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Controversy grows after Musk engages with tweets criticizing Twitter staff | Elon Musk

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Controversy grew on Wednesday over tweets from Elon Musk engaging with criticism of Twitter employees, despite a promise from the entrepreneur not to “disparage” the company or its representatives while he completes the deal to acquire the social media platform.

The world’s richest man agreed to restrictions on his tweets as part of a 95-page agreement covering his $44bn acquisition filed on Tuesday.

However, a day after signing the agreement, which was published on the website of the US securities regulator, Musk responded to tweets from two political commentators that criticised Twitter staff.

Musk replied on Tuesday night to a Twitter post from the podcast host Saagar Enjeti flagging an article claiming Twitter’s legal head, Vijaya Gadde, had become “emotional” during a meeting to discuss the deal. In the post, Enjeti referred to Gadde as Twitter’s “top censorship advocate”, in a reference to the company’s decision in 2020 to block sharing of a New York Post story about President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

Twitter users

Musk replied: “Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organisation for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate.”

His intervention triggered negative tweets from users about Gadde, including one quote tweet in response stating that she would “go down in history as an appalling person”, while other posts called for her to lose her job.

Musk also replied to a potentially defamatory tweet from the rightwing commentator Mike Cernovich about Twitter’s deputy general counsel, Jim Baker, which referred to Baker’s work in a previous role at the FBI. Replying, Musk wrote: “Sounds pretty bad …”

Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo responded to Musk’s comments on Twitter on Wednesday, calling out the CEO for bringing on “harassment and threats” to Gadde. Costolo added: “Bullying is not leadership”.

what’s going on? You’re making an executive at the company you just bought the target of harassment and threats.

— dick costolo (@dickc) April 27, 2022

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted shortly after: “I took this job to change Twitter for the better, course correct where we need to, and strengthen the service. Proud of our people who continue to do the work with focus and urgency despite the noise.”

I took this job to change Twitter for the better, course correct where we need to, and strengthen the service. Proud of our people who continue to do the work with focus and urgency despite the noise.

— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) April 27, 2022

Twitter has been approached for comment.

Eleazer Klein, a partner at US law firm Schulte Roth and Zabel, said Musk’s tweets would not have come as a surprise to the company despite the agreement. He said: “The fact that he would be vocal about his beliefs cannot come as a surprise to the company or be unanticipated. You would imagine that the company will be thoughtful about what is really an issue in this case for the deal moving forward.”

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The agreement also stated Musk would have to pay Twitter $1bn if he walks away from the deal. The break clause, a common feature of takeover agreements, would be triggered if the financing for the deal falls apart. Twitter will also have to pay a $1bn fee to the entrepreneur if, for instance, it accepts a higher bid from elsewhere.

Musk has put together a $46.5bn funding package for the deal and his own contribution to it has concerned investors in Tesla, who wiped $126bn off the company’s value on Tuesday amid worries that the billionaire may have to sell shares in the electric carmaker to fund his share. Musk is part-funding the Twitter deal with $21bn of his own equity and a further $12.5bn loan secured against his Tesla stake.

The document filed with the US financial watchdog also addresses Musk’s penchant for attention-grabbing tweets that are avidly consumed and retweeted by his 86 million followers.

The agreement states: “The equity investor shall be permitted to issue tweets about the merger or the transactions contemplated hereby so long as such tweets do not disparage the company or any of its representatives.”

According to the US dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, the legal definition of disparagement is: “the publication of false and injurious statements that are derogatory of another’s property, business, or product”.

Hours later, Musk tweeted that Truth Social, Donald Trump’s rival social media platform, was outperforming Twitter and TikTok on the Apple store.

Also on Wednesday, a US district judge denied Musk’s request to scrap a settlement with the US securities and exchange commission (SEC) over 2018 tweets in which the CEO claimed he had funding to take Tesla private. That settlement required Musk’s tweets regarding Tesla to be approved by a company attorney.

The judge also denied a motion to nullify subpoenas in an investigation into whether Musk violated the settlement last November.



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How cognitive science can be used to bring AI forward

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Dr Marie Postma spoke to SiliconRepublic.com about misconceptions around AI as well its relationship with human consciousness.

AI and robots are getting ‘smarter’ all the time. From Irish-made care robot Stevie to Spot the robot dog from Boston Dynamics, these tech helpers are popping up everywhere with a wide range of uses.

