Drone strikes in Moscow
A number of attack drones were downed over Moscow yesterday, the first time civilian areas of the Russian capital had been touched directly by the Ukrainian conflict and a signal that a distant war might soon begin to feel somewhat less so for ordinary Russians. Apartment windows were shattered, and there were some minor injuries in one neighborhood.
The drones, numbering at least eight, came as Russia was engaged in a sustained aerial assault on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in which one person died. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, blamed Ukraine for what he branded “terrorist activity” in Moscow.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, said Ukraine had not been “directly involved” in the attack in Moscow but was “happy” to watch the events taking place across the border. A spokesman for its air force, which typically maintains a policy of strategic ambiguity over attacks on Russian soil, declined to comment.
Analysis: “If the goal was to stress the population, then the very fact that drones have appeared in the skies over Moscow has contributed to that,” wrote one pro-war Russian blogger, Mikhail Zvinchuk, who posts under the name Rybar.
Europe’s soaring food prices
Bread in Britain. Pasta in Italy. Cheese in Germany. Throughout Europe, the cost of food and drink is rising at the quickest rate in decades, squeezing low-income households and troubling European politicians, even as the major costs that go into making food products have been falling in international markets for much of the past year.
Those high costs in Europe are in part related to energy prices, after the war in Ukraine prompted a switch from Russian gas to new supplies, pushing up the costs of food production, transportation and storage. Wholesale energy prices have come back down recently, but consumers in Europe will not see the benefits of that for some time.
Tight labor markets in Europe, with high job vacancy rates and low levels of unemployment, are also causing employers, including food companies, to push up wages to attract workers. That in turn drives up costs for businesses, including those in the food sector. Economists are divided on whether profiteering is also contributing to high prices.
What’s next: Despite well-publicized cuts to milk prices in Britain and the threat of government intervention, food prices in general are unlikely to go down in the near future. Instead, policymakers are closely watching for a slowdown in the rate of increases.
In the U.S.: Even as the prices of oil, transportation, food ingredients and other raw materials have fallen, some of the world’s biggest companies have said they will continue increasing prices or keep them at elevated levels for the foreseeable future. The strategy could keep inflation robust, contributing to the very pressures used to justify surging prices.
A.I.’s existential threat to humanity
Executives from top artificial intelligence companies have warned that the technology they are building should be considered a societal risk on a par with “pandemics and nuclear wars,” according to a 22-word statement from the Center for AI Safety that was signed by more than 350 executives, researchers and engineers.
The statement comes at a time of growing concern about the potential harms of A.I. Advancements in large language models — the type of A.I. system used by ChatGPT and other chatbots — have raised fears that A.I. could soon be used at scale to spread misinformation and propaganda, or that it could eliminate millions of white-collar jobs.
Eventually, some believe, A.I. could become powerful enough that it could create societal-scale disruptions within a few years if nothing is done to slow it down. Those fears are shared by numerous industry leaders, putting them in the unusual position of arguing that a technology they are building poses grave risks and should be regulated more tightly.
Concerns: Some argue that A.I. is improving so rapidly that it has already surpassed human performance in some areas, and that it will soon surpass it in others.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
A Financial Times investigation was slated to reveal explosive allegations of sexual harassment from women including Lucy Siegle, above, about Nick Cohen, a prominent columnist. It was never published — because the paper’s top editor disputed whether the journalist was significant enough to warrant the story.
The death of the article, as well as Cohen’s resignation from The Guardian, offer a window into the British news media’s complicated relationship with the #MeToo movement as it relates to its own.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
Tony Woodcock’s search for the truth: The former England striker is trying to find answers to a mystery stemming from a DNA test.
How a one club’s fairy tale turned into a nightmare: Leicester City, which came from nowhere to win the Premier League seven years ago, has slumped into the Championship. How did it happen?
From The Times: Stanford golf star Rose Zhang’s career is likely to become a case study in athletic development, long-range planning and skillful marketing, now that college athletes are allowed to make money.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Meet the Shoggoth
The Shoggoth — a menacing, octopus-like creature with many eyes and a yellow smiley face attached to one of its tentacles — is the most important meme in artificial intelligence, insiders say.
Originally depicted by the science fiction author H.P. Lovecraft, the creature has become a vivid visual metaphor for how a large language model (the type of A.I. system that powers ChatGPT and other chatbots) actually works. At the same time, it hints at the anxieties many tech workers have about the tools they’re building.
To prevent A.I. language models from behaving in scary and dangerous ways, A.I. companies have had to train them to act polite and harmless. The training works — but some argue that fine-tuning a language model this way doesn’t actually make the underlying model less weird and inscrutable. In their view, it’s just a flimsy, friendly mask that obscures the mysterious beast underneath.