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Tech Team

The good, the bad and the ugly truth [The New York Times] 

If you love these ‘feel good’ stories on your social media feeds, please stop reading now so I don’t burst your bubble. I’m referring to the testimonies of people going above and beyond for each other, like colleagues who donated their holidays to an American worker so she could get some form of maternity leave or the kid that paid the lunch debt of his fellow students. All beautiful testimonies of the goodness of humanity and going viral fast on social media. But experts believe it weakens social engagement: what about all those other mothers in the US without maternity leave? How is it possible that kids can have school lunch debts? These stories serve as band-aids, and next time you read one, smile but also think about the bigger issue behind it so individual kindness is not the only solution.  

Bitcoin or bust [Wired 

History often repeats itself. In the past, small towns across the US sprung up around areas with natural resources. In the 21st century you would think things had changed, right? Well, the stories are the same now but with a different commodity – this time it’s bitcoin mining. After a small town in Texas entered a depression when its fossil fuel industry shuttered, Bitmain, one of the largest (bit)mining operations in the world, stepped in and promised hundreds of jobs in exchange for cheap electricity. When the price of crypto nosedived, the promised jobs never appeared. Now the town has learned its lesson (again) that it can’t tie itself to one company or resource. But with similar stories occurring all over the country, hopefully less towns in the future will have to ‘re-learn’ the hard way.  

Not for humans – yet [The Verge] 

Black Mirror fans behold: Elon Musk has finally revealed his Neuralink technology to the world, a miniscule thread to be used for brain-machine interfaces.  The company hopes to soon begin implanting the device in paralysed humans, allowing them to control phones or computers – as well as transfer data.  According to Musk the technology functions by reading neural spikes from the brain through sensors connected wirelessly to an external device mounted behind the ear. That’s not all – Neuralink also presented a neurosurgical robot that automatically embeds the threads in the human brain. Feeling useless? Us too. It seems the Age of Humans is really over. 

FaceApp is back and so are privacy concerns [The Verge] 

It shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. Not to the EU Brussels bubble crowd at least! The resurge of FaceApp, an app that makes users look older (or younger) in the pictures they upload to the service, made headlines again this week, focusing on privacy concerns. This time, it’s not only about the big success (=amount of metadata) the app creators are harvesting, but also about the country they are based in. The fact that the app creators (and their servers) are based in Russia, rung several alarm bells, including questions about GDPR compliance, the right to be forgotten etc... Experts say that it might not be as bad as expected which raises a new interesting question: is a country’s reputation what it takes people to take a closer look to privacy? 

The bigger you are, the bigger the problems [Financial Times] 

Tough times for Revolut. The fintech unicorn has been caught up in quite a few controversies in recent months, leading to probes by the FCA and a parliamentary committee in Lithuania, and the problems just keep piling upA week ago, several customers were charged twice for their transactions, with some customers not refunded for days, and Revolut’s ‘it’s not me, it’s them’ explanations did not convince many. Meanwhile, Revolut is set to raise another $500m, making it the biggest fintech unicorn in Europe – and forcing the digital bank to step up its security and customer service game. Growing pains are real, including for this fintech unicorn. 

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In case you haven’t had enough… 

Google glass may have an afterlife as a device to teach autistic children [The New York Times] 

40 yeas later, lessons from the rise and quick decline of the first ‘Killer App’ [The Wall Street Journal] 

Georgia Tech’s ant-sized micro-bots move through vibration [TechCrunch]