The Download: how to combat deepfake porn, and Neuralink’s first implant

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Plus: Microsoft has made changes to the AI tool used to create Taylor Swift deepfakes

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.

Three ways we can fight deepfake porn

Last week, sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift, one of the world’s biggest pop stars, went viral online. Millions of people viewed nonconsensual deepfake porn of Swift on the social media platform X, which has since taken the drastic step of blocking all searches for Taylor Swift to try to get the problem under control.

This is not a new phenomenon: deepfakes have been around for years. However, the rise of generative AI has made it easier than ever to create deepfake pornography and sexually harass people using AI-generated images and videos.

Thankfully, there is some hope. Our senior AI writer Melissa Heikkilä has set out three ways we can combat nonconsensual deepfake porn. Read the full story.

Read Melissa’s open letter to Taylor Swift in the latest edition of The Algorithm, our weekly AI newsletter. While the reality is that there is no neat technical fix for this grim problem, Swift’s stature means that she has the rare opportunity—and momentum—to push through real, actionable change. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

The must-reads

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

1 Neuralink has implanted its first device in a human brain, says Musk
He also said the patient is recovering well from the procedure. (WSJ $)
+ The company is yet to share any more concrete details, though. (Wired $)
+ Elon Musk wants more bandwidth between people and machines. Do we need it? (MIT Technology Review)

2 Microsoft has made changes to the AI tool used to create Taylor Swift deepfakes
It closed spelling loopholes in its Designer tool that circumvented its ban on generating nude images. (404 Media)
+ X has lifted its temporary ban on searches for the pop superstar. (WSJ $)
+ The amount of deepfake porn online is likely to skyrocket. (Slate $)

3 Drone warfare is becoming accessible to all
As the attack on a US base in Jordan at the weekend shows, the US no longer has a monopoly on these sorts of strikes. (Vox)
+ Mass-market military drones have changed the way wars are fought. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Amazon has giving up on trying to acquire iRobot
Which is music to regulators’ ears. (WP $)
+ A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook? (MIT Technology Review)

5 Scientists have found the first evidence of transmitted Alzheimer’s cases
A now-banned hormone treatment introduced infectious proteins to patients’ brains. (FT $)

6 We can’t have more electric trucks without installing more chargers
So the biggest truck makers are uniting to pressure the US government to build more. (NYT $)
+ Why getting more EVs on the road is all about charging. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Goodbye chip transistors, hello memcapacitors
The new form of chips would rely on electrical fields, not currents, to perform calculations. (TechCrunch)

8 How the world’s largest music company is experimenting with AI
Universal boss Lucien Grange refuses to run scared. Can he bend AI to his will? (New Yorker $)
+ Sony’s AI ethicist is all about consent. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ These impossible instruments could change the future of music. (MIT Technology Review)

9 TikTok is tinkering with making all posts shoppable
Is there a product in your clip? Tap here to buy it. (Bloomberg $)
+ It looks like its AI identifying tools need a fair bit of work, though. (The Verge)

10 A new hipster social network is on the horizon
Perfectly Imperfect wants to capture the naive promise of the early web. (The Verge)

Quote of the day

“Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal.”

—Elon Musk describes his ultimate vision for his first Neuralink brain implant product, which he says is called Telepathy.

The big story

Inside the messy ethics of making war with machines

August 2023

In recent years, intelligent autonomous weapons have become a matter of serious concern. Giving an AI system the power to decide matters of life and death would radically change warfare forever.

But weapons that fully displace human decision-making have (likely) yet to see real-world use. Even the “autonomous” drones and ships fielded by the US and other powers are used under close human supervision. 

However, these systems have become sophisticated enough to raise novel questions—ones that are trickier to answer than the well-­covered wrangles over killer robots. What does it mean when a decision is only part human and part machine? And when, if ever, is it ethical for that decision to be a decision to kill? Read the full story.

—Arthur Holland Michel

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 .)

+ How one man shook his addiction to laverbread seaweed, aka Welshman’s caviar.
+ Toddlers aren’t known for their discerning taste, but some of their books are better than others.
+ Malaysia’s interpretation of Middle Earth’s Shire is quite something.
+ Netflix’s new dystopian film The Kitchen sounds great.
+ Happy 73rd birthday to Phil Collins—one of the best to ever do it.

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