Former AI board member reveals details about Altman firing. Hashtag Trending for Thursday, Wednesday May 30, 2024

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Canadian school boards sue social media companies for negative impact on student well-being. A former AI board member reveals details about the firing of Sam Altman. Google’s search secrets are accidentally leaked. A study conducted by Zoho reveals only 36 percent of Canadian businesses recognize AI as important for their business.

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

In a significant escalation of legal action against major social media platforms, five more Ontario school boards and two private schools have joined ongoing lawsuits alleging these companies’ products have negatively impacted students’ ability to learn and overall well-being. This adds to the hundreds of US school boards that have launched similar lawsuits.

The new plaintiffs bring the total amount being sought from the Canadian actions to over $7 billion Canadian dollars from Meta (Facebook, Instagram), Snap (Snapchat), and ByteDance (TikTok). The suits argue the platforms’ addictive designs have compromised learning, disrupted classrooms, and harmed student mental health.

The news release stated:

“The addictive properties of the products designed by social media giants have compromised all students’ ability to learn, disrupted classrooms and created a student population that suffers from increasing mental health harms.”

The legal action underscores growing concerns over children’s compulsive social media usage and its potential long-term impacts. While the companies have defended their safety practices, the lawsuits aim to hold them accountable and drive meaningful changes.

For IT leaders and educators, this development signifies an urgent need to address technology’s influence on youth and revisit policies governing digital device usage in learning environments.

The high-stakes litigation also reflects a broader societal reckoning with the ethics and responsibilities of big tech’s persuasive design practices affecting vulnerable populations like students.

Sources include: CBC

Former OpenAI board member Helen Toner is revealing new details about last year’s dramatic firing and rapid reinstatement of CEO Sam Altman.

In an interview on The TED AI Show podcast, Toner claims the board decided to oust Altman without his knowledge, as they believed he would “undermine” and “pull out all the stops” if aware of their plans.

Toner cites several reasons the board lost trust in Altman’s leadership, including his alleged failure to disclose ownership of a fund, providing inaccurate safety information, and targeting her after a research paper angered him.

[Quote] “Sam started lying to other board members in order to try and push me off the board.”

Two executives also accused Altman of creating a “toxic atmosphere” with “psychological abuse.” And Toner notes a lack of board oversight, saying they learned about the ChatGPT launch in November 2022 “on Twitter.”

However, OpenAI’s board chair Bret Taylor states an independent review found no product, financial or legal concerns, and over 95% of employees wanted Altman reinstated as CEO.

The allegations shed light on the AI company’s internal challenges around governance and leadership.

Sources include: The Verge

There have been few secrets as closely guarded as what goes into Google’s search algorithm – at least until recently.

A recent leak of over 2,500 pages of Google’s internal documentation is offering a rare glimpse into how the search engine giant ranks websites. The documents, inadvertently published on GitHub by Google’s own automated tooling in March, detail the company’s Content Warehouse API used for search.

While not containing the actual search algorithm code, the files reveal attributes and signals that appear to contradict some of Google’s public statements on its ranking process, according to SEO experts reviewing the leak.

[Quote] “Many claims directly contradict public statements made by Googlers over the years, in particular the company’s repeated denial that click-centric user signals are employed.” – Rand Fishkin, CEO of SparkToro

Among the revelations – indications that Google considers site authority scores and Chrome browser data as ranking factors, despite publicly denying using metrics like these.

The leaked files also suggest Google elevates certain sites for sensitive topics like elections and employs different treatments for smaller websites.

Mike King of iPullRank stated:

[Quote] “While I don’t necessarily fault Google for protecting proprietary information, I take issue with efforts to actively discredit people presenting reproducible discoveries.”

Google has yet to confirm the authenticity of the leaked docs. However, the potential insights could have far-reaching impacts for the SEO industry and web publishers optimizing for Google’s search rankings.

For businesses and IT leaders, this leak highlights the complexities in ensuring web presence and navigating the ever-evolving search landscape shaped by big tech’s black box algorithms.

Sources include: The Verge and The Register

While overall business optimism has declined from the previous quarter, over 60% of Canadian businesses remain hopeful about growth prospects in 2024. That’s down from 74 percent at the end of 2023.

Economic uncertainties and a decline in customer spending are cited as the biggest challenges, with nearly 52% observing lower consumer spending.

The integration of AI technology, however, presents a mixed picture – only around 36% consider it critically important. Those who do recognize its importance are adopting AI to boost productivity and competitiveness with only about 10 percent thinking that it will reduce staffing costs. On the staffing front, most businesses plan to maintain current workforce levels, though there are moderate concerns about AI potentially replacing existing roles.

Cybersecurity, collaboration tools, and CRM emerge as top technology priorities for Canadian businesses although at very low numbers, with only about 20 percent of respondents thinking these are important. The results, at least on the surface, appear to indicate that leveraging technology is not a huge concern for many Canadian businesses.

Employee wellness initiatives, vital for resilience, are also lacking in over half the workplaces surveyed.

I was able to speak with Zoho Canada’s Managing Director Chandrashekar LSP to get his perspective on this report. Listen to the podcast for the clip from this interview. And you can get the full study at this link.

For my part, I couldn’t help thinking about our story yesterday that pointed out that productivity in Canada has declined by .3 percent while US productivity has increased by 6 percent. While we appreciate that Canadian businesses still have a high degree of optimism, there is a lot of work to be done if Canadian business is to remain competitive.

And that’s it for today’s show. Remember that you can get us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. We’re available on YouTube in both audio and video format.

Show notes are on Tech Newsday dot com or dot ca. Take your pick.

I’m your host Jim Love, have a thrilling Thursday.

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