The Download: Introducing MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2024

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.

Introducing: MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2024

The start of a new year offers a great opportunity to reflect while also thinking about what’s to come. That is especially true for us, as this year marks the 125th anniversary of MIT Technology Review.

And so it’s fitting that we kick off the year with our annual list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies that our reporters and editors think will have the biggest impact on the world in the years to come. We began putting this list together in early summer last year, and have debated over it ever since. 

Read the full list of our 10 Breakthrough Technologies, and if you’re interested in hearing more about what did and didn’t make the cut this year, tune into our LinkedIn Live today at 14:30 EST, which you can register for here. You can also vote for the 11th technology you think is missing from our shortlist here—we’ll be revealing the winner in April.

The list is front and center in our latest print issue, which is all about innovation and includes some fascinating stories, such as:
+ Scientists have spent decades trying to unravel the intricate mysteries of the human appetite. Now, they may be on the verge of finally understanding how hunger works. Read the full story.

+ Quantum computing is taking on its biggest challenge: noise. Unless noise can be tamed, a quantum computer will never surpass what a classical computer can do. Read the full story.

+ How electricity could help to drive down the carbon footprint of cement production.

+ Machine learning is helping researchers in the quest to forecast earthquakes in time to help people find safety. Read the full story.

+ The race to produce rare earth materials. China has dominated the market for rare earth elements, but US scientists and companies are scrambling to catch up. Read the full story.

Four lessons from 2023 that tell us where AI regulation is going

2023 was a blockbuster year for AI regulation, and this coming year is guaranteed to bring even more action.

Tech usually moves much faster than regulation, with lawmakers increasingly challenged to stay up to speed with the technology itself while devising new ways to craft sustainable, future-proof laws. 

So what did last year teach us? And what’s around the corner? There’s so much to try to stay on top of in terms of policy, but senior tech policy reporter Tate Ryan-Mosley has broken down what you need to know into four takeaways. Read the full story.

This story is from The Technocrat, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things power, politics, and Silicon Valley. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

The must-reads

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

1 The US is returning to the moon after 50 years 
The Peregrine 1 lander, which took off this morning, is due to touch down on February 23. (The Guardian)
+ The successful launch is a direct challenge to SpaceX’s dominance. (NYT $)
+ As well as scientific equipment, the mission is carrying cremated human remains. (WP $)
+ Meanwhile, the UN is concerned about the volume of space junk up there. (FT $)

2 Cloud computing companies’ copyright protection is pretty flimsy
Despite their promises, there’s only so much giants like Amazon and Microsoft can do to protect customers from AI-related IP issues. (FT $)
+ Generative AI’s copyright issues are well documented. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ Getty Images promises its new AI contains no copyrighted art. (MIT Technology Review)

3 China isn’t a fan of Nvidia’s watered-down chips
The low power chips were designed to comply with US sanctions. China isn’t keen. (WSJ $)

4 The Supreme Court has made two significant orders linked to abortion
And the decisions could endanger vulnerable patients even further. (Vox)

5 To understand where AI harassment is headed, look to 4chan
Sophisticated AI systems are road tested on fringe sites before filtering through to the mainstream. (NYT $)
+ How it feels to be sexually objectified by an AI. (MIT Technology Review)

6 The old Twitter is never coming back
And it’s unclear whether its remaining users can be bothered to pick up the pieces. (New Yorker $)
+ We’re witnessing the brain death of Twitter. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Earth could outlive the sun
In 5 billion years, our planet could be absorbed by the sun—or pushed further into the solar system. (The Atlantic $)

8 California’s farmers are being asked to give up some of their land
In a bid to create floodplains to combat the state’s water management crisis. (Wired $)
+ How we drained California dry. (MIT Technology Review)

9 LG has created an entirely transparent TV
But that cool transparency trick doesn’t come without sacrifices. (The Verge)

10 Harvard’s exoskeleton aids people living with Parkinson’s 
It offers instantaneous help while walking indoors. (TechCrunch)
+ A man with Parkinson’s regained the ability to walk thanks to a spinal implant. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“Yee haw, I am so thrilled.”

Tory Bruno, chief executive of the United Launch Alliance, the company that just sent a rocket carrying a Moon lander to space, can’t conceal his delight at the successful launch, Reuters reports.

The big story

What happens when your prescription drug becomes the center of covid misinformation

September 2021

By the time Joe Rogan mentioned ivermectin as one ingredient in an experimental cocktail he was taking to treat his covid infection, the drug was a meme. In the days and weeks leading up to the hugely popular podcaster’s revelation, the drug had already become a flashpoint in the covid culture wars.

But Ivermectin isn’t some new or experimental drug: in addition to its use as an anti-parasite treatment for livestock, it’s commonly employed in humans to treat a form of rosacea, among other things. So for those of us who have been using it for years, its sudden infamy was unexpected and unwelcome. Read the full story.

—Abby Ohlheiser

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.)

+ GTA is much more than a video game behemoth: it’s also an unlikely source of fashion inspiration.
+ Phew: that’s one seriously expensive tuna.
+ MyNoise is a fantastic resource for soothing background soundscapes, including thunderstorms and a purring cat.
+ Why do we love Stanley cups so much? Answers on a postcard.
+ Now this—this—is true love.

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