From the cost of humans vs. AI to a cold front in Hong Kong – Here are today's Headlines

Fears of AI’s impact on jobs have been an ongoing topic of conversation as the AI community makes more progress.

From the cost of humans vs. AI to a cold front in Hong Kong – Here are today's Headlines
Salesforce's slogan related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) is displayed on a window during the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 16, 2024. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Humans are still cheaper than AI

The backstory: Toward the end of 2022, OpenAI launched the generative artificial intelligence (AI) tool ChatGPT, and since then, AI has been on everyone’s mind as the tech gets more advanced and develops better capabilities. Fears of AI’s impact on jobs have been an ongoing topic of conversation as the AI community makes more progress. Economists from Goldman Sachs predicted in early 2023 that 300 million full-time jobs around the world could be automated, and AI had already pushed many businesses to rethink how their employees work every day.

More recently: Last week, we reported on an analysis by The International Monetary Fund (IMF) that said AI is set to affect nearly 40% of all jobs around the world, and that advanced economies would likely feel it more than others. AI could likely “worsen overall inequality,” according to the IMF’s managing director Kristalina Georgieva.

The development: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently released a study called Beyond AI Exposure centered around the fears people have about AI replacing humans in a range of industries. Researchers found that AI can’t currently replace the majority of jobs in a cost-effective way. Click the link here for more.

Peregrine's fiery return

Peregrine lunar lander
Space robotics firm Astrobotic Technology's Peregrine lunar lander is seen with a disturbance of its Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI), after its launch aboard the first flight of Vulcan, a rocket that had been under development for a decade by the Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA) January 8, 2024. Astrobotic Technology/Handout via REUTERS.

The backstory: On January 8, Peregrine One, a spacecraft trying for the first US moon landing in 50 years, took off on the Vulcan Centaur rocket, orbiting Earth smoothly before heading to the moon. This mission was a collaborative effort between Astrobotic Technology and NASA, with the shared vision of developing cost-effective lunar landers for robotic missions and laying the groundwork for crewed lunar landings in the future. Astrobotic, along with Intuitive Machines and Firefly, is also part of a new partnership with NASA for lunar missions in 2024.

But Peregrine started seeing challenges not long after its launch. A problem with its onboard propulsion system and a fuel leak put its soft lunar touchdown at risk. So, adapting to the setback, Astrobotic turned Peregrine into a satellite and was able to test some of its equipment and collect some data. Eventually, Astrobiotic decided on a controlled reentry into Earth's atmosphere for the craft, wrapping up the 10-day mission. Although the firm said the decision was a difficult one, it was ultimately the safest option to prevent creating more dangerous space debris. 

The development: The lunar lander's journey ended in flames on January 18 with a plunge into the Pacific, confirmed by Astrobotic. Little to none of the craft was expected to survive after burning up during reentry and hitting the ocean surface. Click the link here for more.

China's cloned monkey

cloned monkey Retro
ReTro, pictured at 17 months, has become the first cloned healthy rhesus monkey to live to adulthood. Source: Zahaodi liao et al./Nature Communications

The backstory: Cloning is a scientific technique for creating identical living organisms with the same genetic makeup. In 1996, scientists hit a cloning milestone with Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from the cell of another animal, using something called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Basically, this method combined a cell nucleus, the part that contains the most genetic information, from an adult sheep with an unfertilized egg that had its own nucleus removed. After Dolly, scientists tried cloning other animals, but it worked better with some than others.

The ambition behind cloning monkeys centers on how genetically similar primates are to humans, meaning they could help with research into human diseases. By using clones, hypothetically research would be more reliable since genetically identical subjects would produce like-for-like results.

The development: Now, Chinese scientists have achieved a big feat by cloning the first rhesus monkey, according to results published in a study in Nature Communications last week. ReTro, named after a method used in its creation (trophoblast replacement), is now 3 years old. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

Snow drought

climate change snow
A person skis in the snow in Soendermarken, Frederiksberg, Denmark January 17, 2024. Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix/via REUTERS

You may want to reconsider that ski trip. Climate change is continuing to wreak havoc on our planet, and now we’re seeing snowpack in decline. Although there’s been talk of this for many decades, we’re quickly approaching a critical tipping point.

