In June, I got to visit India for a week. It’s been 8 years almost to the week since I was last in the country. While I didn’t see as much of the country this trip, it was interesting trying to spot what has and has not changed since my last visit.
So right now, many people are generally going nuts about a type of artificial intelligence that uses LLMs.
I’ve been a heavy user in the past month and am using LLM AIs to run large portions of my business. I’ve even used it to help me organize my book reviews on this website.
They are impressive, but they don’t interact with the physical world, so what’s to worry about?
Well, I think it’s less to do with AIs per se, and more with what humans can do with them. By manipulating language, symbols, and culture, they can mess with humans’ foundational operating system – the stuff that allows 8 billion of us to cooperate and generally get along at an unimaginable scale compared to history or other species – and generally sow chaos and confusion.
Yuval Noah Harari spelled out this worry in The Economist.
Here is his conclusion –
Unregulated AI deployments would create social chaos, which would benefit autocrats and ruin democracies. Democracy is a conversation, and conversations rely on language. When AI hacks language, it could destroy our ability to have meaningful conversations, thereby destroying democracy.
We have just encountered an alien intelligence, here on Earth. We don’t know much about it, except that it might destroy our civilisation. We should put a halt to the irresponsible deployment of AI tools in the public sphere, and regulate AI before it regulates us.Yuval Noah Harari for The Economist
Ok, so those are some big claims.
So – what can GPT-4, currently the best LLM AI come up with? Can it actually come up with new, believable identities?
Let’s take 15 minutes and see!
We’ll try 2 new religions and 2 new national identities.
I will include my written prompts; otherwise, everything is 100% unedited AI written.
Ever since leaving my former employer and re-starting my own business, I’ve been on the hunt for an ideal work situation.
During the pandemic, I was very grateful and privileged to be able to work from home 100%. But my work suffered some, even with a better at-home setup (standing desk, monitor, etc). But I’ve been looking to re-optimize.
Atlanta’s newly renovated Central Library is incredible & worth regular visits.
If you are a baseball fan, you know that the pace of play has been a problem for a while. The MLB is well aware of the issue, and plenty of people have figured out the average duration of a regular season games.
But postseason games are especially bad. TV networks want to cash in on big audiences (more ads); there’s more pressure on every pitch (more resting / timeouts for pitchers); and fixed lineups for managers (more substitutes & relief pitchers).
This fascinating map (source) was making the Internet rounds last week showing how much countries around the world have developed since 1990. While the map does have some biases and the groupings + colors are a bit misleading, it does paint a broad strokes picture of how much the world has improved within my living memory.
I’ve always been a fan of exotic fruits. I’m the one likely to track down and buy an imported jackfruit or a half-decent mango when I see them in stock at Kroger.
This is a photo of my first blackberry cobbler that I made with blackberries grown in my own backyard. A few notes –
I took this photo in February 2021 along the Southside BeltLine near DH Stanton Park in Peoplestown.
In about a year, the sides of the picture will be full of apartments. Hopefully in 2 years, this section will be under construction.
There are dozens of tips for how to save money buying fruits and vegetables on the Internet. Very few are truly effective, because what produce you buy is more important than when or how you buy produce.
NoveList Plus is an incredible tool that I found on my library’s website. It allows you to search & compare novels based on tone, feel, plot, character, and a whole range of attributes.
Bardcore is the medievalization of contemporary pop songs. It’s one of my favorite Internet trends of the past few years.
The Economist ran a Special Report last week on Dementia. They called it the “silent tsunami” facing every nation on Earth as the global population ages.
Inspired by other cyclist’s transportation experiments, I’ve starting trying to carry a wider range of stuff on my bike.
This is a completed section of the Westside BeltLine on its way to meet up with the Southside BeltLine near McDonough Blvd. This section is pretty quiet compared to its Eastside section without the major Interstate and large apartment developments running along it. It’s flat with lots of lovely plantings weaving through nice, quiet neighborhoods.
This is a section of the BeltLine in Atlanta weaving its way through Reynoldstown on its way to the Southside BeltLine section.
The plantings along this stretch are lovely year round and it’s a joy to bike & run through here. The fact that it’s a flat grade through the otherwise hilly weave through Reynoldstown is easy to miss but seriously amazing.
