Beautifully written and heartbreaking:
One year ago, before the school shooting in Uvalde, Kimberly Mata-Rubio had never been on a plane or given a public speech or scolded a U.S. senator right there in his office. A year in the life of a grieving mother.
A tale of disaster, survival, and ghosts. […]
A person prone to superstition might be forgiven for thinking that the Valencia was cursed. Built in 1882, the ship was fired upon the following year near the island of Curaçao, and again four years later, this time by a Spanish warship just off the Cuban coast. During the Spanish-American War, it was leased to the U.S. Army and used to transport troops to the Philippines as part of an unofficial effort to aid rebels who, like their Cuban counterparts, were vying for independence from Spain. When the conflict ended, the Valencia’s owners put it to work transporting gold-crazed passengers to and from Alaska and the Yukon, but the ship’s luck didn’t change in the new environment. In March 1898, during its maiden voyage to Alaska’s Copper River, rough seas and poor food quality almost led to a mutiny. In February 1903, another steamship rammed into the Valencia a quarter-mile from Seattle’s harbor, nearly wrecking it. And in 1905, Captain Johnson ran it aground just outside St. Michael, Alaska; the crew had to move 75 tons of cargo onto another vessel before they could free the Valencia.
Don’t drive when it snows.
Okay, that’s not realistic, so it’s really more like: Always check the weather before you go on a four-hour road trip in the dead of winter to see your friend Jen in Bend, Oregon, during the height of the pandemic.
But let’s rewind a bit, since there were other ways to die on this long journey to reach Jen. You first flew across the country from New York to Oregon. You could have died then, too, gambling with your life with that five-hour flight, breathing the same stuffy plane air as everyone else.
Remember when you were advised to stay at least six feet away from people, or else risk getting COVID? Then possibly dying? That four-hour car ride on the final leg of your trip, then, was both a foolish and fitting thing to do.
Because it’s on this drive from the coast of Oregon to Bend that your car slips on the snow and crashes into the highway barrier. You find out later — see, this is why you should always check the weather before you drive — that that day was the first heavy snowfall of the season, and you’re in one of many car accidents around town, just half an hour away from Jen and her husband, who put all their belongings in storage and decided to rent an Airbnb in town indefinitely. (People did that during the pandemic, in that uncertain time between the fear of succumbing to the disease and the boredom of staying at home.)
You have photos of this carnage and general mayhem and, much later — after all this is more or less over — gleefully show them to people who ask, while watching kind of sadistically as they squirm and wince and gravely tell you they’re glad you’re alive.
Can you tell the difference between a $10,000 Chanel bag and a $200 knockoff? Almost nobody can, and it’s turning luxury fashion upside down.
How did chef and former punk drummer Brooks Headley turn his all-vegetarian vision for a rock and roll diner into the season’s hottest new restaurant?
It has been an eventful seven weeks since the start of the banking crisis. We recently lost another previously well-regarded, well-managed, risk-averse bank. We will likely lose more, potentially many more. And so many now have a simple question: Why?
After some bloviating by institutional actors early in the crisis, consensus is slowly pivoting from an indictment of individual banks’ management teams to recognition of a structural issue: when interest rates rise, asset prices fall. Banks loaded up on (good!) assets in a low-interest rate environment while flush with deposits, interest rates rose, banks became notionally insolvent or close to it, and deposits fled in a series of classic bank runs.
You can find all over the internet sites giving some form of this claim: “IQ is one of the most valid and reliable psychological constructs.” And this is true. . . by the standards of psychology. Don’t mistake this for being what a normal person would refer to as “reliable.” In the field of psychology, almost nothing is reliable. Effects regularly cannot be replicated, and those that can inevitably decrease in their effect size, often shrinking to the barely observable. Psychology struggles as a discipline to achieve even close to the same tensile strength in its hypotheses as other scientific fields, like physics or biology. Yet, sometimes IQ is treated as if it rises, miraculously, above these problems.
It doesn’t. As IQ gets higher, it gets less definite. Rankings of Person A and B will swap places depending on what test they take. Meaning that IQ is “valid and reliable” at the level that psychologists care about, which is being able to get significant values for their p-values across large data sets.
So, I would like to propose another metaphor for the risks of artificial intelligence. I suggest that we think about A.I. as a management-consulting firm, along the lines of McKinsey & Company. Firms like McKinsey are hired for a wide variety of reasons, and A.I. systems are used for many reasons, too. But the similarities between McKinsey—a consulting firm that works with ninety per cent of the Fortune 100—and A.I. are also clear. Social-media companies use machine learning to keep users glued to their feeds. In a similar way, Purdue Pharma used McKinsey to figure out how to “turbocharge” sales of OxyContin during the opioid epidemic. Just as A.I. promises to offer managers a cheap replacement for human workers, so McKinsey and similar firms helped normalize the practice of mass layoffs as a way of increasing stock prices and executive compensation, contributing to the destruction of the middle class in America.
