How TIME and Statista Determined the Best Colleges and Companies for Future Leaders

This year, TIME launched its inaugural list of the Best Colleges for Future Leaders and the Best Companies for Future Leaders, in partnership with Statista, a leading international provider of market and consumer data and rankings. The result of this study: 100 colleges and 150 companies forging the path into the future. Here’s how the… This year, TIME launched its inaugural list of the Best Colleges for Future Leaders and the Best Companies for Future Leaders, in partnership with Statista, a leading international provider of market and consumer data and rankings. The result of this study: 100 colleges and 150 companies forging the path into the future. Here’s how the winners were selected. Methodology The “Best Companies and Colleges for Future Leaders” project aims to identify organizations in the U.S. that excel in nurturing highly influential leaders. This project explores questions like: “Where are top leaders typically educated?” and “Which companies often act as key stepping-stones and development platforms for leaders advancing to high-ranking positions?” The rankings offer insights into the organizations significantly contributing to the career trajectories of these leaders. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The methodology involves analyzing a diverse sample of 2,000 of the most influential leaders from various areas in U.S. society. These leaders span a broad range of industries and fields, bringing diverse experiences and expertise to their roles. The CVs of all of the leaders were meticulously compiled, documenting all publicly available information about their educational and professional experiences. Research sources included personal websites, CV / Resume documents, corporate bios, social media pages, and news media articles. The selection criteria for leaders in the sample focused on their current roles, emphasizing the paths they took to reach these highly influential positions. For this reason, current positions were removed from consideration, meaning that the data focused exclusively on the roles that brought leaders to their current positions. Only companies with a significant presence in the U.S. were considered, in alignment with the project’s geographic scope. This U.S. presence criteria was only applied at the position level, so that leaders who were born, educated, or had work experience outside of the U.S. still played a role in the evaluation, but only in those experiences that had a U.S. presence. Board and advisory roles, as well as honorary degrees and positions, were excluded from consideration, as these often recognize existing success rather than contribute to career development. Approximately 14,000 individual career milestones (CV stations) were collected for the sample. Sources included corporate biographies, personal websites, official CVs, and social media profiles. These data covered details like organization names, positions, start and end dates. Organizations were grouped under their current parent brands, accounting for acquisitions, spin-offs, rebrands, etc. For instance, acquired entities still operating under a parent company were included under the latter’s brand. After compiling and cleaning the data, company headcounts and university enrollment figures were gathered. These enrollment and headcount numbers were factored into a leadership index, balancing the influence of organization size, to ensure that organizations of all sizes could be recognized for excelling in leadership development. CV stations were categorized into ‘educational’ and ‘professional,’ encompassing degrees and professional roles, respectively. The final rankings include two lists: “Top 100 Colleges for Future Leaders” and “Top 150 Companies for Future Leaders,” which were derived from the leadership index. These rankings showcase organizations excelling in nurturing future leaders, based on a comprehensive and methodical analysis......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 29th, 2023Related News

Charlie Munger on How to Lead a Successful Life

The legendary Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway on some of the lessons he learned about life. A young rustic once said, “I wish I knew where I was going to die, and then I’d never go there.” While a ridiculous-sounding idea, the rustic had a profound truth in his possession. The way complex adaptive systems work, and the way mental constructs work, problems frequently become easier to solve through inversion. If you turn problems around into reverse, you often think better. For instance, if you want to help India, the question you should consider asking is not “How can I help India?” Instead, you should ask, “How can I hurt India?” You find what will do the worst damage, and then try to avoid it. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Perhaps the two approaches seem logically the same thing. But those who have mastered algebra know that inversion will often and easily solve problems that otherwise resist solution. And in life, just as in algebra, inversion will help you solve problems that you can’t otherwise handle. Let me use a little inversion now. What will really fail in life? What do we want to avoid? Some answers are easy. For example, sloth and unreliability will fail. If you’re unreliable, it doesn’t matter what your virtues are, you’re going to crater immediately. So faithfully doing what you’ve engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. Of course you want to avoid sloth and unreliability. Another thing to avoid is extremely intense ideology, because it cabbages up one’s mind. You see a lot of it in the worst of the TV preachers. They have different, intense, inconsistent ideas about technical theology, and a lot of them have minds reduced to cabbage. That can happen with political ideology. And if you’re young, it’s particularly easy to drift into intense and foolish political ideology and never get out.  I have what I call an iron prescription that helps me keep sane when I drift toward preferring one intense ideology over another. I feel that I’m not entitled to have an opinion unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people who are in opposition. I think that I am qualified to speak only when I’ve reached that state.  Another thing that often causes folly and ruin is the self-serving bias, often subconscious, to which we’re all subject. You think that “the true little me” is entitled to do what it wants to do. For instance, why shouldn’t the true little me get what it wants by overspending its income?  Well, there once was a man who became the most famous composer in the world, but he was utterly miserable most of the time. One of the reasons was that he always overspent his income. That was Mozart. If Mozart couldn’t get by with this kind of asinine conduct, I don’t think you should try it.  Generally speaking, envy, resentment, revenge, and self-pity are disastrous modes of thought. Self-pity can get pretty close to paranoia. Paranoia is one of the very hardest things to reverse. You do not want to drift into self-pity. I had a friend who carried a thick stack of linen-based cards. When somebody would make a comment that reflected self-pity, he would slowly and portentously pull out his huge stack of cards, take the top one, and hand it to the person. The card said, “Your story has touched my heart. Never have I heard of anyone with as many misfortunes as you.”  Well, you can say that’s waggery, but I suggest it can be mental hygiene. Every time you find you’re drifting into self-pity, whatever the cause, even if your child is dying of cancer, self-pity is not going to help. Just give yourself one of my friend’s cards. Self-pity is always counterproductive. It’s the wrong way to think. And when you avoid it, you get a great advantage over everybody else, or almost everybody else, because self-pity is a standard response. And you can train yourself out of it. Of course, you also want to get self-serving bias out of your mental routines. Thinking that what’s good for you is good for the wider civilization and rationalizing foolish or evil conduct based on your subconscious tendency to serve yourself is a terrible way to think. You want to drive that out of yourself because you want to be wise, not foolish, and good, not evil.  You also have to allow, in your own cognition and conduct, for the self-serving bias of everybody else, because most people are not going to be very successful at removing such bias, the human condition being what it is. If you don’t allow for self-serving bias in the conduct of others, you are, again, a fool. The general counsel was technically and morally correct, but his approach didn’t persuade. He recommended a very unpleasant thing for the busy CEO to do and the CEO, quite understandably, put the issue off, and put it off, not with any intent to do wrong. In due course, when powerful regulators resented not having been promptly informed, down went the CEO and the general counsel with him. The correct persuasive technique in situations like that was given by Ben Franklin. He said, “If you would persuade, appeal to interest, not to reason.” The self-serving bias of man is extreme, and should have been used in attaining the correct outcome. So the general counsel should have said, “Look, this is likely to erupt into something that will destroy you, take away your money, take away your status, grossly impair your reputation. My recommendation will prevent a likely disaster from which you can’t recover.” That approach would have worked. You should often appeal to interest, not to reason, even when your motives are lofty. Perverse associations are also to be avoided. You particularly want to avoid working directly under somebody you don’t admire and don’t want to be like. It’s dangerous. We’re all subject to control to some extent by authority figures, particularly authority figures who are rewarding us. Dealing properly with this danger requires both some talent and will. I coped in my time by identifying people I admired and by maneuvering, mostly without criticizing anybody, so that I was usually working under the right sort of people. A lot of law firms will permit that if you’re shrewd enough to work it out with some tact. Generally, your outcome in life will be more satisfactory if you work under people you correctly admire. Adapted from Poor Charlie’s Almanack, to be published by Stripe Press on Dec. 5th.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 29th, 2023Related News

Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s Longtime Sidekick at Berkshire Hathaway, Dies at 99

Munger served as Buffett’s sounding board on investments and business decisions and helped lead Berkshire for more than five decades and served as its longtime vice chairman. OMAHA, Neb. — Charlie Munger, who helped Warren Buffett build Berkshire Hathaway into an investment powerhouse, has died at a California hospital. He was 99. Berkshire Hathaway said in a statement that Munger’s family told the company that he died Tuesday morning at the hospital just over a month before his 100th birthday. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation,” Buffett said in a statement. The famous investor also devoted part of his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders earlier this year to a tribute to Munger. Munger served as Buffett’s sounding board on investments and business decisions and helped lead Berkshire for more than five decades and served as its longtime vice chairman. Munger had been using a wheelchair to get around for several years but he had remained mentally sharp. That was on display while he fielded hours of questions at the annual meetings of Berkshire and the Daily Journal Corp. earlier this year, and in recent interviews on an investing podcast and also with The Wall Street Journal and CNBC. Munger preferred to stay in the background and let Buffett be the face of Berkshire, and he often downplayed his contributions to the company’s remarkable success. But Buffett always credited Munger with pushing him beyond his early value investing strategies to buy great businesses at good prices like See’s Candy. “Charlie has taught me a lot about valuing businesses and about human nature,” Buffett said in 2008. Buffett’s early successes were based on what he learned from former Columbia University professor Ben Graham. He would buy stock in companies that were selling cheaply for less than their assets were worth, and then, when the market price improved, sell the shares. Munger and Buffett began buying Berkshire Hathaway shares in 1962 for $7 and $8 per share, and they took control of the New England textile mill in 1965. Over time, the two men reshaped Berkshire into the conglomerate it is today by using proceeds from its businesses to buy other companies like Geico insurance and BNSF railroad, while also maintaining a high-profile stock portfolio with major investments in Apple and Coca-Cola. The shares have grown to $546,869 Tuesday, and many investors became wealthy by holding onto the stock. Munger gave an extended interview to CNBC earlier this month in preparation for his 100th birthday, and the business network showed clips from that Tuesday. In his characteristic self-deprecating manner, Munger summed up the secret to Berkshire’s success as avoiding mistakes and continuing to work well into his and Buffett’s 90s. “We got a little less crazy than most people and a little less stupid than most people and that really helped us,” Munger said. He went into more detail about the reasons for Berkshire’s success in a special letter he wrote in 2014 to mark 50 years of helping lead the company. During the entire time they worked together, Buffett and Munger lived more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) apart, but Buffett said he would call Munger in Los Angeles or Pasadena to consult on every major decision he made. “He will be greatly missed by many, perhaps by nobody more than Mr. Buffett, who relied heavily on his wisdom and counsel. I was envious of their friendship. They challenged each other yet seemed to really enjoy being in each other’s company,” Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan said. Berkshire will likely be OK without Munger, CFRA Research analyst Cathy Seifert said, but there’s no way to replace the role he played. After all, Munger may have been one of the few people in the world willing to tell Buffett he is wrong about something. “The most pronounced impact, I think, is going to be over the next several years as we see Buffett navigate without him,” Seifert said. Munger grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, about five blocks away from Buffett’s current home, but because Munger is seven years older the two men didn’t meet as children, even though both worked at the grocery store Buffett’s grandfather and uncle ran. When the two men met in 1959 at an Omaha dinner party, Munger was practicing law in Southern California and Buffett was running an investment partnership in Omaha. Buffett and Munger hit it off at that initial meeting and then kept in touch through frequent telephone calls and lengthy letters, according to the biography in the definitive book on Munger called “Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger.” The two men shared investment ideas and occasionally bought into the same companies during the 1960s and ’70s. They became the two biggest shareholders in one of their common investments, trading stamp maker Blue Chip Stamp Co., and through that acquired See’s Candy, the Buffalo News and Wesco. Munger became Berkshire’s vice chairman in 1978, and chairman and president of Wesco Financial in 1984. Berkshire’s legions of devoted shareholders who regularly packed an Omaha arena to listen to the two men will remember the curmudgeonly quips Munger offered while answering questions alongside Buffett at the annual meetings. Munger was known for repeating “I have nothing to add” after many of Buffett’s expansive answers at the Berkshire meetings. But Munger also often offered sharp answers that cut straight to the heart of an issue, such as the advice he offered in 2012 on spotting a good investment. “If it’s got a really high commission on it, don’t bother looking at it,” he said. Investor Whitney Tilson has attended the past 26 years of Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings for the chance to learn from Munger and Buffett, who doled out life lessons along with investing tips. Tilson said Munger advised that after achieving some success “your whole approach to life should be how not to screw it up, how not to lose what you’ve got” because reputation and integrity are the most valuable assets, and both can be lost in a heartbeat. “In the investment world, it’s the same thing is in your personal world, which is your main goal should be avoiding the catastrophic mistakes that could destroy an investment record, that can destroy a life,” Tilson said. Munger famously summed that advice up humorously by saying, “All I want to know is where I’m going to die so (that) I never go there.” Munger was known as a voracious reader and a student of human behavior. He employed a variety of different models borrowed from disciplines like psychology, physics and mathematics to evaluate potential investments. Munger studied mathematics at the University of Michigan in the 1940s, but dropped out of college to serve as a meteorologist in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Then he went on to earn a law degree from Harvard University in 1948 even though he hadn’t finished a bachelor’s degree. He co-founded a law firm in Los Angeles that still bears his name, but decided before long that he preferred investing. Munger built a fortune worth more than $2 billion at one point and earned a spot on the list of the richest Americans. Munger’s wealth decreased over time as he gave more of his fortune away, but the ever increasing value of Berkshire’s stock kept him wealthy. Munger has given significant gifts to Harvard-Westlake, Stanford University Law School, the University of Michigan and the Huntington Library as well as other charities. He also gave a significant portion of his Berkshire stock to his eight children after his wife died in 2010. Munger also served on the boards of Good Samaritan Hospital and the private Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. And Munger served on the board of Costco Wholesale Corp. and for years as chairman of the Daily Journal Corp......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 29th, 2023Related News

