From Google's Gemini AI to the International Space Station's anniversary – Here are today's Headlines

Google just rolled out a new AI powerhouse named Gemini, which it says is its most impressive AI model to date.

From Google's Gemini AI to the International Space Station's anniversary – Here are today's Headlines
Source: Google

To start off, we're looking into:

Google’s Gemini AI

The backstory: Last November, OpenAI dropped ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that quickly became a global sensation. A few months later, Microsoft’s Bing joined the AI race with its own chatbot to amp up its search engine game. Google's Bard is also in the mix but hasn't grabbed as much attention. It got some upgrades, like accessing data across Google products, but it hasn't quite matched up to heavy hitters like ChatGPT.

The development: Google just rolled out a new AI powerhouse named Gemini, which it says is its most impressive AI model to date. Gemini comes in three versions – Ultra (the biggest, most capable model), Pro (an all-purpose model that covers a wide range of tasks) and Nano (which is more compact for specific jobs and mobile use). Google plans to license the model through Google Cloud so developers can put it in their apps. Gemini Ultra is the first model to outperform humans in specific kinds of testing, and execs said the Pro version has even outperformed ChatGPT’s GPT-3.5. They did avoid answering questions about how it compares to OpenAI’s GPT-4, though. Click the link here for more.

AMD's MI300 Series chips

AMD Chief Executive Lisa Su holds the company's new MI300X chip at an event outlining AMD's artificial intelligence strategy in San Francisco, U.S., June 13, 2023. REUTERS/Stephen Nellis/File Photo

The backstory: As artificial intelligence (AI) progresses, there's a growing need for accelerators, which are chips that help train AI models. Nvidia is the big player here, grabbing an estimated 80-95% of the AI chip market. But competitors like AMD and Intel are also stepping into the ring with their own AI-focused chips. 

More recently: AMD made a big announcement in June about its new AI chip, the MI300X, a part of the Instinct MI300 series. It can use up to 192GB of memory, which means it can fit even bigger AI models than other chips. For context, Nvidia’s competing H100 only supports 120GB of memory. AMD said the chip would be ready to ship to customers later in the year.

The development: AMD released the MI300 lineup on Wednesday, saying these accelerator chips can run AI software faster than the competition. CEO Lisa Su shared the news at an event in San Jose, California, and she also estimated that the AI chip industry will hit over US$400 billion in the next four years. Click the link here for more.

Meta adopts default end-to-end encryption

Meta Messenger encrypted
People are seen behind a logo of Meta Platforms, during a conference in Mumbai, India, September 20, 2023. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

The backstory: Data encryption is a process that makes text and other data unreadable by scrambling it so that only authorized people can view it. Encryption in transit is when the data is scrambled only during its transfer, so it can still be read by third parties, like those storing the data on either end. The term “end-to-end” encryption (E2EE) refers to an even more secure level of encryption, meaning a message sent will stay secure on both ends of the communication, and even third parties won’t be able to read it.

The development: Meta has announced that E2EE for one-on-one chats and calls would be the default on Messenger moving forward. Encryption on group chats won’t be the default just yet, but there is still an opt-in setting for that. Meta said this move is part of a bigger shift toward making Messenger more like other messaging platforms, like Apple’s iMessage and Meta’s WhatsApp. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

The 25th anniversary of the ISS

International Space Station
Source: NASA/Roscosmos

The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the most impressive international science initiatives in history. But, the ISS is set to retire sometime in 2031 – with the last astronauts leaving in 2030. With the ISS’s 16 modules serving as an iconic space base for astronauts from all over the world, this is disappointing news. But it’s simply becoming too old. Pieces of the station are showing cracks, and there have been air leaks reported, too. Plus, a lot of the in-flight systems are past their expiration dates. So let’s celebrate the ISS while we still can.

December 6 was the station’s 25th anniversary. In 1998, a space crew connected the US-made Unity module to the Russian-made Zarya module, officially beginning ISS construction. It wasn’t until November 2000 that the ISS would be continuously occupied by crewmembers, with each crew living on the ISS for about six months at a time before switching out with another. Now, the ISS has completed over 100,000 orbits of Earth. Click the link here for more.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks rose on Thursday, breaking a three-day slump.
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks slid on Thursday, in sync with Wall Street's sell-off. Investors were also awaiting the release of crucial US jobs data later this week.

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In the US: Alphabet gained over 5% as traders welcomed the launch of its Gemini AI model. AMD soared more than 9% after its optimistic outlook for its data center AI chips.
  • GameStop was up by over 10%, and Chewy fell just under 1% following disappointing quarterly reports.
  • In Hong Kong: China Merchants Bank slipped 2.6%, WuXi Biologics dropped over 2%, and Tencent fell over 1%.

