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Apr 28, 2023 28 min read

🕙 50 stories you need to know about what's happening in tech

20 Stories: The news, insights and information you need to know about what's happening in the tech economy.

🕙 50 stories you need to know about what's happening in tech
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China launches Digital Yuan pay system for public workers in Changshu

China is preparing to pay all public workers in the city of Changshu (population 1.7 million) fully in digital yuan, the nations Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The project will affect all public workers, from teachers to government officials, and marks the country's biggest push to circulate its digital currency.

Back in 2021, China became the first major economy to launch an Central Bank Digital Currency with the digital yuan. Over 100 countries have been playing catch-up since, with many leading economies like the USA struggling to decide which way to go in the inevitable route to a cashless society. However, in China it’s full systems go as Changshu's digi-yuan project is about to take off. Some say it could help curb government corruption, while others worry that older people will struggle to take their finances online.

Here’s The Thing: all digi-yuan transactions will be recorded on a digital ledger that's monitored by the Chinese government. This gives rise to the theory that the CBDC will be a giant surveillance machine monitored by the state, giving the CCP even tighter control over its citizens. Which may or may not have merits as a theory, I’m not so sure it’s possible to surveil the daily spending habits of 1.4 billion people that closely, but for many its a genuine concern.

However, the fact remains that Chinese citizens lead the way in global mobile-payment adoption.

They’re already making more cashless payments than any other nation in the world, and every digital transaction leaves a digital  footprint already. Moving to a CBDC doesn’t change that. Instead, the real issue for the CCP is getting them to use the digital yuan, and this will depend on integration with the payment superapps such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, each of which has over 1 billion users and processes hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of annual transactions.

To date, China has struggled to get its citizens to use its CBDC specific digi-yuan app. But that’s because most of them use these superapps for payments and social interactions.

The digi-yuan was tested as an express payment option on Alipay last year, and China could exert greater pressure on tech companies to fully integrate it. Meanwhile, in addition to China, India, Nigeria, and a handful of other countries have launched digital currencies. Now, China is positioning the digi-yuan for international use, which could offer an attractive alternative to the US dollar for sanctioned countries like Russia.

For the avoidance of doubt, despite what I said earlier, the US Treasury is reportedly close to finishing its development of a digital dollar, which could give millions of unbanked Americans access to digital payments.

China's journey to a Cashless Society

China’s journey to a cashless society
Wiser! #14 (Premium): Central Bank Digital Currencies are coming. It’s not a question of whether, but when. And China has stolen the march and is years ahead of the rest of the world.

Japanese digital Yen: a viable alternative to stablecoins and CBDC?

Japanese Digital Yen: a viable alternative to stablecoins & CBDC?
Wiser! Essay: Plans to launch a digital Japanese yen have been unveiled by a consortium of over 70 banks. It’s not a CBDC or a stablecoin but it offers a real alternative to either of them.

Further reading

China to trial paying salaries using CBDC - Central Banking
State employees say finding merchants that accept the e-yuan is difficult


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The ethics of AI and military drones: a growing concern

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the military has been a topic of concern for many years. Some people worry that AI could be used to create autonomous weapons that could kill without human intervention, which could lead to an arms race and a greater risk of war. Others worry that AI could be used to create systems that are so sophisticated that they are beyond human control, which could lead to unintended consequences.

The concern about AI in the military is not new. In the 1950s, the philosopher Norbert Wiener warned that AI could lead to a "war of machines." In the 1980s, the physicist Freeman Dyson argued that AI could lead to a "technological singularity," a point in time when AI becomes so advanced that it surpasses human intelligence and capabilities.

In recent years, the concern about AI in the military has grown as AI has become more sophisticated. In 2017, Elon Musk, Steve Wosniak and Stephen Hawking co-authored an open letter warning that AI could pose an existential threat to humanity. In 2018, the United Nations convened a panel of experts to discuss the ethical implications of AI in the military.

