The Download: what to expect from US Congress’s first AI meeting

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.

What to know about Congress’s inaugural AI meeting

The US Congress is heading back into session, and they’re hitting the ground running on AI. We’re going to be hearing a lot about various plans and positions on AI regulation in the coming weeks, kicking off with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s first AI Insight Forum on Wednesday. 

This and planned future forums will bring together some of the top people in AI to discuss the risks and opportunities it poses and how Congress might write legislation to address them.

Although the forums are closed to the public and press, our senior tech policy reporter Tate Ryan-Mosley has chatted with representatives from attendee AI company Hugging Face about what they are expecting, and what exactly these forums are hoping to achieve. Read the full story.

Tate’s story first appeared in The Technocrat, her weekly newsletter covering policy and Silicon Valley. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

Why regulating AI is such a challenge

Lawmakers around the world are trying to work out how to regulate AI. We’re holding the second MIT Technology Review Roundtable tomorrow at 12pm ET: a 30-minute conversation with our writers and editors—and this one will dig deep into what it’ll take to govern AI properly.

Melissa Heikkilä, our senior reporter for AI, will be chatting with news editor Charlotte Jee about what should be done to keep AI companies in line. Roundtables are free for MIT Technology Review subscribers, so if you’re not already, you can become one today from just $80 a year.

The must-reads

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

1 Meta is working on a AI large language model
Which, if it all goes to plan, will be as powerful as OpenAI’s ChatGPT. (WSJ $)
+ The company is focusing on AI and turning its back on news. (Wired $)
+ Meta’s AI leaders want you to know fears over AI existential risk are “ridiculous.” (MIT Technology Review)

2 Google is preparing for a historic new antitrust case
It’s a crucial test of President Biden’s efforts to hold Big Tech to account. (FT $)
+ Google is accused of unlawfully quashing its competition. (Wired $)

3 Starlink should keep supplying Ukraine with satellite internet
That’s according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after it was revealed Elon Musk had turned off the system to scupper a Ukrainian drone attack. (Bloomberg $)
+ A Ukrainian official accused Musk of “committing evil.” (The Guardian)

4 Island nations are hoping to legally force polluters to clean up their act
Carbon emissions are causing them to sink. Now, they want to punish the perpetrators. (Bloomberg $)+ The state of the climate is pretty dire right now. (Vox)
+ What’s changed in the US since the breakthrough climate bill passed a year ago? (MIT Technology Review)

5 Tax evaders in the US are risking detection by AI
It’s helping the US tax agency to complete audits on a previously-unachievable scale. (NYT $)

6 X is host to more bot activity than ever before
Which suggests the company’s anti-bots campaign isn’t really working. (The Guardian)

7 How Lisbon quietly became a crypto paradise
The picturesque Portuguese city has embraced crypto as many others shun it. (CNBC)
+ How Bitcoin mining devastated this New York town. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Silicon Valley’s great and the good are getting full body medical scans
Despite the fact that no official medical body has sanctioned it. (WP $)

9 Why streaming is such a mess
Choosing what to watch isn’t as tough a quandary as how to watch it. (The Atlantic $)
+ Live sports is caught in a major TV battle. (Slate $)

10 Super apps are not so super
They reinforce monopolies and encourage more tracking than ever. (Wired $)

Quote of the day

“People just thought we were insane. Google was the best thing since sliced bread.”

—Barry Lynn, executive director of the Open Markets Institute and a veteran antitrust activist, explains to the Washington Post how he wasn’t taken seriously when he tried to push US officials to take antitrust action against Google in the early 2000s.

The big story

This super-realistic virtual world is a driving school for AI

February 2022

Building driverless cars is a slow and expensive business. After years of effort and billions of dollars of investment, the technology is still stuck in the pilot phase.

Autonomous technology company Waabi thinks it can do better. Last year it revealed the controversial new shortcut to autonomous vehicles it’s betting on. The big idea? Ditch the cars.

Waabi has built a super-realistic virtual environment called Waabi World. Instead of training an AI driver in real vehicles, it plans to do it entirely inside the simulation. But simulation alone is a bold strategy, and how far it can go depends on how realistic Waabi World really is. Read the full story

—Will Douglas Heaven

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.)

+ Imagine being a professional royal impersonator.
+ Preparing for the cheese olympics sounds profoundly stressful to me. 🧀
+ The surface of Mars is home to some seriously weird things.
+ The trailer for Cat Person, a new movie based on the viral short story of the same name, has landed.
+ We’re witnessing a rise in Omani art.

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