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AI is turbocharging the stock market, but is it all hype?
AI is turbocharging the stock market, but is it all hype?

AI is turbocharging the stock market, but is it all hype?

In this episode of GZERO AI, Taylor Owen, host of the Machines Like Us podcast, explores how artificial intelligence is turbocharging the stock market and transforming our economy. With AI driving the S&P 500 to new heights and drastically boosting NVIDIA's stock, researchers predict a future where we could be 1,000 times wealthier. However, Owen raises critical questions about whether this rapid growth is sustainable or simply a bubble ready to burst.

So whatever your lingering skepticism of this current moment of AI hype might be, one thing is undeniable: AI is turbocharging the stock market and the economy more broadly.

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Intuit logo displayed on a phone screen and a laptop keyboard are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on October 30, 2021.

Jakub Porzycki via Reuters Connect

Hard Numbers: Intuit’s mass layoff, Very expensive flip phone, AMD’s Finnish acquisition, Taiwan’s millionaire class

1,800: Intuit, the company behind popular financial software Quickbooks and Turbotax, announced a mass layoff of 1,800 employees — about 10% of the company — with plans to rehire the same number with a renewed focus on AI. The firm has an AI-powered financial advice tool, called Intuit Assist, in which it plans to invest heavily. That new investment might be necessary: A recent Washington Post review of Intuit’s AI assistant called it “awful” — not only “unhelpful” but also “wrong” much of the time.

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imago images/Sven Simon via Reuters Connect

Microsoft’s Inflection deal gets a closer look

The UK’s antitrust regulator is scrutinizing Microsoft’s unique relationship with Inflection AI. The PC giant did what some have called an “acqui-hire” — not buying the company outright, but rather hiring many of its former leaders and employees instead.

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Patient has an eye test at Venice Family Clinic in Venice, California, June 25, 2009.

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Your new insurance advocate is AI

Health insurers are routinely using artificial intelligence and algorithms to evaluate insurance claims, but now the tables have turned. Doctors are increasingly turning to generative AI to write appeals for prior authorizations and to fight insurance denials.

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Hacked displayed on a mobile with binary code with in the background Anonymous mask. On 9 August 2023 in Brussels, Belgium.

Jonathan Raa / Nurphoto via Reuters

Old MacDonald had a Russian bot farm

On July 9, the US Department of Justice announced it disrupted a Russian bot farm that was actively using generative AI to spread disinformation worldwide. The department seized two domain names and probed 1,000 social media accounts on X (formerly known as Twitter) in collaboration with the FBI as well as Canadian and Dutch authorities. X voluntarily suspended the accounts, the government said.

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Midjourney

Too scruffy for Zoom? Send in the AI

Have you ever had to get in front of a camera, but you really, really didn’t want to? Maybe you were too tired, too lazy, too disheveled to film something that day. What if a proxy could handle that for you? Well, now that’s possible.

Using Synthesia, an AI-powered video tool, I created a virtual avatar of myself. It’s essentially a digital puppet constructed from my skin, with invisible strings that carefully lift my eyelids and my eyebrows, open and close my mouth to align with the words I want it to say. My ventriloquism is commanded by a text prompt – a string of words I have written for this virtual Scott to say aloud.

Synthesia is a British startup founded in 2017 by a global cohort of researchers from Stanford, University College London, Technical University of Munich, and Cambridge who have raised $156 million in venture capital. It’s a pricey tool — starting at $22 a month, with a $67 a month tier getting you more features and hours of video, and custom pricing for enterprise use — but the kind people at Synthesia allowed me to test it out for free.

Alright, my avatar will take it from here:

Synthesia

There’s a common term in science fiction and tech criticism called the “uncanny valley,” a phenomenon that occurs when humans see something that seems nearly human. It evokes an eerie feeling, one I felt watching the fake version of myself speak on screen.

