Google eyes future in AI, Pichai acknowledges challenges, sets new goals - Business Guardian
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Google eyes future in AI, Pichai acknowledges challenges, sets new goals

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Alphabet Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer, Sundar Pichai, recently discussed the tech giant’s focus on artificial intelligence (AI), addressing issues such as errors in Gemini’s image generation feature and criticisms regarding his leadership style in an interview with The Circuit.

Pichai emphasized that AI has been a significant focus for Alphabet since 2016, despite acknowledging that the company may have missed certain opportunities in the past. He compared the current stage of AI development to the early stages of other technologies, stating, “I view this AI as we are in the earliest possible stages.”

Regarding errors in Gemini’s image generation feature, Pichai admitted to setbacks but reassured that the models are being retrained from scratch. He affirmed that once ready, the feature will be re-released to users in a few weeks.

Looking ahead, Pichai is expected to share Alphabet’s vision for the future at Google I/O, the company’s annual developers conference scheduled for next week.

The interview also touched upon criticisms of Pichai’s leadership style, with some former and current employees labeling him as “too cautious and consensus-driven.” In response, Pichai highlighted the importance of clarity in decision-making, particularly in a large organization like Alphabet. He emphasized the significance of consensus-building, noting that it enables maximum impact behind decisions.

Furthermore, Pichai addressed recent layoffs at Google, particularly the firing of engineers who protested the company’s cloud contract with the Israeli government. He described the protests as unacceptable disruptions of daily business and stressed the importance of maintaining focus on the company’s mission, particularly in the context of AI advancement.

Overall, Pichai’s statements underscore Alphabet’s commitment to AI development and the challenges associated with leadership in a rapidly evolving technological landscape. As Alphabet continues to navigate strategic challenges and pursue its mission, Pichai’s leadership approach and the company’s vision for the future remain critical factors shaping its trajectory in the tech industry.

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Apple under spotlight as OpenAI, Google raise AI standards

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OpenAI on May 13 announced GPT-4o, its maiden artificial intelligence model with multimodal capabilities to reason across audio, visual, and text. A day after, on May 14, Google kicked off its annual developers-centric conference (Google I/O) with announcements focused on AI integration with its platforms and services, including Android and Search. These two technology behemoths have set the bar high with AI-focused events, but all eyes are now on Apple, which has scheduled its annual worldwide developers conference (WWDC) for June 10.

Apple has been trailing in the AI space while the competition has made significant strides. OpenAI, for example, made its most advanced GPT-4o model free for all. It also announced a dedicated app for its AI chatbot ChatGPT for Apple’s macOS. While the ChatGPT app has been available on iPhones, the macOS app brings deeper integration into the desktop platform. With the macOS app, ChatGPT users will be able to take a screenshot of what’s on the display and share it directly with the chatbot for discussion. This gives OpenAI an early mover advantage in Apple’s ecosystem, especially due to the lack of a native alternative.

Apple’s exploration of the AI space, reportedly, began years ago. However, the company accelerated the development process only after the AI technology jumped onto the mainstream, fueled by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Copilot, and Google’s Gemini.

Apple is playing a catch-up game with big technology rivals in the AI space, but it may change come June 10 when it is poised to lay out a strategy for AI at WWDC. A hint of it was made at Apple’s May 7 launch event where it debuted the iPad Pro and iPad Air, with the former featuring its next-generation M4 silicon with a new 16-core neural engine. The company said this new neural engine or Neural Processing Unit (NPU) makes the “M4 an outrageously powerful chip for AI.” This was the first instance where Apple mentioned “AI” in its event.

Earlier, at Apple’s quarterly earnings call on May 2, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook pointed out generative artificial intelligence as the company’s next frontier. He said Apple continues to make significant investments in generative AI and that the company will share “some very exciting things” soon.

These instances along with the fact that researchers at Apple have been continuously publishing papers on new generative AI tools suggest that Apple is poised to enter the AI space very soon. However, if it will be able to catch up with the competition is to be seen. For context, Bloomberg has reported that Apple has been in talks with Google and OpenAI to bring AI features to iOS 18 for iPhones. A recent report from Bloomberg stated that Apple has closed in on an agreement with OpenAI to use its AI technology on the iPhone. According to the report, both the companies are finalising terms for a pact to use ChatGPT features in iOS 18, Apple’s next operation.

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Government e-marketplace records strong start in new fiscal with INR 8.57 lakh cr GMV

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GeM, launched in 2016 by the commerce ministry, aims to bridge buyer-seller gaps through a digital marketplace, enhancing procurement across sectors.

