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Updated: 24 min 58 sec ago

Elon Musk Promises Longer, Curved Tunnel For Future Hyperloop Contests

26 min 27 sec ago
Shortly after the 2019 Hyperloop Pod competition ended, Elon Musk announced on Twitter that next year's Hyperloop competition will be held in a six mile curved vacuum tunnel. Previously, the competition was held in a straight three-quarters of a mile test tunnel which is located at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Engadget reports: The Hyperloop competition is a student engineering challenge where teams are invited to design and build a prototype vehicle to travel in the potential Hyperloop network. The vehicles must be self-propelled and achieve maximum possible speeds without crashing. At this year's competition, in which a team from Technical University of Munich (TUM) reached a top speed of 288 miles per hour before damage occurred and an emergency stop had to be performed, Musk mentioned the possibility of expanding the competition to include tunneling as well. "We'll consider a tunneling competition," Musk said at a Q&A about the competition, TechCrunch reports. "I think a tunneling thing would be pretty exciting. Because as I just articulated the primary challenge is how do you tunnel effectively, especially how do you put in the reinforcing segments and get the dirt out effectively -- it's harder than it seems."

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Canned Laughter Makes Jokes Seem Funnier, Study Finds

3 hours 56 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: In research that will ensure the sitcoms of the future are as painful as those broadcast today, scientists have found that canned laughter makes bad jokes seem funnier. The impact of overlaid laughter emerged from a study with autistic and "neurotypical" people, all of whom agreed to endure 40 jokes that were read aloud with recorded laughter following the punchline. All of the volunteers found the jokes funnier when they were accompanied by the sound of others laughing, with the biggest gains produced by recordings of spontaneous laughter rather than more deliberate and controlled laughing, the study found. For the study, PhD student Qing Cai and others trawled the internet for what they describe as "weak" jokes and compiled a list for the comedian Ben van der Velde to read out to those taking part in the study. To get a baseline score for how funny the jokes were, each was assessed without any backing laughter by 20 students who rated them on a scale from one (not funny) to seven (hilarious). The scores ranged from 1.5 to 3.75. Armed with the list and their baseline funny ratings, the scientists asked 72 adults, of whom 24 had an autism diagnosis, to rate the jokes on the same seven-point scale. This time, the jokes were told with either posed or spontaneous canned laughter following the punchline. Writing in the journal Current Biology, the researchers described how any kind of canned laughter had boosted the average scores the jokes had received. Both neurotypical and autistic people reacted more to spontaneous laughter than controlled laughter. And while canned laughter appeared to improve some jokes more than others, controlled laughter raised ratings by an average of about 10%, compared with 15% to 20% for spontaneous laughter.

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Hackers Stole 7.5TB of Secret Data From Russia's Intelligence Agency

5 hours 24 min ago
Hackers have reportedly stolen about 7.5 terabytes of data from a major Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) contractor, thus exposing the secret projects the agency was working on to de-anonymize Tor browsing, scrape data from social media, and cut off Russia's internet from the rest of the world. Fossbytes reports: Russia's FSB is the successor agency to the infamous KGB and is similar to the FBI and MI5; a major part of their work includes electronic surveillance in the country and overseas as well. The attack on FSB took place on July 13 when a hacking group that goes by the name 0v1ru$ breached SyTech, a major FSB contractor that works on several internet projects. The hackers defaced SyTech's homepage and left a smiling Yoba Face and other pictures to indicate the breach. 0v1ru$ passed on the stolen data to the larger hacking group Digital Revolution, which in turn shared the files with various media outlets and posted on Twitter. BBC Russia outlines the project data that was stolen and lists the major ones, including Nautilus, a project to scrap data on social media platforms; Nautilus-S, a project to de-anonymize Tor users by creating exit nodes that are controlled by the Russian government; and Nadezhda, a project attempting to create a "sovereign internet" that is isolated from the rest of the internet.

