before we get started, my team at AI Academy has been working hard on a big release, coming up on 01/02/23. I seriously believe we’re changing the landscape of AI education, I’m very proud ❤️
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Let’s get to this week’s news:
Let’s get started 🕺
We’re 26 days into 2023 and tech companies have already fired 59.448 people (there’s also a website to track it, layoffs.fyi). The biggest layoffers (is that a word?) are Amazon with 18.000 people, Google with 12.000 let go, Meta with 11k, and Microsoft with 8.000.
In perspective, that’s not a lot. Big tech is more like huge tech, and they have very large workforces. The biggest percentage cut for these companies is Meta, which cut 13% of its workforce. Google’s 12.000 fired people account for just 6% of its workforce.
If we look at smaller but still well-known companies, the picture is even darker. Gorillas cut its workforce by 50%, Groupon by 44, Eventbrite by 45%, crypto.com by 30, AirBnB, and Booking.com by 25%.
Are those companies suddenly doing really poorly?
Not at all. Shopify for instance fired 10% of its workforce 6 months ago, but its stock went up 12% when it announced a price increase. Microsoft’s growth has been slowing down, but it still grew 2% in the last quarter.
So what’s going on? It’s hard to give a single answer that fits every tech company, but a good approximation is just investors’ sentiment. In periods of hypergrowth, it’s fine to see companies growing both revenues AND costs as long as they’re doing it fast. Now we’re moving towards a period in which investors want to see more leanness and lower operational expenses.
The interesting thing is that some areas seem to be fairly immune to this narrative. Some of my friends in AI are extremely happy to have new people they can hire and are spending most of their days reading CVs of people who’ve just been fired. AI experts are still so hot that they allow themselves to quit even in times like this if a company isn’t considered “cool” anymore (cough cough, Meta).
One more thing: it’s super sad to see people let go brutally (like this video that got 4.5M views on TikTok). I understand there are security motivations behind the choice, but I don’t buy that a company like Google can’t find a better way.
Other tech news in 5 lines or less.
An AI chatbot trained to predict mental health disorders gained medical device status in the UK, with a 93% accuracy. At the same time, the peer support platform Koko used GPT3 + humans to provide emotional support to 4.000 people. Messages composed by AI (and supervised by humans) were rated significantly higher than those written by humans on their own (p < .001). Response times went down 50%, to well under a minute. I have mixed feelings about AI being used as an alternative emotional support, but if this actually helps someone I struggle with being opposed to it.
Amazon doesn’t want its employees to use ChatGPT 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)”. Yep, everything you’ve told ChatGPT may be used to train new models, which may tell that to future users. Prediction: There will be a massive market for “private” large language models.
The latest Boston Dynamic Demo is wild. Their robot can now grab any object, throw it, catch it, etc.. The Tesla bot can wave 🤦♂️
The crypto broker genesis has filed for bankruptcy. Its records show it has a disputed debt of £3.6B. We already talked about Gemini, a company that Genesis owed a lot of money. It turns out “a lot of money” is actually $765.9 million. Can confirm: that’s a lot of money.
Binance confirmed it mixed up customer funds with the assets that were supposed to back its stablecoins. That’s a problem because it makes it harder to verify reserves for customers’ liabilities. That also means they lied when they tried to reassure people back in November.
Federal government-backed lending programs are backing out crypto funds. This is the case of Silvergate, a bank specialized in banking for crypto, that for a $4.3B loan from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco to stay afloat.
The Game of Thrones NFTs are really bad.
Amazon launches RxPass, a new service that allows “Prime members can now receive all of their eligible generic medications for just $5 a month and have them delivered free to their door”
Universities in the US are banning TikTok due to privacy concerns.
Donald Trump is about to come back to Instagram and Facebook.
The sweet part of the newsletter: fun news from the crazy world of tech.
I’ll talk to you next week.
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