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Sam Altman’s leap of faith – TechCrunch

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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.

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2021 iPad Pro is worth the wait: Here’s why

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Apple iPad turf is overly saturated. If you are in the market for an iPad this holiday season, there are a few options you can instantly close on. For a certain set of users, there is the A12Z Bionic chip-powered 2020 iPad Pro. Then is the recently introduced iPad Air that dishes out ruthless performance and is high on substance. For the budgeted buyer, the fifth-generation iPad Mini is a suggested option. To add to choices, Apple is already working on the next edition of the iPad Pro with improved display, power, and 5G connectivity, and it is slated for an early 2021 release.

Information of likely improvements is bound to put all those looking for an Apple tablet in a fix – should they upgrade now or wait on. Of course, there are many options already out there and holiday season is a good reason to shop, but if you want the new and fantastic – waiting for a few months sure will be painful but worth it.

The rumors

A new iPad Pro was initially tipped to launch toward the end of this year, reports now have it that the unveiling is pushed back to sometime in spring of next year. Reliable Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo has also validated the delay suggesting, a brand new iPad Pro launch may have been pushed for the first quarter of 2021. Kio had initially predicted that multiple iPads could debut in fall 2020.
Easily referenced as the 2021 iPad Pro, the forthcoming flagship will reportedly share a lot of traits with its siblings, which means we should not be expecting major design changes. LiDAR scanners, dual-lens camera setups are here to stay since nothing is heard about any alterations in this department.

Maybe the storage tiers and RAM options are beefed up. But this is also just an assumption for now. What is more certain is that the new iPad Pro will be 5G enabled (just like the iPhone 12 line-up this year), will feature a powerful processor, and a brighter, energy-efficient mini-LED display. This will send Apple on a new display tech journey – it’ll be for the first time an iPad will roll out with a LED screen.

Several rumors suggest Apple will launch two iPad Pro variants next year. While the higher-end 12.9-inch model with mini-LED screen is very likely – rumors have hinted at a possibility of an 11-inch iPad Pro, with a similar display, but there is no substantial detail to back the early claims.

New display technology

Although Apple is not going to bring about a radical change to the next-generation iPad Pro in terms of design – a new display technology is on the cards. Multiple rumors suggest 12.9-inch 2021 iPad Pro may feature mini-LED display. This type of display basically is a replacement for the cheaper and unfashionable backlight screen (yet an affordable alternative to OLED – used in iPhone 12 series). It can greatly increase color, contrast, and brightness and give the iPad Pro improved local dimming – possibility to brighten or dim lights at specific areas of the display.

Reportedly, these screens in the upcoming iPad Pros will likely be produced and supplied by LG. It may eventually find itself as a replacement for LCDs on almost all products in Cupertino’s lineup – including the MacBook. Mini-LED may not be as bright as OLEDs, but they are by no means slacks – these super bright displays look beautiful and are energy-efficient, thus offering better battery life too.

The iPad is already a brilliant device – a brighter display is only going to do more good to its image as a designer’s/artist’s daily driver. LED display will make everyone awaiting a new iPad Pro anxious as it sets the supposed 2021 iPad Pro apart from the other major siblings in the Apple lineup, which are equally capable. Currently, there is no information on whether Apple will continue selling iPad Pros with LCD displays.

Newer processor

The 2020 iPad Pro comes with A12Z Bionic chip, which in its own right is powerful enough for most set of users. The newer iPad Air however comes with A14 Bionic chipset in the body, which certainly makes it a better option for the power-hungry consumer base.

If you’re still not satisfied, Apple is expected to launch the new iPad Pro in 2021 with an upgraded 5-nanometer-based processor – perhaps called the A14X Bionic chip. If this is true, then undoubtedly the iPad performance is going to shoot through the roof – leaving not only its siblings but the completion high and dry. The new processor will mean more power and better performance, of course, it will also enhance battery life and prove more beneficial for gaming and multitasking.

5G is biggest reason to wait

iPhone 12 lineup announced a few months back, is the first set of Apple devices launched with 5G support, and now this prowess is only going to grow. Apple will be extending 5G connectivity to other devices and 2021 iPad Pro will, most likely, be the first outside of iPhones to get it. Now, it’s one of the biggest reasons to hold back and wait for the new iPad Pro.

According to the latest report, Apple’s next-generation iPad Pro will be 5G enabled with mmWave support. mmWave or millimeter wave is 5G band that promises ultra-fast speeds in short distances – it is available in this year’s iPhone 12 models but supported exclusively in the US for now.

Even more existing are rumors suggesting, the 2021 iPad Pro will be first to test Apple’s own in-house mmWave Antenna in Package (AiP) module. The AiP modules were initially tipped to be included in the next year’s iPhones, but Apple’s self-sufficiency in developing its own 5G mmWave modules has increased likelihood of new high-end iPad Pro being the first to include the antenna in the package. AiP modules will provide the 2021 iPad Pro with support for the mmWave 5G.

