The quit of the year is frequently a correct time for somewhat of introspection and self-reflection. It additionally appears exact to dwell to bear an even time one of the most necessary high points from a interesting year.
We asked our writers and editors to survey attend over your entire tales we printed in 2021 and repeat us which of them indisputably stood out. Which tales did their colleagues submit that made them proud to work for MIT Know-how Overview? (And no, they weren’t allowed to defend their very bear.)
An edited version of the list runs under, but there used to be one tale that our team saved coming attend to as a touchstone for the extra or less coverage that we attain: Karen Hao’s investigation into Fb.
Abby Ivory-Ganja, our viewers engagement editor, acknowledged it used to be “showstopping.” She added: “It’s easy to take into memoir tech firms as monoliths and CEOs and no longer as groups of of us. But Karen did this kind of remarkable job explaining considerations at Fb through Joaquin Quiñonero Candela. This used to be one in all TR’s most broadly read tales of the year, and it’s no shock why while you read it.”
Charlotte Jee, info editor, acknowledged: “This article used to be a bombshell when it came out in March. It revealed, in painstaking ingredient, the paunchy extent to which Fb knew its algorithms drove of us in direction of irascible, hateful suppose material—and selected no longer to attain the leisure about it. Why? On memoir of, as Karen so completely keep it, ‘The motive being easy. The total lot the company does and chooses no longer to attain flows from a single motivation: [Mark] Zuckerberg’s relentless need for enhance.’ Whenever you read it now, within the light of the Fb Papers, it appears so prescient.”
Peek within the occasion you pick. After which while you’re done reading that one, watch what else the leisure of our team selected as their top hits of the year.
Have a chuffed fresh year!
Michael Reilly, govt editor
A tale a few extensive, virtually unbelievably advanced machine that pushes engineering to the absolute max? Creep, please. Chip fabrication is no longer an effortless arena to jot down about, but in Clive’s palms it’s a romp.
“It’s been acknowledged that young of us dream of being rich, and rich of us dream of being young.” Mix that sentiment at the side of somewhat of appealing science and a few funding from Jeff Bezos and other billionaires and also you’ve obtained Antonio Regalado’s deep dive into the frothy world of longevity learn.
We know algorithms are within the market frequently nudging our pondering on issues fancy browsing choices and political opinions. Even so, this share from Tate Ryan-Mosley is a stunner, displaying ethical how a ways the algorithmic “optimization” of the total lot has seeped into young girls’ search of their very bear bodily look.
Tanya Basu, senior reporter, folk and skills
Eileen has a knack for no longer only finding these tales but being ready to investigate and share collectively what some of us in tech may possibly per chance well no longer need uncovered. Written in March, it used to be a signal of issues to come attend within the leisure of 2021: covid deniers, snake oil therapies, and of us with egos that supersede commonsense and safety.
I maintain fancy every NFT tale is snarky and/or exclusionary, making them indisputably onerous for the novel particular person to receive one thing to care about in what’s arguably primarily the dear topic. Abby is interesting to hit that nerve here and exposes how a bunch of indisputably inclined of us that merely must build up art and a correct residing are getting thrown under the bus by scammers.
It’s extra or less unhappy that we must build up this assertion in 2021, but here we are. What I fancy about this share as a author is the futuristic fiction that leads it off—and the conclusion that this isn’t science fiction anymore. What I fancy about this share as a reader is that Charlotte has exact hope and real looking thoughts in regards to the potential ahead for the net that don’t accumulate me feel fancy the total lot is misplaced. (Linda, our copy chief, agreed, asserting: “As fashioned, Charlotte finds the brighter side.”)
Abby Ivory-Ganja, viewers engagement editor
I loved this tale from Patrick because it helped me understand the ransomware universe somewhat extra. He indisputably offers a search of the landscape from 36,000 feet, which I frequently adore.
This episode of our podcast In Machines We Belief about how pricing algorithms learn to collude indisputably blew my thoughts. Our podcast team did this kind of remarkable job of pulling attend the curtain within the attend of the value of an Uber breeze or books on Amazon. They accumulate it so easy to blueprint end one thing advanced, and we are all greater for it.
