The Download: oyster aquaculture, and trusting AI with our bodies

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

The humble oyster could hold the key to restoring coastal waters. Developers hate it.

Carol Friend has taken on a difficult job. She is one of the 10 people in Delaware currently trying to make it as a cultivated oyster farmer.

Her Salty Witch Oyster Company holds a lease to grow the mollusks as part of the state’s new program for aquaculture, launched in 2017. It has sputtered despite its obvious promise.

Five years after the first farmed oysters went into the Inland Bays, the aquaculture industry remains in a larval stage. Oysters themselves are almost mythical in their ability to clean and filter water. But human willpower, investment, and flexibility are all required to allow the oysters to simply do their thing—particularly when developers start to object. Read the full story.

—Anna Kramer

Are we ready to trust AI with our bodies?

Artificial intelligence is marching deeper and deeper into our lives. We’re already used to tracking our bodies through wearables like smart watches. Getting a pep talk from an AI avatar doesn’t feel like much of a stretch.

That’s exactly what’s going on at Lumin Fitness: a gym in Texas staffed pretty much entirely by virtual AI coaches designed to guide gym goers through workouts. 

In a way, it makes sense. AI could help to encourage people who feel intimidated or unmotivated to work out, and make it easier to track progress over time. But as the tech enters ever-more sensitive areas, we need to keep our wits about us and remember it has lots of limitations. Read the full story.

Melissa’s story is from The Algorithm, our weekly AI newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

2023 Climate Tech Companies to Watch: H2 Green Steel

H2 Green Steel is building a large steel plant in northern Sweden that will rely on green hydrogen and renewables to substantially cut climate pollution. The startup is helping to clean up one of the world’s most important building materials, which is also one of the biggest sources of industrial pollution. Read the full story.

H2 Green Steel is part of our 2023 list of 15 Climate Tech Companies to Watch. Read the rest of the list here.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 X is rife with Israel-Hamas disinformation 
Recent changes to the platform have made it an inconsistent, unreliable news source. (Bloomberg $)
+ Surprise, surprise—X axed a disinformation fighting tool in recent months. (The Information $)
+ The conflict has sparked a ferocious wave of hacktivism. (Wired $)
+ Verifying social media footage is an evolving challenge. (BBC)

2 Thieves stole $1 billion worth of crypto from FTX
On the very day it declared bankruptcy last November. (Wired $)
+ The judge in Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trials keeps reprimanding his lawyers. (NYT $)

3 It’s getting harder to ensure new medical devices are safe
The AI boom is supercharging a new wave of devices, and regulators are struggling. (WSJ $)

4 Saudi Arabia and China are determined to forge AI chip deals
Which is cause for concern in the US. (FT $)
+ Nvidia collaborator Lambda is on the up. (The Information $)
+ The US-China chip war is still escalating. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Enterprising teens are hustling on TikTok Shop 🛍️
Despite the platform’s rules requiring them to be over 18 years of age. (NBC News)
+ This obscure shopping app is now America’s most downloaded. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Netflix has crushed Latin America’s password reselling industry
But that doesn’t mean the resellers are giving up altogether. (Rest of World)
+ Netflix is getting tough on its users in Kenya, too. (Reuters)

7 Getting plants to taste like ham is no mean feat
It looks as though a Barcelona-based firm may have pulled it off, though. (TechCrunch)
+ Here’s what a lab-grown burger tastes like.  (MIT Technology Review)

8 Today’s internet isn’t as fun as it was
There’s every chance AI will make it worse, too. (New Yorker $)
+ We are hurtling toward a glitchy, spammy, scammy, AI-powered internet. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Keep an eye out for the Draconid meteor shower
If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you’re in with a decent chance of spotting it. (New Scientist $)

10 Demons are hiding within superconductors 👹
At least, that’s what physicists are calling mysterious electron vibrations. (Quanta Magazine)

Quote of the day

“Sometimes you don’t need to be sophisticated to have an impact.”

—Rob Joyce, director of cybersecurity at the National Security Agency, describes the effects of cyber attacks that appear to be inspired by the Hamas terror attacks on Israel, Bloomberg reports.

The big story

Aging clocks aim to predict how long you’ll live

April 2022

Age is much more than the number of birthdays you’ve clocked. Stress, sleep, and diet all influence how our organs cope with the wear and tear of everyday life. Factors like these might make you age faster or slower than people born on the same day. That means your biological age could be quite different from your chronological age—the number of years you’ve been alive.

Your biological age is likely a better reflection of your physical health and even your own mortality than your chronological age. But calculating it isn’t straightforward. And researchers are still grappling with a vital question: What does it mean to be biologically young? Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ I love a good list, and this rundown of the 50 best TV shows of the 21st century so far fits the bill—but where is The White Lotus? (Thanks Stefan!)
+ No one’s having a better time than Sweden’s marines.
+ A flat-pack car? Why not.
+ New Zealand’s chickens are just so cultured 🐓
+ Space age furniture made from moon fragments is less far-fetched than it sounds.

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