The Download: AI transparency, and Twitter’s transformation
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The Download: AI transparency, and Twitter’s transformation

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.

It’s high time for more AI transparency

In less than a week since Meta launched its open source AI model, LLaMA 2, startups and researchers have already used it to develop a chatbot and an AI assistant. It will be only a matter of time until companies start launching products built with it.

LLaMA 2 makes a lot of sense. A nimble, transparent, and customizable model that is free to use could help companies create AI products and services faster than they could with a big, sophisticated proprietary model like OpenAI’s GPT-4.

By allowing the wider AI community to download the model and tweak it, Meta could help to make it safer and more efficient. And crucially, it could demonstrate the benefits of transparency over secrecy when it comes to the inner workings of AI models—at a point when that could not be more timely, or more important. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä 

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

If you’re interested in learning more about AI, check out some of our excellent recent reporting:

+ A quick guide to all the most (and least) promising efforts to govern AI around the world.

+ How existential risk became the biggest meme in AI.

+ Generative AI risks concentrating Big Tech’s power. Here’s how to stop it.

The must-reads

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

1 Twitter’s name change will cost its brand billions
‘Tweeting’ is part of our cultural lexicon—but Elon Musk doesn’t seem to care.  (Bloomberg $)
+ He’s trying to destroy Twitter’s legacy and chart a risky new course. (WP $)

+ Musk is also projecting ‘s3xy’ on the company’s HQ walls. (NYT $)
+ If you’re a little bit sad over Twitter’s demise, you’re not alone. (Vox)
+ The letter X does have an enduring kind of appeal, though. (The Guardian)

2 The world isn’t prepared for what OpenAI’s been working on
Sam Altman says his staff have created a dangerous AI they’ll never release. (The Atlantic $)
+ His ambitions are increasingly at odds with regulators. (FT $)
+ It’s time to talk about the real AI risks. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Mastodon is rife with child abuse images
It’s a grim reminder of how much harder it is to moderate decentralized platforms. (WP $)

4 China is fed up of Western sanctions
And it has no qualms about retaliating. (Economist $)
+ China is fighting back in the semiconductor exports war. (MIT Technology Review)

5 It’s harder for governments to flag people’s social media posts now
While the US has already been restricted, the same kinds of checks are also coming to Europe. (Wired $)

6 America’s farmland is being turned into AI data centers
Sprawling centers are springing up in rural expanses. (Insider $)

7 The FBI ran a secret encrypted phones business for years
Now, a team of lawyers want a judge to name the country that aided them. (Motherboard)
+ Erik Prince wants to sell you a “secure” smartphone that’s too good to be true. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Ozempic doesn’t have to cost this much
But drug companies exist to make money, after all. (Slate $)
+ Weight-loss injections have taken over the internet. But what does this mean for people IRL? (MIT Technology Review)

9 Influencers are emerging as a powerful tool for Indian politicians
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third term next year, and doesn’t want to take any chances. (Rest of World)

10 We’re getting closer to learning more about asteroids ☄
A mission over a decade in the making is heading back to Earth—complete with some precious rock and dust cargo. (Ars Technica)

Quote of the day

“Is this what we want?”

—A senior designer at Adobe questions the extent to which the company should integrate AI into its products if it risks humans losing their jobs, Insider reports.

The big story

This company is about to grow new organs in a person for the first time

August 2022

In the coming weeks, a volunteer in Boston, Massachusetts, will be the first to trial a new treatment that could end up creating a second liver in their body. And that’s just the beginning—in the months that follow, other volunteers will test doses that could leave them with up to six livers in their bodies.

The company behind the treatment, LyGenesis, hopes to save people with devastating liver diseases who are not eligible for transplants. Their approach is to inject liver cells from a donor into the lymph nodes of sick recipients, which can give rise to entirely new miniature organs. 

These mini livers should help compensate for an existing diseased one. The approach appears to work in mice, pigs, and dogs. Now we’ll find out if it works in people. Read the full story

—Jessica Hamzelou

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.)

+ I’m not sure I like the sound of this pizza-scented Xbox controller.
+ If you’ve never listened to the late, great Jane Birkin’s music, these seven songs are a good place to start.
+ This story about a man winning an Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest is absolutely adorable.
+ It’s true—video games’ underwater levels always had the best soundtracks.
+ Turning these digital codes into tangible pen pictures has created true works of art.

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