Hello my fellow techies!
It’s good to be here again. The #TechAways team has prepared lots of articles for you to dive into, but before that, let’s talk about social media. With almost 5 billion users, social media is a habit of 61% of the world’s population – one fuelled by AI, or more precisely, algorithms which get us hooked. So, let’s put them under a spotlight.
We all remember the early times of Facebook, with our uncles’ fishing photos or status updates on a cousin’s irrelevant bike trip. Since then, social media changed drastically because of a push to display content that is the most “relevant”, not most recent. As algorithms have become more sophisticated, our feeds started looking like the ideal partners that we would never find. The posts that we see are curated by AI based on our interests, demographic data, and even our relationship with the content creator (including family ties).
Unfortunately, every ideal partner comes with some baggage. Algorithms are smart, but not smart enough to filter misleading content. In 2022, one-third of Europeans admitted that it’s not easy for them to identify fake news. You might think that it’s not that deep, but things get tricky when you compare this with the number of illicit posts existing on social media. Instagram alone saw 76 million pieces of illegal content between April and September 2023 crop up. This is also the case for other social media platforms, with the ultimate result being societal polarisation and lack of transparency.
Rest assured: the EU is pulling out its regulatory guns to counter the toxicity. The Digital Services Act (DSA), which came to force this year, puts more responsibility on social media platforms to foster safer digital spaces. However, with the state of current world affairs, it seems that even with DSA, the systems put in place by the platforms fail to catch up with the amount of polarising fake content. It looks like this is only the beginning of the romance between the regulators and social media, so let’s give this relationship a chance.
Words of the year speak louder than words 📖[TNW]
We know what’s been haunting you at night for the last 12 months and we are here to put your curiosity to rest. The Collins Dictionary has finally announced its word of the year, and it’s none other than ”AI”. We would have cracked better jokes writing a short piece on ”nepo baby” or ”greedflation”, both shortlisted, but once again AI steals the show – and this newsletter. It’s not the first time a tech term makes it to the podium for the word of the year, though. Among those shortlisted in the past, there are ”Bitcoin” and ”crypto” (probably inspired by some crypto bro being the nephew of someone at Collins); ”Tinder” and ”swipe” (ruining the meeting-cute anecdotes for a whole generation) and ”Metaverse” (you’re welcome, Mark Zuckerberg). But our favourite has to be ”phablet”, for those devices whose size falls between a phone and a tablet. More to come next year.
Lab-grown meat isn’t just for humans anymore 🐶 [TNW]
Good news, animal lovers! Czech startup Bene Meat Technologies received the green light to bring lab-grown meat to your pets’ bowls! Now, your furry friends can enjoy futuristic cuisine made from cells taken from living animals. The process has the potential to decrease emissions and alleviate animal suffering, all the while generating meat that is virtually identical to conventionally farmed products. Moreover, there is significant economic potential, with McKinsey forecasting a market value of $25 billion by 2030. Although most of this revenue is expected to stem from human consumption, Bene Meat is concentrating on pets’ palate. Brace yourself for a pet food revolution: with competitive pricing and a mystery origin, your pets might soon become pioneers of the gastronomic avant-garde.
Continental Europe’s newest spaceport 🚀 [HACKADAY]
Though not politically motivated, Europe’s spaceports seem to have an inclination for the extremes. The continent’s main spaceport, located in the Amazon rainforest of French Guiana, resides at just 5 degrees North of the equator. Because the Earth spins faster at its widest points, departing rockets can make use of this extra kick to escape the Earth’s atmosphere just a bit easier. The continent’s newest spaceport lies 9000 kilometres north of its counterpart, deep in the Norwegian Arctic circle. Here, the rotational forces of the Earth are practically non-existent, but the location is ideal for a Polar orbit that takes the spacecraft above both poles of the Earth. Pretty neat.
Dark matter reveal 🌌 [Reuters]
The Euclid space telescope just unleashed some mind-boggling images. Led by the European Space Agency with NASA as its celestial co-pilot, Euclid is embarking on a never-before-seen universe-wide scan. These aren’t your average vacation pics: Euclid is on a mission to decode the effects of dark matter and dark energy, the cosmic puppeteers of the universe. To do that, Euclid is creating a 3D map of the cosmos thanks to its ability to monitor galaxies up to 10 billion light years away. Thanks to the images, the scientists can infer the existence of dark matter – a topic studied since the 1990s. Plus, new galaxies have already been discovered thanks to the mapping exercise, and we’re holding our breath for more.
Quantum computing on drugs… or the other way round 💊 [TechRadar]
Drug discovery is about to take a quantum leap forward with the advent of quantum computing. We are not talking about the Marvel Universe, but reality! This revolutionary technology can simulate molecular behaviour with unparalleled precision, leading to the creation of more effective and safer drugs. Quantum computing can also streamline clinical trials, further accelerating the drug development process. While there are hurdles to overcome, such as integrating quantum systems into existing infrastructure and addressing talent shortages, the long-term benefits far outweigh the challenges. Companies that invest in quantum computing early will gain a competitive edge and reap substantial rewards as the technology matures. Time to embrace the quantum-fuelled drug revolution!
From isolated atolls to cybercrime hub: Tokelau’s unexpected digital saga 🖥️ [MIT Technology Review]
In a remarkable twist of history, Tokelau, once the last corner of the British Empire to hear of World War I, and a place where shortwave radio arrived only in the ’70s, unknowingly became a hotspot for cybercrime due to its .tk domain. Initially, this domain offered free website registration, attracting millions of users. However, it soon became a haven for illicit activities like phishing and spamming, tarnishing Tokelau’s reputation. Now, the island navigates the choppy waters of the internet, trying to reel back control and clean up its digital footprint.
In case you haven’t had enough:
How Berlin’s underground car parks could heat thousands of homes [The Next Web]
Determinism vs. free will: A scientific showdown [Ars Technica]
Will Life Be Better in the Metaverse? [WIRED]
Bridging the expectation-reality gap in machine learning [MIT Technology Review]
The future of urban mobility in Europe, 10 years down the road [The Next Web]
About this week’s guest editor:
Hello, it’s Jarek Oleszczynski, after a self-inflicted multi-exodus to 6 countries, I have finally decided to settle in Brussels… for now. Although the weather and the garbage strategy can be a bit tricky, the city brings the best of two worlds: communications and politics. I top up these two with a “digital” sprinkle and I have the perfect environment to thrive in. If you are into any of the three topics, hit me up on LinkedIn, I’d love to discuss the novelties of the EU digital communications bubble!