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In the US: Thursday's jobless claims were below expectations, and continuing claims declined, indicating steady layoff rates.
  • In Hong Kong: China's November trade numbers surprised analysts, with exports up 0.5% and imports down 0.6% year on year.

📅To check out our economic calendar for this week, click here.

More headlines ...

📰Israel/Palestine update: On Thursday, Amnesty International called for Israel to be investigated for war crimes after Israeli strikes in south Lebanon on October 13 were found to have likely been attacks on civilians. Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is visiting Russia, where he accused the West of supporting a "genocide" by Israel against Palestinians. The Israeli military said it's surrounded Hamas HQ and home of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar (who allegedly planned the October 7 attacks) in Khan Younis. The ongoing destruction in Gaza (an estimated one-third of homes destroyed, plus hundreds of cultural sites) has caused legal experts to start using the term "domicide," meaning the mass destruction of homes to make a place unliveable.

🧑‍⚖️Two Russian hackers charged: Two Russian hackers – an intelligence officer and an IT worker – have reportedly been involved in a years-long hacking scheme against the US and the UK. On Thursday, the US charged them with trying to mess with the 2019 UK election and US government officials. They also allegedly tried to hack different US intelligence and Defense Department employees between 2016 and 2022.

✌️Greece and Turkey make amends: Greece and Turkey are longtime rivals who've only narrowly avoided military conflict. With problems starting during the Ottoman Empire, they've had many disputes, often from claims over territory or resources. But, on Thursday, the two countries signed a "declaration on friendly relations and good neighborliness" to work toward long-term peace and collaboration.

💼Xi to visit Vietnam: China has confirmed that President Xi Jinping will visit Vietnam from December 12-13, which will be his first visit to the country in six years. Xi plans to meet with officials and discuss strategic cooperation between the two countries. This comes three months after US President Biden's visit to the nation, where he announced several deals with business leaders.

👶Hong Kong's HSBC increases maternity benefits: In Hong Kong, about 52% of HSBC's workforce are women. The company just increased its maternity leave for mothers from 16 weeks to 20 weeks, and secondary caregivers or fathers will get 40 days instead of 10 days. These changes will kick off starting January 1.

🤖EU's AI Act sees delays: The world's eyes have been on the EU as it comes up with some of the first major laws to regulate artificial intelligence (AI). But negotiations on these regulations have been stalling, and EU member countries are split on how to move forward. Talks on the regulations will start again on Friday morning.

👋Apple exec retiring: Steve Hotelling is an Apple veteran behind much of the company's advanced tech features, including touch-screens, health sensors, Face ID and tech for the upcoming Vision Pro headset. He was most recently an Apple vice president, and now Hotelling is retiring, according to company insiders. One colleague told Bloomberg that he was the single greatest driver for innovation in Apple's products outside of its chip division.

💬Musk/Iger feud: A few weeks ago, Disney pulled its ads from X (formerly Twitter) after issues stemming from far-right, offensive content on the site came to light and owner Elon Musk was accused of antisemitism. Musk recently called out Disney CEO Bob Iger over pulling these ads, accusing advertisers like Disney of trying to "blackmail" him. Now, he's said that Disney should fire Iger, saying, "Walt Disney is turning in his grave over what Bob has done to his company."

📱Push notification spying?: Push notifications are phone alerts that you get from an app even when you aren't actively using it – like when text messages show up on your lock screen. A US senator just brought to attention the possibility of the government spying on people through these push notifications. Now, Apple and Google have confirmed that push notifications aren't that secure and that governments can request information about this data from tech companies. Apple has since said it will update its transparency reporting for users now that the information is public knowledge.

🎥Russia's using Cameo?: Cameo is a website where you can pay a celebrity or public figure to record a personalized message for you or a loved one – often, these messages are for birthdays or a get-well-soon situation. But Russia has harnessed this seemingly harmless tool as propaganda, according to Microsoft's Threat Analysis Center. Misleading videos with American celebrities (like Elijah Wood, Mike Tyson and Priscilla Presley) have circulated on the country's social media and state-owned media. "Hi, Vladimir, Elijah here," Wood's video message says, portrayed to be meant for Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, before urging him to get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. "I hope you can get the help you need."

Quiz Time!

What anniversary did the International Space Station just celebrate to mark its time in orbit?

  • 25 years
  • 30 years
  • 45 years

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Written and put together by Joey Fung, Vanessa Wolosz and Christine Dulion