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Facebook Design Flaw Let Thousands of Kids Join Chats With Unauthorized Users

6 hours 1 min ago
A design flaw in Facebook's Messenger Kids app allowed children to enter group chats with unapproved strangers. "For the past week, Facebook has been quietly closing down those group chats and alerting users, but has not made any public statements disclosing the issue," reports The Verge. The alert reads as follows: "Hi [PARENT], We found a technical error that allowed [CHILD]'s friend [FRIEND] to create a group chat with [CHILD] and one or more of [FRIEND]'s parent-approved friends. We want you to know that we've turned off this group chat and are making sure that group chats like this won't be allowed in the future. If you have questions about Messenger Kids and online safety, please visit our Help Center and Messenger Kids parental controls. We'd also appreciate your feedback." From the report: The bug arose from the way Messenger Kids' unique permissions were applied in group chats. In a standard one-on-one chat, children can only initiate conversations with users who have been approved by the child's parents. But those permissions became more complex when applied to a group chat because of the multiple users involved. Whoever launched the group could invite any user who was authorized to chat with them, even if that user wasn't authorized to chat with the other children in the group. As a result, thousands of children were left in chats with unauthorized users, a violation of the core promise of Messenger Kids. It's unclear how long the bug was present in the app, which launched with group features in December 2017.

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Siemens Contractor Pleads Guilty To Planting Logic Bomb In Company Spreadsheets

6 hours 41 min ago
Former Siemens contractor David Tinley faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both, for planting logic bombs inside spreadsheets he created for the company. The logic bomb would crash spreadsheets after a certain date, resulting in Siemens hiring the contractor to fix the latest bugs. ZDNet reports: According to court documents, Tinley provided software services for Siemens' Monroeville, PA offices for nearly ten years. Among the work he was asked to perform was the creation of spreadsheets that the company was using to manage equipment orders. The spreadshees included custom scripts that would update the content of the file based on current orders stored in other, remote documents, allowing the company to automate inventory and order management. But while Tinley's files worked for years, they started malfunctioning around 2014. According to court documents, Tinley planted so-called "logic bombs" that would trigger after a certain date, and crash the files. Every time the scripts would crash, Siemens would call Tinley, who'd fix the files for a fee. The scheme lasted for two years, until May 2016, when Tinley's trickery was unraveled by Siemens employees. According to a report from Law360, the scheme fell apart when Tinley was out of town, and had to hand over an administrative password for the spreadsheets to Siemens' IT staff, so they could fix the buggy scripts and fill in an urgent order. Siemens IT employees found the logic bomb, and it all went downhill from there. Tinley was charged this May, and pled guilty last week, on July 19. The contractor's sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 8.

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Delivery Apps Like DoorDash Are Using Your Tips To Pay Workers' Wages

7 hours 23 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: When you order food through an app and tip the worker who delivers it, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the money you give goes directly to that person. But in reality, some delivery apps use your tip to make up the worker's base pay -- essentially stealing the money you're trying to give someone to maximize their profits. This isn't a new practice by any means, but a recent report from The New York Times highlights how DoorDash, the most popular food delivery app in the U.S., enforces it. Here's Times reporter Andy Newman: "DoorDash offers a guaranteed minimum for each job. For my first order, the guarantee was $6.85 and the customer, a woman in Boerum Hill who answered the door in a colorful bathrobe, tipped $3 via the app. But I still received only $6.85. Here's how it works: If the woman in the bathrobe had tipped zero, DoorDash would have paid me the whole $6.85. Because she tipped $3, DoorDash kicked in only $3.85. She was saving DoorDash $3, not tipping me." "DoorDash's policy is the equivalent of a 'tipped wage,' a common practice in America where employers pay workers less than the minimum wage and rely on tips to make up the payments they owe," the report adds. "Apps like DoorDash are essentially just extending established bad labor practices into the world of tech." Amazon Flex also uses tips to make up pay, even after being heavily criticized for it. Instacart was the same way, but it scrapped the policy and promised to retroactively compensate workers following outcry. Postmades, Grubhub, Seamless, and Uber Eats all confirmed to The Verge that customer tips are not used to subsidize workers' pay.

