Connect with us

Business

Tech companies like Google and Meta made cuts to DEI programs in 2023 after big promises in prior years

Published

on

Tech companies like Google and Meta made cuts to DEI programs in 2023 after big promises in prior years

Shortly after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020, Google was among many tech companies that set up new programs aimed at supporting Black employees. The goal, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote, was “to build sustainable equity for Google’s Black+ community, and externally, to make our products and programs helpful in the moments that matter most to Black users.”

Advertisement

Google’s vocal commitments included improving representation of underrepresented groups in leadership by 30% by 2025; more than doubling the number of Black workers at nonsenior levels by 2025; addressing representation issues in hiring, retention and promotions; and establishing better support for the mental and physical health for Black employees.

The move was part of a broader trend in the wake of the Floyd killing, which sparked societal unrest and drew attention to the power imbalances in corporate America and the tech industry specifically. Corporations pledged to invest millions of dollars to improve diversity in their ranks and support external groups doing work on diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI.

Advertisement

But in 2023, some of those programs are in retreat.

By mid-2023, DEI-related job postings had declined 44% from the same time a year prior, according to data provided by job site Indeed. In November 2023, the last full month for which data was available, it dropped 23% year over year.

Advertisement

That’s a sharp contrast with the period from 2020 to 2021, when those postings expanded nearly 30%.

In line with this broader trend, both Google and Meta have cut staffers and downsized programs that fell under DEI investment.

Advertisement

The year’s cuts have also impacted smaller, third-party organizations who counted on big tech clients for work, despite the continued growth of those tech giants.

“Whenever there is an economic downturn in tech, some of the first budgets that are cut are in DEI, but I don’t think we’ve seen such stark contrast as this year,” said Melinda Briana Epler, founder and CEO of Empovia, which advises companies and leaders to use a research-based culture of equality. 

Advertisement

“When George Floyd began to become the topic of conversations, companies and executives doubled down on their commitments and here we are only a couple years later, and folks are looking for opportunities to cut those teams,” said Devika Brij, CEO of Brij the Gap Consulting, which works with tech companies’ DEI efforts. Brij said some of her clients had cut their DEI budgets by as much as 90% by midyear.

However, more than just broken promises are at stake, experts told CNBC in a series of interviews.

Advertisement

The cuts come at a time when technology companies are forging ahead on the biggest technology shift in a decade: artificial intelligence. If diverse people are not included in AI development, that may result in even greater power imbalances for both corporate workers, as well as consumers who will use their products.

“Our commitment to DEI remains at the center of who we are as a company,” a Meta spokesperson wrote in a statement to CNBC. “We continue to intentionally design equitable and fair practices to drive progress across our people, product, policy and partnerships pillars.”

Advertisement

Our workforce reductions and company-wide efforts to sharpen our focus span the breadth of our business,” said a Google spokesperson, saying that the company remains committed to underrepresented communities and DEI work. “To be absolutely clear, our commitment to that work has not changed and we invested in many new programs and partnerships this year.”

The Google spokesperson did not dispute any specifics in this story, but pointed to new investments in partnerships this year, including committing more than $5 million to historically Black colleges and universities to help build a stronger pipeline to the tech industry for underrepresented talent, and launching the Google for Startups Women Founders Fund to help women entrepreneurs.

Advertisement

Cuts to internal teams and programs

In 2021, after facing complaints about pay equity in its Engineering Residency program, Google said it would be sunsetting the program and replacing it with a new one called Early Career Immersion, or ECI, which is aimed at helping underrepresented talent develop skills. (Google said sunsetting Engineering Residency was an unrelated business decision.)

But Google decided not to hire a 2023 cohort of ECI software engineers, citing an uncertain hiring outlook, according to correspondence viewed by CNBC. It also laid off some staffers associated with the program.

Advertisement

Participants in a separate Google program called Apprenticeships also lodged complaints about a lack of pathways and pay inequities in the last year, CNBC found.

“Apprentices become part of our mission to build great products for every user, and their different experiences help ensure that our products are as diverse as our users,” Google’s Apprenticeships website states.

