Tag Archives: Tech

37% of Tech Experts Worry Artificial Intelligence Will Make Humanity Worse by 2030
December 15, 2018 12:01 am|Comments (0)

More than a third of AI experts surveyed by Pew Research said they are concerned that artificial intelligence will leave humanity worse off in 2030 than they are now, with the majority optimistic that the benefits will make life better for individuals.

Pew surveyed 979 “technology pioneers, innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists,” asking whether they thought that AI advances would leave most people better off by the year 2030. Will it “enhance human capacities and empower them?” Pew asked. Or will it “lessen human autonomy and agency,” leaving them worse off?

Overall, 63% said they were hopeful that people will be better off by 2030, with 37% believing they will not be better off. “Yet, most experts, regardless of whether they are optimistic or not, expressed concerns about the long-term impact of these new tools on the essential elements of being human,” Pew wrote in its survey findings released this week.

“2030 is not far in the future. My sense is that innovations like the internet and networked AI have massive short-term benefits, along with long-term negatives that can take decades to be recognizable,” Andrew McLaughlin, executive director of the Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, said in response to Pew’s question.

Many of those surveyed said the good or bad effects of AI applications will depend on how they are built and deployed. Most of the anticipated benefits of AI center around making people more effective in their work and improving the ability of medical professionals to diagnose and treat diseases.

Among the optimists is Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, who told Pew, “I think it is more likely than not that we will use this power to make the world a better place. For instance, we can virtually eliminate global poverty, massively reduce disease and provide better education to almost everyone on the planet.”

Brynjolfsson also said that humans would need to work to guard against the negative potential of artificial intelligence. “AI and ML [machine learning] can also be used to increasingly concentrate wealth and power, leaving many people behind, and to create even more horrifying weapons,” he said. “We need to work aggressively to make sure technology matches our values.”

And while AI is expected to create some new jobs as well as make other jobs more productive, some respondents said that it could also lead to widespread job losses, and the sense of meaning that comes with work.

“The answer depends on whether we can shift our economic systems toward prioritizing radical human improvement and staunching the trend toward human irrelevance in the face of AI,” said Bryan Johnson, founder and CEO of Kernel, a developer of neural interfaces. “I don’t mean just jobs; I mean true, existential irrelevance, which is the end result of not prioritizing human well-being and cognition.”

Some also saw a potential risk to human liberty if AI expertise widens a gap between the powerful and the powerless.

“AI affects agency by creating entities with meaningful intellectual capabilities for monitoring, enforcing and even punishing individuals,” said Greg Shannon, a chief scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s CERT Division. “Those who know how to use it will have immense potential power over those who don’t/can’t. Future happiness is really unclear.”

A separate report from Diffbot this month estimated that 720,000 people are skilled at machine learning around the world, or nearly 1% of the world’s population.

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Apple’s Market Cap Closes Below $1 Trillion, Adding New Fuel to the Tech Selloff
November 6, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

There seems to be some mysterious force that keeps stocks from holding on to trillion-dollar market caps. Only three months after Apple made history by becoming the first U.S. stock ever to be worth $ 1 trillion, the stock closed Monday below that milestone level.

Apple’s stock first surpassed the $ 1 trillion mark on Aug. 2 and has held above that level since then. According to Nasdaq, Apple has 4.83 billion shares outstanding. On Monday, Apple’s stock closed at $ 201.59 a share, 2.9% below its official closing price last week and low enough to give Apple a net value of $ 974.5 billion.

Apple made stock history by becoming the first U.S. company and the second company overall (after China’s Petrochina) to attain a market value of $ 1 trillion. Amazon briefly joined Apple into that elite club but has since lost more than 20% of its value.

Amazon’s market value rose above the $ 1 trillion level on Sept. 4, then dropped back below the following day. Since then, Amazon has continued to fall in part on concerns about a slower holiday season this year.

Petrochina, the first global member of the trillion-dollar club, reached that level on its first day of trading after its 2007 IPO. But that peak coincided with a Chinese stock-market bubble, and PetroChina’s shares would lose $ 800 billion in value over the next 10 years.

