July 31, 2023

Emerging Technologies Highlights: Week of Aug 1, 2023

This week, we highlight important developments in the world of artifical intelligence (AI), crypto, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

A report by McKinsey and Company shows that the generative AI revolution is already taking place, with rapid uptake among large companies. Indeed, just this week, Google announced plans to overhaul its Assistant to focus on using generative AI, and Meta hinted at the launch of a range of artificial intelligence-powered chatbots that exhibit different personalities. These developments, positive from an economic perspective, are also attracting criticisms: some claim that AI will facilitate the spread of disinformation, others that the environmental impact of AI is understated. The debate is just beginning, but the stakes are already high and accelerating by the day.

The crypto world was marked by two recent announcements. On the more positive side, we witnessed the launch of WorldCoin, an ambitious crypto-focused project seeking to create a global unique digital identity and a global currency – a project which, if successful, could reshape the way in which we certify our identity and make transactions in the digital world. On the more negative side, a federal judge said in an opinion that cryptocurrencies are considered securities, regardless of how they are sold, an opinion which contradicts a previous ruling that was considered a win by the industry. The future of crypto, at least in the US, may depend on the outcome of these legal and regulatory debates. 

Lastly, while the price of NFTs plummets, top companies continue to use them to power loyalty programs – Starbucks and Etihad Airways both announced new NFT collections for loyal customers this week. While this use-case will not save the NFT world as a whole, it may represent a safer path for the technology with which more risk-averse players can experiment going forward. 


The bottom line: McKinsey and Company is no stranger to generative artificial intelligence (gen AI): around half of the global consulting giant’s employees were said to be using the technology as of earlier this summer. But it’s not the only org to see a rapid uptake of gen AI. Indeed, a new annual report by McKinsey’s AI arm QuantumBlack finds that “use of gen AI is already widespread.”

McKinsey reached this conclusion by conducting an online survey of 1,684 participants across various regions, industries and company sizes between April 11 and 21, 2023.

The bottom line: Google plans to overhaul its Assistant to focus on using generative AI technologies similar to those that power ChatGPT and its own Bard chatbot, according to an internal email sent to employees Monday and seen by Axios. The move will change how Assistant works for consumers, developers and Google's own employees, with the company — for now — supporting both new and old approaches.

The bottom line: A booming part of tech – which uses the exact same GPUs as intensely, if not moreso, than crypto mining – has got away with comparatively little scrutiny of its environmental impact. We are, of course, talking about the AI revolution. Generative AI tools are powered by GPUs, which are complex computer chips able to handle the billions of calculations a second required to power the likes of ChatGPT and Google Bard, and these use copious amounts of energy.

The bottom line: It’s now well understood that generative AI will increase the spread of disinformation on the internet. From deepfakes to fake news articles to bots, AI will generate not only more disinformation, but more convincing disinformation. But what people are only starting to understand is how disinformation will become more targeted and better able to engage with people and sway their opinions.

The bottom line: Facebook owner Meta is preparing to launch a range of artificial intelligence-powered chatbots that exhibit different personalities as soon as next month, in an attempt to boost engagement with its social media platforms. The tech giant led by chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has been designing prototypes for chatbots that can have humanlike discussions with its nearly four billionusers.

The bottom line:  Defunct crypto exchange FTX has proposed to organize its creditors into different classes of claimants, and has provided a pathway for one class of claimants to restart the FTX exchange with third-party investors – should the group agree to it. The re-booted exchange would only be available to offshore customers, and FTT token holders would get nothing, under the plan.

The bottom line: A Manhattan federal judge said in an opinion that cryptocurrencies are considered securities regardless of how they are sold. It allows the Securities and Exchange Commission to pursue securities charges against Terraform Labs and has broad ramifications for crypto legislation and litigation. Indeed, the opinion contradicts an earlier ruling from the same district court that said Ripple, another cryptocurrency, may not be categorized as a security in all circumstances. The Ripple ruling was considered a win by the industry because it said a cryptocurrency may or may not be a security depending on who’s buying it.

The bottom line: Worldcoin is a cryptocurrency and digital identity project co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Alex Blania and Max Novendstern. After two years in development and amid high anticipation, the project was launched on July 24, 2023. The crypto-focused project was co-founded by the trio with a three-part mission: to create a global unique digital identity, a global currency (Worldcoin token) and an app that enables payment, purchases and transfers using its token alongside other cryptocurrencies and traditional assets.

The bottom line: As part of its web3 loyalty and rewards program Starbucks Odyssey, the global coffee chain is preparing to launch its eighth NFT collection – “Green Apron” – on Nifty Gateway on August 1.  The limited-edition collection comprises 5,000 NFTs that is a testament to Starbucks’s rich history – from the “original Pike Place apron to the Siren apron you see today” – and its recognition of its baristas who have served throughout the past 50+ years.

The bottom line: United Arab Emirates national airline Etihad Airways will soon release a new 300-edition expansion to its Polygon-based NFT collection, promising holders a slate of new benefits like Etihad Guest Silver Tier Status, priority check-in, lounge access and the ability to stake their assets to earn miles.

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