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.
Ukraine claims it’s using facial recognition to identify dead Russian soldiers
Ukraine has started using facial recognition technology to identify dead Russian soldiers, a senior government official has claimed.
Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine and minister of digital transformation, confirmed that Ukraine was using facial recognition software to find the social media accounts of deceased Russian soldiers, allowing authorities to contact their friends and families. The aim is to dispel misinformation surrounding the war in the country, and specifically Russian claims that it is just a special operation with few losses, he wrote on his Telegram channel.
While Fedorov did not mention which facial recognition provider had been used, Forbes reported it was New York-based Clearview AI, which claimed that Ukraine had started using its services for free earlier this month.
Clearview AI claims to be the world’s “largest facial network,” drawing from a database of more than 10 billion images scraped from publicly-available websites, including social media profiles, for use by customers including law enforcement agencies.
Ukrainian authorities are messaging relatives to suggest they come and collect the bodies, Federov told Reuters, adding that the percentage of soldiers the software had recognised claimed by families had been “high.”
The true number of Russian soldiers to have died in Ukraine is unknown. While the Russian defense ministry admitted 498 of its troops had been killed in early March, US and Ukrainian officials estimate the total number of deaths is significantly higher. Yesterday NATO released estimates that up to 40,000 Russian troops have been killed, wounded, taken prisoner, or gone missing.
Does China even want to know how the pandemic started?
An international group of scientists says it has zeroed in on a live animal and seafood market in the city of Wuhan as the place where the pandemic started. However, it’s incredibly hard to get hold of information on China’s wild animal trade, and the Chinese authorities are not keen to help. In fact, they’ve been actively obstructing efforts to learn more, spreading now widely-believed theories among China’s population that covid-19 came from the US.
All of which raises a crucial question: will we ever find out how the pandemic started? And does China even want to know? And while the origins search is undoubtedly political, is it also driven by stereotypes?
If you want to learn more, tune in to the fourth episode of our podcast series, Curious Coincidence, which delves into the pandemic and its origins. You can listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you usually go for audio.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 How do we want Putin to lose the Ukraine War?
Things are really bad now. They could get much worse. (Wired $)
+ Today marks one month since the war started. (The Guardian)
+ NATO is doubling its military presence on its eastern front. (NYT $)
+ Russia and the American far-right are propping each others’ lies up over the war. (NYT $)
+ Russia’s attacks on civilian targets have destroyed everyday life in Ukraine. (NYT $)
2 How to talk to your kids about the permacrisis 🙃
You don’t have to lie, but full honesty is not always the best policy. (The Guardian)
+ Young people are pushing back against climate doom, which they say is just another form of denial. (NYT $)
+ That weird, gnawing anxiety? It doesn’t feel like a vibe shift, but a world set to be perpetually in chaos. (Buzzfeed)
3 Israel blocked Ukraine from buying Pegasus spyware
Due to fears it’d anger Russia. (WP $)
5 Facebook is all-in on remote working
It kind of has to be, given its management is now scattered all over the globe. (WSJ $)
+ Instagram is now letting you view your feed in chronological order. (Mashable)
6 It may be tiny nuclear reactors’ time to shine
They’re designed to be cheaper, quicker, and less financially risky to build. (The Economist $)
+ High gas prices are getting Americans more interested in electric cars. (WSJ $)
7 A new crypto project called ApeCoin looks… troubling
For all the talk of decentralization and democratization, these projects sure do love to benefit insiders first and foremost. (The Verge)
+ Some roller derby skaters tried to start an NFT project. The wider community was having none of it. (Vox)
8 Shopping in the metaverse might be kinda fun
So much so that luxury goods are already being counterfeited on virtual platforms. (CNET)
9 The man who invented the gif has died
But no, it’s not pronounced ‘jif.’ (The Verge)
10 Can you teach people to be happy? 😊
It seems so! But only if they want to be taught. (Wired $)
Quote of the day
“It’s going to be more of a psychological effect. There’s no place to hide.”
—Ingvild Bode, an autonomous weapons researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, tells the Washington Post what impact new exploding ‘kamikaze’ drones will have in Ukraine, as both Russian and Ukrainian forces start to deploy them.
We can still have nice things
+ It’s only five seconds long, yet this video delivers on many levels.
+ Tons of brilliant travel planning fodder.
+ This looks like my kind of daiquiri.
+ An excellent catalog of songs that come in under two minutes. Amazingly, none of them are punk tracks.
+ Stressed? Have you tried dunking your head in icy water? No, seriously…
+ Margaret Atwood’s dream dinner party. And speaking of novelists, they’ll be thrilled to learn that we are all reading more
+ The photos in this New York Times piece about Mexican stone carvers are amazing.