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Graphcore’s AI chips may not be as powerful as Nvidia’s GPUs, but may provide good bang for your buck • The Register

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In brief The latest results by benchmarking consortium MLPerf, tracking the best chips for training the most popular neural networks, are out and a new player has entered the game: Graphcore.

Each MLPerf release is pretty standard. A sprawling spreadsheet records the time various systems take to train or run a particular machine-learning model; these numbers are submitted by hardware vendors.

Nvidia and Google pretty much always lead the pack so the latest results aren’t particularly surprising. What is different this year is that Graphcore has joined for the first time. It’s a good sign; it signals their technology is maturing and that it’s willing to publicly compare itself to competitors.

Although Graphcore’s IPU-PODs weren’t as fast at training the computer vision model ResNet-50 and language model BERT as Nvidia’s A100 GPU or Google’s latest TPUs, the company’s hardware is much cheaper, so it may have a performance per dollar advantage. Google’s TPUs are only available via the cloud.

You can see the full results here, and more on Graphcore here from our sister site, The Next Platform.

Say bye-bye to Pepper, the robot

SoftBank has stopped producing its humanoid Pepper robot and is cutting jobs across its robotics unit. Pepper is instantly recognizable by its white body, complete with a head, two arms, torso, lower body on wheels and a screen. It’s about the size of a small child, and has two circular black eyes and a small smile on its face.

Launched in 2014, the machine was designed to do all sorts of tasks, such as greeting customers or showing useful information like menus or locations. But it hasn’t been popular, and SoftBank has struggled to shift the 27,000 units it made. Now, it has decided to stop making them altogether, according to Reuters, and hundreds of jobs across France, the US, and the UK have been cut.

Experiments to roll out the robot across supermarkets and offices haven’t always gone well. In 2018, a Scottish supermarket fired Pepper after it freaked shoppers out and often told them to look “in the alcohol section” for unrelated items, it was reported.

The World Health Organization’s AI ethics guideline

The WHO published a 165-page report outlining an ethics and governance framework for AI in health, this week.

It’s founded on six main principles that the org hopes “can ensure the governance of artificial intelligence for health maximizes the promise of the technology and holds all stakeholders – in the public and private sector – accountable and responsive to the healthcare workers who will rely on these technologies and the communities and individuals whose health will be affected by its use.”

Those six principles are:

  1. Protecting autonomy: Machines may automate tasks and generate results, but humans should always remain in charge of the systems and oversee all medical decisions.
  2. Promoting human safety and well-being and safety and the public interest: Make sure that the effects of computer algorithms are studied and regulated to make sure they don’t harm people.
  3. Ensuring transparency, explainability and intelligibility: The technology must be understandable to everyone that uses or is affected by it, whether it’s the developers, healthcare professionals, or patients.
  4. Fostering responsibility and accountability: Understand the limits of AI technology and where it may go wrong. Make sure that someone can be held responsible if that’s the case.
  5. Ensuring equity and inclusivity: AI should not be biased or perform less well against age, sex, gender, income, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on.
  6. Promoting tools that are responsive and sustainable: Machine learning software should be designed to as computationally efficient as possible.

Facebook upgrades its research dataset to help developers build house robots

Chores are mundane and no one in their right mind likes doing the dishes or laundry, really. Humans are going to have to keep doing them unfortunately until AI robots get nimble and smart enough to take over.

Simple tasks like picking up cups, putting them in the dishwasher, or in cupboards, might be easy for us but they’re incredibly difficult for machines. Roboticists can dream about building the perfect algorithm or neural net, but without any training data it’ll be no good.

That’s why Facebook released AI Habitat, a dataset containing multiple simulations of images modelling inside people’s houses to help developers in 2019. Now, it has upgraded that to Habitat 2.0, which contains 111 unique, 3D-rendered layouts of rooms containing 92 objects, like drawers, carpets, sofas, plants, fruit, and the like.

Future AI agents can be trained to complete a specific chore in simulation to gain enough experience before they’re tested in real-world conditions. What’s most interesting is that robots designed to tidy homes in the US will probably perform differently in other countries, where the style of homes or jobs vary.

“In the future, Habitat will seek to model living spaces in more places around the world, enabling more varied training that takes into account cultural- and region-specific layouts of furniture, types of furniture, and types of objects,” said Dhruv Batra, a Facebook research scientist.

You can read more about the dataset here. ®

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Elon Musk sells Tesla shares worth $6.9bn as Twitter trial looms | Elon Musk

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Elon Musk has sold $6.9bn (£5.7bn) worth of shares in Tesla after admitting that he could need the funds if he loses a legal battle with Twitter and is forced to buy the social media platform.

The Tesla CEO walked away from a $44bn deal to buy Twitter in July but the company has launched a lawsuit demanding that he complete the deal. A trial will take place in Delaware in October.

“In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close *and* some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock,” Musk said in a tweet late on Tuesday.

In other comments on Twitter on Tuesday, Musk said “yes” when asked if he was finished selling Tesla stock. He also said he would buy Tesla stock again if the Twitter deal does not close.

