Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Download: Longevity for the Super Rich and Wrongful Persecution of Chinese Scientists

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This is the current edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that gives a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Inside the multi-billion dollar gathering for the mega-rich who want to live forever

In September, Jessica Hamzelou, our senior biotech reporter, traveled to Gstaad, a posh ski resort in the Swiss Alps, to attend the first in-person Longevity Investors Conference.

At the two-day event, scientists and biotech founders advocated different approaches to extend the number of years we can spend in good health. The majority of them were trying to win over investors with big pockets.

As the field of longevity tries to define itself as scientifically sound, numerous “anti-aging treatments” continue to emerge based on little to no human evidence. But can billions of investor money – some of it from ethically dubious sources – ever provide a concrete path to evidence-based life extension? Read the full story.

Read more about the quest to extend our healthy years:

+ How scientists want to make you young again. Research labs are pursuing technology to “reprogram” aging bodies back to youth. Read the full story.

+ Aging clocks are meant to predict how long you will live. These clocks promise to measure biological age and help identify anti-aging drugs, but there are lingering questions about their accuracy. Read the full story.

A major settlement for one Chinese-American scientist will not end wrongful prosecutions

Last week, our senior investigative reporter Eileen Guo wrote about a landmark settlement won by Chinese-American scientist Sherry Chen, who was falsely accused of being a Chinese spy.

Her case illustrates how difficult it is to stand up to a powerful federal agency and hold it accountable. It’s also an anomaly – it’s usually incredibly difficult to prove racial bias in court, but a wide pattern of misconduct by her accusers was conclusively proven.

However, Chen’s win doesn’t necessarily mean that others in her situation will have an easier time getting justice. Read the full story.

— Zeyi Yang

Zeyi’s story comes from China Report, his weekly newsletter with everything you need to know about China. Sign Up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

Podcast: Editing a War Zone

Tune in for the latest episode of our In Machines We Trust podcast, where we look at how shortages of everything from seeds to fertilizers can accelerate the adoption of technologies that can help advance supplies in war-torn Ukraine. Listen to it Apple podcastsor wherever you usually listen.

The must reads

I’ve scoured the internet to find you the funniest/most important/scariest/fascinating stories about technology today.

1 Donald Trump is going to run for president again
He ignores the critics, especially those within his own party. (Vox)
+ Republicans are not happy with their interim performance. (The Atlantic Ocean $)
+ His decision to run doesn’t really come as a surprise. (New Yorker $)
+ Trump and Elon Musk are now technically social media rivals. (Insider $)

2 FTX boss Sam Bankman-Fried is (again) looking for money
He is desperately trying to plug the $8 billion hole in the crypto exchange’s finances. (WSJ $)
+ The Bahamas branch of FTX has also filed for bankruptcy. (Bloomberg $)

3 Twitter is playing with fire in the EU
The increasingly volatile platform could conflict with its new Big Tech rules. (FT $)
+ Twitter’s Blue Verified service will relaunch on November 29. (Reuters)
+ Social media giants could be forced to reveal details about their algorithms in the UK. (FT $)
+ Musk has a snarky new nickname: Elmo. (Insider $)
+ What exactly does Musk think? (Vox)

4 NASA’s Artemis 1 mission has finally launched 🚀
After months of setbacks, it took off in the early hours. (CNN)
+ The mission hopes to shed light on what space does to our bodies. (Vox)
+ Watch the moment when NASA’s DART spacecraft crashed into an asteroid. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Taylor Swift Has Revealed How Awful Ticketmaster’s System Is
Buying concert tickets is increasingly like fighting a rigged lottery. (WP $)

6 The world’s population has reached 8 billion people
But that is no reason to panic or relax. (Economist $)
+ New world map shows that population is growing faster in flood-prone areas. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Millions of Indians depend on companies run by one man
Mukesh Ambani’s conglomerate has made him immensely powerful. (Rest of the world)

8 Boston Dynamics is suing a rival over its robot dog
It claims that Ghost Robotics’ four-legged design was a little too similar to his own. (The register)
+ This robot dog just taught itself to walk. (MIT Technology Review)

9 TikTok has encouraged brands to clap back at customers 👏
Unfortunately, this means they’re more annoying than ever. (Wired $)
+ The platform also repackages MTV Cribs for a new generation. (The protector)

10 Your next Tinder match could be AI generated
For just $19, you too could be “the best you’ve ever seen.” (Motherboard)
+ No one knows what the future holds for AI copyright. (The edge)

Quote of the day

“The higher placed mainly played chess and board games. There was no partying. In any case, they were undersexed.”

—Dr. George Lerner, crypto exchange FTX’s in-house performance coach, tells the New York Times that reports of hedonic behavior at the company are vastly exaggerated.

The big story

The delivery apps are changing life in India’s megacities

From seven in the morning until well after sunset, seven days a week, N. Sudhakar sits behind the counter of his small supermarket in the South Indian city of Bangalore. Packed floor to ceiling with everything from 20-kilogram bags of rice to one rupee ($0.01) shampoo sachets, this one-stop shop caters to most of the daily needs of many in the neighborhood. It is a copy of the approximately 12 million family-run ‘Kiranas’ that can be found on almost every street corner in India.

The technology industry is increasingly presenting stores like its own with a new challenge. Across the road, a steady stream of delivery drivers line up to pick up groceries from a “dark shop” – a mini-warehouse built to facilitate ultra-fast deliveries, run by Dunzo, a Bangalore-based startup.

In India’s megacities, the urban middle class is gradually becoming addicted to online shopping. These shoppers represent a fraction of the population, but their purchasing power is significant, and the battle for street corners in India is raging in the more affluent parts of India’s major cities. Read the full story.

— Ed Ghent

We can still have fun things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Have any ideas?Let me knoworshe tweets to me.)

+ If you enjoyed the book Fleishman is in Trouble, a TV adaptation starts streaming on Hulu tomorrow.
+ John Wick is back and he’s angrier than ever.
If your Birkenstocks are looking a little dingy, don’t worry: Someone just paid $218,000 for Steve Jobs’ old couple (thanks Allison!)
+ I had no idea Skyfall was almost called something completely different.
+ Paper peep shows were the 19th century answer to virtual reality – and just as cool.


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