Wrap-up

What we have detailed are only rumors and the final product could land with or without the abovementioned features. If you’re still interested in the new iPad Pro, you should wait around for more information to roll out as we inch closer to the supposed launch next year. If reports of the 2021 iPad Pro launching in first quarter next year are believed, we will hear a lot more about the forthcoming device along the way before the imminent official launch.

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This holiday, check your old phone for a fat battery

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I found something in a junk drawer this week that was at first exciting, then alarming. In the drawer was an old smartphone that I’d not powered on for several years, at least. Cool, I’ll just start it up and time travel back to the point at which I last turned it off, right? But wait a moment here… this phone is significantly thicker than it was when I last saw it. This is not good.

Why did this phone get thick?

The thickness came from a chemical failure of the device’s lithium ion battery. I’d never opened this device before – I never had a reason. The only reason a person might open up a device like this would be to fix a component inside, or replace a component inside.

We’ve seen this sort of thing happen in a bunch of phones over the past decade, from all sorts of manufacturers. Most of the time we see this sort of thing happen, it’s because new phone users are working with off-brand plugs and such.

With a phone that’s been left in a drawer for several years, there’s a chance the chemical-based setup within will… fail. If you see this sort of thing happen, you have a few options and at least one NON-OPTION.

What to avoid

One NON-OPTION is charging the device. Do not charge the device. Do not plug your phone in to any sort of wire, nor set your device on any sort of wireless charger. You absolutely do NOT want to agitate the battery package if at all possible.

Can I fix a swollen battery? No, you can not fix a swollen battery. The deed is done. The only thing left to do is isolate the battery and/or the phone with the battery inside before you contact a professional.

Do NOT put your phone in the fridge or make any attempt to “cool it down.” The expansion is not temperature-dependent. The expansion cannot simply be reversed.

Do not do ANYTHING that may result in you piercing the battery’s protective layer. If you do that, the battery may explode and start a fire. See our feature Where to put your old phone batteries to see some explosions, courtesy of batteries that’ve been disposed of incorrectly.

What needs doing

It is not easy to open most smartphones not meant to be opened – especially one like this, held together with glue AND clips, with no easily accessible screws. The manufacturer of this phone, Samsung, did not build this phone with the intent that it be easily opened or its hardware replaced (or even removed) by the average user.

As such, you’ll more than likely want to seek the assistance of a professional. Gadget repair specialists are used to seeing this sort of thing – it happens far more often than you’d think. They’ll know how to safely remove the battery and potentially replace the battery IF that is possible.

There’s a real possibility that your phone will need to be brought to your city’s official landfill. You may want to call ahead, as your city’s waste management specialists will want to take special care of the battery and the phone to avoid an explosion and/or fire.

What if today is a holiday?

If you find an expanded battery in a smartphone and it is a holiday, chances are your local battery-handling professional won’t be available to dispose of your fire hazard of a phone. The LEAST you can do is place the battery (or the phone with the battery inside) in a safe place. Isolate the phone and/or the battery – away from paper, away from anything flammable.

Get the device outside as quick as possible if you can. Put the device in a fireproof container, like a metal bucket with a layer of sand inside. Above all else – get this thing isolated so WHEN it starts on fire, it’ll cause minimal damage.

This advice was as good a decade ago as it is today. New smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearables, etcetera, still use lithium ion batteries, and lithium ion batteries still fail.

Take caution, and don’t take a risk. This one’s full of fire.

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Nokia 9.3 PureView might be a no-show this year

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HMD Global has flooded the market with affordable Android phones but its track record on higher tiers has been less impressive. To date, only the Nokia 8 Sirocco and Nokia 9 PureView can be considered top-tier, at least based on the premium Snapdragon chips they’re carrying. The latter’s successor would have not been on par, at least based on the earliest information we had, but it would have given the PureView brand yet another stab at the market. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening any time soon, as the Nokia 9.3 PureView has reportedly been delayed to 2021.

The Nokia 9 PureView was quite the oddity, though it wasn’t surprising considering HMD Global partnered with mobile camera company Light. It utilized five co-equal cameras to independently take shots of the same scene and stitch them together into a single hi-res image. It mostly delivered on that promise but left plenty of room for a version 2.

By late 2019, Qualcomm seemed to be quite excited for a Nokia 9 PureView successor that would showcase its Snapdragon 765’s capabilities despite not being an 8-series processor. It might have disappointed some who were hoping for a true Nokia premium flagship. For better or worse that successor never came, which ironically leaves the door open for a better device.

Twitter user @Nokia_anew now claims that the Nokia 9.3 PureView has been pushed back to 2021. When that will be is still unknown but it might be sometime in the first half of the year. That potentially means HMD could switch to using a Snapdragon 875 but, considering its preferences for mid-range to entry-level chips, we won’t be too optimistic about the chances.

Even more concerning, however, is the absence of a Nokia PureView in 2020, which could call into question HMD Global’s ability to even make one now that Light is out of the mobile market. The company still has to come out with a new high-end phone but, then again, Nokia was better known for flooding the market with innumerable phones anyway.

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