The concern about AI in the military is a complex issue with no easy answers. On the one hand, AI has the potential to make warfare more efficient and effective, which could save lives. On the other hand, AI also has the potential to be used to create autonomous weapons that could kill without human intervention, which could lead to an arms race and a greater risk of war.

Need for a comprehensive ethical framework for use of drones in military operations

Recently, the UK’s Royal Air Force is reportedly developing smaller and more agile autonomous drones that can fly up to four miles away and fire missiles with extreme precision. The use of these drones has raised serious ethical concerns. There is currently no international law that specifically regulates the use of drones, which has led to growing concerns about their use in military operations. This has prompted the need to explore the ethical implications of the use of these drones, particularly as they become more advanced and more widely used in military operations.

Drones have been used in warfare for over a century, but the development of smaller and more agile drones has raised serious ethical concerns, particularly in relation to the use of facial recognition technology to detect targets. Although highly advanced, this technology is prone to error and can result in unlawful death and injury. The psychological impact on drone operators is also a major concern, as it requires them to make life and death decisions from a remote location, without any direct involvement in the conflict.

In addition to these concerns, drones have also been linked to civilian deaths in many conflict zones, further highlighting the need for a more comprehensive ethical framework for their use. The use of AI-powered drones that use facial recognition technology to detect targets has only added to these concerns, as there are serious questions about the legality and ethics of using such technology to kill suspected combatants without providing them with a fair trial.

As the use of drones becomes more widespread and more advanced, it is becoming increasingly important to explore the ethical implications of their use. There is a growing need for a comprehensive ethical framework that takes into account the potential risks and benefits of using drones in military operations and that provides clear guidelines for their use. This framework should include provisions for the protection of civilians, as well as guidelines for the use of facial recognition technology and other advanced technologies that may be used in military operations.

It is clear that the use of drones in military operations is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and debate. While drones have the potential to enhance military capabilities and reduce the risks to human life, their use must be guided by a strong ethical framework that takes into account the potential risks and benefits of their use. Only by doing so can we ensure that the use of drones is consistent with our values and our commitment to protecting human life and dignity, even in times of war.

The use of AI in the military has raised concerns about the possibility of creating autonomous weapons that can kill without human intervention. This article explores the ethical implications of using drones in military operations, particularly as they become more advanced and more widely used. The article discusses the need for a comprehensive ethical framework that takes into account the potential risks and benefits of using drones in military operations, and provides clear guidelines for their use. The framework should include provisions for the protection of civilians, as well as guidelines for the use of facial recognition technology and other advanced technologies that may be used in military operations. It is clear that the use of drones in military operations is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and debate. While drones have the potential to enhance military capabilities and reduce the risks to human life, their use must be guided by a strong ethical framework that takes into account the potential risks and benefits of their use.

Further Reading

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British student successfully appeals parking ticket with a little help from ChatGPT

Millie Houlton, a 22-year-old Business Management student from York, UK, received a parking ticket for parking at the rear of her home. Although the ticket was issued in error because Houlton had a parking permit, she felt unsure how to fight her case against her local council's bureaucracy. Initially, she considered paying the fine, but then decided to employ ChatGPT after using it for various content creation tasks, including creating an Easter egg hunt for her University running club.

"I put in all my details about where and when it happened, why it was wrong, and my reference for the fine, and it came back with this perfectly formed personalised response within minutes," Houlton told the BBC on Friday.

Since then, Houlton's story has gained considerable attention on the social media platform TikTok, with other users reaching out to find out how she used ChatGPT. UK media outlets, including The BBC, The Sun, The Mirror, and The Daily Mail, have also reported on the case, which has now gone viral.

According to a report in UK Daily Mail, fellow Brit Shaun Bosley of Brighton also used ChatGPT to write an appeal letter after driving through the drop-off zone of Gatwick Airport. Several months after the incident, Bosley received a "final notice" of £100 for the infraction, having received no prior correspondence. Bosley, a sales consultant for the Swedish firm Phyron, which uses AI in the creation of promotional videos for car dealerships, turned to ChatGPT for help.

