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Business January 7, 2023

Creator of Mutant Ape Planet NFT Aurelien Michel Arrested

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Creator of Mutant Ape Planet NFT Arrested

Mutant Planet Ape (MAP) NFT creator Aurelien Michel was arrested for defrauding investors of $2.9 million in cryptocurrency. The 24-year-old French national, who was residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was arrested at JFK International Airport on Wednesday.

Also read: Not Everyone Loves ChatGPT: Here’s Why

A criminal complaint was filed in US federal court on Thursday, a day after taking him into custody.

Cryptocurrency scam

Michel falsely promised his buyers of NFTs exclusive rewards and benefits to increase demand for Mutant Planet Ape NFT, according to the US Attorney’s Statement issued on Thursday. The NFTs cost approximately $368 per image at the time of their launch and were sold on the Ethereum blockchain.

However, Michel is accused of flying away after duping investors, according to the US government’s complaint.

“After selling out of the NFTs, the purchasers were “rug pulled” – a cryptocurrency scam in which a developer attracts investors, but pulls out before the project is complete, leaving buyers with a worthless asset – as none of the promised benefits were provided.

Instead, millions worth of the NFT purchasers’ cryptocurrency was diverted for Michel’s personal benefit.” stated the US Attorney’s Office.

There are 6,799 MAPs uploaded on the Ethereum blockchain, and there has been no transaction since Friday.

“Once the NFTs were sold-out, Michel allegedly ceased communications and withdrew purchasers’ funds from the company’s cryptocurrency wallets, lining his pockets with nearly $3 Million of investors’ money,” stated in the US Justice Department press release, IRS Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Thomas Fattorusso.

Other Frauds too?

It has been alleged by blockchain analyst ZachXBT that on-chain data suggests Michel has stolen millions of dollars from various fraudulent schemes.

ZachXBT was able to track down Michel’s Binance account by using identifying information provided in the Department of Justice’s complaint about Michel’s cryptocurrency accounts. This Binance account was connected to several other NFT projects that were reportedly fraudulent.

ZachXBT believes that Michel is involved in other NFT scams. Michel’s Instagram account was listed as a co-founder on the website for the Crazy Camel NFT project. The website is currently not accessible, but you can view an archived version by clicking here.

“They [might] not have a basic understanding of how the blockchain works,” told ZachXBT, “since they are depositing the funds to their personal CEX [centralized exchange] account, and buying expensive NFTs they flaunt on social media.”

The Justice Department alleged in Michel openly admit in a Mutant Ape Planet Discord channel that he had rugged investors.

“As alleged, in a social media chat with current and prospective purchasers, Michel admitted to the fraudulent “rug pull,” but blamed the community of NFT purchasers for his actions, stating, “We never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic,”  stated in Justice Department’s statement.

The department has requested victims to contact Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York.

“If you believe that you have been a victim of this crime, please call the HSI Tip Line at 1-866-347-2423,” it stated.

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Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.

AI

CNET’s AI Controversy Deepens

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AI CNET disaster

After publishing a series of disastrous AI-written articles, CNET and its parent company Red Ventures would have wished to avoid any further controversy – but they have singlehandedly failed in that respect.

Last month, MetaNews reported that from November of last year to January 2023, CNET published a series of financial advice articles written by artificial intelligence (AI). A later audit revealed that the bulk of articles created by CNET’s proprietary AI contained either factual errors or plagiarism or in some cases, both.

It is likely that CNET readers seeking information over that period will have received and taken significantly wrong advice. CNET claims to have learned lessons from the affair, which it posthumously labeled a ‘test’. 

Oops AI did it again

The parent company of CNET is Red Ventures, which also owns numerous other publications including Bankrate and CreditCards.com. Red Ventures monetizes these sites through affiliate advertising programs.

CNET apparently stopped publishing AI content on January 20, but editors at Bankrate failed to stop the practice until the end of the month. On January 31, Bankrate published a staggeringly irresponsible article on 5/1 Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM).

Firstly, Bankrate incorrectly stated that a 5/1 ARM is a 30-year mortgage when this is not always the case. This is a comparatively small error compared to what followed. The article went on to argue that the “benefit of a 5/1 ARM is more affordable monthly payments compared with a 30-year fixed mortgage.”

What the AI-written article forgot to mention is that these low rates only apply for the first five years, and that interest rates increase significantly every year after that. It means that while borrowers may get a good deal in the short term, what they end up with is an increasingly bad deal in the longer term.

What the article said next was perhaps even more criminal: “The lower payment allows you to take on a bigger mortgage and get a larger or better-located house.”

By most objective means that is bad financial advice, but the affiliate links pointing to mortgage companies make no mention of the drawbacks.

Staff are angry and confused

The mood at Red Ventures and its various publications appears to be one of anger and confusion.

What artificial intelligence has been doing at CNET and for how long, is a major topic of contention. 

According to sources within the firm a tool called Wordsmith, nicknamed “Morgotron”, has been writing mortgage-related stories at the publication for at least a year and a half. 

At this stage, the extent of AI-written content appears to be the subject of a cover-up, or at least of significant obfuscation. CNET made no mention of morgotron or its long-standing use of AI when they came clean about their ‘test’ on January 25.

One of the biggest issues for staff appears to be successfully checking the work of these machines. One staff member who is currently employed by Red Ventures went on to explain the difficulties in editing AI-written pieces.