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SUSE Names Melissa Di Donato New CEO

8 hours 6 min ago
Melissa Di Donato, SAP's former COO, has been named SUSE's new CEO. ZDNet reports: London-based Di Donato is a well-known technology leader. In particular, she has a proven track record in sales and business operations. Besides being SAP's COO, she was also the company's chief revenue officer. In SAP's latest quarter, SAP saw an increase of 11% year-over-year revenues. Much of that came from the cloud -- where SAP saw 40% year-over-year growth. SAP's cloud is built on SUSE's Linux servers and OpenStack cloud. Di Donato succeeds Nils Brauckmann. While officially Brauckmann is retiring, there seems to be more to the story. On LinkedIn, Brauckmann wrote: "I care very deeply for the SUSE business and its employees, and this difficult decision is based entirely on personal reasons. I am pleased to be handing over the reins to such a talented and accomplished leader as Melissa Di Donato." In his SUSE statement, Brauckman added: "She is a proven and dynamic change agent, and many of her achievements have occurred in subscription businesses that exist in high-growth cloud environments." In April, then-CEO Nils Brauchmann said his company would soon be the largest independent Linux company. This comes after Brauckmann delivered eight years of continuous expansion during his tenure, including record-breaking revenues in FY18, reports ZDNet. "Under Di Donato's leadership, SUSE will continue to focus on growth and expansion. What that means is she's expected to advance SUSE's core business and emerging technologies, both organically and through add-on acquisitions."

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Apple In Advanced Talks To Buy Intel's Smartphone-Modem Chip Business

8 hours 46 min ago
According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple is in advanced talks to buy Intel's smartphone-modem chip business (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), "a move that would jump-start the iPhone maker's push to take control of developing the critical components powering its devices." From the report: A deal, covering a portfolio of patents and staff valued at $1 billion or more, could be reached in the next week, the people said -- assuming the talks don't fall apart. Though the purchase price is a rounding error for companies valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars, the transaction would be important strategically and financially. It would give Apple access to engineering work and talent behind Intel's yearslong push to develop modem chips for the crucial next generation of wireless technology known as 5G, potentially saving years of development work. For Intel's part, a deal would allow the company to shed a business that had been weighing on its bottom line: The smartphone operation had been losing about $1 billion annually, a person familiar with its performance has said, and has generally failed to live up to expectations. Though it would exit the smartphone business, Intel plans to continue to work on 5G technology for other connected devices. Earlier this year, it was reported that Apple began discussing plans to acquire parts of Intel's smartphone modem chip business last summer, around the time former Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich resigned. "Mr. Krzanich championed the modem business and touted 5G technology as a big future revenue stream," reports The Wall Street Journal. "When Bob Swan was named to that job in January, analysts said the odds of a deal rose because his focus on cleaning up Intel would require addressing the losses in the modem business."

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Microsoft Pays $25 Million To End US Probe Into Bribery Overseas

9 hours 23 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Microsoft Corp. agreed to pay $25 million to settle U.S. government investigations into alleged bribery by former employees in Hungary. The software maker's Hungarian subsidiary entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and a cease-and-desist order with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Microsoft said in an email to employees from Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith that was posted Monday on the company's web site. The case concerned violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, according to an SEC filing. The Justice Department concluded that between 2013 and June 2015 "a senior executive and some other employees at Microsoft Hungary participated in a scheme to inflate margins in the Microsoft sales channel, which were used to fund improper payments under the FCPA," Smith wrote in the email. Microsoft sold software to partners at a discount and the partners then resold the products to the Hungarian government at a higher price. The difference went to fund kickbacks to government officials, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2018. The company fired the employees involved, Smith noted. The company says it "now requires discounts it provides to sales partners to be passed directly to government customers," and "the company makes customers aware of any discounts to ensure they are receiving them and that funds are not diverted for other purposes like bribes," the report adds. "The company also is using machine-learning software to track contracts and flag discounts or other practices that appear unusual." In semi-related news, Microsoft today announced that it would invest $1 billion in OpenAI to develop AI technologies on Azure.

