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As the generative AI field heats up, consumer-facing chatbots are fielding questions about business strategy, designing study guides for math class, offering advice on salary negotiation and even writing wedding vows. And things are just getting started. 

OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, Microsoft’s Bing and Anthropic’s Claude are a few of today’s leading chatbots, but over the coming year, we’ll likely see more emerge: In the venture capital space, generative AI-related deals totaled $1.69 billion worldwide in Q1 of this year, a 130% spike from last quarter’s $0.73 billion – with another $10.68 billion worth of deals being announced but not yet completed in Q1, according to Pitchbook data. 

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Two months after ChatGPT’s launch, it surpassed 100 million monthly active users, breaking records for the fastest-growing consumer application in history: “a phenomenal uptake – we’ve frankly never seen anything like it, and interest has grown ever since,” Brian Burke, a research VP at Gartner, told CNBC. “From its release on November 30 to now, our inquiry volume has shot up like a hockey stick; every client wants to know about generative AI and ChatGPT.” 

These types of chatbots are built atop large language models, or LLMs, a machine learning tool that uses large amounts of internet data to recognize patterns and generate human-sounding language. If you’re a beginner, many of the sources we spoke with agreed that the best way to start using a chatbot is to dive in and try things out. 

“People spend too much time trying to find the perfect prompt – 80% of it is just using it interactively,” Ethan Mollick, an associate professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies the effects of AI on work and education, told CNBC. 

Here are some tips from the pros:

Keep data privacy in mind. 

When you use a chatbot like ChatGPT or Bard, the information you put in – what you type, what you receive in response, and the changes you ask for – may be used to train future models. OpenAI says as much in its terms. Although some companies offer ways to opt out – OpenAI allows this under “data controls” in ChatGPT settings – it’s still best to refrain from sharing sensitive or private data in chatbot conversations, especially while companies are still finessing their privacy measures. For instance, a ChatGPT bug in March briefly allowed users to see parts of each others’ conversation histories. 

“If you wouldn’t post it on Facebook, don’t put it into ChatGPT,” Burke said. “Think about what you put into ChatGPT as being public information.”

Offer up context. 

For the best possible return on your time, give the chatbot context about how it should act in this scenario, and who it’s serving with this information. For example, you can write out the persona you want the chatbot to assume in this scenario: “You are a [marketer, teacher, philosopher, etc.].” You can also add context like: “I am a [client, student, beginner, etc.].” This could save time by directly telling the chatbot which kind of role it should assume, and which “lens” to pass the information through in a way that’s helpful to you. 

For instance, if you’re a creative consultant looking for a chatbot to help you with analysis on company logos, you could type out something like, “Act as if you are a graphic designer who studies logo design for companies. I am a client who owns a company and is looking to learn about which logos work best and why. Generate an analysis on the ‘best’ company logos for publicly listed companies and why they’re seen as good choices.” 

“If you ask Bard to write an inspirational speech, Bard’s response may be a bit more generic – but if you ask Bard to write a speech in a specific style, tone or format, you’ll likely get a much better response,” Sissie Hsiao, a VP at Google, told CNBC.

Make the chatbot do all the work.

Sometimes the best way to get what you want is to ask the chatbot itself for advice – whether you’re asking about what’s possible as a user, or about the best way to word your prompt.

“Ask it the simple question, what kinds of things can you do? And it’ll give you a list of things that would actually surprise most people,” Burke said. 

You can also game the system by asking something like, “What’s the best way to ask you for help writing a shopping list?” or even assigning the chatbot a prompt-writing job, like, “Your job is to generate the best and most efficient prompts for ChatGPT. Generate a list of the best prompts to ask ChatGPT for healthy one-pot dinner recipes.” 

Ask for help with brainstorming. 

Whether you’re looking for vacation destinations, date ideas, poetry prompts or content strategies for going viral on social media, many people are using chatbots as a jumping-off point for brainstorming sessions. 

