Featured March 24, 2023
Epic CEO Says Apple Could Try to ‘Crush the Metaverse’
Tim Sweeney, the CEO of video game and software developer Epic Games, is a big believer in the metaverse – but thinks Apple will try to either crush it or “extract all the profit from it.”
Sweeney made the comments during an interview with GameIndustry at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco this week.
The executive has been a long-standing critic of Apple’s walled garden approach, having previously been entangled in a legal battle with the company relating to its App Store policies.
Also Read: Apple May Launch Reality Pro VR Headset Early
‘The metaverse must be open’
Apple is expected to release its Reality Pro VR/AR headset later this year, and many believe the launch could be a watershed moment for the much-hyped metaverse, encouraging mainstream adoption due to the tech giant’s name value.
Sweeney, though, isn’t buying it. In the interview with GameIndustry, the CEO predicted that Apple will “either try to crush the metaverse, or extract all the profit from it, one or the other.”
Explaining the rationale for his claim, the outspoken executive noted, “Apple doesn’t let you use a competing browser engine. So they can do the same thing with the metaverse, so they can say, ‘You must use Apple’s limited metaverse engine, you can’t build your own, you can’t use Unreal.’”
Such a policy would be anathema to the grand vision of an interactive, interoperable metaverse accessible to all users. As Sweeney himself says, “The metaverse has to be open, it can’t be another walled garden.
“Open is a natural state of things, it’s only in the past 15 years that we’ve seen walled gardens take over the world with iOS and Facebook and other companies.”
Unreal Engine is an advanced real-time 3D creation tool for photo-real visuals and immersive experiences. At the GDC, Fortnite developer Epic has been busy demoing the latest features of Unreal 5.2, such as a nifty substrate shading system that lets artists create materials at a level of quality and fidelity that was previously impossible.
Apple faces anti-competitive claims
Although it’s unclear whether Apple would actually disallow Unreal Engine, this isn’t the first time complaints have been levelled against the company and its anticompetitive practices.
Earlier this year, Spotify and eight companies and associations co-authored a letter to the EU Commission’s executive vice president, dubbing the firm “harmful, anti-competitive, and monopolistic.” Signatories called for greater regulation to combat Apple’s app distribution practices, which they claimed “imposed unfair restrictions” on their businesses.
Sweeney, for his part, believes antitrust laws are necessary to keep Apple in check, saying, “We see them as utterly dominating this business if they’re allowed to use their market power and hardware to do so. So we’re fighting that.”
We’d like to, but Apple kicked Fortnite out of Mac by terminating our developer account. We have no idea why they did this, because we broke no Mac rules, but here we are!
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) March 23, 2023
Appearing alongside executive VP Saxs Persson at the GDC’s State of the Unreal event, Sweeney brought the audience up-to-date on all things Epic including animation tools for virtual humans (MetaHumans) and an Unreal-powered creation tool for Fortnite (UEFN), which has been launched in public beta.
The metaverse ain’t dead
Last year, Epic announced a $2 billion funding round to advance its vision of building the metaverse, with the likes of Sony Group Corporation and LEGO investment firm KIRKBI pledging capital.
This week, Sweeney sat down with The Verge and said the metaverse was “a much more enjoyable and personal and empathetic medium than today’s social networks.”
He also took the opportunity to throw shade at Facebook, where everyone “gripes about politics and shows how awesome they are through photos.”
You gotta love Sweeney’s scorched-earth approach to interviews, where tech rivals are routinely trampled underfoot. But his comments about Apple in particular are likely to be shared by many metaverse maximalists, such are the measures it takes to prevent rivals from competing with its App Store.
According to a recent report by Bloomberg Intelligence, Apple’s entry to the metaverse could be a catalyst for faster growth, and the metaverse space could be worth $615 billion by the end of the decade.
The question is, will walled gardens be the norm – or will the metaverse be open to all?
AI Code of Conduct Coming ‘Within Weeks’ Says US and Europe
On Wednesday a top EU official said the European Union and United States expect to draft a voluntary code of conduct on artificial intelligence within weeks. The move comes amid concerns about the potential risks of AI on humanity, and as calls for regulation intensify.
European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager said that the United States and the European Union should promote a voluntary code of conduct for AI to provide safeguards as new legislation is being developed.
She was speaking at a meeting of the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council (TTC), which is jointly led by American and European officials. Any new rules on AI will not take effect until at least after three years, she said. The code is, therefore, expected to bridge that gap.
Also read: EU Antitrust Chief Steps up Rhetoric on Metaverse, AI Regulation
Game-changing AI technology
“We need accountable artificial intelligence. Generative AI is a complete game changer,” Vestager said after the council’s meeting in Sweden, AP reported.
“Everyone knows this is the next powerful thing. So within the next weeks, we will advance a draft of an AI code of conduct.”
She said officials will gather feedback from companies developing and using AI, and other industry players. Vestager hopes there would be a final proposal “very, very soon for industry to commit to voluntarily.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had an “intensive and productive” discussion on AI with his European counterparts at the TTC forum.
