September 2022


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.

This startup’s AI is smart enough to drive different types of vehicles

The news: Wayve, a driverless-car startup based in London, has made a machine-learning model that can drive two different types of vehicle: a passenger car and a delivery van. It is the first time the same AI driver has learned to drive multiple vehicles.

Why it matters: While robotaxis have made it to a handful of streets in Phoenix and San Francisco, their success has been limited. Wayve is part of a new generation of startups ditching the traditional robotics mindset—where driverless cars rely on super-detailed 3D maps and modules for sensing and planning. Instead, these startups rely entirely on AI to drive the vehicles.

What’s next: The advance suggests that Wayve’s approach to autonomous vehicles, in which a deep-learning model is trained to drive from scratch, could help it scale up faster than its leading rivals. Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

Russia’s battle to convince people to join its war is being waged on Telegram

Putin’s propaganda: When Vladimir Putin declared the partial call-up of military reservists on September 21, in a desperate effort to try to turn his long and brutal war in Ukraine in Russia’s favor, he kicked off another, parallel battle: one to convince the Russian people of the merits and risks of conscription. And this one is being fought on the encrypted messaging service Telegram.

Opposing forces: Following the announcement, pro-Kremlin Telegram channels began to line up dutifully behind Putin’s plans, eager to promote the idea that the war he is waging is just and winnable.  But whether this vein of propaganda is working is far from certain. For all the work the government is doing to try to control the narrative, there’s a vibrant opposition on the same platform working to undermine it—and offering support for those seeking to dodge the draft. Read the full story.

—Chris Stokel-Walker

NASA’s DART mission is on track to crash into an asteroid today

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, or DART, is on course to collide with the asteroid Dimorphos at 7.14pm ET today. Though Dimorphos is not about to collide with Earth, DART is intended to demonstrate the ability to deflect an asteroid like it that is headed our way, should one ever be discovered.

Read more about the DART mission, and how the crash is likely to play out.

The must-reads

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

1 The US says Russia will face catastrophe if it uses nuclear weapons
It’s hard to know whether Putin’s threat is a bluff—or deadly serious. (The Guardian)
+ Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky thinks it is very real. (CNBC)
+ What is the risk of a nuclear accident in Ukraine? (MIT Technology Review)

2 YouTube wants to lure creators away from TikTok with cash
But it won’t say how much. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Germany’s zero-tolerance for hate speech is a double-edged sword
While the threat of fines disincentivizes some perpetrators, activists worry that too many people are being targeted. (NYT $)
+ Misinformation is already shaping US voters’ decisions ahead of November’s midterms. (NYT $)

4 Why even the largest companies are vulnerable to hacking
A zero-trust approach is helpful, but will only take you so far. (WSJ $)
+ Hackers can disrupt image-recognition systems using radio waves. (New Scientist $)
+ Microsoft is optimistic that AI can root out bad actors. (Bloomberg $)
+ The hacking industry faces the end of an era. (MIT Technology Review)

5 NASA’s Artemis moon mission has been delayed again
Due to tropical storm Ian. (BBC)
+ Saudi Arabia wants to send its first female astronaut into space. (Insider $)

6 Fighting climate change extends beyond kicking corporations
A more nuanced approach could be required to speed up the transition to cleaner energy. (The Atlantic $)
+ Global wildfires mean that snow is melting quicker than usual. (Slate $)
+ Disaster insurance is increasingly tricky to navigate. (Knowable Magazine)
+ Carbon removal hype is becoming a dangerous distraction. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Crypto’s fired workers don’t know what to do next
But plenty of them haven’t let their experiences put them off the sector. (The Information $)
+ Interpol has issued a red notice for Terraform Labs’ co-founder Do Kwon. (Bloomberg $) 

8 The Danish city that banned Google
The tech giant’s handling of children’s data wasn’t properly assessed. (Wired $)
+ Google says it’s unwilling to pitch it to fund network costs in Europe. (Reuters)

9 Why neuroscience is making a comeback 🧠
Some experts are convinced that making neurology and psychiatry departments work closer together is long overdue. (Economist $)

10 How plant-based meat fell out of fashion 🍔
Evangelists are convinced the nascent industry is merely experiencing teething problems. (The Guardian)
+ Your first lab-grown burger is coming soon—and it’ll be “blended”. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“There’s definitely the boys’ club that still exists.”