“The biggest thing…that I find them to be helpful for is inspiring me as the user and helping me learn things that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of on my own,” Josh Albrecht, CTO of Generally Intelligent, an AI research startup, told CNBC. “Maybe that’s why they’re called generative AI – they’re really helpful at the generative part, the brainstorming.” 

Create a crash course. 

Let’s say you’re trying to learn about geometry, and you consider yourself a beginner. You could kick off your studies by asking a chatbot something like, “Explain the basics of geometry as if I’m a beginner,” or, “Explain the Pythagorean Theorem as if I’m a five-year-old.” 

If you’re looking for something more expansive, you can ask a chatbot to create a “crash course” for you, specifying how much time you’ve got (three days, a week, a month) or how many hours you want to spend learning the new skill. You can write something like, “I’m a beginner who wants to learn how to skateboard. Create a two-week plan for how I can learn to skateboard and do a kickflip.” 

To expand your learning plan beyond the chatbot, you can also ask for a list of the most important books about a topic, some of the most influential people in the field and any other resources that could help you advance your skill set. 

Don’t be afraid to give notes and ask for changes. 

“The worst thing you could do if you’re actually trying to use the output of ChatGPT is [to] just ask it one thing once and then walk away,” Mollick said. “You’re going to get very generic output. You have to interact with it.”

Sometimes you won’t choose the perfect prompt, or the chatbot won’t generate the output you were looking for – and that’s okay. You can still make tweaks to make the information more helpful, like asking follow-up questions like, “Can you make it sound less generic?” or “Can you make the first paragraph more interesting?” or even restating your original ask in a different way. 

Take everything with many grains of salt.

Chatbots have a documented tendency to fabricate information, especially when their training data doesn’t fully cover an area you’re asking about, so it’s important to take everything with a grain of salt. Say you’re asking for a biography of Albert Einstein: A chatbot might tell you the famous scientist wrote a book called “How to Be Smart,” when, unfortunately, he never did. Also, since large language models are trained upon large swaths of the internet, they’re best at pattern recognition, meaning they can generate biased outputs or misinformation based on their training data. 

“Where there’s less information, it just makes stuff up,” Burke said, adding, “These hallucinations are extraordinarily convincing…You can’t trust these models to give you accurate information all the time.”

Experiment and try different approaches.

Whether you’re asking for a chatbot to generate a list of action items from a meeting transcript or translate something from English to Tagalog, there are an untold range of use cases for generative AI. So when you’re using a chatbot, it’s worth thinking about the things you want to learn or need help with and experimenting with how well the system can deliver. 

“AI is a general-purpose technology; it does a lot of stuff, so the idea is that whatever field you’re in and whatever job you’re in, it’s going to affect aspects of your job differently than anyone else on the planet,” Mollick said. “It’s about thinking about how you want to use it…You have to figure out a way to work with the system…and the only way to do that is through experimenting.” 

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Binance lawyers allege SEC Chair Gensler offered to serve as advisor to crypto company in 2019




Binance lawyers allege SEC Chair Gensler offered to serve as advisor to crypto company in 2019

SEC Chair Gary Gensler mocks putting a gun to his head in response to a “Blazing Saddles” reference by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., during the House Financial Services Committee hearing titled “Oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” in Rayburn Building on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

SEC Chair Gary Gensler, who is in the midst of a hefty crackdown on crypto companies, offered to serve as an advisor to Binance’s parent company in 2019, according to the lawyers for Binance and founder Changpeng Zhao.

Documents filed by the SEC on Wednesday indicate that attorneys from Gibson Dunn and Latham & Watkins, two of Binance’s law firms, allege that Gensler offered to serve as an advisor to the crypto exchange in several March 2019 conversations with Binance executives and Zhao. He eventually met Zhao in Japan for lunch later that month, the filing claims.

At the time, Gensler was teaching at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. He was appointed head of the SEC in 2021 by President Biden, and over the past year has come down hard on the crypto industry, suing numerous companies for allegedly selling unregistered securities.

Earlier this week, the SEC filed 13 charges against Binance and Zhao, alleging the company failed to register as an exchange and broker-dealer, improperly commingled funds and lacked critical internal controls over its businesses.

