The Download: geothermal power’s potential, and AR for luxury jewelry

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.

This geothermal startup showed its wells can be used like a giant underground battery

In late January, a geothermal power startup began conducting experiments where it pumped water deep below the desert floor of northern Nevada. 

The results—which MIT Technology Review is reporting exclusively—suggest that Houston-based Fervo can create flexible geothermal power plants, capable of ramping electricity output up or down as needed.

Potentially more importantly, the system can store up energy for hours or even days and deliver it back over similar periods, effectively acting as a giant and very long-lasting battery. 

There are remaining questions about how well this method will work on larger scales. But if it succeeds, it could fill a critical gap in today’s grids, making it cheaper and easier to eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions. Read the full story.

—James Temple

Cartier and Tiffany are getting into AR to sell luxury to Gen Z

Our senior reporter Tanya Basu recently tried on a Cartier Tank watch and a slew of Tiffany bracelets, watching the metal and diamonds shine in the dim light. It wasn’t at a store, though; she was in bed, barefoot and in sweatpants, using an AR experience on Snap that let her see how the jewelry looked on her wrist.

The Cartier and Tiffany AR campaigns are the latest in a series of collaborations Snap is making with brands to get Gen Z to invest in luxury using virtual try-on experiences. There’s evidence that, while they might not drive immediate purchases, these campaigns can change consumer attitudes and behavior. Read the full story.

The internet is about to get a lot safer

We accidentally included a bad link to yesterday’s story about Europe’s big tech bills—sorry about that! The two bills are quite revolutionary, and will set a new global gold standard for regulating user-generated content. You can read the full story here.

The must-reads

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

1 A single engineer managed to break Twitter
All those non-stop layoffs are taking their toll on the embattled platform. (Platformer $)
+ Twitter’s links and images stopped working entirely. (Engadget)
+ Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break. (MIT Technology Review)

2 How the hype around generative AI differs from the crypto craze
AI’s far more accessible, for one. (Vox)+ Maybe we’re overhyping GPT-4 before it even arrives. (The Atlantic $)+ Why reports of AI stealing our jobs are still a load of hot air. (Economist $)
+ India’s crypto industry is on life support. (Rest of World)
+ Generative AI is changing everything. But what’s left when the hype is gone? (MIT Technology Review)

3 Inside China’s plot to steal US industrial secrets 
Theft of overseas intellectual property is unofficial state policy. (NYT $)

4 Government algorithms are discriminating against women and people of color
The inaccurate and biased welfare fraud system is being used to make consequential decisions in Rotterdam. (Wired $)
+ AI has exacerbated racial bias in housing. Could it help eliminate it instead? (MIT Technology Review)

5 US special forces want to use deepfakes in psy-ops
After years of warning how overseas nations could do exactly the same thing. (The Intercept)
+ Detecting deepfakes is a game of cat and mouse. (IEEE Spectrum)

6 EV startups are seriously struggling
Their vehicles are still expensive to manufacture, and many businesses are being forced to scale back. (WSJ $)

7 Google’s offices are like a ghost town
According to CEO Sundar Pichai, that is. (CNBC)

8 Commercial surrogacy is booming 🤰🏻
Especially after the pandemic delayed many would-be parents’ plans. (CNBC)
+ I took an international trip with my frozen eggs to learn about the fertility industry. (MIT Technology Review)

9 How to dismantle your recommendation algorithms
What platforms push us and what we actually want to read are two different things.(The Atlantic $)

10 Why floppy discs just won’t die 💾
Despite naysayers’ best efforts. (Wired $)

Quote of the day

“The market is hot garbage right now.”

—Justine de Caires, a former senior software engineer at Twitter, discusses the difficulties of trying to find a job amid a massive tech industry downturn with CNN.

The big story

Inside Alphabet X’s new effort to combat climate change with seagrass

November 2022

For years, Tidal, a project within Alphabet’s “moonshot factory” X division, has been using cameras, computer vision and machine learning to get a better understanding of life beneath the oceans, including monitoring fish off the coast of Norway.  

Now, Tidal hopes its system can help preserve and restore the world’s seagrass beds, accelerating efforts to harness the oceans to suck up and store away far more carbon dioxide. Read the full story.

—James Temple

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.)

+ This kitten is going to go far in life.
+ I am absolutely obsessed with this Jennifer Coolidge photoshoot.
+ How cool is this: researchers have used cosmic ways to map a secret corridor hidden inside Giza’s Great Pyramid.
+ Why drummers are the canary in AI music’s goldmine.
+ Gen Z loves a slogan shirt—but they don’t necessarily mean what you think they do.

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