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.

Google DeepMind wants to define what counts as artificial general intelligence

AGI, or artificial general intelligence, is one of the hottest topics in tech today. It’s also one of the most controversial. A big part of the problem is that few people agree on what the term even means. 

AGI typically means artificial intelligence that matches (or outmatches) humans on a range of tasks. But specifics about what counts as human-like, what tasks, and how many all tend to get waved away: AGI is AI, but better.

Now a team of Google DeepMind researchers has put out a paper that cuts through the cross talk with not just one new definition for AGI — but a whole taxonomy of them.

We got an exclusive insight into how the Google DeepMind team came up with their definitions—including five ascending levels of AGI—and what they’re hoping to achieve. Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

Exclusive: Behind Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s push to get AI tools in developers’ hands

Satya Nadella is obsessed with developers. The Microsoft CEO has been doing the rounds at various conferences over the past few weeks, surprising attendees at OpenAI’s DevDay and GitHub Universe with unannounced appearances last week.

He also took to the stage yesterday speaking to developers at Microsoft Ignite, explaining all the ways in which devs can take advantage of its new AI-based tools to build exciting new systems and experiences. But he also had a message: The way we create software is fundamentally changing.

Nadella took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with Mat Honan, our editor in chief, to discuss the transition to natural language AI tools, some of which he argues will lower the barrier to entry for software development, and ultimately lead to a new era of creativity. Read the full story.

Why is the universe so complex and beautiful?

Why isn’t the universe boring? It could be. It could be just a monotonous desert of sameness. Instead, we have a universe filled with stars and planets, canyons and waterfalls, pine trees and people. But why is any of this stuff here?

Cosmologists have pieced together an answer to this question over the past half-century, using a variety of increasingly complex experiments and observational instruments. But as is nearly always the case in science, that answer is incomplete. 

Now, with new experiments of breathtaking sensitivity, physicists are hoping to spot a never-before-seen event that could explain one of the great remaining mysteries in that story: why there was any matter around to form complicated things in the first place. Read the full story.

—Adam Becker

‘Why is the universe so complex and beautiful?’ is part of our new mini-series The Biggest Questions, which explores how technology is helping probe some of the deepest, most mind-bending mysteries of our existence.

Read more: 

+ How did life begin? AI is helping chemists unpick the mysteries around the origins of life and detect signs of it on other worlds. Read the full story.

+ Are we alone in the universe? Scientists are training machine-learning models and designing instruments to hunt for life on other worlds. Read the full story.

+ Is it possible to really understand someone else’s mind? How we think, feel and experience the world is a mystery to everyone but us. But technology may be starting to help us understand the minds of others. Read the full story.

What’s coming next for fusion research

The concept behind fusion is pretty simple: the power source could provide consistent energy from widely available fuel without producing radioactive waste. But making a fusion power plant a reality will require a huge amount of science and technology progress. Though some milestones have been reached, many are yet to come.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory made headlines around the world when it achieved what’s called net energy gain, finally demonstrating that fusion reactions can generate more energy than is used to start them up, last year.

This week at our EmTech MIT event, our climate reporter Casey Crownhart sat down with Kimberly Budil, the lab’s director, to hear more about this moment for fusion research, where the national labs fit in, and where we go from here. Read the full story.

This story is from The Spark, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things climate and energy. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The must-reads

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

1 US investigators don’t know how many times Cruise cars have hit people
Mainly because its safety incident reporting system isn’t fit for purpose. (404 Media)
+ Robotaxis are here. It’s time to decide what to do about them. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Antisemitic and Islamophobic hate speech is surging online
The Israel-Gaza conflict is driving a huge spike in hate speech across both mainstream and more niche social platforms. (NYT $)
+ Google workers are protesting its contract with the Israeli government. (The Intercept)
+ How scientists are being squeezed to take sides in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. (MIT Technology Review)

3 SpaceX is preparing to launch its Starship rocket tomorrow
It’s been seven long months since its first launch test exploded mid-air. (The Verge)
+ The FFA is confident everything should run smoothly a second time. (CNBC)
+ Japan’s Ispace startup is planning a second launch, too. (Bloomberg $)

4 Nutrition influencers have landed in hot water
US regulators are clamping down on health social media stars who fail to disclose their financial backers. (WP $)
+ The AI doctor will see you now. (The Information $)

5 Meta is loosening its political advertising rules
Including allowing ads critiquing the 2020 US Presidential election’s legitimacy. (WSJ $)
+ The company is fighting back against the EU’s accusation that it’s a gatekeeper. (Reuters)

7 The complicated reality of deepfakes
Synthetic media is worrying—but its real, tangible harms have yet to be realized. (New Yorker $)
+ The biggest threat of deepfakes isn’t the deepfakes themselves. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Teenagers are being exposed to traumatic content while training AI
 Underage workers are labeling vast datasets for AI firms, and witnessing the internet’s worst offerings in the process. (Wired $)
+ Google is starting to let teens use its Bard chatbot. (The Verge)
+ We are all AI’s free data workers. (MIT Technology Review)

9 A new treatment for Alzheimer’s could be on the horizon
Harnessing young neurons could help to preserve a person’s memory. (Economist $)

10 Cassette tapes refuse to die
A full 60 years after the very first compact cassette went on sale. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“Your 2024 glow up starts now!”

—Jodie Taylor, a lifestyle content creator, urges her TikTok followers to start working towards achieving their new year’s resolutions as early as September, the New York Times reports.

The big story

This artist is dominating AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it.

September 2022

Greg Rutkowski is a Polish digital artist who uses classical styles to create dreamy landscapes. His distinctive style has been used in some of the world’s most popular fantasy games, including Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering.

Now he’s become a hit in the new world of text-to-image AI generation. His name is one of the most commonly used prompts in the open-source AI art generator Stable Diffusion.

But this and other open-source programs are built by scraping images from the internet, often without permission and proper attribution to artists. As a result, they are raising tricky questions about ethics and copyright. And artists like Rutkowski have had enough. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

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.)

+ As websites go, they don’t get much better than Pimp That Snack.
+ This saxophonist is having the absolute time of his life.
+ Upload a drawing to Meta’s system, and turn it into a clever lil animation.
+ Water is a real challenge to represent in video games—but it’s getting better all the time.
+ The only brief history I’m interested in is the brief history of mashed potatoes.

Source From technologyreview
Author: Rhiannon Williams