The Government e-Marketplace (GeM) has emerged as a cornerstone in revolutionizing public procurement in India, achieving a remarkable milestone by surpassing Rs 8.57 lakh crore in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) as of April 30, 2024. This achievement marks the highest GMV recorded since its inception, underscoring the platform’s pivotal role in fostering transparent and inclusive trade practices within the country.

Launched on August 9, 2016, by the commerce ministry, GeM was conceived with the vision of establishing a digital marketplace that bridges the gap between buyers and sellers, facilitating seamless procurement processes across various sectors. The platform’s exponential growth trajectory is evidenced by its remarkable performance during the financial year 2023-24, where it surpassed Rs 4 lakh crore in GMV. As the new financial year, 2024-25, commenced, GeM witnessed a robust start with GMV soaring to Rs 60,094 crore in the inaugural month alone, according to insights shared during an internal meeting at the commerce ministry.

The significance of GeM extends beyond the procurement of goods, as it also serves as a conduit for the acquisition of services. As of April 30, 2024, the GMV of services on GeM has reached an impressive Rs 3.56 lakh crore since its inception. Notably, during the financial year 2023-24, the GMV of services amounted to Rs 2.07 lakh crore, indicating a substantial uptick in demand. The contribution of services to GeM’s GMV in the first month of the financial year 2024-25 stands at Rs 46,460 crore, reflecting the growing reliance on the platform for service-related transactions.

One of GeM’s notable achievements lies in its support for Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs), which form the backbone of India’s economy. Over 9.26 lakh MSEs are registered on the GeM portal, having received orders exceeding Rs 4.01 lakh crore. This accounts for more than 46.93% of GeM’s cumulative orders by GMV since its inception, highlighting the platform’s role in empowering MSEs and fostering their growth in the competitive marketplace.

Furthermore, GeM has been instrumental in empowering women entrepreneurs, with 1.63 lakh MSEs led by women being registered on the platform. These enterprises have received over 9.20 lakh orders amounting to Rs 24,369 crore till April 30, 2024, underscoring GeM’s commitment to promoting gender inclusivity and economic empowerment.

In addition to supporting established businesses, GeM has also emerged as a catalyst for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in India. The platform has played a pivotal role in supporting over 24,181 startups in establishing their presence in the Indian marketplace. These startups have successfully processed orders exceeding Rs 24,369 crore in GMV, signalling GeM’s role as a facilitator of growth and innovation within the startup ecosystem.

The success of GeM can be attributed to its user-centric approach, robust infrastructure, and commitment to fostering a conducive environment for trade and commerce. By leveraging technology to streamline procurement processes, GeM has not only enhanced efficiency but has also promoted transparency, accountability, and fair competition in public procurement.

As GeM continues to chart new milestones and facilitate greater participation from diverse stakeholders, it reaffirms its status as a catalyst for economic growth, empowerment, and inclusive development in India’s digital landscape.

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Isha Ambani urges more Girls in STEM for India’s shine

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Isha Ambani, Director of Reliance Industries Limited, emphasized the pivotal role of girls entering STEM fields for India’s advancement.

Isha Ambani, Director at Reliance Industries Limited, emphasized the importance of increasing female participation in STEM fields and choosing technology careers for India’s advancement. Addressing virtually on the occasion of ‘Girls in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Day India 2024’, she said if “we are to build the India of our dream, technology will be our driving force, and both men and women in Science and Technology must fire on all cylinders.”

She asserted that in the ever-evolving landscape of the technology industry, the under-representation of women in the workforce is a debilitating reality. “The gender gap does not only signify gender bias, but it is also a hurdle in the path of innovation.”

Closing this divide is a strategic imperative, necessary for the industry’s, as well as the society’s, holistic growth, she said.

While women make up 36 per cent of India’s tech workforce, their presence drops drastically as one starts looking up the corporate hierarchy. For instance, she asserted that only 7 per cent women held executive-level positions; only 13 per cent were working in director-level roles; and a mere 17 per cent held mid-managerial positions.

Citing NASSCOM data, Isha Ambani said only 36 per cent of India’s tech workforce are women.

Then, citing World Bank data, she said that women make up 43 per cent of the total STEM graduates in India, but account for only 14 per cent of all scientists, engineers, and technologists.

“Even the new-age start-up ecosystem is grappling with the problem of dismal participation of women. Limited access to funding and resources for female-led start-ups and businesses continues to contribute to the under-representation of women in leadership roles.”

Women are no less suited to be leaders and change-makers than men, she noted.

