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Technology Trends 2022: Crypto, Web 3.0, Big Tech Regulation, and Meatless Meat

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After a year that made the terms WFH (work from home) and metaverse instantly recognizable for many people, there are a new set of technological trends headed this way for 2022.

Here’s a selection of how technology may change lives in the coming year:

Meatless meat

Meat alternatives have become common in an increasing number of US households, thanks in part to Beyond Meat and Impossible Food plant-based products that come far closer to the texture and flavour of beef or pork.

As the products have improved and the prices edged downward, demand has been boosted by concern about the environment: raising animals for food is responsible for a whopping 14.5 percent of human-linked greenhouse gas emissions, according to UN data.

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The global market for plant-based meats is expected to be worth $35 billion (roughly Rs. 2,62,270 crore) in 2027 — up from $13.5 billion (roughly Rs. 1,01,160 crore) in 2020, thanks in part to expansion beyond the United States, according to a report from Research and Markets.

“2022 will be the crowning year of food made from plant-based proteins,” said David Bchiri, president of US consulting firm Fabernovel. “The products are mature and good. They’re going to become mainstream.”

‘Web 3.0’ and crypto

The Internet’s first phase was the creation of websites and blogs, which allowed the emergence of companies like Yahoo, eBay, or Amazon.

The next iteration was Web 2.0, defined by social media and user generated content on sites like Facebook and YouTube.

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These platforms “get the money and control it, they let you on their platform,” summarised Benedict Evans, an independent analyst specialising in Silicon Valley.

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So, is Web 3.0 coming?

In this iteration, “users, creators and developers would have stakes and votes” in a platform in much the way a cooperative works, Evans said on his “Another Podcast.”

Such a revolutionary step could be made possible by blockchain technology, where computer programs run on networks of thousands or millions of computers.

So far, blockchain has enabled the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and more recently, the unique digital objects such as drawings or animations called NFTs.

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“We talk a lot about decentralised finance, but I think that in 2022 we will see more localised use cases, which will enter everyday life,” said Bchiri of consulting firm Fabernovel.

As highly-volatile digital monies like bitcoin have hit record high values in 2021, a huge range of players have gotten into the game including versions launched by the cities of Miami and New York.

Ransomware, everywhere

The spike toward record ransomware attacks and data leaks in 2021 looks likely to spill over into the coming year.

Cyber-extortion heists break into a victim’s network to encrypt data, then demand a ransom, typically paid via cryptocurrency in exchange to unlock it.

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A confluence of factors has fueled the trend, including the booming value of cryptocurrencies, victims’ willingness to pay and the difficulty authorities have in catching attackers.

Cybersecurity company SonicWall wrote in late October: “With 495 million ransomware attacks logged by the company this year to date, 2021 will be the most costly and dangerous year on record.”

“When I think about 2022, the thing that’s top of mind for me and for my colleagues continues to be ransomware. It’s simply too lucrative,” wrote Sandra Joyce, executive vice president and head of global intelligence at cybersecurity firm Mandiant.

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Big Tech regulation? 

It’s difficult to say if 2022 is the year Big Tech will finally be hit with significant new rules, but a series of regulatory and legal threats launched in 2021 will provoke major battles.

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In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission’s anti-trust lawsuit against Facebook represents a genuine threat to the social media giant, though a court has already dismissed the case once.

More lawsuits and a federal investigation — and maybe even finally new laws — are possible in the wake of the damning whistleblower leaks showing Facebook executives knew its sites could cause harm.

Some critics say the firm’s major push into realizing the metaverse — a virtual reality version of the Internet — is an effort to change the subject after years of criticism.

Apple dodged a bullet in 2021 when a US federal court said Fornite maker Epic Games failed to show the iPhone giant held an illegal monopoly, but the firm was still ordered to loosen control over its App Store. Both sides have appealed.

New regulations may come sooner in the EU as it pushes through new laws, such as the Digital Services Act which would create much stricter oversight of harmful and illegal content on platforms like Facebook.

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Elon Musk Expected to Go Ahead With $54.20 a Share Twitter Deal: Report

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Billionaire Elon Musk is expected to propose going ahead with his takeover of Twitter at $54.20 (nearly Rs. 4,400) per share, a Bloomberg news reporter tweeted on Tuesday.

Twitter shares jumped 12.7 percent to $47.93 (nearly Rs. 3,900) before trading was halted for the second time, while Tesla, the electric vehicle company that Musk heads, fell about 3 percent.