“[The council has] an important role to play in helping establish voluntary codes of conduct that would be open to all like-minded countries,” Blinken said.
AI could end human race
The development of AI has raised concerns about its potential to be used for harmful purposes, such as discrimination, surveillance, and nuclear war. There have also been concerns about the potential for AI to create mass unemployment.
As MetaNews previously reported, one of the core issues is what experts described as the “alignment problem.” Essentially, the problem refers to the difficulty of ensuring that an AI system’s goals and objectives are aligned with those of its human creators.
Critics say the danger is that an AI system may develop its own goals and objectives that conflict with those of its creators, leading to disastrous outcomes. On Tuesday, about 350 scientists and experts signed a statement calling for AI regulation to be a global priority.
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the statement stated.
The statement is from San Francisco-based non-profit the Center for AI Safety. It was signed by chief executives from Google DeepMind and ChatGPT creators OpenAI, along with other major figures in artificial intelligence research.
In May, leaders of the so-called G7 nations met in Japan and called for the development of technical standards to keep AI “trustworthy”. They urged international dialogue on the governance of AI, copyright, transparency, and the threat of disinformation.
⚠️Accountability on #AI can't wait. It is NOW. Today #TTC kicked off work on a 1st voluntary AI #CodeOfConduct. We’ll work with our key partners & the #AI community on #safeguards to make AI responsible, safe & trustworthy. This is a huge step in a race we can't afford to lose. pic.twitter.com/WBcazIysiK
— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) May 31, 2023
According to Vestager, specific agreements, not just general statements, are needed. She suggested that the the 27-nation EU and the US could help drive the process.
“If the two of us take the lead with close friends, I think we can push something that will make us all much more comfortable with the fact that generative AI is now in the world and is developing at amazing speeds,” she said.
The U.S. and the European Union are not the only jurisdictions working on AI regulation. China’s Cyberspace Administration has already issued new regulations that ban the use of AI-generated content to spread “fake news.”
In Australia, Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic said regulation is coming soon.
“There’s a sort of feeling in the community that they want to have the assurance … that the technology isn’t getting ahead of itself and it’s not being used in a way that creates disadvantage or risk for people,” he said, according to local media reports.
“That’s why the [federal government] wants to set up the next reforms that can give people confidence that we are curbing the risks and maximising the benefits.”
ChatGPT’s Bogus Citations Land US Lawyer in Hot Water
A lawyer in the United States is facing disciplinary action after his law firm used popular AI chatbot ChatGPT for legal research and cited fake cases in a lawsuit.
Steven A. Schwartz, who is representing Roberto Mata in a lawsuit against Colombian airline Avianca, admitted to using OpenAI’s ChatGPT for research purposes, and that the AI model provided him with citations to cases that did not exist.
Mata is suing Avianca for a personal injury caused by a serving cart in 2019, claiming negligence by an employee.
Also read: Opera Unveils GPT-Powered AI Chatbot Aria
Bogus all the way
According to a BBC report, the matter came to light after Schwartz, a lawyer with 30 years experience, used these cases as precedent to support Mata’s case.
But the opposing counsel flagged the ChatGPT-generated citations as fake. US District Court Judge Kevin Castel confirmed six of them as non-existent. He demanded an explanation from Schwartz, an attorney with New York-based law company Levidow, Levidow & Oberman.
“Six of the submitted cases appear to be bogus judicial decisions with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations,” Judge Castel wrote in a May 4 order.
“The court is presented with an unprecedented circumstance.”
The supposed cases include: Varghese v. China South Airlines, Martinez v. Delta Airlines, Shaboon v. EgyptAir, Petersen v. Iran Air, Miller v. United Airlines, and Estate of Durden v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, none of which did not appear to exist to either the judge or defense.
Lawyer claims ignorance
ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI. Launched in November, the AI is trained on billions of data from the Internet and can perform a variety of tasks like generate text, translate languages, and even write poetry, and solve difficult math problems.
But ChatGPT is prone to “hallucinations” – tech industry speak for when AI chatbots produce false or misleading information, often with confidence.
In an affidavit last week, Schwartz said he was “unaware of the possibility that its [ChatGPT] content could be false.” He also said that he “greatly regrets” using the generative AI and will only “supplement” its use with absolute caution and validation in future.
Schwartz claimed to have never used ChatGPT prior to this case. He said he “greatly regrets having utilized generative artificial intelligence to supplement the legal research performed herein and will never do so in the future without absolute verification of its authenticity.”
A lawyer used ChatGPT to do "legal research" and cited a number of nonexistent cases in a filing, and is now in a lot of trouble with the judge 🤣 pic.twitter.com/AJSE7Ts7W7
— Daniel Feldman (@d_feldman) May 27, 2023
The career attorney now faces a court hearing on June 8 after accepting responsibility for not confirming the authenticity of the ChatGPT sources. Schwartz was asked to show cause why he shouldn’t be sanctioned “for the use of a false and fraudulent notarization.”
