February 28, 2021


An advisory board to the US Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously in favor of the first single-shot covid-19 vaccine, clearing the path for the health agency to authorize its immediate use as soon as tomorrow.

The one-shot vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson, has the additional advantage of being easy to store, because it requires nothing colder than ordinary refrigerator temperatures. It stopped 66% of mild and serious covid-19 cases in a trial carried out on three continents.

It will join a US covid arsenal that already includes authorized vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer. Those vaccines, which use messenger RNA, were significantly more effective (they stopped about 95% of cases), but they require two shots, and the doses need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.

Globally, a growing list of injections developed in Russia, China, India, and the United Kingdom all are starting to see wide use.

While the … Read the rest


In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, companies promised to make their boards more diverse. | FangXiaNuo via Getty Images

Companies promised to make their boards more diverse. Here’s how to actually do it.

After a national reckoning in the summer of 2020 following the police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests around the country, public and private companies alike vowed to add Black directors to their corporate boards. Some promising developments suggest greater board diversity could actually happen. There are also other ways companies could hurry it along.

Nasdaq submitted a proposal in December that would require companies listed on its exchange to report their board diversity and have — or at least explain why they don’t have — at least one person who identifies as a woman and one person who identifies as an underrepresented minority … Read the rest


Describing a decision-making system as an “algorithm” is often a way to deflect accountability for human decisions. For many, the term implies a set of rules based objectively on empirical evidence or data. It also suggests a system that is highly complex—perhaps so complex that a human would struggle to understand its inner workings or anticipate its behavior when deployed.

But is this characterization accurate? Not always.

For example, in late December Stanford Medical Center’s misallocation of covid-19 vaccines was blamed on a distribution “algorithm” that favored high-ranking administrators over frontline doctors. The hospital claimed to have consulted with ethicists to design its “very complex algorithm,” which a representative said “clearly didn’t work right,” as MIT Technology Review reported at the time. While many people interpreted the use of the term to mean that AI or machine learning was involved, the system was in fact a medical algorithm, which is … Read the rest


Twitter “Super Follows” feature was announced at an investor event. | Screenshot for Twitter’s Analyst Day Presentation

Twitter, a notoriously public platform, is building a walled garden.

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Twitter thinks your tweets — or at least some of them — might actually be worth something. At a virtual event for investors Thursday, the company announced that it’s planning to debut a pay-for-posts feature, called Super Follows, in which users will be able to pay the people they follow for their best tweets.

With Super Follows, Twitter will allow users to make money from content that they make exclusive to particular followers. Sample screenshots released by the company show that the payment scheme could take multiple forms. For instance, a follower could pay a creator they follow on Twitter a few dollars a month to access that user’s exclusive newsletter or to see special tweets only available to Super Followers. They might … Read the rest

What progress means 1 min read

“Progress.” We take for granted that it’s a good thing. We constantly invoke it to justify change. But all the ways in which society is measured—from economic indicators to health and education metrics to markers of political development and technological sophistication—rely on long-held assumptions about what progress is. As the economic and political shocks of this still newish century have shown, growing numbers of people are, or feel, excluded by the progress they were told would benefit everyone. And many of the countries that score best on traditional measures of progress have done worst in coping with the covid-19 pandemic, the clearest sign possible that these measures are missing something.

This issue contains MIT Technology Review’s annual list of 10 technological breakthroughs we think will change the world—in other words, leading examples of progress that we predict will lead to … even more progress! So I thought it behooved us, … Read the rest


Your app may be sending location data to a company that sells your data to another company that sells your data to the government. | Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Google can’t stop trackers in its apps from selling location data to the government. Maybe the government can.

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If you’re relying on Apple’s and Google’s app store rules to keep your location data safe from companies that sell it to the government, you might want to rethink that policy. But if you’re relying on the legal system to stop government agencies from buying that data, you might be in luck — maybe.

A new Treasury Department inspector general report says that it doesn’t believe agencies have the legal right to buy location data from commercial services without obtaining a warrant. The watchdog had been investigating the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for doing just that, but the IRS isn’t the only … Read the rest


This list marks 20 years since we began compiling an annual selection of the year’s most important technologies. Some, such as mRNA vaccines, are already changing our lives, while others are still a few years off. Below, you’ll find a brief description along with a link to a feature article that probes each technology in detail. We hope you’ll enjoy and explore—taken together, we believe this list represents a glimpse into our collective future.


Messenger RNA vaccines

We got very lucky. The two most effective vaccines against the coronavirus are based on messenger RNA, a technology that has been in the works for 20 years. When the covid-19 pandemic began last January, scientists at several biotech companies were quick to turn to mRNA as a way to create potential vaccines; in late December 2020, at a time when more than 1.5 million had died from covid-19 worldwide, the vaccines were approved

Read the rest ...

Progressives are enraged with Facebook and trying to fight back. | Saqib Majeed/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

It’s called the Project for Good Information, and it raises big questions about the future of the information wars.

A prominent Democratic strategist is planning a new $65 million effort to push progressive local news around the United States as part of an attempt to match the dominance of right-wing media, Recode has learned.

The organization, whose formation hasn’t previously been reported, is called the Project for Good Information (PGI). It’s being created by Tara McGowan, a Democratic strategist who has spent the last few years at her current organization, Acronym, trying to encourage her party to counter far-right media with liberal content. She has fans among influential Democrats and donors but has also attracted controversy from journalism groups concerned that her advocacy efforts masquerade as unbiased media, as well as from some fellow Democrats … Read the rest


Early this winter, I took a long walk in the Salt Lake City park in which I had been arrested for bathing in a river when I was homeless.

About 30 minutes into that walk, I stood across from the park’s granite meditation temple, thinking: Three and a half years ago, I slept under that building’s awning.

I can still feel how hard that temple’s cold stone floor was; I remember how people strolled by my bed of cardboard and clothes and stared with what struck me as a combination of concern, contempt, and pity. Now I see that these are also the lenses through which I have often judged my own progress in my new, not-yet-middle-class life.

These days, I often wonder: Am I really doing as well as I should be after all this time? How did I ever allow myself to fall so far? Trying to get Read the rest


Joe Rogan in 2013. | Vivian Zink/Syfy/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

The service is paying big money to big stars. But people who aren’t famous — maybe even you, the person reading this — might want to upload some stuff, too.

Spotify started out as a legal way to stream popular music. Then it flirted, unsuccessfully, with becoming a video company, too. Now it is trying out a new identity: It wants normal people, not just people you’ve heard of, to start uploading songs and podcasts — and then it wants to make money getting those songs and podcasts out to many, many more people.

Spotify still wants the biggest stars in the world on its service. That’s why it spends most of its money on licensing deals with the big music labels, and why it paid a ton of money to sign podcast king Joe Rogan last summer. And it’s … Read the rest