Featured January 31, 2023
Chinese Company Baidu Reveals Plan for ChatGPT-Like Chatbot, Shares Rise 3%
The Chinese version of Google, Baidu, is reportedly planning to incorporate a ChatGPT-like interactive Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot into its website by March, Reuters reported on January 30.
According to the report, the AI would initially be a standalone application gradually eased into the firm’s search engine services.
Following the news, Baidu’s BIDU rose to its highest since September 2022. The shares increased by roughly 3% to $143.45, continuing an impressive start to the year that has seen it gain over 22%.
The report did not reveal the name of the planned chatbot.
AI to be US, China’s next battlefield
Experts have suggested that Baidu’s plan signifies China’s entrance into the AI race. According to Cyrus Janssen, the new battle between the Asian country and the United States would be about AI. He added that:
“ChatGPT has dominated headlines across the Western business world and it’s clear that AI is the future and China is the world leader in AI research and Baidu $BIDU CEO Robin Li looks to take the lead with China’s version of ChatGPT.”
Baidu is one of China’s “national AI teams.” The list includes rivals Tencent, Alibaba, SenseTime, and iFlytek, amongst others. These companies are tasked with leading the country’s AI journey in their respective sectors.
Baidu’s chatbot is built on ERNIE
Bloomberg reported that the unnamed chatbot would be embedded into the company’s search engine services to provide conversational-like responses to queries. The report added that the chatbot is built on the company’s ERNIE system — Baidu’s machine learning model that has been trained with data for several years.
The Enhanced Language Representation with Informative Entities (ERNIE) is pre-trained on text using several unsupervised-learning tasks. Like GPT-3 and other models, ERNIE 3.0 performs language modeling tasks. The model achieved state-of-the-art results during training in various Natural Language Processing (NLP) tasks.
Why Baidu is developing a ChatGPT-like chatbot
Baidu CEO Robin Li hinted that the search engine giant could take the lead in AI with its anticipated product. According to Li, while the new technology has enjoyed wide adoption worldwide, the problems lie in how to commercialize the product.
Meanwhile, Baidu plans to deepen competition against rivals like Alibaba, Tencent, etc., by developing products that compete in mobile advertising, social media, and other industries. The chatbot is expected to be one of the many products Baidu would release to compete against these firms.
Baidu’s chatbot and China’s internet censorship
The search engine company’s biggest challenge would be mitigating China’s famed firewall.
Several Chinese users had shared screenshots of their interactions with ChatGPT on Chinese social media platforms. However, there are fears that internet censorship in the country could muzzle the use of AI.
“The moment some citizen asks Chinese ChatGPT to write a satirical post about Xi Jinping, the communist party will put the hammer down on the company. Its going to be censored even more than OpenAI, so Chinese will stifle their own progress.”
Interest in ChatGPT soars
Meanwhile, following ChatGPT’s November 2022 debut, interest in AI has soared to new levels, with many debating the use of AI in everyday life.
The program has since seen investments from Microsoft, while several others have announced plans to do the same. Several tech giants like Microsoft and Buzzfeed have revealed plans to integrate the tech into their content.
Biden Administration Demands China’s ByteDance Sell TikTok to Avoid Ban
The U.S. government has demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners ByteDance sell their shareholding in the widely popular video sharing app – or else face a ban, according to the Wall Street Journal.
America cites “national security” as the reason for the ban. The government has for a long time raised concerns about the social media site, voicing fears that China could use the app as a tool for espionage, and to possibly influence political outcomes in the U.S.
Former U.S. president Donald Trump threatened the exact same action in 2020, but the High Court struck the executive order down. Now President Biden is taking a tougher stance after Democrats were criticized for being weak on ByteDance, the Quartz reported.
TikTok rubbishes security concerns
The demand for ByteDance founders and owners to sell their 20% stake in TikTok came from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, or CFIUS, a multi-agency federal task force responsible for national security risks in cross-border investments, per WSJ.
