Catch up on this week’s round-up of the latest hosting and tech news. Here’s what we’ve uncovered since our last edition.
Space Junk Fine
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined Dish Network $150,000 (£125,000) for negligence in managing its space debris. The first penalty of its kind, it highlights the growing issue of space junk orbiting Earth. Dish Network was held responsible for not relocating its EchoStar-7 satellite far enough away from operational satellites. This satellite, launched in 2002, was supposed to be moved 186 miles further from Earth; however, it only shifted 76 miles due to a lack of fuel.
The FCC emphasised the need for satellite operators to meet their obligations, especially as the number of space operations continues to grow. Although the fine is tiny compared to Dish Network’s $16.7bn 2022 revenue, it sends an important message to the space industry, underlining the risks of potential collisions. Even a fleck of paint travelling at 17,500mph in orbit could cause fatal injuries to an astronaut on a spacewalk. To date, over 10,000 satellites have been launched, with more than half now dormant, adding to the space debris issue.
AI Chatbots Trial
According to information disclosed to the BBC, the Department for Education (DfE) has conducted a trial on the use of AI-powered chatbots to assess extensive reports, traditionally a task carried out by civil servants. The latest chatbot technology can quickly dissect vast amounts of information, even images, to respond to queries and provide concise summaries, and its adoption could potentially boost productivity at Whitehall. The trial was carried out in collaboration with London-based Faculty.ai.
During the trial, the chatbot reviewed draft local skills training strategies, which are used to shape courses offered by local educational institutions. While the results of the trial are pending, Freedom of Information-acquired documents suggest the chatbots could extract the main insights from these strategies more efficiently than the civil servants. Additionally, the chatbot might also be able to assist in identifying national future skills requirements. Current government guidelines allow officials to use AI chatbots for research, but there’s a ban on entering sensitive data.
Moon Race Rivalry
NASA’s chief, Bill Nelson, has stated that the US is currently in a space race with China to return to the moon. Reflecting on the Cold War space race against the Soviet Union, Nelson pointed out that today, private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, play pivotal roles in driving the programmes forward. Contracted by NASA, these companies share the financial burden while introducing innovative solutions. To date, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has received a $3bn (£2.4bn) contract to develop a lunar lander and Jeff Besoz’s Blue Origin has a $3.4bn (£2.64bn) deal for future lunar missions.
These contracts are part of NASA’s strategy to remain ahead of China, especially given the broader tensions between the two superpowers. China’s rapid advancements in space exploration, including a solo space station and the gathering of moon samples, have raised concerns in the US. There are worries that China might claim territories on the moon in the same way it is doing in the South China Sea. Despite China’s claiming it wants peaceful exploration, NASA’s investments have surged, boosting the US economy and significantly benefiting smaller businesses.
Facial Recognition Concerns
Police forces and private organisations have been urged to stop using facial recognition surveillance. The appeal by politicians and privacy advocates is a result of concerns about human rights violations, and the technology’s potential to cause discrimination.
This follows the government’s recent decision to permit police access to passport photographs to aid criminal investigations. The Home Office defended the technology, citing its legal standing and its success in apprehending criminals. Others also claim that the technology can help locate missing individuals, freeing up police officers to focus on other duties.
Facial recognition cameras compare faces seen in public spaces with those on watch lists. Critics, including members from various political parties and privacy groups, warn of its potentially invasive nature. The technology is widely used in China and other countries.
Apple’s UK Recruitment
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has announced the company’s intentions to expand its UK workforce, specifically recruiting those working with artificial intelligence (AI). This is in contrast to the widespread layoffs in the tech industry. Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, has recently announced it is cutting its workforce by 16%, while Amazon, Meta, Google and Microsoft have shed tens of thousands of roles since 2022.
Apple’s reversal of the current trend signals an uptick in IT investment that has been welcomed in the UK. Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan praised Apple’s move, emphasising Britain’s standing as a leader in AI and technology and the pool of talent the country has to offer.
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