Electronic Arts Cuts Bookings View on ‘Star Wars’ Game Delay, Spending Slowdown

A smartphone with the Electronic Arts logo is seen in front of a displayed "Battlefield 2042" logo in this illustration taken September 16, 2021. (Reuters)
A smartphone with the Electronic Arts logo is seen in front of a displayed "Battlefield 2042" logo in this illustration taken September 16, 2021. (Reuters)
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Electronic Arts Cuts Bookings View on ‘Star Wars’ Game Delay, Spending Slowdown

A smartphone with the Electronic Arts logo is seen in front of a displayed "Battlefield 2042" logo in this illustration taken September 16, 2021. (Reuters)
A smartphone with the Electronic Arts logo is seen in front of a displayed "Battlefield 2042" logo in this illustration taken September 16, 2021. (Reuters)

Electronic Arts Inc lowered its annual bookings forecast on Tuesday, as the videogame publisher delayed the release of a title based on the "Star Wars" franchise and consumers dialed back spending in a sagging economy.

The company's shares fell nearly 7% in extended trading as the results added to last week's grim gaming forecast from Xbox maker Microsoft Corp, fanning fears that a downturn in the industry was set to continue this year.

After two years of pandemic-driven growth, the gaming market fell 4.3% in 2022, according to estimates from analytics firm NewZoo. Some of the drop was due to a lack of big new titles.

EA on Tuesday pushed out the launch of "Star Wars Jedi: Survivor" by six weeks to April 28, which would fall into its next fiscal year. The game is a sequel to its 2019 "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order" title that has drawn over 20 million players.

The results, meanwhile, showed that recent launches were not doing enough to draw consumers, who are prioritizing essentials in the face of still-high inflation and rising interest rates.

The company, which in recent months released "Need for Speed Unbound" and the latest installment in its "FIFA" series, now expects annual bookings between $7.07 billion and $7.17 billion. It had forecast $7.65 billion to $7.85 billion previously.

Its third-quarter adjusted sales and profit also came in below analysts' expectations, according to Refinitiv data.

"Weak, but not a disaster," Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said of the results, adding the "Star Wars" title delay led to a "huge shift of earnings" into next year.

"Demand in free-to-play is down a bit, my best guess is that consumers are freaked out by inflation and fears of a recession," he said.

Companies like EA monetize free-to-play games by selling virtual items such as loot boxes and characters to people.



Saudi Minister of Communications, Information Technology Meets with Qatari Counterpart

During the meeting, the two ministers discussed ways to expand the strategic partnership between the two countries. SPA
During the meeting, the two ministers discussed ways to expand the strategic partnership between the two countries. SPA
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Saudi Minister of Communications, Information Technology Meets with Qatari Counterpart

During the meeting, the two ministers discussed ways to expand the strategic partnership between the two countries. SPA
During the meeting, the two ministers discussed ways to expand the strategic partnership between the two countries. SPA

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swaha has met in Doha with Qatari Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammed Al-Mannai.
During the meeting on Tuesday, they discussed ways to expand the strategic partnership between the two countries in the field of digital government and digital economy and to enhance the innovation and entrepreneurship system.

This is in line with the aspirations of the Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council to support and strengthen the partnership between the two countries.
The meeting was attended by several leaders of national technology companies in the fields of business, digital transformation, digital health solutions, and others.


Zuckerberg Meets Japan PM in Tokyo to Discuss AI

FILE PHOTO: Meta's CEO Mark Zuckerberg attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at the US Capitol in Washington, US, January 31, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Meta's CEO Mark Zuckerberg attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at the US Capitol in Washington, US, January 31, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
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Zuckerberg Meets Japan PM in Tokyo to Discuss AI

FILE PHOTO: Meta's CEO Mark Zuckerberg attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at the US Capitol in Washington, US, January 31, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Meta's CEO Mark Zuckerberg attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at the US Capitol in Washington, US, January 31, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo

Meta Platforms Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg discussed artificial intelligence issues with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday during the Facebook founder's trip through Asia.
"We had a good, productive conversation about AI and the future of technology," Zuckerberg said in brief comments to reporters at the prime minister's residence in Tokyo. He left without taking questions.
The meeting followed reports that Zuckerberg would visit South Korea at the end of this month to discuss AI with Samsung Electronics chairman, Jay Y. Lee, and possibly meet South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
Meta, the operator of Facebook, last week confirmed Zuckerberg was planning to visit South Korea.
Japan's government and corporate sector are racing to catch up in AI development. In the past year, Kishida has met with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang to discuss AI regulation and infrastructure.