In the letter to the NCP, which collects penalties on behalf of Gatwick Airport, ChatGPT wrote on Bosley's behalf, "I understand that it is my responsibility as a driver to be aware of the rules and regulations regarding driving through an airport. However, I never received the first notice of the penalty and therefore, did not have the opportunity to contest the charge or pay the fine in a timely manner.

"I believe that the debt collection process has been premature and I request that you reconsider the penalties imposed."

The NCP replied the next day, reducing the fine from £100 back to its original amount of £15. Clever Brits like Bosley and Houlton are demonstrating strong potential use cases for AI, especially in crafting effective arguments to reduce or revoke parking fines. Houlton has also become a viral sensation in the process. As for how she intends to spend the £60 she saved from ChatGPT, the student plans to celebrate with a night out, knowing she can safely leave her car at home.

Here’s The Thing: the role of AI in law is not a new subject. In 2020, a California task force dedicated to exploring ways to expand access to legal services recommended allowing unlicensed practitioners to represent clients. Also in 2020, the American Bar Association told judges using AI tools to be mindful of biases instilled in the tools themselves. And UNESCO, the international organisation dedicated to preserving culture, has a free online course covering the basics of what AI can offer legal systems. The point is that AI is proving very effective in handling the bulk of the routine tasks undertaken by lawyers, at a fraction of the cost, making legal advice available to millions of people who currently can not afford it.

Source: MetaNews

Can AI lawyers replace human ones?

Can AI lawyers replace human ones?
🔐 Premium: This is the question posed by DoNotPay, an AI powered tech lawfirm that has hit the headlines because of a stunt to use AI to actually represent a defendant in a US court of law. Will it happen? What does it mean? Are we one step closer to Minority Report?

Big Tech Little Tech discuss AI lawyers


Apple has scored a major victory in its long-running feud with Epic Games, the maker of the popular game Fortnite. A federal appeals court has affirmed a lower court's decision that dismissed most of Epic's antitrust claims against Apple, finding that the iPhone maker did not violate the law by restricting other app stores on its devices.

The ruling is a blow to Epic, which likely has lost the equivalent of at least $400 million in annual sales from its hit game “Fortnite” due to its absence on Apple’s devices.

By contrast, this is a huge relief for Apple, which could have faced billions of dollars in damages and a forced overhaul of its App Store business model if Epic had prevailed. The App Store is one of Apple's most lucrative sources of revenue, generating an estimated $64 billion in 2020 alone. Apple charges a 30% commission on most in-app purchases made through its platform, which it says covers the costs of hosting, distributing, and securing the apps.

Epic challenged this practice in August 2020, when it introduced its own payment system in Fortnite, bypassing Apple's commission and violating its policies. Apple swiftly removed Fortnite from the App Store, sparking a legal showdown that has drawn attention from regulators, lawmakers, and consumers around the world.

Epic argued that Apple's App Store policies amounted to an illegal monopoly that harmed competition and innovation in the app market. It also accused Apple of engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices by misleading consumers about the benefits of its platform. Epic sought to force Apple to allow alternative app stores and payment methods on its devices, as well as to pay damages and restitution for its alleged anticompetitive conduct.

However, the appeals court was not convinced by Epic's arguments. It agreed with the lower court that Epic had failed to show that Apple had market power in the relevant market, which it defined as "digital mobile gaming transactions". The court found that there were many other platforms where consumers could play Fortnite and other games, such as consoles, PCs, and Android devices. The court also rejected Epic's claim that Apple's policies were anticompetitive, noting that they were justified by legitimate business interests such as quality control, security, and privacy.

The court did uphold one part of the lower court's ruling that favoured Epic, however. It affirmed that Apple had violated California's unfair competition law by prohibiting developers from informing users about alternative payment options outside the App Store. The court ordered Apple to stop enforcing this rule and to pay Epic 30% of the revenue it had collected from Fortnite users who had used its own payment system between August and October 2020. This amounted to about $12 million, a fraction of what Epic had sought.