Apple’s stock began declining last Thursday, after the company warned investors that its holiday sales could come in below Wall Street forecasts. In the current quarter, Apple said its revenue would come in between $ 89 billion and $ 93 billion. Analysts had forecast revenue of $ 93 billion.

That may not be more than a speed bump for Apple as it pushes to sell more iPhones and other devices, along with a growing business in services, like Apple Music and the App Store, to help revenue and profit grow in coming years. Still, not long ago, the U.S. stock market had two trillion-dollar stars.

As of Monday’s close, it has none.

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Exclusive: Russian high tech project flounders after U.S. sanctions
October 17, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions targeting Russia’s nascent high tech industry have caused a Russian microchip company significant financial woes and delayed the launch of an initiative meant to produce substitutes for Western products, the firm’s owner said.

FILE PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits a plant of Russian microchip company Angstrem-T in Zelenograd near Moscow, Russia August 3, 2016. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

President Vladimir Putin has stressed the need to develop Russia’s domestic tech industry to make it less dependent on Western equipment. But Moscow’s efforts to manufacture Russian microchips and other high tech products have been thwarted by U.S. sanctions against a string of Russian tech companies.

Angstrem-T, which makes semi-conductors, has accumulated significant debts and is set to be taken over by state development bank VEB after failing to reimburse an 815-million-euro ($ 944.75 million) loan dating back to 2008, said Leonid Reiman, chairman of the company’s board of directors.

Reiman, Russia’s former minister of communications and information technologies, said the company’s inability to reimburse its debt was in part tied to U.S. restrictions on the import of dual-use technologies and its addition to U.S. Treasury sanctions in 2016.

The U.S. moves were prompted by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. It has imposed further sanctions against Russia since 2016 over other issues.

Prior to the sanctions Angstrem-T purchased most of its equipment from U.S. multinational firm Advanced Micro Devices and bought a license from IBM to produce chips.

The company is heavily reliant on U.S. products, but the sanctions now bar it from doing business with U.S. firms.

“Although we initially received the (U.S.) State Department’s consent for this project and the delivery of the technology here, the sanctions caused the deadlines for its completion to be drawn out,” Reiman told Reuters.

“The factory is working, the products are being produced, but the question of procurement remains.”

FILE PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits a plant of Russian microchip company Angstrem-T in Zelenograd near Moscow, Russia August 3, 2016. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

VEB, which Reiman said could become the majority owner of Angstrem-T by the end of the year, declined to comment.

IMPORT SUBSTITUTION

When Angstrem-T began producing its first chips in 2016 after nearly a decade of false starts and delays, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev depicted the initiative as a way Russia could surmount already existing U.S. sanctions.

“It’s good that we are starting to produce these ourselves,” Medvedev said at the factory’s opening, a month before Angstrem-T itself was targeted by the U.S. sanctions. “It’s a question of import substitution.”

Reiman would not disclose the magnitude of Angstrem-T’s debt. According to a Russian database that aggregates company data, the firm had 87.4 billion roubles ($ 1.34 billion) in debt last year. During the same period it recorded revenues of 101 million roubles.

A source in the field of microelectronics in Russia said the sanctions and repeated delays in the project had caused Angstrem-T’s products to become outdated.

The market for the 90 and 130-nanometre microchips it produces has significantly shrunk in recent years, according to the source.

A draft Russian government roadmap for the development of the microchip industry seen by Reuters says that once VEB’s takeover is complete, Angstrem-T should shift its production to the more modern 28-nanometre chips.

Such chips are used in products made by companies like Apple, Samsung and Sony.

The ministry has for several years lobbied for Russia to build a modern microchip plant, but to no avail.

Reporting by Maria Kolomychenko; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Gareth Jones

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Toyota says in talks with Geely on cooperation in hybrid vehicle tech
September 6, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

BEIJING (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp said on Thursday it is in talks with Chinese automaker Geely about cooperation in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle technology, but nothing has been decided on the matter.

