Hashtag Trending Jun.9- Will layoffs lead to unionization in tech; Google’s DeepMind creates algorithms 70% faster than human generated code; TikTok faces dismissal suit from ex-employee

We have a great weekend planned for you as we move into the summer months. We have our regular Hashtag Trending the Weekend Edition which goes to air Saturday morning. 

This week’s guest is Steve Astorino from IBM to give us some insight into IBM’s recent work on Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics. 

And for the summer, we’re going to add a second interview to the mix. In a series I call Hashtag Trending in the summer, we’re going to have some replays of interviews I’ve done over the last year with some amazing people – this week – Jim Balsillie, co-founder of BlackBerry.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

Will layoffs lead to unionization in the tech industry?  Google’s Deep Mind creates algorithms that are 70 per cent faster than human generated code by using techniques found in strategy games like Go.  A dismissal suit from an ex-employee alleges that fears that TikTok data was being accessed by its Chinese parent company were valid – with the help of a “God mode” password. 

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These and more top tech news stories from Hashtag Trending and Tech News Day. I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and Tech News Day in the US.

In the tech industry, a wave of labor organizing is on the horizon, according to Skylar Hinnant, a senior QA tester at Microsoft’s ZeniMax. Hinnant, who supported a successful union campaign at the gaming unit, attributes the drive to unionize to a lack of transparency and power imbalances within companies. 

Hinnant stated, “A lot of times we felt it was in the company’s best interest to keep us in the dark, ultimately we didn’t have a seat at the table.” He further explained that workers in less revered roles, such as quality assurance testers and contractors, are more likely to unionize due to differences in status and the way they are treated. 

The tech industry, once renowned as a great place to work, has seen its reputation tarnished by layoffs, cuts in perks and benefits, and a slowing of pay increases. Rahul Dhaundiyal, a director of engineering at Indeed, echoed Hinnant’s sentiments, stating, “When an employer lays off 16,000 employees in a day, that’s a power play making employees realize how powerless they are.”

Despite the upheaval, Dhaundiyal believes that workers haven’t yet reached their breaking point. However, he acknowledges that unions can work harmoniously with tech companies in some instances, citing the case of Microsoft’s ZeniMax game developers’ union. 

Hinnant predicts that the courage of a few individuals willing to risk their jobs could spark a wave of labor organizing across the country. 

Sources include: Insider

Google DeepMind’s AI, AlphaDev, is revolutionizing the way we approach computing tasks by generating algorithms that can perform fundamental tasks, like sorting data, up to 70 per cent faster than existing human-written code. As computer chips reach their physical limits, optimizing computer code to speed up computing has become a necessity.

Daniel Mankowitz, a researcher with Google DeepMind, explains, “We need to find new and innovative ways to optimize the computing stack on which all systems are run.” 

AlphaDev, a version of the AI system AlphaGo, generates code for sorting numbers by their size, a fundamental operation in computing. It writes code similar to how AlphaGo plays games, with each move being the addition of an instruction to the algorithm.

Interestingly, AlphaDev managed to generate a code that was 1.7 per cent faster for lists of more than 250,000 numbers. However, it’s important to note that the system is currently limited to relatively small programs and starts to learn more slowly when it reaches 297 instructions.

Despite these limitations, the code has been entered into the C++ library, marking the first change to the language’s sorting algorithms in over a decade. DeepMind estimates that these sorting and hashing algorithms are now being used trillions of times each day.

Sources include: Axios

Apollo, a popular iOS app for browsing Reddit, is set to shut down due to Reddit’s new API pricing. The app’s developer, Christian Selig, announced that the app will cease operations on June 30th. The new API pricing would require Selig to pay more than $20 million per year to operate the app, a cost that is not feasible given the sudden change from a free API.

Selig stated, “Going from a free API for 8 years to suddenly incurring massive costs is not something I can feasibly make work with only 30 days.” He also refuted Reddit’s claims that Apollo is less efficient than other apps, arguing that Apollo uses only a fraction of a percent of Reddit’s own previously stated API rate limits.

Despite the impending shutdown, Selig assures users that Apollo will continue to operate as usual until June 30th. He also plans to offer pro-rated refunds to subscribers for the remaining time left in their subscriptions.

