OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman & and Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.
Hayden Field | CNBC
The past few days have been chaotic for the AI industry, with technology experts weighing what this could mean for the nascent sector and some of its key players.
OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT which launched AI into the mainstream late last year, said Friday that it was removing its CEO Sam Altman and making its technology chief Mira Murati interim CEO in his place.
But before the weekend was even over, OpenAI appeared to change course, announcing that former Twitch chief Emmett Shear would take over from Altman instead, at least on a temporary basis.
Meanwhile, Altman himself has already found a new role leading a new advanced AI research team at Microsoft, where he will be joined by former OpenAI Board Chair Greg Brockman and several other employees.
But Altman’s move could simply be a case of “damage control” for Microsoft, according to Richard Windsor, founder of digital research company Radio Free Mobile. This is linked to Microsoft’s immense investments in OpenAI, he said on CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” Monday.
Microsoft began investing in OpenAI as early as 2019, initially with around $1 billion. That figure has ballooned since to an amount reported to be closer to $13 billion. Microsoft has also integrated OpenAI’s technologies in products like search engine Bing and various softwares.
“A large amount of that value is tied up in the founders and in the engineers that are inside the company,” Windsor said.
Meanwhile, other tech experts have been backing Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s swift move to hire Altman in-house.
“Incredible execution by Satya in one of the most dynamic situations in tech history,” Aaron Levie, CEO of cloud-sharing and management company Box, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Aviral Bhatnagar, an investor at Venture Highway, had a similar view.
“You now understand why Satya Nadella is one of the greatest tech CEOs of this generation,” he said in a post on X.
“Kept Altman in the fold, kept the transition as neat as possible, managed the chaos and the wild board decision making, didn’t destroy OpenAI. What a boss move.”
Windsor suggested that further OpenAI employees may soon follow Altman to Microsoft, which he said could have detrimental consequences for OpenAI. This could even include OpenAI tech chief Murati who has been crucial in developing OpenAI’s products, he noted.
“If she goes off with Sam and the others to join Microsoft, what’s left of OpenAI? Arguably not much,” Windsor said.
Several OpenAI employees have also shared comments on X, often referencing that people are crucial for the company.
The chaotic developments have also been criticized by Shear himself, the new interim CEO of OpenAI.
“It’s clear that the process and communications around Sam’s removal has been handled very badly, which has seriously damaged our trust,” he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, in which he also confirmed he would step in as interim CEO.
Shear suggested he would launch an investigation to examine the process that led to the recent events and produce a report on them within his first thirty days at OpenAI.
This has been echoed by experts, including Windsor, who said that the situation could severely damage the company’s reputation and undermine public confidence in the company.
Crypto execs says the bull run is underway and could lead to $100,000 bitcoin in 2024
Yuichiro Chino | Moment | Getty Images
Executives in the cryptocurrency industry called the start of a new bull run with a growing number of voices calling for fresh all-time highs for bitcoin in 2024 above $100,000.
Bitcoin has rallied more than 120% this year, with many optimistic about the surge continuing into 2024.
“It feels that was a year to get ready for the bull run that is yet to come. But the sentiment is very hopeful for  and 25,” Pascal Gauthier, CEO of Ledger, told CNBC last week in an interview.
The digital currency’s last record high of nearly $69,00 was hit in November 2021.
Since then, the crypto industry has been hit with a litany of issues from the collapse of coins and projects to bankruptcies and criminal trials. FTX, once one of the world’s biggest exchanges, collapsed with its founder Sam Bankman-Fried facing over 100 years in prison after he was found guilty on seven counts of criminal fraud.
Meanwhile, Binance chief Changpeng Zhao pleaded guilty to criminal charges and stepped down as the company’s CEO as part of a $4.3 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Many in the industry see the two cases concluding as a line being drawn under issues that have plagued the crypto market.
“I think that once you get the speculative phase out of the way, which I think we’re almost done with, probably not yet completely done, then you can get real builders focusing on the technology and the problems that can solve in the world, rather than just having a giant digital casino for people to trade,” David Marcus, CEO of Lightspark, told CNBC last week in an interview.