Why Europe Must Not Let AI Firms Put Profits Before People 

A handful of tech firms should not be allowed to hold our political process to ransom, writes Kersti Kaljulaid The soap opera-like ousting and swift return of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman produced plenty of fodder for ironic quips online but it also exposed some serious fault lines. One such critique I enjoyed was: “How are we supposed to solve the AI alignment problem if aligning just a few board members presents an insurmountable challenge?” As the company behind ChatGPT, OpenAI may be one of the more recognizable names, but artificial intelligence is more than one company. It’s a technology of immense consequence, yet it remains almost entirely unregulated. The E.U. has a chance to meaningfully tackle that challenge—but not if it bends the knee to Big Tech’s ongoing onslaught. Inspirational Members of the European Parliament have so far been standing firm in the face of incredible pressure, in an effort to save this landmark legislation. On the weekend, E.U. Commissioner Thierry Breton spoke out against what he claims are self-serving lobbying efforts by France’s Mistral AI and other AI companies that do not serve public interest. These lawmakers need and deserve our support at this crucial moment. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Europe is poised to lead in a world that is waking up to the need to regulate AI. From the U.S. Executive Order to the recent AI Safety Summit hosted by the U.K. at Bletchley Park, countries everywhere are recognising that if we are going to share the benefits of this incredible technology, we must mitigate its risks. The E.U. AI Act will be the first comprehensive legal framework aimed at doing precisely this, but a handful of technology firms are holding the political process hostage, threatening to sink the ship unless their systems are exempt from regulation. To capitulate will damage European innovation, put profits before public safety, and represent an affront to democracy. Our lawmakers must not bend the knee.  On Nov. 10 negotiations broke down after France and Germany pushed back against proposed regulation of “foundation models.” Together with Italy, they subsequently released a nonpaper that articulated these demands, asking that companies building foundation models only be subject to voluntary commitments. Foundation models are general-purpose machine learning systems, such as Open AI’s GPT-4 (which underpins ChatGPT), that can be subsequently applied to a large range of downstream applications and functions. Regulating these foundation models will force AI corporations to make sure they are safe before deployment, rather than waiting to act until after dangerous systems are released, which comes with clear danger of public harm. Given growing concern on the potential risks presented by these advanced systems, including mass misinformation, enabled bioterrorism, hacking of critical infrastructure, large-scale cyber attacks and more, this is a sensible provision to include. Read More: E.U.’s AI Regulation Could Be Softened After Pushback From Biggest Members We have seen first-hand the need for codified legal protections, rather than relying on corporate self-regulation. For example, the psychological harm wrought by social media on young women and girls has become increasingly apparent. The companies that ran the platforms and channels that hosted harmful content were aware of this damage for years yet failed to act. Voluntary commitments are neither sufficient nor reliable. We need prevention, rather than cure, if we want to stop people getting hurt. We need enforceable safety standards and risk mitigation for powerful AI from the start.  So why the objection? Holdouts claim that it will hinder innovation for businesses who want to adapt and use AI, but this simply isn’t true. Regulating foundation models is essential for innovation as it will protect downstream smaller European users from the requirements of compliance, and from liability if things go wrong. There are only a handful of very well-resourced companies that are developing the most impactful foundation models, but there are thousands of small companies in the E.U. that have already adopted them for concrete business applications, and many more who plan to do so. We need balanced obligations across the value chain—the broadest shoulders should bear the biggest load. This is reflected in the makeup of the opposing sides. The European DIGITAL SME Alliance, comprising 45,000 business members, wants to regulate foundation models. Two European AI corporations (France’s Mistral AI and Germany’s Aleph Alpha), along with a handful of giant U.S. firms do not. Their argument is also not borne out by real-world experience. My own country Estonia is bound by the exact same E.U. rules and regulations as Germany, yet has a vibrant and thriving startup ecosystem. If those who oppose regulation of foundation models, like Mistral’s Cedric O, are looking to point the finger, they must look elsewhere. In truth, while those opposing regulation claim to be protecting the E.U.’s innovation ecosystem, such a step-down would more likely transfer financial and legal burdens away from large corporations and onto startups, which have neither the ability nor the resources to change the underlying models. France and Germany also claim that regulating foundation models will stifle Europe’s ability to compete in AI on the global stage. This doesn’t hold up. The tiered approach proposed, which is already a compromise between the Parliament and the Council of the E.U., allows for targeting so that competitors to major AI companies can emerge without onerous restrictions. European lawmakers should close their ears to fearmongering pushed by Big Tech and its newest allies, and remember the Act’s purpose: To achieve a fair and balanced framework that safeguards innovation while preventing harm. It must not be a legislative device for anointing a few Silicon Valley-backed AI leaders with sectoral supremacy and zero requirements, while preventing thousands of European businesses from maximizing the technology’s potential.  The Parliament supports regulating foundation models, as do many in the Commission and the Council. The business community endorses it, as do the thousands of AI experts who have profound concerns about the dangers of these increasingly powerful systems if left unchecked. A handful of tech firms should not be allowed to hold our political process to ransom, threatening to detonate this landmark legislation and throw away three years of work. They must not be allowed to put their profits before our safety, and to put market capture before European innovation. .....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 28th, 2023Related News

Elon Musk Meets Israeli President, Families of Hamas’ Hostages as Antisemitism Furor Brews

The Tesla Inc. and SpaceX chief executive is slated to join a closed-door discussion Monday about the need to curb online antisemitism. Elon Musk, under fire for amplifying antisemitic content on X, accompanied Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a visit to a town devastated by the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. Read More: Tesla and X Face Advertiser and Investor Fallout Over Elon Musk’s Latest Controversial Post [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The Tesla Inc. and SpaceX chief executive officer was briefed by local and military officials in Kfar Aza, where dozens of people were killed. He also met with victims’ families, including relatives of a 4-year-old girl who was freed by Hamas on Sunday, according to a statement by Netanyahu’s office. Musk’s trip to Israel will also include meetings with war cabinet minister Benny Gantz and President Isaac Herzog. It comes as major brands including Apple Inc. and Walt Disney Co. have stopped advertising on his social media platform over concerns of increasing antisemitism and hate speech since he took over Twitter last year. More From TIME [video id=pwYvPTgP autostart="viewable"] The billionaire has defended himself from what he labeled “bogus media stories” after he endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory earlier this month on X, which drew condemnation from the White House. Musk’s post came around the same time Media Matters published a report showing ads from companies including IBM Corp. and Apple next to pro-Nazi content on the social media platform. X has sued the liberal watchdog group for allegedly trying to drive away advertisers. Video of Musk showed him wearing protective gear over his suit and occasionally stopping to take pictures as he walked through bullet-scarred buildings in the town, which lies on the border with Gaza. Musk nodded as Israeli officials described the attacks to him. Read More: Elon Musk Slams Accusations of Antisemitism as ‘Bogus’ During the trip to Israel, Musk will meet executives from the country’s technology sector and join Netanyahu to discuss topics including artificial intelligence on Spaces, X’s live audio streaming service, Netanyahu’s diplomatic adviser Ophir Falk said. The Israeli government has been holding talks with Musk over setting up Starlink, which provides satellite-based internet, to back up its wartime communications. Musk last month angered Israeli officials by saying he could provide Starlink to aid organizations in the Gaza Strip. He later walked back the comment. Israel is waging war against Hamas, which the US and the EU have deemed a terrorist organization, after militants killed about 1,200 people and took some 240 hostages in an Oct. 7 attack. Around 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and much of the Mediterranean enclave’s been reduced to rubble. The fighting has paused during a temporary ceasefire that began on Friday to allow the release of hostages in exchange for Israeli-held prisoners. While Musk has drawn support from notable figures including hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, criticism of the famously outspoken billionaire shows little sign of dying down. UK premier Rishi Sunak in a Bloomberg TV interview on Sunday became the latest to speak out against Musk, in careful criticism that stopped short of the full-throated condemnation by US President Joe Biden. Read More: Elon Musk Replies to Antisemitic Post on X, Labeling It ‘The Actual Truth’ On Sunday, tens of thousands of people, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, attended a march against antisemitism in central London. The Israel-Hamas conflict has exacerbated community tensions and led to a spike in antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric on social media......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 28th, 2023Related News

