The Download: longevity for the uber-rich, and wrongful prosecutions of Chinese scientists
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.
Inside the billion-dollar meeting for the mega-rich who want to live forever
Back in September, Jessica Hamzelou, our senior biotech reporter, traveled to Gstaad, a swanky ski-resort town in the Swiss Alps, to attend the first in-person Longevity Investors Conference.
Over the two-day event, scientists and biotech founders made the case for various approaches to prolonging the number of years we might spend in good health. The majority of them were trying to win over deep-pocketed investors.
As the field of longevity attempts to define itself as scientifically sound, plenty of “anti-aging treatments” based on little-to-no human evidence continue to enter the market. But can billions of investor money—some of it from ethically dubious sources—ever offer a concrete path to evidence-based life extension? Read the full story.
Read more about the quest to extend our healthy years:
+ How scientists want to make you young again. Research labs are pursuing technology to “reprogram” aging bodies back to youth. Read the full story.
+ Aging clocks aim to predict how long you’ll live. These clocks promise to measure biological age and help identify anti-aging drugs, but there are lingering questions over their accuracy. Read the full story.
A big settlement for one Chinese-American scientist won’t end wrongful prosecutions
Last week, our senior investigative reporter Eileen Guo wrote about a historic settlement won by Chinese-American scientist Sherry Chen, who was wrongly accused of being a Chinese spy.
Her case illustrates just how hard it is to go up against a powerful federal agency and hold it accountable. It’s also an anomaly—it’s usually incredibly difficult to prove racial bias in court, but a broad pattern of misconduct by her accusers was proven definitively.
However, Chen’s win doesn’t necessarily mean others in her situation will have an easier time getting justice. Read the full story.
Zeyi’s story is from China Report, his weekly newsletter covering everything you need to know about China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.
Podcast: Farming a war zone
Tune into the latest episode of our In Machines We Trust podcast, where we look at how shortages of everything from seeds to fertilizer might accelerate the adoption of technologies that can help supplies go further in war-torn Ukraine. Listen to it on Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you usually listen.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Donald Trump is going to run for the presidency again
He’s ignoring the critics, particularly those within his own party. (Vox)
+ Republicans aren’t thrilled by their midterms performance. (The Atlantic $)
+ His decision to run hasn’t exactly come as a surprise. (New Yorker $)
+ Trump and Elon Musk are now social media rivals, technically. (Insider $)
2 FTX boss Sam Bankman-Fried is hustling for money (again)
He’s desperately trying to fix the $8 billion hole in the crypto exchange’s finances. (WSJ $)
+ The Bahamas arm of FTX has filed for bankruptcy, too. (Bloomberg $)
3 Twitter is playing with fire in the EU
The increasingly volatile platform could fall foul of its new rules policing Big Tech. (FT $)
+ Twitter’s Blue Verified service is relaunching on 29 November. (Reuters)
+ Social media giants could be forced to disclose details about their algorithms in the UK. (FT $)
+ Musk has a snarky new nickname: Elmo. (Insider $)
+ What exactly is Musk thinking right now? (Vox)
4 NASA’s Artemis 1 mission has finally taken off
After months of setbacks, it took flight in the early hours. (CNN)
+ The mission hopes to shed light on what space does to our bodies. (Vox)
+ Watch the moment NASA’s DART spacecraft crashed into an asteroid. (MIT Technology Review)
5 Taylor Swift has exposed just how awful Ticketmaster’s system is
Buying concert tickets is increasingly like battling a rigged lottery. (WP $)
6 The world’s population has reached 8 billion people
But that’s neither a reason to panic—nor relax. (Economist $)
+ New global map shows populations are growing faster in flood-prone areas. (MIT Technology Review)
7 Millions of Indians are relying on businesses controlled by one man
Mukesh Ambani’s conglomerate has made him uber-powerful. (Rest of World)
8 Boston Dynamics is suing a rival over its robot dog
It claims Ghost Robotics’ four-legged design was a bit too similar to its own. (The Register)
+ This robot dog just taught itself to walk. (MIT Technology Review)
9 TikTok has emboldened brands to clap back at customers
Unfortunately, it means they’re more irritating than ever. (Wired $)
+ The platform is also repackaging MTV Cribs for a new generation. (The Guardian)
10 Your next Tinder match could be AI-generated
For just $19, you too could be “the best you’ve ever looked.” (Motherboard)
+ No one knows what’s next for AI copyright. (The Verge)
Quote of the day
“The higher-ups, they mostly played chess and board games. There was no partying. They were undersexed, if anything.”
—Dr George Lerner, crypto exchange FTX’s in-house performance coach, tells the New York Times that reports of hedonistic behavior at the firm are wildly overblown.
The big story
The delivery apps reshaping life in India’s megacities
From 7am until well past dusk, seven days a week, N. Sudhakar sits behind the counter of his hole-in-the wall grocery store in the south Indian city of Bangalore. Packed floor to ceiling with everything from 20-kilogram sacks of rice to one-rupee ($.01) shampoo sachets, this one-stop shop supplies most of the daily needs for many in the neighborhood. It’s a carbon copy of the roughly 12 million family-run “kiranas” found on almost every street corner in India.
Increasingly, the technology industry is presenting stores like his with a new challenge. Across the road, a steady stream of delivery drivers line up to grab groceries from a “dark store”—a mini-warehouse built to enable ultra-fast deliveries run by Dunzo, a Bangalore-based startup.
In India’s megacities, the urban middle class is gradually getting hooked on online shopping. These shoppers make up a fraction of the population, but their spending power is considerable, and in more affluent pockets of big cities, the battle for India’s street corner is well underway. 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.)
+ If you enjoyed the book Fleishman is in Trouble, a TV adaptation starts streaming on Hulu tomorrow.
+ John Wick is back, and he’s angrier than ever.
+ If your Birkenstocks are looking a little grubby, don’t worry—someone just paid $218,000 for Steve Jobs’ old pair (thanks Allison!)
+ I had no idea Skyfall was very nearly called something else entirely.
+ Paper peepshows were the 19th century’s answer to virtual reality—and just as cool.