The ruling is not the end of the saga, though. Epic has said it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, while Apple has said it will seek a review by the full appeals court. Meanwhile, Apple is facing other legal challenges from regulators and developers in various countries over its App Store practices. It is also preparing to roll out iOS 17 next year, which may include a feature that would allow users to install apps from third-party sources without going through the App Store. This could be a game-changer for the app ecosystem, as it would give developers more choice and flexibility in how they distribute their apps.

The case between Apple and Epic Games has highlighted the complex and evolving issues surrounding online platforms and digital markets. As technology advances and consumer preferences change, the rules and norms that govern these markets may need to be updated and clarified. The role of courts and regulators is to balance the interests of innovation, competition, and consumer welfare, while respecting the rights and responsibilities of platform owners and app developers. This is not an easy task, but it is an essential one for ensuring a fair and dynamic digital economy.

“There is a lively and important debate about the role played in our economy and democracy by online transaction platforms with market power,” the appeals panel wrote in the decision. “Our job as a federal court of appeals, however, is not to resolve that debate — nor could we even attempt to do so. Instead, in this decision, we faithfully applied existing precedent to the facts.” In short, the ruling maintains the status quo – unless further appeals move the case to a higher court.

The battle for taxing the Internet

The Battle For Tax On The Internet: Epic v Apple Rd 2
🔒When Epic Games decided to take on Apple over its 30% tax on the internet, they knew they were taking on a giant protecting a $20 billion cash cow. This was never going to be easy. But for round 2, Epic have the DOJ on their side.

Further Reading

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Portugal release the first physical postage stamp associated with an NFT

Crypto Stamps CTT is the first physical postage stamp associated with an NFT supported by blockchain technology. The Crypto Stamp CTT is the first philatelic issue with a digital asset, which is created and verified using blockchain technology, ensuring its authenticity and security.

Each Crypto Stamp is available in both physical and digital formats (NFT). When purchased, the physical stamp comes with a digital version of the stamp. There are 40,000 Crypto Stamps in digital format, of which 30,000 are accompanied by a physical stamp. When users redeem the NFT, they will discover the rarity level, which is randomly assigned, as well as any possible associated exclusive benefits. The Crypto Stamp CTT may be the first philatelic issue with a digital asset in Portugal, but not the first in Europe. The Austrian Post introduced the first blockchain-based NFT crypto stamps with a physical digital twin in 2019, and has collaborated with the Netherlands' PostNL to launch a new edition of Crypto Stamps in 2022.

It is worth noting that the Crypto Stamp CTT is not the world's first NFT stamp. According to sources, the world's first NFT was a digital artwork called Quantum, which was minted by Kevin McCoy on Namecoin in 2014. It was also the first NFT to be sold by a major auction house in 2021. The world's first postage stamp in NFT was created by BlabarLAB through its CryptoPennyBlack project, which was inspired by the 1840 Penny Black, the world's first postage stamp.

The world's first postage stamp has been turned into an NFT

BlabarLAB's Cryptopennyblack project features digital art NFTs inspired by the world’s first postage stamp, the 1840 Penny Black. The CryptoPenny collection includes 3224 hand-made NFTs divided into 12 types with contrasting, eye-catching colours.

Each NFT has a letter indicating its relative position in the Plate, divided into 12 columns and 10 rows. The first plate of 240 copies will be on sale at the end of July 2022 on OpenSea and Rarible.

The project aims to shift the focus of NFT collecting from absolute rarity to relative rarity and collection, similar to the analog stamp collecting system. A virtual space in the Metaverse will be created with profits from CryptoPenny Black sales for permanent exhibits, events, and a yearly competitive exhibition open to all owners of at least four CryptoPenny.

The impact of Crypto's volatility on the project is unclear, but the BlabarLAB group remains optimistic.

