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Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Says Her AI Startup, Sunshine, Prioritizes Humans

The threat of artificial intelligence taking over human roles has gone from non-starter to pressing concern in a lot of tech and tech-adjacent fields within the past few months, but Marissa Mayer is making it clear that, at least at her startup, humans will have a place for the foreseeable future.

In an interview with The Information to discuss her current startup venture, Sunshine, the former Yahoo CEO touched on the artificial intelligence elephant in the room, mentioning that upping AI integration is on the startup’s to-do list.

“We aspire to have more AI involved, but we also want to make sure we produce a product that’s reliable,” Mayer said. The emphasis on reliability is why, for the immediate future, humans will retain a dominant share of Sunshine’s work.

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Sunshine has recently adopted OpenAI’s GPT-4 for internal model development and correcting names in contact cards, though human presence is still required. To give one example of where the computer didn’t quite meet its mark, AI was caught incorrectly adjusting names, such as converting “Fransisco” to “Fernando.” That kind of flaw is a serious problem for an app like Sunshine Smart Contacts, which is built around the premise of organizing networks’ phone numbers and email addresses.

Sunshine Smart Contacts is not the only app that Sunshine is working on. The company is also developing Sunshine Circles, which will help people gather data from groups (for example, collecting everyone’s Venmo details if pals need to collectively chip in for something).

In the same discussion with Tech Brew wherein Mayer mentioned Sunshine Circles, she also highlighted some major regrets of her career, such as passing on a Netflix acquisition opportunity during her time as CEO of Yahoo. In place of Netflix or Hulu, her team opted for Tumblr, which ended up being the wrong move given all three companies’ long-term trajectories, a fact she readily acknowledged.

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