Resignations at OpenAI. Hashtag Trending for Friday, May 17, 2024

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The question changes from “where’s Ilya” to what took so long?  Did Musk’s Neuralink team know there might be problems with implants? Will Microsoft kill the reputation of their PC Manager software by using it to push product? Did Musk’s Neuralink know their brain implant had issues before they used it on humans?  And how long does it take a couple of university students to break a financial block chain and steal 25 million – 12 seconds.

All this and more on this “questions” edition of Hashtag Trending. I’m your host, Jim Love, let’s get into it.

Ilya Sutskever, a co-founder and the company’s chief scientist, has announced his departure after nearly a decade at the helm. This exit follows the dramatic saga last November, when Sutskever reportedly led an attempt to oust CEO Sam Altman before changing course.

Sutskever took to the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to share the news in a post that read, quote: “After almost a decade, I have made the decision to leave OpenAI. The company’s trajectory has been nothing short of miraculous, and I’m confident that OpenAI will build AGI that is both safe and beneficial under the leadership of Sam Altman and others.” End quote.

In his own post, Altman expressed sadness at Sutskever’s exit, praising him as “easily one of the greatest minds of our generation” and a “guiding light” whose “brilliance and vision are well known.” Altman credited Sutskever as integral to OpenAI’s success, saying the company “would not be what it is without him.”

Sutskever’s departure comes after the high-profile internal turmoil surrounding Altman’s temporary ousting last fall. The reasons were unclear, with Altman only citing “inconsistent candor” in his communications at the time. This sparked rampant speculation, including the viral meme “Where’s Ilya?” – a nod to Sutskever’s seeming involvement and subsequent silence.

OpenAI has now appointed Jakub Pachocki as its new Chief Scientist. Pachocki, the company’s research director, has led critical projects like GPT-4 and the AI system that defeated human pros at the game Dota 2. In a statement, Altman expressed confidence that Pachocki will “lead us to make rapid and safe progress” on beneficial artificial general intelligence or AGI.

Another key departure is Jan Leike, who ran OpenAI’s “Superalignment” team focused on controlling increasingly powerful AI systems. His responsibilities will transfer to co-founder John Schulman, who sided with Altman during last year’s upheaval.

While the full back-story remains murky, Sutskever’s exit represents a significant changing of the guard at one of the world’s most influential AI labs. He says he is pursuing “a project that is very personally meaningful” and will share details later.

Sources include: Axios

Neuralink, the brain implant company founded by Elon Musk, has encountered some issues in its highly anticipated first human trials.

Neuralink’s brain-computer interface implant is designed to allow paralyzed individuals to control digital devices using just their thoughts. But sources reveal the company may have ignored early warnings about potential problems with the implant’s components.

The hair-thin wires responsible for detecting brain signals have malfunctioned in Neuralink’s first human trial participant. Specifically, some of those wires have dislodged or retracted from their intended position in the patient’s brain.

This issue was apparently observed years ago during animal trials conducted before the FDA approved human testing. Three sources say Neuralink was aware the implanted wires had a tendency to retract, which could pull the electrodes out of optimal placement.

However, the sources claim Neuralink determined the risk was minimal and opted against redesigning the components, despite those concerning animal trial findings.

So while Neuralink’s implant achieved impressive feats for their first human participant – like letting him browse the internet and play video games telepathically – the malfunctioning wires have reduced the number of working electrodes.

The company now has to decide whether to continue trials while compensating for fewer active electrodes through software changes, or pursue a complicated redesign that could create new risks.

There are no easy solutions. Firmly anchoring the wires to prevent dislodgement could make future removal of the device more difficult and potentially hazardous.

For now, Neuralink remains determined to perfect its brain-computer interface. But this reported disregard for early safety signals could hinder that ambitious progress.

Sources include: IBTimes

In an alleged cryptocurrency caper that officials say “calls the very integrity of the blockchain into question,” two brothers, both MIT students, were able to steal a staggering $25 million in a mere 12 seconds.

24-year-old Anton Peraire-Bueno and his sibling James, 28, are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud itself, and money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, each faces up to 20 years in prison per count.

According to the Department of Justice indictment unsealed Wednesday, the MIT computer science and math students spent months planning an ingenious but illicit scheme. They seemingly exploited a vulnerability in the way the ethereum blockchain validates and records transactions.

The DOJ alleges the brothers set up a network of crypto validators – the nodes responsible for processing and adding transaction data to the blockchain ledger. This allowed them to fraudulently gain access to pending private transactions on the ethereum network.

Prosecutors claim they then maliciously altered those transactions before validators added them to the blockchain, essentially rewriting the transactions in their favor to divert millions to their own crypto wallets.

The speed and sophistication was unprecedented. After initiating so-called “bait transactions” to trigger ethereum’s automated systems, they managed to completely hijack the process within about 12 seconds.

When victims tried to reclaim the stolen funds, the brothers allegedly rejected those requests and went to great lengths to conceal their identities and launder the cryptocurrency through shell companies and unregulated foreign exchanges.

Federal investigators were able to trace the complex money trail, however.  It turns out their search history revealed they researched topics like “how to wash crypto” and “money laundering statute of limitations.”

This raises serious questions about safeguarding blockchains, which millions rely on for secure financial transactions. Authorities warn it exemplifies how capable hackers can still find ways to attack and undermine these decentralized systems.

Sources include:  ArsTechnica

And while we’re on the subject of losing credibility….

Microsoft continues to integrate more advertising into various aspects of Windows 11, but its latest attempt is raising some eyebrows. The company seems to be experimenting with having its PC Manager utility app suggest users need to “repair” their systems…by switching their default search engine to Bing.

The new “Repair Tips” section in PC Manager, which helps optimize performance, apparently displays a recommendation to revert to Microsoft’s Bing search if users have changed from the pre-installed default.

Critics argue Microsoft is misleadingly implying there’s an issue with the system if Bing isn’t set as the default search option.  Our technical comment on this is …duh..

This ad placement was discovered in the PC Manager app available in some international markets like China, where the utility was developed by Microsoft engineers. However, there are reports the software could roll out more broadly, including potentially to U.S. users.

It’s the latest example of Microsoft’s increasing ad integration across Windows 11. Ads and “recommended” content have already been added to Start menu layouts, the Settings app, and File Explorer.

PC Manager itself is considered a useful optimization tool, but stunts like this kill its credibility.

Microsoft’s own Bing search engine and Edge browser are solid products. But experts say repeatedly pushing them through aggressive and potentially misleading ad tactics could have the opposite effect, driving users away.

Sources include: Tech Radar

That’s  our show for today.

I hope you’ll be tuned in for the Weekend Edition. We’ve got a great show for you and because it’s a long weekend here in Canada at least – we may have a bonus episode as well. I hope the weather is great and you are listening in the garden or on the dock.

 

And being a long weekend, I’ll be back to you with the daily news on Tuesday morning.

 

I’m your host, Jim Love, have a Fabulous Friday and our Canadian audience will know how I can wish them a happy 24 on a weekend of the 17th, 18th and 19th.

 

 

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