Earlier this year, founder-investor Sam Altman left his high-profile role as the president of Y Combinator to become the CEO of OpenAI, an AI research outfit that was founded by some of the most prominent people in the tech industry in late 2015. The idea: to ensure that artificial intelligence is “developed in a way that is safe and is beneficial to humanity,” as one of those founders, Elon Musk, said back then to the New York Times.
The move is intriguing for many reasons, including that artificial general intelligence — or the ability for machines to be as smart as humans — does not yet exist, with even AI’s top researchers far from clear about when it might. Under the leadership Altman, OpenAI, which was originally a non-profit, has also restructured as a for-profit company with some caveats, saying it will “need to invest billions of dollars in upcoming years into large-scale cloud compute, attracting and retaining talented people, and building AI supercomputers.”
Whether OpenAI is able to attract so much funding is an open question, but our guess is that it will, if for no reason other than Altman himself — a force of nature who easily charmed a crowd during an extended stage interview with this editor Thursday night, in a talk that covered everything from YC’s evolution to Altman’s current work at OpenAI.
On YC, for example, we discussed that leanness and “ramen profitability” was once the goal for graduates of the popular accelerator program but that a newer goal seems to be to immediately raise millions of dollars in venture funding, if not tens of millions of dollars. (“If I could control the market — obviously the free market is going to do its thing — I would not have YC companies raise the amounts of money they raise or at the valuations they do,” Altman told attendees at the small industry event. “I do think it is, on net, bad for the startups.”)
Altman was also candid when asked personal and occasionally corny questions, even offering up a story about the strong relationship he has long enjoyed with mom, who happened to be in town for the event. Not only did he say that she remains one of a small handful of people who he “absolutely” trusts, but he acknowledged that it has become harder over time to get unvarnished feedback from people outside that small circle. “You get to some point in your career where people are afraid to offend you or say something you might not want to hear. I’m definitely aware that I get stuff filtered and planned out ahead of time at this point.”
Certainly, Altman is given more rope than most. Not only was this evidenced in the way that Altman ran Y Combinator for five years — essentially supersizing it time and again — but it’s plain from the way he discusses OpenAI that his current thinking is no less audacious. Indeed, much of what Altman said Thursday night would be considered pure insanity coming from someone else. Coming from Altman, it merely drew raised brows.
Asked for example, how OpenAI plans to make money (we wondered if it might license some of its work), Altman answered that the “honest answer is we have no idea. We have never made any revenue. We have no current plans to make revenue. We have no idea how we may one day generate revenue.”
Continued Altman, “We’ve made a soft promise to investors that, ‘Once we build a generally intelligent system, that basically we will ask it to figure out a way to make an investment return for you.’” When the crowd erupted with laughter (it wasn’t immediately obvious that he was serious), Altman himself offered that it sounds like an episode of “Silicon Valley,” but he added, “You can laugh. It’s all right. But it really is what I actually believe.”
We also asked what it means that, under Altman’s leadership, OpenAI has become a “capped profit” company, with the promise of giving investors up to 100 times their return before giving away excess profit to the rest of the world. We noted that 100x is a very high bar — so high in fact that most investors investing in plain-old for-profit companies seldom get close to a 100x return. For example, Sequoia Capital, the only institutional investor in WhatsApp, reportedly saw 50 times the $60 million it had invested in the company when it sold to Facebook for $22 billion, a stunning return.
But Altman not only pushed back on the idea the idea that “capped profit” is a bit of marketing brilliance, he doubled down on why it makes sense. Specifically, he said that the opportunity with artificial general intelligence is so incomprehensibly enormous that if OpenAI manages to crack this particular nut, it could “maybe capture the light cone of all future value in the universe, and that’s for sure not okay for one group of investors to have.”
He also said that future investors will see their investment capped at a lower return — that OpenAI basically wanted to find a way to reward its earliest backers given the risk they are taking.
Before we parted ways, we also shared with Altman various criticisms by AI researchers who we’d interviewed ahead of our sit-down and who’d complained that, among other things, OpenAI seeks out attention for qualitative and not foundational leaps in already proven work, and that its very mission of discovering a path to “safe” artificial general intelligence needlessly raises alarms and makes their research harder.
Altman absorbed and responded to each point. He wasn’t entirely dismissive of them, either, saying of OpenAI’s alarmist bent, for example, that he does have “some sympathy for that argument.”
Still, Altman insisted there’s a better argument to be made for thinking about — and talking with the media about — the potential societal consequences of AI, no matter how disingenuous some may find it. “The same people who say OpenAI is fear mongering or whatever are the same ones who are saying, ‘Shouldn’t Facebook have thought about this before they did it?’ This is us trying to think about it before we do it.”
