Morning Brew - ☕ CAPTCHAs for all

Do not challenge me on this device.
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March 27, 2024

Tech Brew

WeWork

It’s Wednesday. CAPTCHAs! Can’t live with ’em, can’t keep bots off the internet without ’em. The notoriously unwieldy security feature has some issues, though: For one, they’re getting increasingly difficult. And if you have a visual impairment, well…they can be flat-out unusable. Tech Brew’s Kelcee Griffis talked to the CFO of Arkose Labs, a company that seeks to make the ubiquitous online challenges more accessible and secure.

In today’s edition:

Kelcee Griffis, Jordyn Grzelewski, Patrick Kulp, Annie Saunders

CONNECTIVITY

Listen up

Graphic featuring a headshot of Arkose Labs CFO Frank Teruel Frank Teruel

It’s a scenario familiar to internet users: You’re trying to log into a website, and you’re hit with a security challenge. Type this string of wavy letters and numbers. Pick the photos that depict traffic lights. Slide the puzzle piece from point A to point B.

These CAPTCHA challenges, short for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart,” are foundational to making sure that bots don’t take over human-operated accounts and bombard internet systems with spam activity.

While they serve an important function, they can also be annoying: It’s widely recognized that the puzzles are becoming harder to solve. The frustration compounds for users with visual impairments, which can render image- and text-based puzzles nearly impossible to solve.

Tech Brew recently spoke with Arkose Labs CFO Frank Teruel about how the software company is trying to solve both issues at once, maximizing security with a variety of CAPTCHA puzzles that are hard for bots but easy for humans of all skill levels.

Keep reading here.—KG

     

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FUTURE OF TRAVEL

Cultural considerations

Image of a plug going into an electric vehicle Unsplash

Blame it on the culture.

That’s one takeaway from a new report by automotive research firm JATO Dynamics investigating what’s keeping US EV adoption “in the slow lane.”

The report explains why US sales of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) have lagged behind China and Europe. China accounts for more than half of global BEV demand, while Europe accounts for 22% and the US just 12%.

Researchers homed in on Americans’ affinity for gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks.

“More so than China and Europe, the US faces a specific challenge in overcoming a culture of ICE dependence, driven largely by relatively low fuel prices and the preference among consumers for large vehicles,” per JATO’s report. “Due to higher BEV retail prices and the comparatively low cost of running an ICE vehicle in the US, there is currently no strong financial incentive to encourage consumers to make the switch to electric.”

The report also points to a lack of reliable charging options. In 2022, nearly 90% of global growth in fast chargers was in China. Europe’s addition of fast chargers grew 55% YoY in 2022. In the US, fast charger growth increased 9% in 2022—the lowest rate “among other major markets.”

Keep reading here.—JG

     

AI

A global affair

United Nations building in Geneva Alxpin/Getty Images

The United Nations is laying the groundwork for an international consensus on AI rules with a new US-led resolution adopted unanimously last week.

The nonbinding text, co-sponsored by more than 120 member states, aims to shape development of AI in a way that promotes human rights and the org’s own development goals. While the move lacks many specifics or enforcement teeth, it marks the UN’s first resolution around the technology and builds on some previous gestures toward a global governance framework for AI.

The resolution is the fruit of more than 40 hours of sessions, which featured “lots of heated conversations” between the US and “adversaries” like China and Russia, an anonymous White House official told the Washington Post.

The resolution calls for “internationally interoperable safeguards, practices, and standards that promote innovation and prevent the fragmentation of the governance,” as well as closing “digital divides between and within countries.”

Why it matters: The resolution comes as governments around the world have been crafting regulations aimed at reining in some of AI’s downsides, perhaps most notably the European Union’s AI Act, which passed this month. But world leaders meeting in the UK last fall agreed that some form of international cooperation is also needed to align these various regimes.

Keep reading here.—PK

     

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BITS AND BYTES

Stat: 18%. That’s the percentage of “the world’s top AI researchers” that came from US colleges, the New York Times reported, citing data from the think tank MacroPolo. China, meanwhile, is responsible for “almost half” of those AI researchers.

Quote: “Florida is on the front lines of the warming climate crisis, and the fact that we’re going to erase that sends the wrong message…It sends the message, at least to me and to a good majority of Floridians, that this is not a priority for the state.”—Yoca Arditi-Rocha, the executive director of Florida climate advocacy nonprofit the CLEO Institute, to Grist in a story about Florida’s plans to “erase climate change from most of its laws.”

Read: Joe Biden wants to make mac and cheese with clean energy (The Verge)

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