Meta Knowingly Designed Its Platforms to Hook Kids, Reports Say

Company documents cited in lawsuit reveal that Facebook parent Meta Platforms deliberately engineered its social platforms to exploit youthful psychology (SAN FRANCISCO) — Facebook parent Meta Platforms deliberately engineered its social platforms to hook kids and knew — but never disclosed — it had received millions of complaints about underage users on Instagram but only disabled a fraction of those accounts, according to a newly unsealed legal complaint described in reports from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The complaint, originally made public in redacted form, was the opening salvo in a lawsuit filed in late October by the attorneys general of 33 states. Company documents cited in the complaint described several Meta officials acknowledging the company designed its products to exploit shortcomings in youthful psychology such as impulsive behavior, susceptibility to peer pressure and the underestimation of risks, according to the reports. Others acknowledged Facebook and Instagram also were popular with children under age 13 who, per company policy, were not allowed to use the service. Meta said in a statement to The Associated Press that the complaint misrepresents its work over the past decade to make the online experience safe for teens, noting it has “over 30 tools to support them and their parents.” With respect to barring younger users from the service, Meta argued age verification is a “complex industry challenge.” Instead, Meta said it favors shifting the burden of policing underage usage to app stores and parents, specifically by supporting federal legislation that would require app stores to obtain parental approval whenever youths under 16 download apps. One Facebook safety executive alluded to the possibility that cracking down on younger users might hurt the company’s business in a 2019 email, according to the Journal report. But a year later, the same executive expressed frustration that while Facebook readily studied the usage of underage users for business reasons, it didn’t show the same enthusiasm for ways to identify younger kids and remove them from its platforms, the Journal reported. The complaint noted that at times Meta has a backlog of up to 2.5 million accounts of younger children awaiting action, according to the newspaper reports......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 27th, 2023Related News

Elon Musk to Meet Israeli President, Families of Hamas’ Hostages as Antisemitism Furor Brews

The Tesla Inc. and SpaceX chief executive is slated to join a closed-door discussion Monday about the need to curb online antisemitism. Elon Musk will meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and representatives of the families of hostages held in Gaza, in an apparent effort to defuse a growing furor over his endorsement of an antisemitic tweet. Read More: Tesla and X Face Advertiser and Investor Fallout Over Elon Musk’s Latest Controversial Post [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The Tesla Inc. and SpaceX chief executive is slated to join a closed-door discussion Monday with the family representatives and Herzog about the need to curb online antisemitism, a spokesperson for the president’s office said in a brief statement. The billionaire has denied being racist and defended his views after endorsing the tweet, which drew condemnation from the White House and rights activists. Critics have accused the world’s richest person of amplifying anti-Jewish hatred on X, the service formerly known as Twitter that Musk bought for $44 billion last year. The backlash came around the same time Media Matters published a report pointing out alleged pro-Nazi content, triggering an exodus of advertisers including IBM Corp. and Apple Inc. Musk has sued the liberal watchdog group. Read More: Elon Musk Slams Accusations of Antisemitism as ‘Bogus’ It’s unclear whether Musk intends to raise other issues while in Israel, which is waging war against Hamas after militants killed about 1,200 people and took some 240 hostages in an Oct. 7 attack. Both sides are now in a four-day ceasefire to allow the release of hostages. While Musk has drawn support from notable figures including hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, others continue to censure the famously outspoken billionaire. U.K. premier Rishi Sunak became the latest to speak out against Musk, in a careful criticism that stopped short of the full-throated condemnation by U.S. President Joe Biden. The furor centers on a post on X that falsely claimed Jewish people are stoking hatred against White people. Musk responded to that tweet by saying it was “the actual truth.” Read More: Elon Musk Replies to Antisemitic Post on X, Labeling It ‘The Actual Truth’ On Sunday, tens of thousands of people, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, attended a march against antisemitism in central London. The Israel-Hamas conflict has exacerbated community tensions and led to a spike in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 27th, 2023Related News

Accenture’s Chief AI Officer Lan Guan on Why This Is a Defining Moment

Accenture's chief AI officer Lan Guan says there is a lot of work to do to make sure AI is democratized. A year ago this week, artificial intelligence vaulted into public consciousness with the release of OpenAI’s instantly viral consumer-facing, conversational interface. AI became one of the biggest stories of 2023. And businesses everywhere (including OpenAI itself, as reflected in its leadership pandemonium earlier this month) are struggling to navigate the potential benefits and risks of the extraordinary technology. Few have a better window into how all this is unfolding than Lan Guan, Chief AI Officer of Accenture, the consulting juggernaut with more than 700,000 employees, most of the globe’s biggest companies as clients and its own recently announced $3 billion investment in AI. She’s also a member of Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered AI, a prominent center focused on ensuring AI benefits humanity–and a very early adopter, having built a robot to teach kids English in rural China when she was just 16. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] I spoke to Guan at the annual workplace summit hosted by TIME’s partner, Charter, in New York. An edited and condensed version of that conversation follows: It’s been a wild couple of weeks for OpenAI and the industry. What does it mean for companies and the uptake of this technology? It’s important to decouple the technology from these developments—because what we can say definitively, is that the value proposition of generative AI is not in question. Since ChatGPT’s launch, we’ve seen this particular space go from largely a few sets of democratized solutions, to being embedded across the entire value chain. All major platforms used by companies have, or are beginning to have, GAI capabilities. Across our own client base, we’ve seen things happening in matter of months versus years. The momentum is strong and will continue. How are you using generative AI personally? I do research a lot during my free time! I used to go to Google Scholar to find an archive paper for something that I’m working on. I have found that over the last couple months I have been relying on ChatGPT a lot. At work, I was actually preparing a course I’m teaching within Accenture on generative AI. So I asked it, what are the most popular machine learning algorithms before Generative AI? Did you like the answer? I was very satisfied with the answer. So I passed my test! At the office, we use a lot of generative AI; for example, to summarize meeting notes. We also build a lot of in-house applications. Over the last 10 months, we have built 300 internal applications using generative AI. Think about customer proposals; easily, dozens of pages. Now, we can have AI do the first draft. We have AI learning what we have developed before, and how we responded before, to write the first draft. What are you seeing with your customers? What is that level of adaptation relative to what you’re describing inside Accenture? A lot of it is about knowledge management. Think about the modern enterprise workplace as a lot of knowledge. This is actually underutilized—all kinds of documents, all kinds of images, all kinds of recordings. Like the recording that we’re doing here [of this interview]—this can be analyzed by AI years later to find what you and I talked about, and what were the trends at that point in time. So that’s just one example—using the immense power of generative AI to actually parse a lot of knowledge from unstructured documents within every enterprise to actually make use of that. For example, that’s something that we have seen very commonly used by insurers globally to help claim agents. They can use generative AI to answer whether a particular claim is meeting the policy requirements in this local market.  A lot of us woke up at the end of November last year with the ChatGPT release, tried it ourselves and realized, you know, we’re in this new world. How much of what you’re describing is a post-ChatGPT phenomenon? Could that insurance example have been done two years ago? Or is that a phenomenon of recent months? The ability existed before but was not easily accessible by people in the workplace. ChatGPT and this new class of AI completely changed the game. The example of insurance agents is regular now because of the ease of the use of the technology. AI is actually making sense to the general public and becoming more pervasive within modern enterprise. There’s enormous agreement in the C-suites that we’ve got to move quickly here, but we also know that many CEOs and other leaders feel stuck. How do we get unstuck? What does that look like? We need to figure out a way to articulate the value of investment into generative AI so that the business case is much more compelling. There is a lot of uncertainty and fear. But while generative is a new class of AI, it’s building upon decades of investment. This is not a black box. I think that kind of conversation needs to happen more to instill confidence into the C-suite conversation. We’re getting there. The formal title of this session is “Hype vs. Reality.” Are we in a hype phase? Or is this really a grab-it-or-die kind of moment for businesses? I don’t think this is hype. This is the defining moment across many industries. We have a lot of work to make sure this technology is democratized and not limited to a small group. Your title is Chief AI Officer. Should that be a more widespread role? I believe every organization needs to have a Chief AI Officer or someone in that capacity to define the overall AI strategy within the organization......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 26th, 2023Related News

Taylor Swift Tickets, Paris Trips and Dining Out: Consumers Splurge Even as Savings Fall

YOLO consumers splurging on entertainment, travel and dining out are boosting the economy, but their savings are taking a hit. A group of US consumers has surprised companies and economists by splurging on Taylor Swift concerts, trips to Paris and dining out — even as their savings decline. Call them the YOLO consumers.  It’s a cohort that’s never let go of the “you only live once” ethos that emerged during the existential upheaval of Covid-19. They’ve continued spending on experiences for longer than most expected — and they’re a key part of the surprisingly resilient US economy.   [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “We appreciate there are heightened concerns around the state of the consumer as of late,” Josh Weinstein, chief executive officer of cruise operator Carnival Corp., told analysts at the end of September. But consumers are still booking more cruises than ever before, he said, and they’re “continuing to prioritize spending on experiences over material goods.” Take Carli Simpson. The 25-year-old executive assistant and her boyfriend are forgoing physical gifts for the first time this holiday in favor of trips to Colorado in January and Florida in March. The travel allows them to enjoy more time together. “The pandemic, too, kept us from going anywhere,” Simpson said in New York.  YOLO spending has helped to power the expansion of US gross domestic product, which grew at the fastest pace in nearly two years in the third quarter. The data was at odds with warnings of a looming recession. The YOLO phenomenon doesn’t preclude a slowdown in the coming quarters, or even a recession. There are signs that even wealthier shoppers are pulling back. Savings have dwindled from pandemic highs, and while inflation’s trajectory has moderated, its steady rise has outpaced wage increases. Higher interest rates are an additional hurdle. Add it all up, and the outlook is challenging for many companies, especially those selling merchandise such as clothing and appliances. But with unemployment remaining near record lows, consumer spending has defied expectations — and experience-focused companies are at an advantage.  Live Nation Entertainment Inc. is one example. The owner of Ticketmaster is already seeing record levels of demand for concerts next year, even after a banner summer headlined by music icons Swift and Beyoncé. Executives mentioned an upcoming tour by Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny as part of a “strong concert calendar” for 2024. Read More: The Staggering Economic Impact of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour In other industries, Delta Air Lines Inc., hotel operator Marriott International Inc. and luggage maker Samsonite International SA have all seen revenue rise for 10 consecutive quarters, although the pace has moderated. The portion of Americans who say they plan to travel to a foreign country during the next six months is at the highest on record, according to a closely-watched survey of consumer confidence published in late October. That’s despite a drop in consumer confidence to a five-month low in the same survey. After all — YOLO. “When things are good, you take advantage of it,” said Kam Sidhu, the 46-year-old owner of a Montessori school and some fast-food restaurants, who traveled to New York from Montgomery, Alabama, with her 15-year-old daughter and a friend. They were planning to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and some Broadway shows. She’s also planning a cruise to celebrate the new year with her family.  While she’s a bit cautious about the economy with the war in the Middle East and the upcoming US presidential election, she said the pandemic made her realize, “Wow, we really need to be out there with each other. Just human experience — together.”  In response to heightened demand, United Airlines Holdings Inc. is expanding flights to some international destinations for the winter. Along with American Airlines Group Inc. and Delta, it’s adding more flights and new cities next summer — mainly to tourism-focused areas across Europe. In the domestic market, by contrast, demand has waned and discounting has increased. Samsonite CEO Kyle Francis Gendreau recently told analysts he sees “tremendous momentum as we think about the end of ’23 into ’24,” particularly in North America and Europe. US economic data show luggage sales rose 22% in the third quarter from a year earlier. Dining is also part of the trend. “The younger you go,” Starbucks Corp. Chief Marketing Officer Brady Brewer told investors recently, “the more likely they are to splurge in restaurants and bars as the one place where they want to spend.” Many retailers, meanwhile, are reporting sluggish spending on appliances, electronics and apparel. Target Corp. CEO Brian Cornell recently told analysts there have been seven consecutive quarters where discretionary goods have declined both in dollar terms and by volume across the industry.  Macy’s Inc. CEO Jeff Gennette said last week that consumers “are under pressure” and “in some cases, shifting toward experiences and away from our discretionary categories.” His company’s comparable sales fell 7% year-over-year in the third quarter.  Discounts are expected to be among the highest for apparel on Black Friday, according to Salesforce Inc., a software company that tracks online sales. It expects US online sales during November and December to grow around 1% year-over-year, the slowest pace in five years. Read More: Why Black Friday Deals Are Starting Earlier Than Ever Companies are trying to adjust to consumers’ preference for experiences over physical goods. Signet Jewelers Ltd., the owner of Kay Jewelers and Zales, is putting a twist on jewelry purchases by offering more customization, with the aim of boosting declining sales. Shoppers can use augmented reality in stores and online to choose a specific mounting or gemstone for an engagement ring — or work with a jeweler to design a piece from scratch.  “We saw that couples, as they were shopping for an engagement ring together, wanted to have a more interactive experience,” said Jamie Singleton, Signet’s chief consumer officer. .....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 24th, 2023Related News