The tech beneath the hardware is getting smarter too. Earlier this year, Researchers at MIT developed a simpler way to teach robots new skills after only a few physical demonstrations. And just this week, Google revealed how its combining large language models with its parent company’s Everyday Robots to help them better understand humans.

However, the advances in these areas have led to recent discussions around the idea of sentient AI. While this idea has been largely rebuffed by the AI community, an understanding of the relationship between cognitive science and AI is an important one.

Dr Marie Postma is head of the department of cognitive science and artificial intelligence at Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences in the Netherlands.

The department is mainly financed by three education programmes and has around 100 staff and between 900 and 1,000 students.

‘Technology is not the problem; people are the problem’
– MARIE POSTMA

The team focuses on different research themes that combine cognitive science and AI, such as computational linguistics with a big focus on deep learning solutions, autonomous agents and robotics, and human-AI interaction, which is mainly focused on VR and its use in education.

Postma was a speaker at the latest edition of the Schools for Female Leadership in the Digital Age in Prague, run by Huawei’s European Leadership Academy.

Postma spoke to the 29 students about cognitive science and machine learning, starting with the history of AI and bringing it up to the modern-day challenges, such as how we can model trust in robots and the role empathy could play in AI.

“We have research where we are designing first-person games where people can experience the world from the perspective of an animal – not a very cuddly animal, it’s actually a beaver. That’s intentional,” she told me later that day.

Sentient AI

Her talk brought about a lot of discussion around AI and consciousness, a timely discussion following the news that Blake Lemione, a Google engineer, published an interview with the AI chatbot and claimed that it had become sentient.

Postma said much of the media coverage around this story had muddied the waters. “The way it was described in the media was more focused on the Turing test – interacting with an AI system that comes across as being human-like,” she said.

“But then at some point they mention consciousness, and consciousness is really a different story.”

Postma said that most people who research consciousness would agree that it’s based on a number of factors. Firstly it’s about having a perceptual basis, both the ability to perceive the world around us but also what’s happening inside us and being self-aware.

Secondly, the purpose of consciousness is being able to interpret yourself as someone who has feelings, needs, actionability in the world and a need to stay alive. “AI systems are not worried about staying alive, at least the way we construct them now, they don’t reflect on their battery life and think ‘oh no, I should go plug myself in’.”

Possibilities and limitations

While AI and robots don’t have consciousness, their ability to be programmed to a point where they can understand humans can be highly beneficial.

For example, Postma’s department has been conducting research that concerns brain-computer interaction, with a focus on motor imagery. “[This is] trying to create systems where the user, by focusing on their brain signal, can move objects in virtual reality or on computer screens using [electroencephalography].”

This has a lot of potential applications in the medical world for people who suffer from paralysis or in the advancements of prosthetic limbs.

Last year, researchers at Stanford University successfully implanted a brain-computer interface (BCI) capable of interpreting thoughts of handwriting in a 65-year-old man paralysed below the neck due to a spinal cord injury.

However, Postma said there is still a long way to go with this technology and it’s not just about the AI itself. “The issue with that is there are users who are able to do that and others who are not, and we don’t really know what the reasons are,” she said.

“There is some research that suggests that being able to do special rotation might be one of the factors but what we’re trying to discover is how we can actually train users so that they can use BCI.”

And in the interest of quelling any lingering fears around sentient AI, she also said people should not worry about this kind of technology being able to read their thoughts because the BCI is very rudimentary. “For the motor imagery BCI, it’s typically about directions, you know, right, left, etc.”

Other misconceptions about AI

Aside from exactly how smart the robots around us really are, one of the biggest falsehoods that Postma wants to correct is that the technology itself is not necessarily what causes the problems that surround it.

“What I repeat everywhere I go, is that the technology is not the problem, people are the problem. They’re the ones who create the technology solutions and use them in a certain way and who regulate them or don’t regulate them in a certain way,” she said.

“The bias in some AI solutions is not there because some AI solutions are biased, they’re biased because the data that’s used to create the solutions is biased so there is human bias going in.”

However, while bias in AI has been a major discussion topic for several years, Postma has an optimistic view on this, saying that these biased systems are actually helping to uncover biased data that would have previously been hidden behind human walls.