Advertisement

But Apprenticeships participants complained they were getting paid less than other engineers during the course of the 20-month program despite doing similar work. They said they were doing “Level 3” work with L3 expectations and contributing significantly to Google’s codebase while earning half of full-time L3 software engineers’ base salary, according to internal correspondence seen by CNBC.

The apprentices even confronted the executive sponsor of the program, Aparna Pappu, vice president of Google Workspace, pointing out the executive’s prior stated goal “to increase representation of underrepresented talent across Google.”

Advertisement

The company said that apprentices are paid a salary for the learning and training they receive as part of the program, and that it reviews compensation annually to ensure alignment with the market.

The Apprenticeships program, which included real-work job training for underrepresented backgrounds, followed other failed efforts to improve diversity. In 2021, for instance, Google said it shut down a long-running program aimed at entry-level engineers from underrepresented backgrounds after participants said it enforced “systemic pay inequities.” That same year, CNBC found the company’s separate program that worked with students from historically Black colleges, suffered extreme disorganization, racism and broken promises to students.

Advertisement

Google and Meta also made cuts to personnel who were in charge of recruiting underrepresented people, according to several sources and documentation.

Nearly every member of Meta’s Sourcer Development Program, more than 60 workers, was let go from the company as part of its layoff of over 11,000 workers, CNBC learned. They claimed to have received inferior severance packages compared with other workers who were laid off in the same time period. Meta’s Sourcer Development Program was intended to help workers from diverse backgrounds obtain careers in corporate technology recruiting.

Advertisement

Google also cut DEI leaders who worked with Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Parker, while Meta made cuts to several DEI managers — some of whom it hired in 2020.

Layoffs at Google and Meta also included employees who held leadership roles in their respective Black employee resource groups, known as ERGs.

Advertisement

“There’s a lowering of physiological safety with layoffs or impending layoffs, and holding ERGs accountable for that is not fair and can lead to even more burnout,” Epler said.

In addition to cutting staff who worked on DEI programs and ERGs, both Meta and Google cut planned learning and development training for underrepresented talent, according to multiple sources who asked not to be named due to fear of retaliation. Meta said that learning and development programs were “merely streamlined to make them more impactful.”

Advertisement

“There’s a consistent amount of folks who have completely failed, mostly because they don’t have the internal teams to keep the mission forward,” said Simone White, who is a senior vice president at Blavity, a media organization that focuses on content for the Black community, and puts on AfroTech, which became a popular tech conference for Black tech talent and companies seeking to hire them.

Cuts impacting external organizations

While internal DEI programs have suffered, the cuts were arguably even harder for external organizations who expected the same amount of corporate sponsorship and support from tech companies in 2023 as they had the prior few years.

Advertisement

In early 2023, big tech leaders, including Google and Meta were among companies that lessened their work with third parties that were counting on projects, according to several organizations and sources who spoke with CNBC.

Brij, CEO of Brij the Gap Consulting, explained how the steep cuts have affected her firm, which consults with companies on building an effective workforce for underrepresented workers and includes workshops and programs.

Advertisement

“Right now with these budgets being entirely limited or cut, we’re just really backpedaling on so much of the work that we’ve done.”

Brij said some companies have even asked her to provide work for free.

Advertisement

“A lot of companies we worked with started to make progress before the cuts,” Epler said. “Now, it’s like some of them are essentially wiping away that work.” 

Stefania Pomponi, founder of Hella Social Impact, said executives have blamed cost-cutting as they’ve canceled contracts with the firm, which consults with companies’ leadership to create more inclusive workplaces through programs and training.

Advertisement

“I’ve been telling them, ‘look, your bottom line is also your people and these types of cuts are going to impact your business’” Pomponi said, pointing to various studies on diverse teams producing higher performance outcomes.

“As I talk to my colleagues across the space, some of the monies that were set aside around the time of George Floyd’s murder have not been fully extended, and that says to me that organizations like ours are needed now more than ever,” said Brenda Wilkerson, CEO of AnitaB.org, which puts on Grace Hopper, the largest women’s tech conference, which took place in September.