Microsoft Announces Principles to Foster Innovation, Competition in AI

 Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain February 26, 2024. (Reuters)
Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain February 26, 2024. (Reuters)
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Microsoft Announces Principles to Foster Innovation, Competition in AI

 Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain February 26, 2024. (Reuters)
Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, speaks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain February 26, 2024. (Reuters)

Microsoft President Brad Smith on Monday announced a set of principles to foster innovation and competition in artificial intelligence in recognition of its role as a market leader in this technology, a move that could stave off worries about its dominance.

The move by the US tech giant came amid concerns from rivals and antitrust regulators about Microsoft's market power, boosted recently by its collaboration with ChatGPT creator OpenAI.

Microsoft has pushed chatbots into its core products such as its Office software and Bing search engine over the past year, attracting business customers eager to try the tech industry's next breakthrough.

"As we enter a new era based on artificial intelligence, we believe this is the best time to articulate principles that will govern how we will operate our AI datacenter infrastructure and other important AI assets around the world," Smith said in a speech to be delivered at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The AI Access Principles aim "in part to address Microsoft's growing role and responsibility as an AI innovator and a market leader", he said.

"By publishing these principles, we are committing ourselves to providing the broad technology access needed to empower organizations and individuals around the world to develop and use AI in ways that will serve the public good," Smith said.

The principles include providing access and support for AI developers, making AI models and development tools broadly available to software applications developers around the world, and making available public APIs (Application Programming Interface) to enable developers to access and use AI models on Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft will also not use non-public information or data from the building and deployment of developers' AI models in Microsoft Azure to compete with those models, and also allow Microsoft Azure customers to easily export and transfer their data to another cloud provider.


Top Tech Investors to Participate in 3rd Edition of LEAP in Riyadh

The event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages. SPA
The event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages. SPA
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Top Tech Investors to Participate in 3rd Edition of LEAP in Riyadh

The event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages. SPA
The event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages. SPA

LEAP is slated to hold its third edition, from March 4 to 7 at Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Center, Malham, under the theme “Into New Worlds”.
Organized by the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones, and Tahaluf company, the event will feature more than 1,000 top speakers at 10 different stages, according to a statement from the organizing committee.
LEAP will host the Investor Stage, in which world’s top investors will discuss innovative investment opportunities. This stage will also address topics such as the intersection of technology with government policies and innovation, and successful financing strategies.
It will also feature the Startup Stage, in which expert speakers such as Blossom Accelerator CEO & Founder Emon Shakoor, Raiven Capital Founding Partner Supreet Singh Manchanda, and Adaverse Founding Partner Vincent Li will discuss startup growth and innovation.
Sessions will address topics such as business planning and strategies, nurturing concepts into viable startup ideas, and the importance of enhancing user experience.
According to the statement, the Rocket Fuel Pitch competition returns at the third edition of LEAP, with total prizes exceeding $1,000,000 in six categories: LEAP Award $250,000 for the strongest, most outstanding startup across the whole competition, Shooting Star Award $150,000 for the early stage startup beginning its journey, the Aviatrix Award $150,000 for the best, most innovative startup pioneered by women founders, Technology for Humanity Award $150,000 for the startup that best embodies the “tech for humanity” spirit of LEAP, the Into New Worlds Award $150,000 for the most impressive startup occupying the Metaverse and Web 3.0 space, and the Artificial Intelligence Award $150,000 for the startup that presents the most exciting, ground-breaking usage of artificial intelligence.
The third edition of LEAP, held in partnership with the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha'at), and strategic partner STC, will be attended by world leading tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, Cisco, Avaya, SAP, ServiceNow, Ericsson, Amazon Web Services, IBM, Alibaba Group, and Huawei.