The Toyota logo is shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The move comes as Japan’s biggest automaker has been increasingly embracing new automotive technologies for future growth, and has also embarked on a strategy to ramp up sales in China, the world’s biggest auto market.

Toyota said in a statement to Reuters that it and Geely are currently “communicating with each other” about gasoline-electric hybrid technology.

It was not immediately clear in what aspects of the hybrid technology Geely and Toyota are discussing cooperating.

A person familiar with the matter, however, said that the talks apparently involve a Chinese supplier of electric battery technology both companies have already been associated with but separately. Toyota declined to comment on the specifics of the cooperation.

“Toyota has been conducting the business with the open policy which also applies to the area of electrification technologies. The relationship with Geely (Toyota is exploring) is also based on this open policy,” the statement said.

Toyota’s response comes after a Chinese media report said Geely was working with Toyota on the conventional hybrid technology. The report said details on the joint effort would be announced soon.

A Geely spokesman declined to comment.

Toyota, which bet big on gasoline-electric hybrid technology in the late 1990s when it began selling the Prius hybrid, has since localized production of conventional hybrid cars in China and has been selling them here since 2015 under the Corolla and Levin names.

The company has said it plans to sell plug-in hybrid versions of the Corolla and the Levin next year.

Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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Soros Fund Management adds popular tech names, BlackRock in second-quarter
August 15, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Soros Fund Management LLC added Facebook Inc (FB.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), but trimmed stakes in Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) in the quarter through June, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday.

Billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros speaks during a discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York, September 27, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The family office of billionaire George Soros also bought stakes in AT&T Inc (T.N), Chevron Corp (CVX.N) and T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.O) and divested stakes in eBay Inc (EBAY.O), Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O), Snap Inc (SNAP.N) and Paypal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O).

Soros Fund Management also dramatically boosted its shares in BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) – the world’s largest asset management firm, overseeing $ 6 trillion – by nearly 60 percent to 12,983 total shares in the second quarter.

Other notable adjustments included paring stakes in Netflix Inc (NFLX.O), Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), but raising its shares of Pandora Media Inc (P.N) and Salesforce.com Inc (CRM.N).

Soros Fund Management took share stakes in Facebook of 159,200 class A shares during the second quarter and 54,500 shares in Apple.

A number of prominent fund managers sharply cut their holdings in Apple only weeks before it became the first publicly-traded U.S. company to be worth more than $ 1 trillion.

Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital slashed its stake by 77 percent, while Philippe Laffont’s Coatue Management unloaded 95 percent. Advisory firm Diamond Hill Capital Management cut its stake by 27 percent.

Other big holders, including Sanders Capital and Adage Capital Partners, only trimmed small amounts in the second quarter.

Soros also rejigged his energy holdings, raising stakes in Devon Energy Corp (DVN.N) and Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI.N), while dissolving his stake in the VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH.P) and cutting exposure to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO) and Williams Companies Inc (WMB.N).

Quarterly disclosures of hedge fund managers’ stock holdings, in what are known as 13F filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, are one of the few public ways of learning what the managers are selling and buying.

But relying on the filings to develop an investment strategy comes with some risk because the disclosures come 45 days after the end of each quarter and may not reflect current positions. Still, the filings offer a glimpse into what hedge fund managers saw as opportunities to make money on the long side.

The filings do not disclose short positions, or bets that a stock will fall in price. As a result, the public filings do not always present a complete picture of a management firm’s equities holdings.

Reporting by Jennifer Ablan; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, editing by G Crosse

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Tech still all the rage while bears prowl emerging markets: BAML survey
August 14, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

LONDON (Reuters) – Global investors remain overwhelmingly bullish on U.S. and Chinese tech shares, while short positions on emerging equities are growing increasingly popular, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest monthly fund manager survey showed on Tuesday.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S., April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Investors picked “Long FAANG and BAT” as the “most crowded” trade for the seventh straight month, BAML’s August survey found, referring to U.S. tech giants Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, and China’s Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

Tech has kept its crown, even though results-driven declines by Facebook and Twitter last month triggered anxiety over the mega-cap stocks responsible for the lion’s share of stock market gains in the U.S. and China.

