Generative AI has disappointing results. Hashtag Trending for Friday, June 14, 2024

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Microsoft “Accepts Responsibility” After China Hacking Incident, Research firm Gartner Group says the data is clear – Return to Office Risks Outweigh the Rewards, the

Payoff from AI Projects ‘Dismal’ So Far but  AI Fuels Rapid Climate Adaptation for Crops

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

Microsoft is facing intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators over recent nation-state cyberattacks that compromised the tech giant’s products used by federal agencies.

In testimony to Congress today, Microsoft President Brad Smith will say the company “accepts responsibility” for the issues raised in a government report on a major 2022 hack attributed to China. The breach exposed emails at agencies like the State Department.

Smith plans to outline Microsoft’s new “Secure Future Initiative” aimed at prioritizing security over fast product releases. He’ll apologize for the impacts and invite federal cybersecurity leaders to review the changes.

The comments come as Microsoft confronts a crisis of trust in Washington following revelations that its products enabled cyber-espionage by China and Russia against U.S. government communications.

Lawmakers are pushing back on renewing Microsoft contracts, while competitors lobby to replace the software across agencies. A trade group is urging the federal government to diversify beyond its Microsoft reliance.

With the intense spotlight, Smith will need to provide credible assurances that Microsoft’s security overhaul can prevent future breaches and regain agencies’ trust in its core products like Windows and Office.

Sources include: Axios

As organizations push for more time in the office, new research raises questions about whether strict return-to-office requirements are worth the potential talent fallout.

Nearly three-quarters of executives say RTO mandates are causing leadership conflicts. And employees at firms with these policies report lower intent to stay compared to those with more flexibility.

High performers, women, and millennials – groups that highly value remote options – are the biggest flight risks when faced with RTO requirements. These mandates can be perceived as a signal of mistrust.

While some modest benefits like increased effort and team collaboration emerge from office time, the research found no real improvements to performance or inclusion metrics.

In fact, over 60% of employees say they work best remotely and feel more included in that environment versus on-site.

Rather than blanket mandates, experts recommend giving employees a voice in shaping flexible hybrid policies focused on purposeful office time, like brainstorming sessions or team-building events.

With talent at a premium, the risks of strict RTO policies – low morale, higher attrition – may outweigh the potential upsides for many organizations.

Sources include: Gartner.com

A new survey by Lucidworks finds businesses are getting more cautious about investing in generative AI tools like ChatGPT. The initial hype around AI has faded as organizations grapple with high costs, data security risks, and disappointing results.

While 63% of companies still plan to increase AI spending this year, that’s down sharply from 93% in 2022. Concerns are especially high in Asia, where under half of Chinese businesses expect to boost AI budgets.

A key issue? A dismal 42% of companies report seeing no significant benefits yet from their generative AI initiatives. Only 25% of planned AI projects have even been completed so far.

Worries about the accuracy of AI outputs have increased 5-fold over last year. And anticipated high costs for technologies like large language models are causing sticker shock – up 14 times higher than 2022 expectations.

Qualitative applications using generative AI for narrow text-based outputs like generating FAQs and HR documentation have seen the most success so far, accounting for about 25% of successful implementations. However, more complex quantitative applications that involve analysis, optimization, and prediction have proven far more challenging, with less than 15% implemented successfully.

Simple use cases like code generation copilots have found traction, while data-heavy initiatives like product search optimization and automated job screening have struggled to live up to the AI hype.

The results suggest the AI revolution faces growing growing pains as real-world deployment hits roadblocks around governance, performance, and return on investment. As one expert noted, “The honeymoon phase of generative AI is over” as companies take a more measured approach.

Sources include: The Register

As climate change upends traditional growing seasons, the agriculture industry is harnessing AI on two fronts to protect food supplies. First, providing hyperlocal weather forecasting to make smarter planting and harvesting decisions. And second, rapidly breeding new crop varieties resilient to increasing weather extremes.

An Idaho firm called Shephard’s Grain is using a system called ClimateAI that crunches data like satellite imagery to deliver granular forecasts up to six months out, advising the company’s wheat farmers on the optimal times to sow and reap each crop for optimal yields.

“A forward look at the weather helps our growers decide which crops to plant and when they’ll reach maturity,” says CEO Jeremy Bunch.

But AI isn’t just informing season-to-season decisions – it’s also revolutionizing the breeding pipeline. Rebecca White of Avalo says their machine learning can identify beneficial genes across different seed varieties.

“This allows us to create new climate-adapted plant varieties five times faster than traditional methods,” White says. Agritech firm Avalo has already developed drought-hardy potatoes and frost-resistant rice using this AI-driven approach.  The company has also developed climate-adapted broccoli that grows 25% faster.

With a world population approaching 10 billion and the threat of climate change potentially devastating crop yields, AI is proving to be more than useful, it’s an essential tool to ensure that we can maintain our global food supply.

Sources include:

And that’s our show for today.

Hashtag Trending goes to air 5 days a week with a daily news show, with a weekend interview show we call the Weekend Edition.

Show notes are at technewsday.ca or .com  – either one works.

We love your comments.  Contact me at editorial@technewsday.ca

I’m your host Jim Love, have a Fantastic Friday.

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