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Microsoft Announces New Bing and Edge Browser Powered by Upgraded ChatGPT AI

Microsoft has announced a new version of its search engine Bing, powered by an upgraded version of the same AI technology that underpins chatbot ChatGPT. The company is launching the product alongside an upgraded version of its Edge browser, promising that the two will provide a new experience for browsing the web and finding information online. The Verge: "It's a new day in search," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at an event announcing the product. We're currently following the event live, and adding more information to this story as we go. Microsoft argued that the search paradigm hasn't changed in 20 years and that roughly half of all searches don't answer users' questions. The arrival of conversational AI can change this, says the company, delivering information more fluidly and quickly. The "new Bing," as Microsoft is calling it, offers a "chat" function, where users can ask questions and receive answers from the latest version AI language model built by OpenAI. TechCrunch adds: As expected, the new Bing now features the option to start a chat in its toolbar, which then brings you to a ChatGPT-like conversational experience. One major point to note here is that while OpenAI's ChatGPT bot was trained on data that only covers to 2021, Bing's version is far more up-to-date and can handle queries related to far more recent events. Another important feature here -- and one that I think we'll see in most of these tools -- is that Bing cites its sources and links to them in a "learn more" section at the end of its answers. Every result will also include a feedback option. It's also worth stressing that the old, link-centric version of Bing isn't going away. You can still use it just like before, but now enhanced with AI. Microsoft stressed that it is using a new version of GPT that is able to provide more relevant answers, annotate these and provide up-to-date results, all while providing a safer user experience. It calls this the Prometheus model. Further reading: Reinventing search with a new AI-powered Microsoft Bing and Edge, your copilot for the web (Microsoft blog).

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Does Thanking Too Many People in the Credits Indicate a Movie is Bad?

Film data researcher Stepehen on his blog: David Wilkinson got in touch yesterday asking for advice on his new crowdfunding campaign. One of the topics he wanted to chat about was the 'cost' of offering a "Thanks" credit to his backers. This involves awarding someone who backs the film a credit on the movie under the "With Thanks" section. This name check would appear at the end of the movie and, crucially, on IMDb. On the face of it, there is no cost to offering an almost infinite number of these as it would just be a case of a longer end credit crawl and IMDb doesn't charge for listing credits. However, David brought up an anecdote from his time as a distributor. In conversations with fellow film sales professionals, the topic of 'how to spot a bad movie' came up. One participant said that they regard having too many 'With Thanks' credits as a red flag. The others agreed and added that the number of producers listed on a movie was similarly useful in spotting a bad film. These are just the kind of industry beliefs that I love to test. This week I'm going to tackle the 'With Thanks' credits and then next week I'll turn to producing credits. I gathered data on 8,096 movies released in US cinemas between 2000-19 (i.e. pre-pandemic), taking note of their number of credited/thanked individuals, their IMDb score (to stand in for audience views) and Metascore (to sample the views of critics). Conclusion: "A simple and pleasing result. The industry belief that having more than the average number of people thanked in the credits means the movie is bad is flat-out wrong."

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Ex-Coinbase Manager Pleads Guilty in Crypto-Related First Insider Trading Case

A former Coinbase product manager pleaded guilty on Tuesday in what U.S. prosecutors have called the first insider trading case involving cryptocurrency, his defense lawyer said in a court hearing. From a report: Ishan Wahi, 32, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, after initially pleading not guilty last year. Prosecutors said Wahi shared confidential information with his brother Nikhil and their friend Sameer Ramani about forthcoming announcements of new digital assets that Coinbase would let users trade. "I knew that Sameer Ramani and Nikhil Wahi would use that information to make trading decisions," Ishan Wahi said during Tuesday's hearing in federal court in Manhattan. "It was wrong to misappropriate and disseminate Coinbase's property." Nikhil Wahi and Ramani were charged with using ethereum blockchain wallets to acquire digital assets and trading at least 14 times before Coinbase announcements between June 2021 and April 2022.

