The Download: The origin drama of covid and the uncertain future of TikTok
This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
Newly revealed coronavirus data has reignited debate about the origins of the virus
This week, we have seen the resurgence of a debate that has been swirling since the beginning of the pandemic: where does the virus that causes covid-19 come from?
Most scientists have argued that the virus likely jumped from animals to humans at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan at some point in late 2019. But some say the virus jumped from humans to animals , rather than the other way around. around. And many continue to claim that the virus somehow leaked from a nearby lab that was studying coronaviruses in bats.
Data collected in 2020 – and kept from public view ever since – potentially adds weight to the animal theory. It highlights a potential suspect: the raccoon dog. But the exact weight that adds depends on who you ask. Read the full story.
This story is from The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly biotech newsletter. Register to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.
Learn more about covid reports from MIT Technology Review:
+ Our biotech editor, Antonio Regalado, investigated the origins of the coronavirus behind covid-19 in his five-part podcast series Curious Coincidence.
+ Meet the scientist at the center of the Covid lab leak controversy. Shi Zhengli spent years at the Wuhan Institute of Virology researching coronaviruses that live in bats. His work has come under fire as the world tries to figure out where covid-19 came from. Read the full story.
+ This scientist now thinks covid started in Wuhan wet market. Here’s why. Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona believes that a spillover of the virus from animals in the Huanan seafood market was almost certainly the cause of the pandemic. Read the full story.
I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scariest/fascinating stories about technology.
1 TikTok’s future in the US hangs in the balance
Banning it is a colossal challenge, and authorities still lack the legal authority to do so. (WP$)
+ TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has been grilled by a congressional committee. (FT$)
+ He told lawmakers the company would gain their trust. (WSJ$)
+ Meanwhile, TikTok paid for influencers to travel to DC to lobby its cause. (Wired $)
2 Crypto fugitive was arrested in Montenegro
Do Kwon has been on the run since stablecoin TerraUSD collapsed last year. (WSJ$)
+ Want to mine Bitcoin? See you in Texas. (Reuters)
+ What’s next for crypto. (MIT Technology Review)
3 Twitter is getting rid of its old blue checks
On the very serious date of April 1st. (The Verge)+ The platform remains an unattractive prospect for advertisers. (voice)
4 Chatbots Have Difficult Conversations For Us
ChatGPT is adept at writing scripts for sensitive chats with kids and colleagues. (NYT$)
+ OpenAI gave ChatGPT access to live data from the web. (The edge)
+ How Character.AI Became a Billion Dollar Unicorn. (WSJ$)
+ The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who created it. (MIT Technology Review)
5 Jack Dorsey’s Block Has Been Accused Of Fraudulent Transactions
The payment company has denied this and claims that it also inflated its user count.(FT$)
+ Dorsey isn’t used to worrying about that sort of thing. (Information $)
6 homeowner associations secretly install surveillance systems
The system tracks license plates and tracks residents’ movements. (The Interception)
7 Inside the tricky ethics of using DNA to solve crimes
A new database could help protect user privacy. (Wired $)|
+ The citizen scientist who finds killers from her couch. (MIT Technology Review)
8 There are many reasons to be optimistic about the climate
Healthier and more sustainable diets are a good place to start. (American scientist)
+ Take stock of our past, present and future climate. (MIT Technology Review)
9 TikTok Keeps Harassing Us
It seems we just can’t get enough of being aggressively told what to do. (voice)
10 Don’t get scammed by a deepfake
CallerID cannot be trusted to protect you from malicious AI calls. (Gizmodo)
quote of the day
“Wait, I need content.”
—TikTok fashion designer Kristine Thompson refuses to miss a content opportunity during a trip to the United States Capitol to lobby against a possible TikTok ban, she told The New York Times.
The big story
This sci-fi blockchain game could help create a metaverse no one owns
Dark Forest is a vast universe, and most of it is shrouded in darkness. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to venture into the unknown, avoid being destroyed by opposing players who may lurk in the dark, and build an empire of the planets you discover and that you can make yours.
But while the video game apparently looks and plays a lot like other online strategy games, it doesn’t rely on the servers running other popular online strategy games. And it may point to something even deeper: the possibility of a metaverse that isn’t owned by a big tech company. Read the full story.
We can still have beautiful things
A place of comfort, pleasure and distraction in these strange times. (You have any ideas ? Write to me Or tweet them to me.)
+ If underwater terrors are your thing, Joe Romiero takes truly impressive shark photos and videos.
+ Try as you may, Ted Lasso’s UK dialogue misses the mark.
+ Let’s do a good old fashioned snooping around some celebrities’ bedrooms.
+ Why we can’t get enough of these fancy candles.
+ Interviewing animals with a tiny mic doesn’t get much better than this.
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