This is today’s edition The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
We may never fully know how video games affect our well-being
For decades, lawmakers, researchers, journalists and parents have worried that video games are bad for us: that they encourage violent behavior or harm mental health. These fears have spilled over into political decisions that affect millions of people.
The World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) in 2019, while China bans people under 18 from playing games for more than three hours a week in a bid to prevent minors from becoming addicted.
However, in recent years, a growing body of research claims that video games are actually good for us because they improve cognition, relieve stress, and strengthen communication skills.
The reality, a new study suggests, is that we simply don’t have a good idea of how games affect our well-being, if at all, demonstrating the complexity of drawing definitive conclusions about how and why playing video games affects us. Read the full story.
– Rhiannon Williams
How do strong muscles keep your brain healthy?
We have often thought of the muscles as something that exists apart from the intellect. The truth is that our brains and muscles are in constant conversation with each other, sending electrochemical signals back and forth. In a very tangible way, the health of our brain depends on keeping our muscles moving.
Exercise stimulates what scientists call muscle-brain “cross-talk,” and protein molecules released when muscles contract help determine specific beneficial responses in the brain. This may include the formation of new neurons and increased synaptic plasticity, which promotes learning and memory. Read the full story.
I combed the internet to find the funniest/most important/scary/fascinating stories about technology today.
1 Google has flagged a father’s medical photos of his son as abuse
When Big Tech abuse detection tools go wrong, the consequences can be extremely serious. (USA $)
2 Software can work better than ‘male’, ‘female’ and ‘other’
In many cases, a few simple lines of code are all it takes. (MIT Technology Review)
3 Decarbonisation requires a code of ethics
The industry has spawned many wild claims. Codes of conduct could help govern in case they screw up. (Protocol)
+ Seville uses ancient Persian technology to combat climate change. (Bloomberg $)
+ Companies hoping to grow carbon-sucking algae may be rushing ahead of science. (MIT Technology Review)
4 Black market abortion pill websites are thriving
It’s not always clear where pills come from or how to use them. (WSJ $)
+ Crossing national borders takes its toll on abortion seekers. (Slate)
+ Where to get abortion pills and how to use them. (MIT Technology Review)
6 Big Tech Prepares for New Wave of ‘Big Lie’ Disinformation
Critics say their antiquated detection and removal methods won’t help protect midterms. (WP $)
7 There is no evidence that student behavior apps work
But schools across the US are adopting them anyway. (Undark)
+ Software that tracks students during tests perpetuates inequality and violates their privacy. (MIT Technology Review)
8 Prosthetics are unsuccessful amputees
Well-meaning engineers fail to understand what amputees actually need from their prosthetics. (IEEE Spectrum)
9 Inside Reddit’s nefarious stock market
In addition to selling images and videos, the community works together to groom the women featured in them. (BBC)
+ Scary new AI app turns women into porn videos with one click. (MIT Technology Review)
10 Thai activists are trolling their monarchy
Using the phrases Despicable Me and Harry Potter. (Foreign policy $)
Quote of the day
“It’s just another thing to keep reminding you to get on the phone.”
—Deborah Mackenzie, 23, explains why she won’t join a group of young people using BeReal, an app that encourages authenticity, The Guardian.
When American entertainment company Blizzard released StarCraft, its science fiction real-time strategy game, in 1998, it wasn’t just a hit—it was an awakening. Back then, South Korea was considered more of a technological backwater than a large market. Blizzard didn’t even bother to localize the game in Korean.
Despite this, StarCraft – where players battle each other with armies of warring galactic species – was a runaway success. Of the 11 million copies sold worldwide, 4.5 million were in South Korea.
StarCraft and PC bang culture appealed to a generation of young South Koreans boxing in economic anxiety and mounting academic pressure. The social aspect of StarCraft set the stage for another phenomenon: eSports. Read the full story.
—Max S. Kim
We can still have nice things
+ You heard it here first – here they are the warmest colors in 2023.
+ This story of Fr a seal that broke into a biologist’s home is hilarious.
+ This automated cringey LinkedIn post generator gave me hours of fun.
+ How amazing Catherine Zeta-Jones looks in the new Addams story, Wednesday?
+ Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation is such a tune breaks laptops.