'Haunted' ChatGPT Cranks out Gibberish for Hours

ChatGPT creator OpenAI said a software tweak had introduced a bug that caused its generative AI tool to malfunction. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
ChatGPT creator OpenAI said a software tweak had introduced a bug that caused its generative AI tool to malfunction. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
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'Haunted' ChatGPT Cranks out Gibberish for Hours

ChatGPT creator OpenAI said a software tweak had introduced a bug that caused its generative AI tool to malfunction. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
ChatGPT creator OpenAI said a software tweak had introduced a bug that caused its generative AI tool to malfunction. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

ChatGPT spewed nonsensical answers to users' queries for hours Tuesday into Wednesday before eventually returning to its senses.
OpenAI, which makes the world-leading generative artificial intelligence (AI) tool, said a software tweak had "introduced a bug with how the model processes language", AFP said.
"Upon identifying the cause of this incident, we rolled out a fix and confirmed that the incident was resolved," it added.
ChatGPT was giving "peculiar" responses, generating non-existent words, incomplete sentences and general gobbledygook, developers using the tool said in a discussion forum on the OpenAI website.
"It gives me meaningless words followed by a bizarre list," one developer lamented.
"It feels as if my GPT is haunted or something has been compromised, either on my end or at OpenAI's (end)."
It wasn't until more than 16 hours had passed that OpenAI updated the page with a message that ChatGPT was operating normally.

The San Francisco-based technology firm replied to an AFP query by directing it to the ChatGPT status page.
OpenAI recently concluded a deal with investors that reportedly valued the start-up at $80 billion or more after a roller-coaster year for the tech firm.
The agreement, reported by The New York Times but not yet confirmed by OpenAI, would mean the value of the company -- a world leader in generative AI -- would have nearly tripled in under 10 months.
OpenAI led a revolution in AI when it placed its ChatGPT program online in late 2022.
The immediate success of the interface sparked tremendous interest in the cutting-edge technology, capable of producing text, sounds and images upon demand.
OpenAI -- which also makes the image-generating DALL-E -- recently released a new tool named Sora, which can create realistic videos of up to a minute long via simple user prompts.
Microsoft has invested around $13 billion in OpenAI, using the start-up's technology in its search engine Bing and other services.
Microsoft is locked in fierce competition with Google to roll out new AI-infused tools, to the point that the US Federal Trade Commission in January launched an investigation into the enormous investments by Microsoft, Google and Amazon in such specialized start-ups.


Nvidia Hits $2 Trillion Valuation as AI Frenzy Grips Wall Street

 This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)
This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)
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Nvidia Hits $2 Trillion Valuation as AI Frenzy Grips Wall Street

 This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)
This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)

Nvidia hit $2 trillion in market value for the first time on Friday, riding on an insatiable demand for its chips that made the Silicon Valley firm the pioneer of the generative artificial intelligence boom.

The milestone followed another bumper revenue forecast from the chip designer that drove up its market value by $277 billion on Thursday - Wall Street's largest one-day gain on record.

Its rapid ascent in the past year has led analysts to draw parallels to the picks and shovels providers during the gold rush of 1800s as Nvidia's chips are used by almost all generative AI players from chatGPT-maker OpenAI to Google.

That has helped the company vault from $1 trillion to $2 trillion market value in around eight months - the fastest among US companies and in less than half the time it took tech giants Apple and Microsoft.

"For AI companies today - the leaders of the sector - what's going to be binding for them is not going to be demand. It's just going to be their capacity to answer the surging demand," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

Nvidia's shares were last trading up about 2%. They had risen as much as 4.9% to a record high $823.9 earlier in the session, giving the world's fourth most valuable company a market capitalization of $2.05 trillion.

Its shares have surged nearly 60% this year, after more than tripling in value in 2023. The chip designer's 2024 share surge has been crucial to the S&P 500's gains, contributing to more than a quarter of the stock index's rise this year.