Marcus, the former leader of Facebook’s failed Diem stablecoin project, is now working on technology to improve bitcoin as a payments network.
Now that those issues are out the way, investors are focused on what the industry sees as positive developments. The first is the growing excitement that a bitcoin exchange-traded fund, or ETF, might be approved soon. This could bring in larger traditional investors who previously did not want to touch crypto.
“I think what the ETF means really is that bitcoin is going mainstream, and that’s what people were waiting for,” Gauthier said.
The second development is the bitcoin halving, which takes place every four years and is scheduled for May 2024. Halving is when miners, which are entities who uphold the bitcoin network, see the rewards for their work cut in half. This keeps a cap on the supply of bitcoin — of which there will ever only be 21 million coins — and often is a factor behind a new rally.
“A number of market participants are expecting a bull run some time after the halving, but given the ETF news, we could very well have a run before that leaving most investors on the sidelines. That could cause a massive upward run in the price,” Vijay Ayyar, vice president of international markets at cryptocurrency exchange CoinDCX, told CNBC.
There have already been some bold calls for bitcoin in 2024.
It began with Standard Chartered last week which reiterated an April price call that bitcoin would hit $100,000 by end of 2024. The bank said this will be driven by the approvals of numerous ETFs.
That would mean a roughly 160% rally from Friday’s price of around $38,413, according to CoinDesk data.
Matrixport, which bills itself as a crypto financial services firm, released a note last week projecting bitcoin would reach $63,140 by April 2024 and $125,000 by the end of next year.
“Based on our inflation model, the macro environment is expected to remain a robust tailwind for crypto. Another decline in inflation is anticipated, prompting the Federal Reserve to likely initiate interest rate cuts,” Matrixport said in its report.
“Combined with geopolitical crosscurrents, this healthy dose of monetary support should push Bitcoin to new highs in 2024.”
Many commentators see easing monetary policy as supportive for bitcoin which is viewed as a risky asset. Meanwhile, some see bitcoin as a sort of “safe haven” asset to pour money into in times of geopolitical strife.
When asked if bitcoin would hit $100,000 in 2024, Gauthier said “maybe,” but declined to give a price prediction.
“What we see is strong fundamentals,” he said.
Ayyar said that the price of bitcoin is “consolidating” below a “key level” of $38,000, which is bullish for bitcoin. Once this level is broke, bitcoin could rally to between $45,000 and $48,000 next, he said.
However, he warned the rally, which is in large part built on expectations of an ETF approval, could fail if the product is rejected by regulators again.
“An all out ETF rejection could play havoc to this run as well, hence definitely something to be mindful of,” he said.
Meta’s AI chief doesn’t think AI super intelligence is coming anytime soon, and is skeptical on quantum computing
Yann LeCun, chief AI scientist at Meta, speaks at the Viva Tech conference in Paris, June 13, 2023.
Chesnot | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Meta’s chief scientist and deep learning pioneer Yann LeCun said he believes that current AI systems are decades away from reaching some semblance of sentience, equipped with common sense that can push their abilities beyond merely summarizing mountains of text in creative ways.
His point of view stands in contrast to that of Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, who recently said AI will be “fairly competitive” with humans in less than five years, besting people at a multitude of mentally intensive tasks.
“I know Jensen,” LeCun said at a recent event highlighting the Facebook parent company’s 10-year anniversary of its Fundamental AI Research team. LeCun said the Nvidia CEO has much to gain from the AI craze. “There is an AI war, and he’s supplying the weapons.”
“[If] you think AGI is in, the more GPUs you have to buy,” LeCun said, about technologists attempting to develop artificial general intelligence, the kind of AI on par with human-level intelligence. As long as researchers at firms such as OpenAI continue their pursuit of AGI, they will need more of Nvidia’s computer chips.
Society is more likely to get “cat-level” or “dog-level” AI years before human-level AI, LeCun said. And the technology industry’s current focus on language models and text data will not be enough to create the kinds of advanced human-like AI systems that researchers have been dreaming about for decades.
