Hashtag Trending Sep.21- Elon Musk’s Neuralink seeks volunteer for brain chip implant study; China accuses U.S. for hacking Huawei servers; Amazon beefs up Alexa with generative AI

Elon Musk’s Neuralink seeks volunteers for its brain-chip implant study, China accuses the U.S. of hacking Huawei servers for years, and Amazon beefs up Alexa with generative AI.

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I’m your guest host, James Roy.

Elon Musk’s neural interface technology company, Neuralink, announced that it has received approval from the FDA to begin human clinical trials to test the safety of its brain chip implants.

The study is seeking volunteers who have quadriplegia caused by spinal injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). So the focus of the trial would be to grant people the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone. 

The study will be conducted over approximately six years and will reimburse volunteers for related expenses.

The FDA denied the shift from animal to in-human clinical trials last year, reportedly, over grave safety concerns including the device’s lithium battery, the possibility of the implant’s wires shifting to other areas of the brain, and uncertainty about how the device would be removed without causing damage to brain tissue.

Neuralink tested on pigs and monkeys prior to the FDA approval and those tests also sparked scrutiny over reports that they caused the animals unnecessary suffering. Reuters reported that records show that the company killed roughly 1,500 animals, which included more than 280 sheep, pigs, and monkeys, since it started experiments in 2018.

The company acknowledged that the animals died but denied any accusations of animal cruelty, arguing that these accusations, in fact, come from people who oppose any use of animals in research.

Source: Gizmodo

China’s Ministry of State Security has accused the U.S. of continuously hacking Huawei’s servers and conducting cyberattacks to steal other critical data since 2009.

The Chinese government agency released a post on its official WeChat account titled “Revealing key despicable methods by U.S. intelligence agencies in cyberespionage and theft.”

The post says that the U.S carried out “tens of thousands of malicious network attacks,” while also stealing “high-value data”.

It also accuses the U.S. of having big, influential tech companies install backdoors in software applications and equipment so it can steal vital data from countries including China and Russia.

Tensions between the two countries have been escalating after the U.S. government deemed Huawei a national security risk in 2020, and cut off the company from American-made chip technology. Huawei clapped back by creating a 5G chipset of its own.

Source: The Verge, NIKKEI Asia

At Amazon’s fall hardware event, the company unveiled a new Alexa, supercharged with generative AI.

The popular Amazon Assistant now has its own Alexa LLM which can understand conversational phrases and respond appropriately, interpret context more effectively, and complete multiple requests from one command.

Amazon hardware exec Dave Limp told The Verge that the new Alexa LLM “is a true generalizable large language model that’s very optimized for the Alexa use case; it’s not what you find with a Bard or ChatGPT or any of these things.”

The company is rolling it out slowly through a preview program “in the coming months” — and only in the US. Limp said that the goal is to minimize hallucinations when you connect LLMs to the real world. 

Microsoft’s Bing and Google’s Bard’s gaffes have also surely taught a few lessons.

Limp said that Alexa, as it is, will remain free but with the new powers of the LLM, it is possible that the company will end up charging something at some point.

Source: The Verge

Four unions at Apple’s stores in France have called for a strike on Friday and Saturday, demanding better pay and working conditions.

Reportedly, representatives of Apple France’s corporate division and Apple’s Barcelona team in Spain also called for a strike.

The unions have asked for a 7 per cent wage increase to compensate for inflation, and an end to a months-long hiring freeze. Union officials said that management did not want to offer more than a 4.5 per cent hike.

One union official said, “On Tuesday we had a teleconference meeting with Apple’s European bosses. They basically said ‘you are doing pretty well, do not complain.’”

The call for a strike had been sent to Apple’s 20 French stores.

The strike adds to Apple’s troubles in France, after the company was rocked by the French government’s decision last week to suspend the sales of iPhone 12 over concerns that the handsets exceeded radiation emission limits.

Source: Reuters

Over a dozen famous U.S. authors, including Jonathan Franzen, John Grisham, George R.R. Martin, and Jodi Picoult are suing OpenAI for copyright infringement. 

Doing so, they join a number of writers who are pursuing legal action against generative AI companies for using their books to train AI models.

The authors filed their lawsuit in the Southern District of New York in hopes of getting the filing classified as a class action.

The complaint says that OpenAI “copied plaintiffs’ works wholesale, without permission or consideration” and fed the copyrighted materials into large language models.

The authors added that OpenAI’s LLMs could result in derivative work “that is based on, mimics, summarizes, or paraphrases” their books, which could harm their market.

Copyright lawsuits have been the bane of OpenAI and Microsoft since the AI juggernaut snuck up, with lawsuits also being filed against AI image platforms and coding assistants. Microsoft even announced a couple of weeks ago that it will take the legal heat if commercial users of its Copilot AI service get sued.

Source: The Verge

That’s the top tech news stories for today.  Hashtag Trending goes to air 5 days a week with a special weekend interview show we call “the Weekend Edition.”

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I’m your host, James Roy. Have a Thrilling Thursday!

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