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w/Wiser! #117 — Monday 20th March

Welcome to the latest issue of the Wiser! Newsletter — making sense of what’s happening in tech… so that you don’t have to. To ensure that you’re the first to get the newsletter... join the mailing list (it’s free and you can always unsubscribe.)

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Silicon Valley Bank collapse causes ripple effects in banking industry

After the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, many companies and entrepreneurs have been seeking a safe haven. As a result, the largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo, have seen an influx of deposits according to this Bloomberg article.

“When you think you bank with the safest bank in your ecosystem, and they disappeared overnight, you realise it’s impossible to predict an earthquake.”

That was Ryan Gilbert, founder of Launchpad Capital, speaking to Silicon Valley Business Journal, right before he moved his account to Chase, one of the big boy banks.

This is the long term consequence from the collapse of the three tech ecosystem banks called “Si…” These three mid sized, niche banks are being consumed by the big boys. But is this good for the markets and the tech sector? Who knows, but my gut tells me “no.” And who’s to blame for their demise? Could it have been prevented? All important questions for the well being of the emerging tech and innovation. However, what this means for the startup economy is unclear. Startups look different from other businesses because they burn capital to run on, not customer’s money…they need a different bank.

Continue reading…($)

1. GPT-4 is the smartest version of OpenAI’s Large Language Model to date

After much anticipation and speculation, OpenAI introduced GPT-4 to the world this week. The latest version is claimed to be much smarter and more refind when answering questions (although it is still limited to information up to September 2021.) The key new features are its multi-model capabilities, which means it can take input from images as well as text.

Here’s The Thing: OpenAI have focused on making the AI better at answering questions, not wiser in knowing more stuff. The multi-model feature is already demonstrating great utility. For example, by using their smartphone to capture images, GPT-4 can explain to the blind and visually impaired what’s in front of them. Or take a photo of your pantry and GPT-4 will give you a recipe you can make from the ingredients it sees.

➜ For examples of where GPT-4 is already being used, expert opinions of the AI and related news…continue reading.

2. Amazon to launch satellite internet service

Amazon is planning to launch its own satellite internet service. Code named Project Kuiper, the service will be operational next year, according to a press release. To prepare for the launches, Amazon will send two prototype rockets to space on a United Launch Alliance rocket in the upcoming months. However, Amazon still has a long way to go to catch up with SpaceX, which already has over 1 million Starlink users.

Here’s The Thing: With the ability to deliver speeds up to 100 mbs, more than enough to stream Netflix, satellite internet can deliver connectivity in all the places cables cannot reach. Mobile networks can deliver much greater speeds with 5G, and soon 6G, which is great if you want to run video games on your iPhone 14 in New York or Seoul. But for many, speed is not the problem, it’s access.

➜ For more on Amazon’s plans to own internet connectivity…continue reading.

3. Is Spotify’s new AI redesign enough to keep Apple, Amazon and YouTube at bay?

Spotify has unveiled its “biggest change since it introduced mobile,” according to CEO and founder Daniel Ek. In a splash, Ek announced it is updating its “personalisation technology” and introducing a short form video feed, ala TikTok and Short, into the app.

Here’s The Thing: Spotify are the latest to be “tiktokified”. This is the shift towards second guessing what you’d like to hear and feeding it up to you, without you having to ask for it. It’s taking the decision making out your decision making. As a long time Spotifier, I’m intrigued to see how it all works, mainly because the app has felt stale and out of date for some time. The big question though is, is this enough to keep Apple, with its much larger list of song titles, Amazon and YouTube at bay?

➜ For more on Spotify’s new look and data on the music streaming market…continue reading.

4. Meta lays off 10,000 staff, ditches NFTs and announces plans to launch Twitter alternative

Three stories caught my eye this week about Meta. The first is that they are planning an alternative to Twitter. This will be in the form of a text message sharing app run on a decentralised architecture (which allows user groups to set their own rules instead of having to follow Elon’s.) The second is their plans to scrape NFT integration on Facebook and Instagram. This is less to do with the utility of NFTs and more to do with cutting back on internal development. In the same week, Meta annouced a further 10,000 job cuts!

Here’s The Thing: It’s increasingly clear that common sense is prevailing in the CEO’s office. It was inevitable that the putting-all-his-eggs-in-the-metaverse-basket was going to be an unsustainable pipe dream. At a cost of $1 billion a month and little consumer appetite to strap a brick to their faces and live in a cartoon world, the sole pursuit of a virtual reality future is being watered down at the world’s largest social network.

➜ For more on Meta’s strategy (and what Musk is saying about Twitter’s performance)…continue reading.

➜ None of this means the end of the Metaverse as Google, Apple and Meta all file new patents for virtual reality tech…find out more.