Going short emerging-market equities was the second most popular trade, according to the survey, which was conducted between Aug. 3 and Aug. 9 – just before Turkey’s lira plunged 16 percent against the dollar on Friday.

Investors had a small underweight on EM equities, but BAML said prior EM crisis lows saw investors’ underweight at -27 percent, versus -1 percent today – suggesting investors could slash allocations a lot further from here.

Among risks to global markets, investors said for the third month in a row that trade war was the most concerning.

They continued to position for a global monetary tightening cycle led by the U.S. Federal Reserve. A net 54 percent of investors were underweight bonds, while 20 percent were overweight global banks, which gain from higher interest rates.

Overall, global investors became more cautious in August, raising their cash allocation to 5 percent from 4.7 percent. The increased caution was tempered with a more positive outlook on the profit cycle, with a net 5 percent saying profits will improve.

European fund managers were relatively more bullish, cutting their cash allocations to 4.3 percent from 5 percent.

The proportion of European investors expecting stronger economic growth rose to the highest since April, and the share expecting a recession in the next 12 months also fell to its second lowest ever.

U.S. EQUITIES IN FAVOR, UK STOCKS DUMPED

Investors’ allocation to U.S. equities rose to the biggest overweight since January 2015, making the U.S. the top equity region for the first time in five years as Wall Street stocks delivered strong earnings.

The U.S. was the most favorable region in terms of corporate profits, according to 67 percent of surveyed investors – the highest proportion in 17 years.

Meanwhile, investors pulled money from UK equities, which saw the biggest one-month drop in allocations since May 2016 as concerns of a no-deal Brexit rose.

After six months of falling allocations to euro zone equities, investors added to the region again.

As the S&P 500 volatility gauge .VIX hit its lowest since January on Aug 9, surveyed investors showed the lowest conviction on record for buying volatility.

Accordingly, going long volatility would be a staunchly contrarian bet, going against the grain of current investor thinking, while BAML also suggested “long BRIC/short FAANG” and “long bonds” as trades for the contrarian investor.

Reporting by Helen Reid; editing by Sujata Rao, Larry King

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Britain hires ex-Obama official to advise on tech economy
August 2, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has hired Jason Furman, chief economist in former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, to chair a new panel that will steer its approach to digital technology, the UK government said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Council of Economic Advisers Chair Jason Furman speaks at a Brookings Institution forum on “Achieving Strong Economic Growth” in Washington April 8, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The panel will look at competition in the digital economy and how technological progress can be squared with the protection of privacy and society at large.

Furman served as chair of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers between 2013 and 2017 and is currently a professor of economic policy at Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“His experience will be invaluable as we ensure that our market-regulating institutions are fit for purpose in the digital age,” British finance minister Philip Hammond said.

Britain wants to keep close ties with the European Union around digital regulation after Brexit, although it will not be a part of the bloc’s Digital Single Market – a plan to make online trade easier between EU countries.

Britain’s digital industry turned over about 116.5 billion pounds ($ 153 billion) in 2016, or around 7 percent of economic output.

“While digital markets have produced significant consumer benefits, including in the UK, we need to fully understand how competition policy needs to adapt going forward,” Furman said.

“Our focus needs to be on ensuring that consumers continue to benefit from these new technologies while maximizing the innovative potential from the economy.”

Furman’s panel will operate from September through to early 2019, when it is due to submit its findings to the government.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Stephen Addison

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Weak outlook overshadows tech firm Akamai's profit beat
August 1, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Akamai Technologies Inc’s (AKAM.O) forecast for third quarter revenue largely missed Wall Street expectations on Tuesday, even as its second quarter profit topped estimates on strength in its cloud security business.

Shares of the company, which were initially up after results, fell 3.5 percent to $ 72.60 in after-hours trading.

