The Download: Text-to-Video AI and China’s Big Methanol Bet

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

Meta’s new AI can turn text prompts into videos

What happened: Meta has unveiled an AI system that generates short videos based on text prompts. Make-A-Video allows you to type a series of words, such as “A dog wearing a superhero outfit with a red cape flying through the air”, then generates a five-second clip that, while quite accurate, enhances the aesthetics. has of a trippy old home video.

How it works: Meta combined data from three open-source image and video data sets to train the model. Standard text-image datasets of labeled still images helped the AI ​​learn what objects are called and what they look like. And a database of videos helped it learn how those objects should move in the world.

Why it matters: While the effect is rather crude, the system offers an early glimpse of what’s to come for generative artificial intelligence, and it’s the next obvious step from the text-to-image AI systems which have caused tremendous excitement this year. But it also raises some big ethical questions. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

China is investing heavily in another alternative to petrol engines: methanol cars

As the Chinese government works to achieve ambitious carbon targets, the country has become a global leader in the adoption of electric vehicles. But that’s not the only greener car alternative it’s pursuing.

Although methanol fuel has been discussed and tested in China for a decade, its acceptance has long lagged. Now the government is seeking to accelerate the adoption of methanol cars, along with other state efforts over the past year to set standards for methanol cars and support relevant industries, and reaffirm its commitment to the alternative fuel.

This is important because, like EVs, the technology could become both a commercial success and a political boost to China’s climate technology ambitions. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Can we find ways to live above 100? Millionaires bet on it.

Scientists and biotechs networked with uber-wealthy investors this week at a posh conference in Switzerland, advocating long-term science and anti-aging strategies. My colleague Jess Hamzelou, our senior biomedical reporter, joined them and got an inside look at the most cutting edge work in the field. Read what she discovered.

Jess’ story comes from The Checkup, her new weekly newsletter that gives you the inside track on all things health and technology. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

The must reads

I’ve scoured the internet to find today’s funniest/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Hurricane Ian Left Huge Areas Of Florida Underwater
As it heads toward South Carolina, Biden has warned it could become the deadliest in Florida history. (the guard)
+ Coral reefs are an effective natural defense against hurricanes. (Vox)
+ The storm is a powerful mix of powerful and unpredictable. (The Atlantic $)
+ It could be on track to join the list of storms as violent as Katrina. (New York $)

2 Iran ramps up internet outages and censorship
So far, it has not achieved the government’s desired outcome. (slate $)
+ A niche tech publisher sheds light on China’s surveillance machine. (The Atlantic $)

3 What makes plastic so useful also makes it a nightmare to recycle
A new method of breaking it down could help. (Economist $)
+ A French company uses enzymes to recycle one of the most common single-use plastics. (MIT The Tech Warrior)

4 Why the Russian Cyber ​​War Never Really Came Out
The attacks it landed did not have the intended consequences. (FT$)
+ Here’s how the war in Ukraine could end. (New York $)
+ Reportedly, Russian men pretend to have HIV to escape conscription. (Rest of the world)

5 Jack Dorsey Tried To Get Elon Musk A Place On The Twitter Board
But the other members thought the appointment was too risky. (CNBC)
The former CEO also tried to get Musk and CEO Parag Agrawal on the right track. (WSJ$)
+ Musk wanted to search for ‘Trump’ in his hunt for bot data. (Bloomberg $)
+ Musk also toyed with Oprah’s nomination to Twitter’s board. (The information $)

6 The Arctic Ocean Is Getting More Acidic Fast
Unsurprisingly, climate change is the culprit. (Motherboard)
+ China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is suffering. (Vox)

7 Restarting The Hubble Telescope Would Give It A New Life
NASA and SpaceX think they can do just that. (BBC)
+ NASA has captured beautiful photos of Jupiter’s moon Europa. (New Scientist $)

8 Brace yourself for another wave of home testing
They aren’t just for covid either. (Neo.Life)
+ Genome sequencing has never been so cheap or easy. (TheTechWarrior $)

9 Why Voice Notes Are So Controversial
Send yours with caution. (WSJ$)
+ Lasers can send a whispered audio message directly to one person’s ear. (MIT The Tech Warrior)

10 AI Makes Terrible New Pokémon
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. (WP$)
+ This artist dominates AI generated art. And he’s not happy about it. (MIT The Tech Warrior)

Quote of the day

“I think you learn who your real friends are if you can’t get an assignment in their seed round ”

—Maia Bittner, an angel investor, jokingly tweets about the pitfalls of investing in friends’ startups, Bloomberg reports.

The big story

Meet the wannabe kidfluencers vying for stardom

Dec 2019

On YouTube, kids can become millionaires – seemingly overnight, without trying. The highest paid of them, eight-year-old Ryan Kaji, made $22 million in 2018 playing with toys on his channel Ryan ToysReview (now Ryan’s World). There are now thousands of similar famous kids YouTubers: babies who have been vlogged from birth, 10-year-old streamers showing video game tricks, teenage girls giving acne advice from their bedroom.

Why do so many kids want to be YouTubers? Are they just seeking fame, or is there more to it: creativity, community, and a future career? How do their parents help them? And what happens if, after spending thousands of dollars or dropping out of school, it doesn’t work out? Read the full story.

—Amelia Taito

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Have any ideas? Message me ortweet them to me.)

+ Francis Ford Coppola’s excellent chiller Bram Stoker’s Dracula is back in theaters this Halloween. Enjoy the lavish 4K trailer here.
+ These scallops can’t get enough of bright lights.
Cher’s sprawling home is as opulent as you’d expect.
+ No, it’s not a joke, they really make The Matrix a dance show.
+ Controversial Take Horn: Are These Really The Best Songs Of The 90s?