Hi Tech Aficionados!
I’m Emmanuelle, a sustainability consultant, and my interests have always been at the nexus of European and international politics. After first getting into the world of trade and foreign affairs in Thailand and Cambodia, I’ve landed in the policy town of Brussels, to specialise in another deeply stimulating topic – aka, the biggest priority of all time – sustainability!
The commonality between both? Clearly, the challenges they bring can never be effectively tackled alone. And after all the climate pledges we have heard lately and all the COPs organised, one thing remains: taking act-ion!
We sometimes hear that technology has the capacity to solve everything, including the worst effects of the climate crisis. But is this true, really? Technology has helped us to come a very long way since the industrial revolution, and there is promise in the fact that the production of renewable energy is increasingly becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. Progress in energy efficiency, hydrogen and nuclear fusion also represent a source of hope for many.
But will this be enough to tackle the extent of the climate crisis? And will it be developed in time? Experts agree in saying “probably not,” with Harvard Economist Jacob Moscona outlining that “we cannot simply innovate our way out of danger.”
So… what’s the solution? I’m sure you’ve guessed it… a reduction in our emissions (and obviously, the change in our consumption habits that comes with that).
That said, I’m glad to welcome you to this January edition of TechAways, the very first of 2023. As the sun plays hide and seek with us in Belgium, what’s better than taking a step back, relaxing, and being inspired by this week’s dose of tech news?
Among others, you will learn about a technology that reciprocates hard-to-source aroma highly sought after by the perfume industry, the hidden side of personality tests, the findings from the unwrapping of a 2,300-year-old mummy from Egypt, and why we keep seeing a new kind of villain on the silver screen!
The boy who lived 👦🏽 [CNET]
A 2.300-year-old Egyptian mummy has been digitally unwrapped, revealing a 14- or 15-year-old boy. The teenage mummy has been patiently waiting for a century in the basement of the Cairo Museum for its moment to shine. Now, thanks to today’s technology, we know the boy lived during the Ptolemaic period between around 330 and 30 BC. Researchers believe he must have been of high status. Hint: he was buried alongside 49 amulets and plants, with white sandals as the shoe of choice to cross to the afterlife. Despite the pair of shoes being a statement piece for the outfit, what gave away the not-so-humble origins of the boy was the “lavish gilded mask” that he was buried in. The Golden Boy will now be placed on display at the main exhibition hall of the Cairo Museum.
Safe & (un)pleasant aroma ♨ [WIRED]
If you desire a gorgonzola eau-de-toilette, a grandma’s perfume, or a Thai chilli pepper aroma, Osmo can make a replica for you. The start-up wants to develop the next generation of scent molecules for perfumes, lotions, candles, and other everyday items. The researchers started by feeding machine-learning software a data set of 5,000 aroma molecules that were available from fragrance catalogues, to create an “odour map”. From this training data, the software started to identify connections between each molecule’s chemical structure and a human’s description of it, resulting in a high-dimensional map of scents. It is also a huge opportunity to have sustainable and renewable scents that don’t require harvesting life. Finally, you can have your bamboo dew without contributing to the deforestation!
Personality tests, yay or nay? You decide 🤸🏻 [Lifehacker]
Most people are familiar with the thrill of satisfaction when a horoscope reading gives a frighteningly accurate insight into a personal tendency, whether you believe in astrology or not. The workplace equivalent of reading the planets is the personality test: a method of assessing personality constructs based on behavioural science. The issue outlined here is that, despite the benefits of understanding your colleagues better, team-building activities based on personality tests do nothing to improve the workplace. But how can you advance within a team when you don’t have an acute understanding of a colleague’s perspective on the world? Sure, INFPs can be negative, but their kindness cannot be forgotten. And an ENTP’s skill for problem solving outweighs their tendency for impatience. Without some sort of connection between colleagues, the workplace won’t inspire much joy.
Scary spooky tech bros 😎 [WIRED]
If the industrial revolution brought the fear of technology into the mainstream, then it must’ve been The Social Network (2010) which propelled tech bros into the realm of cultural consciousness. Since then, the archetype has transformed from an awkward wunderkind into a scheming villain, merging the 80s evil CEO and mad scientist clichés into one. With never-ending reporting on suspicious data practices, disinformation, and biased algorithms, there are many issues that could be personified via a casually-clothed Silicon Valley antagonist. Movie tropes reveal society’s deep-seated fears and desires, as well as inform them in a positive feedback loop. Whether it’s Disney’s queer coded villains of yesterday or hoodie-wearing villains of today, we’ll keep finding the silver screen to be a mirror of our collective anxieties (until or especially when ChatGPT takes over screenwriting).
In case you haven’t had enough:
These scientists created jewellery out of the striking shapes of chaos theory [ArsTechnica]
ChatGPT Is Pretty Good at Writing Malware, It Turns Out [Gizmodo]
Shutterstock launches an AI image generator. Just what we needed. [Mashable]
Ticketmaster Blames Bots for Taylor Swift Presale Chaos [Gizmodo]
About this week’s editor, Emmanuelle: After multiple peregrinations around the world, either working or studying across 10 countries on 4 continents, I decided to settle in Brussels, the heart of EU policy making. After two ‘sleepy’ years impacted by the pandemic, 2022 marked the year when I actually discovered and could enjoy this lively city – and what a joy it has been! When I was not busy explaining the impact of EU sustainability legislation to our clients, I have been exploring new things with excitement: new places, new food, new museums… oh, and a new language. In Belgium, ‘een beetje Nederlands spreken’ always helps to mingle with the locals!