Southwest Airlines is grounded once again by a tech glitch, Reddit plans to follow Twitter and charge for using its API and just when you thought AI had been moving too fast, get ready for another shock with an automated AI called Auto-GPT pushes the limits even further.


These stories and more on Hashtag Trending for Wednesday, April 19th

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US – here’s today’s top tech news stories.

Southwest Airlines is back in the news with another computer glitch grounding its aircraft. This follows on its disastrous December where severe weather and issues with the company’s failing legacy systems being unable to cope, caused more than 15,000 flight cancellations in December. That failure cost the company in excess of 800 million dollars. 

According to a report in Axios, Federal Aviation Administration officials confirmed that at about 10:30 on Tuesday that Southwest was forced to pause the airline’s departures due to “intermittent technology issues.”  Thirty minutes later the FAA tweeted that flights had been cancelled. 

In a statement on their site, Southwest blamed a “vendor-supplied firewall” that went down as the cause of the problems. 

While the outage appears to be relatively short lived, frequent fliers will know that a disruption at this level will ripple through the system for some time. 

Sources include: Southwest Airlines Axios

Social media site Reddit will begin charging for access to its API, following on a similar recent move by Twitter. 

Unlike Twitter, however, Reddit will remain free for developers who build apps and bots to that help people use their forums or to researchers that study Reddit for non-commercial or academic endeavours.

But CEO Steve Huffman told the New York Times that companies that crawl Reddit and “don’t return any value” to Reddit users will have to pay to use the API services.

Reddit is one of many platforms that are looking at ways to monetize their huge amounts of user-generated content. These platforms have increasingly been used to train software like Open AI’s ChatGPT but that doesn’t return anything to Reddit’s shareholders.

Some speculate that part of this comes as Reddit may be again looking at a public offering later this year.  Additional sources of revenue would enhance the company’s valuation.

Reddit was value at about 10 billion in August of 2021, but that value has reportedly vastly declined over the past year. One reason for that would be its earnings. Reddit is estimated to have earnings from advertising in the 350-million-dollar range, but that is miniscule in comparison with Meta (Facebook’s) earnings of 113 billion and even Twitter, despite its challenges still took in about 7 billion dollars in 2022.

Reddit is also looking to leverage AI in its site operations, particularly in managing AI generated text its comments. Like Twitter, AI text generating bots are a huge problem. As well as managing this threat, Reddit is also looking to other ways of helping the many moderators who run its forums with few automated tools. 

Sources include: TechCrunch

WhatsApp and Signal as well as five other apps are threatening to end service in the United Kingdom if the government passes its Online Safety Bill, which it claims will eliminate its encryption methods. 

The Online Safety Bill originally aimed to criminalize content that encourages self-harm on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. It was amended to have a broader focus on adult and child safety including issues of child sexual abuse.  Although government officials claim that this will not ban end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp and others claim that the surveillance allowed by the bill would do exactly that – “nullifying the purpose of end-to-end encryption and compromising the privacy of all users.”

The messaging apps remain defiant, but are equally opposed by groups like the NSPCC, a British child protection charity who said that “Experts have demonstrated that it is possible to tackle child abuse material in end-to-end encrypted environments.”

Sources include: Gizmodo

The Canadian Government is the latest to get behind the right to repair movement. According to a report in Techdirt, the 2023 budget has language that will attempt to put in place meaningful right to repair reforms by 2024. This is in addition to other green initiatives including tax credits of 4.5 billion dollars (CDN) for clean tech manufacturers and universal charging ports on devices to reduce waste.

Right to repair is a cornerstone of a new movement in sustainability in IT. 

In Canada, the Digital Governance Council has published  estimates that by 2025, digital technology will account for 8 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. And energy consumption from digital technologies is rising 6 times faster than the rest of the economy.

While many have focused on the energy savings of new equipment, those who championing sustainability point out that the real carbon foot impact of IT devices is in their manufacturing. While the amount varies by individual device, approximately 80 per cent of a computer’s carbon footprint happens in manufacturing and shipping. Extending the life of a device, according to proponents, can offer a huge reduction in environmental impact.

Sources:  IT World Canada Tech Dirt  Digital Governance Council

And the latest thing in Artificial Intelligence is a new experimental open source, Python application called Auto-GPT.  

Auto-GPT leverages GPT-4 but is able to act autonomously, with little human intervention. Unlike GPT-4 which requires human prompts, Auto-GPT is “self-prompting.” 

You can tell Auto-GPT what end goal it is working towards, and it will attempt to produce everything it needs to complete its task. In demonstrations that we’ve seen, it even appears to be “self-critical,” looking for ways it can go wrong and improve.

Again, unlike ChatGPT, Auto-GPT also has real time access to the internet and appears to have “short term memory.” Even when interrupted, it will remember the task it is working on and the history of its work and learnings to date. 

It can even be configured for voice instruction through a connection with ElevenLabs.

It was posted on GitHub on March 30th by Significant Gravitas which identifies itself as an Indiepreneur and Game Developer. 

Auto-GPT can also run on a regular laptop, although it requires connection to GPT-3.5 or 4 and other outside tools. It requires some installation but no significant technical skills to get it up and running. There are several YouTube videos that could walk anyone through the setup.

The developers note that there are limits to the software. It might have some issues when confronting complex business tasks. But from what has been demonstrated to do, it is certainly highly functional and may mark another step in the democratization of AI. 

The claim from a recent tweet that “Auto-GPT pushes the boundaries of what is possible to with AI,” is, from what we’ve seen so far, no idle boast.

Sources: GitHub  ZDNet

That’s the top tech news for today.  Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with the daily tech news and we have a special weekend edition where we do an in depth interview with an expert on some tech development that is making the news. 

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I’m your host, Jim Love, have a Wonderful Wednesday!

The post Hashtag Trending Apr.19th- Southwest Airlines grounded again, Reddit to charge for access to its API, WhatsApp, Signal and more apps threaten to shut down in UK first appeared on IT World Canada.

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