Source: Digital Journal

Further Reading


Chaudhri wearing Humane’s device in his breast pocket, activating it with the press of a button. Image: TED

Humane's wearable AI assistant

Humane is a startup founded by ex-Apple employees that has recently unveiled a new wearable device. This innovative device acts as your personal assistant by using AI and a display projected onto the palm of your hand. Not only does it record everything you see and hear throughout the day, but it also summarises your messages, emails, and calendar invites, as well as your in-person conversations and meetings.

In addition to its impressive features, the standalone device can be controlled by tapping or voice commands, without needing a phone. It projects a screen onto any surface, including your palm, and uses its camera to detect button presses. This allows for a more intuitive and efficient experience.

Moreover, the device includes a translation feature. By holding down a button and speaking a sentence, it can read it back to you in French or another language. This is a useful feature for those who travel frequently or need to communicate with people who speak different languages.

Overall, Humane's new wearable device is a game-changer for personal assistants. Its real-time transcription of in-person conversations is likely the device's most compelling feature. Although it may appeal mostly to tech enthusiasts, its strong performance and innovative features will undoubtedly impress a wide range of users.

Watch the Humane Ted Talk


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The debate around AI's impact on humanity is divided

Greg Brockman, the co-founder of OpenAI, recently spoke at TED. During a post-talk question and answer session, TED founder Chris Anderson asked Brockman whether it was reckless for OpenAI to allow public access to its large language models, including GPT-4, given that we lack a full understanding of their emergent behaviors. Anderson asked whether there was a possibility of something terrible happening.

Brockman replied that OpenAI had decided to release their models incrementally and gather as much feedback as possible. Only through that feedback could they ensure that these technologies would "benefit all humanity."

This exchange highlighted two stark and mutually opposing futures: one in which AI is the best thing that's ever happened to us and another in which it's the worst.

Today, we are faced with strange new futures faster than we can process them. It's hard to make sense of what's happening. But our collective experience of this moment, and our attempts to understand where it's heading, are being shaped by a single, overarching framework.

Some believe that new technologies will soon allow us to transcend, in some definitive way, the limits that have always governed our experience as a species. These limits include bodily and organic, material, social, and planetary. Under this view, technology will lead us to infinite free energy and a world of endless material abundance. It will allow us to create new and decentralized social forms that liberate us from all power relations. We will merge with the intelligence we're building and become all-knowing immortals. We will build new settlements among the stars.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that we must accept new limits on our technological and economic activities to avoid either imminent civilizational collapse or a pseudo-transcension that will rob us of everything valuable about what we are. The degrowth movement, which argues for planned economic curtailment in the Global North, is one example of this position. The doomsday warnings of the AI alignment expert Eliezer Yudkowsky are another.

Watch OpenAI tell the story of ChatGPT

The Inside Story of ChatGPT’s Astonishing Potential | Greg Brockman | TED


What else is going on in the tech economy?

  1. The number of active crypto addresses hit an all-time high. There were 15 million in March. That’s more than twice what it was in March 2021, when prices were sky-high.
  2. Layer 2s make up ~7% of all Ethereum fees, up from 1.5% a year ago. L2s make the Ethereum network cheaper and quicker - they process transactions off-chain. It’s kinda like those airport walking things - makes it faster to get to your gate and helps keep the corridor unclogged.
  3. The Merge brought Ethereum’s energy consumption down. The network switched to Proof of Stake in September. That meant blocks are no longer mined, which takes up a bunch of energy, but are now validated via staking.
  4. The number of monthly active developers has risen steadily since 2020. It sits at 30K. That means devs cashed in on the crypto hype early, but have stuck around.
  5. The U.S. may not be a Web3 leader. Crypto devs in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world fell 26% from 2018 to 2022. Why? Most fingers point to regulatory threats/confusion.

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Further Reading

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Duolingo’s use of GPT4 for personalised customer experience
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