It turns out that Threads may be ruffling some feathers at Twitter, OpenAI is looking to hire for its new A team, only A stands for alignment. And Google hits a new milestone to advance quantum computing.
These and more top tech news stories on Hashtag Trending.
I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and Tech News Day in the US.
It looks like Twitter, feels like Twitter, and works a lot like Twitter. But it’s not Twitter. It’s Threads, the new app from Meta, and it’s already got 30 million sign-ups, according to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
And Meta only needs 1 in 4 Instagram users to use Threads monthly for it to be as big, actually bigger than Twitter.
It also has some things Twitter doesn’t. It allows messages of up to 500 characters. It has no limits on usage and it’s free. There’s no two-tiers.
And it promises a saner, kinder place than Twitter. Twitter continues to alienate users, so much so that after recent limits were placed on the number of tweets users could view as well as other restrictions on whether tweet could be viewed or searched without logging in – how to delete your Twitter account and similar indications of dissatisfaction were trending on Google search last weekend.
So there are still dissatisfied Twitter users to attract, even after the exodus to other platforms like Mastodon and Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky.
But although it is reported as similar to Twitter and needing very little learning curve, Threads is missing some key elements of the Twitter experience.
Threads doesn’t yet have a search capability for content nor does not have a direct-messaging feature, which is a little strange, considering messaging is so integral to Meta’s Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and the whole social media experience. Also, at least for now, you can’t see a feed of just the people you follow or a purely chronological feed.
Sign up is reported to be easy, if you have an Instagram account already. But one noted drawback is that, apparently, once you’ve set up a Threads profile, it is linked to your Instagram account and you can’t delete Threads without deleting your Instagram account.
There are also some concerns about how invasive it is in terms of mining your data.
Facebook and Instagram already have earned reputations for, as one user put it, “hoovering up your data” and using that to market you to advertisers.
And while that’s a drawback to some and has prevented Threads from being launched in Europe, the ability of advertisers to be able to buy ads aimed at Facebook, Instagram and now Threads, it’s a real threat to Twitter that is struggling with trying to reverse the losses in its advertising revenue.
In fact, in North America and the UK, where Threads is available, it’s attracted 30 million members in its first day – so it is performing as intended -to eat away at Twitter’s user base.
But is it a true Twitter killer?
It would only take one in four Instagram users to sign up and Threads would be bigger than Twitter. Zuckerberg has talked about getting to a billion users.
Twitter executives are putting on a brave face. Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino said though Twitter is “often imitated”, its community can “never be duplicated“. I’m sorry, I’m trying to say that with a straight face.
But Twitter is clearly worried and rumours are that they are already threatening legal action concerned that Threads is using their “trade secrets”.
So forget waiting for the cage match with Zuckerberg and Musk. It looks like Zuckerberg is going for the knockout punch (which I have trademarked as the Zucker-punch) before he even gets in the ring.
And that’s just the first day.
And although the launch of Threads was the clear story of the day, OpenAI announced a new project called “Superalignment”.
They’re assembling a dream team, co-led by Ilya Sutskever and Jan Leike, to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time – how do we control AI systems that are much smarter than us?
Superintelligence, they argue, could be the most impactful technology humanity has ever invented. It could help us solve many of the world’s most important problems. But, there’s a catch. The vast power of superintelligence could also be very dangerous, potentially leading to the disempowerment of humanity or even human extinction.
So, what’s the plan? OpenAI aims to build a roughly human-level automated alignment researcher. This AI will then use vast amounts of compute power to iteratively align superintelligence with human intent. They’re dedicating 20 per cent of their compute resources (and this is significant) over the next four years to this mission.
But here’s the kicker – they don’t just want to control superintelligence, they want to align it. They want to ensure that these AI systems follow human intent. And that’s a tall order, considering our current techniques for aligning AI, like reinforcement learning from human feedback, will not scale to superintelligence.
So, if you’re a machine learning expert who hasn’t worked on alignment before, OpenAI is calling you to arms. They believe this is a tractable machine learning problem, and you could make an enormous contribution.
In the end, the goal is not just to control superintelligence, but to align it with our human values and intent. It’s a monumental task, but with concerted effort, OpenAI believes it can be done. And if they’re right, the implications could be, well, super.
Source: OpenAI blog
And here’s another story that almost got buried in the bigger news of Threads.
Google scientists are claiming a significant leap in quantum computing, stating that they’ve completed a computational task on a quantum computer that would take a classical supercomputer a whopping 47 years to finish.
The task in question? A random circuit sampling calculation, performed on the latest version of Google’s Sycamore processor, now boasting 70 qubits. For those of you who need a refresher, a qubit is the fundamental unit of quantum information, akin to a bit in classical computing. Something like that.
This upgraded Sycamore processor is a beast, being 241 million times more powerful than its previous version.
The results are impressive. The researchers benchmarked their performance against Frontier, the world’s leading supercomputer. It would take Frontier 6.18 seconds to match a calculation from Google’s 53-qubit computer from 2019. But to match the latest one? That would take 47.2 years.
Despite the praise from the research community, there are still doubts about the practicality of the experiment and quantum computing in general. Quantum computing tasks need to aim at practical functions, not just impressive demonstrations of quantum advantage. As Sebastian Weidt, the chief executive of Brighton-based start-up Universal Quantum, put it, “We really must get to utility quantum computing – an era where quantum computers with many thousand qubits actually begin to deliver value to society in a way that classical computers never will be able to.”
Wow. That last two stories? Almost like a palate cleanser. Serious tech stories.
That’s the top tech news stories for today.
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I’m your host, Jim Love. Have a Fantastic Friday!