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Americans won’t be able to download TikTok or WeChat from Sunday

What’s happening? The US Commerce Department has issued an order banning Americans from downloading Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat; it’s due to come into effect on Sunday, September 20. Existing users in the US will still be able to use the apps, but they won’t receive updates or patches from Sunday onwards, and the apps will both disappear from...

A patient has died after ransomware hackers hit a German hospital

For the first time ever, a patient’s death has been linked directly to a cyberattack. Police have launched a “negligent homicide” investigation after ransomware disrupted emergency care at Düsseldorf University Hospital in Germany. The victim: Prosecutors in Cologne say a female patient from Düsseldorf was scheduled to undergo critical...

Letter-writing staved off lockdown loneliness. Now it’s getting out the vote.

For the past couple of years, Courtney Cochran hosted a Nashville-based meetup group called the Snail Mail Social Club. Before the pandemic, it involved people gathering, pen and paper in hand, to write letters together. “It was a fun social endeavor,” Cochran says. “You got some face-to-face connecting time with people.” When the coronavirus...

From support function to growth engine: The future of AI and customer service

When it comes to imagining the future, customer service often gets painted in a dystopian light. Take the 2002 sci-fi film Minority Report. Tom Cruise’s John Anderton walks into the Gap, an identity recognition system scans him, and a hologram asks about a recent purchase. There’s something unsettling in this vignette—an unsolicited non-human...

Why kids need special protection from AI’s influence

Algorithms can change the course of children’s lives. Kids are interacting with Alexas that can record their voice data and influence their speech and social development. They’re binging videos on TikTok and YouTube pushed to them by recommendation systems that end up shaping their worldviews. Algorithms are also increasingly used to determine...

Trump’s rollbacks could add half an EU’s worth of climate pollution by 2035

US President Donald Trump has successfully moved the nation backwards on climate change, even as the world grapples with increasingly devastating fires, heat waves and droughts. His rollbacks of major environmental policies, should they survive legal challenges and subsequent administrations, could pump the equivalent of 1.8 billion additional...

Suppressing fires has failed. Here’s what California needs to do instead.

Five of California’s 10 largest fires in modern history are all burning at once. Together, this year’s wildfires have already destroyed 4,200 buildings, forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, and scorched more than 3.2 million acres across the state. That’s larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks combined, and...

Podcast: COVID-19 is helping turn Brazil into a surveillance state

Leading discussions about the global rules to regulate digital privacy and surveillance is a somewhat unusual role for a developing country to play. But Brazil had been doing just that for over a decade. Edward Snowden’s bombshell in 2014 detailing the US National Security Agency’s digital surveillance activities changed all that. It included...

We need to go to Venus as soon as possible

Venus has long played second fiddle to its redder, smaller, and more distant sibling. Given how inhospitable we’ve learned Venus to be, we’ve spent the majority of the last century pinning some of our biggest hopes of finding signs of extraterrestrial life on Mars.  That all changed this week.  On Monday it was announced that a...

Synthetic biologists have created a slow-growing version of the coronavirus to give as a vaccine

WELLCOME COLLECTION In the 1950s, Albert Sabin was searching for an improved polio vaccine. To that end, his lab infected the brains of mice, chimpanzees, and monkeys with the virus that causes the disease. They wanted to see if the pathogen would change and if weakened forms might arise. They eventually isolated versions of the polio...

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