The Download: tech’s gender gap, and how Gen Z handles misinformation Leave a comment

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.

Why can’t tech fix its gender problem?

Despite the tech sector’s great wealth and loudly self-proclaimed corporate commitments to the rights of women, LGBTQ+ people, and racial minorities, the industry remains mostly a straight, white man’s world.

Much of the burden for changing the system has been placed on women themselves: they’re exhorted to learn to code, major in STEM, and become more self-assertive. But self-confidence and male-style swagger have not been enough to overcome structural hurdles, especially for tech workers who are also parents. Even the pandemic’s shift towards remote working hasn’t made workplaces more hospitable to women.

It wasn’t always this way. Software programming once was an almost entirely female profession. As recently as 1980, women held 70% of the programming jobs in Silicon Valley, but the ratio has since flipped entirely. While many things contributed to the shift, from the educational pipeline to the tiresomely persistent fiction of tech as a gender-blind “meritocracy,” none explain it entirely. What really lies at the core of tech’s gender problem is money. Read the full story.

—Margaret O’Mara

Google examines how different generations handle misinformation

The news: Younger people are more likely than older generations to think they may have unintentionally shared false or misleading information online—often driven by the pressure to share emotional content quickly. However, they are also more adept at using advanced fact-checking techniques, a new study from Poynter, YouGov, and Google has found.

What they found: One-third of Gen Z respondents said they practice lateral reading (making multiple searches and cross-referencing their findings) always or most of the time when verifying information—more than double the percentage of boomers.

But, but: The study relies on participants reporting their own beliefs and habits, which is a notoriously unreliable method. And the optimistic figures about Gen Z’s actual habits contrast pretty starkly with other findings on how people verify information online. Read the full story.

—Abby Ohlheiser

The must-reads

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

1 Amazon wants to start offering teletherapy 
The e-commerce giant is rapidly expanding into healthcare. (Insider $)
And it’s expanding its palm print-reading payment system into dozens of Whole Foods stores. (Ars Technica)

2 The US has rejected Starlink’s broadband supply bid
The FCC said it had failed to demonstrate that it could deliver on its promise to supply rural America with broadband. (TechCrunch
Who is Starlink really for? (MIT Technology Review)

3 Big Tech wants to build data centers on US battlefields
But Civil War preservationists are fighting back. (New Scientist $)

4 China’s economic crisis is birthing a new wave of tycoons
But they’re making their fortunes in sportswear and skincare, not tech. (Economist $)

5 Silicon Valley’s boy genius founders are joining the Great Resignation
Their money-losing businesses want experienced leadership during a tough time for the industry. (NYT $)
+ Why Steve Jobs was so fond of his turtleneck. (NYT $)

6 Air conditioning is terrible for the planet
Better building ventilation and greener units are just a few alternative solutions. (Vox)
+ The legacy of Europe’s heat waves will be more air conditioning. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Big Tech’s engineers are leaving legacy businesses for climate-focused startups. (Protocol)

7 Social media really wants shopping live streams to take off
Live ecommerce is already huge in China, but takeup has been slower elsewhere. (FT $)
+ China wants to control how its famous livestreamers act, speak, and even dress. (MIT Technology Review)

8 The rise and rise of the ebike ⚡
Amid rising gas prices, electric bikes are a cheaper alternative to cars. (WSJ $)
+ Lithium, which is essential for electric car batteries, is in short supply right now. (WSJ $)

9 Millennials are bonding with their kids over Pokémon
After 26 years, the franchise has mass-generational appeal. (WP $)
+ Fewer people are gaming now than at the height of the pandemic. (Reuters

10 Jobhunters are paying $1,000 for the perfect LinkedIn headshot
In an image-obsessed world, they’re hoping it’ll give them the edge. (WSJ $)

Quote of the day

“Cyber criminals have been eating our lunch.”

—Chris Krebs, former director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, thinks the government has been blinded to the threat of everyday ransomware attacks due to its focus on tracking sophisticated overseas attackers, reports PC Mag.

The big story

This is the reason Demis Hassabis started DeepMind

Demis Hassabis

February 2022

In March 2016 Demis Hassabis, CEO and cofounder of DeepMind, was in Seoul, South Korea, watching his company’s AI make history. AlphaGo, a computer program trained to master the ancient board game Go, played a five-game match against Korean pro Lee Sedol and beat him 4-1, in a victory that changed the world’s perception of what AI can do.

But while the DeepMind team was celebrating, Hassabis was already thinking about an even bigger challenge. He realized that his company’s technology was ready to take on one of the most important and complicated puzzles in biology, one that researchers had been trying to solve for 50 years: predicting the structure of proteins. Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

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.)

+ 8glitchorbit’s digital art is weirdly soothing.
+ Prey, the new Predator prequel, sounds like it might just absolve the franchise’s past few horrors.
+ All hail the rise and rise of the emo leading man.
+ This is interesting: investigators are using DNA to fight back against illegal tree loggers.
+ Turtles are returning to the Mississippi mainland for the first time in four years.