OpenAI Says Sam Altman to Return as CEO, Company to Get New Board Members

OpenAI Says Sam Altman to Return as CEO, Company to Get New Board Members.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 22nd, 2023Related News

OpenAI Says Sam Altman to Return as CEO With New Board Members

The company also said it will overhaul its board to bring on new directors, including Bret Taylor, who previously held positions at Salesforce and Twitter, and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. OpenAI will bring back Sam Altman and overhaul its board to bring on new directors, a stunning reversal in a drama that’s transfixed Silicon Valley and the global AI industry. Read More: What We Know So Far About Why OpenAI Fired Sam Altman Altman is returning as chief executive officer and the initial board will be led by Bret Taylor, a former co-CEO of Salesforce Inc. and director at Twitter before it was acquired by Elon Musk. Other directors include Larry Summers, the U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, and existing member Adam D’Angelo, the co-founder and CEO of Quora Inc. OpenAI is now working “to figure out the details,” the company said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo.We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.— OpenAI (@OpenAI) November 22, 2023 The reworked board may not be final: its main priority is to nominate and select up to nine new directors, according to a person with direct knowledge of the deliberations. Board composition proved to be a major sticking point throughout negotiations, and parties are still determining which members — beside D’Angelo, who has been appointed — will stay on the new OpenAI board. Altman agreed not to be on the board initially in order to get the deal done, said this person, who asked not to be identified disclosing details of private negotiations. It’s likely that Altman will join the board eventually. OpenAI’s biggest backer, Microsoft Corp., will likely have representation on the new board, certainly as a board observer and possibly with one or more board seats, the person said. Altman’s return caps a roller-coaster few days that threw the world’s best-known AI startup into chaos. The two new board members hold appeal for Wall Street investors and the Silicon Valley crowd. Summers, a Harvard academic and regular Bloomberg TV contributor, sits on the board of several startups, including Jack Dorsey’s Block Inc. Taylor is a director at Shopify Inc. and helped steer the sale of Twitter to Musk last year, acting as a calming force during turbulent times. Read More: Why Larry Summers Still Triggers Washington. (It Isn’t His Economics.) OpenAI reached an agreement to reinstate its co-founder after four days of high-stakes negotiations, and after nearly all of its employees threatened to quit if Altman were not reinstated after his surprise ouster. His reinstatement triggered swift congratulations on X from key players in the saga including former president Greg Brockman — who said he too is returning to the company — and Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati. Altman, who was fired by OpenAI’s board on Friday following disagreements over how fast to develop and monetize AI, had been in negotiations with the company to return. Those talks reached an impasse on Sunday in part over pressure from Altman and others for existing board members to resign, according to people familiar with the matter. Instead, the board named a new leader — former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear — and Microsoft chief Satya Nadella said it would hire Altman to head up a new in-house AI research team. Within hours, most of OpenAI’s 770 employees signed a letter to the board saying they might quit and join Microsoft unless all board directors resigned and Altman was reinstated. Among the many who signed the letter was Murati, who had been named interim CEO on Friday, and Ilya Sutskever, an OpenAI co-founder and board member who had previously disagreed with Altman over the company’s direction. Read More: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Is Pushing Past Doubts on Artificial Intelligence The quick reversal could appease investors and reduce the threat of employees fleeing. But it also raises questions about the path ahead for the ChatGPT maker and other AI startups, which have tried to balance developing artificial intelligence responsibly alongside the need to raise vast amounts of capital from investors to support the expensive computing infrastructure required to build these tools. Founded in 2015, OpenAI was initially established as a nonprofit aimed at advancing AI in a way that would benefit humanity and not be dictated by financial gain. The group later reorganized itself as a capped for-profit entity, raising billions from Microsoft and other investors — with Altman being instrumental to those deals — but it continued to be overseen by a non-profit board. That tension exploded into full view in recent days. The startup’s investors were blindsided by Altman’s removal. Microsoft, which backed the startup with a more than $10 billion stake, had only a few minutes’ advance notice about Altman’s firing. The software giant began working with investors including Thrive Capital and Tiger Global Management to bring him back, according to people familiar with the matter who asked to remain anonymous discussing private information. When that effort failed, Microsoft agreed to hire Altman and others from OpenAI. More than any other figure, Altman, 38, emerged as the face of a new era of artificial intelligence technology, thanks to the viral success of ChatGPT. Altman was at the center of the industry’s efforts this year to work with regulators and he met regularly with world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. On Thursday, he appeared on a panel at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, attended by other executives and world leaders, to discuss the future of AI and its risks. Behind the scenes, however, Altman clashed with members of his board, especially Sutskever, over how quickly to develop generative AI, how to commercialize products and the steps needed to lessen their potential harms to the public, people with knowledge of the matter have said. OpenAI’s other board members at the time included D’Angelo; Tasha McCauley, CEO of GeoSim Systems; and Helen Toner, director of strategy and foundational research grants at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. Alongside rifts over strategy, board members also contended with Altman’s entrepreneurial ambitions. He has been looking to raise tens of billions of dollars from Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds to create an AI chip startup to compete with processors made by Nvidia Corp., according to a person with knowledge of the investment proposal. Altman was courting SoftBank Group Corp. chairman Masayoshi Son for a multibillion-dollar investment in a new business to make AI-oriented hardware in partnership with former Apple designer Jony Ive. Altman’s side ventures added complexity to an already strained relationship with the board. In a statement Friday, OpenAI said Altman’s departure came after an internal review by the board found the chief executive “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” As a result, it said, “the board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.” The boardroom drama had echoes of other coups in Silicon Valley history. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was fired as CEO in 1985 only to return more than a decade later. Twitter co-founder Dorsey was pushed out in 2008 and came back as CEO seven years later......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 22nd, 2023Related News

Binance CEO Zhao Agrees to Plead Guilty and Pay $50 Million Fine

Binance Holdings Ltd.’s CEO Changpeng Zhao agreed to plead guilty to anti-money laundering charges and pay a $50 million fine Binance Holdings Ltd.’s Chief Executive Officer Changpeng Zhao agreed to plead guilty to anti-money laundering charges and pay a $50 million fine during a hearing in Seattle federal court Tuesday under a sweeping deal worked out with the Justice Department designed to keep the company operating. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Zhao agreed to step down as part of the settlement, which included the Treasury Department and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to people familiar with the matter. Binance agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay a $4.3 billion fine, according to people familiar with the matter. The deal ends a years-long investigation into the cryptocurrency exchange.   The government’s case against Binance was unsealed in federal court in Washington state Tuesday, as Zhao prepared to enter his plea. The company is charged with three counts, including money laundering violations, conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business, and sanctions violations.  BNB, a cryptocurrency tied to the Binance ecosystem, slipped about 5% following the news. The token had hit a five-month high earlier in the day on the news that the DOJ would soon confirm its settlement with the exchange. The filing states that from about August 2017 until October 2022 Binance and Zhao were involved in a “deliberate and calculated effort” to profit from the US market without implementing controls required by law. US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will hold a press conference at 3:00 pm ET on Tuesday to announce more details of the settlement. The charges come as part of a settlement negotiated between the two sides that will resolve allegations of criminal wrongdoing ranging from money laundering and bank fraud to violations of sanctions. Bloomberg News reported the settlement on Monday. Read More: US Is Seeking More than $4 Billion From Binance to End Case  The resolution against the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange and its top leader represents one of the largest penalties imposed within the cryptocurrency industry, which has been facing withering scrutiny from the Justice Department, other government agencies and lawmakers. Binance, which exploded onto the crypto scene in 2017 and almost immediately took on and surpassed larger rivals, saw its market share surge to more than 60% worldwide after the fall of FTX in November 2022. Since then, its combined market share for spot crypto and derivatives has declined to less than 44% this month, according to researcher CCData. The Justice Department recently prosecuted FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried in New York for allegedly orchestrating a multibillion-dollar misappropriation of customer funds that led to the cryptocurrency exchange’s collapse. Bankman-Fried was convicted on fraud on conspiracy charges following a trial. Both the CFTC and Securities and Exchange Commission have sued Binance and Zhao alleging a range of violations, including mishandling customer funds and allowing Americans to illegally access the platform......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 21st, 2023Related News

