Amazon says it's ready to train future AI workforce

Plus: Russia will soon be Putin up with lagging West, fake influencers and more

AI in Brief Amazon launched AI Ready, a program that aims to train two million people in AI skills by 2025, and started the initiative by offering free courses and scholarships this week.

"AI is the most transformative technology of our generation," the e-commerce giant said in a blog post. "If we are going to unlock the full potential of AI to tackle the world's most challenging problems, we need to make AI education accessible to anyone with a desire to learn."

Amazon released eight generative AI courses, diving into topics such as project planning, prompt engineering, or building language models. Some of the material is for people looking to be involved with AI with a non-technical background, whilst others are for developers that want to learn about machine learning. 

It also promised to splash out on over $12 million to pay for more than 50,000 high school and university students to take the generative AI course on Udacity, an online learning platform, and is collaborating with to create an introductory lesson that will help learners create their own AI-generated music video.

Amazon said it's investing in AI Ready to help current workers upskill and train students to prepare for the future.

Was Q* behind Altman's defenestration?

Probably not, although several outlets – including Reuters – reported that the OpenAI board were warned of an artificial intelligence breakthrough days before Altman was abruptly dismissed. The OpenAI model dubbed Q* – pronounced Q Star – was the source of the concern and was trumpeted as an important milestone on the road to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). 

AGI remains a goal for companies such as OpenAI, although some regard it as a source of existential risk for humanity. An unnamed source within OpenAI claimed that Q* could solve certain mathematical problems, giving rise to hopes for the future success of the model.

Another unnamed source said that the board never received such a warning, and any research progress did not play a part in the firing of Altman.

Having had to endure a week of chaos at OpenAI, we, for one, would welcome our AI overlords. No matter how remedial their math skills might be.

Putin up with lagging in AI

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of a monopoly in AI by the West and talked of Moscow's ambitions in the arena.

Russia is in a difficult position regarding the technology. Sanctions following the country's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent war have left Russia's remaining researchers unable to get hold of much of the hardware needed to dig into the tech.

Russia's status has meant that the country's language and culture are usually not a priority when generating the models that underpin the technology. Putin was naturally concerned about this state of affairs and was reported as noting that Western algorithms essentially thought Russia did not exist.

According to Reuters, he said: "Of course, the monopoly and domination of such systems, such alien systems, is unacceptable and dangerous."

The theme is a familiar one for Putin. In March, he met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and declared that Russia and China could lead the world in AI. 

Last month, there were indications that Chinese CPUs were set to turn up in Russian servers. However, as we observed at the time, Russia has a long way to go before it can get close to the tech from which sanctions have cut it off.

Spanish AI model

Claiming to be tired of dealing with influencers, or perhaps of only taking a percentage of the profit they generate rather than all of it, a fashion agency has turned to AI to create a model with perfect style, but without the accompanying demands for a wage ego. Pink-haired "Aitana" is apparently a 25-year-old Spanish woman from Barcelona who the agency claims earns it just over €1,000 per advert. She's apparently recently become the face of a sports supplement company. Aitana's designer, Rubén Cruz, and the agency behind the scenes decides what Aitana will get up to, what photos will be uploaded, etc.

The images suffer from AI's difficulties in generating human faces – Aitana might look real at first glance, but look too closely, and it's clear "she" has spent a little too long in the uncanny valley.

While there is undoubtedly a benefit to brands who would prefer to have a virtual model represent their values without the complications – or costs – of using the real thing, critics have expressed concerns that the use of AI in this way could set unrealistic standards that ordinary meatbags have no hope of achieving. Other ethical questions remain about how her creators have decided to depict her "life" as a representation of that of a real woman where the structural sexism is baked in rather than chosen by an individual as a means of securing livelihood.

As for Cruz and the team, the success of Aitana has led them to create another virtual model, Maia. And yes, both names contain the acronym for Artificial Intelligence: AI. ®

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