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'Avengers' Surpasses 'Avatar' as Highest-Grossing Film of All Time

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 23:27
Disney's presentation of Marvel's "Avengers: Endgame" has officially surpassed "Avatar" to become the world's highest-grossing film of all time, several months after the film obliterated opening weekend records. From a report: The feat underscores Disney's position as the king of the box office. Disney has had the top grossing movie every year since 2012 and been the top grossing studio since 2016. Disney has reported an estimated $2,790.2 million in revenue through Sunday for "Avengers: Endgame," per Comscore. James Cameron's 2009 science fiction film "Avatar" had previously held the top spot of the highest grossing global release of all time with $2,789.7 million. Disney's success can largely be attributed to the three franchises that it has cultivated or acquired over the past few years: Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars.

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Tinder Bypasses Google Play Joining Revolt Against App Store Fee

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 22:42
Tinder has joined a growing backlash against app store taxes by bypassing Google Play in a move that could shake up the billion-dollar industry dominated by Google and Apple. From a report: The online dating site launched a new default payment process that skips Google Play and forces users to enter their credit card details straight into Tinder's app, according to new research by Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter. Once a user has entered their payment information, the app not only remembers it, but also removes the choice to swap back to Google Play for future purchases, he wrote. "This is a huge difference," Schachter said in an interview. "It's an incredibly high-margin business for Google bringing in billions of dollars," he said. Apple and Google launched their app stores in 2008, and they soon grew into powerful marketplaces that matched the creations of millions of independent developers with billions of smartphone users. In exchange, the companies take as much as 30% of revenue. The app economy is expected to grow to $157 billion in 2022, according to App Annie projections. As the market expands, a growing revolt has been gaining steam over the past year. Spotify Technology filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission earlier this year, claiming the cut Apple takes amounts to a tax on competitors. Netflix has recently stopped letting Apple users subscribe via the App Store and Epic Games said last year it wouldn't distribute Fortnite, one of the world's most popular video games, through Google Play.

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TV Antenna Listings on Amazon Are Rife With Dubious Claims

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 22:03
An anonymous reader shares a report: Early last week, during Amazon's Prime Days, I decided to see if the e-tailer had any good deals on over-the-air TV antennas. I was appalled by what I found. Searching for "antenna" on Amazon.com revealed listing upon listing for products with dubious performance claims. In Amazon's most popular and sponsored results, antenna makers were advertising unrealistic reception ranges, nonexistent over-the-air channels, and picture quality that current U.S. broadcast standards don't support. These misleading claims aren't just bad for cord-cutters. They also could harm respectable antenna makers that refuse to get in the muck with less scrupulous brands. Unless Amazon -- or a government watchdog -- intervene, this type of advertising is unlikely to stop anytime soon. When I reached out to Amazon for a comment on my findings, an Amazon spokesperson said "Selling partners are required to provide accurate information about their products to Amazon, and we take action against those that violate our policies and threaten our customer experience. We are investigating these listings now and will take prompt action against any that violate our policies."

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European Commission Rules That UK Dwelling EU Citizens Can Still Hold<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.Eu Domains After Brexit

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 21:22
What Brexit really means for the UK -- whenever it may end up happening -- still remains to be seen. But a new ruling by the European Commission means that even after leaving Europe, UK citizens will still be able to hold .eu top-level domains after leaving the European Union. From a report: The ruling is a reversal of a decision taken earlier in the year that EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit would not be able to own such domains. It comes as the Commission becomes increasingly concerned about the "uncertainties surrounding the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement", and what the implications of this could be. With the new decision, it will not matter where an EU citizen lives after Brexit. The only requirement to owning a .eu domain is being an EU citizen; it is possible to living in the EU, in the UK, or anywhere else.

