OpenAI Putting ‘Shiny Products’ Above Safety, Says Departing Researcher

A former senior employee at OpenAI has said the company behind ChatGPT is prioritizing “shiny products” over safety, revealing that he quit after a disagreement over key aims reached a “breaking point” The Guardian reported.

Jan Leike was a key safety officer at OpenAI as its co-head of superalignment, ensuring that powerful artificial intelligence systems adhered to human values and aims. His intervention comes before a global artificial intelligence summit in Seoul next week, where politicians, experts and tech executives will discuss oversight of the technology.

Leike resigned days after the San Francisco-based company launched its latest AI model, GPT-4o. His departure meant two senior safety figures at OpenAI have left this week following the resignation of Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s co-founder and fellow co-head of superalignment.

Leike detailed the reasons for his departure in a thread on X posted on Friday, in which he said safety culture had become a lower priority.

“Over the past years, safety culture and processes have taken a backseat to shiny products,” he wrote.

OpenAI was founded with the goal of ensuring that artificial general intelligence, which it describes as “AI systems that are generally smarter than humans”, benefits all of humanity. In his X posts, Leake said he had been disagreeing with OpenAI’s leadership about the company’s priorities for some tome but that standoff had “finally reached a breaking point.”

Engadget reported in the summer of 2023, OpenAI created a “Superalignment” team whose goal was to steer and control future AI systems that could be so powerful they could lead to human extinction. Less than a year later, that team is dead.

OpenAI told Bloomberg that the company was “integrating the group more deeply across its research efforts to help the company achieve its safety goals.” But a series of tweets by Jan Leike, one of the team’s leaders who recently quit revealed internal tensions between the safety team and the larger company.

In a statement posted on X on Friday, Leike said that the Superalignment team had been fighting for resources to get research done. “Building smarter-than-human machines is an inherently dangerous endeavor,” Leike wrote. “OpenAI is shouldering an enormous responsibility on behalf of all of humanity. But over the past years, safety culture and processes have taken a backseat to shiny products.”

Leike’s departure earlier this week came hours after OpenAI chief scientist Sutskevar announced that he was leaving the company. Sutksevar was not only one of the leads on the Superalignment team, but helped co-found the company as well.

CNBC reported OpenAI has disbanded its team focused on the long-term risk of artificial intelligence just one year after the company announced the group, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to CNBC on Friday.

OpenAI did not provide a comment and instead directed CNBC to co-founder and CeO Sam Altman’s recent post on X, where he shared that he was sad to see Leike leave and that the company had more work to do.

In my opinion, it sounds like some of those who worked for OpenAI are dissatisfied with how things are going. This appears to be why some have left. One cannot run a company simply by focusing on “shiny products.”

OpenAI Strikes Reddit Deal To Train Its AI On Your Posts

OpenAI has signed a deal for access to real-time content from Reddit’s data API, which means it can surface discussions from the site within ChatGPT and other new products. It’s an agreement similar to the one Reddit signed with Google earlier this year that was reportedly worth $60 million, The Verge reported. 

The deal will also “enable Reddit to bring new AI-powered features to Redditors and mods” and use OpenAI’s large language models to build applications. OpenAI has also signed up to become an advertising partner on Reddit.

Redditors have been vocal about how Reddit’s executives manage the platform before, and it remains to be seen how they’ll react to this announcement. More than 7,000 subreddits went dark in June 2023 after users protested Reddit’s changes to its API pricing. Recently, following news of a partnership between OpenAI and the programming message board Stack Overflow, people were suspended after trying to delete their posts.

No financial terms were revealed in the blog post announcing the arrangement, and neither company mentioned training data, either.

OpenAI posted: OpenAI and Reddit Partnership

Keeping the internet open is crucial, and part of being open means Reddit content needs to be accessible to those fostering human learning and researching ways to build community, belonging, and empowerment online. Reddit is a uniquely large and vibrant community that has long been an important space for conversation on the internet. Additionally, using LLM’s ML, and AI allow Reddit to improve the user experience for everyone.