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Google CEO Issues Rallying Cry in Internal Memo: All Hands on Deck To Test ChatGPT Competitor Bard

Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees Monday the company is going to need all hands on deck to test Bard, its new ChatGPT rival. From a report: He also said Google will soon be enlisting help from partners to test an application programming interface, or API, that would let others access the same underlying technology. The internal memo came shortly after Pichai publicly announced Google's new conversation technology, powered by artificial intelligence, which it will begin rolling out in the coming weeks. Google has faced pressure from investors and employees to compete with ChatGPT, a chatbot from Microsoft-backed OpenAI, which took the public by storm when it launched late last year. "Next week, we'll be enlisting every Googler to help shape Bard and contribute through a special company-wide dogfood," Pichai wrote in the email to employees that was viewed by CNBC. "We're looking forward to getting all of your feedback -- in the spirit of an internal hackathon -- more details coming soon," he wrote. Microsoft is reportedly planning to launch a version of its own search engine, Bing, that will use ChatGPT to answer users' search queries. Microsoft is holding its own event Tuesday with participation from OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. "It's early days, we need to ship and iterate and we have a lot of hard and exciting work ahead to build these technologies into our products and continue bringing the best of Google Al to improve people's lives," Pichai wrote in his note to employees Monday. "We've been approaching this effort with an intensity and focus that reminds me of early Google -- so thanks to everyone who has contributed."

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FAA Needs Until 2030 To Fix Safety System That Failed Last Month

US aviation authorities are years behind on updating the critical-alert system that failed spectacularly last month, causing thousands of flight disruptions. Critics say the delay is a threat to passenger safety. From a report: House lawmakers are scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on aviation safety at which they're likely to raise questions about the Jan. 11 meltdown of the Federal Aviation Administration's Notice to Air Missions system, or Notam. While the FAA has taken steps to ensure that the platform won't fail in the same way again, its problems go far deeper after years of neglect, including issues that contributed to one of the worst near-disasters in US aviation history six years ago. Notam produces bulletins for pilots flying in the US about any safety issues along a route. They could include anything from broken airport lights to an emergency closing of airspace, such as when the FAA temporarily suspended flights along the US East Coast on Feb. 4 during the military mission to destroy a Chinese surveillance balloon. Pilots are required to check them before departing. But according to government records, industry groups and dozens of pilot reports, the system is packed with unnecessary information that's difficult to sort, and its antiquated language makes the bulletins hard to comprehend. The FAA acknowledges the shortcomings and plans improvements, but acting Administrator Billy Nolen notified House lawmakers Jan. 27 that fixes wouldn't be fully completed until 2030. Congress first ordered the agency to begin upgrading the Notam system in 2012.

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Google Will Soon Blur Explicit Images By Default in Search Results

Google is introducing a new online safety feature to help users avoid inadvertently seeing graphically violent or pornographic images while using its search engine. From a report: Announced as part of the company's Safer Internet Day event on Tuesday, the new default setting enabled for everyone will automatically blur explicit images that appear in search results, even for users that don't have SafeSearch enabled. Google has confirmed to The Verge that, should they wish, signed-in users over 18 will be able to disable the blur setting entirely after it launches in "the coming months."

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China's Top Android Phones Collect Way More Info

Artem S. Tashkinov writes: Don't buy an Android phone in China, boffins have warned, as they come crammed with preinstalled apps transmitting privacy-sensitive data to third-party domains without consent or notice. The research, conducted by Haoyu Liu (University of Edinburgh), Douglas Leith (Trinity College Dublin), and Paul Patras (University of Edinburgh), suggests that private information leakage poses a serious tracking risk to mobile phone customers in China, even when they travel abroad in countries with stronger privacy laws. In a paper titled "Android OS Privacy Under the Loupe: A Tale from the East," the trio of university boffins analyzed the Android system apps installed on the mobile handsets of three popular smartphone vendors in China: OnePlus, Xiaomi and Oppo Realme. The researchers looked specifically at the information transmitted by the operating system and system apps, in order to exclude user-installed software. They assume users have opted out of analytics and personalization, do not use any cloud storage or optional third-party services, and have not created an account on any platform run by the developer of the Android distribution. A sensible policy, but it doesn't seem to help much. Within this limited scope, the researchers found that Android handsets from the three named vendors "send a worrying amount of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) not only to the device vendor but also to service providers like Baidu and to Chinese mobile network operators."