Musk has committed more than $30bn of his own money to the financing of the deal, with more than $7bn of that total provided by a coterie of associates including tech tycoon Larry Ellison, the Qatar state investment fund and the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance.

Musk, the world’s richest person, sold $8.5bn worth of Tesla shares in April and had said at the time there were no further sales planned. But since then, legal experts had suggested that if Musk is forced to complete the acquisition or settle the dispute with a stiff penalty, he was likely to sell more Tesla shares.

Last week Musk launched a countersuit against Twitter, accusing the platform of deliberately miscounting the number of spam accounts on the platform. Twitter has consistently stated that the number of spam accounts on its service is less than 5% of its user base, which currently stands at just under 238 million. Legal experts have said that Musk will find it hard to convince a judge that Twitter’s spam issue represents a “company material adverse effect” that substantially alters the company’s value – and therefore voids the deal.

Musk sold about 7.92m Tesla shares between 5 August and 9 August, according to multiple filings. He now owns 155m Tesla shares or just under 15% of the electric carmaker.

The latest sales bring total Tesla stock sales by Musk to about $32bn in less than one year. However, Musk remains comfortably ahead of Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest man with an estimated $250bn fortune, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index.

Tesla shares have risen nearly 15% since the automaker reported better-than-expected earnings on 20 July, also helped by the Biden administration’s climate bill that, if passed, would lift the cap on tax credits for electric vehicles.

Musk also teased on Tuesday that he could start his own social media platform. When asked by a Twitter user if he had thought about creating his own platform if the deal didn’t close, he replied: “X.com”.

With Reuters



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Iran reveals use of cryptocurrency to pay for imports • The Register

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Iran has announced it used cryptocurrency to pay for imports, raising the prospect that the nation is using digital assets to evade sanctions.

Trade minister Alireza Peyman Pak revealed the transaction with the tweet below, which translates as “This week, the first official import order was successfully placed with cryptocurrency worth ten million dollars. By the end of September, the use of cryptocurrencies and smart contracts will be widespread in foreign trade with target countries.”

It is unclear what Peman Pak referred to with his mention of widespread use of crypto for foreign trade, and the identity of the foreign countries he mentioned is also obscure.

But the intent of the announcement appears clear: Iran will use cryptocurrency to settle cross-border trades.

That’s very significant because Iran is subject to extensive sanctions aimed at preventing its ability to acquire nuclear weapons and reduce its ability to sponsor terrorism. Sanctions prevent the sale of many commodities and technologies to Iran, and financial institutions aren’t allowed to deal with their Iranian counterparts, who are mostly shunned around the world.

As explained in this advisory [PDF] issued by the US Treasury, Iran has developed numerous practices to evade sanctions, including payment offsetting schemes that let it sell oil in contravention of sanctions. Proceeds of such sales are alleged to have been funnelled to terrorist groups.

While cryptocurrency’s anonymity has been largely disproved, trades in digital assets aren’t regulated so sanctions enforcement will be more complex if Iran and its trading partners use crypto instead of fiat currencies.

Which perhaps adds more weight to the argument that cryptocurrency has few proven uses beyond speculative trading, making the ransomware industry possible, and helping authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea to acquire materiel for weapons.

Peyman Pak’s mention of “widespread” cross-border crypto deals, facilitated by automated smart contracts, therefore represents a challenge to those who monitor and enforce sanctions – and something new to worry about for the rest of us. ®



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Edwards Lifesciences is hiring at its ‘key’ Shannon and Limerick facilities

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The medtech company is hiring for a variety of roles at both its Limerick and Shannon sites, the latter of which is being transformed into a specialised manufacturing facility.

Medical devices giant Edwards Lifesciences began renovations to convert its existing Shannon facility into a specialised manufacturing centre at the end of July.

The expansion will allow the company to produce components that are an integral part of its transcatheter heart valves. The conversion is part of Edwards Lifesciences’ expansion plan that will see it hire for hundreds of new roles in the coming years.

“The expanded capability at our Shannon facility demonstrates that our operations in Ireland are a key enabler for Edwards to continue helping patients across the globe,” said Andrew Walls, general manager for the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

According to Walls, hiring is currently underway at the company’s Shannon and Limerick facilities for a variety of functions such as assembly and inspection roles, manufacturing and quality engineering, supply chain, warehouse operations and project management.

Why Ireland?

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Edwards Lifesciences established its operations in Shannon in 2018 and announced 600 new jobs for the mid-west region. This number was then doubled a year later when it revealed increased investment in Limerick.

When the Limerick plant was officially opened in October 2021, the medtech company added another 250 roles onto the previously announced 600, promising 850 new jobs by 2025.

“As the company grows and serves even more patients around the world, Edwards conducted a thorough review of its global valve manufacturing network to ensure we have the right facilities and talent to address our future needs,” Walls told SiliconRepublic.com

“We consider multiple factors when determining where we decide to manufacture – for example, a location that will allow us to produce close to where products are utilised, a location that offers advantages for our supply chain, excellent local talent pool for an engaged workforce, an interest in education and good academic infrastructure, and other characteristics that will be good for business and, ultimately, good for patients.

“Both our Shannon and Limerick sites are key enablers for Edwards Lifesciences to continue helping patients across the globe.”

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