Advertisement

Some large tech companies, including Meta, pulled back from sponsorship or attendance for employees to attend Grace Hopper 2023, according to sources who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak to the media. Some companies, including Microsoft, ended up sending some leaders to attend virtually so they wouldn’t have to pay for travel, according to two sources who wished to remain anonymous.

Microsoft said it still sent some employees physically, and both Microsoft and Meta told CNBC that Grace Hopper’s virtual option allowed more employees to participate.

Advertisement

Other companies such as Google, which still had a presence at the conference, retracted travel for some employees who had previously been approved to attend, according to several sources who asked to remain anonymous. Google is also among companies to reduce their spending with Blavity, the organization that puts on AfroTech, according to sources who asked not to be named due to being unauthorized to speak.

“We do have a significant amount of our existing corporate partners that are telling us ‘Hey, we can’t participate this year because our DEI team doesn’t even exist anymore,’” said Blavity’s Simone White, who declined to name specific companies. “Week to week, we have new contacts at companies, and folks we worked with for years to organize this work are no longer there.”

Advertisement

“To say our progress is not in peril would not be truthful,” AnitaB.org’s Wilkerson said, although she’s optimistic the tide could turn around in 2024. “We’re working with multiple challenges in our society, so we have made a lot of the progress but some of that was erased in the last year. Then you have this backlash against racial reckoning.”

The backlash she referred to includes things like the Supreme Court’s June decision to end affirmative action at colleges, as well as backlash against DEI programs in conservative circles. “You have this ‘wokeism’ drama.” Wilkerson said, pointing to Florida legislation such as banning books and downplaying Black history, as well as laws impacting the LGBTQIA+ community.

Advertisement

Because of that backlash, 2023 will be the last year the organization will hold Grace Hopper in Florida, Wilkerson said. It will be held in Philadelphia next year.

A Meta spokesperson said that it increased its engagement with some third-party organizations such as The Executive Leadership Council, which aims to increase Black leadership in C-suites.

Advertisement

DEI and AI

Wilkerson was among experts who told CNBC that DEI work is more important than ever given the growing work on artificial intelligence, which hit breakneck speed in 2023.

“We’re in a big technology inflection point, and what happens is as AI begins to take off and if organizations are less inclusive, the product is not reflective of the users,” Wilkerson said.

Advertisement

Apple, Google and other tech giants are still grappling with displaying and identifying images accurately. A New York Times investigation this year found Apple and Google’s Android software, which underpins most of the world’s smartphones, turned off the ability to visually search for primates for fear of labeling a person as an animal.

“We know that AI is trained on historic data and that historic data is missing critical segments of the population, and having women and noncentered folks as decision-makers is going to be critical to making sure it doesn’t happen again,” Wilkerson said.

Advertisement

White said companies who made cuts this year may have a difficult time building future relationships with DEI stakeholders, and it may impact their ability to attract and retain talent, should they decide to build up again in the future.

“Younger generations increasingly care who has a seat at the table,” White said. “And they’re going to remember who did what they said they were going to do.”

Advertisement

Don’t miss these stories from CNBC PRO:

Read More

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business

How a 40-ounce cup turned Stanley into a $750 million a year business

Published

on

By

How a 40-ounce cup turned Stanley into a $750 million a year business

For the better part of the past 110 years, Stanley was doing just fine. 

The drinkware manufacturer had made a place for itself in the knapsacks of outdoorsmen and lunchboxes of blue collar workers with its bottles and thermoses that kept food and drinks hot — or cold — for hours on end. 

Advertisement

The Seattle-based brand was chugging along with a comfortable $70 million in annual sales from its famous hammertone green products, and looked poised for another century of modest, reliable success. 

But starting in 2020, something changed. A fledgling product came into its own and turned Stanley into a juggernaut. 

Advertisement

Over the past four years, the Stanley Quencher has become one of the most popular water bottles in the world. Sold in an ever-growing array of colors and finishes, the Quencher has supercharged Stanley’s sales by appealing to a demographic that Stanley didn’t spend too much time catering to in its first hundred years: women. 

