The Download: the rise of gamification, and carbon dioxide storage

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.

How gamification took over the world

It’s a thought that occurs to every video-game player at some point: What if the weird, hyper-focused state I enter when playing in virtual worlds could somehow be applied to the real one?

Often pondered during especially challenging or tedious tasks in meatspace (writing essays, say, or doing your taxes), it’s an eminently reasonable question to ask. Life, after all, is hard. And while video games are too, there’s something almost magical about the way they can promote sustained bouts of superhuman concentration and resolve.

For some, this phenomenon leads to an interest in flow states and immersion. For others, it’s simply a reason to play more games. For a handful of consultants, startup gurus, and game designers in the late 2000s, it became the key to unlocking our true human potential. But instead of liberating us, gamification turned out to be just another tool for coercion, distraction, and control. Read the full story.

—Bryan Gardiner

This piece is from the forthcoming print issue of MIT Technology Review, which explores the theme of Play. It’s set to go live on Wednesday June 26, so if you don’t already, subscribe now to get a copy when it lands.

Why we need to shoot carbon dioxide thousands of feet underground

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) tech has two main steps. First, carbon dioxide is filtered out of emissions at facilities like fossil-fuel power plants. Then it gets locked away, or stored.  

Wrangling pollution might seem like the important bit, and there’s often a lot of focus on what fraction of emissions a CCS system can filter out. But without storage, the whole project would be pretty useless. It’s really the combination of capture and long-term storage that helps to reduce climate impact. 

Storage is getting more attention lately, though, and there’s something of a carbon storage boom coming, as my colleague James Temple covered in his latest storyRead on to find out where we might store captured carbon pollution, and why it matters

—Casey Crownhart

This story is from The Spark, our weekly climate and energy newsletter. 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 How Microsoft is building an AI empire
Its early investment in OpenAI helped it to leapfrog its old rival Google. (WSJ $)
+ OpenAI has lobbying regulators on its mind. (FT $)
+ Microsoft’s bet is paying off: OpenAI’s revenue has doubled. (The Information $)
+ Behind Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s push to get AI tools in developers’ hands. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Rapid tests to target antimicrobial resistance are on the rise
Fast and easy analysis of common infections would stop doctors resorting to antibiotics. (FT $)
+ How bacteria-fighting viruses could go mainstream. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Stable Diffusion’s new release is generating horrifying bodies
Its mangled generations inspire revulsion and amusement in equal measure. (Ars Technica)
+ Text-to-image AI models can be tricked into generating disturbing images. (MIT Technology Review)

4 A hacker broke into Tile’s location tracking system
And they’re holding customer data to ransom. (404 Media)

5 Inside the lucrative black market for Silicon Valley’s stolen bicycles
One man made it his mission to unveil the theft pipeline. (Wired $) 

6 What’s going on with Apple’s Vision Pro?
Analyst estimates suggest it hasn’t sold as well as expected. (NYT $)
+ It’s changing disabled users’ lives for the better. (NY Mag $)

7 Drone mapping is protecting slums from climate disasters
Because informal settlements aren’t visible on standard internet maps. (Bloomberg $)

8 The Excel World Championship is here
Spreadsheet fans, unite! (The Verge

9 This humanoid robot can drive a car 🚗
That’s one solution to the problems posed by driverless cars. (TechCrunch)
+ Is robotics about to have its own ChatGPT moment? (MIT Technology Review)

10 America’s new cricket superstars are also tech workers 🏏
Saurabh Netravalkar, a software engineer for Oracle, is turning his hobby into a global spectacle. (WP $)

Quote of the day

“We desire more of the world than what’s available on 20cm of glass.”

—David Sax, author of the book The Revenge of Analog, tells the Guardian why some people are starting to turn their backs on smartphones.

The big story

The search for extraterrestrial life is targeting Jupiter’s icy moon Europa

February 2024

Europa, Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon, is nothing like ours. Its surface is a vast saltwater ocean, encased in a blanket of cracked ice, one that seems to occasionally break open and spew watery plumes into the moon’s thin atmosphere. 

For these reasons, Europa captivates planetary scientists. All that water and energy—and hints of elements essential for building organic molecules —point to another extraordinary possibility. Jupiter’s big, bright moon could host life. 

And they may eventually get some answers. Later this year, NASA plans to launch Europa Clipper, the largest-­ever craft designed to visit another planet. Scheduled to reach Jupiter in 2030, it will spend four years analyzing this moon to determine whether it could support life. Read the full story.

—Stephen Ornes

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Boston’s newest sport, cliff diving, is attracting a lot of attention.
+ Why brat green has taken over the internet.
+ The annual Gloucestershire cheese-rolling race is bigger, and more perilous, than ever. 🧀
+ Relaxing summer vibes? Say no more

Source From technologyreview
Author: Rhiannon Williams