The Download: meet the longevity obsessives, and how China’s regulating AI

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.

Longevity enthusiasts want to create their own independent state. They’re eyeing Rhode Island.

—Jessica Hamzelou

Earlier this month, I traveled to Montenegro for a gathering of longevity enthusiasts, people interested in extending human life through various biotechnology approaches. All the attendees were super friendly, and the sense of optimism was palpable. They’re all confident we’ll be able to find a way to slow or reverse aging—and they have a bold plan to speed up progress.

Around 780 of these people have created a “pop-up city” that hopes to circumvent the traditional process of clinical trials. They want to create an independent state where like-minded innovators can work together in an all-new jurisdiction that gives them free rein to self-experiment with unproven drugs. Welcome to Zuzalu. Read the full story.

China isn’t waiting to set down rules on generative AI

Back in April, the Chinese internet regulator published a draft regulation on generative AI. The document doesn’t call out any specific company, but the way it is worded makes it clear that it was inspired by the incessant launch of large-language-model chatbots in China and the US.

The draft regulation is a mixture of sensible restrictions on AI risks and a continuation of China’s strong government tradition of aggressive intervention in the tech industry. But while many of the clauses in the draft regulation are principles that AI critics are advocating for in the West, it also contains rules that other countries would likely balk at. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Zeyi’s story is from China Report, his weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on what’s going on in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The must-reads

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

1 Elizabeth Holmes has started her 11-year prison sentence
It’s a remarkable fall from grace for the entrepreneur, who was convicted of defrauding Theranos’ investors. (The Guardian
+ Her fellow prisoners are nonplussed by her arrival, though. (WSJ $)
+ Holmes and her business partner have to pay $452 million in restitution. (NYT $)

2 Nvidia has become the first trillion dollar chipmaker
Thanks to the AI boom. (FT $)
+ Fellow chipmaker Intel is feeling the pressure. (WSJ $)
+ These simple design rules could turn the chip industry on its head. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Researchers are worried that ChatGPT can’t stop hallucinating
Making up answers to simple queries is more of a feature than a bug. (WP $)
+ Chatbots can be useful for people with autism looking to practice interactions. (Wired $)
+ A lawyer is in trouble after using ChatGPT to cite non-existent cases. (Ars Technica)

4 Twitter is experimenting with crowdsourced fact checks
Which seems… risky, to say the least. (The Verge)

5 Pandemic simulations can never fully prepare us
A lot of them aren’t adequately challenging, for one. (The Atlantic $)
+ One key element to prevent future pandemics? Lots of money. (Slate $)
+ AI could help with the next pandemic—but not with this one. (MIT Technology Review)

6 An eating disorder helpline has disabled its chatbot
The bot, which was designed to replace human volunteers, doled out harmful weight-loss advice. (Motherboard)

7 Surveilled workers are feeling the pressure
Arbitrary metrics don’t paint the full picture of how hard someone’s working. (The Guardian)

8 The seriously complicated reality of food delivery apps
It’s virtually impossible for ordinary customers to work out where their money goes. (WP $)

9 The menopause is an untapped resource for understanding aging
The problem, as ever, is getting funding for research into women’s health. (Wired $)
+ The debate over whether aging is a disease rages on. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Who gets to colonize the moon? 🌒
A moon activity registry could be one way to find out. (Slate $)
+ The US is brushing up on its space diplomacy rules. (WP $)
+ Future space food could be made from astronaut breath. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“We feel a lot like the filling sandwiched in the middle of a biscuit.”

—Ryan, a software startup founder based in Shenzhen, China, tells Reuters about the frustration he and other entrepreneurs feel at the barriers facing Chinese companies hoping to expand into the US due to trade restrictions.

The big story 

What if aging weren’t inevitable, but a curable disease?

August 2019

Since ancient times, aging has been viewed as simply inevitable, unstoppable, nature’s way. “Natural causes” have long been blamed for deaths among the old, even if they died of a recognized pathological condition. 

The medical writer Galen argued back in the second century AD that aging is a natural process. His view, the acceptance that one can die simply of old age, has dominated ever since.

But a growing number of scientists are questioning our basic conception of aging. What if you could challenge your death—or even prevent it altogether? And what would change if we classified aging itself as the disease? Read the full story.

—David Adam

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.)

+ I’ve got some beef with the order, but this rundown of Stevie Nicks’ finest songs is good fun (thanks Stefan!)
+ Who doesn’t love a good coming of age movie?
+ Why flies aren’t always the bad guys we make them out to be. 🪰
+ Dire news from the UK: ice cream sellers are furious because of what they say is a downgrade in the quality of chocolate flakes.
+ The hipster is dead: long live the hipster.

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