The Download, Mar 16, 2017: Finger-Lickin’ Fake Meat, Trump’s Budget Losers, and a Robot Economy

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Three Things You Need to Know Today 

A $100 Million Quest to Link Brains to Computers
Silicon Valley big shots want to become one with technology. The likes of Elon Musk have often grumbled about the paltry rate at which humans can relay information to computers—a maximum of about 40 bits per second while talking. Last year, though, entrepreneur Bryan Johnson put his money where his disappointingly slow data transmitter was and offered up $100 million to develop brain implants capable of linking people’s thoughts to computers. Our own Antonio Regalado finds out why it’s proving harder work than expected.

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Finger-Lickin’ Lab-Grown Chicken
Who’s for (almost) guilt-free fried chicken? Memphis Meats has announced that it’s created the first animal-free, lab-grown pieces of chicken and duck, made by culturing animal cells. The alterna-flesh, which has been fashioned into chicken strips and duck à l’orange, is said to be spongier than the real deal but almost as tasty—and it could overcome animal welfare and CO2 emissions concerns related to eating meat. Sadly a pound of the stuff currently costs $9,000 but the price should yet fall dramatically.

New Stem Cell Treatment Puts Cures in Sight
A woman has become the first person successfully treated with induced pluripotent stem cells. Researchers took cells from her skin, turned them into stem cells, then coaxed them into becoming retinal cells, which were used to replace tissue damaged by age-related macular degeneration. The treatment didn’t improve her vision, but did stop the condition from deteriorating. It’s a milestone for the technique, but reservations remain about stem cell treatments: they’re expensive, may introduce cancer-causing mutations, and are plagued by clinics offering unproven therapies.

Ten Fascinating Things

Donald Trump’s detailed budget has been published, and among the big losers are the Environmental Protection Agency and clean energy moonshot funder ARPA-E.

U.S. prosecutors have issued criminal charges against Russian government officials for the first time over a hack that affected 500 million Yahoo users.

In 2013, smog clung to Chinese cities for over a month and was tied to over 90,000 deaths. Turns out it was linked to sea ice loss that warped the weather.

Brian Vigneault died during a 24-hour gaming session live-streamed on Twitch for others to watch. His death has sparked safety concerns in the industry.

Samsung’s new smartphone is expected to allow users to make payments using facial-recognition—which is one of our 10 breakthrough technologies of the year.

A legal challenge is mounting against a second version of Trump’s travel ban—but tech firms that spoke out first time round are now conspicuous by their absence.

How do you build a fleet of affordable electric cars? For Tesla, it requires looking to Wall Street to raise another $1 billion.

When you enter a virtual world, your body isn’t quite your own. But it could be if this startup succeeds in building avatars that you can take into every VR environment.

Donald Trump is trying to relax the environmental standards imposed on new cars, but the process might not be as straightforward as he hopes.

A fun fact from a new report into the financial impact of automation: if American robots had their own economy, it’d be worth $732 billion—larger than Switzerland’s.

Quote of the Day

"This pig might save your bacon."

— The slogan emblazoned on the T-shirts worn by staff members at startup eGenesis, which is in the business of editing the DNA of pigs so that they can serve as the source of transplant organs.

 

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