Links and Snippets, AI Edition

How to get GPT to take your existing documents and code into account, according to Simon Willison. You use something else as a first-pass search. That turns up a few relevant documents, which you feed into a GPT prompt and let it work its magic. GPT Index is a more systematic implementation of the same idea.

For a flickering moment, Deepmind released dramatron, a tool for collaborative AI/human scriptwriting. Then they almost immediately shuttered it, leaving nothing but vague PR.

FactGPT claims to be a GPT that’s aware of current events

Style2paints is a tool for colorizing line art. The new (not-yet-released) version has 2 gremlins inside. Dorothy is a good girl who will precisely follow your input sketch. Alice will try to make something good, regardless of how crappy your input sketch might be.

Links and Snippets

Geschwind Syndrome is a form of religion where you turn religious and can’t stop writing.

“We estimate that on average 10% of large publicly traded firms are committing securities fraud every year”. The approach is to look at former clients of Arthur Andersen, a big accounting firm which collapsed in scandal in 2022. The idea is that their former clients were more thoroughly examined by the new auditors, dredging up fraud which might otherwise have remained hidden. They find that two thirds of fraud is not detected.

A list of tech coops

Argument that if AI is going to conquer the world, interest rates will rise first

ChatGPT – scary but exciting

ChatGPT leaves me slightly more excited than terrified, but it’s a close-run thing. Although OpenAI so far haven’t released much detail on how ChatGPT, I assume it’s brodly similar to earlier GPT projects. That is, it’s one model that has learned to predict text by reading the internet, then been fine-tuned to function in Q and A. ChatGPT would seem much less scary/exciting if it turned out to be a stitching together of modules trained specifically to compose poetry, teach programming, and so on.

Until now, I’d been relatively pessimistic about Artificial General Intelligence, at least compared to the people most actively talking about it. I’d figured it would eventually happen if we managed not to destroy the planet, but not in my lifetime. I’d expected that we’d hit a ceiling with the current generation of pretty simple architectures, then have a period of increasing specialisation within domains before the next quantum leap.

Between ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion, though, it seems that AI is advancing far more quickly than society has any hope of adapting to deal with it. It’s not quite the singularity, but the next 20 years seem set to be Interesting Times.

A few of the snippets I’ve pulled from the torrent of people doing amazing things with ChatGPT:

Links and Snippets

What I’ve been reading:

A bleak Twitter thread by Kamil Galeev, taking gangsterism as the natural state of entrepreneurship. With US/European norms as a rare and fragile anomoly:

Hunting for cryptobros sounds like a great hustle for a violent entrepreneur. Still, we don’t see it happening: outspoken cryptobros are alive (=not selected out). Ergo, the high end violent entrepreneurs who would select them out are being selected out. Under-appreciated fact

Transit authorities are narrow-minded in who they listen to, with the US and Northern Europe not really paying attention to examples from beyond those regions.

Basic python idioms translated into Rust. I’m feeling a growing sense of inevitability that Rust will be the next language I need to learn, though I’m going to restrain myself for just a little longer.

Alternative names proposed for the New Romantics music scene. I can’t imagine a better label for Boy George than “peacock punk”

In its early stages, the movement was known by many names, including “new dandies”, “romantic rebels”, “peacock punk”, “the now crowd”, “the futurists”, “the cult with no name”[1] and eventually as the “Blitz Kids”. As the scene moved beyond a single club, the media settled on the name New Romantics.[4][26]

Halbstarke

The Halbstarke were a German subculture in the 50s: rockers with leather jackets, an affection for James Dean, and a grudge against polite society.

photo: Karlheiz Weinberger

The term — literally ‘half-strong’ — fascinates me. It suggests not only the ‘half-grown’ adolescents who were the bulk of the movement, but also their combination of force and impotence. This was a movement of angry misfits, who had no hope or prospects and could be beaten to death by the policea without anyone raising an eyebrow.

photo: Karlheiz Weinberger

It reminds me of a once-famous scene in the 50s biker movie The Wild One, another touchstone for the Halbstarke. Johnny (Marlon Brando) is the rough, intense biker, looming at a society dance with a combination of menace and awkwardness, his fingers absent-mindedly tapping out a rhythm with no relation to the music around him. “Hey Johnny”, one of the girls asks him, “What are you rebelling against?”.

The look Brando gives her combines resignation, calm self-assurance, a wry pity for the carefree people around him. “Whaddayagot?” is his iconic answer, given deadpan, finding a strange kind of peace in his outsider status. It’s immediately treated as a joke, repeated round the room by laughing preppies.

That look seems to encapsulate the rebel-without-a-cause attitude of the halbstarke, no strength within society but something different outside it.

It’s on my mind because former US National Security Advisor John Bolton, alongside too-honestly describing himself as “somebody who has helped plan coups d’etat” used the term “half-vast”

While nothing Donald Trump did after the election, in connection with the lie about the election fraud, none of it is defensible, it’s also a mistake as some people have said including on the committee, the commentators that somehow this was a carefully planned coup d’etat to the constitution.
“That’s not the way Donald Trump does things. It’s rambling from one half-vast idea to another plan that falls through and another comes up.

Even if he was just avoiding saying half-assed , he came up with a wonderfully evocative way to do so. I imagine a half-vast plan not as a medium-sized one, but as a vast plan that is only half there.

Psychomagic

Alejandro Joderowsky’s movie about ‘psychomagic’ his practice of tailor-made quasi-shamanic rituals, is much more sane than I expected.