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Google I/O 2024: Gemini AI enhancements challenge OpenAI’s ChatGPT

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Google I/O 2024 kicked off with a keynote address focused on Gemini, its artificial intelligence (AI) model that is set to get new capabilities to become the foundational model powering its services such as Search, Photos, Workspace, Android, and more. With Gemini, Google said, the goal is to make AI helpful for everyone.

On that note, Google announced that it is expanding “AI overviews in Search” to everyone in US this week and to more countries soon. While this was long time coming, Google threw in a surprise with Gemini-powered “Ask Photos” feature for Google Photos. It essentially lets you search your entire library on Google Photos and follow-up the results with even more complex prompts. More details on the “Ask Photos” will be available later this year, which is when the feature is slated to roll out. About the Gemini itself, the model has been updated with new capabilities, said Google. Called Gemini 1.5 Pro, the new and improved version will be available to all developers globally.

In addition, Google announced that Gemini 1.5 Pro with one-million context is now directly available for consumers in Gemini Advanced. This can be used across 35 languages. Here is a roundup of everything Google announced at I/O 2024 keynote: Google said that it is rolling-out the Gemini 1.5 Pro model to its paid-tier customers with a new sidepanel on Workspace apps such as Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets and more. The sidepanel resembles the Microsoft’s Copilot side-panel on desktops and offers better accessibility to AI from any Workspace app. Another feature coming to Workspace is the new Gemini AI teammate, which is essentially an AI-powered assistant for Workspace apps.

The Gemini Teammate has its own Google Account and can be incorporated into groups within Chats. Google’s Project Astra is a multimodal AI agent with real-time spatial understanding. Google said that the AI agent is capable of understanding objects in a physical space and can process the data in realtime. It can basically watch and remember what it sees through your device’s camera and can respond to prompts based on it.

Google said that the AI agent will be powering the company’s Gemini product starting later this year. One of the biggest takeaways from Google’s announcement is AI in Search. The search engine will soon get the ability to analyse and search based on video inputs, similar to how it does with images using Google Lens.

Google said that the Search is backed by a custom Gemini AI model and gets improved contextual understanding. Search results get AI-powered overviews, which were previously part of the Search Generative Experience (SGE) and was available as an experimental feature. Leveraging the Gemini AI, Google said, Search can break longer queries into smaller parts for better understanding as well.

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AI Adoption Soars: Doubled users in 6 months, 75% of Global knowledge workers

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The number of people using AI has nearly doubled in the last 6 months and around 75 per cent of global knowledge workers are using AI at workplaces, according to the “2024 Work Trend Index Annual Report” by Microsoft and LinkedIn.

The report highlights the increasing reliance on personal AI tools by employees, who are grappling with the overwhelming pace and volume of work.

However, while leaders recognize the importance of AI for business, many feel their organizations lack a clear strategy to effectively leverage AI to drive bottom-line results. The pressure to demonstrate immediate return on investment is also causing some leaders to hesitate, despite the inevitability of AI integration.

The survey in the report highlights that 90 per cent of AI users stated it helped them save time, 85 per cent were able to focus on their most crucial tasks, 84 per cent of AI users felt more creative, and 83 percent enjoyed their work more after using the AI.

In terms of the company leaders around 79 per cent agree that AI adoption is necessary for competitiveness, 59 per cent express concerns about quantifying its productivity gains.

Interestingly, AI users are no longer limited to younger generations or tech enthusiasts, with employees across all age groups embracing AI tools. The survey of the workforce in knowledge-based work indicates that Gen Z (age group- 18-28) leads with 85 per cent usage, followed by Millennials (age group 29-43) at 78 per cent, and Gen X (age group 44-57) at 76 per cent.

The survey shows that even older people have adopted AI and are using the tool according to their requirements.

Despite concerns about AI and job displacement, the report offers a nuanced perspective. While 45 per cent of employees worry about AI replacing their jobs, an almost equal share (46 per cent) are considering quitting jobs as they are getting better opportunities.

Additionally, LinkedIn studies in the US indicate a 14 per cent increase in job applications per role since last fall, with 85 per cent of professionals contemplating a job change this year. Employers and company leaders are also increasingly recognizing the importance of AI skills, with 66 per cent in the survey stating that they would not hire someone lacking these skills.

Furthermore, 71 per cent express a preference for hiring less experienced candidates with AI skills over more experienced ones without them. Additionally, 77 per cent believe that AI will enable early-career talent to take on greater responsibilities.

In the end, the report points out that AI is helping people be more creative and productive, and giving job seekers an edge. Over time, it will change every aspect of work, and companies that face the challenge head-on will surge ahead.

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Australia fights Musk’s platform over control of online content

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In a courtroom battle that underscores the complex interplay between global tech giants and national regulatory frameworks, Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, finds itself at odds with Australian law over the removal of graphic content depicting a terrorist attack.