In line with this, Reddit and OpenAI today announced a partnership to benefit both the Reddit and OpenAI user communities in a number of ways:

  • OpenAI will bring enhanced Reddit content to ChatGPT and new products, helping users discover and engage with Reddit communities. To do so, OpenAI will access Reddit’s Data API, which provides real-time, structured, and unique content from Reddit. This will enable OpenAI’s tools to better understand and showcase Reddit content, especially on recent topics.
  • This partnership will also enable Reddit to bring new AI-powered features to redditors and mods. Reddit will be building on OpenAI’s platform of AI models to bring its powerful vision to life.
  • Lastly, OpenAI will become a Reddit advertising partner.

Engadget reported OpenAI and Reddit announced a partnership on Thursday that will allow OpenAI to surface Reddit discussions to bring AI-powered features to its users. 

The partnership will “enable OpenAI’s tools to better understand and showcase Reddit content, especially on recent topics” both companies said in a joint statement.

The deal is similar to the one that Reddit signed with Google in February, and which is reportedly worth $60 million. A Reddit spokesperson declined to disclose the terms of the OpenAI deal to Engadget and OpenAI did not respond for comment.

OpenAI has been increasingly striking partnerships with publishers to get data to continue training its AI models. In the last few weeks alone, the company signed deals with the Financial Times and Dotdash Meredith. Last year, it also partnered with German publisher Axel Springer to train its models on news from Politico and Business Insider in the US and Bild and Die Welt in Germany.

In my opinion, it seems like OpenAI wants to partner with every site that allows people to post things. That’s likely good for OpenAI, but I have concerns about the content created by users who may or may not want to have their posts used by OpenAI.

Exploring Google I/O 2024: The Future of Search, AI, and Android #1743

Google I/O 2024 introduced significant advancements in AI with the new Gemini 1.5 Flash, which can efficiently handle high-volume tasks. Enhancements in Gemini Nano and the debut of Project Astra highlight multimodal capabilities, allowing interaction through text, images, and spoken language. The event also showcased Imagen 3 for photorealistic image generation and Veo for high-quality video creation. Updates in Google Search with AI Overviews and new Android features like real-time phishing detection and advanced AI integrations were also announced.

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EU Launches Probe Into Meta Over Social Media Addiction In Children

Brussels has opened an in-depth probe into Meta over concerns it is failing to do enough to protect children from becoming addicted to social media platforms such as Instagram, Financial Times reported.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, announced on Thursday it would look into whether the Silicon Valley giant’s apps were reinforcing “rabbit hole” effects, where the users get drawn ever deeper into online feeds and topics.

EU investigators will also look into whether Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, is complying with legal obligations to provide appropriate age-verification tools to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content. 

The probe is the second into the company under the EU’s Digital Services Act. The landmark legislation is designed to police content online, with sweeping new rules on the protection of minors. 

European Commission wrote: Today, the Commission has opened formal proceedings to assess whether Meta, the provider of Facebook and Instagram, may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to the protection of minors.

The Commission is concerned that the systems of both Facebook and Instagram, including their algorithms, may stimulate behavioural addictions in children, as well as create so-called ‘rabbit-hole effects.’ In addition, the Commission is also concerned about age-assurance and verification methods put in place by Meta.

The current proceedings address the following areas:

  • Meta’s compliance with DSA obligations on assessment and mitigation of risks caused by the design of Facebook’s and Instagram’s online interfaces, which may exploit the weaknesses and inexperience of minors and cause addictive behaviour and/or reinforce so-called ‘rabbit hole effect. Such an assessment is required to counter potential risks for the exercise of the fundamental right to the physical and mental well-being of children as well as to the respect of their rights.
  • Meta’s compliance with DSA requirements in relation to the mitigation measures to prevent access by minors to inappropriate content, notably age-verification tools used by Meta, which may not be reasonable, appropriate, proportionate and effective.
  • Meta’s compliance with DSA obligations to put in place appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure a high level of privacy, safety, and security for minors, particularly with regard to default privacy settings for minors as part of the design and functioning of their recommended systems.

The Guardian reported that a Meta spokesperson said: “We want young people to have safe, age-appropriate experiences online and have spent a decade developing more than 50 tools and policies designed to protect them. This is a challenge the whole industry is facing, and we look forward to sharing the details of our work with the European Commission.”

