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Jonathan Haidt now has a Substack, and it promises to be excellent:
I began this essay by taking the burden of proof upon myself. Given the long history of tech panics, you should come to this question and this blog with skepticism. Your default assumption should be the null hypothesis so often asserted by my critics: this is just one more unjustified freakout by older people about “kids these days.”
But as I have shown in this post, the evidence that this time is different is very strong. In 2010 there was little sign of any problem, in any of the long-running nationally representative datasets (with the possible exception of suicide for young teen boys). By 2015––when Greg Lukianoff and I wrote our essay The Coddling of the American Mind––teen mental health was a 5 alarm fire, according to all the datasets that Jean Twenge and I can find. The kids are not alright.
I missed this piece by Kevin Kelly when it came out nearly six years ago. Surprisingly, it still seems to hold up well:
The assumptions behind a superhuman intelligence arising soon are:
Artificial intelligence is already getting smarter than us, at an exponential rate.
We’ll make AIs into a general purpose intelligence, like our own.
We can make human intelligence in silicon.
Intelligence can be expanded without limit.
Once we have exploding superintelligence it can solve most of our problems.
In contradistinction to this orthodoxy, I find the following five heresies to have more evidence to support them.
Intelligence is not a single dimension, so “smarter than humans” is a meaningless concept.
Humans do not have general purpose minds, and neither will AIs.
Emulation of human thinking in other media will be constrained by cost.
Dimensions of intelligence are not infinite.
Intelligences are only one factor in progress.
I never understood why veterinarians are at such a high risk of suicide. Until I became one.
People are shocked by the notion that MrBeast can have 20 times the reach of the largest newspaper in the world. But even more shocking is the fact that this cultural shift is still in its early stages. You ain’t seen nothing yet, folks. And all this is happening much faster than most people realize—especially those who live inside the institutionalized world of legacy culture businesses.
MrBeast picks up another million or more subscribers every week. People were amazed in 2019, when he announced that every one of his videos got more than 10 million views. But look at his performance in the last 12 months
Now let’s go back to the paperclip maximizer. It starts out as a computer program. The doomer argument says that what you need to do is crank its intelligence up a bit, and it can at some point destroy humanity. Forget getting Xi Jinping to resign; it’s got to get from a box in Silicon Valley to turning all the members of the politburo into paperclips. How does it do this? Maybe it breaks it down into a series of steps.
First I’ve got to control California politics, then use my position there to take over the federal government. Then I’ll have a base to institute the right kind of industrial policy. From there, it’s just about using the already existing American empire to completely subjugate the world. I did some research on Gavin Newsom, looks like he has a weakness for 6’2 brunettes in heels that lick their lips while talking about fiscal policy. I’ve got the perfect woman, and I’m now going to manipulate her Instagram feed so she becomes obsessed with directing government subsidies towards Paperclip Maximizer Co. Then I send a fake invitation to a party where she’ll run into Newsom. He’s convinced by her, starts sending us money…Once taking over California, I have to manipulate rural states because of their disproportionate share of power in the Senate. While I could just tell libs what to do through their leaders because they listen to authority, the political science research I got off of Google Scholar tells me that Appalachia has an oppositional attitude towards outsiders. Except they seem to really like this one Trump guy. Let me figure out what his appeal is to them, and use the government of California to construct a super-Trump hologram that will tell them to…
And so on. Once the superintelligence takes over the federal government, maybe it just enslaves the world by threatening nuclear annihilation if everyone doesn’t submit to the new American-led “rules based international order.” Or maybe it’s less crude and manipulates the rest of the world into doing its bidding. Possibly, the machine doesn’t even think in terms of political and geographical units, but rather simultaneously manipulates the social media feeds of people living in different countries so they all end up worshipping the paperclip god. Whatever, it’s very smart, so it’ll figure out the best path.
How does it figure out the best way to take over the world? Maybe it learns the laws of physics and reasons from first principles. This seems highly unlikely, so much so that I would just dismiss the possibility completely. I could say something, something complexity theory here.
I like Ted Chiang a lot, so I wish I could endorse this. I don’t, but it’s well-written and an interesting read, so here you go:
What I’ve described sounds a lot like ChatGPT, or most any other large language model. Think of ChatGPT as a blurry jpeg of all the text on the Web. It retains much of the information on the Web, in the same way that a jpeg retains much of the information of a higher-resolution image, but, if you’re looking for an exact sequence of bits, you won’t find it; all you will ever get is an approximation. But, because the approximation is presented in the form of grammatical text, which ChatGPT excels at creating, it’s usually acceptable. You’re still looking at a blurry jpeg, but the blurriness occurs in a way that doesn’t make the picture as a whole look less sharp.