It forecast current-quarter revenue of $ 656 million to $ 668 million, while analysts on average were expecting $ 668 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Akamai provides services to companies to speed up their web pages, but has been under pressure as larger customers such as Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) develop their own in-house know-how to handle web traffic.

The company has been responding by shifting its focus to cloud security.

Revenue from Akamai’s web business rose nearly 11 percent to $ 351 million in the second quarter. However, this growth was the slowest in at least six quarters.

“(Revenue) is a little lower than what we’d like to see from the web division,” Chief Executive Officer Tom Leighton said on an earnings call with analysts.

On the same call, Chief Financial Officer James Benson said the company was nonetheless “optimistic” about web division growth.

Revenue from the company’s cloud security business – which provides data centers with safe ways to operate and deliver content – rose 33 percent to $ 155 million in the quarter.

The company’s overall revenue rose 9 percent to $ 663 million, narrowly beating the average analyst estimate of $ 662 million.

Net income fell to $ 43 million, or 25 cents per share, in the quarter ended June 30, from $ 57 million, or 33 cents per share, a year earlier, as expenses rose 16 percent.

Excluding items, the company earned 83 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 80 cents.

Akamai said in quarter three it expects to report adjusted earnings of 80 cents to 86 cents per share. Analysts were expecting earnings of 80 cents.

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Rosalba O’Brien

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U.S. tech enforcer says will read 'closely' EU statement on Google
July 18, 2018 6:56 pm|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which has investigated Alphabet’s Google in the past for abuse of web dominance, said on Wednesday he would take a close look at Europe’s recent decision to fine the company 4.34 billion euros ($ 5 billion).

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager addresses a news conference on Google in Brussels, Belgium, July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Speaking at a hearing in Capitol Hill, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said he had spoken on Tuesday with EU antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager.

“We’re going to read what the EU put out very closely,” Simons told a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

In addition to the fine, equal to about two weeks’ revenue, EU antitrust regulators ordered Google to stop using its Android mobile operating system to block rivals. The U.S. tech company said it would appeal.

Asked about the dominance of Google and Apple in the smartphone market, Simons said: “There is the two of them so they compete pretty heavily against each other.”

He added that markets dominated by few companies are where antitrust enforcers often expect to find “problematic conduct.”

The FTC had previously investigated Google for abusing its huge market share in web search, but ended the probe in early 2013 with a mild reprimand.

Also at the hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers from both political parties pressed the five agency commissioners to do more to stop robocallers and to ensure better security for sensitive data.

To tackle these and other issues, the commissioners – three Republicans and two Democrats – said the agency needed more resources and more authority, specifically the ability to create rules relatively quickly.

Simons and others also called for legislation to give the FTC the authority to seek civil penalties in the case of a data breach.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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Walmart, Microsoft in partnership to use cloud tech
July 17, 2018 6:54 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Retail giant Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it entered into a strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp for wider use of cloud and artificial intelligence technology, in a sign of major rivals of Amazon.com Inc coming together.

FILE PHOTO: Shopping carts are seen outside a new Wal-Mart Express store in Chicago July 26, 2011. Wal-Mart Stores Inc reporterd a higher-than-expected quarterly profit May 19, 2106, as sales in the U.S. market rose, sending the retailer’s shares up nearly 10 percent. REUTERS/John Gress/File Photo

The five-year agreement will leverage the full range of Microsoft’s cloud solutions, including Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, to make shopping faster and easier for customers, the Bentonville Arkansas-based company said.

As part of the partnership, Walmart and Microsoft engineers will collaborate to migrate a significant portion of walmart.com and samsclub.com to Azure, Walmart added.

While Walmart is doubling down on its e-commerce presence to better compete with Amazon, Microsoft has been working on a technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores, Reuters reported last month.

Microsoft’s technology aims to help retailers keep pace with Amazon Go, the ecommerce giant’s highly automated store format.

The Windows software maker has also shown the sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had talks with Walmart about a potential collaboration, Reuters reported.

Through the partnership, Walmart plans to defend itself from Amazon’s retail ambitions and expertise in data, and boost its online presence.

Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

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