The Download: Abortion pill access, and Europe’s ethical AI

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.

Where to get abortion pills and how to use them

If the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 legal decision that enshrined abortion as a constitutional right, parts of the country will be ready to plunge into a reproductive-rights dark age in which doctors are forbidden from providing any abortions, in some states even in cases of rape, incest, or a fetus with genetic abnormalities.

But there’s still one huge loophole: most of these pending state laws exempt the person seeking the abortion from any penalties. The likely result is an increase in the number of people ending pregnancies at home using so-called abortion pills.

MIT Technology Review spoke to medical professionals and reproductive-rights lawyers to find out how the abortion pills work, where to get them, and what the risks are of using them without a doctor’s care. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

The must-reads

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

1 The EU wants to make AI more ethical
But experts and major players are conflicted over how to achieve it—and even what it means. (New Statesman $)
+ A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Google’s LaMDA AI is not sentient. (The Atlantic $)
+ But it’s unsurprising that people are increasingly fooled by human-like AI. (The Guardian
+ This AI is trying to recreate Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mind. (WP $) 

2 The crypto crash is getting even worse
After a series of hacks targeted NFT project Discords. (Motherboard)
+ More asset exchanges are shedding workers, too. (FT $)

3 Internet Explorer is officially dead
After 27 long years of service, the browser is no more. (The Guardian)
+ Microsoft is under pressure to fix software vulnerabilities more quickly. (Ars Technica)

4 Brains have an inbuilt low-power mode
Which is particularly important for understanding how dieting affects people’s perceptions of the world. (Quanta)
+ The mysteries of the human brain. (MIT Technology Review)

5 One woman’s search for her father led to… an insemination doctor  
Joining a long list of victims of fertility fraud. (The Verge)

6 Sheryl Sandberg’s legacy looms large at Facebook 
But her specific brand of corporate feminism hasn’t aged well. (Slate $)
+ Experts are split over whether Meta’s plan to stop teenagers doomscrolling will work. (Protocol)

7 Fact checkers are debunking lies surrounding Sri Lanka’s crisis
Their protest tracking efforts are creating a comprehensive historical database. (Rest of World)

8 Virtual reality is helping children with autism to concentrate
By removing the distracting sensory stimuli of the real world. (NYT $)
+ Robots that teach autistic kids social skills could help them develop. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Minority Report tried to warn us
20 years on, maybe we should have listened. (The Atlantic $)

10 A love note to voice notes
Love them or hate them, they bridge the gap between calls and texts. (FT $)

Quote of the day

“Obviously, expensive digital images of monkeys are going to improve the world immensely.”

—Bill Gates sarcastically explains why he’s no fan of NFTs to a TechCrunch conference, reports CNBC.

The big story

Inside Timnit Gebru’s last days at Google—and what happens next

December 2020 

In December 2020, after a disagreement over the release of a research paper, Google forced out its ethical AI co-lead, Timnit Gebru. The paper was on the risks of large language models, which are a line of research core to Google’s business. Gebru, a leading voice in AI ethics, was one of the only Black women at Google Research.

The move sparked a debate about growing corporate influence over AI, the long-standing lack of diversity in tech, and what it means to do meaningful AI ethics research. Thousands of people in the industry signed a petition denouncing Gebru’s dismissal, calling it “unprecedented research censorship” and “an act of retaliation.”

We spoke to Gebru about her last days at Google—and her hopes for the future of AI. Read the full story.

—Karen Hao

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.)

+ Don’t you just hate it when you get a toilet roll stuck on your head?
+ These inspiring cooks are making delicious, hard-to-find Asian ingredients available in the States.
+ Break out the marmalade—Paddington 3 starts filming in 2023!
+ In defense of solo travel—and why everyone should try it at least once.
+ No matter how bad a start your Wednesday has got off to, it can’t be as bad as this guy’s