While the shares of Zhang Yiming, ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo, and others who helped found the company in Beijing in 2012 appear in the minority, the shareholding carries a reported “outsized” share in voting rights.
Global investors own 60% of ByteDance’s shares, and the other 20% is owned by employees. In a statement shared with Reuters news agency, TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter explained that banning the video-sharing app on national security grounds would be a farce.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access,” she said.
“The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems.”
A Mar. 16 report by The Information suggested that the Chinese government will not take the U.S. threats lying down. It said Beijing will “oppose any attempt by the Biden administration to force TikTok’s Chinese shareholders to sell their stakes.”
Banning the app everywhere
The U.S. is a key market for ByteDance, with over 100 million people using TikTok in the country. That is partly why the company has been fighting tooth and nail to remain operational in America, even as the working environment looks increasingly difficult.
TikTok pledged to spend $1.5 billion on a program to protect U.S. user data and content from Chinese government access or influence, according to industry media. The plan would seal off U.S. operations, with all data stored within the country at Oracle, the U.S. tech firm. Oracle would have access to TikTok’s “algorithmic code and flag issues for government inspectors.”
The Biden Administration is giving TikTok an ultimatum: Either sever ties with China or be banned in the U.S. @sarafischer discusses pic.twitter.com/m11X7wmWPV
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) March 16, 2023
But as MetaNews previously reported, the issue has become highly politicized. While TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is expected to testify on security issues before a House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Mar. 23, local lawmakers have already tightened their chokehold on foreign-owned tech companies.
Also read: TikTok Manipulates Own Algorithm to Promote Certain Landmarks
Earlier this month, the Biden administration endorsed proposed new legislation from about 12 senators that gives the secretary of commerce power to restrict tech firms based in six countries, namely Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and China. The U.S. considers all these countries “adversaries.”
It isn’t only Biden who is suspicious of TikTok. The app is also facing scrutiny in Canada, the UK, New Zealand and in the European Union. On Thursday, the UK banned legislators and other public officials from hosting the app on their work devices. And over 30 U.S. states have banned TikTok from being downloaded on state devices.
Google Says AI Can’t Replace Human Ingenuity, Integrates It Into Applications
Google has integrated generative artificial intelligence (AI) into its workspace applications like Google documents, Gmail, and Slides, according to a recent statement.
Per the announcement, the workspace applications would possess similar features to OpenAI’s ChatGPT and DALL-E, alongside Stable Diffusion’s Canva.
Users of Google docs could use AI to generate, summarize and brainstorm text. AI might also be leveraged to generate full emails by writing brief bullet points. On the other hand, Slides users can tap into AI to generate images, audio, and video to enhance presentations.
Google’s Workspace vice president of products, Johanna Voolich Wright, said the product would allow:
“Workspace users to harness the power of generative AI to create, connect, and collaborate like never before.”
Google’s AI product to be available to some US testers
The product will be available to select US-based “trusted testers” later this month, while it will be rolled out for public use later this year. The firm did not provide further information on its launch timeline.
Meanwhile, Google added that the new features would help increase users’ productivity while saving them time.
“Workspace saves you the time and effort of writing that first version. Simply type a topic you’d like to write about, and a draft will instantly be generated for you. With your collaborative Al partner, you can continue to refine and edit, getting more suggestions as needed.”
Google plans to extend the product into its other applications.
Google says AI can’t replace “real people ingenuity”
Although it has talked up the advanced capabilities of its AI product, Google says generative AI cannot be a “replacement for the ingenuity, creativity, and smarts of real people.”
The company wrote that AI sometimes gets things wrong — an allusion to the tech’s costly error that shaved the company’s stock value by around $100 billion.
Due to this, the firm said its focus is on building responsible AI that keeps the users in control. Google added that the AI would only make suggestions that users can accept, edit, and change.
Also Read: Microsoft Eliminates AI Ethics and Society Team
Who is winning the AI tech race?
While Google’s previous AI strides had been fraught with issues, its technological rival Microsoft has made giant strides in developing its ChatGPT.