If the commission is not satisfied with Meta’s response, it can impose a fine equating to 6% of its global turnover. More immediately, it can carry out on-site investigations and interview company executives, with no deadline publicly fixed to complete the investigation.

In my opinion, parents with young children, who want to view Instagram, should sit down with them and act as a filter for content that is inappropriate for their kids. Clearly, Meta isn’t trying hard enough to keep children safe on their platform.

Netflix Ad-Supported Tier Has 40 Million Monthly Users

Netflix’s cheaper, ad-supported tier has amassed 40 million global monthly users, the company said Wednesday. That’s nearly double the 23 million figure the streaming giant shared in January, CNBC reported.

The company also said it would launch its own advertising platform and no longer partner with Microsoft for that technology. The tech giant will remain a programmatic advertising partner, but will also be joined by other ad tech companies including The Trade Desk, Google Display & Video 360 and Magnite.

Netflix will begin testing its ad tech platform in Canada later this year and plans to launch it in the U.S. by the end the second quarter of next year. The company aims to set the platform live everywhere by the end of 2025.

The announcements came on Wednesday alongside Netflix’s Upfront presentation, designed to woo advertisers. The streaming giant joined its media peers for the second time in making an annual pitch to lock in advertising of its platform.

TechCrunch reported Netflix announced during its Upfronts presentation on Wednesday that it’s launching its own advertising technology platform only a year and a half after entering the ads business. This move pits it against other industry heavyweights with ad servers, like Google, Amazon and Comcast.

The announcement signifies a significant shake-up in the streaming giant’s advertising approach. The company originally partnered with Microsoft to develop its ad tech, letting Netflix enter the ad space quickly and catch up with rivals like Hulu, which has had it’s own ad server for over a decade.

“Bringing our ad tech in-house will allow us to power the ads plan with the same level of excellence that’s made Netflix the leader in streaming technology today,” said Amy Reinhard, Netflix’s president of advertising. “We’re being incredibly strategic about how we present ads because we want our members to have a phenomenal experience. We conduct deep consumer research to make sure we stay ahead of the competition, bringing opportunities that are better for members and better for brands.”

The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Netflix has outsourced a lot of the advertising backbone to Microsoft so that it could get the tier up and running as quickly as possible, but with more scale, it is seeking to do more itself and bring in more partners.

The company also unveiled a number of measurement and verification partners who will help measure the reach and efficacy of its ads, including Affinity Solutions, DoubleVerify, EDO Inc., Internal Ad Science, iSpotTV, Kantar, Lucid, NCSolutions, Nielsen and TVision.

Netflix, like other streaming platforms, has been gently nudging its users to its ad tier in recent months, often by hiking prices on ad-free tiers. Ad tiers tend to have better economics than purely ad-free tiers, with the opportunity to monetize users through targeting.

In my opinion, it sounds like Netflix is very interested in trying to convince users to accept more ads. That’s probably good for the company. I’m hoping Netflix can balance the content they provide in a way that doesn’t overwhelm users with tons of ads to sit through.

Google Is Redesigning Its Search Engine – And It’s AI All The Way Down

A year ago, Google said that it believed AI was the future of search. That future is apparently here: Google is starting to roll out “AI Overviews,” previously known as the Search Generative Experience, or SGE, to users in the US and soon around the world. Pretty soon, billions of Google users will see an AI-generated summary at the top of many of their search results. And that’s only the beginning of how AI is changing search, The Verge reported.

“What we see with generative AI is that Google can do more of the searching for you,” says Liz Reid, Google’s newly installed head of Search, who has been working on all parts of AI search for the last few years. “It can take a bunch of the hard work out of searching, so you can focus on the parts you want to do to get things done, or on the parts of exploring that you find exciting,”

According to The Verge, over most of the last decade, Google has been trying to change the way you search. It started as a box where you type keywords; now, it wants to be an all-knowing being that you can query any way you want and get answers back in whatever way is most helpful to you. 

“You increase the richness, and let people ask the question they naturally would,” Reid says. For Google, that’s the trick to getting even more people to ask even more questions, which makes Google even more money. For users, it could mean a completely different way to interact with the internet: less typing, fewer tabs, and a whole lot more chatting with a search engine.

Google posted: “Generative AI in Search: Let Google do the searching for you” written by Liz Reid, VP, Head of Google Search.

