TikTok & Congress; Google Messages Will Get AI Replies Option; WhatsApp Introduces New Windows Client; New Lithium Plant for South Carolina

TikTok CEO Chew bobbed and weaved as Congress members threw out tough questions at a hearing today. From the initial reading, it doesn’t look like he did anything to help reduce the calls from politicians of both parties to ban or severely restrict the app…used by some 150 plus million Americans. When one member asked him if he could assure them that no data from US users was flowing to the Chinese government, he claimed he knew of none of that happening. It smacked of tobacco company CEOs claiming that cigarettes don’t help cause cancer. Whether they move the data centers to the US or not, as Chew promised, I’m not sure the government will be satisfied that US user data isn’t going to the Chinese government or that they aren’t manipulating public opinion here using the platform. Personally, I don’t think a ban will actually keep the app away from users that want it. Furthermore, any country or company can buy all our aggregated data at a very granular level that has been pulled in from all the social media platforms, search engines, and frankly all corners of the internet…for pennies! You give up data and privacy when you use the net or different platforms…that’s your ‘subscription price.’ Some Congress members know this, and are just harrumphing, others are clueless…but it’s our digital world, and they aren’t going to substantially change things.

As all the big platforms rush to incorporate more artificial intelligence features, Google Messages is preparing to add an interesting one. AI generated replies. You don’t know for sure how you ought to respond to someone? Consult the chatbot, and it will give you a proposed answer. 9to5google.com reports that Messages does NOT send the AI generated reply….you have a chance to look at it and approve or edit it. When implemented, the AI will replace Smart Replies, those little one or two word answers you can choose from. Google is also forging ahead on Imagen, their AI image generation software. One possible use would be sending unique pictures to friends. No word on when it may be released, but it will probably hit Gboard first, not Google Messages. 

WhatsApp is used in many countries as a primary phone carrier, and therefore is a much bigger deal elsewhere than in the US. Now, according to techcrunch.com, they have announced a new Windows client with performance improvements and better calling features. The update supports multi-device sync, so you can use WhatsApp even if your phone is switched off. It now will support on Windows video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32. There has been a Mac client out in public beta since last summer, and they are testing an optimized for Android tablets, too. 

A huge new lithium processing plant has been announced to be built in South Carolina. The $1.3 billion dollar Mega-Flex lithium processing facility is being built by Albermarle Corp, one of the biggest lithium producers worldwide. Once the plant is up and running, it should be able to support production that will go into batteries for around 2.4 million electric vehicles a year. electrek.co notes that with the US looking to achieve a 50% EV share by 2030, up from around 6% this past year, Albermarle said it was planning for a massive lithium processing center in the US that would be capable of processing 100,000 tons of annual capacity in the Southeast.

I’m Clark Reid, and you’re ‘Technified’ for now. 


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