists. Read the full story.

—Hana Kiros

Materials with nanoscale components will change what’s possible

Materials scientists have long been fascinated by the hierarchical patterns found in nature that repeat all the way down to the molecular level, imbuing material with remarkable strength, durability and color. In the future, we may be able to engineer such properties directly into manufactured materials, and even program some degree of intelligence directly into them, which could make new features and functionality possible.

Those on this year’s list of MIT Technology Review Innovators under 35 list are working towards the ultimate goal of creating architected materials and devices imbued with the ability to make decisions on their own. Read more about their work and what’s needed to help them to succeed in this essay by Julia R. Greer, a materials scientist at the California Institute of Technology. 

This essay is part of MIT Technology Review’s 2022 Innovators Under 35 package recognizing the most promising young people working in technology today. See the full list here.

The must-reads

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

1 A new wave of covid is sweeping across the US
At a time when there’s next to no public health measures in place. (WP $)
2 Elon Musk and Twitter are heading to court 
But whether the company can force the volatile Musk to buy it remains to be seen. (WSJ $)
+ In a legal fight, experts reckon Twitter has the edge. (FT $)
+ Musk’s response to Twitter’s threat to sue him, was, of course, a meme. (Bloomberg $)
3 Crypto traders want their money back
And that can only mean one thing: lawsuits. Lots and lots of lawsuits. (The Information $)
+ What crypto companies can learn from the dot-com bust. (Protocol)
4 Uber’s executives behaved even more badly than you might think
It breached laws and exploited violence against its drivers, leaked files have revealed. (The Guardian)
5 Costa Rica is struggling to recover from a crippling cyber attack
Even though the group that hacked the country has fallen apart. (FT $)
+ US defense firm L3 Harris is no longer in talks to buy NSO Group. (The Guardian)
+ A hacking group called Predatory Sparrow claims it started a fire an Iranian steel maker. (BBC)
6 AI has an ethics disconnect problem
Some researchers resent having to think about how their inventions will be used in the real world. (Protocol)
+ Big Tech’s guide to talking about AI ethics. (MIT Technology Review
7 Artists are experimenting with DALL-E 2
But finding that it doesn’t quite measure up to their imagination. (The Guardian)
+ The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images. (MIT Technology Review)
8 Meet the YouTubers hunting—and eating—invasive species 
Experts are divided on whether it’s a useful or positive development. (The Information $)
+ Scientists worry that species are going extinct before we’ve even discovered them. (CNET)
+ Why you shouldn’t trust everything nature identification apps tell you. (Slate)
9 Pro-vasectomy influencers are having a moment
In a post-Roe world, interest is growing in more permanent methods of birth control. (The Atlantic $)
10 The optimal shape for a home in space might be a cone
It could help with recreating the gravity humans are used to. (Quartz)

Quote of the day

“This was worst case scenario for Twitter, and now it’s happened.”

Dan Ives, a tech analyst at Wedbush Securities, tells the Washington Post just how much chaos Twitter has been plunged into since Elon Musk announced he was pulling out of buying the company.

The big story

Universal basic income is here—it just looks different from what you expected

May 2021

The idea of “just giving people money” has been in and out of the news since becoming a favored cause for many high-profile Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are among those proposing a universal basic income as a solution to the job losses and social conflict that would be wrought by automation and artificial intelligence—the very technologies their own companies create. But while prominent names in technology are still involved today, especially when it comes to funding projects, the conversation has changed. Its center of gravity has shifted away from “universal basic income” aimed at counterbalancing the automation of work and toward “guaranteed income” aimed at addressing economic and racial injustices. Read the full story.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Gifted painters can make even a plastic bag full of oranges look beautiful.
+ I may never stop laughing at the fact a brawl broke out during a recent Eagles show—during Take It Easy.
+ A one-of-a-kind analog recording of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind has sold at auction for $1.77 million.
+ It’s a hard no to Jell-O salads.
+ James Cameron doesn’t care if you didn’t like Avatar, which is probably just as well.

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