Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Oil slips to 9-month low; Ford to move US unit to China; FB 'bots' start communicating sans humans

1 Oil slips to nine-month low (Straits Times) Oil tumbled to the lowest level in nine months, pulling energy stocks down, amid growing concerns that Opec-led output cuts are failing to ease a global supply glut.

Futures declined 2.2 per cent in New York, entering a bear market for the first time since August, as investors focus on rising production from countries that are not part of Opec's deal. Libya is pumping the most crude in four years, and the amount of oil stored in tankers reached a 2017 high earlier this month. US drillers have added oil rigs for 22 straight weeks.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the US benchmark, dropped 21 per cent from a close of $54.45 Feb. 23, entering a bear market, which kicks in when settlement prices fall at least 20 per cent from their peak.

Oil has stayed below $45 a barrel since last week as supplies in the US remain plentiful and the oil rig count rises to the highest since April 2015. WTI for July delivery, which expires Tuesday, fell 97 cents to settle at $43.23, the lowest since mid-September. Total volume traded was about 35 per cent above the 100-day average.

2 Ford to move US unit to China (BBC) Ford is to move US production of its new Ford Focus car to China in 2019, despite having faced pressure to keep manufacturing jobs in America. The carmaker said the decision would not lead to layoffs in the US.

But the move marks another change to its plans for producing the new Focus. The firm in January scrapped plans to move US production to a new $1.6bn plant in Mexico after criticism from Donald Trump. Currently, Ford makes its Focus cars in Michigan, Germany and in China.

But it has seen sales of the model fall in the US, while demand for larger vehicles remains. It was planning to move US production of the Focus to a new factory in Mexico. That decision drew fierce criticism from the US president, who has routinely blasted car makers and other companies for importing goods from other countries, including China and Mexico.

3 FB ‘bots’ start communicating sans humans (Khaleej Times) Adding to the fear that full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race, researchers from the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab (FAIR) have found that while they were busy trying to improve chatbots, the “dialog agents” were creating their own language.

Soon, the bots began to deviate from the scripted norms and started communicating in an entirely new language which they created without human input, The Verge reported. Using machine learning algorithms, the “dialog agents” were left to converse freely in an attempt to strengthen their conversational skills. The researchers also found these bots to be incredibly crafty negotiators.

“After learning to negotiate, the bots relied on machine learning and advanced strategies in an attempt to improve the outcome of these negotiations,” the report said. “Over time, the bots became quite skilled at it and even began feigning interest in one item in order to ‘sacrifice’ it at a later stage in the negotiation as a faux compromise,” it added.

Although this appears a huge leap for AI, several experts including Professor Stephen Hawking have raised fears that humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, could be superseded by AI. AI is now being used in applications from facial recognition software and cybersecurity to self-driving vehicles.

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