—Taryn Langer, founder of public relations firm Moxie Communications Group, tells the New York Times about her frustrations at the sexist state of the tech industry.

The big story

The quest to learn if our brain’s mutations affect mental health

August 2021

Scientists have struggled in their search for specific genes behind most brain disorders, including autism and Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike problems with some other parts of our body, the vast majority of brain disorder presentations are not linked to an identifiable gene.

But a University of California, San Diego study published in 2001 suggested a different path. What if it wasn’t a single faulty gene—or even a series of genes—that always caused cognitive issues? What if it could be the genetic differences between cells? 

The explanation had seemed far-fetched, but more researchers have begun to take it seriously. Scientists already knew that the 85 billion to 100 billion neurons in your brain work to some extent in concert—but what they want to know is whether there is a risk when some of those cells might be singing a different genetic tune. Read the full story.

—Roxanne Khamsi

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.)

+ Some gadgets are definitely more useful than others.
+ Calling all cat lovers! This potted history of mischievous felines in French painter Alexandre-François Desportes’ work is heartwarming stuff (thanks Melissa!)
+ A useful guide to working out what you really want from life
+ A Ukrainian startup is reportedly planning to use AI to clone the iconic voice of James Earl Jones, aka Darth Vader. 
+ The rumors are true—butter really is having a moment.

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ARNOLD, Mo. – A fire was reported Monday morning at Fox High School in Arnold, Missouri.

The report came out at about 6:45 a.m. The fire was reportedly in an electrical socket. First responders were on the scene.

FOX 2’s Bommarito Automotive Group SkyFOX helicopter flew over the scene.

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ST. LOUIS – A ground breaking is planned Monday morning for a new fire station in St. Charles.

Fire Station 3 on Elm Street is about to be replaced with a new station due to structural issues including flooding problems and electrical hazards that would require major – if not extensive and expensive repairs.

The station is also unable to accommodate the size of the department’s modern fire equipment, which limits resources. It also presents safety concerns. The small size of the station also prohibits housing additional staff, which would essentially increase service in the area. This is all being paid for thanks to voters passing Proposition R in 2021.

The ground breaking for the New Fire Station 3 is taking place 9:00 a.m. If you’d like to attend, you’re asked to park at Jaycee Park next to the fire station.

Crews will be working out of Fire Station 1 while the construction’s going on. City officials said response times to this service area will not be affected.

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MONROE COUNTY, Ill. – A fire damages a well-known Waterloo, Illinois bakery overnight.

Damage can be seen from a fire at Ahne’s Bakery in downtown Waterloo on West Mill Street. It appears that at least some of the damage is to the back part of the popular business.

Here’s a look at pictures of the scene from the Republic Times – a local newspaper in Monroe County.
The newspaper reported that crews from the Waterloo Fire Department rushed there around 7:45 p.m. Flames could be seen shooting from the rear area of this longtime local business. Other first responders also raced there, including Waterloo Police, Monroe County EMS, and the Columbia Fire Department.

The Republic Times shared that fire officials said they had the situation under control around 8:15 p.m., about a half hour after they arrived. No injuries have been reported, as it appears the bakery was closed at the time.

The Republic Times also reported that the Waterloo Fire Department has requested the Illinois state fire marshal to respond to help in the investigation into the fire. The bakery’s website says the business was opened by the Ahne Family back in 1973.

We are reaching out to try and find out more details about the fire. FOX 2 will update this story with more information as it becomes available.

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BOSTON (AP) — Post Malone went to the hospital again Saturday after experiencing what he described on social media as difficulty breathing and stabbing pain, forcing him to postpone a scheduled show in Boston.