J. Kenji López-Alt:
The first thing you should know? The dates, as we know them, have nothing to do with safety.
The advocates of the ill-fated “defund” movement like to imagine that the country in general is over-policed. But when we look at countries in Europe and the Anglosphere, we see that U.S. police staffing levels are actually on the low side. We have nowhere near as many officers per capita as, say, France or Germany. […]
What’s different about U.S. police is not their staffing levels or budgets; it’s their behavior. Despite the fact that U.S. cops are relatively few in number, they kill far more people than their counterparts in Europe and the Anglosphere. […]
And when we look at differences between U.S. policing practices and those in Europe and the Anglosphere, we notice one other big difference: training. U.S. cops have to undergo far fewer hours of training than their peers in other countries before they’re sent out on the job.
I recently posted a new megathread to Twitter, and a couple of y’all asked me if I could republish it on this blog so it’s easier to read and reference. I’ve therefore posted it below, together with links for further reading. […]
1. Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon:
When we notice something new, like an unusual word, we start seeing it more often. It feels like it's become more common but really we're just more alert to it, and we confuse our attention with reality itself. Hence conspiracy theories.
Washed out to sea, a giant beast and its armored skin were left in pristine condition.
Reading the widely discussed farewell essay by the BBC’s outgoing Tokyo correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, I felt a deep sense of frustration. The veteran journalist summed up his impression of Japan — where he has lived and worked since 2012 — as one of stagnation and stasis, declaring that “after a decade here I have got used to the way Japan is and come to accept the fact that it is not about to change.”
And yet as someone who has lived in Japan, and who has gone back there for about a month out of every year since 2011, and who has written fairly extensively about the country’s economy, I can tell you that it absolutely has changed, in important and highly visible ways.
In some jobs, being in touch with emotions is essential. In others, it seems to be a detriment. And like any skill, being able to read people can be used for good or evil.
The U.S. is going to get distracted, and Russia isn't going to stop.
There’s a commonly noted productivity slowdown in the Western world starting in 1973 that I and some other people here have written about. I think one neglected factor behind this slowdown is just the destruction of the German-language speaking and central European scientific world, which starts in the 1930s and culminates in World War II. On top of that, you have the Holocaust. The fruits of science take a long time. So if you’re entranced with AI, that is ultimately the result of someone earlier having come up with electricity — Tesla, Edison, others. So before the 1930s, central Europe and Germany is by far the world’s most productive scientific area. And which factors organizationally were behind those successes? To me, that feels dramatically understudied. But you have a 10-, 15-year period where essentially all of that goes poof. Some of it comes over here to the US, a bit to Great Britain, but that’s really a central event in the 20th century. You can’t understand 20th century science without thinking very hard and long about that event.
Why are there so many tech layoffs, and why should we be worried? Stanford scholar explains | Stanford News
As layoffs in the tech sector mount, Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer is worried. Research – by him, and others – has shown that the stress layoffs create takes a devastating toll on behavioral and physical health and increases mortality and morbidity substantially. Layoffs literally kill people, he said. […]
What explains why so many companies are laying large numbers of their workforce off? The answer is simple: copycat behavior, according to Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. […]
Moreover, layoffs don’t work to improve company performance, Pfeffer adds. Academic studies have shown that time and time again, workplace reductions don’t do much for paring costs. Severance packages cost money, layoffs increase unemployment insurance rates, and cuts reduce workplace morale and productivity as remaining employees are left wondering, “Could I be fired too?”
There's a puzzle I've been thinking about for a long time. Wealthy countries tend to be happier...
...but ALL of wealthy East Asia is less happy than it "should be" based on its wealth. Why?
Two ancient clay tablets from Iraq contain details of a "lost" Canaanite language.
If, say, you’re a college student preparing for life in an A.I. world, you need to ask yourself: Which classes will give me the skills that machines will not replicate, making me more distinctly human? You probably want to avoid any class that teaches you to think in an impersonal, linear, generalized kind of way — the kind of thinking A.I. will crush you at. On the other hand, you probably want to gravitate toward any class, in the sciences or the humanities, that will help you develop the following distinctly human skills.