Over the past 25 years, across many technological shifts, we’ve continued to reimagine and expand what Google Search can do. We’ve meticulously honed our core information quality systems to help you find the best of what’s on the web. And we’ve built a knowledge base of billions of facts about people, places and things – all so you can get information you can trust in the blink of an eye.

Now, with generative AI, Search can do more than you ever imagined. So you can ask whatever’s on your mind or whatever you need to get done – from researching to planning to brainstorming – and Google will take care of the legwork.

This is all made possible by a new Gemini model customized for Google Search. It brings together Gemini’s advanced capabilities – including multi-step reasoning, planning and multimodality – with our best in class Search systems.

ArsTechnica reported Search is still important to Google, but it soon will change. At its all-in-one AI Google I/O event Tuesday, the company introduced a host of AI-enabled features coming to Google Search at various points in the near future, which will “do more for you than you ever imagined.”

It’s not AI in every search, but it will seemingly be hard to avoid a lot of offers to help you find, plan, and brainstorm things. “AI Overviews,” the successor to the Search Generative Experience, will provide summary answers to questions, along with links to sources. You can also soon submit a video as a search query, perhaps to identify objects or provide you own prompts by voice.

In my opinion, the new AI-enabled Google search might help some people to complete their projects, plan a trip, or look up their favorite bands. My hope is that Google’s AI feature will be useful to those who need it.

Biden Blocks Chinese-Backer Crypto Mining Firm From Land Ownership Near Wyoming Missile Base

President Joe Biden issued an order blocking a Chinese-backed cryptocurrency mining firm from owning land near a Wyoming nuclear missile base, calling its proximity to the base a “national security risk” The Associated Press reported.

The order forces the divestment of property operated as a crypto mining facility near the Frances E. Warren Air Force Base. MineOne Partners Ltd., a firm partly backed by Chinese nationals, and its affiliates are also required to remove certain equipment on the site.

This comes as the U.S. is slated on Tuesday to issue major new tariffs on electric vehicles, semiconductors, solar equipment and medical supplies imported from China, according to a U.S. official and another person familiar with the plan.

The Monday divestment order was made in coordination with the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – a little-known but powerful government committee tasked with investigating corporate deals for national security concerns that holds power to force companies to change ownership structures or divest completely from the U.S.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury posted a press release titled: “Statement on the President’s Decision Prohibiting theAcquisition by MineOne Cloud Computing Investment I L.P. of Real Estate and the Operation of a Cryptocurrency Mining facility, in Close Proximity to Frances E. Warren Air Force Base”

Today President Biden issued an order prohibiting the purchase and requiring the divestment of certain real estate operated as a cryptocurrency mining facility located within one mile of Frances E. Warren Air Force Base (F.E. Warren AFB), as well as the requiring the removal of certain improvements and equipment at the property by MineOne Partners Limited, which is ultimately majority owned by nationals of the People’s Republic of China; MineOne Cloud Computing Investment I L.P.; MineOne Data Center LLC; and MineOne Wyoming Data Center LLC (collectively MineOne), as well as their affiliates.

MineOne acquired the property in June 2022 and then made improvements to allow for use of the property for specialized cryptocurrency mining operations within one mile of F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a strategic missile base and home to Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS or the Committee) reviews and investigated this transaction pursuant to authorities provided by Congress in the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (FIRRMA) to cover real estate transactions in close proximity to certain sensitive U.S. facilities, including F.E. Warren AFB.

“Today’s divestment order underscores President Biden’s steadfast commitment to protecting the United States’ national security. It also highlights the critical gatekeeper role that CFIUS serves to ensure that foreign investment does not undermine our national security, particularly as it related to the transactions that present risk to sensitive U.S. military installations a well as those specialized equipment and technologies,” said Secretary of the Treasure Janet L. Yellen.

ABC News reported MineOne purchased the land that is within one mile of the Air Force base in Cheyenne in 2022 and according to CFIUS, the purchase was not reported to the committee as required until after the panel received a public tip.

CFIUS directed the sale of the property within 120 days, and that within 90 days the company remove all structures and equipment on the site.

In my opinion, the person who tipped off the U.S. government about the Chinese backed cryptocurrency mining facility did the right thing.