How Solar Sales Bros Threaten the Green Energy Transition

Social media and the promise of profits has fueled an army of young men to go out and spread misinformation in the residential solar industry. Ryan was scrolling on Instagram when he ran across a verified account he figured must be run by a celebrity; the young man in it showed off a new Lamborghini, a Florida penthouse, and videos of himself benching 225 pounds. He had gotten rich, he told followers, by selling solar panels. Curious, Ryan messaged the man, who claimed he could teach others his success; within 48 hours, Ryan was invited to Florida, to stay for free in one of the man’s apartments while he learned the art of solar sales.  [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Within a few days, he was out knocking on doors, within a year he had made around $350,000. But something started to gnaw at Ryan as he knocked on doors in small Florida towns alongside other men from out of state, staying in free luxury Airbnbs while they sold rooftop solar. About 90% of what he was being taught to say was a lie. He wasn’t working in conjunction with the electric company. The loans the homeowners were taking out didn’t have low interest rates. The solar panels weren’t always being installed by professionals who knew what they were doing. Ryan, who was 23 at the time, eventually quit and moved home, but he says new people were coming in all the time. (Ryan didn’t want his real name used for the story because he’s still in sales and wants to get into Harvard for business school.) “It’s this whole sales bro culture on Instagram,” he says. “You can make so much money.”  The U.S. needs to install 1,000 gigawatts of solar power by 2035 to be on track to decarbonize its electrical grid, and pushed by both a growing recognition of the urgency of fighting climate change and by well-publicized incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, not to mention rising costs of residential electricity, Americans are shelling out money for solar panels. The U.S. added 6.4 gigawatts of small-scale solar in 2022, the most ever in a single year, according to the Energy Information Association. But the job of convincing Americans to sign up for solar panels on their rooftops has, in many cases, been hijacked by people with little knowledge about how renewable energy works, and who are just trying to make as much money as possible while the rush is on. They are fanning out across the country, knocking on doors, calling phones, and pitching homeowners on the benefits of solar power, sometimes ignoring Do Not Call lists or No Soliciting signs. Many of these salespeople are using misleading tactics to sell homeowners on solar—tactics that they learn from self-proclaimed sales experts online—and because they are independent contractors who don’t work for a specific solar installer, they’re getting away with it. As a result, they’re making thousands of dollars per sale, and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, often while targeting elderly and low-income consumers with their sales pitch.  “Solar is ground zero for consumer fraud right now,” says Andrew Milz, a consumer attorney based in Pennsylvania. “The industry is just littered with bad actors trying to put solar on as many roofs as possible as fast as possible.” No Barrier To Entry for Salespeople The root of the problem is this: there is no license or training required in most states to sell solar; you don’t even have to work for a specific solar company to get started. Instead, installers farm out sales to networks of freelancers working solely on commission. These “dealer networks” negotiate with installers something called a “red line”—essentially a price at which they need to sell the solar system, for example, $2.50 a watt. If salespeople are able to convince the homeowner to pay much more, say $4 a watt, they pocket the difference, which can end up being thousands of dollars per sale. With so much potential money on the table, salespeople are motivated to make big promises that might not end up being true.  “The way the system is designed really incentivizes bad behavior,” says Vikram Aggarwal, the CEO of EnergySage, a solar services marketplace.  The untruths salesmen—and they are mostly men—peddle are often very similar. They say that you can get free solar panels from the government. (You can’t. There are tax credits available but they only take off about one-third of the price of panels, and are only for people who owe taxes.) They say you can eliminate your energy bills and become independent from the power company. (This is unlikely without a solar battery, which is a significant additional cost: most homes will still be connected to the electrical grid and charged a monthly fee.) They say the panels will be hooked in up a matter of weeks (also unlikely), that they work for the local utility (probably not) and that they are not even actually selling anything but are instead “energy consultants” whose job is to look at customers’ utility bills and see if solar is a good fit for their home (if a free “energy consultant” that you didn’t request shows up at your house, be skeptical). The “bro” culture on social media appears to be fueling some of this fraud, by recruiting young men to do whatever it takes to make a sale. “You don’t have to lie—I’m not saying that by any stretch,” says Jordan Belfort, the real-life Wolf of Wall Street, who served 22 months in prison for fraud and other related financial crimes, on a video in which he sits in front of men sipping cans of Red Bull and RockStar energy drinks, teaching them how to sell solar. “But what you need to do is have the best version of the truth.”  The sheer amount of money available in solar sales is attracting many people with no experience in renewable energy. “Your teachers lied to you, this is how you get rich,” says one salesman, in a video where he claims to make $7,000 in one sale. One TikTok video tells people they can make six figures in just four months, get a free flight to Dallas, and a free apartment if they come and sell solar there in what’s called a “sales blitz,” which is essentially when people spread out to sell in a focused area. Some of these blitzes “are like the first half of the Wolf of Wall Street, with visits to strip clubs and liberal use of cocaine,” says one man, who was hired to film these barrages and who did not want his name used because his production company is still working with sales firms. The gurus online don’t talk much about the benefits of renewable energy; instead they highlight how much money salespeople can make. They also advertise a frat-like atmosphere, where a community of peers will cheer you on and fist bump you as you sell solar—and do push-ups alongside you each time you fail. They invite participants to boot camps or training sessions, sometimes in exotic villas or cabins, where sessions can end with a bunch of men jumping up and down in a huddle while hyping each other up as if in a football game. Some go so far to bring new sellers into group houses, where “they’re in boot camp hell and someone is getting them up at 8 a.m. and pushing them to do door-to-door sales,” says Clayton Friedman, a partner at the law firm Troutman Pepper, who handles complaints in the solar industry. “I’d call it cult-like behavior.”  That behavior shows up in the field. A Houston salesman named Mark Hudspeth recently was pursuing a lead—essentially a person who might be interested in buying solar—he’d purchased from another company, and then got a disconcertingly aggressive text from a stranger: “You can f* right off, Solar Bro’s are taking this territory! This is our terf now!”  Courts are littered with cases of solar sales gone wrong. They allege that salespeople misrepresent their relationship with utilities, use high-pressure tactics to trick people into signing binding contracts even if their homes aren’t a good fit for solar, call homes on the Do Not Call registry to pitch them on solar, and lie about potential energy-bill savings. Then, according to the legal complaints, the companies fail to complete solar projects in the time frame promised, ignore deadlines from utilities, and then threaten homeowners with large termination fees and lawsuits if they try to cancel the sale.  These problems appear to be growing. The number of complaints submitted on containing the words “door” and “sales” and “solar” jumped from 33 in 2021 to 70 in 2022 to 154 through Nov. 1 of this year, according to a FOIA request submitted by TIME to the Federal Trade Commission. While the number of complaints jumped fivefold between 2021 and 2023, the amount of residential installed solar capacity increased just 40%.  Salesmen Who Stretch the Truth Rooftop solar can be very good for homeowners who have the right homes—and the right expectations. Homeowners are much more likely to have a positive experience if they call around and compare quotes from solar installers, and if they use a company that friends or neighbors used and liked. But the sheer volume of door knockers and virtual solar sales agents means that many homeowners are encountering the bad actors, rather than the good. Read more: Rooftop Solar Power Has a Dark Side Sometimes, the salespeople aren’t lying exactly but are exaggerating the truth. “Want to see something cool? Watch me make five grand in 15 minutes,” says solar-sales guru Nick O’Connor on a TikTok video, before he knocks on a woman’s door and tells her that her energy bills are going to double in the next year—highly unlikely, given that the largest one-year increase in average electricity spending since 1984 was 13%, between 2021 and 2022.  “You can either take $20,000 tax credit to go solar or you pay the $20,000 by them taxing fossil fuels, oil, and gas,” says one door-knocker to a homeowner who has already said she is not interested, in a TikTik video. Salesmen for the company Brio were trained to exaggerate the financial benefits of solar panels, portray them as free, and offer one-day-only deals like 12 months of free loan payments that didn’t end up materializing, according to a lawsuit filed against the company by Minnesota’s attorney general in December 2022. “When you come up with a number like [that], they’re like holy s***, even though we’re only lowering their bill by about five bucks,” one trainer allegedly said.  “We’re not selling anything,” says Taylor McCarthy, the co-founder of Knockstar University, tells homeowners in a TikTok video, as he proceeds to sell them on solar panels. “I’m not a solicitor,” he says, in another video, before he approaches a house with a No Soliciting sign; though the homeowners told him no 20 times before, later in the video he tells the audience that “I got it to yes.” In another video of a “Texas blitz,” in which McCarthy tries to sell as much solar as possible in two days, a policeman tells him he needs a license to knock on doors—and when he can’t get the license, he continues to knock. McCarthy says he sees himself as a service provider, rather than as a solicitor, since people can save money and own their own power production once they switch to solar. He also said that he wasn’t violating any laws after he was approached by the policeman, since he continued knocking in another town. McCarthy was a long-time door-to-door salesman before he co-founded Knockstar in 2021. He started out with just a handful of prospective sellers; now, he estimates, he trains 10,000 a year. His approach seems to work: he portrays the utility company as corrupt; asks people why they chose the utility company they did (people largely can’t choose which utility company services them); asks them how much their energy bill has gone up in the last year; and when they tell him the cost of their utility bill, he pretends that he thinks it’s for the quarter, rather than for the month. “If your tactics are sound, they can’t fight you,” says McCarthy. “It’s not even work at this point—it’s like you’re a professional trick or treater.” Some of his clients, according to videos he posts online, are very happy with their purchases. But McCarthy does omit important information at times: he tells homeowners, for instance, that they’re better off owning solar panels than paying a monthly utility bill while in reality, if you have solar panels, you probably have both a utility bill and solar payments. Though you may save money overall by installing solar, saying that you’re gaining independence from the utility company is not quite true.  Every time I asked McCarthy a question about something that seemed untrue, he had an answer that sounded believable, such as that he over-sizes solar systems to ensure people won’t have electric bills. He seems to truly believe that he is helping people get out from under the thumb of the electric company. “To be a good solar professional, you need to blend two opposites,” he says. “You have to be aggressive but kind. Assertive but nice.” McCarthy illustrates why it can be so hard to rein in the industry: he is earnest and polite and knowledgeable but still plays hard and fast with the truth. There’s No Regulation In Solar Sales Solar companies have engaged in aggressive sales tactics from the earliest days of the industry; door-to-door sales were pioneered by a company called Vivint Solar, which was founded by a former Mormon missionary. By 2013, Vivint, which started in 1999 as a door-to-door home-alarm sales company, was the fastest-growing rooftop solar installation and financing business in the U.S. and had just been acquired by the investment firm Blackstone.  Problems quickly arose. By 2016, consumer protection groups were registering complaints with regulators about salespeople misrepresenting the costs and benefits of solar panels; in reviewing complaints submitted to regulators between 2012 and 2016, the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit, found “a widespread pattern of apparent fraud and abuse by solar companies.”  Attempts at regulation have not made much of a difference. New Jersey, for example, fined Vivint $122,000 in 2019 for selling panels based on inaccurate price quotes and obtaining credit reports without customer consent. But in 2022, homeowners filed another lawsuit against Vivint in New Jersey, alleging that a Vivint salesman forged signatures to close a solar deal; when Vivint was informed that the agreement had been forged, the complaint says, it refused to cancel the contract. In a statement provided to TIME, SunRun—a national solar company that acquired Vivint in 2020—said that the allegations in the complaint predate its acquisition, and that it already settled the case, denying wrongdoing. SunRun requires all sales consultants to adhere to a strict code of conduct and ongoing ethics training, the company says. Installing solar panels is expensive, and it’s not something homeowners should undertake without a lot of consideration and research. But there’s also a rush to speed adoption and help states meet their renewable energy goals, and the solar industry writ large has not shown much interest in policing the bad actors, for fear of slowing down the good. “The companies are just obsessed with profits—that’s why they turn a blind idea to abundant sales fraud,” says Milz, the attorney.  Fraud is difficult to crack down on today because of the number of different parties involved in the sale of solar panels. In the past, the same companies that were knocking on doors selling solar panels were also the ones installing them, so customers knew where to complain if they felt they’d been misled. Today, the person knocking on your door may be an independent contractor who will be hard to find once you realize he over-promised you on the benefits of solar. The company loaning homeowners the money to buy solar panels is another entity entirely. And as more people started buying solar panels rather than leasing them, the loan companies have helped enable misleading and sometimes fraudulent sales practices, says Steve Hamile, chief operating office of Nevada solar company Sol-Up, who has pushed for more regulations on solar sales in the state. “The lenders are as much of a problem as a solution,” he says.  Ryan, the 23-year-old man who flew to Florida to sell solar, says he was astounded by the speed at which he could help people secure financing to buy solar panels. If he had someone’s first and last name and their social security number, he says, he could sign them up for a 25-year-loan in under five minutes. Often, the actual cost of the loan was hidden. “If they truly saw the interest rates they were signing, they would get sick,” he says. Read more: The Overlooked Solar Power Potential of America’s Parking Lots Lenders do not appear to be cracking down on fraudulent practices. For example, according to a complaint filed in December 2022 against GoodLeap, one of the biggest lenders in the market, a salesperson told an 80-year-old bedridden woman, Merion Kane, that she could get “free” solar panels from the government. She still declined, but the salesperson took out a loan in her name from GoodLeap to borrow $42,000 without her knowledge anyway. And the solar panels that were installed ended up not working. In another case, the attorneys general of Kentucky and Tennessee filed a lawsuit against Mosaic, another big lender, in February 2023, alleging that the company routinely does not provide the required truth in lending disclosures and ignores cancellation requests made within three days of a sale, the time period in which consumers are legally allowed to cancel. “This partnership has allowed Mosaic to reap enormous profits while facing no consequences for its participation in this harmful and unlawful business scheme,” the complaint alleges. (Neither Mosaic nor Goodleap returned requests for comment for this story.) Some Burgeoning Attempts At Regulation Nevada has taken the first big step to rein in some of the bad practices in the industry. It passed a bill in June that aims to get rid of independent contractors selling solar in the state, by essentially requiring solar panel salespeople to have an electrical contractors’ license in the state, or be the direct employee of a licensed contractor. The law also requires that a company make a recorded phone call that walks consumers through what they signed up for within 48 hours of a sale—in time for them to cancel.  The law was shepherded by Hamile, of Sol-Up, who kept running into customers who had been misled by door-to-door salespeople. Frustrated with how hard it was to find and hold these salespeople accountable, Hamile reached out to his local legislators. “What caused us dismay was that so many customers were saying, ‘look, I don’t know who to believe,’” he says.  Nevada’s law, which goes into effect in 2024, is not popular among certain solar companies; the Solar Energy Industries Association has argued that it will dampen enthusiasm among lenders for residential solar systems and “stifle” options for installers who want to have their sales handled by independent contractors. Some in the solar industry support a company called Mentis that has created a standardized training and licensing program for solar sales that it says is similar to what real estate agents must go through. The company was founded by Brian Johnston and Chris Trocola, two former solar salespeople who realized that bad actors in the industry were jeopardizing its potential for growth—they say the industry is on board. “Finance companies and installers absolutely need this to happen because they keep fronting the bill for these kids who came in here and are now driving a Bentley because they lied to 13 people,” Trocola says. Mentis’ online platform teaches the basics of the solar sales industry, including consumer protections. Salespeople who have had the necessary training, have passed background checks, and completed an ethics test can register on Mentis’ database, as can companies that meet its standards. The platform, in theory, enables Mentis to respond to complaints filed by consumers about its registered companies and sales reps.  Hamile says that Mentis’s solution isn’t workable since it doesn’t shut down the independent contractors who will say anything they can to make a sale. There already are training and certifications available in solar, he says, specifically from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Hamile and Joy Seitz, the CEO of another installer, American Solar & Roofing, agree that the industry needs to realize that regulation would actually benefit it at this point. Solar sales have been around for more than a decade now, yet it hasn’t been regulated like sales of other big-ticket items like real estate. Practices are allowed in solar sales that aren’t allowed in real estate, like paying kickbacks for referrals. “Solar is no longer a nascent industry and like every other large industry,” says Seitz, who is also a board member of the Solar Energy Industries Association, “oversight is required as bad actors take advantage of loopholes and no accountability.”  After all, this is America, where money drives behavior and where people are quick to take advantage of ways to get rich quickly. Ryan, the 23-year-old,  believes in capitalism but also worries that companies have figured out how to avoid liability for any lies that salesmen say. Without that accountability, there’s no bounds to the amount of money that people can make, he says. No matter what, the guys on social media who are swimming in money—regardless of how their fortune was attained—will draw people in. “He’s in his 20s, he has a Lambo,” says Ryan. “Why would I listen to anyone else?” .....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 21st, 2023Related News