This news comes as many of Reddit’s largest communities plan to go dark to protest the platform’s API pricing changes on June 12th. Despite this, Reddit has made no accommodations that would allow Apollo to continue operating under the new pricing structure.

Sources include: The Verge

Google is tightening its hybrid work policy, with plans to closely monitor office attendance and crack down on employees who aren’t adhering to the policy. Fiona Cicconi, Google’s Chief People Officer, emphasized in an internal memo that “there’s just no substitute for coming together in person.”

The company expects most employees to be in physical offices at least three days a week. Office attendance will be tracked using badge data and will be included in employees’ performance reviews. Those consistently absent from the office will receive reminders from their teams.

Cicconi even urged approved remote workers living near a Google office to consider switching to a hybrid work schedule. She stated, “Our offices are where you’ll be most connected to Google’s community.”

This move represents Google’s most stringent attempt yet to bring employees back into physical offices. Employees coming back to the office will be transitioned to desk-sharing due to shortages of space. The company is simultaneously downsizing its real estate footprint amid broader cost-cutting measures.  

Give me a second while I Google the word irony.

Sources include: CNBC

Yintao Yu, the former head of engineering for ByteDance in the U.S., has alleged that members of the Chinese Communist Party used a “superuser” or “god” credential to access data held by the company, including data on U.S. users and protesters in Hong Kong. This claim is part of a wrongful dismissal case filed by Yu in the San Francisco Superior Court.

Yu alleges that this “god” credential acted as a “backdoor” to all data collected by ByteDance, including that of U.S. users. He claims to have witnessed the credential being used to monitor the locations and devices of Hong Kong protesters and civil rights activists.

ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has denied these allegations, calling them “baseless.” The company stated, “It’s curious that Mr. Yu has never raised these allegations in the five years since his employment for Flipagram was terminated in July 2018.”

These allegations come amidst ongoing scrutiny of TikTok’s data handling practices and potential national security risks. TikTok has over 150 million monthly active users in the U.S. and more than a billion users worldwide.

Sources include: Business Insider

OpenAI, the organization behind the AI model ChatGPT, is facing a unique libel lawsuit. Mark Walters, a Georgia radio host, has filed a case against OpenAI after ChatGPT falsely implicated him in a financial lawsuit. The AI model erroneously claimed that Walters accused of embezzling money from the Second Amendment Foundation.

Walters’ attorney, John Monroe, stated, “While research and development in AI is a worthwhile endeavor, it is irresponsible to unleash a system on the public knowing that it fabricates information that can cause harm.” 

The lawsuit alleges that every statement made by ChatGPT about Walters was false, and that OpenAI acted negligently when it showed the false information to a journalist.

This case could potentially set a precedent for future lawsuits against AI companies over their products’ fabrications. 

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California Los Angeles, noted that while the merits of this particular case appear shaky, it could pave the way for a wave of complicated lawsuits that test the boundaries of libel law.

Sources include: Gizmodo

And finally a new study of remote work, hit my email this morning. The study claims that 13 per cent of Americans have had sex while on a virtual call. 38 per cent have taken a meeting while in the bathroom.

These findings were part of a study commissioned by a firm named Jugo, that bills itself as a global leader in immersive virtual experiences. Their aim was to gather information to build a Business Virtual Etiquette guide to help remote workers avoid “faux pas.”

As hybrid work continues to be part of our world, there is role for studies that can help provide us with information about new techniques and best practices.

But there’s such a thing as too much information.

And that’s the top tech news stories for today. 

Links to all of the stories can be found in the text version of this podcast at itworldcanada.com/podcasts 

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with a special weekend interview episode called Hashtag Trending, the Weekend Edition.  You can find us on Google, Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. We’re also on YouTube five days a week with a video newscast only there we are called Tech News Day.

We love to hear your comments.  Find me on Linked In, Twitter or on our new Mastodon site technews.social where I’m @therealjimlove.

Or if that’s too much to remember, just go to the article at itworldcanada.com/podcasts and you’ll find a text version with additional links and references.  Click on the x or check under the article and let’s hear what you have to say…or you can say something nice. We read it all and use it to try to serve you better.

From that last study, some of you don’t have to be told to have a great day!  But here it is anyway.  Have a Fantastic Friday!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Lovehttp://www.itworldcanada.com/
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO of a great company - IT World Canada - Canada's leading ICT publisher.

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