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.
A biotech company says it put dopamine-making cells into people’s brains
The news: In an important test for stem-cell medicine, biotech company BlueRock Therapeutics says implants of lab-made neurons introduced into the brains of 12 people with Parkinson’s disease appear to be safe and may have reduced symptoms for some of them.
How it works: The new cells produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, a shortage of which is what produces the devastating symptoms of Parkinson’s, including problems moving. The replacement neurons were manufactured using powerful stem cells originally sourced from a human embryo created using an in vitro fertilization procedure.
Why it matters: The small-scale trial is one of the largest and most costly tests yet of embryonic-stem-cell technology, the controversial and much-hyped approach of using stem cells taken from IVF embryos to produce replacement tissue and body parts. Read the full story.
Here’s why I am coining the term “embryo tech”
Antonio, our senior biomedicine editor, has been following experiments using embryonic stem cells for quite some time. He has coined the term “embryo tech” for the powerful technology researchers can extract by studying them, which includes new ways of reproducing through IVF—and could even hold clues to real rejuvenation science.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 The US government has earmarked $12 billion to speed up the transition to EVs
It’ll incentivise existing automakers to refurbish their factories into EV production lines. (CNN)
+ Driving an EV is a real learning curve. (WSJ $)
+ Why getting more EVs on the road is all about charging. (MIT Technology Review)
2 We still don’t know how effective geoengineering the climate could be
And scientists are divided over whether it’s wasteful at best, dangerous at worst. (FT $)
+ A startup released particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate. (MIT Technology Review)
4 Apple is dropping its iCloud photo-scanning tool
The controversial mechanism would create new opportunities for data thieves, the company has concluded. (Wired $)
5 India is launching a probe to study the sun
Buoyed by the success of its recent lunar landing, the spacecraft is set to take off on Saturday. (Bloomberg $)
+ The lunar Chandrayaan-3 probe is capturing impressive new pictures. (The Verge)+ Scientists have solved a light-dimming space mystery. (Motherboard)
6 Generative AI is unlikely to interfere in major elections
While it has disruptive potential, panicking about it is unwarranted. (Economist $)
+ Americans are worrying that AI could make their lives worse, however. (Wired $)+ Six ways that AI could change politics. (MIT Technology Review)
7 We’ve never seen a year for hurricanes quite like this
The combination of an El Niño year and extreme heat creates the perfect storm. (The Atlantic $)
+ Here’s what we know about hurricanes and climate change. (MIT Technology Review)
8 An AI-powered drone beat champion human pilots
It’s the first time an AI system has outperformed human pilots in a physical sport. (Ars Technica)+ New York police will use drones to surveil Labor Day parties. (The Verge)
9 LinkedIn’s users are opening up
As other social media platforms falter, they’ve started oversharing on the professional network. (WP $)
10 Brazil’s delivery workers are fighting back against rude customers
By threatening to eat their food if they don’t comply. (Rest of World)
Quote of the day
“It could be a cliff we end up falling off, or a mountain we climb to discover a beautiful view.”
—George Bamford, founder of luxury watch customizing company Bamford Watch Department, describes how he’s been dabbling with AI to visualize new timepieces to the Financial Times.
The big story
El Paso was “drought-proof.” Climate change is pushing its limits.
El Paso has long been a model for water conservation. It’s done all the right things—it’s launched programs to persuade residents to use less water and deployed technological systems, including desalination and wastewater recycling, to add to its water resources. A former president of the water utility once famously declared El Paso “drought-proof.”
Now, though, even El Paso’s careful plans are being challenged by intense droughts. As the pressure ratchets up, El Paso, and places like it, force us to ask just how far adaptation can go. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
+ Wait a minute, that’s no kiwi!
+ A YouTube channel delving into historic sandwiches is what the world needs right now.
+ It’s time to plan an adventurous fall vacation.
+ David Tennant doing a dramatic reading of Man, I Feel Like a Woman is a thing of beauty.
+ How to make your own kahlua at home—it’s super quick.