OpenAI in ‘Intense Discussions’ to Unify Company, Internal Memo Reveals

Most of the OpenAI staff signed a letter saying they would quit if the board does not re-hire ex-CEO Sam Altman, who was hired by Microsoft. OpenAI is in “intense discussions” to unify its divided staff, Vice President of Global Affairs Anna Makanju wrote late Monday in an internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg News. Makanju aimed the message at employees who have grown anxious after days of tumult following the ouster of Chief Executive Officer Sam Altman and the board’s surprise appointment of former Twitch chief Emmett Shear as his interim replacement. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Read More: What We Know So Far About Why OpenAI Fired Sam Altman Company management is in touch with Altman, Shear and the company’s board, “but they are not prepared to give us a final response this evening,” Makanju wrote. Earlier on Monday, most of the staff signed a letter saying they would quit if the board does not resign and re-hire Altman, who was hired by Microsoft Corp., OpenAI’s largest shareholder, to run a new artificial intelligence team. The memo from Makanju doesn’t elaborate on the extent of staff contact with Altman, and the former CEO didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours. There’s strong momentum outside OpenAI to get Altman reinstated too. OpenAI’s other investors, led by Thrive Capital, are actively trying to orchestrate his return, people with knowledge of the effort told Bloomberg earlier Monday, and even Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he wouldn’t oppose Altman’s reinstatement. Microsoft, which has pledged to invest as much as $13 billion in OpenAI, benefits whether Altman is running OpenAI or working under its roof, Nadella said. Read More: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Is Pushing Past Doubts on Artificial Intelligence Until Friday, when Altman was fired, the company’s board consisted of: Altman, President Greg Brockman, Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever, Quora Inc. CEO Adam D’Angelo, tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. After Altman’s exit, Brockman stepped down in protest. “We are continuing to go over mutually acceptable options and are scheduled to speak again tomorrow morning when everyone’s had a little more sleep,” Makanju wrote. “These intense discussions can drag out, and I know it can feel impossible to be patient.” She added a word of reassurance for employees: “Know that we have a plan that we are working towards.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 21st, 2023Related News

Elon Musk’s X Corp. Sues Media Matters Over Report on Pro-Nazi Content

X claims Media Matters kick-started a “blatant smear campaign” by publishing almost 20 articles against the social media platform and Musk in November. Elon Musk’s X Corp., formerly known as Twitter, accused Media Matters for America in a lawsuit of “maliciously” trying to drive away advertisers from the social media platform by reporting that ads for Apple Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Oracle Corp. were running next to pro-Nazi content. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “Media Matters designed both these images and its resulting media strategy to drive advertisers from the platform and destroy X Corp.,” the company said in a complaint filed Monday in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas. The report by the liberal watchdog group followed a flurry of antisemitic and other hate speech on X, some of which Musk himself promoted, eliciting outrage and alienating advertisers. Apple and Walt Disney Co. have suspended or halted ad spending on the platform. Read More: Tesla and X Face Advertiser and Investor Fallout Over Elon Musk’s Latest Controversial Post X claims Media Matters kick-started a “blatant smear campaign” by publishing almost 20 articles against the social media platform and Musk in November. Media Matters is accused in the complaint of illegally interfering with X’s contracts with advertisers and making malicious and false statements that it’s intentionally placing ads near antisemitic posts. Musk’s company is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a court order directing Media Matters to immediately take down an article posted in mid-November. Musk hinted in an X post that he will file more lawsuits. The first of many— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 21, 2023 Representatives of Media Matters didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk agreed with a post last week that said Jewish people hold a “dialectical hatred” of White people, drawing fire from several Tesla investors as well as the White House. Ross Gerber, co-founder and CEO of wealth management firm Gerber Kawasaki Inc., said Thursday on CNBC that Musk’s outbursts were “destroying the brand.” The 52-year-old entrepreneur is the world’s richest person and the chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., in addition to his ownership of X. He is famous for his provocative posts, including one in which he said he had the funding to take Tesla private, spurring a shareholder lawsuit he ultimately won. But his latest forays into religion and race have triggered an especially fierce response. Among those defending Musk is hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, who said on X that Musk isn’t an antisemite and that “the world is a vastly better place because of him.” The case is X Corp. v. Media Matters for America, 23-cv-1175, US District Court, Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth)......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 20th, 2023Related News

Turkeys Cost Less This Thanksgiving. Here’s Why

The cost of your Thanksgiving turkey will be slightly lower this year The cost of your Thanksgiving turkey will be slightly lower this year, with the centerpiece of your holiday dinner table down 5.6% from the year prior, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 38th annual survey.  The drop in turkey prices—which rests at about $27 for a 16-pound frozen whole turkey—is due to the decrease in poultry affected by the bird flu outbreak that began in 2022.  [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Farmers have been working hard to reduce the impact of the deadliest bird flu outbreak in U.S. history—which spreads through saliva, nasal secretions and feces—by implementing extra sanitation efforts and upgrading barn ventilation. Birds that are infected with the avian influenza have to be killed, causing more than 4.5 million birds to be slaughtered so far this year. That statistic is steep, but still much lower than the 58 million birds that were impacted in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.    Experts say that they are glad to see that the number of impacted animals has reduced, but fear that the virus’s persistence through the summer signals that poultry will “likely always be at risk of the disease.”  “The industry is definitely on really high alert,” Denise Heard, a veterinarian with the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association trade group, told the Associated Press. The avian flu has tightened the supply of livestock despite consistent demand for chicken, eggs, and other products. That reduction certainly impacted the prices of goods last year; grade A eggs were up 138% in December 2022 compared to 2021, costing about $4.25. By contrast, a carton of a dozen, large white eggs this week are an average of $1.26, per a USDA report released Nov. 17.  The Farm Bureau says that while food inflation and supply chain issues remain elevated, food is more affordable in the U.S. than other countries. On average, Americans are spending only 6.7% of their annual income on food, compared to our neighbors up north in Canada, who spend about 10%. “While high food prices are a concern for every family, America still has one of the most affordable food supplies in the world. We’ve accomplished that, in part, due to strong farm bill programs,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. Still, this year is the second most expensive Thanksgiving meal in nearly 40 years. The Farm Bureau tracks the prices of turkey and sides, including cubed stuffing, sweet potatoes, and more, as part of its survey. The cost of most goods went down, with the exception of a veggie tray, 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, sweet potatoes, and a dozen dinner rolls. They increased in price anywhere from 0.3% to 3.7%......»»

