The Download: climate responsibility, and AI training data shortages

The Download: climate responsibility, and AI training data shortages

The UN climate conference concluded over the weekend, after marathon negotiations that went way too long. The most important outcome was the creation of a fund to assist poor countries in paying for climate damage. This was hailed as a victory. Several leaders are worried that there wasn’t enough progress during this year’s talks.

Consequently, everyone is pointing fingers and blaming others because they have not taken action fast enough to fund climate change funding. Activists call the US a ‘colossal fossil’ while US leaders complain that they are being blamed, while China is currently the largest emitter.

But, when it comes down to determining who should pay what to accept responsibility for climate damages, we must look beyond current emissions. It’s clear that the US is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, accounting for nearly a quarter of all historical emissions. Read the complete story .

–Casey Crownhart

Casey’s story is from the Spark, her weekly newsletter delving into the tricky science of climate change. Sign up and receive it in your email every Wednesday.

We could run out of data to train AI language programs

What’s happening? Large languages models are a hot area of AI research at the moment. Companies are racing to release programs such as GPT-3 that can produce coherent articles and even computer code. According to AI forecasters, there is a problem on the horizon. We might run out data to train them.

How long have we got? As researchers create more powerful models with greater capabilities they must find more texts to train them. The types of data typically used for these models may be used up in the near future–as early as 2026, according to a paper by researchers from Epoch, an AI research and forecasting organization. Read the complete story .

–Tammy Xu

Podcast: Want a job? The AI will soon see you.

In the past, hiring decisions were made primarily by people. Some of the key decisions that determine whether someone is hired or not are made today by algorithms. In Machines We Trust is an award-winning podcast that features interviews with some of the top technology players, such as the CEOs of HireVue or myInterview. We also test some of these tools.

Listen to it on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you usually listen.

The must-reads

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

1 FTX’s collapse should be a major cautionary tale for the crypto industry
Unfortunately, it won’t necessarily result in better regulations. (New Yorker $)
Crypto isn’t known for heeding bad omens, after all. (Vox)
FTX has invested millions into, err, a tiny bank. (NYT $)
Sam Bankman-Fried’s favorite “longtermism” ideology sounds bogus. (Motherboard)
He hasn’t done the effective altruism movement any favors, either. (The Atlantic $)

2 Elon Musk probably won’t declare bankruptcy
That doesn’t mean his financial backers can rest easy, though. (The Atlantic $)
Here’s who’s paying for Twitter right now. (NYT $)
Former Twitter employees fear the platform might only last weeks. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Measles is a growing global threat
Vaccination rates are down, and it’s incredibly contagious. (Axios)

4 Maybe it’s time we stopped automatically trusting billionaires
Exercising healthy cynicism isn’t the same as being a hater. (Vox)
A lot of big tech bosses wrongly assumed their covid-highs would last forever. (Slate $)

5 The true cost of America’s war on China’s chips
The pricier the components, the more expensive the final product will be. (FT $)
Workers at the world’s biggest iPhone factory are rioting. (Bloomberg $)
Inside the software that will become the next battle front in the US-China chip war. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Rocks on Mars suggest it could once have been habitable
Organic molecules found in the rocks may have supported forms of life. (WP $)
A UK-made Mars rover is heading back to the red planet. (BBC)

7 Why future concrete may contain bacteria
Bioconcrete is strong, and–crucially–greener. (Economist $)
These living bricks use bacteria to build themselves. (MIT Technology Review)

8 The experience of shopping on Amazon really sucks these days
And it’s because everything is an advert. (WP $)

9 What it’s like to love the tech the world’s left behind
From walkmans to BlackBerrys, these ardent fans aren’t letting go. (The Guardian)
Smartphones have survived all the attempts to replace them. (The Verge)

10 The comments on YouTube’s videos are works of art
Literally–an artist has made them into actual art. (New Yorker $)

Quote of the day

“He’s always trying to get a laugh, that’s why he makes all his cars suicidal.”

–Dril, one of the seminal personalities of the humorous corner of “weird Twitter,” reflects on Elon Musk’s surreal leadership to the Washington Post.

The big story

What does breaking up Big Tech really mean?

June 2021

For Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet, covid-19 was an economic blessing. These companies, often referred to as “Big Four” of tech, have not only survived but thrived despite the global pandemic that plunged the economy into deep recession and reduced most companies’ profits.

Yet, they have been under unprecedented attack by politicians and regulators in the US as well as Europe in the form new lawsuits and proposed bills. There is no doubt that Big Tech’s power is under increasing pressure. But what would that look like? Read the full story.

–James Surowiecki

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. Have any other ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me. )

This kitten’s goalkeeping is just extraordinary.
I really enjoy the color combos this Twitter bot comes up with (thanks Niall! )
Atarah Ben-Tovim sounded like an amazingly inspiring music teacher.
How to expand your movie-watching horizons and delve into something new.
After the recent chess cheating scandal, I can’t trust anyone anymore. Here’s how to spot a dodgy opponent.

Read More