“Text is a very poor source of information,” LeCun said, explaining that it would likely take 20,000 years for a human to read the amount of text that has been used to train modern language models. “Train a system on the equivalent of 20,000 years of reading material, and they still don’t understand that if A is the same as B, then B is the same as A.”
“There’s a lot of really basic things about the world that they just don’t get through this kind of training,” LeCun said.
Hence, LeCun and other Meta AI executives have been heavily researching how the so-called transformer models used to create apps such as ChatGPT could be tailored to work with a variety of data, including audio, image and video information. The more these AI systems can discover the likely billions of hidden correlations between these various kinds of data, the more they could potentially perform more fantastical feats, the thinking goes.
Some of Meta’s research includes software that can help teach people how to play tennis better while wearing the company’s Project Aria augmented reality glasses, which blend digital graphics into the real world. Executives showed a demo in which a person wearing the AR glasses while playing tennis was able to see visual cues teaching them how to properly hold their tennis rackets and swing their arms in perfect form. The kinds of AI models needed to power this type of digital tennis assistant require a blend of three-dimensional visual data in addition to text and audio, in case the digital assistant needs to speak.
These so-called multimodal AI systems represent the next frontier, but their development won’t come cheap. And as more companies such as Meta and Google parent Alphabet research more advanced AI models, Nvidia could stand to gain even more of an edge, particularly if no other competition emerges.
Nvidia has been the biggest benefactor of generative AI, with its pricey graphics processing units becoming the standard tool used to train massive language models. Meta relied on 16,000 Nvidia A100 GPUs to train its Llama AI software.
CNBC asked if the tech industry will need more hardware providers as Meta and other researchers continue their work developing these kinds of sophisticated AI models.
“It doesn’t require it, but it would be nice,” LeCun said, adding that the GPU technology is still the gold standard when it comes to AI.
Still, the computer chips of the future may not be called GPUs, he said.
“What you’re going to see hopefully emerging are new chips that are not graphical processing units, they are just neural, deep learning accelerators,” LeCun said.
LeCun is also somewhat skeptical about quantum computing, which tech giants such as Microsoft, IBM, and Google have all poured resources into. Many researchers outside Meta believe quantum computing machines could supercharge advancements in data-intensive fields such as drug discovery, as they’re able to perform multiple calculations with so-called quantum bits as opposed to conventional binary bits used in modern computing.
But LeCun has his doubts.
“The number of problems you can solve with quantum computing, you can solve way more efficiently with classical computers,” LeCun said.
“Quantum computing is a fascinating scientific topic,” LeCun said. It’s less clear about the “practical relevance and the possibility of actually fabricating quantum computers that are actually useful.”
Meta senior fellow and former tech chief Mike Schroepfer concurred, saying that he evaluates quantum technology every few years and believes that useful quantum machines “may come at some point, but it’s got such a long time horizon that it’s irrelevant to what we’re doing.”
“The reason we started an AI lab a decade ago was that it was very obvious that this technology is going to be commercializable within the next years’ time frame,” Schroepfer said.
How $100 billion mining giant Rio Tinto is poised to benefit from the EV boom
Global demand for copper, a major component of electric vehicles, is expected to grow from 25 million metric tons to nearly 49 million metric tons by 2035, according to S&P Global.
But miners face a multitude of issues as they ramp up production, including addressing the concerns of local stakeholders, mitigating environmental damage and operating in remote regions of the world.
“There’s going to be a real problem with this transition over the next ten years,” said Tyler Broda, metals and mining analyst for RBC Capital Markets. “It is very, very hard for these companies to even maintain the level of production that they have at the moment.”
Jointly based in Australia and the UK, Rio Tinto is one of the world’s largest mining companies with projects in 35 countries. It has 17 iron ore mines in Western Australia that produce material used in steel, as well as mines that produce aluminum, diamonds, and boron, a component used in smartphones.
So what is Rio Tinto doing to ramp up production of its critical minerals business? CNBC got a behind the scenes look at Rio Tinto’s Utah operation to find out.
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