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SoftBank Virtually Halts New Funding as It Contends With Persistent Losses

SoftBank Group's investment vehicles posted a loss of nearly $6 billion in the quarter that ended in December as the Japanese tech investor continues to bleed through the market downturn and significantly pares back new backings. From a report: This is the fourth straight quarter in which SoftBank Group has lost money, prompting many to challenge the fundamental thesis of the giant, which has deployed more capital in the tech markets globally than anyone else in the past decade. SoftBank said it lost $5.8 billion across Vision funds and Latin America fund in the quarter. While a $5.8 billion loss is nothing to write home about, SoftBank will take comfort in the fact that it lost $10 billion in the previous quarter. The company said the fair value of its current late-stage portfolio is over $37 billion. In 2021, SoftBank was one of the most prolific investors globally, cutting checks worth over $20 billion in just one quarter as many investors aggressively scrambled to win large deals. As the market reversed early last year, many backers have had to brutally recalibrate their strategies. The persistent losses are a big headache for Masayoshi Son, the founder and chief executive of SoftBank Group. With the days of zero interest capital environment, which saw investors raise record capital in the past two years, behind us, SoftBank might struggle to raise its next fund. It also has some intermittent issues to sift through before it goes about the next big fundraise.

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'Britcoin' Digital Currency Could Be In Use By End of Decade

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Consumers could be using a new digital pound as an alternative to cash by the end of the decade under plans being drawn up by the Bank of England and the Treasury. The government is speeding up its response to the rise of privately issued cryptocurrencies and stable coins with a four-month public consultation process on a "Britcoin" starting on Tuesday. After the volatility of cryptocurrencies and the collapse of the crypto exchange FTX, the Bank and the Treasury will seek to reassure the public that a state-backed digital currency would be as safe as cash. Officials will explore the technical issues involved in creating a central bank digital currency before a final decision is taken by the middle of the decade. Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor of the exchequer, and Andrew Bailey, the Bank of England governor, say the government could still decide against going ahead but momentum is building behind the idea. The consultation paper argues that a digital pound will be needed at some point in the future. Assuming the go-ahead is given, the earliest date cash could be held in digital wallets offered to consumers by the private sector through smartphones or smartcards would be the end of the 2020s, the Bank and the Treasury say. Bailey said: "As the world around us and the way we pay for things becomes more digitalized, the case for a digital pound in the future continues to grow. A digital pound would provide a new way to pay, help businesses, maintain trust in money and better protect financial stability. However, there are a number of implications which our technical work will need to carefully consider. This consultation and the further work the Bank will now do will be the foundation for what would be a profound decision for the country on the way we use money." If introduced, the digital pound would be issued by the Bank of England and could be used to make payments in person or online. It would be interchangeable with cash and bank deposits, and -- as with the current system of notes -- be issued in denominations of pounds sterling. No interest would be paid on pounds held in digital form. The Bank and the Treasury say a digital pound would be subject to rigorous standards of privacy and data protection. "Like current digital payments and bank accounts, the digital pound would not be anonymous because the ability to identify and verify users is necessary to prevent financial crime," they said. "This is essential for trust and confidence in money and therefore wide use of the digital pound." Hunt added: "While cash is here to stay, a digital pound issued and backed by the Bank of England could be a new way to pay that's trusted, accessible and easy to use." "That's why we want to investigate what is possible first, while always making sure we protect financial stability."

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An AI Company Using Stolen Code Is Trying To Silence the Person Who Found Out

segaboy81 writes: Jailbreak hacker @ronsoros found stolen, open-source code in voice.ai, a real-time voice synthesizer, but instead of complying with the open-source license, they are taking measures to shut him down. "After an extensive investigation into an installation of Voice.ai, it was found that the company had integrated code from Praat, a widely-used open-source speech analysis software, and libgcrypt, a cryptographic library, in its proprietary software without releasing the source code of its software or providing proper attribution," reports Neowin. "In his blog, undeleted, @ronsoros details the steps that were taken to uncover the violations. [...] @ronsoros reached out to the company to let them know they were in violation of two opensource licenses and was promptly booted from the community's Discord server."

