Technology

The Download: the future of batteries, and China’s chips

Plus: China isn’t thrilled with other countries’ covid travel restrictions

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.

What’s next for batteries

Every year the world runs more and more on batteries. Electric vehicles passed 10% of global vehicle sales in 2022, and they’re on track to reach 30% by the end of this decade.

The transition from gas-powered cars to EVs will require lots of batteries—and better and cheaper ones at that. Most EVs today are powered by lithium-ion batteries, a decades-old technology that academic labs and companies alike are seeking to make more efficient and even more affordable. 

In the midst of the soaring demand for EVs and renewable power, and an explosion in battery development, one thing is certain: batteries will play a key role in the transition to renewable energy. Here’s what to expect in 2023. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

Chinese chips will keep powering your everyday life

The global semiconductor industry is in a state of flux. The US started to take steps to freeze China out of the industry in 2022, pushing the sector to diversify from the Chinese supply chain and build factories elsewhere.

But while the US government’s punitive restrictions will start to bite over the next few months, and the high end of China’s chip industry is likely to suffer, the country may take a bigger role in manufacturing older-generation chips that are still widely used in everyday life. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Zeyi’s story is from China Report, his weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things about China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The must-reads

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

1 China is furious at other countries’ covid travel restrictions 
Beijing claims the covid testing requirements “lack scientific basis.” (The Guardian)
+ AI isn’t very good at detecting covid. (New Scientist $)

2 Sam Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to all charges
He’ll face trial in October. (CoinDesk)
+ It’s possible he’ll try to strike a plea deal with prosecutors. (Economist $)

3 Microsoft wants to integrate ChatGPT into Bing  
It hopes to chip away at Google’s search dominance. (The Information $)
+ How accurate its answers will be is still up for debate. (Bloomberg $)
+ A new app claims to detect whether essays have been written using ChatGPT. (Insider $)
+ How to spot AI-generated text. (MIT Technology Review)

4 US pharmacies can sell abortion pills for the first time
While a prescription is still required, it’ll significantly broaden access to medicated abortions. (BBC)
+ Where to get abortion pills and how to use them. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Political adverts are returning to Twitter 
The U-turn comes months after advertisers started leaving in their droves. (Politico)
+ Covid misinformation spiked on Twitter after NFL player Damar Hamlin collapsed. (WP $)

6 Ethereum is getting greener
It won’t solve crypto’s environmental footprint entirely, though. (Motherboard)
+ Taiwan isn’t worried about the crypto crash. (Rest of World)

7 Instagram is paying musicians a fortune to soundtrack its Reels
It’s low-effort, high-reward. (New Yorker $)
+ But it’s mostly getting tougher out there for online creators. (The Information $)

8 Amazon in Pakistan is overrun with scammers
The fraudsters are concocting increasingly elaborate schemes to trick victims. (Rest of World)

9 Those cheap TVs come at a price 📺
Once a staple of the American home, they’re not the status symbol they used to be. (The Atlantic $)

10 Don’t hold a holiday party in the metaverse 🎉
Your colleagues are unlikely to want to join, unfortunately. (Wired $)

Quote of the day

“I can smell the stench of crime.”

—An unnamed customer criticizes crypto exchange FTX in a complaint filed with the FTC, Gizmodo reports.

The big story

What cities need now

April 2021

Urban technology projects have long sought to manage the city. The latest, “smart city” projects, have much in common with previous iterations. Again and again, these initiatives promise novel “solutions” to urban “problems.”

After a decade of pilot projects and flashy demonstrations, though, it’s still not clear whether smart city technologies can actually solve or even mitigate the challenges cities face. What is clear, however, is that technology companies are increasingly taking on administrative and infrastructure responsibilities that governments have long fulfilled.

If smart cities are to avoid exacerbating urban inequalities, we have to take a long, hard look at how cities have fared so far. Read the full story.

—Jennifer Clark

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.)

+ Did you hear the one about the nun and the monk who fell in love and got married? No, really!
+ The Centenarians of Oklahoma sound absolutely fabulous.
+ An English seaside town canceled its New Year fireworks—to protect a visiting walrus.
+ Loads of us will set ourselves reading goals this year, but not all of us will stick to them.
+ Aww. Rats deride pleasure from watching fellow rodents getting tickled. 🐀

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