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I Am on Tracy Alloway & Joe Weisenthal’s Great Odd Lots Podcast This AM!, & BRIEFLY NOTED
For 2022-12-05 Mo
FOCUS: I Am on Tracy Alloway & Joe Weisenthal’s Great Odd Lots Podcast This AM!:
And I think it went very well indeed:
Tracy Alloway & Joe Weisenthal & Brad DeLong: : Odd Lots: Brad DeLong on the F TX Collapse & the South Sea Bubble: ‘We're in the aftermath of an extraordinary bubble in cryptocurrencies and the collapse of FTX is a defining chapter of the industry's turmoil. But what does history tells us about the cycle of bubbles and busts? Which past manias are the most similar to what we've just seen? In this episode, we speak with Brad DeLong, an economic historian at the University of California at Berkeley, who is also the author of the new book, Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century. He explains how the FTX saga shares shocking similarities with the story of the South Sea Company, a British endeavor that was at the center of a massive mania of speculation in the early 1700s…
Ben Thompson: AI Homework: ‘It happened to be Wednesday night when my daughter, in the midst of preparing for “The Trial of Napoleon” for her European history class, asked for help in her role as Thomas Hobbes, witness for the defense. I put the question to ChatGPT, which had just been announced by OpenAI a few hours earlier:
This is a confident answer, complete with supporting evidence and a citation to Hobbes work, and it is completely wrong…. It was dumb luck that my first ChatGPT query ended up being something the service got wrong, but you can see how it might have happened: Hobbes and Locke are almost always mentioned together….
It is an open question as to what jobs will be the first to be disrupted by AI; what became obvious to a bunch of folks this weekend, though, is that there is one universal activity that is under serious threat: homework…. Who hasn’t had to write an essay about a political philosophy, or a book report, or any number of topics that are, for the student assigned to write said paper theoretically new, but in terms of the world generally simply a regurgitation of what has been written a million times before. Now, though, you can write something “original” from the regurgitation, and, for at least the next few months, you can do it for free. The obvious analogy to what ChatGPT means for homework is the calculator: instead of doing tedious math calculations students could simply punch in the relevant numbers and get the right answer, every time; teachers adjusted by making students show their work. That there, though, also shows why AI-generated text is something completely different; calculators are deterministic…. AI output, on the other hand, is probabilistic: ChatGPT doesn’t have any internal record of right and wrong, but rather a statistical model about what bits of language go together under different contexts…
On the other hand:
Use of ChatGPT generated text for posts on Stack Overflow is temporarily banned…. Because the average rate of getting correct answers from ChatGPT is too low, the posting of answers created by ChatGPT is substantially harmful to the site and to users who are asking or looking for correct answers. The primary problem is that while the answers which ChatGPT produces have a high rate of being incorrect, they typically look like they might be good and the answers are very easy to produce. There are also many people trying out ChatGPT to create answers, without the expertise or willingness to verify that the answer is correct prior to posting…
O þer Things Þt Went Whizzing by…
Very Briefly Noted:
Oren Etzioni: ‘AI refers both to the fundamental scientific quest to build human intelligence into computers and to the work of modeling massive amounts of data. These two endeavors are very different, both in their ambitions and in the amount of progress they have made… Yes. Exactly. But AI is also two more things: conversational computers that do not s-ck, and pumping money out of the pockets of naïve VCs.
Rana Faroohar: ‘Wage inflation? What wage inflation?’ ask workers: ‘While inflation in areas such as food and fuel hits the poor in every country hardest, the comparative decline in real versus nominal wages has actually been sharpest in the rich world…. It is a bitter irony that… central bankers must now quash inflation, [but] they have no tools to fix what’s truly broken in labour markets… This is why I worry about those who are so confident that whacking the labor market will diminish inflation efficiently. It seems to me that, since real wages are falling, inflation is coming from supply-chain bottlenecks and such. And whacking construction and tradeables with higher interest rates seems to me likely to be very inefficient at relieving supply-chain bottlenecks.
Claudia Sahm: Burden of proof is on the inflation hawks now: ‘Reality shows a "soft landing" in 2023 in the United States taking shape. We avoid a recession, we keep the job-full recovery, and inflation moves back down. Hawks, it's time to join us in reality… My reading is that the FOMC agrees with this: that the pause is likely to start in January.
Daniel Drezner: Emmanuel Macron is Kinda Sorta Right about Russia: ‘Much as the hard-working staff here at Drezner’s World wants to mock Macron some more, however, there is the inconvenient fact that he might have a point. As noted in this space two months ago, NATO needs to communicate that it does not pose an existential threat to Russia even as the war grinds on… But NATO is an existential threat to Putin’s régime, in the long run at least. And this is a problem, especially as Putin continues to misbehave and hence raise NATO’s consciousness with respect how better the world would be if he were simply gone.
Max Read: Halogencore: ‘Halogencore movies are stories of corporate intrigue and malfeasance, told from the point of view of… low-level apparatchiks, functionaries, subordinates, and middle managers…. They are stories of beaten-down people acquiescing to or negotiating compromise with power. The "victory" of a happy ending in a halogencore movie is not that power has been toppled but that our compromised hero has manage to survive… A whole genre that I had not known existed!
Ian Millhiser: A Trump judge seized control of ICE, and the Supreme Court will decide whether to stop him: ‘Judge Drew Tipton’s order in United States v. Texas is completely lawless. Thus far, the Supreme Court has given him a pass… I confess I had not expected Republican judges too think that it was their job to let lawless court orders stand for a while just to gum up the workings of the Democratic-led executive.
