The prosperity of early 20th century America resulted in a boom of skyscrapers that still tower over cities across the country today. Focusing on the character and craftsmanship on display at the top of these landmark buildings in a way that can’t be seen from street level, the Highrises Collection reveals fascinating details and stories of these distinctly American icons. […]
A drone-mounted camera takes multiple high-res photos of the top of each Highrise. Images are stitched together manually to create a elevation scan with flattened perspective and enhanced lighting effects to accentuate depth and form. Creative and artistic liberties celebrate the unique character of each structure.
ChatGPT Gets a Computer | Stratechery
All three of these examples come from Stephen Wolfram, who noted that there are some kinds of questions that large language models just aren’t well-suited to answer: […]
Stephen Wolfram’s Wolfram|Alpha is one of the official plugins, and now ChatGPT gets the above answers right — and quickly […]
The fact this works so well is itself a testament to what Assistant AI’s are, and are not: they are not computing as we have previously understood it; they are shockingly human in their way of “thinking” and communicating. And frankly, I would have had a hard time solving those three questions as well — that’s what computers are for! And now ChatGPT has a computer of its own.
The East Asian Package | Richard Hanania’s Newsletter
If you read quickly, you may misunderstand what Hanania is saying; and as usual, I find it difficult to endorse his position:
You’d think social scientists, if they were serious people, would treat this as one of the most important things they could be studying. We all want a longer life expectancy and less crime, and reducing illegitimacy and getting test scores up are forever goals of public policy. We have a major region of the world that is filled with extreme outliers on all of these measures. If there was a country with nearly no cancer, wouldn’t medical researchers want to know why that was? Why is it so uninteresting that an entire region of the globe seems almost completely free of the social pathologies that afflict much of the rest of the world? […]
But do Japan, China, and Korea in fact share a common culture? People sometimes make this point in a circular way. The fact that East Asians behave similarly across various countries and social contexts supposedly indicates that they belong to the same culture. A group that does well on tests “values education,” while one that doesn’t have children out-of-wedlock has “conservative social values.” We might as well say differences in crime rates reflect how much various communities “value crime.” Such explanations are useless.
But is there a non-circular way to approach the topic? I think there is, and once you do, you struggle to find evidence that China, Korea, and Japan have all that much in common culturally.
Notes on Progress: In pursuit of decent coffee | The Works in Progress Newsletter
The Euro is a wonderful and remarkable machine. It’s also a bit terrifying. When it’s on, the machine is scorching hot and highly pressurized. It’s also basically analog. There is one boiler, where the water is heated. It sprays and sputters as you start to pull your shot of espresso. When you open the steam wand, the Euro steams and hisses like a steam engine in an old Disney cartoon. After two or three espressos, the machine becomes too hot to use. There are about eight different places to burn yourself while preparing an espresso, and you haven’t had your coffee yet. Plus, “pulling” an espresso is literal on a La Pavoni: you pull a lever to push water though the puck of coffee with about 40lbs of force.
If you can actually make an espresso, it will be delicious. […]
All of this may sound a bit ridiculous. It is just coffee, after all. But while jokes about $10 lattes and millennials who will never be able to afford homes might persist, I do think there is something special about the way we are able to make little parts of our life better. We turned what was once gulping out sludge to get out of bed into a truly culinary activity in the morning—and of course you are still able to drink the sludge if you prefer it.
If AI scaling is to be shut down, let it be for a coherent reason | Shtetl-Optimized
Pausing AI Developments Isn't Enough. We Need to Shut it All Down | Time
First, Scott Aaronson:
Given the jaw-droppingly spectacular abilities of GPT-4—e.g., acing the Advanced Placement biology and macroeconomics exams, correctly manipulating images (via their source code) without having been programmed for anything of the kind, etc. etc.—the idea that AI now needs to be treated with extreme caution strikes me as far from absurd. I don’t even dismiss the possibility that advanced AI could eventually require the same sorts of safeguards as nuclear weapons. […]
On the other hand, I’m deeply confused by the people who signed the open letter, even though they continue to downplay or even ridicule GPT’s abilities, as well as the “sensationalist” predictions of an AI apocalypse. I’d feel less confused if such people came out and argued explicitly: “yes, we should also have paused the rapid improvement of printing presses to avert Europe’s religious wars. Yes, we should’ve paused the scaling of radio transmitters to prevent the rise of Hitler. Yes, we should’ve paused the race for ever-faster home Internet to prevent the election of Donald Trump. And yes, we should’ve trusted our governments to manage these pauses, to foresee brand-new technologies’ likely harms and take appropriate actions to mitigate them.”