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China's Baidu Reveals Plans To Launch ChatGPT-Style 'Ernie Bot'

China's Baidu said on Tuesday it would complete internal testing of a ChatGPT-style project called "Ernie Bot" in March, joining a global race as interest in generative artificial intelligence (AI) gathers steam. Reuters reports: Ernie, meaning "Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration," is a large AI-powered language model introduced in 2019, Baidu said. It has gradually grown to be able to perform tasks including language understanding, language generation, and text-to-image generation, it added. Search engine giant Baidu's Hong Kong-listed shares jumped as much as 13.4% on the news. A person familiar with the matter told Reuters last week that Baidu was planning to launch such a service in March. The person said Baidu aims to make the service available as a standalone application and gradually merge it into its search engine by incorporating chatbot-generated results when users make search requests. In a blog post on Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the company is working on a ChatGPT competitor named Bard.

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First US Navy Pilot To Publicly Report UAPs Says 'Congress Must Reveal the Truth To the American People'

Ryan Graves, former Lt. U.S. Navy and F/A-18F pilot who was the first active-duty fighter pilot to come forward publicly about regular sightings of UAP, says more data is needed about unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP). "We should encourage pilots and other witnesses to come forward and keep the pressure on Congress to prioritize UAP as a matter of national security," writes Graves in an opinion piece for The Hill. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt from his report: As a former U.S. Navy F/A-18 fighter pilot who witnessed unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) on a regular basis, let me be clear. The U.S. government, former presidents, members of Congress of both political parties and directors of national intelligence are trying to tell the American public the same uncomfortable truth I shared: Objects demonstrating extreme capabilities routinely fly over our military facilities and training ranges. We don't know what they are, and we are unable to mitigate their presence. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) last week published its second ever report on UAP activity. While the unclassified version is brief, its findings are sobering. Over the past year, the government has collected hundreds of new reports of enigmatic objects from military pilots and sensor systems that cannot be identified and "represent a hazard to flight safety." The report also preserves last year's review of the 26-year reporting period that some UAP may represent advanced technology, noting "unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities." Mysteriously, no UAP reports have been confirmed to be foreign so far. However, just this past week, a Chinese surveillance balloon shut down air traffic across the United States. How are we supposed to make sense of hundreds of reports of UAP that violate restricted airspace uncontested and interfere with both civilian and military pilots? Here is the hard truth. We don't know. UAP are a national security problem, and we urgently need more data. Why don't we have more data? Stigma. I know the fear of stigma is a major problem because I was the first active-duty fighter pilot to come forward publicly about regular sightings of UAP, and it was not easy. There has been little support or incentive for aircrew to speak publicly on this topic. There was no upside to reporting hard-to-explain sightings within the chain of command, let alone doing so publicly. For pilots to feel comfortable, it will require a culture shift inside organizations and in society at large. I have seen for myself on radar and talked with the pilots who have experienced near misses with mysterious objects off the Eastern Seaboard that have triggered unsafe evasive actions and mandatory safety reports. There were 50 or 60 people who flew with me in 2014-2015 and could tell you they saw UAP every day. Yet only one other pilot has confirmed this publicly. I spoke out publicly in 2019, at great risk personally and professionally, because nothing was being done. The ODNI report itself notes that concentrated efforts to reduce stigma have been a major reason for the increase in reports this year. To get the data and analyze it scientifically, we must uproot the lingering cultural stigma of tin foil hats and "UFOs" from the 1950s that stops pilots from reporting the phenomena and scientists from studying it. Last September, the U.S. Navy said that all of the government's UFO videos are classified information and releasing any additional UFO videos would "harm national security."