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Who Is Emmett Shear, OpenAI’s New CEO?

OpenAI is on its third CEO in three days. Here's what to know about new interim CEO. OpenAI is on its third CEO in three days, after appointing Emmett Shear as interim CEO, less than 72 hours after its board ousted former CEO Sam Altman in a shock move on Friday Nov. 17, claiming he had not been “consistently candid in his communications with the board.”  [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The company said on Friday it was replacing Altman with chief technology officer Mira Murati but over the weekend, multiple publications reported that Altman was in talks with the OpenAI board to return as CEO. After the departures of Altman and chairman and president Greg Brockman, who resigned, the board comprises chief scientist Ilya Sutskever and three independent directors: Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner of D.C.-based think tank the Center for Security and Emerging Technology. Bloomberg reported that Murati was negotiating for Altman and Brockman to return to OpenAI, and that Microsoft boss Satya Nadella was playing a central role in the talks. The negotiations ultimately came to nothing, and on Sunday evening Pacific time, reports emerged that OpenAI was appointing Shear as CEO. Shortly after, Nadella announced that Altman, Brockman, and other OpenAI employees would be joining Microsoft to lead a new AI team. At the same time, Nadella reiterated Microsoft’s commitment to its partnership with OpenAI. “We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them,” he said in an X post. “I took this job because I believe that OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence,” Shear wrote in a post on X. “Ultimately I felt that I had a duty to help if I could.”  Shear is already facing his first challenge in his new role. On Monday, more than 500 OpenAI employees signed an open letter threatening to move to Altman’s new Microsoft unit unless the board resigns and reinstates Altman and Brockman. (OpenAI has roughly 770 employees according to The Wall Street Journal). The list of signatories included chief scientist and board member Sutskever, Murati, and vice president of global affairs Anna Makanju. ​​”Your conduct has made it clear you did not have the competence to oversee OpenAI,” the letter said, addressing OpenAI’s board. Also on Monday morning, Sutskever posted on X to express his regret. “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions,” he wrote. “I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.” Who is Emmett Shear? Shear is widely known as the former CEO of video game streaming service Twitch. The Yale graduate was a member of the first class on storied startup incubator Y Combinator and became a part-time partner at Y Combinator in 2011. (Altman was president of Y Combinator from 2014 to 2019.) At Y Combinator, Shear built a calendar application with his childhood friend Justin Kan, later selling their business to eBay for $250,000. In 2006, Shear, Kan, and two others strapped a camera to Kan’s head 24/7 and began offering a 24/7 live stream of Kan’s life, calling it Kan stopped streaming his life after eight months, but Shear and the rest of the founding team pivoted, turning into a live video streaming platform.  As gaming became increasingly popular on, the leadership team decided to spin-off a streaming site specifically for gaming—TwitchTV, which launched in 2011. In 2014, Amazon acquired twitch for $970 million. Shear remained as CEO at Twitch until he resigned in March 2023. Shear’s plan for OpenAI In his post on X Shear outlined a three-point plan for the next 30 days, which included hiring an independent investigator to produce a report on the events leading up to Altman’s departure, writing “it’s clear that the process and communications around Sam’s removal has been handled very badly, which has seriously damaged our trust.” Shear’s other two priorities are to “speak to as many of our employees, partners, investors, and customers as possible, take good notes, and share the key takeaways,” and to “Reform the management and leadership team in light of recent departures into an effective force to drive results for our customers.” “Depending on the results [of] everything we learn from these, I will drive changes in the organization — up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary,” he said, adding that he intended to begin rolling these out during the first 30 days of his tenure. Little is known about why the board decided to replace Altman, but Shear addressed speculation about the reasons, without giving much away. “The board did *not* remove Sam over any specific disagreement on safety, their reasoning was completely different from that,” he wrote. According to OpenAI’s charter, its mission is to “ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI)—by which we mean highly autonomous systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work—benefits all of humanity.” OpenAI’s idiosyncratic “capped non-profit” governance structure reflects this mission.  The charter states that OpenAI’s “primary fiduciary duty is to humanity,” rather than to investors. The board oversees OpenAI non-profit, which controls the capped for-profit arm that OpenAI set up in 2019 to facilitate fundraising. Most of the board members are independent and do not own equity in OpenAI. A warning to investors on OpenAI’s website on OpenAI’s website says that it would be wise to view investments in OpenAI “in the spirit of a donation.” Shear himself has spoken publicly multiple times about the existential risks he believes advanced AI systems could pose. But he appears to be taking a business-led approach in his new role. “I’m not crazy enough to take this job without board support for commercializing our awesome models,” he said in the X post. “I have nothing but respect for what Sam and the entire OpenAI team have built,” he wrote. “It’s not just an incredible research project and software product, but an incredible company. I’m here because I know that, and I want to do everything in my power to protect it and grow it further.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 20th, 2023Related News

What We Know So Far About Why OpenAI Fired Sam Altman

What we know so far about the CEO’s firing and who played a role—from Microsoft to Elon Musk. Healthy companies led by competent, commercially successful and globally beloved founders generally don’t tend to fire them. And, as Sam Altman walked on stage in San Francisco on Nov. 6, all those things could have described his role at OpenAI. The co-founder and chief executive officer had kicked off a global race for artificial intelligence supremacy, helped OpenAI surpass much larger competitors, and was, by this point, regularly compared to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Eleven days later he would be fired — kicking off a chaotic weekend during which executives and investors loyal to Altman were agitating for his return. The board ignored them, and hired Emmett Shear, the former Twitch CEO, instead. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] On Nov. 6, at the company’s first developer conference, the acclaim for Altman seemed universal. Attendees applauded rapturously as he ticked off the company’s accomplishments: 2 million customers, including “over 92% of Fortune 500 companies.” A big reason for that was Microsoft Corp., which invested $13 billion into the company and put Altman at the center of a corporate overhaul that has caused it to leapfrog rivals like Google and Amazon in certain categories of cloud computing, reinvigorated its Bing search engine, and put the company in the leading position in the hottest software category. Now, Altman invited CEO Satya Nadella onto the stage and asked him how Microsoft felt about the partnership. Nadella started to respond, and then broke into laughter, as if the answer to the question was absurdly obvious. “We love you guys,” he finally said after he’d calmed down. He thanked Altman for “building something magical.” Nadella announced at midnight local time on Sunday that Altman would lead a new in-house AI lab alongside OpenAI board member Greg Brockman, who’d also left last week. Microsoft, meanwhile, remains committed to the OpenAI partnership, he said. Even though OpenAI’s most important shareholder is still in favor of Altman, his board of directors remained deeply skeptical. The board included Altman and Brockman, a close ally and OpenAI’s president, but was ultimately controlled by the interests of scientists who worried that the company’s expansion was out of control, maybe even dangerous. Read More: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Is Pushing Past Doubts on Artificial Intelligence That put the scientists at odds with Altman and Brockman, who both argued that OpenAI was growing its business out of necessity. Every time a customer asks OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot a question it requires huge amounts of expensive computing power — so much that the company was having trouble keeping up with the explosive demand from users. The company has been forced to place limits on the number of times users can query its most powerful AI models in a day. In fact, the situation got so dire in the days after the developer conference, Altman announced that the company was pausing sign-ups for its paid ChatGPT Plus service for an indeterminate amount of time. From Altman’s point of view, raising more money and finding additional revenue sources were essential. But some members of the board, with ties to the AI-skeptical effective altruism movement, viewed this in tension with the risks posed by advanced AI. Many effective altruists — a pseudo-philosophical movement that seeks to donate money to head off existential risks — have imagined scenarios in which a powerful AI system could be used by a terrorist group to, say, create a bioweapon. Or in the absolute worst case scenario the AI could spontaneously turn bad, take control of weapons systems and attempt to wipe out human civilization. Not everyone takes this scenario seriously, and other AI leaders, including Altman, have argued that such concerns can be managed and that the potential benefits from making AI broadly available outweighs the risks. On Friday though, the skeptics won out, and one of the most famous living founders was suddenly relieved of duty. Adding to the sense of chaos, the board made little effort to ensure a smooth transition. In its statement announcing the decision, the board implied that Altman had been dishonest — “not consistently candid in his communications,” it said in its explosive announcement. The board didn’t specify any dishonesty and OpenAI Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap later said in a memo to employees that it was not accusing Altman of malfeasance, chalking his removal up not to a debate over safety, but a “breakdown in communication.” The board had also moved without consulting with Microsoft, leaving Nadella “livid” at the hasty termination of a crucial business partner, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Nadella was “blindsided” by the news, this person said. According to people familiar with his plans, Altman was plotting a competing company, while investors were agitating for his restoration. Over the weekend, some investors were considering writing down the value of their OpenAI holdings to zero, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The potential move, which would both make it more difficult for the company to raise additional funds and allow OpenAI investors to back Altman’s theoretical competitor, seemed designed to pressure the board to resign and bring Altman back. Meanwhile, on Saturday night, numerous OpenAI executives and dozens of employees started tweeting the heart emoji — a statement of solidarity that appeared equal parts an expression of love for Altman and a rebuke to the board.  A source familiar with Nadella’s thinking said that the Microsoft CEO was advocating for Altman’s potential return and would also be interested in backing Altman’s new venture. The source predicted that if the board doesn’t reconsider, a large contingent of OpenAI engineers would likely resign in the coming days. Adding to the sense of uncertainty: OpenAI’s offices are closed all this week. Microsoft and Altman declined to comment. When reached by phone on Saturday, Brockman, who resigned shortly after Altman was fired, said “Super heads down right now, sorry.” Then he hung up. A philosophical disagreement wouldn’t normally doom a company that had been in talks to sell shares to investors at an $86 billion valuation, but OpenAI was nothing like a normal company. Altman structured it as a nonprofit, with a for-profit subsidiary that he ran and that had aggressively courted venture capitalists and corporate partners. The novel — and, as OpenAI critics see it, flawed — structure put Altman, Microsoft, and all of the company’s customers at the mercy of a wonky board of directors that was dominated by those who were skeptical of the corporate expansion. OpenAI’s original goal, when it was founded by a team including Altman and Elon Musk, was to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole,” as a 2015 announcement put it. The organization wouldn’t pursue financial gain for its own sake, but would instead serve as a check on profit-minded efforts, ensuring that AI would be developed as “an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as is possible safely.” Musk, who had been warning about the risks that an out of control AI system might pose to humanity, provided much of the nonprofit’s initial funding. Other backers included the investor Peter Thiel and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. Read More: Inside Elon Musk’s Struggle for the Future of AI Early on, Musk helped recruit Ilya Sutskever as the company’s chief scientist. The hiring was a coup. Sutskever is a legend in the field dating back to his research on neural networks at the University of Toronto, and continuing at Google, where he worked at the company’s Google Brain lab. On a podcast earlier this month, Musk said he had decided to fund OpenAI and had personally recruited Sutskever away from Google because he’d gotten worried that the search giant was developing AI without regard for safety. Musk’s hope was to slow Google down. Musk added that recruiting Sutskever ended his friendship with Google co-founder Larry Page. But Musk himself later became estranged from Altman, leaving OpenAI in 2018 and cutting it off from further funding.  Altman needed money, and venture capital firms and big tech companies were interested in backing ambitious AI efforts. To tap that pool of capital, he created a new subsidiary of the nonprofit, which he described as a “capped profit” company. OpenAI’s for-profit arm would raise money from investors, but promised that if its profits reached a certain level — initially 100 times the investment of early backers — anything above that would be donated back to the nonprofit. Despite his position as founder and CEO, Altman has said he holds no equity in the company, framing this as of a piece with the company’s philanthropic mission. But of course, this would-be philanthropy had also sold 49% of its equity to Microsoft, which was granted no seats on its board. In an interview earlier this year, Altman suggested that the only recourse Microsoft had to control the company would be to unplug the servers that OpenAI rented. “I believe they will honor their contract,” he said at the time. The ultimate power at the company rested with the board, which included Altman, Sutskever and Brockman. The other members were Quora Inc. CEO Adam D’Angelo, tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. McCauley and Toner both had ties to effective altruism nonprofits. Toner had previously worked for Open Philanthropy; McCauley serves on the boards of Effective Ventures and 80,000 Hours. OpenAI isn’t the only ambitious technology project situated inside a nonprofit. The web browser Mozilla, the messaging app Signal and the operating system Linux are all developed by nonprofits, and before selling his company to Musk, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey lamented that the social network was beholden to investors. But open source projects are notoriously hard to govern, and OpenAI was operating at a greater scale and ambition than any tech nonprofit that had come before it. This, along with reports of the company’s extreme financial success, created a backlash that was almost inevitable in retrospect.  In February, Musk complained on X that OpenAI was no longer “a counterweight to Google, but now it has become a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft.” He reiterated these gripes during a recent appearance on Lex Fridman’s podcast, adding that the company’s pursuit of profit was “not good karma.” At the same time Altman was pursuing side projects that had the potential to enrich him and his investors, but which were outside of the control of OpenAI’s safety-conscious board. There was Worldcoin, his eyeball-scanning crypto project, which launched in July and was promoted as a potential universal basic income system to make up for AI-related job losses. Altman also explored starting his own AI chipmaker, pitching sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East on an investment that could reach into the tens of billions of dollars, according to a person familiar with the plan. He also pitched SoftBank Group Corp., led by Japanese billionaire and tech investor Masayoshi Son, on a potential multibillion-dollar investment in a company he planned to start with former Apple design guru Jony Ive to make AI-oriented hardware. These efforts, along with the for-profit’s growing success, put Altman at odds with Sutskever, who was becoming more vocal about safety concerns. In July, Sutskever formed a new team within the company focused on reining in “super intelligent” AI systems of the future. Tensions with Altman intensified in October, when, according to a source familiar with the relationship, Altman moved to reduce Sutskever’s role at the company, which rubbed Sutskever the wrong way and spilled over into tension with the company’s board. At the event on Nov. 6, Altman made a number of announcements that infuriated Sutskever and people sympathetic to his point of view, the source said. Among them: customized versions of ChatGPT, allowing anyone to create chatbots that would perform specialized tasks. OpenAI has said that it would eventually allow these custom GPTs to operate on their own once a user creates them. Similar autonomous agents are offered by competing companies but are a red flag for safety advocates. Read More: OpenAI Announces a Customizable ChatGPT and More Powerful, Cheaper GPT-4 Version In the days that followed, Sutskever brought his concerns to the board. According to an account posted on X by Brockman, Sutskever texted Altman the evening of Nov. 16, inviting him to join a video call with the board the following day. Brockman was not invited. The following day at noon, Altman appeared and was told he was being fired. Minutes later, the announcement went out and chaos followed.  The uncertainty, which continued over the weekend, threatened OpenAI’s elevated valuation and Microsoft’s stock price, which dropped sharply as the market closed on Friday. “It’s a disruption that could potentially slow down the rate of innovation and that’s not going to be good for Microsoft,” said Rishi Jaluria, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “OpenAI was going at breakneck speed.” At the same time, companies that depend on OpenAI’s software were hastily looking at competing technologies, such as Meta Plaforms Inc.’s large language model, known as Llama. “As a startup, we are worried now. Do we continue with them or not?” said Amr Awadallah, the CEO of Vectara, which creates chatbots for corporate data.  He said that the choice to continue with OpenAI or seek out a competitor would depend on reassurances from the company and Microsoft. “We need Microsoft to speak up and say everything is stable, we’ll continue to focus on our customers and partners,” Awadallah said. “We need to hear something like that to restore our confidence.” As Altman and his allies tried to orchestrate a return Sunday, Musk posted on X that he was “very worried. Ilya has a good moral compass and does not seek power. He would not take such drastic action unless he felt it was absolutely necessary.” Sutskever later told staff that the decision to hire Shear was a clear sign Altman wasn’t coming back......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 20th, 2023Related News