Previously, Microsoft revealed plans to integrate the ChatGPT program into its Office Suite packages. The firm aims to revolutionize human-machine interactions by integrating AI into its products and tools.
Microsoft has already integrated AI technology into developer tools like Azure and other products like GitHub Copilot, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Viva Sales. The firm also credited the chatbot for the astronomic growth of its search engine, Bing.
Concerns have, however, been raised about Microsoft’s apparently waning commitment to responsible AI development: recent layoffs mean the company no longer has a dedicated team to ensure its ethical AI principles are integrated into product design.
Of course, some will argue that AI should be an ideology-free zone, after ChatGPT’s political leanings were exposed.
Bing Removes Waiting List For All AI Chatbot Users
Microsoft’s Bing Chat waitlist is gone, allowing new users who sign up to immediately access the AI powered chatbot without waiting.
The tech giant’s search engine Bing has been making its way to the spotlight after they released their ChatGPT powered chatbot Bing Chat, which was previously available to a select few after joining the waitlist.
Also read: GPT-4 is Here: What You Need to Know About OpenAI’s New ChatGPT
This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Microsoft released the Bing Chat feature early last month, and they even added an icon on their Edge browser. However, access to the chatbot still required signing in and joining a waiting list.
Only until accepted would one have a go on the AI powered chatbot. That has not been the smoothest onboarding experience, which seems logical for Microsoft to make it easier for the market to use its new Bing.
As of Thursday, many people claimed that they were able to gain access to the chatbot soon after signing up. Windows Central, reported that multiple members of their team were able to use the chat feature instantly.
TechCrunch also tested using multiple email accounts and gained access as well with some of the emails they used. However, one still has to request to join the waitlist after signing up and if you’re as lucky you might get access instantly.
“I joined the waiting list yesterday, it was less than 2 sec long” tweeted one user identified as Khatarina.
While the company did not specify if the waitlist changes were permanent or not, Microsoft said in a statement that it is running various experiments to onboard more users.
“During this preview period, we are running various tests, which may accelerate access to the new Bing for some users. We remain in preview and you can sign up at Bing.com,” said the company.
Bing gives users a taste of ChatGPT-4
The changes in the waitlist came after Microsoft confirmed its Bing AI chatbot has been running on OpenAI’s next generation AI language model, GPT-4.
The announcement generated a lot of interest and excitement on the market at a time GPT-4 is not yet publicly available.
Microsoft invested $10 billion with OpenAI towards the ChatGPT research. They have hit the jackpot as their ChatGPT-4 powered chatbot has Bing on the map. According to Jacob Roach Microsoft Bing Chat saw about 1 million users signing up for the waiting list soon after their initial announcement.
While OpenAI is only offering their latest model ChatGPT-4 to plus members, having access to the Bing Chat gives users a taste of the new ChatGPT which is used to power Bing Chat.
However unlike OpenAI’s chatbot Bing Chat does not allow users to use both text and image as input, but unlike OpenAI Bing has access to the internet which widens the results pool.
A downside to Bing Chat is that one can only have 15 conversational interactions before clearing the chat and starting again as compared to OpenAI, which allows one to save conversation even on the free version.
Tech firms haven’t been sitting by
Microsoft endured criticism when Bing was launched last month as users felt the company had rushed to release the product. But to the company’s credit, many of the challenges the first users encountered have been fixed.
Microsoft has been working non-stop in improving service delivery by integrating AI into most of their products. Recently they added the ChatGPT powered AI bot to windows 11 task bar according to TechCrunch.
Microsoft was scheduled to hold an event ‘Reinventing Productivity With AI’ on Thursday with the company expected to show off more AI features in its Office programs like Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
The popularity of ChatGPT has also put a lot of focus on Microsoft, while other tech companies are also busy incorporating the technology into their products and services.
Google is not just sitting by watching from the terraces. The search giant announced its Bard AI chatbot in February. Google also released AI-powered tools for its suite of online apps on Tuesday, ahead of Microsoft’s announcements later in the week.
Last month, Snapchat also released its AI chatbot ‘My AI’ powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology.
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