Dan Ni

TLDR Newsletter Week of July 29th Highlights

Big Tech & Startups

Facebook's brain-reading computer interface is able to look for patterns in activity in the brain and match them with specific words and phrases in real-time. In experiments, participants answered multiple-choice questions with their thoughts, which were then translated into words by the brain-computer interface. The system was able to detect when the participant was being asked a question, understand the content of the question asked, and translate the thought answer into words. The patients in the study were using highly invasive implants, and the system was very limited. It was only able to understand nine questions and 24 total answer options with between 61 to 76 percent accuracy. Even a very basic level of thought control could make huge differences in how we interact with VR systems. The technology could help improve the lives of people who can't speak due to paralysis or other issues.
Impossible Foods has been granted approval by the FDA to sell its plant-based meat in US groceries this fall. The additive in Impossible Burgers that gives it a meat-like flavor and makes it 'bleed', soy leghemoglobin, has been deemed safe for consumers to eat. Competitor Beyond Meat already sells its plant-based meat products in grocery stores, recently selling out at some Whole Foods locations. Currently, consumers can only purchase Impossible Foods' fake meat at partnered restaurants, including Burger King, Qdoba, and Claim Jumper. The demand for meat alternatives is likely to grow as people become more health-conscious.

Science & Cutting Edge Technology

A technical glitch has revealed that a popular Chinese vlogger is actually a middle-aged woman, rather than the young glamorous girl that she portrayed. This has sparked discussions about standards of beauty across the country's social media platforms. With more than 100,000 followers, the vlogger solicited gifts from her fans, with some fans giving her more than US $14,533. After the revelation, many fans stopped following her and withdrew their transactions. The use of face filters during live-streaming is common in China. Live-streamers in China are discouraged from broadcasting publicly and are extremely restricted in what they can say.
Trash does not only take up space, but it becomes a major source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is almost 86 times as potent as CO2. A new startup called Sierra Energy raised $33 million through Breakthrough Energy Ventures to handle the millions of tons of waste that currently goes to landfills. Sierra Energy is able to process nearly anything, recycling almost everything into electricity, plastics, fuels, and a range of other products, without any external energy or emissions. It works by heating up the waste to over 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit using a chemical reaction with carbon and pure oxygen, and then capturing all the gasses and recycling them. A demonstration plant located on an Army base in California currently uses garbage to generate both fuel and electricity, but future plants will only do one or the other.

Programming, Design & Data Science

'Clean Code' by Robert Martin describes concepts that define a high-quality codebase, but good examples are hard to come by. Many examples given in this thread are developer tools or programs with very specific inputs and outputs, but there are few examples given of consumer applications. Some examples of codebases where the developer carefully commented every line were provided, but it was pointed out that if code is written well, not every line requires a comment. Many consumer applications stop development after shipping, so a high-quality, well-documented codebase is not absolutely necessary.
Atomize Code is a UI Design System for web apps featuring elegant and beautiful React components. It supports modern browsers and Internet Explorer 9+, server-side rendering, and Electron.

Miscellaneous

Kyle Giersdorf has won $3 million becoming the world champion of the computer game Fortnite. Other competitors also walked away with a share of the record-breaking $30 million prize pool. However, the record for the largest prize pool will soon be broken by The International, an event taking place in August. The e-sports industry is estimated to be a billion-dollar industry in 2019. More than 30 nations took part in the Fortnite finals, with a majority of the players coming from the US. 200 million players are registered to play with Fortnite, a game which has been criticized by the Duke of Sussex for being 'created to addict.'
New bill would ban autoplay videos and endless scrolling (2 minute read)A new bill called the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act, or the SMART Act, will ban features that keep users on platforms longer, targeting the tech industry's addictive designs. Big tech has designed many products using psychological tricks that make it difficult to look away. The new bill will also make it unlawful for tech companies to use deceptive designs to manipulate users into opting into services. Companies may be required to implement tools for tracking how much time users are spending on different apps and websites if the bill becomes law.
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