The Download: EVs’ charging problem, and tackling climate change with heat

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.

EVs just got a big boost. We’re going to need a lot more chargers.

The US government is pushing for many more electric vehicles to hit the roads in the next few years. The problem is, the country doesn’t have nearly enough chargers to power them all.

There are only about 130,000 public chargers currently installed across the US, and just a small fraction of them are fast chargers. That’s a 40% increase since 2020, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, but it’s still not enough. The US will need to build millions of new chargers within a decade. 

What we don’t know is how many, and how quickly. But even though the logistics are daunting, the government isn’t alone in trying to build out charging infrastructure. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

How heat could solve climate problems

Having heat on demand is necessary for making pretty much everything that makes up the building blocks of our lives.

The problem is, temperature control in industry has historically relied on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, and it’s a bit of a climate nightmare: industrial heat alone is responsible for about 20% of emissions globally.

A growing number of enterprises are looking for new ways to fiddle with industrial thermostats. Let our climate reporter Casey Crownhart take you through the technologies on the table and where we go from here. Read the full story.

Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly newsletter covering climate and energy breakthroughs. 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 Demand for abortion pills is surging across the US 
People are desperately trying to obtain mifepristone while they still can. (The Guardian)
+ It’s still legal in states without abortion bans. (Vox)
+ Abortion-related content online is likely to be subject to a further crackdown. (Wired $)

2 The US is getting better at foiling crypto heists
Blockchain criminals aren’t so anonymous anymore. (WSJ $)
+ Ethereum has successfully completed a key upgrade. (Bloomberg $)+ A ‘crypto pastor’ has been making waves in Argentina. (Rest of World)

3 Ghana has approved a new malaria vaccine
The R21 vaccine appears to be far more effective than previous versions. (Quartz)
+ Most of the 600,000 people who die from malaria each year are children. (Reuters)
+ The new malaria vaccine might not be perfect, but it will save countless lives. (MIT Technology Review)

4 NPR has left Twitter
In protest at being labeled “US state-affiliated media.” (The Verge)+ PBS could be the next to follow. (Axios)

5 Europe wants to explore Jupiter’s moons
The European Space Agency’s new mission will take eight years to reach the planet. (CNN)
+ How the James Webb Space Telescope broke the universe. (MIT Technology Review)

6 AI doesn’t always have to be competent’s Martin bot is built to fail, and does so spectacularly. (The Atlantic $)
+ AI being pitched as a reliable information source is the real problem. (WP $)

7 India’s government has granted itself draconian new social media powers
It’ll have the right to ‘fact check’ and delete posts it disagrees with. (Rest of World)
+ The gig economy is failing to protect its workers in India. (Wired $)

8 Women shouldn’t have to carry around safety devices
And yet, it’s the only way for some to feel comfortable. (The Information $)

9 Robot dogs are prowling the streets of New York
Boston Dynamics’ Digidog, reporting for duty. (NY Mag $)
+ This robot dog just taught itself to walk. (MIT Technology Review)

10 How to share classified documents safely
Should the occasion call for it. (The Intercept)

Quote of the day

“So many of the employees feel like they’re in limbo right now. They’re saying it’s ‘Hunger Games’ meets ‘Lord of the Flies.’”

—Erin Sumner, who was laid off from Meta in November, gives the New York Times an insight into how her frustrated former colleagues are faring.

The big story

Responsible AI has a burnout problem

October 2022

Margaret Mitchell had been working at Google for two years before she realized she needed a break. Only after she spoke with a therapist did she understand the problem: she was burnt out. 

Mitchell, who now works as chief ethics scientist at the AI startup Hugging Face, is far from alone in her experience. Burnout is becoming increasingly common in responsible AI teams.

All the practitioners MIT Technology Review interviewed spoke enthusiastically about their work: it is fueled by passion, a sense of urgency, and the satisfaction of building solutions for real problems. But that sense of mission can be overwhelming without the right support. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

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.)

+ AI took a stab at making a Wes Anderson movie—see what you think.
+ This bunch of resilient pigs are not only surviving, but thriving on a New Zealand island.
+ Forget computer keyboards—it’s all about type balls.
+ The list of Netflix’s most-watched shows of all time contains a few curveballs.
+ Why weeds aren’t all bad, actually. 🌿

Main Menu