At the heart of the dispute lies a fundamental question: to what extent should a platform like X be compelled to adhere to the laws of a specific country when it comes to content moderation? The legal showdown commenced as the eSafety Commissioner of Australia sought the removal of 65 posts showcasing a harrowing video of an Assyrian Christian bishop being stabbed during a sermon in Sydney, classified as a terrorist incident by authorities.

Tim Begbie, representing the cyber regulator, argued that while X has policies in place to remove harmful content, it cannot claim unilateral authority to decide what is acceptable under Australian law. He contended that X’s resistance to globally removing the posts challenges the notion of reasonableness within the scope of Australia’s Online Safety Act.

X’s stance, guided by its mission to uphold free speech, underscores a broader philosophical debate surrounding the jurisdictional reach of national laws in the digital realm. The company maintains that while it has blocked access to the posts for Australian users, it refuses to implement global removal, asserting that the internet should not be governed by the laws of a single nation.

However, Begbie argued that geo-blocking, the solution proposed by X, is ineffective due to the widespread use of virtual private networks (VPNs) by a significant portion of the Australian population.

Amidst the legal wrangling, X’s lawyer, Bret Walker, contended that the company had taken reasonable steps to comply with Australian laws while balancing the principles of free expression. He emphasized the importance of allowing global access to newsworthy content, cautioning against the suppression of information on a global scale. The implications of such an approach, he argued, extend beyond Australia’s borders, potentially setting a precedent for censorship on a global scale.

As the case unfolds in the Federal Court, Judge Geoffrey Kennett has issued a temporary takedown order for the posts, extending it until June 10 pending a final decision. The outcome of this legal battle is poised to have far-reaching implications, not only for the regulation of online content in Australia but also for the broader discourse surrounding internet governance and free speech in the digital age.

Beyond the legal arguments, the case underscores the evolving dynamics between tech platforms and regulatory authorities, highlighting the challenges of reconciling competing interests in an increasingly interconnected world. With the proliferation of digital platforms and the rise of social media, questions surrounding content moderation, censorship, and the balance between freedom of expression and societal harm have come to the forefront of public discourse.

In the digital era, where information knows no borders and online platforms wield immense influence over public discourse, the case of X versus Australian law serves as a microcosm of the broader tensions between technology, governance, and individual rights. As societies grapple with the complexities of the digital age, the need for robust legal frameworks, ethical guidelines, and international cooperation becomes ever more apparent.

As the legal battle between X and Australian authorities unfolds, it underscores the intricate relationship between technology, law, and societal norms in the digital age. At stake is not just the removal of graphic content depicting a heinous act but also the broader principles of free speech, censorship, and the jurisdictional reach of national regulations in a globalized world.

The outcome of this case carries significant implications for the future of online content moderation and regulation. On one hand, proponents of free speech argue that platforms like X should have the autonomy to determine their content policies without being unduly influenced by the laws of individual countries. They contend that a global approach to content moderation ensures consistency and prevents the fragmentation of the internet along national lines.

On the other hand, proponents of regulation argue that national laws play a crucial role in safeguarding citizens from harmful content and upholding community standards. They assert that while platforms may operate globally, they must abide by the laws of the countries in which they operate, particularly when it comes to content that poses a threat to public safety or incites violence.

Amidst these competing interests, the case highlights the need for a nuanced approach to content moderation that balances the principles of free speech with the protection of users from harm. It also underscores the importance of international cooperation and dialogue in addressing cross-border challenges in the digital realm.

Beyond the legal realm, the case has broader implications for the future of internet governance and the regulation of online platforms. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, policymakers around the world face the daunting task of crafting regulations that are effective, enforceable, and adaptable to the ever-changing digital landscape.

Moreover, the case raises important questions about the role of tech companies in shaping public discourse and influencing democratic processes. With social media platforms serving as key channels for information dissemination and political engagement, the decisions made by companies like X have far-reaching consequences for the functioning of democratic societies.

Ultimately, the resolution of this case will have significant implications not only for X and its users but also for the broader digital ecosystem. It will shape the future trajectory of online content moderation, influence regulatory approaches to technology platforms, and set precedents for how governments and tech companies interact in the digital age.

As the legal proceedings continue, stakeholders from across sectors will closely monitor developments, recognizing that the outcome of this case has the potential to reshape the digital landscape for years to come. Whether it leads to greater clarity in content moderation policies, a re-evaluation of regulatory frameworks, or a deeper understanding of the complexities of governing the internet, the case of X versus Australian law represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over the future of online governance and free speech in the digital age.

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