A former McKinsey employee has described the company as “capital’s willing executioners”: if you want something done but don’t want to get your hands dirty, McKinsey will do it for you. That escape from accountability is one of the most valuable services that management consultancies provide. Bosses have certain goals, but don’t want to be blamed for doing what’s necessary to achieve those goals; by hiring consultants, management can say that they were just following independent, expert advice. Even in its current rudimentary form, A.I. has become a way for a company to evade responsibility by saying that it’s just doing what “the algorithm” says, even though it was the company that commissioned the algorithm in the first place.
Now that we’ve run the “Trumpism without Trump” experiment, I see us entering the third era of our understanding of Trumpism. Analysts are finally coming to the realization that this isn’t about trade, immigration, or gender ideology. It’s not about issues at all. There’s simply a deep and personal connection between Trump and the Republican voter. At most, how one talks about issues matters in an indirect way; Trump has to pay just enough lip service to things that Republican voters believe to reassure them that he is their leader. But unlike DeSantis, he has little to fear from contradicting them, like he’s done over the years on things like Planned Parenthood and vaccines.
Political science tries to figure out what people want or believe based on what they say. But in the realm of personal relationships, humans are pretty bad at explaining why they prefer some individuals over others.
There’s a cultural trope of the woman who can’t force herself to be attracted to the guy who “checks every box” and instead is drawn to men her friends say are bad for her. But guys who check every box tend to be overcompensating for lacking things that are much more fundamental, and give the impression of trying too hard. It’s striking the extent to which DeSantis follows the online right on every single issue. If I was advising him, I’d recommend picking a fight with the base on at least one thing, just to show that he can. Preferably, on something he truly believes in.
Scientists have found a way to decode a stream of words in the brain using MRI scans and artificial intelligence.
The system reconstructs the gist of what a person hears or imagines, rather than trying to replicate each word, a team reports in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Young Chinese are moving to Sweden in record numbers, seeking better labor conditions and a more tolerant society. Many are underwhelmed by what they find.
If you could really plug an AI’s intellectual knowledge into its motivational system, and get it to be motivated by doing things humans want and approve of, to the full extent of its knowledge of what those things are - then I think that would solve alignment. A superintelligence would understand ethics very well, so it would have very ethical behavior. How far does Constitutional AI get us towards this goal?
The major developments in human history are always steeped in dark ironies. Yes, that’s my Law of Dark Irony, the whole thing.
I don’t know why it’s true, but it certainly seems to be. Taking WWII as the archetypal example, let’s enumerate just the more obvious ones:
After the carnage of WWI, the world’s most sensitive and thoughtful people (many of them) learned the lesson that they should oppose war at any cost. This attitude let Germany rearm and set the stage for WWII.
Hitler, who was neither tall nor blond, wished to establish the worldwide domination of tall, blond Aryans … and do so via an alliance with the Japanese.
The Nazis touted the dream of eugenically perfecting the human race, then perpetrated a genocide against a tiny group that had produced Einstein, von Neumann, Wigner, Ulam, and Tarski. […]
When I think about the scenarios where superintelligent AI destroys the world, they rarely seem to do enough justice to the Law of Dark Irony. It’s like: OK, AI is created to serve humanity, and instead it turns on humanity and destroys it. Great, that’s one dark irony. One. What other dark ironies could there be? How about:
For decades, the Yudkowskyans warned about the dangers of superintelligence. So far, by all accounts, the great practical effect of these warnings has been to inspire the founding of both DeepMind and OpenAI, the entities that Yudkowskyans believe are locked into a race to realize those dangers.
Doctors have performed brain surgery on a fetus in one of the first operations of its kind | MIT Technology Review
A baby girl who developed a life-threatening brain condition was successfully treated before she was born—and is now a healthy seven-week-old.
Benny Morris has done a brilliant job in attempting to reconstruct the life and times of Sidney George Reilly – the mystery man of espionage and also a poor Jewish boy from the shtetl.
Whether using lamb, beef, or goat, the cooking method of barbacoa is rooted in pre-Hispanic traditions and set the scene for smoking meat as we know it stateside.
A spoon, a chair, a rock, an ampulla, a Bible and some oil are meant to help seal the bond among the monarch, the people, the church and God.
For eight years, Keith Loutit captured hundreds of thousands of images of Singapore, combining the pulsing energy, the new buildings reaching for the sky, and the busy shipyard of one of Asia's most iconic and futuristic cities into this 5-minute timelapse video.
A few years ago, my friend struck digital gold in crypto and retired very comfortably in his mid-30s.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely proud of him.
But I’d also be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t extremely jealous, too.
He’s managed to bypass decades of the daily grind, swapping the office for a beachside villa, and conference calls for leisurely strolls on the sand. It's tempting to be snarky about crypto winners’ seemingly undeserved success, but their story isn’t unlike that of the lottery winners above.
Just as with lottery winners, there's a widespread belief that sudden wealth from crypto investments can lead to ruin.
However, the truth is not so simple.
The “pangenome,” which collated genetic sequences from 47 people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, could greatly expand the reach of personalized medicine.
This adds more affirmation to the idea that vocalizing while exercising does make you stronger.
But why does it have this effect?
Sinclair Smith hypothesized that yelling could activate the autonomic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response, resulting in an adrenaline rush that helps muscle contractions become more complete and forceful. It’s the same idea behind the research that’s shown that swearing can increase your tolerance to pain.