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DRAM Prices To Slide More Than 40% in 2019 Because Chip Makers Can't Forecast

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 20:42
The laws of botched supply and demand forecasting are coming home to roost for the semiconductor industry in 2019 with DRAM average sales price set to fall 42.1 per cent. From a report: The latest ladle of doom and gloom was poured onto the sector this morning by Gartner, days after IC Insights delivered its dark prognosis for chip makers. "A weaker pricing environment for memory and some other chip types combined with the US-China trade dispute and lower growth in major applications, including smartphones, servers and PCs is driving the global semiconductor market to its lowest growth level since 2009," said Gartner analyst Ben Lee. [...] The upshot of this is that global semiconductor revenues are expected to drop 9.6 per cent year-on-year to $475bn. This is down 3.4 per cent on Gartner's earlier forecast and likely could be revised again before the end of 2019 is upon us. Given the volumes of DRAM swilling around the supply chain that have forced down price, oversupply is on track to spill into the first and second quarters of the next calendar year.

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Huawei Secretly Helped Build North Korea's Wireless Network, Leaked Documents Suggest

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 20:02
Chinese tech giant Huawei could have helped secretly build a 3G wireless network for North Korea, according to internal documents leaked by a former employee of the company. From a report: Huawei worked with another Chinese company, Panda International Information Technology, on a number of projects in the region over the course of eight years, as suggested by work orders, contracts and spreadsheets published by the Washington Post on Monday. The revelations come as the latest blow to Huawei's reputation in a series of events over the past year, a period in which the company has come under fire from the US government amid its trade war with China. In January, the US Justice Department unsealed indictments that included 23 counts pertaining to the alleged theft of intellectual property, obstruction of justice and fraud related to its alleged evasion of US sanctions against Iran. President Donald Trump has blacklisted the company as a security threat, and Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is under house arrest in Canada awaiting extradition to the US.

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A Clue To the Reason for Women's Pervasive Car-Safety Problem

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 19:22
Women are far more likely to suffer serious injuries in a car crash. From a report: The danger divide was first quantified in a 2011 study out of the University of Virginia, which found that for men and women who wore seatbelts, women were nearly 50 percent more likely to be seriously or fatally injured in a crash. And now it's been confirmed by another paper from another University of Virginia research team, published this month, which found that the odds of serious injury or death for female car-crash victims is 73 percent higher than for males. The latest study, which analyzed crashes involving more than 31,000 individuals between 1998 and 2015, reveals some good news, too: All riders are now more than half as likely to sustain serious injuries in newer models (those manufactured in 2009 and later) than in older cars. [...] It's partly because of this lack of information -- and lack of dedicated research into the question -- that the same safety science that's been making cars less dangerous for all riders hasn't been able to shrink the gap between male and female auto safety. "Historically, we have used male-type crash test dummies," said Becky Mueller, a senior research engineer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). "Those dummies, despite being an average male, have done a good job at providing improvements for all different kinds of people." Since the early 2000s, "female" crash test dummies have been deployed, but they tend to simulate smaller women, says Forman, with heights of 5 feet and weights of 110 pounds. "There is some logic behind the use of those: It is necessary to evaluate and protect for the extreme ends of the population," he said. It's also a big limitation of the model.

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Slack's Desktop App Now Launches 33% Faster, Uses 50% Less Memory

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 18:43
Slack today announced it's deploying an under-the-hood upgrade for its desktop app to boost performance for companies and teams using the app for workplace collaboration. From a report: The latest version of Slack for desktop and internet browsers is due out in the coming weeks and promises a 33% faster launch time, 10 times faster launch of VoIP calls, and roughly 50% less memory usage. The news comes a month after Slack became a public company, listed as WORK on the New York Stock Exchange. Slack product architect and lead of desktop client rewrite Johnny Rodgers said the upgrade takes advantage of changes to Slack's underlying technology, like modern JavaScript tools and techniques and the React UI framework.