This documentary – made both by and about Jodorowsky, who is clearly his own favorite subject – shows us a series of Jodorowsky’s ritual treatments, interspersed by clips from his older movies.

Each time, we see somebody in a state of crisis or despair: a woman whose fiance died in front of her, a couple falling out of love, a middle-aged stutterer. Several are troubled by childhood experiences or fraught relations with their parents – appropriately, considering that Jodorowsky defines his psychomagic in relation to Freudian psychiatry.

The difference, we are told in the prologue, is that psychiatry is therapy through talk. Psychomagic is therapy through acts. Acts like being buried alive, symbolically torn apart by birds, drenched in milk, and having plates smashed on your chest. And that’s just the treatment for one person!

The acts tend to be dramatic, physical, intimidating, and well attuned to one person’s situation. They put that person at the center of an elaborate metaphorical production which gives material form to their problem. It’s a production coordinated with the visual flair of a film director: the stutterer sees himself covered head-to-toe in gold paint. The couple glumly drag chains through Paris as they contemplate whether to separate.

Having been materialised, the trauma can now be guided by performing actions on its physical representation. The chains of marriage are buried; the unused wedding dress is cremated. Whatever ‘magic’ there is in psychomagic, it depends on no forces beyond one person’s psychology. It gives the trauma center stage for a while, before providing a route towards catharsis and closure.

That’s not to say that it’s all easy to accept. Jodorowsky definitely gives off creepy vibes at times. Perhaps that is inevitable for an older man reaching such physical and emotional intensity with vulnerable people. But it’s hard not to notice how many rituals involve tearing off somebody’s clothes. And Jodorowsky’s titanium sellf-confidence is not something you imagine stopping in the face of a hesitant ritual subject. There’s also one segment with uncomfortable traces of faith healilng, as a cancer sufferer receives psychic energy from an auditorium of Jodorowsky fans, has unpleasant faith-healer vibes.

One of the most convincing sections is also one of the least elaborate. His patient is a depressed and foul-tempered old woman, somebody who clearly adores ‘Alejandro’ but seems unlikely to buy into any high-intensity shamanic ritual. Jodorowsky’s prescription is a daily walk to the park to look after a tree. For a moment Jodorowsky sheds his showmanship and comes across as a wise, caring old friend.

Links and Snippets

¶ Horses used to eat bread

Horse bread, typically a flat, brown bread baked alongside human bread, fueled England’s equine transport system from the Middle Ages up until the early 1800s.

Bread is easier to move and faster to eat than hay, making it ideal for hard-working horses on the move.

¶ Housebuilding in West London is being stopped for a decade until the electricity grid can catch up. The article doesn’t even talk about electric cars, which presumably will make everything worse. non-paywall article local govt. statement

¶ Airplanes’ location reporting systems (ADS-B) include data on their accuracy. You can use that to map GPS jamming

A Colorless World

The world is becoming less colorful. I’d been vaguely aware of this as a trend in Europe and the US, but I’m surprised how global it is.
Remember the common grumble about the DDR being how drab it was? I wouldn’t be surpised if unified Germany is now back to the East German color palette.

Cars become monochrome

Some past color changes have been triggered by technology. Synthetic dyes made color less of a luxury, starting with the Prussian Blue that let allowed Frederick the Great to kit out an entire army in blue uniforms

Himself, too

As an aside: one bonkers-but-brilliant theory is that Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro painting style, with a massive contrast between bright and dark areas, was a way to save money on dyes. He could use the good stuff only for the highlighted areas, and had artistic justification to use cheaper, duller colors for the rest.

Just a little lapis lazuli

just a little lapis lazuli

Neon signage exploded in usage in the 1920s and -30s, immediately after being invented – but once it was no longer new it became declasse.

And yet…we are living through at least a minor transformation in the economics of lighting. I’m talking about LEDs. Not only has the price cratered, but they bring different color options compared to incandescent bulbs. But I suppose the difference isn’t enough for us to become more colorful.

price of LEDs keeps dropping

Snippets 19.4

What I’ve been reading lately:

when the concentration camps were liberated by the Aallies they did not set free all the prisoners with pink triangles. Those with convictions in the Nazi courts for so much as flirting with another man were required to serve out their sentences, with no credit for time served. — Guardian review of The Fifties: An Underground History by James R Gaines

There is a long tradition of doing research where we say, “What predicts voting out the incumbent? The national unemployment rate, or whether you personally are unemployed?” And it really is the national unemployment rate that is predictive. — Bryan Caplan]

The preeminent characteristic of human beings is that we imitate each other (thus the term “Mimetic Theory”). This mimesis is not mere mimicry, but an instinctive and preconscious impulse. Even our desires—especially our desires—come from the imitation of others. Because we want the same things that others want, we come into conflict over who will possess the desired object. — How to Read Girard

Snippets

Sentences I have enjoyed:

It’s a universal axiom that when an art style is practiced outside the center where it was developed and perfected, its most obvious features tend to be overemphasized.
– From a New York Times artice on the Bloomsbury Group

sleep apnea…is a disease of modernity (jaw sizes have shrunk and tongue sizes have grown
– from a comment on Astral Codex Ten

People are very good at maintaining a set of beliefs that allow them to not feel guilty, and the easiest way to do this is to believe that anything you think you should do but don’t want to is impossible.
– from DRMacIver’s notebook