Regions that usually expect heavy snowfall on average have seen a drop in their snowpack in recent years; for example, by 45% in Italy and 35% in Northern California. Parts of Afghanistan have also experienced record lows. The US and Europe, particularly, are hotspots for disappearing snow. In fact, according to a study published last week in Nature, almost half of 169 Northern Hemisphere river basins have seen snowpack decline since 1981.

But ski trips and winter recreation are really the least of our worries. The term “snow drought” has been flying around, and while scientists are still figuring out how to precisely define the situation, it’s clear that things are changing and putting lives, livelihoods and infrastructure at risk. Click the link here for more.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks closed higher on Monday as investors continued the upward trend from the previous session's record highs.
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks dipped on Monday, to the lowest in around 15 months, extending a tough start to the year amid concerns about China's economy.

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In Hong Kong: China Resources Land dropped over 11%, Longfor Group slid 10.5%, and Haidilao slipped over 6%. 
  • In the US: Archer-Daniels-Midland sank over 24% due to weak earnings guidance. 
  • SolarEdge rose almost 4% following announcing a workforce reduction plan.

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In Hong Kong: No major events are anticipated in China this week. 
  • In the US: Key data, including US GDP, initial jobless claims, durable goods, wholesale inventories and new home sales, will be out this week. 

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

More headlines ...

📰Russia/Ukraine update: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that Russia had shelled nine regions of the country. Meanwhile, the occupied Donetsk region was hit by a missile strike, killing at least 27 people and wounding at least 25 others, according to Russian officials. Russia blames Ukraine for this strike, while Ukraine says it "did not conduct any combat operations with means of destruction" in the area. After some reported drone sightings, a fire broke out on Sunday at a terminal of Russia's largest liquefied natural gas producer, Novatek, according to a regional official. 

Zelenskiy announced a "new Polish defense package" after meeting with Poland's PM Donald Tusk in Kyiv, thanking the country for its support. On Monday, he also thanked Ukrainians worldwide for their support throughout the war and proposed changing the constitution to allow dual citizenship for Ukrainians living in other countries. On January 22, Zelenskiy also signed a decree saying that Ukraine would take steps to research, publicize and protect the histories of Ukrainians living in parts of modern-day Russia that Ukrainians have historically inhabited.

🗞️Middle East update: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his administration have openly expressed their opposition to a two-state solution where Palestine would get its own state. The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on Monday that the international community supports a two-state solution and that Israel's opposition to it is "unacceptable." After the longest near-total blackout since the beginning of the war, communications were back online in Gaza as of Monday. Hamas has said it would release the remaining Israel hostages if Israel pulls out of Gaza, ends the war and releases Palestinian prisoners, but Netanyahu has rejected this proposal for what he called "outright surrender," saying it would leave Hamas intact and not provide future protection for Israelis. On Monday, protestors and the families of hostages stormed the Knesset to demand the government do more to secure the release of the hostages. 

💔Eight dead in China landslide:  A landslide in the southwestern province of Yunnan, China, has killed at least eight people, according to state broadcaster CCTV, while dozens of others are missing and some 18 homes have been buried. Landslides are common in this area, where there are steep mountain ranges. President Xi Jinping has ordered an "all-out" rescue, and nearly 1,000 rescue workers have been sent to help. 

🤝Pakistan and Iran relations thaw: After trading missile attacks last week targeting alleged militant hideouts, Pakistan and Iran agreed on Monday to normalize diplomatic ties. According to Pakistan's foreign ministry, the ambassadors from each country will return to their respective posts by January 26. Iran's foreign minister will also visit Pakistan on January 29.  

