The Download: DeepMind’s AI shortcomings, and China’s social media translation problem

The Download: DeepMind’s AI shortcomings, and China’s social media translation problem thumbnail

DeepMind introduced a new “generalist AI model” called Gato earlier this month. According to the Alphabet-owned AI laboratory, the model can play Atari, caption images, chat and stack blocks with a robot arm. Gato can perform hundreds of tasks.

While Gato is undeniably fascinating and a great tool for many tasks, some researchers have gotten a little too excited about it in the past week.

Nando de Freitas (one of DeepMind’s top researchers, and coauthor of the Gato papers), couldn’t contain his excitement. He tweeted “The game is over!” suggesting that there is now an obvious path from Gato to artificial intelligence or ‘AGI’. This vague concept of human, or superhuman-level AI ., is what Nando de Freitas was excited about. He claimed that the best way to build AGI is to make models like Gato larger and more powerful.

Unsurprisingly, de Freitas’s announcement triggered breathless press coverage that Deepmind is “on the verge” of human-level artificial intelligence. This is not the first instance of hype outstripping reality. Similar grand claims have been made by other AI models such as OpenAI’s GPT-3 , and DALL-E’s image generator.

This kind of feverish discourse can overshadow other important areas of AI research for many in the field. Read the complete story .

–Melissa Heikkila

The must-reads

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

1 Volunteers are translating Chinese social media posts into English
Even though the posts have passed China’s internet censorship regime, Beijing is unhappy. (The Atlantic WeChat wants people using its video platform. They did so for digital protests. (TR)

2 Ukraine’s startup community is resuming business as usual
Many workers are juggling their day jobs with after-hours war effort volunteering. (WP $)
Russian-speaking tech bosses living in the US are cutting ties with pro-war workers. (NYT $)
YouTube has taken down more than 9,000 channels linked to the war. (The Guardian)

3 The Buffalo shooting highlighted the failings of tech’s anti-terrorism accord
Critics say platforms haven’t done enough to tackle the root causes of extremism. (WSJ $)
America has experienced more than 3,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook. (WP $)

4 Crypto appears to have an insider trading problem
Just like the banking system its supporters rail against. (WSJ $)
Christine Lagarde thinks crypto is worth “nothing.” (Bloomberg $)
Crypto is weathering a bitter storm. Some people hold on to their lives (TR)
The crypto industry has lost around $1.5 trillion since November. (The Atlantic $)
Stablecoin Tether has paid out $10 billion in withdrawals since the crash started. (The Guardian)

5 The nuclear fusion industry is in turmoil
It isn’t even up and running yet, but fuel supplies are already running low. (Wired $)
A hole in the ground could be the future of fusion power. (TR)
The US midwest could be facing power grid failure this summer. (Motherboard)

6 Big Tech isn’t worried about the economic downturn
Even if it drops some of its market valuation along the way. (NYT $)
But lawmakers are determined to rein them in with antitrust legislation. (Recode)
Their carbon emissions are spiraling out of control, too. (New Yorker $)

7 The US military wants to build a flying ship
The Liberty Lifer X-plane would be independent of fixed airfields and ports. (IEEE Spectrum)

8 We need to change how we recycle plastic
The good news is that the technology to overhaul it exists–it just needs refining. (Wired $)
A French company is using enzymes to recycle one of the most common single-use plastics. (TR)

9 Why you should treat using your phone like drinking wine
Striking that delicate balance from stopping the positive tipping into negative. (The Guardian $)

10 Inside the wholesome world of internet knitting
Its favorite knitter’s creations have gained a cult following. (Input)
How a ban on pro-Trump patterns unraveled the online knitting world. (TR)

Quote of the day

“I like the instant gratification of making the internet better.”

–Jason Moore, who is credited with creating more than 50,000 Wikipedia pages, tells CNN about his motivations for taking on the unpaid work.

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