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Why the National Spelling Bee is more vital than ever in the age of AI

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The 96th Scripps National Spelling Bee, commencing Tuesday, stands as a testament to discipline and focus in a world where these qualities seem to be dwindling.
“Why invest in spelling bees when we have spell check?” is a question I often encounter as a professional spelling bee tutor. It’s a valid query, especially from those who haven’t witnessed the competition firsthand. In today’s digital age, where cell phones and computers boast the entire English dictionary at our fingertips, spelling bees may seem unnecessary. Yet, questioning their utility overlooks what makes them cherished events. The cancellation of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2020 due to the pandemic broke the hearts of spellers and language enthusiasts. Its swift revival in 2021 and 2022, albeit with modified rules and a partially virtual format, underscores its enduring appeal. The Bee continues to captivate audiences globally, prompting countries like Jamaica, China, and Ghana to send teams to Washington DC to compete.
With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), concerns about human distinctiveness and the domains best suited for automation have become paramount. While AI advancements have surpassed human capabilities in many areas, they haven’t rendered intellectual competitions obsolete. Despite computers like Deep Blue and Watson outperforming humans in chess and trivia, respectively, competitions like spelling bees endure. These events celebrate human skill, training, and composure under pressure—qualities machines cannot replicate.
Watching young spellers, typically aged nine to 14, decipher words onstage under immense pressure is thrilling. With just 75 seconds for questions and 90 seconds total to spell, they navigate a mentally taxing tightrope. The atmosphere in the spelling bee ballroom is palpably tense, even through a screen. One wrong letter could undo years of preparation, making each moment absolute, intense, and exhilarating.
Competitive spellers are akin to word detectives, armed with linguistic knowledge and phonetic expertise. They analyze words using Latin and Greek stems, discerning patterns and exceptions to spelling rules. Spellers develop and refine hypotheses about word spellings in real time, leveraging Bayesian inference and linguistic cues. Spelling demands meticulous attention to etymology, grammar, and pronunciation, making it more than just crossing T’s and dotting I’s—it’s an art requiring unwavering focus.
In essence, spelling bees are a celebration of human intellect, dedication, and linguistic prowess. In a world increasingly reliant on technology, they remind us of the unparalleled power of the human mind.
Source: theguardian.com

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EU’s new AI rules: Industry opposed to revealing guarded trade secrets

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New regulations in the European Union (EU) are set to compel companies to increase transparency regarding the data they use to train artificial intelligence (AI) systems, potentially unveiling closely guarded industry practices, reports the Times of India.
Since OpenAI, supported by Microsoft, introduced ChatGPT to the public 18 months ago, there has been a surge in public interest and investment in generative AI. This technology enables rapid generation of text, images, and audio content.
As the AI industry expands, concerns have emerged regarding how companies source data for training their models, particularly whether using content from popular books and movies without creators’ consent constitutes a breach of copyright.
The EU’s new AI Act, phased in over the next two years, mandates stricter regulations while allowing time for businesses to adjust to new requirements. Nevertheless, the practical implementation of these rules remains uncertain, notes the report.
Mandating “detailed summaries”
A contentious provision of the AI Act requires organizations deploying general-purpose AI models like ChatGPT to provide “detailed summaries” of the training data. The newly established AI Office plans to release a template for these summaries by early 2025 after consulting stakeholders. However, AI companies oppose disclosing their training data, arguing it as a trade secret that could unfairly benefit competitors if made public, the report reveals.
In the past year, major tech firms including Google, OpenAI, and Stability AI have faced lawsuits alleging unauthorized use of content for AI training. Despite US President Joe Biden’s executive orders addressing AI security risks, legal challenges regarding copyright remain largely untested, the report adds.
Backlash against OpenAI
Amid heightened scrutiny, tech companies have struck content-licensing deals with media outlets and websites. OpenAI, for instance, has partnered with the Financial Times and The Atlantic, while Google has collaborated with NewsCorp and Reddit.
Despite these efforts, OpenAI drew criticism in March when Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati declined to confirm whether YouTube videos were used to train its video-generating tool, Sora, citing potential violations of company terms and conditions.
Source: business-standard.com
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Picsart teams up with Getty to take on Adobe’s ‘commercially-safe’ AI

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Picsart and Getty Images are joining forces to develop an AI image generator exclusively trained on Getty’s licensed stock content.
According to Picsart, their AI lab is constructing a bespoke model from the ground up to power this tool. It aims to provide the platform’s paying subscribers with the ability to generate images that come with full commercial rights. This initiative seeks to address persistent concerns about potential copyright violations associated with AI-generated content. The Picsart / Getty Images generator is slated for launch later this year and will be accessible through Picsart’s API services.
This collaboration bears similarities to Adobe’s Firefly AI model, initially introduced as a prompt-based image generation tool within Photoshop last year. Adobe has since expanded its integration across various Creative Cloud applications. Adobe’s model also emphasizes commercial safety by training on stock images from Adobe’s own library, along with openly licensed or out-of-copyright content. However, questions remain about the integrity of the training data and user trust in Adobe’s approach.
Getty Images has previously ventured into commercially-focused AI products through partnerships with Bria AI and Runway, and by teaming up with Nvidia to introduce “Generative AI by Getty Images,” leveraging its extensive catalog of licensed images. Adobe’s widespread integration of the Firefly model into popular applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, and Express may pose a challenge for Picsart’s new offering in terms of attracting creatives away from Adobe’s established ecosystem.
Source: theverge.com
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Microsoft to delay release of Recall AI feature on security concerns

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On June 13, Microsoft announced that it will postpone the rollout of its AI-powered feature “Recall” with new computers next week due to privacy concerns. Instead, the tech giant plans to offer Recall for preview to a smaller group later, following feedback and additional testing.
Recall is designed to track various activities from web browsing to voice chats, compiling a searchable history stored on the user’s computer. This allows users to easily retrieve past actions, even months later.
Originally slated for broad availability on June 18 for Copilot+ PC users, Recall will now undergo a preview phase exclusively within Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks. This decision, as stated in a blog post by the Redmond, Washington-based company, underscores their commitment to ensuring a trusted, secure, and reliable experience for all customers.
Copilot+ PCs, introduced in May, feature advanced AI capabilities aimed at enhancing user interactions and productivity. The WIP, a platform for software testing, enables enthusiasts to preview upcoming Windows operating system features.
Microsoft intends to incorporate feedback from the WIP community before extending the Recall preview to all Copilot+ PC users in the near future.
Following the feature’s announcement, concerns over privacy were swiftly voiced on social media, with some users fearing potential surveillance implications. Elon Musk, prominent technologist and billionaire, likened Recall to a scenario from the dystopian series “Black Mirror,” highlighting societal apprehensions about the impact of advanced technologies.
Source: reuters.com

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