Everything with Synthesia seems nearly right. My voice sounds nearly right, and my face nearly moves like it should when mouthing the words I wrote. But it’s not quite there yet, and that disparity could mean the difference between success and failure. Having an avatar you can effectively deploy for a sales presentation is great — but one that simply creeps out your clients is a waste. (The company also offers hundreds of premade avatars you can use if you don’t want to appear, in any form, “on camera.”)

But this is the simple, at-home version. It takes 10 minutes to film — I followed a script and recorded it at my kitchen table — and Synthesia had it ready for me a day later. Once you record a video using your avatar, it generates in mere minutes.

There’s a studio version too that costs $1,000 per year on top of a subscription. You can go to one of the company’s partner studios in Europe or North America and get an improved expressive avatar with a transparent background that you can drop into any presentation. It uses AI to read your text prompt and match the emotion it thinks you want to convey to your avatar’s face and voice.

On a Zoom call, Alexandru Voica, Synthesia’s head of corporate affairs and policy, walked me through the product’s many features and showed me a preview of where the technology is going. He said the company is almost exclusively focused on enterprise solutions for businesses, intending for the technology to be used for training videos, sales pitches, and marketing material. That said, he’s seen some consumer uses too including a social media account that used the avatars to make history-focused videos.

To prevent deception and misinformation, Synthesia has strict content standards. It doesn’t allow profanity, hate speech, or misinformation. “We’re not a marketplace of ideas. We don’t pretend to be a social media company. We’re pretty much an enterprise-focused video solution platform, therefore we don’t need to necessarily have these philosophical debates about harmful content and what’s misinformation and what’s not misinformation. We’ve set very robust rules in place,” Voica said. It doesn’t even allow you to record news content unless you’re a news organization with an enterprise subscription. And it checks that every avatar created is filmed by the person it claims to be to prevent nonconsensual deepfakes. That way, the content moderation happens at the point of creation, rather than trying to stop its distribution.

Synthesia, Voica maintains, is for work rather than personal use. That’s a different tone than many generative AI companies trying to prove their worth to consumers. Later this year, Voica said, Synthesia is releasing a choose-your-own-adventure platform for video creation that allows viewers to personalize the content they receive.

But crossing that uncanny valley — for the at-home avatars, at least — will be key for the company’s success. Readers of this newsletter will recall a few months ago when I tested out the ElevenLabs voice cloning technology, which I gave high marks.

Synthesia performs nearly as well for audio — it’s slightly more robotic and unnatural, but still very good. But, the person you see on the screen needs to seem either fully human or fully AI — and, while the technology may improve, nearly human might not be good enough.

A visitor is walking past an AI sign at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China, on July 6, 2024.

Ying Tang via Reuters Connect

OpenAI blocks access in China

On Tuesday, OpenAI blocked API access to its ChatGPT large language model in China, meaning developers can no longer tap into OpenAI’s tech to build their own tools. While the company didn’t offer a specific reason for the move, an OpenAI spokesperson told Bloomberg last month that it would start cracking down on API users in countries where ChatGPT was not supported. China has long blocked access to the app, but developers were able to use the API as a backdoor to access the toolbox. Not anymore.

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Midjourney

How the Department of Homeland Security’s WMD office sees the AI threat

The US Department of Homeland Security is preparing for the worst possible outcomes from the rapid progression of artificial intelligence technology technology. What if powerful AI models are used to help foreign adversaries or terror groups build chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons?

The department’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office, led by Assistant Secretary Mary Ellen Callahan, issued a report to President Joe Biden that was released to the public in June, with recommendations about how to rein in the worst threats from AI. Among other things, the report recommends building consensus across agencies, developing safe harbor measures to incentivize reporting vulnerabilities to the government without fear of prosecution, and developing new guidelines for handling sensitive scientific data.

We spoke to Callahan about the report, how concerned she actually is, and how her office is using AI to further its own goals while trying to outline the risks of the technology.

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