This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through March 11)


D-ID’s New Web App Gives a Face and Voice to OpenAI’s ChatGPT
Aisha Malik | TechCrunch
“When you open up the web app on a desktop or mobile device, you’ll be greeted by an avatar named ‘Alice.’ You can then choose to either type out a question or click the microphone icon to say your query out loud. D-ID notes that Alice can answer almost anything. You can ask Alice to simulate a job interview or even host your family’s trivia night. …In a few weeks, the web app will let users generate a character, such as Dumbledore from Harry Potter, and talk to them.”


Two Oddball Ideas for a Megaqubit Quantum Computer
Samuel K. Moore | IEEE Spectrum
“Experts say quantum computers might need at least a million qubits kept at near absolute zero to do anything computationally noteworthy. But connecting them all by coaxial cable to control and readout electronics, which work at room temperature, would be impossible. Computing giants such as IBM, Google, and Intel hope to solve that problem with cyrogenic silicon chips that can operate close to the qubits themselves. But researchers have recently put forward some more exotic solutions that could quicken the pace.”


Room-Temperature Superconductor Discovery Meets With Resistance
Charlie Wood and Zack Savitsky | Quanta
“The results, published [this week] in Nature, appear to show that a conventional conductor—a solid composed of hydrogen, nitrogen and the rare-earth metal lutetium—was transformed into a flawless material capable of conducting electricity with perfect efficiency. While the announcement has been greeted with enthusiasm by some scientists, others are far more cautious, pointing to the research group’s controversial history of alleged research malfeasance.”


Sam Altman Invested $180 Million Into a Company Trying to Delay Death
Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review
[Altman] says he’s emptied his bank account to fund two other very different but equally ambitious goals: limitless energy and extended life span. One of those bets is on the fusion power startup Helion Energy, into which he’s poured more than $375 million, he told CNBC in 2021. The other is Retro, to which Altman cut checks totaling $180 million the same year. ‘It’s a lot. I basically just took all my liquid net worth and put it into these two companies,’ Altman says.”


Meta’s Powerful AI Language Model Has Leaked Online—What Happens Now?
James Vincent | The Verge
“Meta did not release LLaMA as a public chatbot (though the Facebook owner is building those too) but as an open-source package that anyone in the AI community can request access to. …However, just one week after Meta started fielding requests to access LLaMA, the model was leaked online. On March 3rd, a downloadable torrent of the system was posted on 4chan and has since spread across various AI communities, sparking debate about the proper way to share cutting-edge research in a time of rapid technological change.


Forget Designer Babies. Here’s How CRISPR Is Really Changing Lives
Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review
“…there are now more than 50 experimental studies underway that use gene editing in human volunteers to treat everything from cancer to HIV and blood diseases, according to a tally shared with MIT Technology Review by David Liu, a gene-editing specialist at Harvard University. Most of these studies—about 40 of them—involve CRISPR, the most versatile of the gene-editing methods, which was developed only 10 years ago.”


Could the Next Blockbuster Drug Be Lab-Rat Free?
Emily Anthes | The New York Times
“…momentum is building for non-animal approaches, which could ultimately help speed drug development, improve patient outcomes and reduce the burdens borne by lab animals, experts said. ‘Animals are simply a surrogate for predicting what’s going to happen in a human,’ said Nicole Kleinstreuer, director of the National Toxicology Program Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods. ‘If we can get to a place where we actually have a fully human-relevant model,’ she added, ‘then we don’t need the black box of animals anymore.’i


This Geothermal Startup Showed Its Wells Can Be Used Like a Giant Underground Battery
James Temple | MIT Technology Review
“The results from the initial experiments…suggest Fervo can create flexible geothermal power plants, capable of ramping electricity output up or down as needed. Potentially more important, the system can store up energy for hours or even days and deliver it back over similar periods, effectively acting as a giant and very long-lasting battery. That means the plants could shut down production when solar and wind farms are cranking, and provide a rich stream of clean electricity when those sources flag.”


Detection Stays One Step Ahead of Deepfakes—For Now
Matthew Hutson | IEEE Spectrum
“…as computer scientists devise better methods for algorithmically generating video, audio, images, and text—typically for more constructive uses such as enabling artists to manifest their visions—they’re also creating counter-algorithms to detect such synthetic content. Recent research shows progress in making detection more robust, sometimes by looking beyond subtle signatures of particular generation tools and instead utilizing underlying physical and biological signals that are hard for AI to imitate.”


GPT-4 Might Just Be a Bloated, Pointless Mess
Jacob Stern | The Atlantic
Will endless ‘scaling’ of our current language models really bring true machine intelligence? ...the scaling debate is representative of the broader AI discourse. It feels as though the vocal extremes have drowned out the majority. Either ChatGPT will completely reshape our world or it’s a glorified toaster. The boosters hawk their 100-proof hype, the detractors answer with leaden pessimism, and the rest of us sit quietly somewhere in the middle, trying to make sense of this strange new world.

Image Credit: Laura Skinner / Unsplash

Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub chronicles technological progress by highlighting the breakthroughs and issues shaping the future as well as supporting a global community of smart, passionate, action-oriented people who want to change the world.
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