The Download: AI privacy risks, and cleaning up shipping

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This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.

What is “healthy” GPT-3 about me?

One of the biggest stories in technology this year has been the rise of large language models (LLM). These are AI models that produce text that a human could have written, sometimes so convincingly that they’ve tricked people into thinking they’re sentient.

The power of these models comes from publicly available human-created texts that have been pulled from the Internet. If you’ve published anything even remotely personal in English on the internet, chances are your details are part of some of the most popular LLMs in the world.

My colleague Melissa Heikkilä, our AI reporter, recently started wondering what data these models might have about her and how it might be misused. A harrowing experience a decade ago left her paranoid about sharing personal data online, so she put OpenAI’s GPT-3 to the test to see what it “knows” about her. Read about what he found.

How ammonia could help clean up global transportation

The news: Smelly ammonia may seem like an unlikely fuel to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it could also play a key role in decarbonising global shipping by providing an efficient way to store the energy needed to power large ships on long voyages.

What is happening: The American Bureau of Shipping recently granted initial approval for some ammonia-powered ships and fuel infrastructure, meaning these ships could hit the seas in the coming years. Although the fuel would require new engines and power systems, swapping it for fossil fuels that ships burn today could help make a big impact on global carbon emissions.

What follows: Some companies are looking even further to the future, with New York-based Amogy raising nearly $50 million earlier this year to use the chemical for fuel cells that promise even bigger emissions cuts . If the first ammonia tests work, these new technologies could help the shipping industry significantly reduce its emissions. Read the whole story.

—Casey Crownhart

Required readings

I’ve combed the internet to find you the funniest/important/scary and fascinating stories about technology.

1 Pakistan is reeling from its devastating floods
Poor policymaking, mixed with a climate-change-driven monsoon, has displaced millions and destroyed homes, food and livelihoods. (Voice)
+ These images highlight the extent of the destruction. (The Guardian)
+ Residents try to rescue their belongings from the waters. (BBC)

2 California has approved new child safety rules online
The legislation will force websites and apps to add safeguards for under-18s. (NYT$)
+The state also wants to punish doctors who spread misinformation about health. (NYT$)

3 NASA will try to launch its Artemis rocket again on Saturday
An inaccurate sensor reading is believed to have caused the botched takeoff on Monday. (BBC)

4 Elon Musk has found a new tactic to try to avoid buying Twitter
He is using the whistleblowers’ recent allegations. (FT$)
+ What you need to know about the next legal fight. (WSJ$)
+ Twitter is not adequately dealing with self-harming content. (Ars Technique)

5 Deepfakes are infiltrating the mainstream
Technology is improving day by day and we should care. (WP$)
+ A horrifying new AI app swaps women in porn videos with a click. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Cyber ​​insurance is not equipped to deal with cyber warfare
Insurers cannot agree on what should and should not be covered. (via cable $)

7 A program to clean up polluted Nigerian wetlands made the problem worse
Residents of Ogoniland have been left to cope with the oil-soaked lands. (Bloomberg$)
+ Companies that caused an oil spill in California have been fined $13 million. (CNN)

8 How the giant isopods got so giant
The genes of the roly-poly relative explain why it can grow to the size of a chihuahua. (Hakai Magazine)
+ The primordial coelacanth was an expert at conserving energy. (New Scientist $)

9th generation Z is very close to making collages
Naturally, there’s an app for that. (The $ info)

10 Dadcore fashion has gone viral 🎣
Leaving in his wake a generation of iconic fishing enthusiasts. (entrance)

quote of the day

“I’ve definitely had days where I’ve accomplished all of that, but it’s exhausting.”

-Dynasti deGouville, 22, describes the pressure she felt to subscribe to the #ThatGirl lifestyle of early, grueling exercise and restrictive diets peddled by TikTok clips of thin white women in the Wall Street Journal.

The great story

Humanity is trapped in short-term thinking. That’s how we escape.

October 2020

Humans have evolved over millennia to understand an ever-expanding sense of time. We have minds capable of imagining a very distant future. However, although we may have this ability, it is rarely deployed in daily life. If our descendants were to diagnose the ills of 21st century civilization, they would observe a dangerously short term: a collective failure to escape the present moment and look ahead.

The world is saturated with information and living standards have never been higher, but it is often difficult to see beyond the next news cycle, political term or business quarter. How to explain this contradiction? Why are we so stuck in the “now”? Read the whole story.

—Richard Fisher

We can still have beautiful things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? Drop me a line ortweet them to me.)

+ This dog slide it looks like endless delight.
+ Three hours of underground hip hop from the 90s are guaranteed to put you in a good mood.
+ After a two-year hiatus, the Gravy Wrestling World Championship is back!
+ Electro icon Gary Numan has some interesting words of wisdom.
+ The Perseverance Rover is searching for evidence of past life on Mars.

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