It was the second time in about a week that he went to the hospital. He was treated for bruised ribs after falling into a hole on stage at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis last weekend.

“On tour, I usually wake up around 4 o’clock PM, and today I woke up to a cracking sounds on the right side of my body,” he wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “I felt so good last night, but today it felt so different than it has before. I’m having a very difficult time breathing and there’s like a stabbing pain whenever I breathe or move.”

He pledged to reschedule the show.

“I love y’all so much. I feel terrible, but I promise I’m going to make this up to you. I love you Boston, I’ll see you soon,” wrote the singer, whose real name is Austin Richard Post.

The venue, TD Garden, said in a tweet that the show was “postponed due to unforeseen circumstances” and tickets for Saturday’s show would be honored for a rescheduled date.

Malone is scheduled to perform in Cleveland on Tuesday.

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ST. ANN, Mo. – The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis is investigating the fatal shooting of a St. Ann man.

According to Tony Stewart, a spokesman for the Major Case Squad, the shooting happened on Saturday at 12:15 a.m. in the 10000 block of Douglas Court.

St. Ann police found the victim, Terrance Washington, dead at the scene. He was 32.

The department requested the Major Case Squad’s assistance in investigating the homicide.

Anyone with information on the murder is asked contact CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS or the St. Ann Police Department at 314-709-6117.

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MT. OLIVE, Ill. – The Miners Union Cemetery is not very big. Located in Mt. Olive, Illinois, and surrounded by farmland, about halfway between St. Louis and Springfield, you wouldn’t notice the cemetery from Interstate 55.

It’s a short drive to the cemetery from the interstate; a little over a mile. The roadway is flanked by overgrown weeds and wild grass. A small cornfield neighbors the cemetery, with stalks taller than one’s head. A rather inauspicious place for a person once decried as “the grandmother of all agitators” and “the most dangerous woman in America.” But the grave of Mary “Mother” Jones is quite literally a monument to a champion of workers’ rights and a woman heralded as “the miners’ angel.”

“Mother” Jones was born Mary Harris in Cork, Ireland. While an exact date of birth cannot be verified, historians do know she was baptized on Aug. 1, 1837, meaning she was very likely born that same year. In later years, Jones would claim to have been born on May 1, 1830, likely in solidarity with the establishment of International Workers’ Day.

Her family immigrated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in the midst of the Great Famine. The Harrises later moved south to Michigan in pursuit of better opportunities.

As a young woman, Mary moved to Chicago and then Memphis, where she met and married trade unionist George E. Jones in 1861. The couple had four children: Catherine, Terence, Elizabeth, and Mary. In 1867, the yellow fever epidemic claimed the lives of George and their children. By age 30, a bereft Mary Jones moved back to Chicago and became a dressmaker. Jones lost her home and shop in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

In subsequent years, Jones witnessed the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 and the Haymarket affair in May 1886. These events radicalized her and further drove her interest in organizing and rallying on behalf of laborers and the working class.

Jones got involved with the United Mine Workers (UMW) and the Socialist Party of America. She set out across the nation, stumping on behalf of workers demanding fair wages and treatment and calling for the eradication of child labor. She assumed the moniker “Mother” Jones by carrying on and dressing like she was older, and by referring to the miners she advocated for as “her boys.”

Her many decades of rabble-rousing in support of striking workers would take her to Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and West Virginia. It was in West Virginia that she earned her infamous sobriquet.

At the turn of the 20th century, Jones began spending time in West Virginia to organize miners. In June 1902, the United Mine Workers called a strike. Coal companies and local law enforcement began arresting organizers and judges issued injunctions against such pro-labor activities.

Jones would have none of it and challenged authorities to arrest her. A federal marshal arrested her in Clarksburg on June 20 while she was delivering a speech. After being released from custody, Jones went on the road describing the plight of the West Virginia miners and the dishonest behavior of coal companies, and called out politicians and for ignoring this injustice.

