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The Download: Algorithms’ shame trap, and London’s safer road crossings

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This is today’s download version, Our weekday newsletter provides daily updates on what’s happening in the world of technology.

How Algorithms Keep Us in a Cycle of Shame

Mathematician Cathy O’Neil, who worked in finance in the early days of the 2008 financial crisis, has seen firsthand how much people trust algorithms — and how damaging they can be. Frustrated, she turned to the technology industry, but she also encountered the same blind faith. After leaving, she wrote a book in 2016 that shattered the notion that algorithms are objective.

O’Neil shows how each algorithm can be trained on historical data to recognize patterns, and how they break down in destructive ways. For example, algorithms designed to predict the chance of re-arrest may place an unfair burden on people, often people of color, poor people, living in the wrong neighborhoods or with untreated mental health problems or addictions.

Over time, she became aware of another important factor that exacerbated these inequalities: shame. Society keeps shaming people for things they don’t have a choice or a say in, like weight or addiction issues, and using that shaming as a weapon. O’Neal realized that the next step was to fight back. Read the full article.

–Alison Ariff

London is experimenting with traffic lights that put pedestrians first

news: For pedestrians, walking around the city is like navigating an obstacle course. Transport for London, the public body behind the UK capital’s transport service, has been testing a new type of intersection designed to make navigating busy streets safer and easier.

How does it work? When pedestrians approach one of the 18 intersections around the city, they don’t wait for a “green man” as a signal to cross the road, but instead encounter the default setting of green. The indicator light will only turn red when the sensors detect an approaching vehicle – a first in the UK.

How is it received? After nine months of trials, the data was encouraging: There was little impact on traffic, it saved pedestrians time and made them 13 percent more likely to obey traffic signals. Read the full article.

– Rachel Revis

Check out these stories from our New Urbanism issue.you can read full magazine for yourself and subscription Get future releases delivered to your door for $120 a year.

– How social media filters help people explore their gender identity.
– Limitations of tree planting as a way to mitigate climate change.

Podcast: Who Watches AI in Students?

A boy writes about his suicide attempt. He didn’t realize his school’s software was spying. While schools often use AI to sift through students’ digital lives and flag keywords that might be deemed relevant, critics ask: What is the price of privacy? In the latest episode of our award-winning podcast In Machines We Trust, we delve into this story and the wider world of school surveillance.

Check it out here.

ICYMI: Our TR35 2022 Innovator List

In case you missed it yesterday, our annual TR35 list of the most exciting youngsters 35 and under is out! Read online here or subscribe to read the print version of our new Urbanism issue here.

must read

I combed the internet to find you the funniest/most important/scariest/most fascinating tech stories of the day.

1 America is now frantically piecing together abortion laws
The overthrow of Roy has sparked a legal quagmire — including some abortion laws that contract others in the same state. (foot)
+ Protesters conduct a human-flesh search of the Supreme Court on TikTok. (motherboard)
+ Planned Parenthood’s abortion planning tool shares data. (WP USD)
+ Below are the types of data that state authorities can use to prosecute. (Wall Street Journal $)
+ Tech companies need to be transparent about what they are being asked to share. (WP USD)
+ Here’s what people in the trigger state are searching for on Google. (sound)

2 Chinese students lured to Beijing for spying
Fresh graduates are tasked with translating hacked documents. (foot)
+ The FBI charged him with spying for China.ruined his life. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Why it’s time to adjust our expectations of AI
Researchers are tired of the hype. (Wall Street Journal $)
+ Still, Meta wants to build intelligent machines that can learn like humans. (Spectrum IEEE)
+ Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of artificial intelligence. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Understanding how the brain’s neurons really work will lead to better AI models. (economist $)

4 Bitcoin is facing its biggest drop in more than 10 years
The era of freewheeling growth is really coming to an end. (Bloomberg USD)
+ The crash poses a threat to millions of dollars worth of funds stolen by North Korea. (Reuters)
+ The crypto apocalypse could get worse before leveling off. (protector)
+ The EU is one step closer to regulating crypto. (Reuters)

5 Singapore’s new online safety law is a looming power grab
Empowering its authoritarian government to exercise greater control over civilians. (rest of the world)

6 Recommendation algorithms take effort to work properly
Telling them what you like will make it more likely to give you decent advice. (edge)

7 China is on a mission to find Earth-like planets
But what they will find is anyone’s guess. (motherboard)
+ ESA’s Gaia probe is illuminating what’s floating in the Milky Way. (wired $)

8 In YouTube’s video commentary metaworld
Video creators analyze what other video creators can get viewers to watch. (New York Times USD)
+ Long videos are helping creators avoid creative burnout. (NBC)

9 Daters on a tight schedule are vetting potential suitors over video chat
Find out before attending an IRL meetup. (Atlantic $)

10 How fans shaped the internet ❤
For better — and worse. (New Yorker $)

Quote of the day

“It’s not just monkey business.”

— According to Gizmodo, Yuga Labs, creator of the Bored Ape NFT series, has filed a lawsuit against concept artist Ryder Ripps, alleging that Ripps copied their unique work of ape art.

big story

The restaurant duo wanted a zero-carbon food system.will it happen?

September 2020

When Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint opened The Perennial, the most ambitious and expensive restaurant of their careers, they had a grand vision: They wanted it to be completely carbon neutral. Their “food industry environmentalism lab” opened in San Francisco in January 2016 with the main goal of serving meat with a carbon footprint well below normal.

Myint and Leibowitz realized they were doing something bigger—maybe the easiest and most practical way to tackle global warming is through food. But they also realized that the restaurant, dubbed “the nation’s most sustainable restaurant,” wouldn’t be able to fix this broken system on its own. So in early 2019, they dared to do something no one expected. They closed The Perennial. Read the full article.

–Clint Rainey

we can still have good things

A cozy, fun and distracting place in these odd times. (Any ideas? leave me a message or Tweet me.)

+ Take a look at the UK’s booming train detection scene (don’t worry, this has nothing to do with Owen Wales’ novel of the same name.)
+ this is very Definition of Burn.
+ a Solid Science Jokes.
+ this funny twitter account Compiled some of the weirdest public Spotify playlists (shout out rapper with memory problems)
+ Have you had the pleasure of seeing these strange and wonderful buildings in person?





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