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Alphabet spinoff Sandbox AQ raises $500mn for cyber security, other quantum work

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Alphabet spinoff Sandbox AQ raises $500mn for cyber security, other quantum work

Sandbox AQ, a startup spun off from Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) last year, said on Tuesday it raised $500 million as it helps customers prepare for a quantum computing future.

Quantum computers, whose processors run based on quantum physics, could one day carry out certain calculations millions of times quicker than today’s fastest super computers, yet they remain years away from making a big change, such as breaking encryption.

But as hackers can harvest data today and wait to decrypt them when the quantum computers are ready, the National Institute of Standards and Technology under the US Commerce Department selected new cryptography standards last year that could better withstand quantum computers.

The US government has set quantum computing as one of the key technologies important for national security.

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Sandbox AQ’s software scans companies’ systems to identify which parts use the old cryptography, identifies which need to be replaced urgently, and sets out to fortify the encryption of the enterprise, said CEO Jack Hidary.
“Right now you have a lot of banks and pharma companies and governments still using these old protocols,” said Hidary. “The average bank takes five to seven years to migrate over. … Now, hopefully they’ll do their important customer private information first.”

Sandbox also has a business selling powerful simulation software to accelerate development of drugs and materials.

The simulation does not currently need quantum computers to work, said Hidary. He said in the last 18 months chips that do artificial intelligence work have become powerful enough to run some of the math for quantum physics. When quantum computers are ready, that work would speed up even further.

Sandbox AQ is also using existing types of sensors based on quantum physics. These have long been MRI machines, for instance, and Sandbox has created a prototype machine to monitor the heart. It can also be used to monitor slight local changes in the earth’s magnetic field, making navigation systems much more precise, he said.

Last month Sandbox AQ said it won a contract with the US Air Force to research these quantum navigation technologies

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Former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt is the startup’s chairman as well as investor. Other investors include Breyer Capital, T. Rowe Price funds and Salesforce.com Inc (CRM.N) founder Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures.

Schmidt in a statement said Sandbox AQ has already signed up more than 15 enterprise and government customers and is partnering with 30 universities to train PhDs and other talent needed.

Some of the team and inspiration for Sandbox originated at Alphabet in 2016. But the Google parent is not a shareholder as Hidary said he wanted the company to be independent to work with the other major cloud companies as well.

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A former OpenAI leader says safety has ‘taken a backseat to shiny products’ at the AI company

A former OpenAI leader says safety has ‘taken a backseat to shiny products’ at the AI company

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A former OpenAI leader says safety has 'taken a backseat to shiny products' at the AI company

A former OpenAI leader who resigned from the company earlier this week said Friday that safety has “taken a backseat to shiny products” at the influential artificial intelligence company.

Jan Leike, who ran OpenAI’s “Superalignment” team alongside a company co-founder who also resigned this week, wrote in a series of posts on the social media platform X that he joined the San Francisco-based company because he thought it would be the best place to do AI research.

“However, I have been disagreeing with OpenAI leadership about the company’s core priorities for quite some time, until we finally reached a breaking point,” wrote Leike, whose last day was Thursday.

An AI researcher by training, Leike said he believes there should be more focus on preparing for the next generation of AI models, including on things like safety and analyzing the societal impacts of such technologies.

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He said building “smarter-than-human machines is an inherently dangerous endeavor” and that the company “is shouldering an enormous responsibility on behalf of all of humanity.”

“OpenAI must become a safety-first AGI company,” wrote Leike, using the abbreviated version of artificial general intelligence, a futuristic vision of machines that are as broadly smart as humans or at least can do many things as well as people can.

Open AI CEO Sam Altman wrote in a reply to Leike’s posts that he was “super appreciative” of Leike’s contributions to the company was “very sad to see him leave.”

Leike is “right we have a lot more to do; we are committed to doing it,” Altman said, pledging to write a longer post on the subject in the coming days.

The company also confirmed Friday that it had disbanded Leike’s Superalignment team, which was launched last year to focus on AI risks, and is integrating the team’s members across its research efforts.

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Leike’s resignation came after OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said Tuesday that he was leaving the company after nearly a decade.

