Data Sheet—Stopping Climate Change With Fake Meat
Maybe it’s because I have vacation on the brain that I keep coming back to the topic that everything old is new again. NOTHING will replace the good old-fashioned resting I plan to do for the next two weeks.
So let me draw your attention for a moment to a wonderful piece of journalism from the last issue of Fortune about a reinvention of an old idea: fake meat. Fortune’s Beth Kowitt, one the country’s finest commerce-of-the-culinary writers, dove deep into the technology industry’s ultra-expensive quest to replace the kinds of food that once belonged to a breathing animal’s body with “meat” either grown in a lab or smooshed together from plants.
That this is a big deal isn’t necessarily about ethics. Emissions from livestock, Kowitt reports, are responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gases. Moreover, she elegantly writes, “animals .. are lousy tools for converting matter into muscle tissue. Cows require a whopping 26 pounds of feed for every one pound of edible meat produced. In a culture obsessed with high performance”—she’s referring here to Silicon Valley—“that is maddeningly wasteful.”
There’s a fundamental problem with each of the approaches technologists are pursuing. The petri-dish technique hasn’t worked yet, and “meats” made from plants inevitably taste like plants. The article has far more detail about the people and companies pursuing this unlikely dream. It’s a delicious tale. (I couldn’t resist.)
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Have you wondered about all the consolidation in the semiconductor industry of late? Aaron has. See the nifty chart he and Fortune graphics editor Nicolas Rapp created to illustrate it.
Finally, some old things don’t become new. They just die. I originally missed the news that Comcast is shutting Plaxo, which had a brief moment several cycles ago at being the contact-management system of the future. The future doesn’t always arrive.
Slam on the brakes. The European Union’s top court ruled that Uber provides transportation service, not information service. The distinction by the European Court of Justice means lawmakers can apply local taxi regulations to the company's service. Uber said the ruling won't change how it operates in most EU countries, many of which have already clamped down.
Block that link. Starting February 15, Google’s Chrome browser will begin automatically blocking obtrusive video ads, including auto-play videos with the sound on, animated ads, and ads that expands to cover much of the screen. Meanwhile, Google tried to put a link to download Chrome into Microsoft's Windows app store, but Microsoft blocked the move saying it violated store policies.
Rents rising. San Francisco's commercial real estate boom shows no signs of abating, thanks to continued growth at big tech companies. In 2017, 17 companies signed leases for 100,000 square feet or more, tying 2014 for the most ever, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "Our market is absolutely on fire,” Chris Roeder, managing director with brokerage JLL, tells the paper.
Bubbling. Wacky rallies in the price of stocks loosely related to bitcoin and other digital currencies have caught the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency suspended trading in the Crypto Company, a stock that jumped 17,000% in three months, citing concerns about the accuracy and adequacy of information and “potentially manipulative transactions.”
Leaky umbrella. After the FCC rolled back its 2015 net neutrality rules last week, the Internet was left in an unprotected policy stance at the agency not seen in over a decade. Republicans in Congress are considering adding back some of the rules via legislation that would ban blocking or slowing access to web sites but would limit FCC authority in the area and allow sites to pay for faster access via paid prioritization.
Why not. Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son is expanding his massive Vision Fund's bets in the world of financial service startups, or fintech. The almost-$100 billion fund is leading a $120 million investment in home insurance startup Lemonade, which says it uses AI to minimize costs and increase efficiency.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Just how to police social networks to stamp out abusive posts while not stifling free speech has proven harder than many would like. BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel got a hold of internal emails from Twitter showing company executives debated how to apply its "blue checkmark" verified user rules. Among other spats, the emails discuss the decision last year to "unverify" Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
The emails also highlight a fundamental tension inside Twitter — the strain between the company’s desire to rid its platform of bad actors and its oft-professed commitment to a maximalist interpretation of free speech. In an email chain dated Jan. 8, 2016 — in which the decision to strip Yiannopoulos of verification appears to have been made — employees expressed their frustration with the company’s inaction in the face of Yiannopoulos’s rule violations.
“Based on my conversation with PartnerOps the other day, it sounds like [Yiannopoulos] technically does meet criteria for verification as a journalist (though we're unable to verify policy sign-off),” a Twitter senior policy manager wrote. “That said, we all seem to be in agreement that he's a notorious troll and that we'd be comfortable de-badging (or at least issuing a warning) if/when he crossed the line again.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Taylor Swift's New App Is Reportedly Flooded With Trump Supporters By Tom Huddleston Jr.
Bitcoin: Coinbase Users Get 'Cash' Windfall By Jeff John Roberts
Tesla Secures Its Largest Order of Semi Trucks Yet With UPS By David Z. Morris
BEFORE YOU GO
An analysis of millions of passwords leaked this year found some of the usual, highly insecure choices such as “123456” and “password” were among the most popular, along with some Star Wars-related choices. Not a good idea, says Morgan Slain, CEO of SplashData, the company that compiled the list. “Hackers are using common terms from pop culture and sports to break into accounts online because they know many people are using those," he said.