✉️Sony sends termination letter to Zee: After two years of delays on a planned merger, Japanese tech company Sony sent a termination letter to Indian media conglomerate Zee on Monday for failing to meet merger agreement conditions. The US$10 billion media merger, which was supposed to create an entertainment giant in Asia's largest streaming market, has been reportedly on the rocks over whether Zee's CEO Punit Goenka would lead the merged entity. Sony is seeking US$90 million in break-up fees, but Zee has denied breaching the terms.  

📄China overtakes the EU in clean energy research: China has now sprinted past the EU in the number of peer-reviewed publications in clean energy tech, according to a study done for the European Commission. This is a turnaround from 2010, when the EU was leading for publications on nearly every green-energy sector, excluding wind. China's progress is creating a new challenge for the EU's green tech ambitions, especially in light of the bloc's "de-risking" strategy to reduce its dependency on China. 

📩Sweden NATO vote: After about a year and a half, Sweden's long-standing efforts to join NATO may come to fruition, according to Turkish government officials speaking to the media. The decision will be made this week in a vote at the Turkish Parliament, and if successful, it will help NATO reinforce its northern reach. If Turkey votes in favor, it leaves Hungary as the last holdout on approving Sweden's entry into the bloc.

💐Musk visits Auschwitz: Elon Musk has seen lots of backlash on his social media platform, X, accusing him of allowing and even seemingly endorsing antisemitic messages. But he's defended the platform by saying that it's a place where freedom of speech flourishes and that the free exchange of ideas helps to correct hatred. On Monday, Musk visited the site of the Auschwitz death camp and admitted that he had been "naive" to the extent of antisemitism until recently, saying that most of his friends are Jewish and he sees little of it in his own personal circles. About the visit, Musk said, "It hits you much more in the heart when you see it in person."

💰Terraform Labs files for bankruptcy: According to court papers filed on Sunday, Singaporean crypto company Terraform Labs filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US, with listed assets and liabilities ranging from US$100 million to US$500 million. The company was behind the stablecoin TerraUSD, which collapsed and roiled in the market in 2022. Despite filing for bankruptcy, it intends to continue with plans for expanding Web3 offerings. This comes as the US government is pursuing Terraform and its co-founder, Do Kwon, for fraud charges.

🛕Grand temple in India:  A controversial Hindu temple was consecrated in northern India on Monday after PM Narendra Modi's party had promised to do so for decades. The temple is divisive, as it replaced a 16th-century mosque torn down by Hindu mobs in 1992, but many Hindus believe that invaders had built the mosque on top of an older Hindu temple. This day has been marked as the "dawn of a new era" by Modi, as the Ram temple in Ayodhya is a step toward elevating Hinduism in Indian politics. But critics say it's marginalized Muslims and other minorities in the secular nation. Modi addressed over 7,000 guests, including business leader Mukesh Ambani and Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan.

Hindu Ram temple India
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to attend the opening of a grand temple to the Hindu god Lord Ram in Ayodhya, India, January 22, 2024. India's Press Information Bureau/Handout via REUTERS

🤑Hong Kong mansion discount: Because of Hong Kong's ongoing real estate slump, an iconic mansion at the Peak was sold for HK$838 million (US$107 million), which is a discount of over 30%. The sale is linked to Chinese billionaire Xu Hang, according to a Hong Kong land registry and companies registry. Previous owner Tsim Wing Kong, a local businessman whose success came from the toy industry, bought the property in 1999 for HK$150 million (US$19 million). But its last asking price in October was HK$1.3 billion (US$167.8 million).

🥶Cold weather hits Hong Kong: Hong Kongers can expect very cold and windy weather at the start of this week as temperatures drop to as low as 7 C (44.6 F), according to the city's forecaster. The Hong Kong Observatory noted that the cold weather is coming sooner than expected, warning of icy conditions on high ground.

Quiz Time!

Why did Astrobotic and NASA's Peregrine moon mission not go as planned?

  1. It exploded after the launch
  2. It burned up upon reentry
  3. A fuel leak prevented it from landing on the moon
  4. The moon is made of cheese, and the lunar lander forgot to bring crackers

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Written and put together by Joey Fung, Alisha Khan and Christine Dulion

**The answer to the quiz is [3]