I’ve written about the sheer weirdness and 1984-esque nature of exploring China’s Internet before. And even though I do occasionally interact with the Chinese Internet in my daily work life, I still think of China’s Internet as something “over there” – it’s own little Brave New World.
One of my favorite YouTube channels, Half As Interesting, did an explainer about the founding of Oakridge, Tennessee. It was founded in 1942 as part of the Manhattan Project.
Francois Chollet recently wrote an essay on “What worries me about AI”.
He argues that the big worry about AI for the near & medium term future is not AI itself – but how companies & governments will put AI to use. Humans are open-books and very vulnerable to manipulation. I love his section on key “vulnerabilities” of the human brain.
I love the Internet. I remember the first time that I saw a webpage load. It has changed my life in every way.
But the Internet is a tool. And like any tool, it amplifies both the good and bad that any one person can do.
Amplifying bad human behavior has always been around since the beginning. But the tool is increasingly rewarding bad human behavior.
We are adapting to the tool rather than adapting the tool to our needs.
It’s a complex idea. But I found a tweetstorm from Naval Ravikant that sums it up in a way that must be archived. Here it is in its entirety, copied with the permission he gave in replies to credit the original.
John Grisham has written an entire book every year for the past 10 to 15 years. I’ve always assumed that he was either superhuman or he worked with a team of ghostwriters.
Turns out that it’s not that complicated. He has a process and the discipline to follow the process.
Here’s his short talk to Random House on how he writes.
All this might seem a little underhanded, but it’s nothing compared to some of the design features currently showing up on Snapchat. Of these is the one causing the most concern, and uses elongating red lines to display the number days of since two users interacted. According to Adam Alter, this design feature is so effective that he’s heard of teens asking friends to babysit their streaks while on vacation.
“It’s clear here that the goal—keeping the streak alive—is more important than enjoying the platform as a social experience,” he says. “This is a clear sign that engagement mechanisms are driving usage more than enjoyment.”
The Internet is a wonderful, beautiful tool. Opt-out of anything that doesn’t make your life better.
June 4th, 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protests/massacre in China, immortalized by the Tank Man photo. It was one of the pivotal moments in the 20th Century where, unlike other Communist regimes in Europe, the Chinese Communists were able to keep their hold on power.
The massacre is immortalized everywhere…but China, where it has been actively censored and suppressed to the point where people will literally run away before talking about it.
The Internet was supposed to kill censorship, but China has the “Great Firewall” and one of the most ambitious censorship operations in the world. I had always heard that China actively and successfully censors the Internet, but never understood exactly how it works or what it would feel like to live in a completely censored world a la 1984.
China has banned Twitter because they will not grant access to the sensors, so they have a homegrown version – Sina Weibo. It has 500 million users – including me, an American citizen living in Atlanta, GA.
Yes – unlike some Chinese sites, anyone can sign up for Weibo, granted that you agree to their terms of service (ie, the Chinese government can revise your account).
I’ve had an account for a couple years, but had never used it…mainly because Google Translate has a very hard time with Mandarin Chinese. I have 9 followers (you know the type of people who follow everyone, mixed in with a couple bots).
But on June 4th, I thought I’d do a test of China’s censors. And see exactly what happens.
I always find it really fascinating to find out how people from different places can perceive the same things so differently. And especially how people from other countries, regions, and cities perceive my city, region, and country – what they focus on, and what things stand out in their mind. In other words – people’s country, region, and city stereotypes.
For years – it has always been an interesting conversation to have – but finding out stereotypes has always been anecdotal. But last year – Renee DiResta had the brilliant idea to apply something that we all use everyday – Google AutoSuggest – to find out US State Stereotypes (you can see that post here).
Here’s the same methodology used on the top 50 US cities (by metro area population) to get the top 4 to 5 city stereotypes of each.
I’m a huge fan of time lapse films in general, and of cities in particular. I’ve never been able to find a really good, single list to keep track of – so here’s my attempt to curate and list the best in one place (because there are a ton of mediocre ones floating about on YouTube). Enjoy and let me know of any other ones in the comments!
San Francisco Time Lapse (Empty America)
And there’s a ton more…
wasted enjoyed thousands of hours staring at maps – especially old maps.
Here are two of the best maps I’ve ever seen.
They are both in the public domain, and interesting both for the map part – and the info surrounding it.