What is QUANTech? An easy-to-digest selection of what’s hot in tech and the impact on society to help you keep ahead in this rapidly changing digital world. Brought to you by Denys Malengreau (@D_MLG).
QUANTech only refers to consulted sources.
The GDPR is now in application and the past week has seen analyses and news aligned with the following day.
While the GDPR marks an undeniable step forward for Internet users on the issue of consent, which must now be given by « a clear affirmative act establishing a freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her » as stated by the regulation itself, some do not fail to mention the e-privacy regulation, which could go even further by guaranteeing the protection of electronic correspondence in the image of Article 12 (cf. right to privacy) of the Charter of Human Rights.
The emblematic European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, who received a lot of media coverage for having imposed a record fine of 2.4 billion euros on Google for unfair competition, spoke in Budapest a few days ago. She reaffirmed her commitment to ending the digital Far West. « Now is the time for citizens to take control » she proclaimed. She will certainly support the draft e-privacy regulation already approved by the European Parliament and currently under discussion in the Commission.
The famous Austrian activist Max Schrems has not wait much for filing the first case against both Google and Facebook on the issue of consent. The latter criticises the duopoly for not complying with the GDPR by imposing an opt-in or the inaccessibility of the service. Facebook recently suggested through its CEO Mark Zuckerberg and its COO Sheryl Sandberg that a paid version of the social network was not to be excluded, but this alternative does not yet exist. Nevertheless, although Internet users are sensitive to privacy and data protection issues, they do not seem willing to pay. It is an imbroglio that will continue to fuel many conversations.
Whether or not it matches the GDPR enforcement by chance, we learned that Papua New Guinea will ban Facebook for a month to clean things up. As for Uganda, the state will now tax the use of social networks, which has not failed to make opponents react as they see there a way to curb political speech.
We also note the symbolic action of an Internet user, who the day after the entry into force of the new European regulation symbolically decided to put his personal Facebook data up for sale on Ebay. The offer has since been withdrawn.
Another hot topic in the news of recent days: the autonomous car. Two major announcements were made. The first is the SoftBank Vision Fund’s $2.5 billion investment (see analysis below) in General Motors’ (GM) self-driving car division. The second came from Waymo, subsidiary of Alphabet (parent company of Google) for autonomous cars, which announced the purchase of 16000 Chrysler. This suggests an upcoming commercialization, probably through professional services. It is also worth noting the implicit appeal of the CEO of Uber —a company that the Turkish president does not seem to like or no longer likes— Dara Khosrowshahi to join Waymo. As a reminder, the two companies were embarked in an arm wrestling match with Waymo blaming the theft of trade secrets by an ex-manager who was subsequently hired by Uber. The trial finally ended amicably with a financial response and guarantees.
Finally, the third major news is the confirmed acquisition of GitHub by Microsoft for $7.5 billion. Bloomberg had announced the acquisition a few hours before it became official. If the buy-out can worry many developers, the hindsight on history makes it possible to nuance.
• Mary Meeker’s Internet trends 2018 report is here (smartphone sales declining).
• How a Pentagon contract became an identity crisis for Google.
• Google plans not to renew its contract for Project Maven.
• Facebook gave device makers deep access to data on users and friends.
• Your phone is listening and it’s not paranoia.
• New Google Lens features are now live on Android phones.
• Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin space venture go all in on moon settlements.
• Amazon under fire for selling face-recognition software to police (about Rekognition).
• Amazon explains why Alexa recorded and shared couple’s conversation.
• Facebook for teens is (almost) a thing of the past, survey finds.
• Reddit is now more visited than Facebook in the US.
• Facebook accused of conducting mass surveillance through its apps.
• Scientists have created the first 3D-printed human corneas.
• AI outperforms human doctors in spotting skin cancer.
• The FDA put the brakes on a CRISPR trial in humans.
• President of China highlights blockchain technology.
• The BBC will stream the World Cup in 4K and VR to some lucky viewers.
• Oculus kicked off an experiment in social VR, the first of its kind.
• Apple has been requested by Russia to block Telegram in the region.
• Telegram CEO Pavel Durov had a message… before tweeting later.
• The latest cover of ‘Time’ is composed of 958 Intel drones (video).
• An illustrated glossary for cryptocurrency slang.
• Will 2019 mark the year of personal, non-intrusive advertising?
The news of the past week having been marked by the SoftBank Vision Fund’s investment of $2.5 billion in the self-driving cars division of General Motors (GM), let us take a closer look at this relatively unknown fund by the public.
The SoftBank Vision Fund is an initiative of SoftBank, Japan’s first telecom company founded in 1981 by Masayoshi Son. If everyone knows Bill Gates for his wealth and Microsoft (or the opposite), Masayoshi Son, little known by us, remains nevertheless the second richest person in Japan (and briefly of the world during 3 days in the year 2000). His personal wealth is estimated at $20.8 billion by Forbes as of 5 June 2018.
Masayoshi Son is more of a visionary than an innovator: « I haven’t invented anything earth-shattering. If I could be said to have one noteworthy ability compared with the average person, it’s that I have a keen interest in reading the direction and timing of paradigm shifts. »
The strongest argument to support his qualities as a visionary is Alibaba, of which he is today the main shareholder. In 1999, he bought 30% of the company ($20 million) which was starting. A deal that was based on his « sense of smell » in his own words, in retrospect. Alibaba Group Holding reached a market capitalization of 5$00 billion last January.
Masayoshi Son is one of those who assert with conviction that singularity, that moment when artificial intelligence (AI) surpasses human intelligence —the famous Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)— and no longer allows us to apprehend it will take place over the next 30 years. He said last October that, according to him, robots will have an IQ of 10,000 and will be 100 times smarter than the average individual in just 30 years.
From his own perspective, there will be more robots than human beings in the next 30 years. Do you think your shoe will have a higher IQ than you in 2050? Masayoshi Son, yes.
With SoftBank, he acquired, among others, the French Aldebaran in 2012, which developed the famous humanoid robot Pepper. The company also acquired Boston Dynamics, the iconic robotics company.
A synthetic and very well made video of the history of the company and its founder was published last week. You can view it below.
Created at the end of 2016, the SoftBank Vision Fund is an unprecedented initiative. It is a huge venture capital fund whose main investor is the Saudi Arabian public investment fund. This country, often perceived in the West as retrograde and ultra-rigorist in Islam, wishes to modernise itself and be a full player in the new world that is emerging. Among other initiatives, last year, Saudi Arabia made the headlines with an announcement effect by being the first country in the world to give citizenship to a Robot (cf. Sophia).
The participation (the largest, up to $45 billion over 5 years) of Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund, which is the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, in the SoftBank Vision Fund is expressed on the latter’s website as « supporting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy to develop a diversified, knowledge-based economy. »
Other known investors in the SoftBank Vision Fund include Apple, Qualcomm and Foxconn.
The sum of all existing venture capital funds today is just over $60 billion. This single fund (cf. SoftBank Vision Fund) caps at $100 billion, which makes it by far the most ambitious existing to date in the field of emerging technologies.
Prior to investing in General Motors’ (GM) autonomous car division, the SoftBank Vision Fund had already acquired a 15% stake in Uber.
Masayoshi Son’s background also has, among other things, vocation to develop chips for the brain, following the example of Elon Musk with Neuralink, to respond to the anticipation of a machine with an IQ of 10,000. From Japan to the United States, when the largest venture capital fund and one of the most iconic entrepreneurs in new technologies are working to develop chips to make us complementary to the machine, it is relevant to hear their arguments, however difficult it may be to grasp the initiative in 2018. Science fiction can also become a fact of science.