Its latest market-beating forecast of a whopping 233% growth in first-quarter revenue helped global markets notch record highs on Thursday.

The breakneck growth has drawn analysts and investors from far and wide to Nvidia.

"I'm a European fund manager, but I must have had more emails about their results than I've had about any other set. There have been calls, every broker doing 10-minute debriefs, it's been mind boggling," said one investor, who declined to be named.

Despite the share surge, Nvidia's valuation has fallen due to rapid increases in analysts' estimates. It has a 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 31, down from 49 times a year ago, according to LSEG data.

"Leading cloud computing companies plan to boost their capital expenditure to satisfy demand for AI training and inference, and it appears that virtually all this spending will fall into Nvidia's pockets," said Brian Colello, a strategist at Morningstar.

"We anticipate revenue will rise by a couple of billion each quarter throughout fiscal 2025 for Nvidia as more chip supply comes online."


Tech Titans Yield to New EU Rules before March Deadline

The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
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Tech Titans Yield to New EU Rules before March Deadline

The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File

2024 will be a year of change for the world's biggest tech companies as they bow to EU rules that come into force next month, shaking up how Europeans use vastly popular platforms from Google to Instagram.
The European Union long ago set its sights on big tech, aiming to rein in globally dominant companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft.
The landmark law known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA) breaks new ground because, rather than acting after the fact, it seeks to prevent companies from becoming powerful enough to edge out rivals, AFP said.
"This is really a big, big intervention in markets that affect people's lives every day," said Fiona Scott Morton, senior fellow at think tank Bruegel.
Brussels in September named six so-called "gatekeepers" that face tougher curbs: Google's Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, TikTok parent ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft.
It singles out 22 "core" platform services by the big six, including Amazon Marketplace, Apple's App Store, Facebook, Instagram and Google's Chrome browser.
"The point of the law is to open up these platforms and make the interface widely accessible so that there can be competition," Scott Morton told AFP.
The firms have until March 7 to comply, with a flurry of changes announced since the start of the year -- even as Apple, TikTok and Meta pursue challenges to aspects of the law.
"We'll get some of the benefits of the opening up of these markets pretty quickly," Scott Morton predicted.
Wind of change
One of the biggest changes announced so far came from Apple, which said in January it would allow alternative app stores on the iPhone for the first time.
The firm has moved grudgingly to comply, while also legally contesting that its app stores across all products including the iPhone should count as one.
Google's EU users are seeing banners asking if they want to keep their Google services, like YouTube and Chrome, linked -- and therefore allow data sharing.
Another big change will be choice screens: the EU wants firms to make it easier for users to choose their default search engine or browser, in an attempt to challenge Google search's dominance.
Google has promised to overhaul its results page, with a group of links to price comparison websites and removing some features such as Google Flights.
Microsoft has also announced steps to comply -- including letting Windows users in the European Economic Area (EEA) -- uninstall its Edge browser from their computers, and scrapping pop-ups urging new users to try the interface.
The EEA includes the bloc plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Advertising services by Amazon, Google and Meta must also adjust to the new rules, and Amazon last month detailed changes to its ad service, including providing more information about pricing.
Letting users decide how much of their data should be shared between the biggest companies' various platforms is one of the headline changes sought by the EU.
Meta said last month that users in the EU, in the EEA and in Switzerland will be able to create a separate Facebook Messenger account if they do not want it linked to their Facebook account.
Individuals will also be able to access Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Gaming without using their main account information.
At the same time, Meta is contesting the law's application to Facebook's Messenger and Marketplace services.
Likewise, Chinese-owned TikTok, the only non-US business on the EU's list, says it does not meet various thresholds for the law to apply and has been wrongly designated.
Core Apple issues
Of all the giants it targets, the DMA has perhaps the greatest potential to alter Apple's closed ecosystem.
Apple has not hidden its contempt for the DMA, which it says creates privacy and security risks.
Inside the industry, Apple has been accused of acting in bad faith -- including by Meta's Mark Zuckerberg who suggested its changes made it no easier to create alternative app stores on the iPhone.
"Apple clearly has no intention to comply with the DMA," said Rick VanMeter, executive director of the more than 70-member Coalition for App Fairness, which has long called for Apple to open up its marketplace.
"Apple is introducing new fees on direct downloads and payments they do nothing to process, which violates the law," he said.
Apple has said that its changes comply with the DMA.
One vocal critic is Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, which is part of the app coalition and called Apple's announced changes "a new low" for the firm.
Echoing a rising chorus among Apple's competitors, Spotify voiced hope that the DMA will end "unfair stifling of innovation disguised by Apple as security protections".