A favorite of nurses, teachers and celebrities alike, the Quencher has been such a popular product that Stanley’s annual sales are projected to top $750 million in 2023, according to data reviewed by CNBC Make It. 

Advertisement

Here’s how Stanley leveraged the Quencher to turn a century-old company into one of the biggest names in hydration.

Early days

The Quencher arrived in 2016 to little fanfare. The 40-ounce insulated cup, which retails for between $45 and $55, sported a handle for ease of transportation, as well as a tapered design that allowed it to slide into a car’s cup holder. 

Advertisement

But in its first few years, the Quencher didn’t make much of an impact. Year after year, the brand’s best-selling product remained the iconic green bottle. Indeed, sales were so middling that by 2019 Stanley had stopped restocking and marketing the product.

In 2020, Stanley brought on Terence Reilly as its new president. Reilly had spent the past seven years at Crocs, where he led the strategy that turned the rubber clogs into one of the hottest shoes on the market. 

Advertisement

When Reilly came onboard, he did a listening tour around the company to hear from employees about what was working and what wasn’t. One employee mentioned a group of women in Utah who ran a commerce blog called The Buy Guide. 

Buy Guide cofounder Ashlee LeSueur had purchased her first Quencher at a Bed, Bath and Beyond store in 2017. She fell in love with the product and quickly began gifting it to friends and recommending it to followers. 

Advertisement

The Quencher retails for between $35 and $55 and comes in dozens of colors and finishes.

Lauren Shamo

Advertisement

In 2019, she tried to make a case for Stanley to continue production of the Quencher, but the sales numbers weren’t there. Instead, Stanley gave her another option: make a wholesale order to sell Quenchers directly to her Buy Guide audience.

“I felt like I was signing a mortgage,” LeSueur tells CNBC Make It of her purchase order for 5,000 Quenchers. “It was a big risk for it. It took every penny that we had in the business account, plus some personal funds to make that happen.”

Advertisement

Those Quenchers, however, sold out within days. When Reilly took charge, he embraced The Buy Guide as partners, working with them to promote new, exciting colors like Desert Sage and Cream. 

“My experience at Crocs told me that that kind of influencer opportunity was just the magic that Stanley might need,” he says. “And we were right. The Buy Guide proved to be amazing partners and helped us create the Quencher phenomenon.”

Advertisement

In fact, the Quencher sold so well that it replaced the iconic Stanley bottle as the brand’s top selling product in 2020. It hasn’t let go of the top spot since. 

Hydration domination 

The success of the Quencher has helped Stanley grow its annual revenue from $70 million to more than $750 million in four years.

Advertisement

Gene Kim

With every new color Stanley rolled out, sales continued to increase. Stanley’s revenue jumped from $73 million in 2019 to $94 million in 2020. It more than doubled to $194 million in 2021.

Advertisement

In 2022, Stanley released a redesigned Quencher model with a streamlined design and new array of colors and finishes. Revenue doubled again that year to $402 million.

The Instagram-friendly pastels helped the Quencher be seen as less of a utilitarian product and more as a fashion accessory. As the available color options grew — Stanley has released the Quencher in over 100 colors — some fans began building collections. 

Advertisement

“We see all the time that [our customer] wants her Quencher to match her fit, her nail polish, her car, her mood, her kitchen,” Reilly tells CNBC Make It. “We’re serving her where she wants the product.” 

Content creator Chelsea Espejo first learned about the Quencher in 2022. She now has a collection of 47 cups. A gym enthusiast, she credits the cup’s large size for helping her stay hydrated throughout her workouts. The wide variety of color options certainly don’t hurt either. 

Advertisement

“On the days that I do have extra time, I search for the specific [color] that matches my shirt,” she tells CNBC Make It. “I wouldn’t even say Stanleys are something I use. They’re actually part of my personality. If I don’t have it, if I don’t choose the right color, my day kind of doesn’t go how I planned it.” 

