TechnologyThe Download

The Download: rise of the multimodal robots, and the SEC’s new climate rules

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

An OpenAI spinoff has built an AI model that helps robots learn tasks like humans

The news: In the summer of 2021, OpenAI quietly shuttered its mulrobotics team, announcing that progress was being stifled by a lack of data necessary to train robots in how to move and reason using artificial intelligence.

Now three of OpenAI’s early research scientists say the startup they spun off in 2017, called Covariant, has solved that problem. They’ve unveiled a system that combines the reasoning skills of large language models with the physical dexterity of an advanced robot.

How it works: The new model, called RFM-1, was trained on years of data collected from Covariant’s small fleet of item-picking robots, as well as words and videos from the internet. Users can prompt the model using five different types of input: text, images, video, robot instructions, and measurements. The company hopes the system will become more capable and efficient as it’s deployed in the real world. Read the full story.

—James O’Donnell

The SEC’s new climate rules were a missed opportunity to accelerate corporate action

—Dara O’Rourke is an associate professor and co-director of the master of climate solutions program at the University of California, Berkeley.

Last week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission enacted a set of long-awaited climate rules, requiring most publicly traded companies to disclose their greenhouse-gas emissions and the climate risks building up on their balance sheets. 

Unfortunately, the federal agency watered down the regulations amid intense lobbying from business interests, undermining their ultimate effectiveness—and missing the best shot the US may have for some time at forcing companies to reckon with the rising dangers of a warming world. Read the full story.

The must-reads

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

1 The British Royal family has been caught up in a photo editing scandal
Photo agencies issued rare kill notices for the heavily manipulated image. (The Verge)
+ The Princess of Wales has admitted to editing the photo. (BBC)
+ The news has sent internet sleuths concerned about the Royal’s whereabouts into overdrive. (New Yorker $)

2 IVF opponents have been waiting for this moment
Following Alabama’s ruling that embryos should be treated as children, the future of IVF in the state is looking increasingly uncertain. (The Atlantic $)
+ Privacy is increasingly under threat across America. (Vox)
+ The first babies conceived with a sperm-injecting robot have been born. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Sam Altman has rejoined OpenAI’s board
He’s been cleared of any wrongdoing by a law firm investigation. (Bloomberg $)
+ Three new female executives have also joined the board. (WP $)

4 Researching AI is seriously expensive
And researchers feel like the biggest players are squeezing them out. (WP $)
+ Companies are turning to AI to help solve internal disputes. (WSJ $)

5 Why Malaysia is emerging at the next great chip hub
After decades spent assembling semiconductors, it’s ready to step into the spotlight. (FT $)
+ Nvidia is keeping a close eye on tech that could be affected by AI. (Insider $)
+ China is experimenting with an AI chatbot for brain surgeons. (Bloomberg $)

6 What even is going viral, anymore?
As the internet becomes more fragmented, it’s becoming harder to track what’s truly trending. (WP $)
+ Gen Z is freaked out by TikTok’s sticky algorithm. (WSJ $)

7  Elon Musk says his AI chatbot is going open source 
It’ll join the likes of Meta and France’s Mistral in making its code available to all. (TechCrunch) 
+ Unsurprisingly, Elon Musk’s Foundation tends to line the pockets of his own interests. (NYT $)
+ The open-source AI boom is built on Big Tech’s handouts. (MIT Technology Review)

8 It’s time to part ways with oil
Even when the oil industry is the biggest it’s ever been. (Economist $)
+ The world is finally spending more on solar than oil production. (MIT Technology Review)

9 A crypto firm transferred $4.2 million of assets to a reported Russian arms dealer
Jonatan Zimenkov was hit with US sanctions for his role in allegedly assisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (The Guardian)+ Crypto has set its sights on Africa. (Economist $)

10 Would you tuck into plants from a pond? 🌱
They’re crisp and juicy-tasting, apparently. (Wired $)
+ These are the biotech plants you can buy now. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“Schools are told to use Chinese phones as well, to support Chinese companies.”

—Nong Jiagui, a teacher in rural Yunnan in China, describes the Chinese government’s sweeping campaign to boost the use of native smartphones to the Financial Times.

The big story

How to spot AI-generated text

December 2022

This sentence was written by an AI—or was it? OpenAI’s chatbot, ChatGPT, presents us with a problem: How will we know whether what we read online is written by a human or a machine?

Since it was released in November 2022, ChatGPT has been used by millions of people. It has the AI community enthralled, and it is clear the internet is increasingly being flooded with AI-generated text.

We’re in desperate need of ways to differentiate between human- and AI-written text in order to counter potential misuses of the technology. But while labs are racing to develop tools tasked with spotting AI-generated text, they’re not always reliable. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Release your inner music producer with fun beatboxing app Incredibox (thanks Niall!)
+ Can an amethyst survive being coated in molten glass? There’s only one way to find out.
+ Kiki the cockatiel really loves Earth Wind and Fire.
+ Legendary actor Kyle MacLachlan has great taste in films.

Source link