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Google Flexes Its Healthcare AI Muscle

Axios reported:

Google showed off an array of new artificial intelligence (AI)-driven healthcare tools on Tuesday, from a souped-up chatbot that can shed light on your medical symptoms to enhanced search features that tell you if a doctor takes Medicaid.

Why it matters: There’s an arms race among big tech companies to infuse their products with AI — but the results, particularly in healthcare, can have unwanted consequences or pitfalls, like racial bias, privacy concerns and ethical problems.

Driving the news: The “large language model” that Google has been building for the medical world — an AI chatbot called Med-PaLM 2 — now consistently passes medical exam questions with a score of 85%, placing it at “expert” doctor level, the company said.

A rival generative AI tool, ChatGPT, also passed the medical exams — but just barely. (ChatGPT’s creator, OpenAI, just released a new, more powerful version of its underlying tech.)

Moody’s Cuts Outlook on U.S. Banking System to Negative, Citing ‘Rapidly Deteriorating Operating Environment’

CNBC reported:

In a harsh blow to an already-reeling sector, Moody’s Investors Service cut its view on the entire banking system to negative from stable. The firm, part of the big three rating services, said Monday it was making the move in light of key bank failures that prompted regulators to step in Sunday with a dramatic rescue plan for depositors and other institutions impacted by the crisis.

“We have changed to negative from stable our outlook on the U.S. banking system to reflect the rapid deterioration in the operating environment following deposit runs at Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), Silvergate Bank and Signature Bank (SNY) and the failures of SVB and SNY,” Moody’s said in a report.

The moves are important because they could impact credit ratings and thus borrowing costs for the sector. In its downgrade of the entire sector, the rating agency noted the extraordinary actions taken to shore up impacted banks. But it said other institutions with unrealized losses or uninsured depositors still could be at risk.

When ‘Scary Good’ AI Gets Even Better

Axios reported:

With Tuesday’s release of OpenAI’s new GPT-4, generative AI just got a lot more powerful — and we got a fresh reminder of just how unprepared we are to deal with these new machines. Why it matters: The amazing computer systems that can now ace standardized tests and maybe even do your taxes are still disturbingly prone to errors, bias and hallucinations.

Details: GPT-4 is an updated, significantly more powerful version of the engine that powers OpenAI’s ChatGPT. While ChatGPT could score in the 10th percentile on the standard bar exam taken by lawyers, OpenAI says GPT-4 can score in the 90th percentile. GPT-4 is also able to pass most AP exams, OpenAI said.

Between the lines: AI is barreling forward even as society is still trying to come to grips with both its promise and the potential pitfalls.

That’s all leading some critics to sound alarm bells. Tristan Harris, the former Googler who now runs the Center for Humane Technology, is warning against making the same mistakes with the current generation of AI that were made in the early days of social media.

Do COVID Vaccine Mandates Still Make Sense?

Science reported:

Visitors to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, DC, receive a clear reminder that 3 years after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 10 March 2020, it’s far from over. Before entering, they must show a guard proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Such demands were common around the world a year ago, with wide support from infectious disease scientists and public health researchers. But by now, almost everyone has had natural infections with SARS-CoV-2 or been vaccinated against the coronavirus — sometimes both — and it’s become clear that vaccine-induced immunity quickly loses its ability to prevent infection and spread of the latest variants. Some now say the mandates are outdated.

The persistent requirements are “baffling, to say the least,” says Heidi Larson, an anthropologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and director of the Vaccine Confidence Project. She spoke at a major infectious disease meeting this year that required all attendees to show they had had two doses of a vaccine — with no need for a recent booster. “It’s not like it’s going to mitigate the spread.”

Compared with Europe and Asia, the United States appears to be holding on to vaccine mandates more tightly. Many U.S. scientific groups, including NAS and AAAS (publisher of Science), still require their employees and all attendees at events and meetings to be vaccinated. Many universities continue to require vaccination or booster shots for students, staff, or both.

Maura Healey Ending COVID Public-Health Emergency, Vaccine Mandate in May

Boston Herald reported:

Gov. Maura Healey is ending the state’s COVID-19 public-health emergency and vaccine mandate on May 11, coinciding with the feds’ corresponding move.

Healey said in a press release Wednesday morning that the announcement two months in advance “allows additional time for impacted organizations to prepare for the end of the public health emergency.”

