Artificial Intelligence and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

My thoughts have been a lot on artificial intelligence lately. It started when I read Elon Musk’s quick take on AI:

“With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out…”

Musk is in fact, putting his money where his mouth is – recently donating $10M to Future of Life and Institute to help keep AI and robots of the future beneficial.

I realized that I have very little understanding of AI other than thinking of Google Now and Siri as “dumb” AI’s and the Terminator as an inflated view of AI’s future capabilities. I’ve been meaning to read more on it and from Elon Musk’s tweet, found this article on AI concise, easy to read and informative.

What we do know is that humans’ utter dominance on this Earth suggests a clear rule: with intelligence comes power. Which means an ASI*, when we create it, will be the most powerful being in the history of life on Earth, and all living things, including humans, will be entirely at its whim—and this might happen in the next few decades. 

It’s a long read but if you also find yourself wondering about AI, it’s definitely worth it. The article ends with:

…if an ASI comes to being, there is now an omnipotent God on Earth—and the all-important question for us is:

Will it be a nice God?

I, for one, look forward to their next post.

Here are this week’s most relevant news in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1. Earnings: Apple reports largest profit of any public company in history; Google Q4 revenues continue to disappoint as desktop ad business slows down; Amazon beats analysts’ EPS expectations for the first time in six quarters, reports earnings of $0.45/share for Q4
  2. Android-based smartphone shipments in 2014 pass the 1 billion mark, accounting for 81% of the global market
  3. IBM joins food manufacturing giant, Mars in founding Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, using genomics to better understand food safety 
  4. Formerly Kickstarter-backed Android-console manufacturer, Ouya gets $10M investment from Alibaba
  5. Tesla Model S P85D (which I talked about in the past here) is getting a software update that will improve 0-60 MPH acceleration by a tenth of a second making that “Insane” mode even more insane

In Retail:

  1. Alibaba Group’s Ant Financial Services launches Sesame Credit, a credit scoring service that uses data from Alibaba’s e-commerce sites
  2. Earnings: Coach report Q2 earnings of $0.66/share in line with forecasts but revenues continue to drop; Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) missed quarterly earnings forecasts as expansion plans continue
  3. New research shows Amazon Prime members spend $1500/year, more than twice spent by non-Prime shoppers
  4. Rebekka Bay exits Gap as company eliminates Creative Director role
  5. Closings: Gap shutters Piperlime website, store and brand; Kate Spade to close Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade stores to focus on flagship brand; Jones New York to close stores and discontinue wholesale business

*Artificial Superintelligence defined as “an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.”

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