“A human freelancer might have a typo here or there, or maybe a misconception about APR versus APY,” the anonymous writer told Futurism last week. “But an article by an AI can be total, authoritative-sounding gibberish. The poor editor in charge of fact-checking whatever the Machine produces isn’t looking for a needle in a haystack; they’re faced with a stack of needles, many of which look remarkably like hay.”

That however may be a moot point. Whatever happens next it seems that CNET and Red Ventures are determined to continue with their experiment. There is, of course, money at stake.

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Business

Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech

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Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech, says Zuckerberg
Artist's rendering.

Meta, keen to be a Metaverse giant, plans to launch virtual reality headset Quest 3 later this year, with better mixed reality technology, said CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta confirmed that the release should be called Meta Quest 3. It’s expected to cost between US$300 and US$500, which is about a third of the Quest Pro (the Quest Pro is currently priced at $1,499.99).

Also read: Meta Employees Undermine Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Strategy

The new headset will provide support for Meta Reality, which is technology that enables virtual reality headsets to also be used for augmented reality. This technology allows devices to create mixed reality experiences.

Meta Reality in Next-Gen Consumer Headset

The mixed reality ecosystem is relatively new, but Zuckerberg thinks it’s going to grow a lot in the next few years.

“Later this year, we’re going to launch our next generation consumer headset, which will feature Meta Reality as well, and I expect that this is going to establish this technology as the baseline for all headsets going forward, and eventually of course for AR glasses as well,” said Zuckerberg.

Beyond MR, the broader VR ecosystem continues growing. There are now over 200 apps on Meta’s VR devices that have made more than $1 million in revenue, Zuckerberg said.

How Meta Reality will look in more affordable headsets is yet to be clear.

Meta’s Reported Win over FTC will be Crucial

Meta has reportedly won court approval earlier this week to acquire VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, which will be a huge boost for Zuckerberg’s ambitious metaverse project.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

“There is a lot of work there that we haven’t actually shipped the product yet. VR, which is starting to ramp, right, Quest 2, I think, did quite well. We have multiple product lines there with the Quest Pro,” said Zuckerberg about Quest 3.

When Meta shipped Quest Pro at the end of last year, it was something their CEO was “really proud of” and believed it was the first mainstream mixed reality device to set the standard for the industry with Meta Reality.

“As always, the reason why we’re focused on building these platforms is to deliver better social experiences than what’s possible today on phones,” said Zuckerberg.

The possible benefit could be expected in Quest 3 through the acquisition of Within.

 

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AI

Microsoft Warns Employees Not to Share Sensitive Data with ChatGPT

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Microsoft Warns Employees Not to Share Sensitive Data with ChatGPT

Microsoft has warned its employees not to share sensitive data with an artificially intelligent (AI) chatbot, ChatGPT from OpenAI. Employees of American multinational tech giants had asked in an internal forum whether ChatGPT or any other AI tools from OpenAI were appropriate to use at their work, Business Insider reported.

Also read: 30% of College Students Use ChatGPT

In response to that inquiry, a senior engineer from Microsoft’s CTO office allowed to use ChatGPT but couldn’t share confidential information with the AI chatbot.

“Please don’t send sensitive data to an OpenAI endpoint, as they may use it for training future models,” the senior engineer wrote in an internal post, per Insider.

ChatGPT, here only for two months, is already raising concerns in the academic sector. Microsoft has become a partner of OpenAI, the parent company of ChatGPT, and has confirmed an investment of ten billion dollars.

Microsoft is planning to integrate OpenAI’s technology into its products, including the Bing search engine and other software, to enhance their capabilities, as reported previously.

The major concern of Microsoft regarding “sensitive information” may include sharing internal software code and seeking checks and advice from the chatbot.

Amazon’s Same Concern

ChatGPT has continuously made headlines since its launch last November but has also faced bans, especially in the academic sector as it became the cheating partner for students’ schoolwork. Recently, the tech giants have also raised their concerns over its use.

Amazon warned its employees to beware of ChatGPT last week, as reported by Insider. Insider claims that an Amazon lawyer has urged employees not to share code with ChatGPT via an internal communication form.

“This is important because your inputs may be used as training data for a further iteration of ChatGPT, and we wouldn’t want its output to include or resemble our confidential information (and I’ve already seen instances where its output closely matches existing material),” the lawyer wrote.

The lawyer placed more emphasis on requesting that employees not share “any Amazon confidential information” (including Amazon code they are working on) with ChatGPT via Slack.

Personal Data Concern

As concerns about data privacy grow among large corporations, an OpenAI representative has directed questions about the company’s data and privacy policy to ChatGPT’s FAQ page. The terms of service of OpenAI grant the company the right to use all input and output generated by ChatGPT users, with the stipulation that personally identifiable information (PII) is removed from the used data.

However, it’s quite impossible for OpenAI to identify and remove all the personal information from the data provided to ChatGPT, says Emily Bender, who teaches computational linguistics at the University of Washington.

“OpenAI is far from transparent about how they use the data, but if it’s being folded into training data, I would expect corporations to wonder: After a few months of widespread use of ChatGPT, will it become possible to extract private corporate information with cleverly crafted prompts?” said Bender.

Vincent Conitzer, a computer science professor and director of an AI lab at Carnegie Mellon University, said, “All of us together are going to have to figure out what should be expected of everyone in these situations. Is the responsibility on employees to not share sensitive information, or is the responsibility on OpenAI to use information carefully, or some combination?”

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