She returned to West Virginia the following month to face charges. Addressing the court, U.S. District Attorney Reese Blizzard said of Jones, “There sits the most dangerous woman in America. She comes into a state where peace and prosperity reign, crooks her finger (and) 20,000 contented men lay down their tools and walk out.”

Though all the other defendants would be convicted and receive 60-day sentences, the judge refused to sentence Jones, lest he make her into a martyr for the cause of labor.

Jones would again find herself in a West Virginia court a decade later. This time, she was accused of conspiracy to commit murder during the 1912 Paint Creek Mine War. During the conflict, she is said to have organized 3,000 armed miners in a march to the state capitol.

Martial law was eventually declared in the region and Jones was again apprehended. Jones appeared before a military court in February 1913. Ever indignant, she openly refused to recognize the legitimacy of the proceedings. Jones was sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, she was released after 85 days during a U.S. Senate investigation of the coal mines.

Jones died on Nov. 30, 1930, in Maryland at age 93. Her funeral was held at St. Gabriel’s in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 2. Following the mass, a special railroad car took Jones’ body to St. Louis and then to Mt. Olive, where she’d lie in state until Dec. 7. She was buried in a grave next to the miners who died in the 1898 Battle of Virden, Illinois.

By 1936, the Progressive Mine Workers of America, a splinter group of the UMW, went to court to have a proper marker placed at her grave. The group raised $16,000 to acquire 80 tons of Minnesota pink granite. The unionists donated their own time and energy to construct a 22-foot-tall monument, flanked by bronze statues of miners.

More than 50,000 people came to Mt. Olive for the official dedication ceremony on Oct. 11, 1936.

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When asked what percent of Shorts ad revenue will be in this creator pool, a YouTube spokesperson did not address the question. When pressed in a follow-up email, the spokesperson replied, “we don’t have further detail to share beyond what’s here,” referring to a blog post by YouTube announcing the new plan, which also does not disclose that information.

In short, it’s hard to gauge how transformative YouTube’s offer is—and how enticing it will be for TikTokkers.

To be sure, the company’s move will almost certainly still be an improvement over what has long been offered to creators of Shorts—and what is currently offered to TikTokkers. In recent years, the two platforms have used the same payment model: creator funds, which are detached from ad revenue and are static vats of money provided by the platform to be distributed among people making especially engaging content. But as a platform grows, that amount doesn’t necessarily keep pace—even as more eyes are watching, and more new creators are claiming a slice of the pie. That means that as a platform like TikTok prospers, the creators fueling that rise actually earn less. (Representatives of TikTok did not respond to a request to comment from MIT Technology Review.)

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A robust commerce network is crucial for retailers, suppliers and brands that aim to win in today’s Now Economy, where consumers expect a vast array of products to be available and delivered to their doorstep almost instantly. In fact, the ideal is an ever-growing partner network, in which thousands of brands, suppliers and retailers work together to help their businesses grow.

Such a network, built with a great software platform to support a virtually limitless ecosystem of partners, can enable retailers to save time by tapping into a community of pre-vetted brand partners who’ve demonstrated their ability to perform strongly — enabling retailers to meet consumer demand by custom-tailoring marketplace and drop-ship business models. At the same time, a leading-edge commerce network should help supplier brands expand their footprint by expanding their connections with national-scale retailers. Together these connections accelerate businesses across the ecosystem.

The power behind this kind of network is the ability to leverage data to match each retailer with their ideal brand partners — and vice versa. Let’s take a closer look at how all these parties stand to gain when such a platform connects them into a dynamic, thriving and profitable community.

An extensive commerce network adds value by more efficiently creating partnerships between retailers and supplier brands.

In the past, brands and retailers had to waste weeks at tradeshows or other similar tactics, trying to track down the partners who fit their needs. This was a time-consuming and tedious process: A retailer might only have time to talk to 200 brand vendors out of 1,000 at a tradeshow; and even worse, the brand representatives they spoke to might not be aware of their companies’ drop-ship capabilities or might not have accurate marketplace performance data.

