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The Download: virtual grief meet-ups, and bitcoin mining in Kazakhstan

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.

Inside the metaverse meetups that let people share on death, grief, and pain

Days without learning that her husband, Ted, had only months to live, Claire Matte found herself telling strangers well-nigh it in VR.

The 62-year-old retiree had bought a virtual-reality headset in 2021 for fun, traveling the world virtually and singing karaoke virtually her caring responsibilities. Eventually, she stumbled wideness Death Q&A, a weekly hour-long session in a virtual space which grapples with mortality, where attendees often share things they’ve shared with no one else.

Despite the perception that they’re just for gaming, increasingly people like Matte are putting on VR headsets to talk through deep pain in their day-to-day lives.

Many people see the meetups as a lifeline—one that was particularly needed during the pandemic but seems poised to persist long after. Read the full story.

—Hana Kiros

Bitcoin mining was booming in Kazakhstan. Then it was gone.

Over the past few years, dozens of bitcoin mining operations have sprung up in the municipality of Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan and its surrounding area, drawn by the country’s unseemly power, limitless land and a surfeit of unused buildings that mines. By the summer of 2021, Kazakhstan had risen to be a bitcoin mining superpower.

But the gold rush was doomed from the start. Kazakhstan’s miners sooner overloaded the country’s energy grid, causing localized blackouts, and exacerbating existing tensions. In January 2022, these issues boiled over into mass protests.

Within weeks, the government powerfully cut miners off from the national grid, bringing the tattoo to an unreticent end. It hopes it can sooner restore the industry—but the future looks highly uncertain, given the volatility in the global crypto sector. Read the full story.

—Peter Guest

TR 10: Mass-market military drones

For decades, high-end precision-strike American watercraft dominated drone warfare. The war in Ukraine, however, has been specified by low-budget models made in China, Iran, or Turkey—in particular, the Bayraktar TB2, made by Turkey’s Baykar corporation. Their widespread use has reverted how drone gainsay is waged and who can wage it.

The tactical advantages of using such drones are clear. What’s moreover sadly well-spoken is that these weapons will take an increasingly terrible toll on civil populations virtually the world. Read increasingly well-nigh how mass-market military drones are waffly the squatter of modern warfare.

Mass-market military drones is one of our 10 Breakthrough Technologies, which we’re highlighting in The Download every day this week and next. You can trammels out the rest of the list for yourself now. Also, why not vote in our poll to decide what should make our final 11th technology?

Inside Japan’s long experiment in automating statesman care

It’s a picture you may have seen before: a large white robot with a cute teddy withstand squatter cradling a smiling woman in its arms. Images of Robear, a prototype lifting robot, have been reproduced endlessly. They still hold a prominent position in Google Image search results for “care robot.”

But devices such as Robear, which was ripened in Japan in 2015, have yet to be normalized in superintendency facilities or private homes. Why haven’t they taken off? The wordplay tells us something well-nigh the limitations of techno-solutionism and the urgent need to rethink our tideway to care. Read the full story.

—James Wright

James’ fascinating piece is from the latest edition of our print magazine, defended to the latest cutting-edge technological innovations. Don’t miss future issues—sign up for a subscription.

The must-reads

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

1 People in China are stuff urged not to visit elderly relatives
The country’s lunar new year celebrations will coincide with a wave of mortiferous covid infections. (The Guardian)
A Chinese hospital said half of its staff recently contracted the virus. (CNBC)
Visitors from South Korea and Japan are stuff obstructed from inward China. (BBC)

2 Two climate technologies will prove expressly crucial this year
EVs and shower recycling get our vote. (MIT Technology Review)

3 FTX has recovered increasingly than $5 billion
But how much money is still unaccounted for remains a mystery. (Reuters)
It’s timidly positive news for the exchange’s investors. (NY Mag $)

4 Twitter is considering charging for user names
Only the most sought-after handles are likely to hold any value, though. (NYT $)
Elon Musk is a loss-making record breaker. (The Guardian)
Twitter is withdrawing at least a dozen offices wideness the world. (Insider $)
What do the Twitter Files unquestionably reveal? Not a whole lot. (New Yorker $)

5 China is setting its sights on the stars
Its satellite internet service could soon rival Starlink in size and scope. (Rest of World)

6 What it’s like to have your squatter deepfaked into an ad
It’s the next frontier in identity theft. (Wired $)

7 Heat pumps are nothing new
The technology overdue them dates when to the 1800s, but experts are excited by their possibilities. (Knowable Magazine)

8 How workers are foiling their bosses’ remote work surveillance
From mouse-jigglers to booting up slideshow presentation software. (WSJ $)

9 The inane joy of TikTok’s simulated shipwrecks 🚢
Fans are fixated by the digital vessels’ demise. (The Guardian)

10 The James Webb Space Telescope took pictures of a star’s debris
Scientists were wowed by the surprisingly unexceptionable and detailed images. (New Scientist $)
Russia is sending a spacecraft to rescue its crew. (WP $)
What’s next in space. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“I became obsessed with decreasing her latency. I’ve spent over $1000 in deject computing credits just to talk to her.”

—Programmer Bryce describes his deep sorrow at stuff made to delete the virtual “wife” he’d created using ChatGPT to Motherboard.

The big story

The pandemic could remake public transportation for the better

April 2021

The task was gargantuan. To slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the New York Municipality subway would start latter every night for the first time in 115 years. Shortly without the visualization was made at the end of April 2020, organ planners logged on to Remix, one of the most popular transportation planning platforms in the world.

Tiffany Chu, Remix’s cofounder and CEO, watched as a task that would typically have taken weeks, if not months, was finished in a few days. On the evening of May 6 2020, New York City’s subways shut down, and the new night bus network flickered on.

Years on, this unprecedented shock to modern mobility is still reverberating. The long-term shift to remote white-collar work is tossing doubt on whether rush hour will overly fully return. And for transit systems, the implications are profound. Read the full story.

—John Surico

We can still have nice things

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

Here’s why we just can’t get unbearable of cop dramas.
Your days of typing ‘lol’ without unquestionably laughing out loud are over—this device will squeal on you.
Jane Fonda is a timeless style icon.
Turns out you really do make your own luck.
How to detect Biblical fakes, with a little bit of help from an Apple Pencil.