The Latest on OpenAI Leaders’ Stalled Efforts to Bring Back Sam Altman After He Was Fired

After facing intense outrage over ousting Altman, OpenAI’s board initially agreed in principle to step down, but have so far refused to officially do so. Efforts by a group of OpenAI executives and investors to reinstate Sam Altman to his role as chief executive officer reached an impasse over the makeup and role of the board, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Resolution could come quickly, though talks are fluid and ongoing. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Altman, who was fired Friday, is open to returning but wants to see governance changes, including the removal of existing board members, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private. He’s also seeking a statement absolving him of wrongdoing, they said. After facing intense outrage over the ouster, the board initially agreed in principle to step down, but have so far refused to officially do so. The directors have been vetting candidates for new directors. Key leaders within OpenAI are also pushing for the board to resign and bring back Altman, one of the people said. The list includes Interim CEO Mira Murati, Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon and Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap, the person said. The campaign to reinstate Altman got underway soon after his firing Friday, when the board members led by OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever dismissed Altman and stripped him of his director role, saying “he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board.” Hours later, President Greg Brockman, who had also been kicked off the board, resigned in protest of the day’s developments. Read More: What We Know So Far About Why OpenAI Fired Sam Altman One longstanding issue that has divided the company was Altman’s drive to turn OpenAI, which began as a nonprofit organization, into a successful business — and how quickly he wanted the company to crank out products and sign up customers. That ran headlong into board member concerns over the safety of artificial intelligence tools capable of generating text, images and even computer code with minimal prompting. Until Friday, the company’s board consisted of: Altman, Brockman and Sutskever, as well as Quora Inc. CEO Adam D’Angelo, tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. At midday Sunday, hints began emerging that a resolution to negotiations may be nearing. Altman and Brockman showed up at OpenAI’s San Francisco headquarters, a person with knowledge of the matter said. On the social site X, Altman later posted an image of himself at the offices wearing a guest badge, with a caption that read, “first and last time I ever wear one of these.” A deadline has been set for 5 p.m. San Francisco time for the board to accede to the demands of Altman and his supporters. In order to bring him back as CEO, the board may have to issue a statement absolving him of wrongdoing, according to a person close to the negotiations. However, giving in could leave board members vulnerable from a legal perspective, this person added. Adding to Altman’s leverage is that he has the loyalty of several employees, people close to him and the company have said. Chief among them are top research scientists seen as the mainstay of OpenAI’s intellectual property and contributors to the large language models at the heart of its groundbreaking ChatGPT chatbot, one of the people said. Playing a central role in negotiations amid executives, investors and the board is Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella, some of the people said. Microsoft is OpenAI’s biggest investor, with $13 billion invested.  Bret Taylor, the former co-CEO of Salesforce Inc., will be on the new board, several people said. Another possible addition is an executive from Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft — but it’s unclear whether the software giant can or will take a board seat due to regulatory concerns. Whether he is able to return to OpenAI, Altman has also been hard at work on other businesses, including raising funds for a chipmaking startup and an AI-focused hardware device. In a memo to staff Saturday, Lightcap said the decision to fire the CEO “was not made in response to malfeasance” or the company’s financial or safety practices. Altman’s ousting “took us all by surprise,” Lightcap wrote, adding that “we have had multiple conversations with the board to try to better understand the reasons and process behind their decision.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 20th, 2023Related News

Satya Nadella Says Sam Altman Will Lead Microsoft’s New In-House AI Team

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Altman will lead the company’s new in-house artificial intelligence team. Microsoft Corp. said that Sam Altman will lead the software developer’s new in-house artificial intelligence team after the OpenAI co-founder was ousted from his startup last week, a bid to shore up Microsoft’s AI plans and reassure investors. Read More: What We Know So Far About Why OpenAI Fired Sam Altman [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Greg Brockman, an OpenAI board member and co-founder who also left the company last week, will join Altman and Microsoft will “move quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” the Redmond, Washington-based company’s Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said in a post on LinkedIn early on Monday. In another post on X, formerly Twitter, Nadella said Altman will serve as CEO of the new in-house group. I’m super excited to have you join as CEO of this new group, Sam, setting a new pace for innovation. We’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give founders and innovators space to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, including GitHub, Mojang Studios,…— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023 The move, at midnight local time on Sunday, was the latest in a dramatic three days for Microsoft and OpenAI’s relationship, a backup plan for Nadella after his efforts to restore Altman and Brockman to OpenAI were thwarted. The OpenAI board named former Twitch chief Emmett Shear as CEO. Nadella wrote that Microsoft looks forward to getting to know Shear and working with him. “We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners,” Nadella said on LinkedIn. The Microsoft chief has been revamping his company’s entire product lineup around OpenAI’s technology and has put $13 billion into the startup, making Microsoft by far its biggest shareholder with a roughly 49% stake. Read More: Why Microsoft’s Satya Nadella Doesn’t Think Now Is the Time to Stop on AI Still, Microsoft was shocked Friday when it received just a few minutes notice that the board had ousted Altman, who enjoys a close relationship with Nadella. The news sent Microsoft shares down amid concern that upheaval at OpenAI could adversely impact Microsoft’s entire AI strategy. They reversed course and rose as much as 2.7% in premarket trading Monday after Nadella’s announcement. Microsoft executives were also surprised Sunday by Shear’s appointment, as they had expected they would be able to get OpenAI’s board to back down and allow Mira Murati, who had been appointed interim CEO, to return Altman and Brockman to the company in some capacity, said people familiar with the company’s thinking. They asked not to be named discussing private deliberations. It’s not yet clear who or how many former OpenAI workers may join Microsoft — Nadella said colleagues of Altman and Brockman would follow — nor how Microsoft will balance its ongoing commitment to OpenAI against its own new Altman-led AI group. Nadella offered LinkedIn and GitHub as examples of Microsoft-owned businesses that operate with “independent identities and cultures” and their own CEO. Microsoft has worked for more than 20 years on its own AI research. Its move to rely heavily on OpenAI technology and give that company vast computing resources, in some cases over homegrown projects, has caused some tension with those working on AI in-house. While some long-time Microsoft AI hands have left the company, moving Altman and Brockman into Microsoft could cause some further consternation......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 20th, 2023Related News