Digital insights
july 2024

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Every month, our Human Digital colleagues keep you updated on the latest digital developments and news. This month: IKEA offers a chance to work for them virtually, reckless AI development, and NASA's Starliner faces issues. 

July 1, 2024
Rik van den Buijs

Starliner may not return to earth until July

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, launched on June 5 for its first crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS), is now expected to return to Earth no earlier than early July. NASA and Boeing are investigating several issues with the vehicle, causing multiple delays in the capsule’s return.

What’s happening? Shortly after launch, minor helium leaks and problems with some thrusters were discovered. Despite these issues, the two astronauts onboard, Barry Wilmore (61) and Sunita Williams (58), reached the ISS a few days later. The Starliner was originally scheduled to stay docked at the ISS for eight days, with Wilmore and Williams returning on June 14. However, this date has been postponed several times due to ongoing issues. On June 21, NASA and Boeing announced that the return would now be no earlier than July, without specifying an exact date.

The capsule can remain docked to the ISS for a maximum of 45 days from June 6, making the latest possible return date late July. The Starliner development, initiated in 2014 after winning a NASA contract, has faced a difficult path with multiple delays and technical problems. In contrast, SpaceX has been transporting passengers to the ISS with its Crew Dragon capsule for years.


AI development ‘reckless and secretive’

Former and current employees of OpenAI and Google DeepMind warn in an open letter about the unsafe and reckless manner in which artificial intelligence (AI) is currently being developed. The letter, signed by 13 employees and supported by Professor Geoffrey Hinton, emphasizes that AI companies seek to suppress oversight and criticism despite known risks. The authors argue that current and former employees of these companies are important whistleblowers, but they risk dismissal and unemployment.

AI companies possess substantial, non-public information about their systems but have weak obligations to share this information with governments or the public. The letter calls for four principles:

  1. No punishment for voicing criticism
  2. Anonymous channels for reporting concerns
  3. A culture of open criticism
  4. No retaliation against whistleblowers

The criticism is justified, considering previous incidents of incorrect AI responses and the recent departure of safety advocates from OpenAI.


Virtual work at IKEA in Roblox

IKEA introduces a new remote work experience by allowing people to work virtually in the game Roblox. Starting June 24, selected participants can work in the virtual store Co-Worker, where they assist visitors in choosing furniture and designing rooms. The virtual job offers a wage of £13.15 (approximately €15.46) per hour, similar to that of a physical store employee in London. Only people aged 18 and over from the UK and Ireland can apply. Applications are open from June 3 to June 16, after which ten candidates will be selected. This initiative is part of IKEA’s ‘Careers Done Different’ campaign, aimed at promoting IKEA as an attractive employer.


TikTok and the U.S. government in conflict

The U.S. government and TikTok have been at odds for some time. The U.S. demands that TikTok owner ByteDance sell the platform, or TikTok must cease operations in the country entirely. In 2022, TikTok offered a ‘kill switch’ option, allowing the U.S. government to take the platform offline to alleviate data security concerns. However, the U.S. rejected this offer, suspecting that TikTok shares American user data with the Chinese government. ByteDance denies these accusations and criticizes the law enforcing the sale of TikTok as setting a dangerous precedent. TikTok has appealed, claiming that the U.S. government has refused any serious settlement talks, including inspection of their transparency center in Maryland.

The court will rule in September 2024. If the U.S. government prevails, TikTok must divest the U.S. portion of the app by January 2025, preventing Americans from accessing the platform.


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