This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through July 29)


Does Sam Altman Know What He’s Creating?
Ross Andersen | The Atlantic
i‘We could have gone off and just built this in our building here for five more years,’ [Altman] said, ‘and we would have had something jaw-dropping.’ But the public wouldn’t have been able to prepare for the shock waves that followed, an outcome that he finds ‘deeply unpleasant to imagine.’ Altman believes that people need time to reckon with the idea that we may soon share Earth with a powerful new intelligence, before it remakes everything from work to human relationships. ChatGPT was a way of serving notice.”


Aided by AI Language Models, Google’s Robots Are Getting Smart
Kevin Roose | The New York Times
“A quiet revolution is underway in robotics, one that piggybacks on recent advances in so-called large language models—the same type of artificial intelligence system that powers ChatGPT, Bard and other chatbots. Google has recently begun plugging state-of-the-art language models into its robots, giving them the equivalent of artificial brains. The secretive project has made the robots far smarter and given them new powers of understanding and problem-solving.”


CRISPR Crops Are Here
Paolo Pononiere |
“Had it been coined intentionally for the purpose of marketing fresh produce, the acronym CRISPR would have been a stroke of advertising genius. After all, who wouldn’t want their salad to be crisper? But the true genius of this gene-editing technology could be its ability to jump straight to consumer shelves, sidestepping all the controversies that have tripped up its cousin GMO, with which it shares its biotechnological roots.”


I Looked Into Sam Altman’s Orb and All I Got Was This Lousy Crypto
Joel Khalili | Wired
“Everyone who signs up to the project has their irises and other facial features scanned by one of the hundreds of Orbs in circulation, in return for a chunk of a new cryptocurrency. The aim, its founders say, is to create a global identification system that will help reliably differentiate between humans and AI, in preparation for when intelligence is no longer a reliable indicator of personhood.”


Flipping a Switch and Making Cancers Self-Destruct
Gina Kolata | The New York Times
“Within every cancer are molecules that spur deadly, uncontrollable growth. What if scientists could hook those molecules to others that make cells self-destruct? Could the very drivers of a cancer’s survival instead activate the program for its destruction? That idea came as an epiphany to Dr. Gerald Crabtree, a developmental biologist at Stanford, some years ago during a walk through the redwoods near his home in the Santa Cruz mountains. ‘I ran home,’ he said, excited by the idea and planning ways to make it work.”


Can AI Replace Humans? We Went to the Fast-Food Drive-Through to Find Out
Joanna Stern | The Wall Street Journal
i‘In three years I don’t think there’s going to be any human taking an order in any drive-through in the US,’ said Krishna Gupta, chief executive of Presto, a provider of the technology at nearly 350 restaurants across the country, including Hardee’s and Del Taco. That’s one bold claim, considering Siri’s favorite line is still, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you with that.’ But after my recent tests at a Hardee’s on Kent Island in Maryland, I’m confident we’ll all be talking to burger bots soon.”


The US Government Is Taking a Serious Step Toward Space-Based Nuclear Propulsion
Eric Berger | Ars Technica
“NASA announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the US Department of Defense to launch a nuclear-powered rocket engine into space as early as 2027. The US space agency will invest about $300 million in the project to develop a next-generation propulsion system for in-space transportation. ‘NASA is looking to go to Mars with this system,’ said Anthony Calomino, an engineer at NASA who is leading the agency’s space nuclear propulsion technology program. ‘And this test is really going to give us that foundation.’i


Waymo Pushes Back Its Self-Driving Truck Efforts to Focus on Ride Hailing
Jon Fingas | Engadget
“The move will help the company concentrate on making these self-driving taxis a ‘commercial success,’ according to co-CEOs Dmitri Dolgov and Tekedra Mawakana. Waymo justified the decision by pointing to ‘significant’ growth in demand for its robotaxis in Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco. It also noted rapid upgrades to Driver, the AI system that handles its autonomous cars. There’s ‘tremendous momentum’ in One, the co-chiefs say, and the new strategy will help make the most of this trend.”


The Long and Mostly Short of China’s Newest GPT
Craig S. Smith | IEEE Spectrum
“Who said all large-language models (LLMs) necessarily need to be large? In China’s case, LLMs are currently downsizing in their size and number of parameters. According to sources, this is because the country is now focusing on enabling Chinese startups and smaller entities to build their own generative AI applications.”


OpenAI Can’t Tell if Something Was Written by AI After All
Emilia David | The Verge
“OpenAI shuttered a tool that was supposed to tell human writing from AI due to a low accuracy rate. In an (updated) blog, OpenAI said it decided to end its AI classifier as of July 20th. ‘We are working to incorporate feedback and are currently researching more effective provenance techniques for text,’ the company said.”

Image Credit: Milad Fakurian / Unsplash

* This article was originally published at Singularity Hub

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