Before Gensler started going after Binance, he was trying to cozy up to the company, the lawyers say. The Wall Street Journal previously reported on Gensler and Binance’s relationship, citing internal Binance messages and a person close to the SEC chair. Both suggested that Binance approached Gensler.

In the latest filing, the Gibson and Latham attorneys say that Zhao continued to stay in touch with Gensler after the March meeting. And at the future SEC chair’s request, Zhao sat down for an interview with Gensler as part of a cryptocurrency course he was teaching at MIT.

The SEC on Tuesday described Zhao, who reportedly resides in the UAE, as a “foreign national” with a tendency for “geographic elusiveness.” Zhao’s lawyers now say that the Zhao understood that Gensler was “comfortable serving as an informal advisor.”

Later in 2019, the letter said, Gensler was slated to testify before the House Financial Services Committee, and he sent Zhao a copy of his intended testimony ahead of the hearing.

In July of that year, Gensler testified before the House over Facebook’s proposed and later canceled cryptocurrency Libra and its planned Calibra wallet.

“I do not advise any financial, technology, blockchain or other companies, nor do I own any cryptocurrencies,” Gensler’s prepared testimony read.

Gensler’s advice to lawmakers at the time was largely the same as his public statements today. He said that, with Facebook envisioning a wallet to store customer assets, rules needed to be in place “to guard against Calibra’s use or potential abuse of such customer funds.”

He also testified more broadly in language that’s resembles his latest pronouncements.

“We must guard against illicit activities, such as tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist financing and avoiding sanctions,” he said at the time. “We must protect individuals’ privacy.”

Because of Gensler’s ties to Zhao, Binance’s lawyers said they’d asked for his recusal from any actions regarding the company. They say they got no acknowledgement from SEC staff.

An SEC spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC that, “the Chair is very familiar with and full compliance with his ethical obligations including any recusal obligations.”

The SEC’s probes into Binance.US and Binance began in 2020 and 2021, respectively, well after Gensler and Zhao’s last alleged contact.

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Google tells employees in New York and along the East Coast to work from home as smoke fills the air




Google tells employees in New York and along the East Coast to work from home as smoke fills the air

People ride bicycles at 6th Avenue as haze and smoke caused by wildfires in Canada blanket New York City, New York, June 7, 2023.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

Google is telling its East Coast employees to stay home as wildfire smoke fills the air in New York and other major cities.

Company site leads in New York wrote in a memo to workers in the area that air quality in many parts of the region had reached “unhealthy” levels, citing the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation. In New York, most employees have been expected to work from physical offices at least three days a week.

“We are advising Googlers to work from home if possible, and limit their exposure to outdoor air,” according to the note, which was obtained by CNBC. “Terraces across our New York campus will remain closed today.”

According to NBC, the company issued advisory notices to workers in the Detroit area, Washington, D.C., Reston, Virginia, Pittsburgh and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. In Canada, which is on track to experience its worst-ever wildfire season, Google notified employees in the Ontario cities of Toronto and Waterloo.

New York Mayor Eric Adams issued a statement Wednesday urging all New Yorkers to limit outdoor activity, and airports delayed flights as smoke from Canadian wildfires engulfed surrounding regions.

Google has dealt with this issue in the recent past.

In 2020, the company’s home state of California faced hazardous air quality issues for almost a month as a result of record-setting wildfires that burned across the state. Many people at Google and across the tech industry were already working from home because it was the height of the Covid pandemic.

Google has set up a so-called “go” link that directs employees to internal documents and information about wildfires and air filtering. It released similar resources during the 2020 wildfires. The company typically has “go” links for things like products, employee equipment, office information and some social causes.

The memo on Wednesday advised employees to remain indoors, “avoid vigorous physical activity” and run their air conditioners with clean filters. The site leads assured those who are already working on site that the campuses’ HVAC and air filtration systems “maintain a high quality of air inside our offices even in these circumstances.”

