Can we use the cloud to reduce greenhouse emissions? Holding companies responsible for software bugs. And what if ChatGPT could reach out and touch you?
Welcome to Hashtag Trending for Friday, March 3rd.
I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US – here’s today’s top tech news stories.
The cloud is the enabler of our new digital economy. But can it also help us with the challenge of IT’s environmental footprint? According to a Sept 2022 report by McKinsey, “Enterprise technology is responsible for emitting about 350 to 400 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases (CO2e), accounting for about 1 percent of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. At first blush, this might not seem like a lot, but it equates about half of the emissions from aviation or shipping and is the equivalent of the total carbon emitted by the United Kingdom.”
We all know that the cloud is really countless number of servers in massive data centers constantly buzzing with digital activity.
But as Maud Texier, Google’s head of clean energy and carbon development told news site ZDNET, “At the end of the day, the internet is running on data centers, and from an operational perspective, the data centers are running on energy. So, this is the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions — when someone is using the cloud, is typing an email and creating something new.”
But is the growth in cloud computing problematic in terms of climate change? Perhaps not. But companies are increasingly sensitive to their environmental impact. According to research firm Gartner Inc, by 2025, 50 per cent of CIOs will have performance metrics tied to the sustainability of the IT organization.
So how is the cloud doing? Research published in 2020 found that while computing output of data centers increased 550 per cent between 2010 and 2018, energy consumption from those data centers grew just 6 per cent.
Miguel Angel Borrega, research director for Gartner’s infrastructure cloud strategies team added that “When we compare gas emissions, energy efficiency, water efficiency, and the way they efficiently use IT infrastructure, we realize that it’s better to go to the cloud.” Further, she noted in a recent interview, that normal “IT infrastructure rated at about 40%. When we move to cloud providers, the rate of efficiency using servers is 85%. So, with the same energy, we are managing double or more than double the workloads.”
New cloud data centres are increasingly using renewable energy sources, even though traditional data centers continue to be powered from fossil fuel sources.
Cloud providers are also getting efficient with their energy use with advances in areas such as refrigeration and cooling systems and efficient server utilization. According to a recent report, “AWS, Google and others are building their own custom chips and hardware to give customers the most computing power while using the least possible energy.”
Location matters in determining how green a cloud operation is. Some of Google’s data centers, in places such as Finland, Toronto and Iowa, have a CFE (carbon pollution-free electricity) percentage above 90. Others, such as data centers in Singapore, Jakarta and South Carolina, are closer to 10 per cent or 20 per cent.
When cloud providers cannot use renewables, many compensate for their energy use with zero-carbon energy purchases, or carbon credits.
Microsoft a huge global player in cloud has pledged to have 100 per cent of its electricity consumption matched by zero-carbon energy purchases by 2030.
Forget about Chinese spy balloons, the real threat, according to CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency in the US, is information technology.
CISA Director Jen Easterly thinks unsafe software products and technology present an enormous threat.
Technology providers must prioritize security in their products, more than cost, features and speed, according to Easterly. And companies should be held liable for selling vulnerable products that criminals and nation states later exploit in cyberattacks.
“While it will not be possible to prevent all software vulnerabilities, the fact that we’ve accepted a monthly ‘Patch Tuesday’ as normal is further evidence of our willingness to operate dangerously at the accident boundary,” Easterly said during her speech at Carnegie Mellon University on Monday.
One example that Easterly pointed out was the adoption of MFA – multifactor authentication. Microsoft has only 25 per cent of its enterprise customers using MFA. Twitter has worsened an already bad situation by switching off MFA and charging a fee to use it unless the sophisticated user understands how to enable it themselves using an alternate method.
Easterly notes, it can be better. Apple by comparison, claims 95 percent of its iCloud users enable MFA.
In regards to that, Easterly said, “”Apple’s impressive MFA numbers aren’t due to random chance. By making MFA the default for user accounts, Apple is taking ownership for the security outcomes of their users.”
She does accept that the transparency from Microsoft and Twitter in reporting their MFA adoption, which though “disappointing” is still key to shine a light on the importance of security by default, Easterly explained.
CISA has also been pushing “secure-by-design,” and putting the the liability on the vendors to sell safe products out of the box instead of dumping that responsibility on to consumers and businesses.
Easterly said ,”Security-by-design includes actions like transitioning to memory-safe languages, having a transparent vulnerability disclosure policy, and secure coding practices.
According to CISA, “using programming languages like Rust, Go, Python, and Java (instead of C and C++) can eliminate memory-safe vulnerabilities, which currently comprise around two-thirds of all known software vulnerabilities.”
Source: The Register
A tech company is locking employees out of their office systems at the end of the day to ensure work-life balance.
The message that appears on the monitors of employees of SoftGrid Computers at the end of their shifts reads: “Warning!!! Your shift time is over. The office system will shut down in 10 mins. Please go home”
Tanvi Khandelwal, an HR specialist at the company posted the message on her Linkedin, garnering over 425,000 likes and 7,000 comments.
While people loved the idea of an employer that sets boundaries for people and encourages them to live their lives outside of work, others were annoyed at the idea of being forced to drop everything, potentially in the middle of an important task or call.
The top comment read; “I understand life-work balance is important, but having this type of cut off seems more damaging and stress inducing than helpful”
Another said, “God I’d hate it, Let me decide how and when I work, I don’t need to be switched off!”
The company’s CEO, Shweta Shulka said that the goal of the policy is designed to help staffers prioritize breaks and clarified that the pop-up message is not an ultimatum but rather serves as a reminder. With a simple restart, they can get back to work if they want to.
It can answer questions, it can do research, it can write a program, do a report and now it can control robots.
Last week, Microsoft researchers unveiled an experimental framework that lets the OpenAI chatbot ChatGPT write special code that controls robot movements.
Researchers taught ChatGPT a custom robotic API – Application Programming Interface. So when the chatbot is given instructions like “pick up the ball,” ChatGPT can generate code to have a robot execute the instruction.
The researchers emphasized that “the use of ChatGPT for robotics is not a fully automated process, but rather acts as a tool to augment human capacity” Currently, a human inspects the code and edits it for accuracy and safety.
Microsoft showcased the innovation in a demonstration video showing robots, apparently controlled by code written by ChatGPT while following human instructions. The demonstration showed a robot arm arranging blocks into a Microsoft logo, flying a drone to inspect the contents of a shelf or finding objects using a robot with vision capabilities.
While the instructions fed to ChatGPT to control the robots have been from humans in the form of text, the researchers have also claimed that they have had some success feeding visual data into ChatGPT. For example, when tasked to catch a basketball with feedback from a camera, ChatGPT was able to estimate the appearance of the ball HTT in the camera image using SVG or Scalable Vector Graphics code.
Microsoft said in a blog post, “Our goal with this research is to see if ChatGPT can think beyond text, and reason about the physical world to help with robotics tasks. We want to help people interact with robots more easily, without needing to learn complex programming languages or details about robotic systems.”
And if ChatGPT bot starts threatening you as it has in some sessions, you might want to make a run for it.
Source: Ars Technica
That’s the top tech news stories for today
Links to these stories can be found in the article posted on itworldcanada.com/podcasts. You can also find more great stories and more in-depth coverage in itworldcanada.com or in the US on technewsday.com
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I’m your host Jim Love – Have a great Friday!