Amy Nordrum, editorial director, particular projects and operations
This used to be a riveting tale of how an effort to crack down on cybercriminals by one in all the field’s top law enforcement businesses went sideways. It’s a richly reported share chock paunchy of ingredient that can accumulate you feel you had been along for the breeze amid the investigation’s many twists and turns. By the quit, the FBI agents’ frustration is palpable and also you’ll bear a elevated appreciation of why it’s so advanced to bring cybercriminals to justice.
That is a stress-free dinky tale about how blueprint is altering what it solution to build up tune, in phase by allowing musicians to compose and play instruments that defy physics and that actually can also no longer exist within the true world. There’s a silly backstory, too, about how one group’s painstaking effort to develop blueprint that very precisely imitates exact instruments used to be upended when true musicians obtained assist of it and commenced messing around.
Grand has been written in regards to the blueprint back of AI bias. One doable resolution involves auditing the underlying algorithms for bias. A cottage industry of consultants has sprung as a lot as attain ethical that, but it indisputably’s removed from very most nice looking. This tale breaks down one particular AI audit as an instance the boundaries of this particular potential.
Niall Firth, editorial director, digital
Relieve in 2020, Will had ventured into controversial territory, tackling one in all primarily the most hotly contested issues in AI—whether a ethical man made total intelligence is even imaginable. In 2021 he decided to head one step extra and demand: May per chance well a machine ever be acutely conscious? Drawing on philosophy of thoughts—and no longer shy to build up into in actuality deep conversations in regards to the nature of consciousness—the story started off by asking what it may possibly most likely per chance per chance per chance eradicate for a machine to vary into acutely conscious and self-mindful. But it indisputably ended up with an even extra advanced conclusion: If a machine changed into acutely conscious, would we even know? Approach for the thoughts-bending philosophy, quit for the octopus anecdotes.
Karen’s tenacious reporting over Fb misinformation and troll farms has rightly been praised, but I believed this tale used to be brilliantly done. Sophie Zhang used to be a whistleblower who had uncovered how inaccurate accounts and likes on Fb had been allowing politicians to sway the general public in countries exterior the US, and potentially enable election interference. The story had been informed, but no one had written a profile of her sooner than. Karen showed readers that “for Zhang, the rationalization of why she cared so grand is tied up in her identification.” Telling that tale used to be an knowledgeable share of profile-writing that required sensitivity and compassion.
James Temple, senior editor, local weather and vitality
Regarded as one of my favourite Tech Overview reads this year used to be Eileen Guo’s scoop on a high-priced industry convention that went forth in defiance of regional public health orders, and turned correct into a superspreader occasion. It used to be hosted by a high-profile Silicon Valley entrepreneur who had cofounded a covid-19 vaccine company. The deeply sourced tale described in pretty ingredient both the warnings that had been made in plan of the occasion and the aftermath, at the side of the apparent effort to limit communications in regards to the ensuing covid-19 infections.
Antonio Regalado wrote a must-read profile of Alina Chan, the Sizable Institute postdoc who helped revive the basis that covid-19 can also bear leaked from a lab in China. The story tiny print how she researched and communicated the potentialities, the virologists she angered in doing so, and the pushback and even threats she’s bought. But within the waste hers is a story in regards to the nature of scientific uncertainty, and the customarily fuzzy line between crackpot conspiracies, conjecture and unlikely ideas aloof short of filled with life intellectual debate.
Charlotte Jee, info editor
The stakes for conversations in regards to the vaccines are sky-high, and the controversy has prompted private, painful rifts in so many families. Many of us watch the photos as the single well-known potential out of the pandemic, and the dear solution to defend family members alive and effectively, so it’s deeply infuriating when others don’t watch it the identical potential. This thoughtful, effectively-researched share by Tanya used to be a effectively timed reminder that of us that don’t must build up vaccinated are aloof of us, and while it may possibly most likely per chance per chance per chance also aloof aloof be value your while to eradicate a watch at to lead them, you may possibly per chance well possibly also aloof attain so in a respectful formula. Nobody ever persuaded anyone by yelling at them.