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Amazon is pursuing ‘too many ideas’ and needs to focus on best opportunities, analyst says in letter to Jassy




Amazon is pursuing 'too many ideas' and needs to focus on best opportunities, analyst says in  letter to Jassy

There are better places for Amazon to put their capital to work, says Bernstein's Mark Shmulik

In its quest to upend everything from health care and grocery stores to internet satellites, Amazon has become too unfocused and is missing out on opportunities in its core businesses, according to Bernstein analysts, who on Wednesday published what they called an “open letter” to CEO Andy Jassy and the board.

Amazon remains dominant in e-commerce and cloud computing with Amazon Web Services. In some other areas, however, the company has spent heavily without seeing the results, the analysts said.

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“We fully support Amazon’s efforts to uncover and capture the next AWS-sized opportunity,” wrote Bernstein’s Mark Shmulik, who has an outperform rating on the stock. “But what we’ve seen recently is a company simply pursuing too many ideas, with weaker ideas taking away the oxygen, capital, and most importantly focus from the truly disruptive initiatives that ‘only Amazon can do.'”

Amazon’s stock performance compared with its “closest mega-cap peers” — Apple, Microsoft and Google — has also left investors wanting, Shmulik said. Amazon shares are up 50% year to date, but they’ve underperformed top peers by about 52% over a five-year period, he said.

The stock was down 3.6% to $122.12 as of early afternoon New York time.

Shmulik urged Amazon to get back to its “Day One” mentality, referring to a phrase championed by Amazon founder and Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos, who was succeeded by Jassy in July 2021. Bezos famously said a Day One mentality would help Amazon stave off its demise, and described it as continuing to innovate rapidly like a startup, no matter how large the company becomes.

“Day 2 is stasis,” Bezos said in a 2017 shareholder letter. “Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Amazon should “divest, seek outside funding, or trim spend” in health care and its nascent low Earth orbit satellite venture, called Project Kuiper, Shmulik wrote. He pointed to Amazon’s multiyear effort to break into health care, before abandoning efforts like its Care telehealth service, Halo health and fitness band, and a joint health-care venture called Haven.

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Kuiper “appears even more extreme as an investment area,” according to Shmulik, with Amazon committing $10 billion to build out the initiative. Google’s lack of success with its Project Loon, Fiber and Fi efforts signals “capital intensive low-margin utilities aren’t worth the effort regardless of how ‘cool’ the technology may be,” he wrote.

Amazon should even take a page out of Alphabet’s book and strip out Kuiper, health care and possibly Alexa into “other bets,” Shmulik said. Doing so, he says, would show a “far healthier and more profitable core business” and wouldn’t detract from the company’s effort to “build the next AWS.”

Shmulik is also skeptical of Amazon’s ongoing efforts to expand in international markets like Brazil, Singapore and India, where competition remains stiff. He calls it a case of throwing “good money after bad,” despite the strategic value that those markets may hold.

When it comes to Whole Foods, Fresh supermarkets and Go cashierless convenience stories, Amazon needs to “make a call on physical grocery,” Shmulik wrote. Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in 2017, and has continued to build out its grocery offerings on its website, while launching other experimental shops. Recently, the company paused further expansion of its Fresh and Go stores as Jassy looks to cut costs.

Instead of continuing to “tinker with” its Fresh and Go stores, Shmulik said Amazon should “purchase a proven concept such as potential divested KR/ACI stores,” referring to the stores Kroger and Albertsons’ are selling off as part of their planned merger.

Amazon should focus on its core strengths and keep pushing into other areas where it’s gained traction, Shmulik said, encouraging a continued build-out of its advertising and media arms, as well as its Buy With Prime service, which allows websites off of Amazon to take advantage of its Prime delivery benefits.

The current scattershot approach is confusing to shareholders and needs to be cleared up to stem continued underperformance, Shmulik added, calling out uncertainty around where Amazon falls in the artificial intelligence race.

“We get investor questions today asking ‘is AWS in last place in AI?’, ‘is retail actually a profitable business?’, and even ‘do we want Andy on the earnings call?'” Shmulik wrote. “It points to one underlying issue: Amazon doesn’t own its own narrative.”

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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