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Dropbox Brings Back Support For ZFS, XFS, Btrfs And eCryptFS On Linux

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 18:01
Speaking of Dropbox, the online storage cloud service has enabled support for ZFS and XFS on 64-bit Linux systems, and eCryptFS and Btrfs on all Linux systems. The move comes after it recently pulled support for all file storage systems on Linux except Ext4. From a report: Dropbox stopped supporting folder syncing to drives with filesystems it deemed "uncommon", which on Linux meant anything but Ext4, upsetting quite a few users. The reason cited for this was that "a supported file system is required as Dropbox relies on extended attributes (X-attrs) to identify files in the Dropbox folder and keep them in sync", which doesn't really make sense since there are many filesystems that support xattr (extended attributes) on Linux. After this change was announced, various workarounds started to appear online, including one that I posted on Linux Uprising. There was even a new unofficial, open source Dropbox client developed for this reason (which is also much lighter than the official client by the way). But this didn't last long though, as last week, the Dropbox 77.3.127 beta changelog says that Dropbox has added back support for ZFS (on 64-bit systems only), XFS (on 64bit systems only), Btrfs and eCryptFS.

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Equifax To Pay At Least $575M as Part of FTC Settlement

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 16:47
Equifax has agreed to pay at least $575 million to the US Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and all 50 states over its massive 2017 data breach. From a report: If that isn't enough to compensate people impacted by the breach, the credit reporting company could have to pay up to $700 million -- a figure we got hints about on Friday. The settlement includes $300 million for a fund providing affected consumers with credit monitoring services and for those who bought credit or identity monitoring services in the wake of the breach. If that doesn't cover the losses, Equifax will add up to $125 million to the fund. It's also agreed to pay $175 million to 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as $100 million in civil penalties to the CFPB. Hackers stole the personal information -- including Social Security numbers and home addresses -- of nearly 148 million Americans from Equifax's servers in a data breach that ran from May and July 2017. A December 2018 House Oversight Committee report called the breach "entirely preventable," saying Equifax didn't take action to prevent it and wasn't prepared for the aftermath.

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Microsoft Invests $1 Billion in OpenAI To Develop AI Technologies on Azure

Mon, 22/07/2019 - 16:00
Microsoft today announced that it would invest $1 billion in OpenAI, the San Francisco-based AI research firm cofounded by CTO Greg Brockman, chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, Elon Musk, and others, with backing from luminaries like LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman and former Y Combinator president Sam Altman. From a report: In a blog post, Brockman said the investment will support the development of artificial general intelligence (AGI) -- AI with the capacity to learn any intellectual task that a human can -- with "widely distributed" economic benefits. To this end, OpenAI intends to partner with Microsoft to jointly develop new AI technologies for the Seattle company's Azure cloud platform and will enter into an exclusivity agreement with Microsoft to "further extend" large-scale AI capabilities that "deliver on the promise of AGI." Additionally, OpenAI will license some of its technologies to Microsoft, which will commercialize them and sell them to as-yet-unnamed partners, and OpenAI will train and run AI models on Azure as it works to develop new supercomputing hardware while "adhering to principles on ethics and trust." According to Brockman, the partnership was motivated in part by OpenAI's continued pursuit of enormous computational power. Its researchers recently released analysis showing that from 2012 to 2018 the amount of compute used in the largest AI training runs grew by more than 300,000 times, with a 3.5-month doubling time, far exceeding the pace of Moore's Law. Perhaps exemplifying the trend is OpenAI's OpenAI Five, an AI system that squared off against professional players of the video game Dota 2 last summer. On Google's Cloud Platform -- in the course of training -- it played 180 years' worth of games every day on 256 Nvidia Tesla P100 graphics cards and 128,000 processor cores, up from 60,000 cores just a few years ago.

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