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Single-Use Plastic Production Rose Between 2019 and 2021 Despite Pledges

Polluting single-use plastic production rose globally by 6 million tons per year from 2019 to 2021 despite tougher worldwide regulations, with producers making "little progress" to tackle the problem and boost recycling, new research showed on Monday. Reuters reports: Single-use plastics have emerged as one of the world's most pressing environmental threats, with vast amounts of waste buried in landfills or dumped untreated in rivers and oceans. The manufacturing process is also a major source of climate-warming greenhouse gas. But while growth has slowed recently, the production of single-use plastic from "virgin" fossil fuel sources is still nowhere near its peak, and the use of recycled feedstocks remains "at best a marginal activity," Australia's Minderoo Foundation said in its Plastic Waste Makers Index. "Make no mistake, the plastic waste crisis is going to get significantly worse before we see an absolute year-on-year decline in virgin single-use plastic consumption," it said. Exxon Mobil was at the top of the list of global petrochemical companies producing virgin polymers used in single-use plastics, followed by China's Sinopec. Sinopec also leads the way when it comes to building new production facilities over the 2019-2027 period, the report said, with more than 5 million tons of annual capacity planned. Exxon Mobil was second with around 4 million tons. [...] Around 137 million tons of single-use plastics were produced from fossil fuels in 2021, and it is expected to rise by another 17 million tons by 2027, the researchers said.

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Binance To Suspend US Dollar Bank Transfers This Week

Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, will suspend U.S. dollar deposits and withdrawals, the company said Monday, without providing a reason for the decision. CNBC reports: Binance US, a unit of the company that's regulated by the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said in a tweet that it's not affected by the suspension. Thus the move applies only to non-U.S. customers who transfer money to or from bank accounts in dollars. Data from Arkham Intelligence shows that following the announcement, there was a sharp spike in outflows from Binance's crypto wallets, as millions of dollar-pegged stablecoins such as tether and USDC flowed to rival exchanges or individual wallets. Binance's net U.S. dollar outflow was over $172 million for the day, based on data from DefiLlama. That represents a tiny amount of money for a company that has $42.2 billion worth of crypto assets, according to Arkham. "We're still overwhelmingly net-positive on net deposits," the spokesperson said. "Outflows always tick up when prices start to level off following a bullish market swing like we saw last week as some users take profits." Bitcoin rose more than 38% in January, its best month since October 2021. Regarding Monday's suspension, a Binance representative told CNBC in an email that "Binance.US has its own banking partners and does not have any issues." The main Binance exchange does not serve U.S. users. Binance said customers can still use other fiat currencies or payment methods to purchase crypto. For the small number affected, "we'll have a new partner to announce for those users in the next couple weeks," the spokesperson said.

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Power Grid Worries Force Amazon To Run Oregon Datacenters Using Fuel Cells

Unable to get the power it needs to feed its growing datacenter footprint, Amazon plans to transition some of its Oregon datacenters over to natural gas fuel cells. The Register reports: First reported by local media, Amazon's initial plan would involve installing just shy of 75 megawatts of fuel cell capacity across three datacenters with the option to expand that to four additional sites in the future. Fuel cells extract electricity from a fuel like natural gas or hydrogen without the need for combustion. With hydrogen, the only byproducts of this reaction are electricity and water vapor, but with natural gas, CO2 -- a potent greenhouse gas -- is still produced. For Amazon, these natural gas fuel cells will be used as the primary energy supply, delivering 24.3 megawatts of power to each of the three datacenter sites. "We are investing in fuel cells as a way to power a small number of our operations in Oregon," an Amazon spokesperson told The Register in an email. "We continually innovate to minimize our impact on our neighbors, local resources, and the environment and this technology provides a pathway for less carbon intensive solutions in the region." Continuing to use fossil fuels to power its datacenters is at odds with Amazon's stated sustainability goals -- which include transitioning facilities to 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. However, sources familiar with the matter tell The Register that Amazon's decision to use natural gas fuel cells was made in part due to challenges associated with power transmission infrastructure in the region. Oregon Live notes that the e-tail giant has had problems with landowners, who have objected to having high-voltage transmission lines cross their properties. Fuel cells provide Amazon a way to circumvent these headaches by generating the power onsite. However, regulators are concerned that the decision could actually increase Amazon's carbon footprint in the region as the power supplied by local utilities includes a mix of hydroelectric power. In documents filed with the state, it's estimated the fuel cells would generate 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

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