Musk made the proposal in a letter to Twitter, Bloomberg reported, citing people who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.

Twitter and Musk’s lawyers were not immediately available for requests for comment from Reuters.

The news comes ahead of a highly anticipated faceoff between Musk and Twitter in Delaware’s Court of Chancery on October 17, in which the social media company was set to seek an order directing Musk to close the deal at $54.20 per share.

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“This is a clear sign that Musk recognized heading into Delaware Court that the chances of winning vs Twitter board was highly unlikely and this $44 billion (nearly Rs. 3,58,500 crore) deal was going to be completed one way or another,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives wrote in a note after the news.

Musk agreed in April to buy Twitter for $44 billion, but within weeks said the number of bot accounts was much higher than Twitter’s estimate of less than 5 percent of users.

Last week, newly disclosed text messages between Musk and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal showed that the two men briefly bonded in the spring over their love of engineering.

The text exchanges were included in redacted documents that Musk lawyers filed early Thursday after challenging a Twitter claim that they couldn’t be made public because they contained sensitive information. Several of the “public versions” of those Twitter documents contain wholesale redactions and are almost entirely blacked out. The documents containing the Musk and Agrawal texts, by contrast, were not.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Facebook Parent Meta Launches AI Software Tools to Ease Switching Between Nvidia, AMD Chips

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Facebook parent Meta said on Monday it has launched a new set of free software tools for artificial intelligence applications that could make it easier for developers to switch back and forth between different underlying chips.

Meta‘s new open-source AI platform is based on an open-source machine learning framework called PyTorch, and can help code run up to 12 times faster on Nvidia‘s flagship A100 chip or up to four times faster on AMD‘s MI250 chip, it said.

But just as important as the speed boost is the flexibility the software can provide, Meta said in a blog post.

The software has become a key battleground for chipmakers seeking to build up an ecosystem of developers to use their chips. Nvidia’s CUDA platform has been the most popular so far for artificial intelligence work.

However, once developers tailor their code for Nvidia chips, it is difficult to run it on graphics processing units, or GPUs, from Nvidia competitors like AMD. Meta said the software is designed to easily swap between chips without being locked in.

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“The unified GPU back-end support gives deep learning developers more hardware vendor choices with minimal migration costs,” Meta said in its blog post.

Nvidia and AMD did not immediately return requests for comment.

Meta’s software is made for AI work called inference, which is when machine learning algorithms that previously have been trained on huge amounts of data are called on to make quick judgments, such as deciding whether a photograph is of a cat or a dog.

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“This is a software effort that is multi-platform. And it’s a testament to the importance of software, particularly for deploying neural networks in machine learning for inference,” said David Kanter, a founder of MLCommons, an independent group that measures AI speed.

Kanter added that this new Meta AI platform would be “good for customer choice.”

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TikTok Fined RUB 3 Million for Violating Russian Law Against Spreading LGBT Propaganda

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A Russian court on Tuesday fined ByteDance-owned TikTok RUB 3 million (roughly Rs. 41,50,000) over the social media platform’s refusal to delete content Russian authorities say violates laws against spreading “LGBT propaganda.”

News agencies reported that the case against TikTok was based on accusations that the company was “promoting non-traditional values, LGBT, feminism, and a distorted representation of traditional sexual values” on its platform.

Russia is considering expanding its existing “gay propaganda” law, passed in 2013, which bans any person or entity from promoting homosexual relationships to children. Lawmakers have argued the law should be expanded to include adults as well and fines for exposing minors to “LGBT propaganda” should be increased.

TikTok, found guilty of an administrative offence for failing to delete prohibited content, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Interfax reported that a TikTok representative in the courtroom had insisted the proceedings be terminated, without giving further details.

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The fine marks the latest step in Moscow’s long-running dispute with Big Tech, with fines over content, demands over data storage and some outright bans all throttling the influence and reach of Western firms in the country.

Russian authorities say they are defending morality in the face of what they argue are un-Russian liberal values promoted by the West, but human rights activists say the law has been broadly applied to intimidate Russia’s LGBT community.

In August, a Russian court fined streaming service Twitch RUB 2 million (roughly Rs. 26,21,100) as it hosted a short video which is claimed to contain “fake” information about alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. Previously, Russia has also repeatedly threatened to fine other social platforms — including Google, Twitter and Wikipedia — which has been accused of hosting “fake” content related to its military campaign in Ukraine.

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