The Download: The Shame Trap of Algorithms and London’s Safer Crosswalks

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

How algorithms trap us in a cycle of shame

At the start of the 2008 financial crisis, mathematician Cathy O’Neil was working in finance, seeing firsthand how many people trusted algorithms — and how much destruction they wreaked. Discouraged, she switched to the tech industry, but encountered the same blind faith. After her departure, she wrote a book in 2016 that disproved the idea that algorithms are objective.

O’Neil showed how each algorithm is trained on historical data to spot patterns, and how they break in malicious ways. For example, algorithms designed to predict the likelihood of re-arrest can unduly tax people, mostly people of color, who are poor, live in the wrong neighborhood, or have untreated mental health problems or addictions.

Over time, she realized another major factor that compounded these inequalities: shame. Society shames people for things they have no choice or voice in, such as weight or addiction problems, and arms itself against that humiliation. The next step, O’Neill acknowledged, was to fight back. Read the full story.

—Allison Arieff

London is experimenting with traffic lights that put pedestrians first

The news: For pedestrians, walking in a city can be like navigating an obstacle course. Transport for London, the public authority behind transport services in the British capital, has tested a new type of crossing designed to make traffic on busy streets safer and easier.

How does it work? Instead of waiting for the “green man” to signal to cross the road, pedestrians will encounter green as the default when approaching one of the city’s 18 intersections. The light only changes to red when the sensor detects an approaching vehicle – a first in the UK.

How was it received? After a nine-month trial, the data is encouraging: there is virtually no impact on traffic, it saves pedestrians time and makes them 13% more likely to obey traffic lights. Read the full story.

—Rachael Revesz

Check out these stories from our new Urbanism issue. You can read the full magazine for yourself and subscribe to get future editions delivered to your door for as little as $120 a year.

– How social media filters help people explore their gender identity.
– The limitations of planting trees as a way to combat climate change.

Podcast: Who’s Watching the AI ​​Watching Students?

A boy wrote about his suicide attempt. He didn’t know his school’s software was watching. While schools often use AI to search students’ digital lives and flag keywords that could be seen as cause for concern, critics are asking: what does privacy cost? We dive into this story, and the wider world of school supervision, in the last episode from our award-winning podcast, In Machines We Trust.

See here

ICYMI: Our TR35 List of Innovators for 2022

In case you missed it yesterday, our annual TR35 list of the hottest young minds aged 35 and under is out now! Read it online here or subscribe to read about it in the print edition of our new Urbanism issue here

The must reads

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

1 There’s Now A Crazy Patchwork Of Abortion Laws In The US
Overthrowing Roe has led to a legal quagmire, including some abortion laws contracting others within the same state. †FT
+ Protesters doxx the Supreme Court on TikTok. †Motherboard
Planned Parenthood’s abortion planning tool could share data. †WP
+ This is the kind of data that government agencies could use to prosecute. †WSJ
+ Tech companies need to be transparent about what to share. †WP
+ This is what people are Googling in the trigger states. †Vox

2 Chinese students were lured into spying for Beijing
The recent graduates were tasked with translating hacked documents. †FT
+ The FBI accused him of spying for China. It has ruined his life. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Why it’s time to adjust our expectations of AI
Researchers are fed up with the hype. †WSJ
However, Meta still wants to build intelligent machines that learn like humans. †Spectrum IEEE
+ Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Understanding how the neurons of the brain really work will help with better AI models. †Economist

4 Bitcoin Faces Its Biggest Drop in More Than 10 Years
The era of freewheeling growth is really coming to an end. †Bloomberg
The crash threatens millions of funds stolen by North Korea. †Reuters
+ The crypto apocalypse could worsen before it is eliminated. †the guard
+ The EU is one step closer to regulating crypto. †Reuters

5 Singapore’s New Online Security Laws Are A Thinly Covered Power Grab
Enabling the authoritarian government to exert even more control over citizens. †Rest of the world

6 Recommendations algorithms require effort to work properly
Telling them what you like makes it more likely that it will present you decent suggestions. †The edge

7 China Is On A Mission To Find An Earth-Like Planet
But what they will find is a guess. †Motherboard
+ ESA’s Gaia probe sheds light on what floats in the Milky Way. †wired

8 Inside the YouTube Metaworld of Video Criticism
Creators who analyze other creators make for captivating viewing. †NYT
+ Long videos help creators to avoid creative burnout. †NBC

9 Time-Pressed Daters Research Potential Candidates Via Video Chat
To learn the geography of the country before committing to an IRL meeting. †The Atlantic Ocean

10 How Fandoms Shaped The Internet
For good – and for bad. †New Yorker

Quote of the day

“This isn’t just any monkey business.”

-A lawsuit filed by Yuga Labs, makers of the Bored Ape NFT collection, against conceptual artists Ryder Ripps, alleging that Ripps copied their signature monkey artwork, Gizmodo reports.

The big story

This restaurant duo wants a carbon-free food system. Can 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 big vision: they wanted it to be completely carbon neutral. Their “environmental awareness lab in the food world” opened in January 2016 in San Francisco, and the pièce de résistance was serving meat with a dramatically lower carbon footprint than usual.

Myint and Leibowitz realized they were on to something much bigger — and that perhaps the easiest and most practical way to tackle global warming was food. But they also realized that what has been called the “most sustainable restaurant in the country” couldn’t fix the broken system on its own. So in early 2019, they dared themselves to do something different that no one expected. They shut down The Perennial. Read the full story.

—Clint Rainey

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Do you have an idea? Give me a call or tweet them to me

+ A look at the UK thriving train spotting scene (Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name.)
+ This is the very definition of a burn
+ A solid scientific joke
+ This funny twitter account compiles some of the weirdest public Spotify playlists out there (Shout out to Rappers with memory problems
+ Have you been lucky enough to see any of these? weird and beautiful buildings personal?