The Download: genetic embryo testing, and Germany’s nuclear predicament

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.

America’s first IVF baby is pitching a way to pick the DNA of your kids

Elizabeth Carr is head of commercial development at Genomic Prediction, a genetic testing startup that says it will assess embryos created in IVF clinics for their future chance of common diseases and then rank them, so parents can pick the one with the best future.

It’s a controversial area that has some critics anguishing over the prospect of consumer eugenics. Still, word of the company’s “health scores” for embryos is spreading via media reports and as the company starts to promote the tests to IVF clinics and at meetings.

Carr, who is in charge of sales and marketing, may just be the perfect spokesperson. That’s because she was the first person born through in vitro fertilization in the US back in 1981. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

Inside Germany’s power struggle over nuclear energy

Just a decade ago, Germany was using nuclear power to meet about a quarter of its electricity demand. But earlier this month, the nation shut down the last of its nuclear power plants, 60 years after the first one began operation.

The reactions are mixed. Some consider this a victory, cheering as Germany moves away from an electricity source they see as dangerous and flawed. But others see it as a major potential roadblock for climate action—while nuclear plants have been shuttered left and right, coal power has chugged along, providing a huge chunk of the country’s electricity and spewing emissions all the while.

Germany’s true challenge lies ahead, as the country tries to meet ambitious climate goals without the steady electricity supply that nuclear provides. It also raises a major question: what role should nuclear play in the climate movement today? Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things climate and energy. 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 Twitter’s decision to axe blue checks has real world consequences  
False accounts impersonating police departments are rife. (NYT $)
+ It seems that it can’t falsely claim certain users are paying for Twitter Blue after all. (Wired $)
+ The blue checks are rapidly becoming a mark of the uncool. (NYT $)

2 What we can learn from Japan’s moon landing failure
The majority of first-time moon missions end in failure. (Economist $)

3 India wants to build the world’s largest solar farms
The country’s energy demands are huge—and mostly met by coal. (New Yorker $)
+ Yes, we have enough materials to power the world with renewable energy. (MIT Technology Review)

4 The US patent system is under threat
Largely because AI can create things all on its own. (FT $)
+ The US Supreme Court doesn’t want to issue patents to AI. (Reuters)
+ AI might not steal your job, but it could change it. (MIT Technology Review)

5 How long can humans live, really?
It’s increasingly looking like our research into longevity is misplaced. (Wired $)
+ Inside the billion-dollar meeting for the mega-rich who want to live forever. (MIT Technology Review

6 Apple’s push into banking comes with major risks
Such systems can prove irresistible to the financially vulnerable. (Vox)

7 How data brokers piece together who you are
And sell that highly personal information to the highest bidder. (Slate $)

8 China’s online sellers are out for revenge
E-commerce platform policies firmly favor the buyers, who aren’t always honest. (Rest of World)
+ Chinese platform Temu is expanding into Europe. (Reuters)
+ This obscure shopping app is now America’s most downloaded. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Sludge videos are taking over TikTok
They’re chaotic and overwhelming: and fans just can’t get enough. (NBC News)

10 Big Tech’s office perks are drying up
Even the famously lavish Google is tightening its purse strings. (The Atlantic $)

Quote of the day

“We take loads of money, make lovely cables and stick them in the bottom of the ocean. And by and large, they’ve worked for 150 years.”

—A deep sea cable expert summarizes the mysterious nature of their industry to the Financial Times

The big story

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

December 2022

In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up to 9 million people in a zero-carbon megacity, 170 kilometers long and half a kilometer high but just 200 meters wide. Within its mirrored, car-free walls, residents would be whisked around in underground trains and electric air taxis. 

Satellite images of the $500 billion project obtained exclusively by MIT Technology Review show that the Line’s vast linear building site is already taking shape. Visit The Line’s location on Google Maps and Google Earth, however, and you will see little more than bare rock and sand. 

The strange gap in imagery raises questions about who gets to access high-res satellite technology. And if the largest urban construction site on the planet doesn’t appear on Google Maps, what else can’t we see? Read the full story.

—Mark Harris

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.)

+ Here’s some fun ways to motivate yourself into exercising, for those times when you just can’t be bothered.
+ If you’re ever stuck for somewhere to go after hours in London, save this pub map.
+ Philly cheesesteaks are a huge deal in Pakistan.
+ Good things come to those who wait: especially when it comes to evolutionary biology.
+ Why knights are called knights—and other ruminations on chess pieces. ♟

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