5. Amazon continues expansion of frictionless checkout technology

Amazon is continuing to roll out its Just Walk Out technology to new retail sites across the USA. The technology allows customers to scan a credit card at the entrance, take what they want and walk out. The store’s sensors and computer vision track what each person takes or puts back and charges their card when they leave.

Here’s The Thing: The latest automated, convenience store opened at a University in Arlington, Virginia. It’s the first university c-store (c = convenience) in the US to use Amazon’s frictionless checkout technology. This is part of a wider move by Amazon to expand its proprietary technology to US retailers whilst it simultaneously pulls back from running more traditional retail operations.

➜ For more on Amazon’s changing approach to physical retail… read this.

6. Researchers develop a mini robot that enters blood vessels to complete surgery

Researchers in South Korea have developed an untethered, magnetically guided robot that can navigate blood vessels autonomously to reach blockages and lesions with greater accuracy than human surgeons guided by X-rays. The process involves the creation of a 3D map of the patient’s blood vessels, which is used to guide the robot in treatments.

Here’s The Thing: The robot is only millimeters in size and has so far demonstrated its effectiveness in trials on animals. The research paves the way for robots to perform medical procedures with greater ease, precision, and safety compared to human surgeons.

➜ For more on this including a video and related robot stories…continue reading.

7. The robot that can pick up delicate things easier than a human

Speaking of robots, the other robot story that caught my eye this week is CherryBot, a robot developed to solve the problem of picking up small objects surrounded by soft, wobbly material, such as soft fruit, like cherries. It’s being used in various situations such as surgery, harvesting, construction, disaster recovery, and even feeding someone.

Here’s The Thing: The challenge for robotics engineers is that it is difficult for the robot to be precise when the object is moving, is soft, or or delicate. The problem is not limited to robots; have you ever tried picking bits of eggshell out of a broken egg? Or noodles from soup? Yes? Not easy is it? Even with disposable thumbs! (sic) Now imagine you’re a surgeon trying to remove blood clots from inside the human body…

➜ For more on this including several videos that show Cherrybot in action… continue reading.

8. Could WhatsApp be banned in the UK?

WhatsApp could be withdrawn from the UK. That’s according to the head of WhatsApp who has an issue with the UK’s upcoming Online Safety Bill. Measures in the new bill would force the messaging app to weaken the end-to-end encryption that secures messages on the service.

Here’s The Thing: End to end encryption is the technology that makes sure every message is secure and can not be read by anyone else…unless you give a screenshot of the message to Isabel Oakshott. But the UK Gov wants the ability to read messages it claims to be sinister (child abuse, drugs, people trafficking, criminal activity, etc). However, for Meta, this is a matter of principle. They have made E2EE a key feature of the app and are protecting it fiercely.

➜ For more explanation and the opinion of others on what might happen to WhatsApp…continue reading.

9. The UK is the latest Gov to ban TikTok from government devices

Talking of banning social media apps, the UK looks set to become the latest Gov to ban TikTok from government devices due to security concerns. Such a decision would follow similar recent moves by the US, Canada and the European Union. (Remember, India banned TikTok in 2018.) At the same time, TikTok has launched Project Clover, an initiative to allay concerns in the European Union by building a data centre for all EU citizen data in Ireland.

Here’s The Thing: The narrative questions are, are China using TikTok to spy on the West? Or manipulate an impressionable generation with CCP approved content? We will never know, but the point is that TikTok are most likely not doing anythign different to dozens of other technology companies. The difference being the TikTok is from China…and the rest are not.

➜ For more on what actions Governments are taking over TikTok, including an interactive map from Politico… continue reading.

10. EBay’s AI banner ads are surveillance dressed up as personalisation

EBay is planning on using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve its digital advertising technology. The company is seeking a patent for technology that uses machine learning to create personalised banner ads for users. This technology generates banner ads based on user behavior related to an image of a product.

Here’s The Thing: If you go onto eBay and search for vintage watches, the new AI system will dynamically generate a banner ad for similar watches to draw you back in after you’ve started looking at other items. It’s called personalisation because the idea is that it’s giving you ideas based on what the algorithim thinks you’re interested in. However, and here’s the concern, to do that, eBay needs to follow you around and watch what you do, aka surveillance.

➜ For more on eBay’s plans and why it might be cause for concern… continue reading.

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🎙 Big Tech Little Tech — episode #21

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Technology, Strategy, Innovation

Wiser! is a twice weekly newsletter that makes sense of what’s happening and what’s coming next in the tech economy. From disruptive technologies, like blockchain, crypto and artificial intelligence, to emerging trends, like Web3 and the Metaverse. Plus there’s a big focus on BigTech and the impact of social media.

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Rick Huckstep - Making Sense Of Tech

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