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More than 1,000 humans fail to beat AI contender in top crossword battle • The Register

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In brief An AI system has bested nearly 1,300 human competitors in the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament to achieve the top score.

The computer, named Dr Fill, is the brainchild of computer scientist Matt Ginsberg, who designed its software to automatically fill out crosswords using a mixture of “good old-fashioned AI” and more modern machine-learning techniques, according to Slate.

It was able to solve multiple word conundrums fast with fewer errors than its opponents. Dr Fill, however, was not eligible for the $3,000 cash prize, which instead went to the best human player, a man named Tyler Hinman, who presumably isn’t feeling somewhat redundant.

Ginsberg’s machine contained a computer running a 64-core CPU and two GPUs, and was trained on tons of text scraped from Wikipedia to learn words, and a database of crossword clues and their answers to parse the competition questions. You can watch it in action below.

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Google defends large language models like the ones used by Google

In a new paper, researchers from Google and University California, Berkeley have outlined various ways to slash the environmental impact of the large amounts of energy consumed during the training of text-generation models like the ones used by Google.

Large language models are a particularly controversial area for The Chocolate Factory. The co-leads of its AI Ethics research group, Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, were ousted this year over a paper that detailed the power usage and financial costs of these models as well as concerns over their inscrutable nature.

Now, Google has published a counter-study. Large language models don’t have that big of a carbon footprint if they are trained using resources from data centers running efficiently in countries using renewable energy, the internet giant argued. You can read the whole thing here.

The paper coauthored by Gebru, computational linguistics professor Emily M. Bender, and others was shot down by Google for supposedly not including enough references to relevant research. What’s unfortunate here is that Google’s latest paper failed to mention or reference Gebru and Bender’s paper in their study. One of the researchers later confirmed they were going to add a hat-tip to the pair in an updated version of their study.

Beware of deepfake satellite imagery

Academics are warning of the potential dangers of fake AI-generated satellite images.

A team of geographers led by the University of Washington in the US demonstrated how machine-learning algorithms could be trained to spit out fake geospatial images. The outputs could be used to disrupt applications relying on satellite imagery, such as Google Earth or even military software.

“This isn’t just Photoshopping things. It’s making data look uncannily realistic,” said Bo Zhao, assistant professor of geography at the UW and lead author of the study published in the journal Cartography and Geographic Information Science, this week. “The techniques are already there. We’re just trying to expose the possibility of using the same techniques, and of the need to develop a coping strategy for it.”

Zhao showed examples of how real images from cities could be manipulated by pasting on fake buildings to create made-up towns or adding false fires to mimic natural disasters. While it’ll take a lot more than deepfakes to attack real software systems, the researchers are raising awareness of it now in the hopes they can be one step ahead of the threat.

iGiant to create new jobs in AI

Apple pledged to invest $430bn in the US to employ 20,000 new staff focusing on emerging technologies, like AI to new chips, over the next five years. Apple plans to spend $1bn to launch a new campus in North Carolina too, with around 3,000 employees working on advanced research and development.

“At this moment of recovery and rebuilding, Apple is doubling down on our commitment to US innovation and manufacturing with a generational investment reaching communities across all 50 states,” Apple’s CEO. Tim Cook, announced this week.

“We’re creating jobs in cutting-edge fields — from 5G to silicon engineering to artificial intelligence — investing in the next generation of innovative new businesses, and in all our work, building toward a greener and more equitable future.”

New SiFive AI chip produced by Samsung coming soon

An AI accelerator system-on-chip developed in collaboration between SiFive and a mystery partner is set to be manufactured by chip Samsung.

Not much is known about the chip, except that it’s based on a 14nm FinFET design and contains SiFive RISC-V cores as well as PCIe Gen. 4 connectivity and quad-channel 32-bit LPDDR4 memory.

SiFive didn’t reveal who the chip was for or when it would be sent off for mass production.

“Working in partnership with Samsung Foundry has accelerated SiFive’s ability to deliver our highly-efficient and configurable approach for SoC design and implementation,” Yunsup Lee, CTO of SiFive, said in a statement.

“We’re excited to continue to co-innovate with Samsung Foundry as we launch our latest SiFive Intelligence products to accelerate the development of next-generation AI SoCs with Samsung’s advanced process technology.” ®



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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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