Sutskever was one of four board members last fall who voted to push out Altman — only to quickly reinstate him. It was Sutskever who told Altman last November that he was being fired, but he later said he regretted doing so.

Sutskever said he is working on a new project that’s meaningful to him without offering additional details.

He will be replaced by Jakub Pachocki as chief scientist. Altman called Pachocki “also easily one of the greatest minds of our generation” and said he is “very confident he will lead us to make rapid and safe progress towards our mission of ensuring that AGI benefits everyone.”

On Monday, OpenAI showed off the latest update to its artificial intelligence m

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US, TikTok seek fast-track schedule, ruling by Dec. 6 on potential ban

US, TikTok seek fast-track schedule, ruling by Dec. 6 on potential ban

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US, TikTok seek fast-track schedule, ruling by Dec. 6 on potential ban

The U.S. Justice Department and TikTok on Friday asked a U.S. appeals court to set a fast-track schedule to consider the legal challenges to a new law requiring China-based ByteDance to divest TikTok’s U.S. assets by Jan. 19 or face a ban.

TikTok, ByteDance and a group of TikTok content creators joined with the Justice Department in asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to rule by Dec. 6 to be able to seek review from the Supreme Court if needed before the U.S. deadline. 

On Tuesday, a group of TikTok creators filed suit to block the law that could ban the app used by 170 million Americans, saying it has had “a profound effect on American life.”

Last week, TikTok and parent company ByteDance filed a similar lawsuit, arguing that the law violates the U.S. Constitution on a number of grounds including running afoul of First Amendment free speech protections.

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“In light of the large number of users of the TikTok platform, the public at large has a significant interest in the prompt disposition of this matter,” the U.S. Justice Department and TikTok petitioners said.

TikTok said with a fast-track schedule it believes the legal challenge can be resolved without it needing to request
emergency preliminary injunctive relief.

The law, signed by President Joe Biden on April 24, gives ByteDance until Jan. 19 to sell TikTok or face a ban. The White House says it wants to see Chinese-based ownership ended on national security grounds, but not a ban on TikTok.

The parties asked the court to set the case for oral arguments as soon as practical during the September case calendar. The Justice Department said it may file classified material to support the national security justifications in secret with the court.

Earlier this week the Justice Department said the TikTok law “addresses critical national security concerns in a manner that is consistent with the First Amendment and other constitutional limitations.”

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The law prohibits app stores like Apple and Alphabet’s Google from offering TikTok and bars internet hosting services from supporting TikTok unless ByteDance divests TikTok.

Driven by worries among U.S. lawmakers that China could access data on Americans or spy on them with the app, the measure was passed overwhelmingly in Congress just weeks after being introduced.

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Spotify sued over alleged unpaid royalties

Spotify sued over alleged unpaid royalties

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Spotify sued over alleged unpaid royalties

Music streaming giant Spotify has been sued in a US federal court for allegedly underpaying songwriters, composers and publishers by tens of millions of dollars.

The lawsuit against Spotify USA was filed in New York on Thursday by the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), a non-profit that collects and distributes royalties owed from music streaming services.

The suit alleges that Spotify on March 1, without advance notice, reclassified its paid subscription services, resulting in a nearly 50 percent reduction in royalty payments to MLC.

“The financial consequences of Spotify’s failure to meet its statutory obligations are enormous for Songwriters and Music Publishers,” MLC said.

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“If unchecked, the impact on Songwriters and Music Publishers of Spotify’s unlawful underreporting could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

According to MLC, Spotify reclassified its Premium Individual, Duo and Family subscription streaming plans as Bundled Subscription Offerings because they now include audiobooks.

Royalties paid on bundled services are significantly less. MLC said Premium subscribers already had access to audiobooks and “nothing has been bundled with it.”

“Premium is exactly the same service that Spotify offered to its subscribers before the launch of Audiobooks Access,” it said. In a statement, Spotify said the lawsuit “concerns terms that publishers and streaming services agreed to and celebrated years ago.”

Spotify said it paid a “record amount” in royalties last year and “is on track to pay out an even larger amount in 2024.” “We look forward to a swift resolution of this matter,” the Swedish company said.

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In February, Spotify said it paid $9 billion to musicians and publishers last year, about half of which went to independent artists. 

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