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The Download: Twitter’s edit button, and cleaning up fossil fuels

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.

An edit button won’t fix Twitter’s problems

The lowdown: After years of requests, Twitter is finally introducing an edit button, giving its users the ability to change their tweets up to 30 minutes after they’ve been sent. But the feature is unlikely to solve any of the biggest problems facing the company—and in some cases, it could worsen them.

What that means: Twitter has resisted adding the ability to edit tweets for years, even though this has been the most requested feature from its users, including would-be owner Elon Musk. Now, the platform’s paying subscribers will be the first users who are able to edit their tweets “a few times” 30 minutes after they’re sent, while Twitter explores the ways in which the feature could be misused.

The problem is: Experts have repeatedly pointed out that the ability to edit tweets could allow bad actors to rewrite history and spread misinformation, even if a full history of tweet edits is available. Read the full story.

—Rhiannon Williams

The US agency in charge of developing fossil fuels has a new job: cleaning them up

In his first month in office, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for the nation to eliminate carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and achieve net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050.

That move redefined the mandate of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, the research agency whose mission has been to develop more effective ways of producing fossil fuels for almost half a century. Now it’s responsible for helping to clean up the industry.

While the agency continues to research the production of oil, gas, and coal, its central task is minimizing the impacts from the production of those fossil fuels. It also has to decide where billions of dollars allocated by a series of recent federal laws will be put to work, while addressing concerns about carbon capture and the ongoing harms from fossil fuels. Read the full story.

—James Temple

The must-reads

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

1 Jackson is entering its fifth day without water
The Mississippi capital’s residents are bearing the brunt of decades of governmental neglect. (The Guardian)
+ The city has been forced to get by without money for infrastructure or repairs for years. (Vox)
+ It’s still unclear when running water is going to be restored. (NYT$)

2 The impact of overturning Roe v. Wade is global
The decision has emboldened pro-life activists in other countries, too. (KnowableMagazine)

3 California has asked EV owners to hold off on charging
Which is pretty terrible timing, coming just days after its recent announcement to phase out gas-fueled cars. (NYT$)
+ The current heat wave is pushing the power grid to its limits. (LA Times)
+ A solar company wants to build solar panel microgrids in Californian neighborhoods. (NYT$)
+ The US only has 6,000 fast charging stations for EVs. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Meta’s AI can “read” brainwaves
Not very accurately, though. (New Scientist $)

5 This is what an exoplanet looks like
The world, almost 400 light years away, was captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. (Quantity)
+ NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission will attempt to take off again tomorrow. (Space)

6 How police track US citizens’ phones
Without a warrant, either. (Motherboard)
+ Cops built a shadowy surveillance machine in Minnesota after George Floyd’s murder. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Moth’s sensitive ears are like the ultimate microphone
Scientists want to better understand how they work. (IEEE Spectrum)

8 What it’s like to spend a sabbatical inside the metaverse
The weird, uncanny wilderness is even more unsettling with no one to interact with. (Slate$)
+ VRChat users are training visitors in how to run a virtual Kmart. (Wired$)
+ The metaverse is a new word for an old idea. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Video games aren’t treated as serious cultural artifacts
But archivists are hoping to give them the recognition they deserve. (New Yorker$)

10 Musicians are making serious cash off their songs about poop
They can thank kids yelling ‘poop’ at Alexa. (BuzzFeed News)

Quote of the day

“There are no white people there.”

—Gino Womack, program director of nonprofit Operation Good Jackson, explains to Salon how the city’s essential infrastructure, including its water systems, were allowed to fall into disrepair.

The big story

Keynes was wrong. Gen Z will have it worse.

December 2019

The founder of macroeconomics predicted that capitalism would last for approximately 450 years. That’s the length of time between 1580 and 2030, the year by which John Maynard Keynes assumed humanity would have solved the problem of our needs and moved on to higher concerns.

It’s true that today the system seems on the edge of transformation, but not in the way Keynes hoped. Gen Z’s fate was supposed to be to relax into a life of leisure and creativity. Instead it is bracing for stagnant wages and ecological crisis.

What the hell happened? To figure out why Generation Z isn’t going to be Generation EZ, we have to ask some fundamental questions about economics, technology, and progress. After we assumed for a century that a better world would appear on top of our accumulated stuff, the assumptions appear unfounded. Things are getting worse. Read the full story.

—Malcolm Harris

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line ortweet ’em at me.)

+ Turn off those audiobooks—your dog prefers classical music.
+ This vegan risotto sounds absolutely delicious.
+ A reminder that teenagers loved phones long before the advent of the smartphone.
+ I’m still not entirely sure I understand why a bunch of researchers decided to chow down on a 55,000-year old bison.
+ I like the look of these cute lil Pokemon squishmallows.


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