TikTok’s parent company’s new app has reportedly pushed pro-Chinese messages to Americans


When Liu Yang started his current job, he found it difficult to drive his own car again: “I instinctively went for the passenger seat. Or if I was driving, I would expect the car to brake on its own,” said the 33-year-old Beijing native, who joined Chinese tech giant Baidu in January 2021 as a robotaxi driver.

Robotaxi driver is a profession that only exists in our time, the result of an evolving technology that is advanced enough to get rid of a driver – usually in controlled environments – but not good enough to convince authorities that they can abolish human intervene altogether.

Liu is one of hundreds of security operators employed by Baidu who ‘drive’ in Shougang Park five days a week. But despite only having worked for the company for 19 months, he’s already having to think about his next career move as his job is likely to disappear in a few years. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

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The must reads

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

1 ByteDance’s US News App Reportedly Pushed Pro-Chinese Posts
Former employees also say they have been ordered to censor criticism of Beijing. (Buzzfeed)
+ Smartphone sales in China are at their lowest level in a decade. (The register)

2Mark Zuckerberg goes into overdrive
To make the metaverse work, he has to make his employees work even harder. (NYT $)
He’s rightly concerned: Meta is likely to report its first-ever sales drop today. (Reuters)
+ Facebook employees hoping for extra days off can think again. (The edge)
+ Meta is also increasing the prices of its Quest 2 VR headset. (ZDNet)
+ A metaverse security update annoys early users. (Motherboard)

3 An AI convincingly disguised as a philosopher
Which in the wrong hands can be incredibly dangerous. (Motherboard)
+ The new version of GPT-3 behaves much better (and should be less toxic). (MIT Technology Review)

4 How Ticketmaster’s Dynamic Pricing Algorithm Experiment Failed
It was not a good move to charge Bruce Springsteen fans up to $5,000 per ticket. (Variety $)
+ How price algorithms learn to collude. (MIT Technology Review)

5 The New Psychedelic Drug Renaissance Is Here
But critics are wary that it fuels psychedelic capitalism. (wired $)
+ What do psychedelic drugs do to our brains? AI can help us find out. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Russia Says It Will Withdraw From ISS Partnership By 2024
NASA says it hasn’t been officially told, though. (The edge)
Spacetime warped around the sun could hold the key to discovering extraterrestrial life. (Motherboard)

7 New York e-bikes continue to catch fire
Lithium-ion batteries from China seem to be the culprit. (Motherboard)
+ How bike parking pods can make US cities better for cyclists. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Floating plastic in the ocean harbors nasty bacteria
Urinary tract, skin and stomach infections are just some of the less pleasant illnesses they can cause. (Hakai Magazine)
A kidney stone-eating pseudo-parasite seems to have given up the parasitism. (The Atlantic Ocean $)

9 Undersea Internet Cables Could Soon Detect Tsunamis
And track them in real time to prevent future disasters. (New Yorker $)

10 Turns Out Dead Spiders Make Excellent Robots
Especially hydraulic grabs. (Spectrum IEEE)
+ This robot has taught itself to walk all by itself. (MIT Technology Review)