Espejo isn’t the only one with a strong attachment to her Quencher. The cup  is a social media darling, especially on TikTok. The #StanleyTumbler hashtag has been viewed more than 900 million times, and the product has been the star of many viral videos.

Advertisement

They’re actually part of my personality. If I don’t have [my Stanley], if I don’t choose the right color, my day kind of doesn’t go how I planned it.

Chelsea Espejo

Stanley Quencher collector

Advertisement

Helping drive the excitement is Stanley’s strategy of releasing new colors in limited-edition drops, advertising the latest additions to its roster on social media. Reilly also capitalized on the Quencher’s viral success by pushing for collabs with celebrities and brands

“My experience at Crocs was fueled by collaboration culture and drop culture,” Reilly says. “And I knew that once we had our legs under us at Stanley, and once we could see the connection to consumers that we were creating, we were also ready for collaborations.”

Advertisement

Indeed, collabs have been key to driving the Stanley Quencher’s popularity. The Quencher is frequently released in limited edition colors that sell out in minutes. A recent collaboration with Starbucks resulted in a red Quencher that was being resold on eBay for hundreds of dollars the same day it dropped. 

A recent collab with country music star Lainey Wilson sold out in minutes.

Advertisement

Stanley

When Target introduced new Quencher colors recently, some stores had to place restrictions on how many a customer could buy, limiting them to two per person.

Advertisement

“The resale market is certainly flattering,” Reilly says. “The fact that there are signs at America’s best retailers limiting the number of Stanleys you can buy is an astounding thing to think about.”

Quencher collector Emily Fahrlander made her way to her local Starbucks at five in the morning the day the Starbucks collab was released, determined to get her hands on the limited-edition item. 

Advertisement

“I’m not usually that crazy, I really am not,” she tells Make It. “But I didn’t get the last [drop], so I was like, ‘Let’s just wake up early.’” 

And while Reilly and the Stanley team still “want a little bit of scarcity” to help keep excitement around the product, he says they are constantly working on manufacturing as much product as possible.  

Advertisement

“We really continue to increase the number of units available each time we drop, because we see the trend and the waiting lists that are growing,” he says. “But there’s only so many seats in the stadium, and when the seats are sold out, they’re sold out.” 

Halo Effect

Stanley has now sold more than 10 million Quenchers, and demand for the cup doesn’t look to be waning any time soon. 

Advertisement

The Quencher’s popularity on social media has been a boon to the rest of Stanley’s business as well. Ellyn Briggs, a brands analyst at Morning Consult, tells CNBC Make It that a rising tide raises all boats. 

“It’s bringing the Stanley name to the forefront of consumers’ minds, making them aware of the brand, making them have more favorable perceptions,” Briggs tells Make It. 

Advertisement

Indeed, Reilly says that the “entire Stanley brand has benefited from the Quencher trend.” 

Stanley’s entire lineup has adopted the Quencher’s embrace of color.

Advertisement

Lauren Shamo

“We’re seeing our new products checking very well,” he says. “And certainly our heritage products have regained their velocity and their rightful place in culture and in serving the needs of consumers.” 

Advertisement

For Espejo, whose introduction to the brand came through the Quencher, Stanley has become a mainstay in her cupboards with drinking glasses and mugs as well. 

“Now when I go to any store, the first thing I look at is the Stanley collection, whether it’s the mugs or the Quencher,” she says. “My love for [the Quencher] has given me the opportunity to love all of Stanley.”

Advertisement

Close observers might notice that Stanley’s product line has taken a page out of the Quencher’s book, with aesthetic colors and eye-catching designs being adopted by Stanley offerings both new and old.

“[The Quencher redesign] gave us confidence that we can apply those same aesthetic principles across other categories,” Stanley design chief Graham Nearn says. “It gives us confidence that we could even start to refine and define our products that we were most famous for.”

Advertisement

And while the success of the Quencher was fueled in large part by an embrace of colors favored by its new, female audience, Stanley was clearly onto something in its first 110 years. 

