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June 17, 2024
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The Download: MDMA for PTSD, and Boeing’s rearranged space flight

The Download: MDMA for PTSD, and Boeing’s rearranged space flight

Plus: Adobe has been scolded for selling Ansel Adams-style AI-generated images

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.

What’s next for MDMA

MDMA has been banned in the United States for more than three decades. But now, this potent mind-altering drug is poised to become a badly needed therapy for PTSD.

On June 4, the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee will meet to discuss the risks and benefits of MDMA therapy. If the committee votes in favor of the drug, it could be approved to treat PTSD this summer.

The approval would represent a momentous achievement for proponents of mind-altering drugs, who have been working toward this goal for decades. And it could help pave the way for FDA approval of other illicit drugs like psilocybin. But the details surrounding how these compounds will make the transition from illicit substances to legitimate therapies are still foggy. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the upcoming hearing.

—Cassandra Willyard

If you’re interested in how mind-altering drugs are being used in medicine, why not check out:+ What do psychedelic drugs do to our brains? AI could help us find out. Why the words people used to describe their trip experiences could lead to better drugs to treat mental illness. Read the full story.+ Psychedelics are being scientifically researched now more than ever. This time, women might finally benefit.+ VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence. On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms. Read the full story.

+ One patient in a trial describes his “life-changing” experience with MDMA-assisted therapy.
+ But there is a danger that mind-altering substances are being overhyped as wonder drugs.

The must-reads

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

1 Boeing has rescheduled a historic space flight for Wednesday
The company’s first crewed flight was canceled at the last minute on Saturday. (Reuters)
+ The flight was grounded after a faulty ground power unit was uncovered. (CNN)
+ Boeing has been trying to fly astronauts into space for years. (The Atlantic $)

2 Adobe has ceased selling Ansel Adams-style images generated by AI
The late photographer’s estate has been trying to get them taken down for months. (The Verge)
+ This artist is dominating AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it. (MIT Technology Review)

3 How successful has America’s Chips Act been?
The government effort has awarded billions to chipmakers, but it’s a long game. (WSJ $)
+ What’s next in chips. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Social media videos encourage Chinese migrants to move to the US
But the cheery clips fail to capture the reality of moving to a foreign country. (The Markup)

5 This is what AI thinks a beautiful woman looks like
Light-skinned, thin, and impossibly glamorous. (WP $)
+ How it feels to be sexually objectified by an AI. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Inside the messy ethics of brain implants
The invasive surgery is restricted to disabled patients—for now. (FT $)
+ Beyond Neuralink: Meet the other companies developing brain-computer interfaces. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Learning more about the placenta could help prevent stillbirths
Many stillbirths have unidentified causes. Observing the placenta could help. (The Atlantic $)

8 The internet isn’t fun any more
And it hasn’t been for almost a decade. (Vox)
+ How to fix the internet. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Driverless car racing sounds seriously weird 🏎️
It’s incredibly technically challenging, and entirely absent of thrills. (Ars Technica)

10 This app has reinvented the walkie talkie
For the TikTok generation. (TechCrunch)

Quote of the day

“I believe it’s as significant as Windows 95.”

—Cristiano Amon, chief executive of semiconductor company Qualcomm, hypes up its latest chip with a comparison to Microsoft’s seminal computer software, Bloomberg reports.  

The big story

How Bitcoin mining devastated this New York town

April 2022

If you had taken a gamble in 2017 and purchased Bitcoin, today you might be a millionaire many times over. But while the industry has provided windfalls for some, local communities have paid a high price, as people started scouring the world for cheap sources of energy to run large Bitcoin-mining farms.

It didn’t take long for a subsidiary of the popular Bitcoin mining firm Coinmint to lease a Family Dollar store in Plattsburgh, a city in New York state offering cheap power. Soon, the company was regularly drawing enough power for about 4,000 homes. And while other miners were quick to follow, the problems had already taken root. Read the full story.

—Lois Parshley

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Aww, this tiny seal could not be happier after his bath.
+ Photographer Rankin’s archive of 90s photos are beyond cool.
+ Astrolabes were the must-have gadgets of the Middle Ages.
+ I don’t remember this version of Les Misérables?

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