Google to Pause Gemini AI Model's Image Generation of People

A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024.  EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
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Google to Pause Gemini AI Model's Image Generation of People

A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024.  EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Alphabet's Google said on Thursday it is pausing AI model Gemini's image generation of people and will release an improved version soon.

"We're aware that Gemini is offering inaccuracies in some historical image generation depictions," Google had said on Wednesday.

Google started offering image generation through its Gemini AI models earlier this month, but over the past few days some users on social media had flagged that the model returns historical images which are sometimes inaccurate.


US Smartphone Sales Slump in January on Fewer Device Upgrades, Counterpoint Finds

Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
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US Smartphone Sales Slump in January on Fewer Device Upgrades, Counterpoint Finds

Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)

US smartphone sales plunged 10% in January on weak demand for cheaper Android devices and as customers delayed upgrades ahead of the launch of Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S24 series, according to data from Counterpoint Research.

The research firm said U.S. smartphone sales last month were nearly half of the record levels seen in the same period in 2017, underscoring fears that the market may have peaked.

"Tough times in the volume-driven low-end coupled with delayed upgrades in anticipation of new products drove the market lower," said Maurice Klaehne, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.

Smartphone sales have waned after the pandemic-driven boom, as an uncertain economic outlook and lack of major new features led consumers to stick with their existing devices.

Samsung has tried to drum up interest for its new Galaxy smartphones, which went on sale on Jan. 17, by offering multiple artificial intelligence (AI) functions including a two-way voice translation in real-time.

Counterpoint said the S24 series has performed well in the US market during the initial 1-2 weeks of launch, and that it could spark a rebound in smartphone sales in February.

Apple, meanwhile, continued to gain market share in the US last month, thanks to promotional offers for its iPhone 15 series, and as cost-conscious consumers sought its older iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 devices, whose prices have come down.

"This combination is enabling Apple to maintain stability in a market experiencing double-digit declines," Counterpoint said.


White House Wades into Debate on 'Open' Versus 'Closed' Artificial Intelligence Systems

FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
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White House Wades into Debate on 'Open' Versus 'Closed' Artificial Intelligence Systems

FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

The Biden administration is wading into a contentious debate about whether the most powerful artificial intelligence systems should be “open-source” or closed.
The White House said Wednesday it is seeking public comment on the risks and benefits of having an AI system's key components publicly available for anyone to use and modify. The inquiry is one piece of the broader executive order that President Joe Biden signed in October to manage the fast-evolving technology, The Associated Press said.
Tech companies are divided on how open they make their AI models, with some emphasizing the dangers of widely accessible AI model components and others stressing that open science is important for researchers and startups. Among the most vocal promoters of an open approach have been Facebook parent Meta Platforms and IBM.
Biden’s order described open models with the technical name of “dual-use foundation models with widely available weights” and said they needed further study. Weights are numerical values that influence how an AI model performs.
When those weights are publicly posted on the internet, “there can be substantial benefits to innovation, but also substantial security risks, such as the removal of safeguards within the model,” Biden’s order said. He gave Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo until July to talk to experts and come back with recommendations on how to manage the potential benefits and risks.
Now the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration says it is also opening a 30-day comment period to field ideas that will be included in a report to the president.
“One piece of encouraging news is that it’s clear to the experts that this is not a binary issue. There are gradients of openness,” said Alan Davidson, an assistant Commerce secretary and the NTIA's administrator. Davidson told reporters Tuesday that it's possible to find solutions that promote both innovation and safety.