One of the Quencher’s most in-demand new colors? Hammertone green

Advertisement

DON’T MISS: Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work & life? Sign up for our new newsletter!

Get CNBC’s free Warren Buffett Guide to Investing, which distills the billionaire’s No. 1 best piece of advice for regular investors, do’s and don’ts, and three key investing principles into a clear and simple guidebook.

Advertisement

Read More

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Business

The first minds to be controlled by generative AI will live inside video games

Published

on

By

The first minds to be controlled by generative AI will live inside video games

A gamer uses a computer powered with an Nvidia Corp. chip at the Gamescon video games trade fair in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. Gamescon runs until Sunday, Aug. 27. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Advertisement

It’s not just human life that will be remade by the rapid advance in generative artificial intelligence. NPCs (non-playable characters), the figures who populate generated worlds in video games but have to date largely run on limited scripts — think the proprietor of the store you enter — are being tested as one of the first core gaming aspects where AI can improve gameplay and immersiveness. A recent partnership between Microsoft Xbox and Inworld AI is a prime example.

Better dialogue is just the first step. “We’re creating the tech that allows NPCs to evolve beyond predefined roles, adapt to player behavior, learn from interactions, and contribute to a living, breathing game world,” said Kylan Gibbs, chief product officer and co-founder of Inworld AI. “AI NPCs are not just a technological leap. They’re a paradigm shift for player engagement.”

Advertisement

It’s also a big opportunity for the gaming companies and game developers. Shifting from scripted dialogue to dynamic player-driven narratives will increase immersion in a way that drives replayability, retention, and revenue.

The interaction between powerful chips and gaming has for years been part of the success story at Nvidia, but there is now a clear sense in the gaming industry that it is just beginning to get to the point where AI will take off, after some initial uncertainty

Advertisement

“All developers are interested in how artificial intelligence can impact game development process,” John Spitzer, vice president of developer and performance technology at Nvidia, recently told CNBC, and he cited powering non-playable characters as a key test case. 

Advertisement

It’s always been true that technological limits and possibilities overdetermine the gaming worlds developers can create. The technology behind AI NPCs, Gibbs says, will become a catalyst for a new era of storytelling, creative expression, and innovative gameplay. But much of what is to come will be “games we have yet to imagine,” he said.

Bing Gordon, an Inworld advisor and former chief creative officer at Electronic Arts, said the biggest advancements in gaming in recent decades have been through improvements in visual fidelity and graphics. Gordon, who is now chief product officer at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins and serves on the board of gaming company Take-Two Interactive, believes AI will remake the world of both the gamer and game designer.

Advertisement

“AI will enable truly immersive worlds and sophisticated narratives that put players at the center of the fantasy,” Gordon said. “Moreover, AI that influences fundamental game mechanics has the potential to increase engagement and draw players deeper into your game.”  

The first big opportunity for gen AI may be in gaming production. “That’s where we expect to see a major impact first,” said Anders Christofferson, a partner within Bain & Company’s media & entertainment practice.

Advertisement

In other professional tasks, such as creating presentations using software like PowerPoint and first drafts of speeches, gen AI is already doing days of work in minutes. Initial storyboard design and NPC dialogue creation are made for gen AI, and that will free up developer time to focus on the more immersive and creative parts of game making, Christofferson said.

Creating unpredictable worlds

A recent Bain study noted that AI is already taking on some tasks, including preproduction and planning out of game content. Soon it will play a larger role in developing characters, dialogue, and environments. Gaming executives, Bain’s research shows, expect AI to manage more than half of game development within five years to a decade. This may not lead to lower production costs — blockbuster games can run up total development costs of $1 billion — but AI will allow games to be delivered more quickly, and with enhanced quality.

Advertisement

Ultimately, the proliferation of gen AI should allow the development process of games to include the average gamer in content creation. This means that more games will offer what Christofferson calls a “create mode” allowing for increased user-generated content — Gibbs referred to it as “player-driven narratives.” 

