The alarm around so-called artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning has prompted the technology’s “godfather” Geoffrey Hinton to lament his life’s work. AI, the warnings go, could see widespread job losses or worse, should it “get smarter than people”, as Hinton put it when he quit his job at Google in early May. Hinton’s concerns followed tech business bosses putting their names to a letter calling for a six-month pause on AI advances, lest we “develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us” and in turn “risk loss of control of our civilization.” A less hair-raising warning came on May 10, with the publication in Science Advances of research showing AI to be a harsher judge of social media posts than human counterparts.
Category: Business & Economics
Coffee drinkers urged to take the plunge on recycling pods – dpa international
Anyone who has gotten into using coffee pods instead of old-school formulas using stove-top moka pots or plunger-style cafetieres has been faced with a dilemma: what to do with the used plastic shells. A British-Brazilian team has an answer. And it is not to tell coffee drinkers to stick to the tried and trusted methods preferred by purists, be that the high-pressure drip of an espresso or the aroma-tinged wait for a jug of pressed coffee to gain strength. Rather than end up in a landfill, the plastic in the pods can be re-fashioned to make filament for 3D printers. The team, from Manchester Metropolitan University and the Federal University of São Carlos in Brazil, the world’s biggest coffee producer, tested the repurposed plastic out before writing up the results for the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.
Irish consumers hit hardest by Europe’s power price surge – dpa international
DUBLIN — For around 22,000 electricity and gas customers in Ireland, a year of unprecedented expense could be about to get even worse. Suppliers Bord Gais and Electric Ireland, the latter a state-owned utility, confessed in late April to ‘billing errors’ that either saw customers charged twice or go months without being sent a bill. The admissions came the same week the European Commission published data showing 2022 as the priciest year on record for gas and electricity prices. “Average household electricity prices in the EU continued to show a sharp increase compared with the same period in 2021, from €23.5 per 100 kWh to €28.4 per 100 kWh. Average gas prices also increased compared with the same period in 2021 from €7.8 per 100 kWh to €11.4 per 100 kWh in the second half of 2022,” the Commission’s number crunchers at Eurostat said.
IMF lowers Asia economic growth outlook after months of lockdowns – dpa international
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday cut its 2021 economic growth forecast for Asia to 6.5 per cent, citing “new peaks of the pandemic cycle.” Many countries in the region have reported record coronavirus-related deaths and case numbers in the months since the IMF’s April forecast of around 7.5-per-cent growth for this year. “The pandemic’s resurgence has triggered lockdowns that are hampering the recovery,” the IMF said, in its latest Asia-focused economic outlook. Despite the impact of the virus and the harsh restrictions applied in countries such as Australia and Malaysia, Asia is nonetheless is likely to remain the world’s fastest-growing region, the IMF said, while warning that the pandemic is widening a “divide” between the region’s advanced economies and their “emerging” or “developing” counterparts.
Pandemic’s economic impact “pales” compared to population decline, OECD says – dpa international
While the coronavirus pandemic upended state spending plans and left economies reeling, its impact is likely to pale in comparison to challenges such as ageing populations, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Paris-based group’s secretariat said on Tuesday that before the pandemic, governments were facing health spending rises of over two percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP) between now and 2060 and around the same for pensions in countries with what the OECD labelled “unfavourable demographics.” By comparison, recently accrued government debt to pay for pandemic-related social and health spending is likely to add “only about 1/2 percentage point of GDP to long-run fiscal pressure in the median country,” according to the OECD.
IMF cuts US and global GDP growth forecasts, citing “uncertainty” – dpa international
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday cut its global economic growth forecast for 2021 to 5.9 per cent, citing “uncertainty about how quickly the [coronavirus] pandemic can be overcome.” In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF pared 0.1 percentage points off its July projection, in part due to “advanced economies” being hit by supply-chain disruptions that were exacerbated by recent pandemic outbreaks and lockdowns in Asia’s manufacturing hubs. Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s director of research, said “global recovery continues but momentum has weakened.” The Fund said it expects the world’s biggest economy, the US, to grow by 6 per cent this year, one percentage point down on what it projected in July, with China, the second-biggest, in line for 8-per-cent expansion.
World Bank cuts East Asia GDP growth outlook, citing pandemic curbs – dpa international
Much of East Asia and the Pacific faces far slower economic growth than was expected a few months ago, according to the World Bank, which on Tuesday slashed its outlook for most of the region’s 18 countries. Measured without China, the rest of the East Asia and Pacific’s “developing” economies are set to expand by 2.5 per cent this year, the bank warned, cutting a forecast of 4.4 per cent made in April before regional coronavirus case numbers and deaths soared. The less rosy outlook is due to pandemic restrictions “constraining economic activity,” according to the bank. It said the Delta variant and attempts to slow its spread were “disrupting production” and hindering prospects of a recovery.
Grim economic prospects for ‘least developed’ countries even after coronavirus fades – dpa international
The coronavirus pandemic has worsened a “grim” economic outlook for the world’s poorest countries, UN trade officials believe, with many likely to be “mired” in crises for years to come. An “emerging two-speed global recovery” from the pandemic and related restrictions, which last year caused most countries’ economies to shrink, could “reverse many hard-won development gains,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) warned on Monday.
Business research spending hit by pandemic side effects – dpa international
Research and development (R&D) spending in booming sectors such as software and pharmaceuticals has increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while transport and travel, which have been hit hard by the pandemic, have reported falling outlays. Overall spending was up, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which said that “scientific output, expenditures in research and development, intellectual property filings and venture capital deals continued to grow” last year after a record-setting 2019. WIPO had earlier reported an “all-time high” number of patent filings for 2020, describing the record on Monday as “driven by medical technology, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.”
Rethink sought for ‘chaotic’ pandemic travel rules – dpa international
Governments need to “rethink global travel restrictions,” according to the Singapore-based secretariat of the 21-country Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc, which described the pandemic-related curbs as “chaotic.” The frontier rules “are not consistent,” the secretariat said on Wednesday, leading to “even essential travel” becoming “more cumbersome” and “more exclusive” than it has been for decades.