The Download: the dream of cryonics, and enhanced rats
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.
Why the sci-fi dream of cryonics never died
When Aaron Drake flew from Arizona to the Yinfeng Biological Group in China in 2016, he was traveling there to guide China’s first forays into cryonics, or freezing corpses for reanimation.
Drake had spent the previous seven years as the medical response director of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a small nonprofit that had managed to become the longtime leader in cryonics, freezing the bodies and brains of its members, with the idea of one day bringing them back to life, since 1976.
The foundation, and cryonics in general, had long survived outside of mainstream acceptance. But it’s the recent involvement of Yinfeng that signals something of a new era for cryonics.
With impressive financial resources, government support, and scientific staff, it’s one of a handful of new labs focused on expanding the consumer appeal of cryonics and trying anew to bring credibility to the long-disputed theory of human reanimation. Still, the field remains rooted in faith rather than any real evidence that it works. Read the full story.
This piece is from our forthcoming mortality-themed issue, available from 26 October. If you want to read it when it comes out, you can subscribe to MIT Technology Review for as little as $80 a year.
Are rats with human brain cells still just rats?
This week, my colleague Jessica Hamzelou wrote about a fascinating experiment that involved implanting human brain cells into rats’ brains. The brain cells from both species were able to form connections and work together. The human cells became part of the rats’ brains.
A few months after they’d been implanted, the human cells made up around a sixth of the rats’ brains and appeared to have a role in controlling the animals’ behavior. Which invites the tricky question: Are these animals still 100% rat? Read the full story.
Jessica’s story is from The Checkup, her weekly newsletter exploring all things biotech and health. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.
This week MIT Technology Review held its inaugural ClimateTech conference on technology solutions for climate change—a big thank you to everyone who attended in-person or online!
If you missed it, you can catch up with all the biggest news and announcements via our live blog covering day one and day two of the conference.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.1 China is preparing for its historic Communist party congress
A third term for president Xi Jinping is a near-certainty. (Economist $)
+ The congress is an opportunity for Xi to reassert his control. (FT $)
+ All 2,3000 senior party members will attend the meeting. (The Guardian)
+ Douying, Tiktok’s Chinese sister app, is silencing Cantonese speakers. (Rest of World)
2 Not everyone in California can afford electric vehicles
They’re expensive, and the state’s push towards EVs risks overlooking lower earners. (The Guardian)
+ Even the US secretary of transportation acknowledges the obstacles. (Recode)
+ The US only has 6,000 fast charging stations for EVs. (MIT Technology Review)
3 Turkey has passed a flawed “disinformation bill” ahead of its elections
Which, handily enough, restricts criticisms of its President Erdoğan. (FT $)
+ The European Parliament has accused Big Tech of secretive lobbying. (Bloomberg $)
4 Food is getting more expensive
Supply issues and higher gas prices are just some of the reasons why. (Vox)
+ The rising cost of food has contributed to those sky-high inflation figures. (New Yorker $)
5 An AI is planning to run for election in Denmark
The Synthetic Party, which is led by an AI, claims to represent the values of “non-voting Danes.” (Motherboard)
6 Gamers are the perfect target for cybercriminals
Younger players are particularly vulnerable to fraudsters’ advances. (NYT $)
7 Ads on Netflix are arriving next month
The company desperately wants to attract new customers, following months of users canceling their subscriptions. (WSJ $)
8 Intense heat therapy isn’t just for elite athletes
Carefully controlled exposure to heat could prevent cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, too. (Neo.Life)
9 Your restaurant server hates your menu hacks
And apps are making it easier than ever to order elaborate concoctions anonymously. (Eater)
10 There aren’t legs in the metaverse after all
Hard to believe, I know, but Meta misled us. (Kotaku)
+ Meta is desperately trying to make the metaverse happen. (MIT Technology Review)
Quote of the day
“There will often be one or two people running around like crazy, or doing something like creating a massive cartoon of a cat.”
—Antti Innanen, chief executive of Dot, a Finnish legal design consultancy, explains the pitfalls of trying to hold people’s attention while giving seminars in the metaverse to the Financial Times.
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.)
+ Hey, that’s not how the next line of the song goes!
+ The one and only Patti Smith is releasing a book next month—and it’s inspired by, err, Instagram.
+ This sunlit waterfall is straight out of House of the Dragon.
+ If you ever find yourself in London, it’s only right you indulge in a bit of pub grub.
+ We tend to gravitate towards the familiar when something’s coming to an end, and that’s okay.