January 28, 2021

Future Technology

On Wednesday, the US waited with bated breath as president Trump handed the government reins over to president Biden. The transition of power ended up peaceful, and Biden promptly ushered in his new vision for America with a flurry of executive orders.

At the moment, the most pressing issues on his table are fighting the coronavirus pandemic, providing financial relief for Americans, and reversing a series of Trump-era policies on climate change, international relations, and immigration. Artificial intelligence, as expected, hasn’t yet made it to the top of list. But he has given several signals already about how his administration might think about and treat the technology.

First, Biden elevated the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to a cabinet-level position, and appointed top geneticist Eric Lander, the founding director of the MIT-Harvard Broad Institute, to the role. The OSTP advises the president on … Read the rest

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Twitter suspended the @realdonaldtrump account after the Capitol riot on January 6. | Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images

The debate over deplatforming Trump has overshadowed how effective social media bans are at fighting extremism.

Within days of the January 6 Capitol insurrection, outgoing President Donald Trump’s internet presence was in upheaval. Trump’s social media accounts were suspended across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, and TikTok.

The same was true for many of Trump’s more extremist followers. Twitter suspended more than 70,000 accounts primarily dedicated to spreading the false right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon. Apple, Google, and Amazon Web Services banned the right-wing Twitter alternative Parler, effectively shutting down the site indefinitely (though it’s attempting to return) and relegating many right-wingers to the hinterlands of the internet.

Permanently revoking users’ access to social media platforms and other websites — a practice known as deplatforming — isn’t a new concept; … Read the rest

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“The better choice”

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has roasted Apple’s MacBook Pro in a new Surface Pro 7 advert highlighting the tablet’s touch screen, pen, detachable keyboard, and more.

Microsoft has fired several shots at Apple’s MacBook Pro in a new advert for its Surface Pro 7 shared yesterday.

The new advert compares the MacBook Pro with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7, seemingly mocking the MacBook Pro’s lack of support for either a touch screen or a pen. It also highlights the detachable keyboard of the Surface as well as support for various bits of software including games that macOS doesn’t have.

Finally, the 30-second clip highlights the price, at $890 the Surface Pro is certainly a lot cheaper than the MacBook, but are its criticisms fair?

Of course, Apple has a tablet with touch screen support, Apple Pencil, a detachable keyboard, and more in its iPad lineup, and

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  • Apple’s iconic MacBook Air is expected to get a major upgrade as soon as the second half of 2021.
  • The new Air will be smaller, lighter, and more powerful than the 2020 M1-powered model.
  • The laptop will also come with MagSafe support, just like the new MacBook Pro that Apple will launch later this year.

A few days ago, a report said that Apple plans a major makeover for the MacBook Pro, the top-of-the-line laptop that many professionals use and that other companies try to imitate. The new MacBook Pro will get MagSafe charging back, the feature Apple removed a few years ago, much to the dismay of loyal Mac fans.

The new Pro will also address other criticism, as it’s supposed to feature more ports and do away with the Touch Bar. But it’s actually the MacBook Air, the most iconic, best-sold, and most copied Mac design out … Read the rest

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On January 10, Charlie O’Donnell, a startup investor who runs Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, published a blog post that he hoped would inspire self-reflection among his peers in the industry. Provocatively titled Seed Investments in Insurrection, his argument was that venture capitalists needed to wrestle with their impact on democracy. 

“It’s kind of hard to make money if the long-term consequences of your investments threaten the free and open democracy that underpins our society,” he wrote, “an extreme statement—until this past week,” when “domestic terrorists, at least in part radicalized on one-time venture capital backed platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitch and Twitter stormed the US Capitol building.” 

The events in Washington forced technology companies to face a public reckoning over their role in promoting and amplifying extreme content. For years, critics called for social media platforms to enforce their own policies on hate speech, harassment, and incitement to violence, but … Read the rest

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A US Postal Service worker removes mail from a dropbox in San Francisco on August 17, 2020. | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Postal Service has to do more than deliver mail if it wants to survive.

In November, on the day that networks called the election for Joe Biden, cheering crowds stopped mail trucks in the streets of New York City to thank postal workers for delivering more than 135 million mail-in ballots on time during a pandemic. Now, in Washington, DC, a coalition of lawmakers and advocates are trying to pull off a different sort of feat: saving the United States Postal Service.

Without help from the federal government, the Postal Service could run out of cash later this year. Such a financial crisis would mean laying off workers, limiting service, and worsening delays — and delays are already so bad that holiday cards mailed … Read the rest

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A wirelessly charging Magic Mouse? Yes please!

What you need to know

  • An engineer on social media has modified a Magic Mouse to give it wireless charging, and the results are amazing.

An engineer on social media has finally fixed one of the worst designs ever created by Apple, by adding wireless charging to Apple’s Magic Mouse.

The Magic Mouse is notorious because the device’s charging port is housed underneath the device, making it impossible to use whilst charging, and making the upturned device very unsightly and un-Apple to look at. (Pictured)

Now, in a video shared to social media, one engineer has taken matters into their own hands and created a wirelessly charging Magic Mouse thanks to a whole lot of DIY.

The video, shared by DuanRui on Twitter, is a therapeutic 90 seconds of wizardry, which ends with a Magic Mouse that can be charged wirelessly. They even

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  • Microsoft just announced the five free Xbox games it’s giving away in February.
  • Xbox Live Gold subscribers can grab Gears 5, Resident Evil, and Dandara for Xbox Series X and Xbox One, as well as Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb and Lost Planet 2 for Xbox 360.
  • You can save about $105 by picking up all five Games with Gold while they’re on sale for free.

On the same day Microsoft announced it would effectively double the price of Xbox Live Gold by bumping the price of the subscription service up to $60 for 6 months, we also learned which games will be coming to the Games with Gold program for free in February. It appears that Microsoft wanted to soften the blow of the price hike somewhat, as this is the first genuinely solid selection of free games in months, with Gears 5 leading the way, … Read the rest

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Salim Abdool Karim was at a cricket match on December 26, Boxing Day, when he made the mistake of looking at his email. He had received a new report and the news wasn’t good. A heavily mutated coronavirus spotted in South Africa appeared to allow the virus to bind more tightly, and more easily, to human cells.

Karim, an epidemiologist and lead covid-19 adviser to the South African government, knew what the report meant. It could explain a drastic change in covid-19 in his country, where rising case numbers were turning every province red.

“It simply went up, up, up, and up, into the equivalent of an Everest,” Karim says.

The rise in cases in South Africa has been linked to a new, highly mutated form of the covid-19 virus. And it’s just part of a wider pattern being seen around the world. Over the last month, weary researchers racing … Read the rest

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Lina Khan at her New York home in 2017. | An Rong Xu for the Washington Post

Outgoing FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra has been advocating for Khan’s nomination.

Lina Khan, an antitrust expert, Columbia law professor and thorn in the side of Big Tech, is gaining traction as a candidate to fill one of the commissioner roles at the Federal Trade Commission under President Joe Biden, three sources familiar with the discussions told Recode this week.

Khan would likely fill the commissioner seat currently held by Rohit Chopra, a Democrat who Biden has tapped to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Chopra has been advocating for the nomination of Khan, the sources said, with one person familiar with deliberations calling her a current “frontrunner.” Khan served as a legal fellow at the FTC in Chopra’s office in 2018 and at the CFPB as a summer associate while Chopra worked … Read the rest

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