You can check out the full interview below. The first half of our chat is largely centered on his Altman’s career at YC, where he remains chairman. We begin discussing OpenAI in greater detail around the 26-minute mark.
Instagram Stories links are now available for all accounts
Instagram has confirmed that it’s bringing the ability to and links to Stories for all user accounts. When Stories links were first revealed, they were only available for verified accounts or accounts with a certain number of followers. However, Instagram says over the years it has seen that the ability to share links to stories is helpful, so it’s expanding access to everyone.
The Instagram community has been asking for Stories links for everyone to make sharing content with friends and family easier. Links are now available for sharing for everyone with no stipulation on account size. To add links to Stories, users can use the Link sticker.
When people click the sticker, they will be redirected. Adding a Link sticker is easy and starts with capturing or uploading content to the story. Users then select the sticker tool from the navigation bar and tap the Link sticker to add the desired link. Once that is complete, users can place the sticker on their story, and there are variations of the sticker available.
Instagram also says it’s working on customizing the sticker to make it clear what users will see when they tap it. Instagram is also talking about its ongoing effort to keep its community of users safe. To facilitate safety, new accounts and accounts that repeatedly share content, including hate speech or misinformation, as well as anything that violates community guidelines, won’t have access to the Link sticker.
The Link sticker isn’t the only change Instagram has made this month. Previously, Instagram announced that its desktop app was getting photo upload capability. Before adding the capability to upload content from the desktop app, all uploading had to be done from the mobile app. The change was implemented on October 21.
2021 MacBook Pro teardown tease shows what’s on the inside
It’s very common for manufacturers like Apple to release new products, and fans always want to know what they look like on the inside. However, the last thing most of us want to do is tear apart our brand-new and expensive gadgets to look. Thankfully, IFIXIT has been gutting new devices for a long time, giving us a look at what’s on the inside without having to trash our own hardware.
Right now, a teardown for the 2021 MacBook Pro is being teased with a few pictures ahead of the full reveal. As you would expect, everything is packed very tightly into the thin and lightweight MacBook Pro notebooks. While there are no real details offered at this time about the hardware inside, we already know what to expect from Apple’s official event.
Apple has fitted its 2021 model notebooks with additional ports. An improved keyboard is integrated that hopefully won’t break if you eat lunch and work at the same time. MagSafe charging is integrated, and Apple ditched the Touch Bar for traditional function keys. The real changes come in new Apple silicon running the show. One interesting tidbit that has been shared from the full teardown is that the battery cells have pull tabs to make them easier to remove and aren’t crammed under a logic board.
We hope that means should your battery go bad down the road; you don’t have to completely disassemble the notebook to install a new one. The four outer cells of the battery have pull tabs similar to those used in the iPhone and MacBook Air. However, we will have to wait for the full teardown to know everything about these batteries and just how easy they are to remove and replace.
The prospect of more DIY friendly component placements should have Mac fans excited. The gang also got their hands on that $20 official Apple polishing cloth, simply called the “Polishing Cloth.” A price of $19 is pretty steep for cloth used to shine the screen of your iPhone, but it has an Apple logo, and that’s enough for some. The cloth feels like Alcantara and appears to be the same material used inside the iPad Smart Cover.
Android apps on Chrome OS will soon behave better with Compatibility mode
Although it isn’t exactly the one Google OS to rule them all, Chrome OS has long been able to run both of Google’s preferred platforms and then some. It did take a while before it could properly handle Android apps and, even then, there are still a lot of rough edges thanks to the wide variety and quality of those apps. Years after there have been tablets, many Android apps still live in a phone-only world, but that’s, fortunately, changing with Google’s latest push for big-screen Android devices and, of course, Chromebooks.
Android apps that have been made only with phones in mind behave unpredictably or undesirably on large screens. On tablets, they often force a portrait orientation, which can be awkward and unusable for tablets 10 inches or greater in size. On Chromebooks, the app’s UI gets stretched, delivering a very suboptimal experience.
Some Android apps let windows be resized on Chrome OS, allowing users to select what best works for them. Not all apps support this, however, and it’s often a guessing game that people shouldn’t have to play. With the upcoming Android 12L changes, they won’t have to.
As spotted by Chrome Unboxed last month, Google has been working on a compatibility mode for Android apps on Chrome OS and, apparently, on Android tablets, too. This will add a very conspicuous button in the middle of an Android app’s window title bar, indicating that a certain app’s UI is optimized for a certain form factor. More importantly, this feature automatically resizes an app’s window to make it look and behave better on Chromebooks and even lets users switch between different form options.
This is part of Google’s newly-announced push to support large-screen Android devices, what it calls Android 12L. Ideally, developers would design their apps to support different screen sizes and form factors, including foldables, but this Compatibility Mode at least offers a stop-gap measure for apps that don’t.
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