Clearview's selfie-scraping AI facial recognition technology set to be patented

Plus: DeepMind's latest language model research and more


Clearview’s controversial facial recognition technology is getting closer to being issued a patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The USPTO has given Clearview a “notice of allowance”, a sign that the startup’s patent application will be approved once it pays administrative costs, Politico reported. Clearview said it has scraped ten billion photos from public social media accounts. Although companies like Instagram and Twitter disapprove, Clearview has continued to download these images without permission.

Now, its methods and software could be patented. Clearview’s application describes a “downloading by a web crawler facial images of individuals and personal information associated therewith; and storing the downloaded facial images and associated personal information in the database.”

Although the machine-learning technology is primarily only used by law enforcement, the application mentions a wider use that could allow people to perform background checks for business or personal reasons, like dating.

Harvard University launches new AI research institute

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has pledged to give Harvard University $500m to launch the Kempner Institute, a new organisation dedicated to studying natural and artificial intelligence.

The donation from philanthropist Priscilla Chan and her husband and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg will go towards funding ten new faculty positions, setting up computing capacities, and other types of resources needed to conduct research.

“The Kempner Institute at Harvard represents a remarkable opportunity to bring together approaches and expertise in biological and cognitive science with machine learning, statistics, and computer science to make real progress in understanding how the human brain works to improve how we address disease, create new therapies, and advance our understanding of the human body and the world more broadly,” said President Larry Bacow said, according to the university’s official news site.

It is named after Zuckerberg’s mother, Karen Zuckerberg as well as his grandparents, Sidney and Gertrude Kempner. Research will be conducted computationally. The institute’s co-leaders Bernardo Sabatini and Sham Kakade said they will need a lot of GPUs.

Three new language model papers from DeepMind

Complex capabilities like reasoning don’t seem to emerge as large language models get bigger and bigger, new research from DeepMind suggests.

Computer scientists built multiple language models of different sizes, ranging from 44 million parameters to 280 billion parameters and tested their abilities. Although larger systems were more fluent and coherent at generating text, they were still prone to output toxic content reflecting stereotypical biases as well as false information. All models struggled to perform tasks that required logical reasoning or common sense knowledge.

It’s possible that new architectures need to be invented in order for machines to get smarter, or perhaps current state-of-the-art language models simply aren’t big enough yet. DeepMind researchers also published two other papers. One is focused on the ethical and social risks of using large language models, including the spread of misinformation. The other one describes a method of training these large models in a more environmentally friendly way that requires less computation.

You can read more about that here.

Could Waymo be losing its lead? Some analysts think so

Waymo has been slow to expand its self-driving car taxi service, and could lose out to competitors planning to launch their own fleets soon.

Although the Google spin-off has formed partnerships for its autonomous heavy trucking efforts, it isn’t backed by any major automakers for its commercial taxi service. Rivals like Cruise and Argo AI, however, are supported by General Motors and Ford, respectively. Waymo could risk losing its lead as its competitors charge forward, Reuters reported.

Operations seem to have stalled. Plans to purchase up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace SUVs, as well as more cameras for its vehicles seem to have fallen through. Waymo’s self-driving taxi service first launched in Arizona is only available in the suburbs, and locals don’t really use it. One man reported having to wait 30 minutes for a pickup and turned to Lyft instead. It is also operating a limited service in San Francisco.

Cruise has been given permission to drive around in San Francisco at night and in the early hours of the morning. Argo is planning to collaborate with Lyft to offer self-driving rides in Miami. In other words, competition is heating up and Waymo needs to get a move on. The company’s co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana declined to set a date on when its robotaxi service would be profitable. ®

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