Friday, September 22, 2023

The download: Vine revisited, and AI ethicist burnout

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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

Elon Musk’s plans to revive Vine have one big problem: why it was originally closed

Good news, everyone: Vine is (probably) coming back. The much-loved short-form video sharing app ran from 2012 to 2017, when it was cut in its prime. Even now, it holds a special place in the hearts of many millennials as the last glorious stand before the social web became tarnished and commoditized and every app started looking the same.

The fact that so many hold a candle to Vine may be why Elon Musk, who has been criticized for taking over Twitter and introducing drastic staff cuts and a worrying turnaround in the social media platform’s policies, has rejuvenated the app.

But it’s not just the prospect of turning decade-old code into shippable form that should keep Musk from relaunching Vine. No matter how much nostalgia Vine stirs in his fans, it’s unlikely to get through to users who have since switched to its much more powerful algorithmic rival, TikTok. Read the full story.

—Chris Stokel-Walker

How to survive as an AI ethic

It has never been more important for companies to ensure that their AI systems operate safely, especially as new laws come into effect to hold them accountable. The responsible AI teams they created for this should be a priority, but investment in them is still lagging.

These employees are under tremendous pressure from their organizations to solve major, systemic problems without the right support, while often facing a near-constant barrage of criticism online. Dealing with these issues can be particularly taxing for women, people of color and other marginalized groups, who tend to lean toward AI ethical jobs. As a result, AI ethicists burn out — and it hurts the entire field. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

Melissa’s story comes from The Algorithm, our new weekly newsletter on all things AI. Sign Up to get it in your inbox every Monday.

The must reads

I’ve scoured the internet to find today’s funniest/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The Crypto Industry Is Trying To Get The Mood Out
The problem with that plan is that not all crypto owners lean politically in the same way. (recode)
Celebrities forget they used to subscribe to crypto. (The information $)
+ It’s okay to opt out of the crypto revolution. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Make Himself Popular With Shareholders
He’s plowing more money into the metaverse, despite their protests. (FT $)
+ Facebook has lost nearly $800 billion in market capitalization in a year. (Motherboard)

3 The fight against climate change should not be left to the consumer
We can only achieve great results if governments and companies also participate. (Vox $)
+ Children in the US are not taught about climate change. (NYT $)
+ Climate action is gaining momentum. So are the disasters. (MIT Technology Review)

4 The creeping, concerning rise of Rumble
The go-to video site from the right is gaining ground, while Big Tech falters. (The Atlantic Ocean $)
+ Donald Trump’s Truth Social platform is also growing. (NYT $)

5 Chinese Crime Networks Are Tempting Facebook Users Into Modern Slavery
Victims are coerced into carrying out phone scams and fake crypto schemes. (LA Times $)

6 Gaming Companies Can’t Ignore Mobile Anymore
Not everyone has a console, but almost everyone has a phone. (protocol)

7 The future of plastic could be plant-based
The trick is to crack them in large enough quantities. (wired $)
+ The state of New South Wales in Australia is tackling single-use plastics. (BBC)

8 female tech workers in India fight back against sexism
And it is women from disadvantaged backgrounds who suffer the most. (Rest of the world)
+ Why can’t technology solve the gender problem? (MIT Technology Review)

9 Going back to the office isn’t so bad after all
But only if employees find the commute worth it. (NYT $)
+ Bosses need to be consistent when deciding who comes in. (Insider $)
+ Not all offices look the same as they used to. (Economist $)

10 How to (temporarily) almost eradicate mosquitoes?
A little genetic modification could help stop the spread of Zika and eventually malaria. (new scientist $)
+ The new malaria vaccine may not be perfect, but it will save countless lives. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“20 bucks a month to keep my blue check? Fuck that, they should pay me.”

—Author Stephen King expresses his feelings about Twitter’s new plan to make verified users pay to keep their verified status extremely clear.

The big story

South Africa’s private surveillance machine is fueling a digital apartheid

Apr 2022

Thami Nkosi points to the telltale black box atop a utility pole on a street once home to two Nobel laureates: South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, and anti-apartheid activist and theologian Desmond Tutu.

That’s how it always goes, says Nkosi. First the fiber; than the surveillance cameras. The cameras are useless unless there is reliable connectivity to send their video feeds back to a control room where they can be monitored by humans and algorithms.

This is Vilakazi Street in Soweto, a historic suburb of Johannesburg – a sprawling mega-city that is now spawning a unique South African surveillance model, influenced by and in turn impacting the global surveillance industry. Civil rights activists say it is already fueling digital apartheid – unraveling people’s democratic freedoms in the process. Read the full story.

—Karen Hao & Heidi Swart

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Do you have an idea?Give me a callortweet them to me.)

+ A handy guide to your chances of successful seeds (thanks Ralph!)
+ If you have one Halloween candy over, see how it compares in this highly official ranking.
+ This beautiful little one seal made my day.
+ Take this as a sign to start your own little one vintage computer museum.
+ As if you needed another reason to want to visit Europe, here are a few: friendliest cities.

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