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The Download: what’s next for supercomputers, and electrifying everything

August 2022

We all want to be able to speak our minds online—to be heard by our friends and talk (back) to our opponents. At the same time, we don’t want to be exposed to unpleasant speech.

Technology companies address this conundrum by setting standards for free speech, a practice protected under federal law, hiring in-house moderators to examine individual pieces of content and removing them if posts violate predefined rules.

The approach clearly has problems: harassment, misinformation about topics like public health, and false descriptions of legitimate elections run rampant. But even if content moderation were implemented perfectly, it would still miss a whole host of issues. We need a new strategy: treat social media companies as potential polluters of the social fabric, and directly measure and mitigate the effects their choices have on human populations. Read the full story.

—Nathaniel Lubin & Thomas Krendl Gilbert

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.)

+ They don’t make posters like these any more.
+ Spare a thought for Barbie Oppenheimer, a former Boston University professor, who’s probably just weathered the longest summer of her life.
+ The world gravy wrestling championships looks like good clean fun.
+ It’s Oktoberfest time again!
+ Enjoy this straight-up ‘90s banger.

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