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 did China come to dominate the world of electric cars?

Before most people could realize what was happening, China became a world leader in electric vehicles. And the momentum hasn’t slowed: In just the past two years, the number of EVs sold annually in the country grew from 1.3 million to a whopping 6.8 million. 

The industry is growing at a speed that has surprised even the most experienced observers, giving China’s auto industry sustained growth during the pandemic. It has also boosted the country in its quest to become one of the world’s climate policy leaders.

But the story of how the sector got here is about more than just Chinese state policy. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

How OpenAI is trying to make ChatGPT safer and less biased

Have you been threatened by an AI chatbot yet? Over the past week it seems like almost every news outlet has tried Microsoft’s Bing AI search and found that the chatbot makes up stupid and creepy stuff. OpenAI, the startup behind the chatbot’s language technology, has also gotten a lot of (likely baseless) heat from conservatives in the US who have accused its chatbot ChatGPT of having a “woke” bias. 

All this outrage is finally having an impact, and OpenAI has realized it needs to do more to reassure the public. Our senior AI reporter Melissa Heikkilä spoke to two AI policy researchers at OpenAI to hear more about how the company is making ChatGPT safer and less nuts. Read the full story.

Melissa’s story is from The Algorithm, her weekly AI newsletter. 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 China’s courts are invalidating western tech patents
In a bid to give its own businesses a leg up. (WSJ $)
+ China’s tech sector is uneasy after a prominent banker mysteriously disappeared. (FT $)
+ The sector’s toxic reputation is failing to attract talent from overseas. (SCMP $)

2 Russia is no closer to winning the war than it was a year ago
But it still has enough resources to keep fighting for the foreseeable future. (FT $)
+ How Ukraine’s startups managed to thrive and even grow. (The Information $)
+ Turkey has denied supplying tech to Russia’s military. (FT $) 

3 Hackers are selling logins to major data centers
Including credentials for Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. (Bloomberg $)

4 How Berlin’s tech scene is becoming more inclusive
A New Yorker is helping female refugees to enter the city’s tech scene. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Why can’t tech fix its gender problem? (MIT Technology Review)
+ The voices of women in tech are still being erased. (MIT Technology Review)

5 These underwater cables can improve tsunami detection
The project could save lives by alerting island residents when deadly waves are forming. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Telemedicine has made it easier to get hold of ketamine
Advocates claim the drug can alleviate depression, but doctors are concerned. (NYT $)
+ Mind-altering substances are being overhyped as wonder drugs. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Inside the dangerous city at the heart of the EV industry
Workers in the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park are risking their lives daily. (Wired $)
+ Nigeria has struck a deal with China over its lithium supplies. (Rest of World)+ Why ebike batteries keep exploding. (Slate $)

8 We should protect the Amazon at all costs
Its loss would have wide-ranging climate repercussions. (Scientific American $)
+ We aren’t terrified enough about losing the Amazon. (MIT Technology Review)

9 How to teach AI to speak with a perfect Latino Spanish accent
Voice actors are increasingly training the very technology that will replace them. (Rest of World)
+ What it’s like to find out you’re the voice of Siri. (Insider $)

10 Why you shouldn’t use your phone number to log in
The hacking risks are high. (Vox)

Quote of the day

“They are killing civilians, women, children… and then saying they came here to help us and liberate us. Liberate us from what? Life.”

—Liudmila Zadnipriany, a Ukrainian woman whose son was killed in the conflict, rubbishes Vladimir Putin’s claims that Ukraine and its western allies started the war to the BBC.

The big story

This super-realistic virtual world is a driving school for AI

February 2022

Building driverless cars is a slow and expensive business. After years of effort and billions of dollars of investment, the technology is still stuck in the pilot phase.

Autonomous technology company Waabi thinks it can do better. Last year it revealed the controversial new shortcut to autonomous vehicles it’s betting on. The big idea? Ditch the cars.

Wasabi has built a super-realistic virtual environment called Waabi World. Instead of training an AI driver in real vehicles, it plans to do it entirely inside the simulation. But simulation alone is a bold strategy, and how far it can go depends on how realistic Waabi World really is. Read the full story

—Will Douglas Heaven

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.)

+ Lesley Paterson should win an Oscar purely for this inspirational tale (thanks Charlotte!)
+ Are you protecting your peace
+ This adorable fat cat is the Polish city of Szczecin’s top tourist attraction.
+ Enjoy these famous photographers’ pictures of their partners.
+ Leonardo da Vinci, not content with being a literal Renaissance man, had a remarkably accurate understanding of gravity, too.


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