Notably among the changes that will come on May 11 is the vacating of Executive Order No. 595, which required state employees to get vaccinated. The administration touted the policy, which had been challenged in court, as having achieved its aims.

Trudeau Is Crushing Free Speech in Canada. Let It Be a Warning to the U.S.

Newsweek reported:

Americans must have breathed a huge sigh of relief last year when the Biden administration announced they were pausing plans for a “disinformation governance board.” As a Canadian, I’m here to warn you against getting too comfortable.

Canadians made the mistake of taking free speech for granted. Now, President Biden’s friend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is close to having new laws in place that would expand government regulation of online speech in Canada. In fact, Biden will be traveling to Canada later this month on an official state visit. For the sake of the United States, here’s hoping that Biden doesn’t get any ideas from Trudeau.

The Canadian legislation in question is known as Bill C-11, or the Online Streaming Act. Ostensibly a way to prioritize the “needs and interests” of Canadians, the Trudeau administration claims the act will ensure online algorithms promote Canadian content on social media and streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Spotify. Yet when a multi-partisan group of Canadian Senators proposed an amendment to the legislation to protect what individual citizens say on social media from government oversight and regulation, the Trudeau administration rejected the amendment.

Taking these aspects of the legislation together, the Trudeau administration is asking the Canadian public to trust them with an unprecedented amount of control over the internet. As currently written, the law would grant federal government bureaucrats the power to deem a student’s YouTube channel insufficiently diverse, or to find a rapper’s music guilty of spreading “disinformation.” Everyday Canadians could have their social media and streaming accounts shut down or shadowbanned for creating content that’s rejected by a government-controlled algorithm.

Snapchat Adds New Parental Controls That Block ‘Sensitive’ and ‘Suggestive’ Content From Viewing by Teens

TechCrunch reported:

Snapchat launched parental controls on its app last year through the new ‘Family Center’ feature. Today, the company announced through a post on its online Privacy and Safety Hub it will now add content filtering capabilities that will allow parents to restrict teens from being exposed to content identified as sensitive or suggestive.

To enable the feature, parents can toggle on the “Restric Sensitive Content” filter in Snapchat’s Family Center. Once enabled, teens will no longer see the blocked content on Stories and Spotlight — the platform’s short video section. The text under the toggle specifies that turning on this filter won’t have an impact on content shared in Chat, Snaps and Search.

The changes come long after a 2021 Congressional hearing where Snap was grilled about showing adult-related content in the app’s Discover feed such as invites to sexualized video games, and articles about going to bars or porn. As Senators rightly pointed out, Snap’s app was listed as 12+ in the App Store but the content it was sharing was clearly intended for a more adult audience. Even the video games it advertised, in some cases, were rated as being aimed at older users.

TikTok Reportedly Considers Breaking off From ByteDance if the Bans Continue

Gizmodo reported:

The ByteDance-owned TikTok is facing a metric ton of western scrutiny over how much user data might be seen by Chinese government officials in Beijing. How best to proceed? One new report suggests TikTok may act like a wounded animal and gnaw off its own supports if it can’t fly free of government crackdowns.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported based on anonymous sources that TikTok’s internal leadership has discussed breaking off from China-based ByteDance. This would either result in the company going public or a sale to the highest bidder. TikTok is worth a pretty penny, nearly $50 billion by some estimates. At the same time, ByteDance is priced at around $220 billion, according to Bloomberg citing a recent private market investment.

Of course, such a desperate act would only take place if it can’t shake off the attention of government officials calling for bans. TikTok has been trying to fight off reports that it monitors the personal location of specific U.S. citizens. The company is working on “Project Texas,” which is an effort to move all U.S. user data to servers hosted by Oracle. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multi-agency national security panel, is supposed to investigate how secure U.S. user data actually is, but Bloomberg reported that TikTok’s leadership is concerned that the review process has stalled out.

U.K. Expected to Ban TikTok From Government Mobile Phones

The Guardian reported:

Britain is expected to announce a ban on the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok on government mobile phones imminently, bringing the U.K. in line with the U.S. and European Commission and reflecting deteriorating relations with Beijing.

The decision marks a sharp reverse from the U.K.’s previously relaxed position, but some critics and experts said Britain should also extend the ban to cover personal phones used by ministers and officials — and even consider a complete ban.