This is today’s edition of The Download, Our weekday newsletter, delivering a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
The people who use humor to troll their spam texts
The other day I received a mysterious WhatsApp message. “DR Kevin?” It started, the question mark suggesting the sender felt bad for interrupting my evening, “My puppy is very slow and won’t eat dog food. Can you make an appointment for me?”
I was confused. My name is not Kevin, I am not a vet and I have not been able to help this person and their pup. I nearly typed a reply saying “sorry wrong number” when I realized this was probably a scam to get me to verify my number.
I didn’t reply, but many others who received similar messages did. Some even throw it back at their spammers, spinning wild stories and sending hilarious messages to frustrate those on the other side. They fight back with Snark, and in some cases post screenshots of their conversations online.
Experts advise against reacting in this way. But it’s cathartic and fun. Read the full story.
– Tanya Basu
China wants all social media comments to be verified before publication
The news: On June 17, China’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), released a draft update on how platforms and creators should handle online comments. One line stands out: All online comments would have to be pre-screened before being published.
how would it work The regulations cover many types of comments, including forum posts, replies, postings on public message boards, and “bullet chats” (an innovative way video platforms in China use to display real-time comments over a video). . All formats, including text, icons, GIFs, images, audio, and video, fall under this rule.
What does that mean? Users and observers fear that the move could be used to further tighten freedom of expression in China. As Beijing steadily refines its control over social media, the vagueness of recent overhauls has people concerned that the government may ignore practical challenges, forcing platforms to hire a vast army of censors. Read the full story.
– Zeyi Yang
The must reads
I’ve scoured the internet to find today’s funniest/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 The Value Of Crypto Is Still Going Down
It’s down more than two-thirds since November, but purists are unimpressed. (WSJ$)
+ Bitcoin fell below $20,000 over the weekend for the first time since last November. (FT$)
+ Investors are nervously watching stablecoin Tether to see what happens next. (NYT$)
+ Crypto insurance sounds like a good idea right now. (Voice)
2 The timeless virality of Juneteenth
Because freedom from slavery is something we can all agree on, regardless of political and religious affiliations. (wired$)
+ It’s been a terrible year for racial politics in America. (NYMag)
3 Raiding a comet is risky
But it will be worth it if it gives us the first real glimpse into a primordial body. (Nature)
+ Astronomers mistakenly thought Comet Borisov was pretty boring. (MIT Technology Review)
+ The Pentagon is studying the use of SpaceX rockets to thwart future threats. (The Interception)
+ When is a black hole not a black hole? (Vice versa)
4 How thousands of robots at sea are fighting climate change
By spending 90% of their time 1,000 meters below the surface of the sea. (Spectrum IEEE)
+ Why heat pumps are becoming an important tool for decarbonization. (Protocol)
+ UN climate report: CO2 removal is now ‘essential’ (MIT Technology Review)
+ Five months after an oil spill, a Peruvian fishing community is still suffering. (Hakai Magazine)
5 AI can do so much more than convince us that it is sentient
And yet we keep falling into the trap of overlooking the big picture. (The Atlantic $)
+ We’re also missing the point of the Turing test. (WP$)
+ What the history of AI tells us about its future. (MIT Technology Review)
6 Anti-Vaxx Conspiracies Are A Global Problem
Distributed far beyond their American roots. (slate $)
7 Can a steak made from recycled carbon dioxide ever taste good?
It only takes a few days to cook an “air steak” compared to the years it takes to raise and care for a cow. (Neo Life)
+ Why oat milk companies may need to stop marketing their goods as “dairy.” (slate $)
+ Her first lab-grown burger gets ‘blinded’. (MIT Technology Review)
8 Why Peter Thiel unfriended Facebook
And what’s next for the billionaire with a penchant for crypto. (WP$)
+Facebook will be a very different place even without Sheryl Sandberg. (The Atlantic $)
9 How Dril’s influence spread beyond Weird Twitter
The platform jester has infiltrated the mainstream. (New York $)
10 What it’s like to become the worst person on the internet
And another case in point as to why putting images into the public domain can backfire. (The guard)
quote of the Day
“Are we going to bow our heads to Jeff Bezos just to give him his pleasure boat?”
— Paul van de Laar, a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, is furious at the Amazon founder’s request to dismantle part of the city bridge to transport his superyacht, he tells the Financial Times.
The Big Story
This company delivers packages faster than Amazon, but the workers pay the price
Early one morning in October 2020, 27-year-old Jang Deok-joon came home from his night shift at South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang and jumped in the shower. He had worked at the company’s warehouse in the southern city of Daegu for just over a year, hauling crates full of items ready to be shipped to delivery centers. When he didn’t come out of the bathroom for over an hour and a half, his father opened the door to find him unconscious and curled up in the bathtub, his arms clutched tightly to his chest. He was taken to the hospital but without a pulse and shortness of breath, doctors pronounced him dead at 9:09 a.m. The coroner ruled that he had died of a heart attack.
Jang was the third Coupang worker to die that year, adding to growing concerns about the nature of the company’s success. And it’s been amazingly successful: in just a few years, it rose to become South Korea’s third-largest employer, leveraging a vast network of warehouses, 37,000 employees, a fleet of drivers, and a suite of AI-driven tools to take a leadership position in crowded e-commerce market of South Korea.
Coupang’s proprietary AI algorithms calculate everything from the most efficient way to stack packages in delivery trucks to the exact route and order of deliveries for drivers. In warehouses, AI anticipates purchases and calculates shipping deadlines for outbound packages, enabling millions of items to be delivered in less than a day. Such innovations are why Coupang confidently calls itself the “future of e-commerce” and was the driving force behind its recent listing on Nasdaq – the largest U.S. IPO by an Asian company since Alibaba in 2014. But what does it all mean these innovations and efficiencies? for the employees of the company? Read the full story.
– Max S. Kim
We can still have beautiful things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? drop me a line or tweet them to me.)
+ Happy birthday to the one and only Brian Wilson who turns 80 today. Of all his incredible tunes, this one might be the best.
+ A total mystery: how did a British dustbin transport more than 1,900 kilometers to Ukraine?
+ What a relief – the polite “whisky war” between Denmark and Canada is finally over.
+ This performance of Rage Against the Machine played on dog toys is a masterpiece.
+ Here’s a selection of dresses we wouldn’t mind if Kim Kardashian ruined next.