Julia here! I joined SEC Newgate EU back in March and have had the pleasure of working within the Media Team since then, taking biweekly reprieves from pestering journalists when I contribute to TechAways. My debut here is bittersweet, however, as this is the last edition before we resume our regularly scheduled programming in the fall.
For those who got too caught up in Brussels weather to realise, it’s officially summertime. As we oscillate between bone-chilling cold and heat waves sponsored by the Urban Heat Island Effect™, let’s reflect on the reality of summer: a complete overhaul of daily and weekly routines, no Plux to avoid – it’s empty anyway – and, to top it off, trying to catch up with friends only to find out they are having the best (or more likely) worst time of their life at any given European airport.
On a more positive note, summer is also supposed to be the time of great reset and rest. The EU institutions are slowing down, deflating the rest of Brussels bubble; the constant flurry of content and information seems to ease up a bit, which makes the idea of an all-around digital detox ever more enticing, with little to no policy-related FOMO on the horizon.
Digital detox is easier said than done, though. As we know, the gamification of social media and other addictive technologies lead us to excessive screen time – an average person spends almost seven hours per day in front of a screen, which accounts for 38 to 43% of waking hours. Who hasn’t spent ages on their platform of choice when you really should be doing something else, cast the first stone!
But all this fun can lead to serious issues with mental health, attention span, sleep or even rewiring the dopamine-producing reward pathways in our brain. Before we gamble our time and wellbeing away, it’s good to take a step back and assess whether our screen time is spent mindfully and ensure we are in control of our digital behaviours. Going cold turkey might be impossible, but even slightly limiting screen exposure can be beneficial. And what better time than summer to go outside and touch some grass!
That said, please start your detox after reading the latest tech news we’ve compiled for you this week.
Just like smartphones or computers, the brain seems to have a “low-power” mode which is triggered when it is running out of battery. However, to activate this energy-saving mechanism one must pay a cost: downgrading sight to lower resolution. Neuroscientists ran several tests on mice and reached the conclusion that when there is a scarcity of energy or restriction of food, the brain prioritises the functions that are most critical to survival, cutting back on its most energy-intensive tasks. For the brain to understand an image, the neurons must process the visual signal and decreasing the resolution of this pictures seems to be an easy way to save energy. While a phone’s low-energy mode will for example prevent the use of flash, the brain’s low-energy mode means saying goodbye to the world in 4K. Whether this energy-saving mechanism affects only sight or also other senses is still to be discovered, but just in case, always have a charger handy!
Imagine coming home from a late night out and not having to do your brushing ritual but still getting your teeth cleaned. This might soon become a reality with teeth-brushing microrobots. On top of navigating through your teeth and releasing bacteria killer substance, these robots are also capable of… flossing! Thanks to these mini crawlers, you can kill two birds with one stone while sitting in your bathtub thinking about the morning hangover. Although this innovation sounds like a game changer, we have to be the bearer of bad news: these microrobots will be expensive, so maybe start thinking about putting money aside already.
Edits to a cholesterol gene could stop the biggest killer on earth ❤️ [Technology Review]
Brave New World here we come, or shall we say – CRISPR is coming. CRISPR is a technology enabling targeted changes to DNA. It has been shaping health innovation over the past years, especially with the recent COVID pandemic. Although many of us associate this technology with mRNA vaccines, Verve Therapeutics, a US biotechnology company, might change that perception by being able to modify cholesterol genes. According to the company, an edit of the gene should be enough to permanently lower a person’s levels of “bad” cholesterol. If this works and is safe, the lives of millions of people will change, for the better.
Solving Tower of Babel one data set at a time 💬 [MIT Technology Review]
Over the last year, over 1,000 researchers have been cooking up the latest open-source AI sensation, a large language model (LLM) called BLOOM. In contrast to existing LLM offerings from the likes of Google, OpenAI or Meta, BLOOM seeks to be as transparent and ethical as possible – from developing a data governance structure to sharing actual data the model was trained on. Start-up Hugging Face responsible for coordinating the project also emphasised democratisation and inclusiveness as core values for BLOOM, making the model accessible to the public. Thanks to the diversity of the researchers, BLOOM can now handle 46 languages – highly unusual for English-dominated world of LLMs.
About this week’s editor: Julia Piwowarska.
Born and raised in Poland, I moved around a bunch before finally setting my sights on Brussels. I come from a politics and international relations background, having joined SEC Newgate EU’s media relations practice earlier this year to learn about ins-and-outs of the EU media landscape, mostly within the digital and energy space. In my free time, I like cooking and pretending I know what I’m talking about.
In case you haven’t had enough.
Battery recycling could be the next investor darling of the EV era [TechCrunch]
Travel Back in Time With Street View and Map Archives [Wired]
Digital repression across borders is on the rise [MIT Technology Review]
A year in the making, BigScience’s AI language model is finally available [TechCrunch]