TechnologyThe Download

The Download: what Twitter’s collapse would mean, and crypto’s meltdown

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.

Twitter’s potential collapse could wipe out vast records of recent human history

Almost from the time the first tweet was posted in 2006, Twitter has played an important role in world events. The platform has been used to record everything from the Arab Spring to the ongoing war in Ukraine. It’s also captured our public conversations for years

Musk himself acknowledges that Twitter is a public forum, and it’s this fact that makes the potential loss of the platform so significant. Twitter has become integral to civilization today. It’s a place where people document war crimes, discuss key issues, and break and report on news.

But experts are worried that if Musk tanks the company, these rich seams of media and conversation could be lost forever, spelling an end to its status as a living, breathing historical document. And given his admission to employees in a November 10 call that Twitter could face bankruptcy, it’s a real and present risk. Read the full story.

—Chris Stokel-Walker

Check out the rest of our Twitter coverage:

+ Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks. One insider says the company’s increasingly depleted ranks of employees aren’t able to sustain the platform, and that bugs and glitches will become more widespread. Read the full story.

+ The case for quitting Twitter. Author Mikki Kendall made her name on the platform. But the reality is that she simply doesn’t need to be on Twitter to be heard anymore. Like many prominent people on the platform, it arguably needs her more than she needs it. Read the full story.

+ Twitter may have lost more than a million users since Elon Musk took over. Estimates from Bot Sentinel suggest that more than 875,000 users deactivated their accounts between October 27 and November 1, while half a million more were suspended. Read the full story.

The must-reads

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

1 Believe it or not, crypto’s meltdown could have been even worse 
Traditional financial institutions are still shielded from the worst of it. (The Atlantic $)
+ At least $1 billion is still missing following FTX’s collapse. (The Guardian)
+ AAX, another crypto exchange, has halted withdrawals. (Bloomberg $)
+ FTX’s collapse hasn’t come as a surprise to everyone. (Slate $)

2 Twitter’s new $8 verification is basically worthless
It’s incredibly easy to masquerade as someone you’re not. (WP $)
+ Twitter Blue has been paused while it tries to iron out its many problems. (The Information $)
+ Two weeks is a long time when Elon Musk’s your boss. (NYT $)
+ Why Black Twitter’s dark humor is among the platform’s funniest corners. (The Atlantic $)

3 It’s very hard to predicting how Gen Z will vote 
Partly because they ignore pollsters’ attempts to reach them over the phone. (The Verge)

4 How North Korea became a dangerous cyber threat
The rest of the world worries that any retaliation will provoke a cyber war. (FT $)
+ The FBI came close to deploying the Pegasus spying tool last year. (NYT $) 
+ How North Korea uses cutting-edge crypto money laundering to steal millions. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Mysterious ships passed near the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in September
The sightings, just days before its leaks were detected, fuels speculation the pipeline was deliberately sabotaged. (Wired $)
+ Here’s how the Nord Stream gas pipelines could be fixed. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are “looking forward to working together”
The pair have met for the first time since Biden became US President. (NYT $)
+ China’s chip suppliers are struggling amid US export controls. (FT $)

7 The FBI has seized one of the web’s largest pirated libraries
Its users won’t be able to access journals, academic texts and other textbooks for free anymore. (Motherboard)

8 The long, hard road towards growing more resilient crops 🌽
The ability to withstand more extreme weather will become ever more vital as the planet warms. (Knowable Magazine)
+ Seaweed can be turned into passable vegan bacon. (Fast Company $)
+ Solar panels that aren’t cumbersome and ugly are on their way. (WSJ $)
+ Heat is bad for plant health. Here’s how gene editing could help. (MIT Technology Review)

9 AI’s latest job? Website content writer
But its customers don’t want you to know their posts aren’t by humans. (WSJ $)
+ Quick naps helps AI to remember what it’s learned. (Motherboard)
+ Art platform DeviantArt’s users hate its new generative AI. (Ars Technica)

10 Silicon Valley seems to be turning its back on booze 🍷
Not drinking is treated as a badge of honor. (The Information $)

Quote of the day

“Honestly, his iPhone may as well be a Borg implant.”

—Tyler McClure, a father of two from Tennessee, likens his 75-year old father’s obsession with his iPhone to a Star Trek mind-control implant in an interview with the Washington Post.

The big story

Capitalism is in crisis. To save it, we need to rethink economic growth.

October 2020

Even before the covid-19 pandemic and the resulting collapse of much of the world’s economy, it was clear that capitalism was in crisis. Unfettered free markets had pushed inequality of income and wealth to extremely high levels in the United States, and slow productivity growth in many rich countries had stunted a generation’s financial opportunities.

Then came the pandemic, with millions losing their jobs, and raging wildfires in parts of the US. All the simmering signs of a dysfunctional economic system suddenly became fully evident, full-blown disasters.

It’s no wonder many in the US and Europe have begun questioning the devotion to free markets and faith in the power of economic growth to solve our problems. But while antipathy to growth is nothing new, its reemergence as a movement has taken on a harder political edge that questions whether we need to grow at all. Read the full story.

—David Rotman

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.)

+ Sleep is so precious, TikTok’s tips on how to grab more of it might be worth checking out. 
+ Buying a goblin sounds a lot harder than it should be.
+ I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of these violent octopuses. 
+ Trombone Champ is back, and it’s funnier than ever.
+ I’ve never had the pleasure of eating yams, but they sound delicious

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