“It becomes explicit because all the rules are there, all the predictive features are there, even for deep learning architecture, we have techniques to simplify them and to uncover where the decision is made.”

While Postma is a major advocate for all the good AI can do, she is also concerned about how certain AI and data is used, particularly in how it can influence human decisions in politics.

“What Cambridge Analytica did – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And I don’t think they’re the only company that are doing that,” she said.

“I’m [also] concerned about algorithms that make things addictive, whether it’s social media or gaming, that really try to satisfy the user. I’m concerned about what it’s doing to kids.”

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‘I’m buying Manchester United’: Elon Musk ‘joke’ tweet charges debate over struggling club’s future | Elon Musk

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Tesla billionaire Elon Musk briefly electrified the debate about the future of Manchester United by claiming on Twitter that he is buying the struggling Premier League club – before saying that the post was part of a “long-running joke”.

He did not make clear his views on new coach Eric ten Hag’s controversial insistence on passing out from the back, or whether unhappy star striker Cristiano Ronaldo should be allowed to leave, but he did say that if he were to buy a sports team “it would be Man U. They were my fav team as a kid”.

With the team rooted to the bottom of the league after a humiliating 4-0 away defeat to Brentford, the outspoken entrepreneur’s tweet offered hope – however –briefly – to fans who want to see the back of current owners, the Florida-based Glazer family.

Also, I’m buying Manchester United ur welcome

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 17, 2022

Musk has a history of making irreverent tweets, and he later clarified the post by saying he was not buying sports teams.

No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter. I’m not buying any sports teams.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 17, 2022

Buying United, one of the biggest football clubs in the world, would have cost Musk at least £2bn, according to its current stock market valuation.

Manchester United’s recent on-pitch woes have led to increased fan protests against the Glazers, who bought the club in a heavily leveraged deal in 2005 for £790m ($955.51m).

The anti-Glazer movement gained momentum last year after United were involved in a failed attempt to form a breakaway European Super League.

But a takeover by Musk would have been a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire for the club, given the billionaire’s tendency for off-the-cuff remarks and falling foul of market regulators.

Many were quick to point out that Musk had also promised to buy Twitter for $44bn before the deal collapsed in July, and has also boasted about colonising Mars and boosting birthrates on Earth.

That’s what you said about Twitter.

— Sema (@_SemaHernandez_) August 17, 2022

Fans responded with a mixture of bafflement and optimism given the lowly status of a club used to occupying the top places in the league rather than the bottom.

Manchester United did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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Elon Musk ‘buying Manchester United’ football club • The Register

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Rocketry, energy, automotive, AI, tequila, tunnelling and (maybe) social media engineering entrepreneur Elon Musk has proclaimed his intention to buy Manchester United — the organization often cited as the world’s most supported football club.

Must revealed his “intentions” in a tweet, of course.

Whether Musk is serious or not is impossible to divine – he has a long history of Twitter japes. And of course he also has recent form announcing, then backing away from, a planned purchase of Twitter itself.

Musk’s only previous known involvement in football was building an unasked-for submarine to help rescue a children’s team from a cave in Thailand in 2018. And when the offer was declined he defamed one of the actual rescuers.

But that lack of a round ball background won’t stop some fans from hoping Musk’s tweet expressed a genuine desire to acquire the team, which has performed modestly for years as its owners kept spending on new players low. Rival teams, meanwhile, used their owners’ oil riches to hire the planet’s top talent and win trophy after trophy as Man U’s trophy case gathered nought but dust.

The club’s fortunes hit a new low in recent weeks with a 0–4 loss to Brentford – a team that brings a teensy bit more relevance into this tale. Its home ground anchors one end of the UK’s “M4 Corridor” – which houses a great many technology companies.

Brentford is, however, a footballing minnow.

Losing to Brentford – plus other recent losses and reported disharmony in the playing squad – has enraged fans to the point where some would surely welcome Elon Musk as owner, even if his only contribution is providing a one-way trip into space for some coaching staff and players.

Or perhaps Musk fancies sending Man U to Mars, where the club would be undisputed champions of an entire planet.

Another scenario could see Man turn out a team of humanoid Tesla robots – which are presumably more easily rebooted than the club’s misfiring players, and could compete in the Robot World Cup.

If all else fails, fans could just drown their sorrows in Tesla tequila



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