Hi there! We are back with the first TechAways after the summer – which technically only ended ten days ago, but we all know that summer was over long before that.
The EU legislative agenda has been keeping us all quite busy over the past month. On the tech policy side, it has been quite a rentrée: the DSA/DMA saga coming to end – the end of an era, really! – the discussions on the Data Act intensifying, and the Cyber Resilience Act becoming September’s hot topic. This week, a proposal for the AI Liability Directive, another long-awaited milestone, was published. Before the Privacy Shield garners the limelight on Monday, let’s take a moment and focus on AI.
The AI Liability Directive introduces specific rules for damages caused by AI systems. It will help victims in getting compensation by easing the burden of the proof and allowing them to ask companies to disclose information about high-risk AI systems.
This proposal will complement the AI Act. While the AI Act aims at reducing risks and preventing damages, AI liability provisions apply when a risk materialises in damage.
A first look at the proposal raises a number of technical issues that I will not bore you with, but one big question, common to its complementary file, remains. Was it too soon?
Quoting a previous editor of this newsletter, AI keeps evolving very quickly, and we are still figuring out its huge potential. Regulating something that we still need to fully understand risks slowing down the drive for innovation that other EU initiatives are seeking.
But before we succumb to AI-related blues, check out this week’s contributions below!
Humans: 1 – Dinosaurs: 0 ☄ [CNET]
This Monday, NASA sent the DART spacecraft on a suicidal mission that might prevent humankind from following the fate of dinosaurs. This was done through the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), which monitors potential threats to Earth. While the asteroid hit by DART, Dimorphos, did not pose a risk of collision, ATLAS will measure our capacity to divert future dangerous meteors. However, the world will have to wait on any news about whether spacecraft sacrifice is an effective method of protection. Moreover, despite similarities between NASA’s recent undertakings and the movie Don’t Look Up, we report that Meryl Streep still isn’t the US president and that climate change remains widely ignored. Stay optimistic – we’re preventing one catastrophic scenario at a time!
Approximately invisible 👻 [WIRED]
Thinking about hanging out with Harry Potter in Hogwarts? Now it is (almost) possible. Vollebak is a company best known for fashion items like a bulletproof metal jacket, copper-infused fabrics designed to combat viruses and an algae-based compostable t-shirt. Their most recent collection includes a thermal camouflage jacket prototype, which is claimed to be the first step toward an invisibility cloak. On the surface, there is a layered graphene coating containing ions, which are transformed into liquid by a computer. Basically, absorbent graphene is converted into a reflective material when it encounters infrared thermal radiation. Sure, we can still be seen in the light, but this is a good start – see you (not) in 50 years, maybe?
Let them eat powdered larvae 🐛 [Yahoo! Finance]
If you’re in the market for new culinary experiences, Vienna-based Livin Farms has just the product for you. The company, currently on the lookout for $5.8 million in investments, produces a modular system that automates the process of rearing and processing black soldier flies. The final product is fly larvae powder, whose high protein content is being marketed as the perfect food for the climate change-induced food shortages – apocalypse, in short. For the larvae powder connoisseurs and adventurous eaters among us, one brave journalist reports: ‘texture was fine, but the whole thing would have benefited from more flavour’. With that said, let’s enjoy fine dining while we can.
You’re toxic, I’m slippin’ under ☣️ [Gizmodo]
We’ve all had these autumn days when we walked on the streets of Brussels and thought to ourselves that the CO2 pollution in the air is on fire. Now imagine the ancient city of Tikal, and a Mayan heading to the market thinking about the mercury pollution from their neighbour’s house façade. As a recent analysis of soil exposed toxic levels of mercury in Mayan cities, this really could have been the reality. The culprit was cinnabar, a toxic mercury sulphide mineral that Mayans applied onto walls and pottery. Although beautiful, cinnabar turned out to have a dark side: it leaked into the soil, poisoning the ground in many Mayan cities.
In case you haven’t had enough:
NASA seems to be in full “send it” mode for the Artemis I mission [ArsTechnica]
Satellite Spots New Pacific Island Forming as Underwater Volcano Spews [CNET]
How Bots Corrupted Advertising [WIRED]
‘Girls Who Code’ book series temporarily banned in Pennsylvania school district [Mashable]
Dating app Inner Circle adds a suite of anti-ghosting features [TechCrunch]
About this week’s editor, Giovanni Bazzoli: I joined the company about a year ago as a member of the tech policy team. As you can guess from my name, I’m 100% Italian, but have been in town for a couple of years now. In my spare time, I enjoy studying the topics I deal with every day from an academic perspective as a teaching assistant at an Italian university. Running is also my passion – this weekend, you will find me with the SEC Newgate EU team running the Brussels airport marathon. See you there!