Michael Slaby: Our Private Public Sphere: ‘What the Twitter upheaval might teach us about private public goods…. One of the great erosions of public intuitions by neoliberal technocrats preaching market-based venture-philanthropy doublespeak over the last decade has been the quiet background disinvestment in the actual public systems and public infrastructures capable of providing public goods… A very smart point.
I confess that this has always been my reaction to the FaceBook. I used to think it was just because I had been too lazy to invest the time to train the FaceBook to offer me the feed that I would want to see. But Ted makes a very good case that the FaceBook's entire strategy has been to degrade its feed as much as possible in the interests of profit, while still maintaining its audience. It worked for a while because too many people had no place else on the internet they could go to. But now, I hope, the tipping point has been passed:
Ted Gioia: How Web Platforms Collapse: The Facebook Case Study: ‘But long before these fiascos, Facebook decided to take control of what I get to see from my family, friends, and other accounts I follow. In the early days of Facebook, I would simply scroll through my friends’ posts in reverse chronological order… intuitive and easy to manage, but Facebook announced one day that it would improve the order…. (They recently allowed for a chronological option, but it took years—and a growing sense of desperation at the corporate HQ—for them to loosen up their restrictions.) The company claimed they would give me the most interesting stuff first—but the real story here was that priority on a feed can be monetized. That’s the same reason why Google fills up page one of the search results with so much crap…. This obsession with monetizing users’ access to information has hurt Facebook much more than they realize.… Mr. Z. wants to get paid before anything goes viral, and that’s the exact opposite of Substack’s successful formula…. The speed of the collapse, however, was surprising. Facebook announced the launch of Bulletin on June 29, 2021. Facebook announced the termination of Bulletin on October 4, 2022. Even King Henry VIII’s wives lasted longer than that. Of course, Facebook has to let some things bypass the algorithm. They can’t build the whole experience on promoted posts. So they decided that top priority should go to key life events…
Ellie Carina continues absolutely killing it with her "what if Galadriel and Sauron did fall in love?” Rings of Power FanFic epic:
Ellie Carina: The Trials of Mairon: Chapter 24: The Hundred Year Peace…
Kage Baker: The House of the Stag: ‘“Now… if you die tomorrow, you will still have seen the fairest sight of your lives…. Free their eyes!”… She looked on them in horror and looked white rage…. “What have you done?” “Brought you workmen, as I promised,” he said in that same theatrical tone, meeting her eyes without flinching. She saw amusement there, and a covert purpose. “Why, madam, are you displeased? Shall I have them hanged?” “No!” she cried. “You will have them released at once!”… “Then I will spare your lives…. But you will slave for me nonetheless, to make fair the rooms in which my lady lives.” “They will not slave!… If they choose to work, you will pay them in gold, and then you’ll let them go!”… “Wife, I will defer to your wishes…. For I am your slave in all things. Should one of them displease you, however, his head shall look down sadly from a pike.” “May I speak with you alone a moment?”…
Andor is not a Star Wars story. Andor is a WWII or a post-war Eastern Europe story—and it is a great one:
Popula: What made 'Andor' so good?: ‘What made Andor so great and so relentless… the question of what it would actually be like to live under, or within, a Galactic Empire, day after day: the material and moral experience—the bureaucracy and logistics… [of] an interplanetary system of domination…. The character I found most memorable: Syril Karn, Cassian Andor's shadow double. If Cassian's peril and suffering are there to show us how death-defying rebels are made, Syril devoutly hopes to answer the counter-question of where all those translucent-skinned, tight-wound Imperial officers come from…. It's good to remember that, in the 1977 Star Wars, what Luke was originally whining to Uncle Owen about—his single, motivating dream—was his desire to get off Tatooine and go to the Academy. The Imperial Academy, that is. With a more permissive uncle, or at least one who needed less help on the moisture farm, Luke Skywalker could have been wearing a black helmet and flight suit, the most gifted killer in a TIE fighter swarm…
In what sense is this the same playbook as Andrew Jackson or Louis Bonaparte?:
Claire Berlinski: New Caesars, Hungary Edition: ‘Thirteen ways to destroy a liberal democracy…. Rule number one: Rewrite history, deliberately fostering nostalgia for an authoritarian past…. Heighten ethnic, racial, religious, and class divisions…. Magnify fear of foreigners and outsiders…. Enter Caesar…. Conflate entertainment and politics…. Create chaos…. Destroy confidence in the idea of objective truth…. Humiliate or destroy people who are better fit to be leaders…. Gain control over the media…. Reward loyalists… Punish the unsubmissive. Use punitive taxes and spurious lawsuits…. Stack the courts…. Rejigger the constitution…
Clearly, it is time to move. Eric Tarloff’s new novel up to the very top of the pile:
James Fallows: More on the book list: Tarloff and Kaplan: ‘Erik Tarloff’s latest novel, Tell Me The Truth About Love… is very good…. Erik’s books combine hold-your-attention plotting, with elegant and droll dialogue and description, with insider awareness of their respective settings…. This one… set in the arts world of San Francisco… is a comedy-of-manners about the world of philanthropy, and the endless dance between the people who must ask for money and those who decide whether to give. From Evelyn Waugh onward, the Brits have been world champions in mercilessly hilarious depictions of this sort of relations-among-unequals. Erik has a Brit-worthy touch. The book is also about gender politics of all sorts, about parents and children, about love and loss. It’s quite risqué. I enjoyed it…