The current human talent shortage, a labor issue that exists across the software engineering space, isn’t something AI will solve in the short-term. But it may free developers up to put more time into creative tasks and learn how best to use the new technology as they experiment. A recent CNBC study found that across the labor force, 72% of workers who use AI say it makes them more productive, consistent with research Microsoft has conducted on the impact of its Copilot AI in the workplace.

Advertisement

“GenAI is very nascent in gaming and the emerging landscape of players, services, etc. is very dynamic – changing by the day,” Christofferson said. “As with any emerging technologies, we expect lots of learning to take place regarding GenAI over the next few years.”

Given how much change is taking place in gaming, it may simply be too difficult to forecast AI’s scale at the moment, says Julian Togelius, associate professor of computer science and engineering at New York University. He summed up the current state of AI implementation as a “medium-size deal.”

Advertisement

“In the game development process, generative AI is already in use by lots of people. Programmers use Copilot and ChatGPT to help them write code, concept artists experiment with Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, and so on,” said Togelius. “There is also a big interest in automated game testing and other forms of AI-augmented QA,” he added. 

Advertisement

The Microsoft and Inworld partnership will test two of the key AI implications in the video game industry: design-time and assistance with narrative generation. If a game has thousands of NPCs in it, having AI generate individual backstories for each of them can save enormous development time — and having generative AI working while players interact with NPCs could also enhance gameplay.

The latter will be trickier to achieve, Togelius said. “I think this is much harder to get right, partly because of the well-known hallucination issues of LLMs, and partly because games are not designed for this,” he said. 

Advertisement

Hallucinations occur when large language models (LLMs) generate responses that deviate from context or rational meaning — they speak nonsensically but grammatically, about things that don’t make sense or have any relation to the given context. “Video games are designed for predictable, hand-crafted NPCs that don’t veer off script and start talking about things that don’t exist in the game world,” Togelius said.

Traditionally, NPCs behave in predictable ways that have been hand-authored by a designer or design team. Predictability, in fact, is a core tenant of the video game world and its design process. Open-ended games are thrilling because of their sense of infinite possibility, but to function reliably there is great control and predictability built into them. Unpredictability in the gaming world is a new realm, and could be a barrier to having AI gain wider use. Working out this balance will be a key to moving forward with AI.

Advertisement

“I think we are going to see modern AI in more and more places in games and game development very soon,” Togelius said. “And we will need new designs that work with the strengths and weaknesses of generative AI.”

Read More

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Business

India is a ‘perfect’ emerging market for investors, ETF expert suggests

Published

on

By

India is a ‘perfect’ emerging market for investors, ETF expert suggests

India could be the ideal site for emerging market investment, according to one ETF expert.

Advertisement

Kevin Carter, founder and chief investment officer of EMQQ Global, told CNBC’s “ETF Edge” this week that India’s population demographics, growing economy and technology-oriented policy make the country highly investable.

“You’ve got a government that’s a democracy that’s supporting technology, and you’ve got a talent pool that’s really unmatched on the planet,” he said. “So it really is in every way the perfect emerging market.”

Advertisement

Carter, who manages the India Internet & Ecommerce ETF (INQQ), underscored the significance of India’s technology investments in particular.

“What’s coming along with that is $12 super computers,” said Carter, referencing the Jio Bharat smartphone released this year, which aims to close the connectivity gap between India’s rural and urban populations. “The smartphone is bringing those billions of consumers online for the first time.”

Advertisement

That, according to Carter, is revolutionizing the financial system in a country of more than one billion people.

“What they’ve used that to do is basically enable about 800 million people to open a digital bank account using just their fingerprints and their eyeball, and also to open about 500 million new smartphone subscriptions. So they’ve brought everyone in the financial system, and they brought everyone there in a technological way.”

Advertisement

Carter’s INQQ ETF focuses on Indian e-commerce and internet companies, targeting growth in the country’s digital economy. Per the fund’s website, as of Dec. 22, its top holding is Reliance Industries, the conglomerate behind the $12 smartphone boom.

“No other country on the planet has anything like this in terms of a digital foundation for their entire economy,” Carter added.

Advertisement

Disclaimer

Read More

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2024 BBS Stories