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The Download: China’s monkeypox crisis, and fighting AI photo manipulation

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.

China is suddenly dealing with another public health crisis: mpox

The Chinese government is battling a new public health concern: mpox. The World Health Organization reports that China is currently experiencing the world’s fastest increase in cases of mpox (formerly known as monkeypox)—and it needs to act fast to contain the spread.

The countries that have successfully contained mpox outbreaks have mostly done so thanks to proactive measures like vaccination campaigns. The problem is, the Chinese government has barely started to take action. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

These new tools could help protect our pictures from AI

Generative AI is making it ridiculously easy to manipulate people’s images. While nonconsensual deepfake porn has been used to torment women for years, the latest generation of AI makes it an even bigger problem. These systems are much easier to use than previous deepfake tech, and they can generate images that look completely convincing. 

The good news is that new tools are starting to emerge which can protect people’s photos and artworks from being tinkered with using AI systems. These tools are neither perfect nor enough on their own—but they’re a start.  Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

This story is from The Algorithm, Melissa’s weekly AI newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

The must-reads

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

1 Worldcoin’s data-capturing plan is working 
Despite glaring privacy concerns, plenty of people like cash rewards. (Rest of World)
+ How Worldcoin recruited its first half a million test users. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Twitter is suing a nonprofit that says it hosts hate speech
The Center for Countering Digital Hate claims Elon Musk is trying to silence it. (WSJ $)
+ The company’s advertising income is still in freefall. (FT $)
+ Its new slogan is the rather lame ‘Blaze your glory!’ (Motherboard)

3 Meta is creating chatbots with personas for its platforms
Which seems like a particularly creepy way to boost engagement. (FT $)
+ Just as it looks like Threads is losing its initial attraction. (Slate $)
+ Google wants to make its Assistant more personable, too. (The Verge)

4 Post-Roe, pregnancy-related deaths are probably rising
The problem is, there’s no way of knowing exactly how much. (Undark Magazine)
+ The cognitive dissonance of watching the end of Roe unfold online. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Amazon wants to deliver your packages even faster
Think hours, rather than days. (Insider $)
+ Spare a thought for your delivery driver in the heat. (Wired $)

6 TikTok is pushing a dietary supplement as a weight loss solution
It’s not exactly new, but it’s attracting new attention in the age of Ozempic. (Wired $)
+ Weight-loss injections have taken over the internet. But what does this mean for people IRL? (MIT Technology Review)

7 UV and blue light could help us to kill deadly E.coli
But the two forms of light are only effective when used together. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ Why tiny viruses could be our best bet against antimicrobial resistance. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Start-ups are harnessing AI to treat erectile dysfunction
In a bid to truly personalize treatment to the individual. (Motherboard)

9 When did food videos get so… racy?
Thirst trap chefs know exactly what they’re doing with that pasta. (NY Mag $) 

10 Apple’s bid to save classical music hasn’t gone to plan 🎻
Smaller, nimbler rivals do a better job across the board. (New Yorker $)

Quote of the day

“SHUT IT OFF! It is creating a massive nighttime nuisance and making it hard to sleep.”

—San Francisco residents complain about the bright, flashing X sign that Elon Musk installed on the roof of Twitter’s headquarters without permission, the Washington Post reports.

The big story

Geoffrey Hinton has a hunch about what’s next for AI

April 2021 

In November 2020, psychologist Geoffrey Hinton had a hunch. After a half-century’s worth of attempts—some wildly successful—he’d arrived at another promising insight into how the brain works and how to replicate its circuitry in a computer.

If his bet pays off, it might spark the next generation of artificial neural networks—mathematical computing systems, loosely inspired by the brain’s neurons and synapses, that are at the core of today’s artificial intelligence. 

His “honest motivation,” as he puts it, is curiosity. But ideally, the consequence is more reliable and trustworthy AI. Read the full story. 

—Siobhan Roberts

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.)

+ What does a week living like Mario look like? Pretty hard work, actually.
+ Not everyone can pull off a buzz cut like Sinéad O’Connor.
+ Would you cut it as a doctor in The Sims?
+ Chicken is great, caprese is great, so it makes sense that caprese chicken looks amazing.
+ Congratulations to these watermelons, which defied the odds to flourish in Antarctica. 🍉

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