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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
In the U.S. and Europe, Big Tech is under fire — hit with big fines and the threat of stiff regulation — for failing to thwart the profound consequences of its inventions, including distorted elections, divided societies, invaded privacy and sometimes deadly violence.
Kaveh writes: Now, artificial intelligence researchers, facing potentially adverse consequences from their own technology, are seeking to avoid being ensnared by the same "techlash."
Driving the news: AI researchers are working to limit dangerous byproducts of their work, like race- or gender-biased systems and supercharged fake news.
What's happening: As we reported, OpenAI, a prominent research organization, unveiled a computer program last week that can generate prose that sounds human-written.
But the move met massive blowback: AI researchers accused the group of pulling off a media stunt, stirring up fear and hype, and unnecessarily holding back an important research advance.
Why it matters: Against the backdrop of the techlash, we're seeing a messy debate play out around an urgent question: What to do with increasingly powerful "dual-use" technologies — AI that can be used for good or for ill.
Details: OpenAI says its partial disclosure was an experiment. In a conversation with two top AI researchers from Facebook, OpenAI's Dario Amodei held up social media companies as a cautionary tale:
"The people designing Twitter, Facebook, and other seemingly innocuous platforms didn't consider that they might be changing the nature of discourse and information in a democracy … and now we're paying the price for that with changes to the world order."
Several researchers praised OpenAI's decision to withhold code as a vital step toward rethinking norms. But other academic researchers came down hard.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Walmart has improbably emerged as a powerful foil to Amazon's retail dominance, as we've reported. The latest front in this clash of the titans is autonomous vehicles — and their potential to upend the future of delivery.
Erica and Axios' autonomous driving reporter Joann Muller write: Shoppers have become accustomed to often free, fast delivery. AVs would be able to deliver goods quicker and at an even cheaper cost to the shipper, say KPMG researchers.
The big picture: We don't know exactly when and how AVs will be deployed, but the country's biggest retailers are making large investments in the field. Griffin Carlborg, an analyst at Gartner L2, says, “They’re getting themselves ready.”
Amazon is in the battle, too: It formed a small team in 2016 to investigate driverless technology, and early last year it partnered with Toyota to explore AV deliveries. It has also been spotted using self-driving trucks to haul cargo in Arizona.
What they're saying:
An Enigma codebreaker like the one developed by Alan Turing. Photo: Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty
Seeking to play in the global technology race dominated by the U.S. and China, the U.K. says it will pay for about 1,200 students to earn AI master's and Ph.D.s in its universities, and fund the salaries of 3–5 more to join the nation's top government AI lab.
Kaveh writes: Given the paucity of AI talent, 1,200 is a highly ambitious target, a number that, if fully realized, could go far toward making the U.K. competitive in the global race.
By the numbers:
Go deeper: Today's announcement is part of the U.K.'s national AI plan, announced last year, which includes the equivalent of $1.3 billion in funding.
China offers to wipe out its U.S. trade surplus (Gavyn Davies — FT)
Women are better educated, but are working less (Stef Kight — Axios)
The downside of dollar stores (Rachel Siegel — WP)
China ends advanced battery subsidies (Takashi Kawakami — Nikkei Asian Review)
Russians take 19 minutes to hack a network (Patrick Tucker — Defense One)
French postcard, 1910. Photo: Transcendental Graphics/Getty
Tech hands often have cut their teeth on science fiction, finding inspiration — and sometimes a visionary glance at what's coming next — in paperbacks often passed hand to hand. Elon Musk, for instance, famously recommends Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.
Now, a group of AI researchers at Stanford have produced a gourmet selection for the sci-fi fanatic — what they call the Science Fiction Concept Corpus, writes Lauren Murrow at Wired.