Tons of us know by now that in must erasing existing biases, many applied sciences broaden them. But every so normally you read one thing that makes you retain in mind that the blueprint back is even bigger—and extra irascible—than you favored. This share, which uncovered how magnificence filters perpetuate colorism (a uncover of discrimination against of us with darker complexions), had that attain on me. It made me unhappy, it made me alarmed, and most of all it made me enraged.
This share can (and can also) be read as a companion share building on the just article Tate wrote in April in regards to the affect of magnificence filters on young girls’ self-image.
Eileen Guo, senior reporter, factors and investigations
I loved Tate’s tale series on how tech and tech platforms affect perceptions of magnificence. All three tales are just and value a read (“I asked an AI to repeat me how handsome I am,” “Class filters are altering the potential young girls watch themselves,” and “How digital magnificence filters perpetuate digital colorism”), as is the accompanying podcast episode. I fancy Tate’s willingness to consist of herself in her tales and her skill to attain so in one plan that is relatable: within the first tale, she asks questions that the reader seemingly has as effectively, and she is empathetic in digging into the nuances of how magnificence tech affects diverse communities otherwise. It’s additionally noteworthy to bear this extra or less in-depth treatment of “females + tech” considerations, and I in actuality hope she does extra of it!
Cat Ferguson’s effectively timed and effectively-informed investigation into the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management Machine (VAMS), the largely ineffective and extremely costly net page to time desk vaccine appointments, used to be the model of investigation that MIT Know-how Overview is most efficient positioned to attain. It answered the query all individuals had, attend in that phase of the pandemic, about why it used to be so onerous to time desk vaccine appointments, and it did so with depth and ingredient that comes out of Cat’s deep skills in health tech and her remarkable sleuthing and reporting abilities. And it shed light on an residence that doesn’t accumulate as grand scrutiny as it may possibly most likely per chance per chance per chance also aloof: executive tech. Grand less keen than investigating Fb, but ethical as necessary.
Tate Ryan-Mosely, reporter, digital rights and democracy
James’s investigative reporting, a collaboration with ProPublica’s Lisa Song, used to be a momentous accounting of California’s carbon offset program. It discovered that firms may possibly per chance well be gaming the blueprint and undermining the local weather desires of the challenge. It’s a remarkable advanced arena, and James and Lisa had been ready to provide an explanatory tone that made it accessible; it may possibly most likely per chance per chance per chance even be the story that I discovered primarily the most from this year. They additionally leaned into the nuances here, looking out into questions of stewardship and the plan in which this system is impacting Native American tribes.
Eileen and Hikmat’s remarkable-impressive reporting added grand-wished evidence in regards to the tools the Taliban had been at risk of bear at their disposal following the US withdrawal from the country. This may possibly change into primarily the dear history lesson in regards to the hazards of propping up a executive with surveillance tools, only to bear them tumble into the spoiled palms.
Abby’s like a flash eradicate on the January 6 rise up squarely placed the occasion as a continuation of forces which had been gathering for a extraordinarily prolonged time. On the time of publishing, the noise all the plan in which throughout the rise up used to be all-drinking and blurry, and her eradicate offered clarity and evaluation based completely totally on her years of reporting.
Will Douglas Heaven, senior editor, AI
All over the wrestle to reclaim AI from Giant Tech’s assist a watch on
Karen Hao takes us within the attend of the scenes at the beginning of a movement, introducing the hopes and fears of the AI researchers pushing attend against a standing quo in which the field’s strongest skills is rapid changing into monopolised by the field’s strongest firms.
In a scoop that made other investigative journalists jealous, Patrick Howell O’Neill succeeded where others failed in unmasking a controversial company selling cyberweapons to foreign intelligence businesses. Few whisper the dark world workings of cyber safety so effectively.