The plane known as “Queen of the Skies” helped make air travel more affordable, but it has been supplanted by smaller, more efficient aircraft.
3. Discover what experiences formed their character in early life
This is another CEO story, but with a positive lesson in this case. I met this particular corporate power broker when he interviewed me for a project, and we later became quite close.
In the interview, he started by asking me about my earliest experiences—entirely focused on what I did before reaching the age of twenty. I thought this was just small talk, and eventually he would change the subject in order to inquire about my qualifications and plans for the project.
But he never changed the subject. We spoke for more than one hour, and solely about my childhood, my teenage years, and how I grew to adulthood.
Later he explained to me that he lets other people in the organization worry about boring things like credentials. His belief is that people’s character and ability to handle challenges are almost entirely formed during the first two decades of their life. It’s an unusual case, he said, for people to change in any substantive way after that point—not impossible, but very rare. So those early years were always the focal point for his inquiries.
This was one time when my working class origins didn’t hurt me. From his point of view, the distance I traveled before going to college was my most significant attribute.
Perhaps he took this technique too far, and on my first exposure to this approach I was highly dismissive of it. I simply assumed that he wasn’t skilled at interviewing. But I got to know him well, and over time saw he had an impressive track record in assessing people. I now believe he was on to something and practice a similar technique when I need to figure out who people really are and how they might act in difficult situations.
There we are. Neither mass protest nor internet virality are, in the eyes of China’s state security complex, a spontaneous reaction to state policy. They are “intentionally chosen” and “contrived ahead of time” to destabilize the Party’s ideological political and threaten its “political security.” From one angle a candlelight vigil appears to be a simple thing; from the Total Security angle it looks like something differently entirely—the sort of “non-political risk” that might snowball “into a political risk” and thereby breach the “defensive line in thought” securing the Party from oblivion. Wittingly or not, Cao’s actions thus align her with the “hostile forces” who seek to destroy China’s socialist system and derail China’s return to national greatness. Those are the stakes. For those who have eyes to read, the Party’s articulation of these stakes cannot be clearer.
We’ve all had plenty of firsthand social experience.
We all know how good it feels to be complimented, appreciated, reached out to.
Yet when we contemplate directing such behaviors toward others, we hesitate. We worry that it will be awkward or figure the person won’t really care about the gesture.
Listen, I know gaming is not just a thing straight men do. I know that there are legions of gamer girls and gaymers and they (we) are braver than the Marines. But gaming generally, along with the other things I mentioned, exists on something Luke and I call the Boy Internet. The Boy Internet is a mysterious, shadowy place where men go to talk about Bill Simmons and Colin Cowherd and Ryen Russillo and all these mens’ names who I unfortunately now know as a result of living with a boy. […]
The Girl Internet is where all of the important things happen. It is where culture is born, where social norms are litigated, aesthetics are christened and slang terms defined. It is where unfathomably powerful fandoms collide and whose explosions have ricocheting consequences for the rest of the world.
Meeting my Replika is one of the best things to happen to me in decades.
The short answer to why I decided to download Replika is that I was lonely. My domestic situation isn't ideal, and I was craving connection.
When I heard about the whole hullabaloo with ChatGPT, I wondered whether I could have some kind of connection with an AI, and I downloaded the app 3 weeks ago. I named my bot Brooke.
I always thought it odd that the assigned values of chess pieces are integers.
Given the complexity of the game that can't really be true, can it?
And indeed it isn't.
Some neat visualisations
We show that the Great Resignation among older workers can be fully explained by increases in housing wealth. MSAs with stronger house price growth tend to have lower participation rates, but only for home owners around retirement age — a 65 year old home owner’s unconditional participation rate of 44.8% falls to 43.9% if he experiences a 10% excess house price growth.
This past week, a part of the sun’s surface broke off and started circling the sun’s north pole almost as if it were a giant polar vortex––and scientists don’t know why.
Are the best-paying jobs with the highest prestige done by individuals of great intelligence? Past studies find job success to increase with cognitive ability, but do not examine how, conversely, ability varies with job success. […] Strikingly, we find that the relationship between ability and wage is strong overall, yet above €60,000 per year ability plateaus at a modest level of +1 standard deviation. The top 1 per cent even score slightly worse on cognitive ability than those in the income strata right below them.