The Download: ChatGPT in schools, and deep sea mining

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.

ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it

Just days after OpenAI dropped ChatGPT in late November 2022, the chatbot was widely denounced as a free essay-writing, test-taking tool that made it laughably easy to cheat. 

Schools swiftly blocked access to OpenAI’s website, while several leading universities issued statements that warned students against using the chatbot to cheat.

This initial panic was understandable. ChatGPT can answer questions and generate slick, well-structured text on almost any topic, from string theory to Shakespeare. But three months on, the outlook is a lot less bleak. Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

Will’s piece is from our forthcoming Education print issue. If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to MIT Technology Review from just $80 a year.

These deep-sea “potatoes” could be the future of mining for renewable energy

There’s been growing buzz in the news about mining in the deep ocean lately. Proponents say certain spots on the ocean floor could be a key source of some of the metals we need to build batteries and other technology that’s crucial for addressing climate change. 

But whether commercial efforts should go ahead is a source of growing controversy: there’s a lot of uncertainty about how they might affect ecosystems, and a lot of politics at play.

A UN group just finished up meetings last week to try to sort all this out, and there could be some key actions on deep-sea mining this summer. Our climate reporter Casey Crownhart explains why potato-sized lumps called polymetallic nodules found on the seabed could help to solve the shortage of the essential metals we need to make more EV batteries. Read the full story.

Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly climate and energy newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The must-reads

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

1 Chatgpt invented a sexual harassment scandal
It’s even citing sources for scenarios that never happened. (WP $)
+ Google search is going to feature AI from now on. (WSJ $)
+ US VC firms are funding China’s chatbots. (The Information $)
+ Why a lot of the fears around AI focus on the wrong things. (Vox)
+ The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Donald Trump’s supporters are content creators now 
Everyone at the rally protesting his arrest was filming and live streaming. (The Verge)

3 Meet the Dutch student fighting against exam monitoring software
Robin Pocornie claims the face detection software discriminates against Black users. (Wired $)
+ London police’s facial recognition system is being met with resistance. (The Guardian)
+ This is how we lost control of our faces. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Police have busted an international criminal password marketplace
It sold stolen identities belonging to 2 million victims. (The Guardian)
+ Here’s how to check if your credentials were affected. (The Verge)

5 The US is overlooking the electric rickshaw
They’re widely used across Asia, and much nimbler than cars. (The Atlantic $)

6 India won’t regulate AI
It’s taking a different tack to policymakers in Europe and the US. (Gizmodo)
+ The EU wants to regulate your favorite AI tools. (MIT Technology Review)

7 What YouTube’s toxic masculinity teaches young boys
Its echo chamber amplifies and perpetuates the hateful teachings of Andrew Tate. (FT $)

8 Animal testing could be on the way out
Organoids are closer to mirroring how chemicals could affect humans. (Inverse)
+ Are rats with human brain cells still just rats? (MIT Technology Review)

9 How one gambler cracked roulette
Many tried to cheat the game using microcomputers. Others didn’t need them.(Bloomberg $)
+ How mobile money supercharged Kenya’s sports betting addiction. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Ukrainian refugees are healing their trauma in the metaverse
The virtual support group gathers in a virtual version of Kyiv. (Motherboard)

Quote of the day

“We could move to a four-day week easily.”

—Christopher Pissarides, a Nobel Prize-winning labor economist, is optimistic about chatbots’ ability to lighten humans’ working load, Bloomberg reports.

The big story

How scientists want to make you young again

October 2022

A little over 15 years ago, scientists at Kyoto University in Japan made a remarkable discovery. 

When they added just four proteins to a skin cell and waited about two weeks, some of the cells underwent an unexpected and astounding transformation: they became young again. They turned into stem cells almost identical to the kind found in a days-old embryo, just beginning life’s journey.

Now, after more than a decade of studying and tweaking so-called cellular reprogramming, a number of biotech companies and research labs say they have tantalizing hints that the process could be the gateway to an unprecedented new technology for age reversal. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

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.)

+ If you’re planning a trip to the UK this year, these sightseeing suggestions are a good place to start.
+ An interesting take on a possible inspiration for Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night: his hatred of the Eiffel Tower.
+ Is it even possible to pirate a river?!
+ A useful guide on how to make peace with Canada Geese.
+ For such slow movers, snails are surprisingly intrepid travelers.

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