And next, Eliezer Yudkowsky, whom I disagree with and whom I’ve always disagreed with, while admitting that he is far smarter than I am:
Many researchers steeped in these issues, including myself, expect that the most likely result of building a superhumanly smart AI, under anything remotely like the current circumstances, is that literally everyone on Earth will die. Not as in “maybe possibly some remote chance,” but as in “that is the obvious thing that would happen.” […]
To visualize a hostile superhuman AI, don’t imagine a lifeless book-smart thinker dwelling inside the internet and sending ill-intentioned emails. Visualize an entire alien civilization, thinking at millions of times human speeds, initially confined to computers—in a world of creatures that are, from its perspective, very stupid and very slow. A sufficiently intelligent AI won’t stay confined to computers for long. In today’s world you can email DNA strings to laboratories that will produce proteins on demand, allowing an AI initially confined to the internet to build artificial life forms or bootstrap straight to postbiological molecular manufacturing.
If somebody builds a too-powerful AI, under present conditions, I expect that every single member of the human species and all biological life on Earth dies shortly thereafter.
Putin is a rest stop on the road of post-Soviet collapse | Noahpinion
A popular narrative, popular on both sides of the Atlantic, is that the Soviet Union was a fundamentally weak and ineffectual system, and that Vladimir Putin took over and made Russia great again. This narrative has its roots in both American Cold War propaganda that sought to portray the Soviet communism as hopelessly outmoded, and more recent Russian propaganda that enshrines Putin as a national savior. […]
The age of Putin, in other words, is thus best seen not as the dawn of a new age of Russian power, but as a temporary waystation on the road of Soviet and post-Soviet decline.
Europe’s oldest map shows tiny Bronze Age kingdom | Big Think
It’s about 4,000 years ago, and you are the ruler of a prosperous little Bronze Age kingdom at the end of the world. To celebrate your success, you commission a map of your bountiful domain: a stone slab 2.2 m by 1.53 m (6.5 ft by 5 ft), representing an area of 30 km by 21 km (19 mi by 13 mi). But all good things come to an end. You, or one of your successors, is buried with the slab — broken to indicate the overthrow of your dynasty.
You have the last laugh, though. Your name and that of your little empire have been forgotten, but that slab is now recognized as Europe’s oldest map that can be matched to a territory — even if it took the supposedly clever scientists of the distant future more than a century to figure that out.
Welcome to the Era of the Fake Six-Pack | GQ
Chiseled, visible abs were once something you’d see only on genetically-gifted gym rats. But these days, a growing number of men are paying big money to have a surgeon do the chiseling for them.
GPT4 and Silicon Valley Bank | Matt Eskridge
I asked GPT4 to perform a risk assessment on Silicon Valley Bank, which recently failed in 2023, using data from its 2021 balance sheet. Its response was spot-on. I’ve included the full transcript below.
Existential risk, AI, and the inevitable turn in human history | Marginal Revolution
In several of my books and many of my talks, I take great care to spell out just how special recent times have been, for most Americans at least. For my entire life, and a bit more, there have been two essential features of the basic landscape:
1. American hegemony over much of the world, and relative physical safety for Americans.
2. An absence of truly radical technological change.
Unless you are very old, old enough to have taken in some of WWII, or were drafted into Korea or Vietnam, probably those features describe your entire life as well.
In other words, virtually all of us have been living in a bubble “outside of history.”
Now, circa 2023, at least one of those assumptions is going to unravel, namely #2. AI represents a truly major, transformational technological advance.
How Noiseless Props Are Made For Movies And TV Shows | Kottke
I’ve sent out videos like this before, but I always enjoy them:
Insider has been doing a whole series of videos on how movie props are made (view the entire thing here) and I found this one on how prop makers rely on noiseless props to be particularly interesting. To cut down on distracting on-set noise (so dialogue can be heard, for instance), they swap racquetball balls for pool balls, silicon chunks for ice cubes, and paper bags made out of coffee filter material for real paper bags.
Yang Bing-Yi, patriarch of Taiwan's soup dumpling empire, has died | NPR
About my favourite chain restaurant:
Yang went by boat to Taiwan at the age of 21 — as company legend has it, with only $20 in his pocket — to join his uncle, who was already on the island. They were part of a massive exodus of up to 2 million Chinese refugees who fled the mainland for Taiwan during the end of the Chinese civil war.
Few ever went back. Yang was forced to start life over.
"I came to Taiwan when I was 21. I didn't attend school. I don't understand [politics], and I'm not knowledgeable," Yang told guests at a gastronomy event in 2007.
In Taipei, Yang met Lai, who would become his wife. They dated in secret for years before marrying. Like many mainland migrants who came to Taiwan in the 1940s and 1950s, Yang was already married — but with all exchanges cut off between China and Taiwan, he was unsure if he would ever see his first wife again or be able to confirm if she was even alive.
We calculated what place someone is most likely referring to, depending on where they are. | The Pudding
Every county on the map above gets a score for each place* based on a combination of proximity, population, and Wikipedia article length, then normalized by share. Think of it like a confidence score; if the #1 ranked place is 20+ percentage points higher than #2, then it is probably the most likely place, 5+ is a maybe, and anything else is a toss-up.
Italian academic cooks up controversy with claim carbonara is US dish | The Guardian
Alberto Grandi also raises hackles with suggestion Wisconsin has most authentic take on parmesan cheese
Max Ghenis [Twitter]
Friends, colleagues, may I present to you: the California Marginal Tax Rate Schedule