A modern commerce network seeks to eliminate this outdated model and bring the matchmaking process into the 21st century, with hundreds of robust brand and retailer profiles, along with proprietary analytics on each of those partners’ capabilities and performance. The network’s administrators should examine each member’s requirements, then present other partners with curated lists of qualified collaborators who meet their qualifications and have proven they can deliver on crucial KPIs. 

Plus, relationship managers should continually rework their recommendations to present even more precisely tailored selections to members over time. That means suppliers and retailers save time by only talking with, say, 15 qualified leads instead of 200 company reps — secure in the knowledge that all 15 of those leads meet their requirements, and have demonstrated their ability to fulfill that partner’s merchandising goals.

The more a commerce network grows, the more partners it attracts — and the more they can be vetted.

It’s not always easy for supplier brands or retailers to connect with an actual decision maker on the other side. In fact, on both the retailer side and the supplier side, that’s half the battle: Knowing who’s on the other end is actually aware of the drop-ship and marketplace capabilities (or interest) and is also empowered to make decisions. A data-driven partner network can connect the right people at all those organizations — providing significant value, keeping all partners engaged and serving as a flywheel to keep the network growing.

How can a network attract an ever-growing list of partners? By confirming interest and demonstrating value across the ecosystem. Everyone who participates in the network stands to benefit from its strengths — both in terms of access to new opportunities, and in saving time by avoiding interactions with parties who don’t fit their current needs. 

For example, a retailer could spend months com-shopping to figure out which footwear suppliers are selling well through their retail competitors — or you could join a collaborative network, and get a tailored list of the top-performing suppliers in any category they specify. The network’s relationship managers can make sure every one of those leads is qualified and has demonstrated impactful performance. Another example: retailers looking to find more partners who align with their brand and specific goals around diversity or sustainability, can turn to the network for easier access to qualified suppliers.

Today’s retail models are fast-changing and flexible. A commerce network should be, too.

Back in the day, drop ship was seen as an operational function, owned and managed by operators. Today, by contrast, a collaborative network can plug directly into a retailer’s drop-ship or marketplace model, and deliver product capabilities with the flexibility to adjust each decision on a channel through which a product might be sold. But that’s just the beginning. A data-driven networking platform provides the flexibility to explore unified models that combine the best of both worlds: the low-risk aspects of a marketplace model as well as the power of a drop-ship model.

All these wins come from membership on the network. It’s all about the partnerships, from which all players stand to benefit. For supplier brands and retailers, CommerceHub has an extensive network for collaboration, and the matches we make are multiplying every day. So, here’s to the future of increasingly collaborative, data-driven retail.

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ST. LOUIS – This weekend’s Hispanic Festival in Soulard Park carries added meaning, as attendees celebrate a diamond hero in the form of Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.

The man nicknamed “The Machine” is one of only four men—and the first foreign-born player—to hit 700 home runs in the Major Leagues.

Fans said watching the moment Pujols hit his 700th home run can be difficult to describe.

“It’s like eating chocolate. It’s so rewarding, you know, when you see something like that and it just feels good,” Eliseo Barrera said.

He said it was a historical moment to watch and not just for Cardinals’ fans.

“It’s a big deal not only just in baseball but, I mean, like you said, him being Hispanic and then having this here today; the festival, you know, it just elevates it even more to be proud of,” Barrera said.

People at the festival said seeing Pujols join Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth and in the 700 club makes them proud for the Latino community.

“It just feels good to see somebody like him do that, especially with his history with St. Louis and you know for us as Latinos, obviously, it’s a big accomplishment and just something to be proud of you know. It’s like, ‘Oh, he did it,’” Barrera said.

Fans said it is great to see everyone rally around Pujols’ accomplishment.

“It’s making everybody become Cardinals fans that never were before, which is cool, but they’re going to slack off after,” Sharon McDaniel said. “But I’m enjoying it, and I’m having a great time, and I think everybody else is too.”

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