Person, Technological Advance, and Podcast of the Year — and Worst Deal

And the winners are? Alex Kantrowitz has 2022 covered.

The start of 2022 was almost serene. In January, Elon Musk was known mostly for building cars and rockets. FTX had yet to advertise in a Super Bowl. And the stock market still liked tech companies. How quaint it all felt. 

It’s been a turbulent year since, but also one of remarkable progress. Long-promised breakthroughs that seemed impossible have materialized. New technology has made us say “wow” again. And grifts like SPACs and crypto shitcoins have fizzled. Amid the pain, these developments have been encouraging.

As we look back on an eventful year, let’s hand out Big Technology’s second annual awards, expanding on our book awards format from 2021.

Here we go: 

Advance of the Year: Generative AI Unleashed 

In April, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman posted a Twitter thread of images drawn at his followers’ behest. There was an elephant tea party, a rabbit detective reading a newspaper, a city on Mars, and more. The beautifully composed images were drawn by an AI system — Dall-E 2 — that produces illustrations with just a string of text.

Altman’s thread was the first indication that major breakthroughs in Generative AI were arriving this year. And in recent months, the public’s gained access to AI tools like Dall-E and ChatGPT, which draw and compose text with remarkable originality. 

For the first time in recent memory, the year’s biggest tech story is a product development, not a policy debate. And though there are risks, these models’ ability to empower humans is creating a vibe comparable to the early smartphone era. 

Related Article: OpenAI’s New ChatGPT Might Be the First Good Chatbot

Person of the Year: Fed Chair Jay Powell

US Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell waited too long to raise interest rates and curb inflation, and his delay enticed tech companies to spend into an overheated economy. When Powell finally reversed course, he induced a whiplash that led to mass layoffs, sunk valuations and general unrest.

Powell’s rate raises also helped clear a ton of junk out of the tech industry, though you could argue his zero interest rate policy was responsible for that junk. Nevertheless, with interest rates rising, people took less risky bets, leading to the diminishment of SPACS, NFTs and crypto junk that had little value outside of speculation. It also contributed to the fall of FTX.

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