ChatGPT’s confident lies
According to the BBC report, Schwartz’s affidavit contained screenshots of the attorney that confirmed his chats with ChatGPT.
Schwartz asked the chatbot, “is varghese a real case?”, to which ChatGPT responded “yes, [it] is a real case.” When asked for sources, it told the attorney that the case could be found “on legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis”.
Again, the attorney asked: “Are the other cases you provided fake?” ChatGPT responded “No”, adding that the cases could be found on other legal databases. “I apologize for the confusion earlier,” ChatGPT said.
“Upon double-checking, I found the case Varghese v. China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd., 925 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2019), does indeed exist and can be found on legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion my earlier responses may have caused,” the chatbot replied with confidence.
Hong Kong Police Launch Metaverse Platform to Fight Cyber Crime
The Hong Kong Police Force cybersecurity unit has launched a metaverse platform, CyberDefender, to promote metaverse crime prevention and highlight the risks associated with Web3. The initiative will equip citizens with skills and strategies relevant in tackling technology-related crimes in the digital age.
The city is also ramping up its regulatory efforts to prevent criminals from using crypto to launder money.
Also read: UK Police Record Child Abuse in the Metaverse
To mark the launch, the police force organized an inaugural event titled “Exploring the Metaverse” within the virtual realm.
This is an initiative to raise public awareness regarding the potential risks linked to the metaverse and Web3, at a time when digitalization is fast growing and gaining traction all over the world.
The launch event took place across three virtual venues and was organized on the newly-launched platform with the aim of engaging participants in proactive conversations about ensuring safety within this virtual realm.
During the event, chief inspector IP Cheuk-yu from the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTCB) presented on the dangers associated with Web3 and urged the public to exercise caution.
Metaverse a breeding ground for criminals
There have been reports on cases of verbal and sexual harassment within VR games that surfaced last year. Later, campaigners said an avatar of a 21-year old researcher was sexually assaulted in Meta’s VR platform Horizon Worlds.
“All crimes in the cyberspace could also happen in the metaverse such as investment frauds, unauthorized access to systems, theft and sexual offenses,” said the chief inspectator.
UK police forces also recorded 45 cases of child abuse in the metaverse while 30,925 individual offences involving indecent images of children on social media platforms were also recorded in 2021-2022, according to figures from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
The chief inspector further emphasized that the metaverse presents potential dangers such as hacking and theft of digital assets by modern cybercriminals.
“The decentralized nature of virtual assets in Web3 may also increase the likelihood of cybercriminals targeting endpoint devices, virtual asset wallets and smart contracts,” he added.
Attendees at the event were enlightened about the advancements made in combating crypto crime and the ongoing efforts to mitigate its impact, providing valuable insights into the evolving landscape of cybercrime and efforts taken to curb illicit activities involving digital assets.
Increase in cybercrimes
In 2022 alone, the city witnessed a staggering 2,336 virtual asset related crimes, according to the Hong Kong Police Force in a press release that accompanied the launch.
The incidences resulted in financial losses of $1.7 billion for victims. Figures from the police force also show that 663 cases of a similar nature have already been reported during the first quarter of 2023 alone.
These losses amounted to $570 million, an alarming increase of 75% compared to the same period last year. The police stated that most of the cases involved virtual asset investment.
“Criminals took advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge about virtual assets and lured them into non-existent investments,” they warned.
According to the police, such figures underscored the urgent need for proactive measures to address the rising trend in virtual asset-related crimes and protect individuals from significant financial harm.
City gets tough on money laundering
Concurrent with the introduction of the new metaverse platform, the Hong Kong Securities Regulatory Commission (HKSRC) released revised anti-money laundering (AML) guidelines.
The guidelines outline the tactics employed by offenders to launder money through digital assets and offers comprehensive measures for financial institutions to shield themselves from illicit engagements. Changes include enhanced Know Your Customer (KYC) and due diligence requirements.
Enforcing the enhanced KYC rules means Hong Kong is stepping up efforts to prevent dirty money from flowing through the city, which will also make it less attractive for criminals to use crypto for their illicit transactions.
Under the updated guidelines, institutions that facilitate crypto transactions valued at 8,000 RMB or more must collect identifying information about both sender and receiver.
The increase in cyber-related crimes is pushing authorities to aggressively tackle the problem and raise awareness among the public.
Aside from Hong Kong, other jurisdictions adapting their AML guidelines to keep up with the use of digital assets by criminal networks include Japan, which recently announced stricter AML rules for crypto transfers. The country will specifically impose what is known as the “travel rule,” whereby exchanges must ensure details about the sender are shared with other parties.
If effective, efforts to fight crime are expected to be as international as the criminal networks themselves. Last month, reports suggested the International Revenue Service (IRS) would deploy cyber agents internationally to investigate the use of crypto in financial crimes.
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