Tuesday, March 14, 2023

14: Russia

Richard Holbrooke, the Last Great Freewheeling Diplomat . .

Late Night Can’t Believe Tucker Carlson’s Texts About Trump “Oh, my God, it turns out the Trump hatred was coming from inside the house!” Seth Meyers said. ...... In one text, Carlson wrote of Trump, “I hate him passionately.” ........ “Wait, wait, are you telling me Tucker Carlson is secretly sane? I would feel so betrayed if I was a Fox viewer. This is like if you joined a cult, sold all your belongings, shaved your head, moved to the desert, and then it turns out the cult leader is just, like, a Methodist.” — SETH MEYERS ........ “That’s right, Tucker Carlson said he couldn’t wait to ignore Trump and that he hated Trump passionately. That’s as damning as the time I got caught texting Trump, ‘Real talk, I also think windmills kill birds.’” — SETH MEYERS ....... “I wouldn’t worry just yet. As of now, Biden thinks TikTok is the clock on ‘60 Minutes.’” — JIMMY FALLON ........... “Yeah, officials think China is using TikTok to spy on us, and China was like, ‘Yeah, well, we had a backup idea, but you shot it down.’” — JIMMY FALLON .

Elizabeth Warren: Silicon Valley Bank Is Gone. We Know Who Is Responsible. These recent bank failures are the direct result of leaders in Washington weakening the financial rules. ....... Greg Becker, the chief executive of Silicon Valley Bank, was one of the ‌many high-powered executives who lobbied Congress to weaken the law. In 2018, the big banks won. With support from both parties, President Donald Trump signed a law to roll back critical parts of Dodd-Frank. Regulators, including the Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, then made a bad situation worse, ‌‌letting financial institutions load up on risk. ........ got relief from stringent requirements, basing their claim on the laughable assertion that banks like them weren’t actually “big” ‌and therefore didn’t need strong oversight. ‌ ........ on Friday, S.V.B. executives were busy paying out congratulatory bonuses hours before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation‌‌ rushed in to take over their failing institution — leaving countless businesses and non‌profits with accounts at the bank alarmed that they wouldn’t be able to pay their bills and employees. .............. This business model was great for S.V.B.’s short-term profits, which shot up by nearly 40 ‌percent over the last three years‌ — but now we know its cost. ......... Signature had touted its F.D.I.C. insurance as it whipped up a customer base tilted toward risky cryptocurrency firms. ........ On Sunday night, regulators announced they would ensure that all deposits at S.V.B. and Signature would be repaid 100 cents on the dollar. Not just small businesses and nonprofits, but also billion-dollar companies, crypto investors and the very venture capital firms that triggered the bank run on S.V.B. in the first place — all in the name of preventing further contagion. ........... it’s no wonder the American people are skeptical of a system that holds millions of struggling student loan borrowers in limbo but steps in overnight to ensure that billion-dollar crypto firms won’t lose a dime in deposits. ......... Never again should large companies with billions in unsecured deposits expect, or receive, free support from the government. ........ S.V.B. and Signature shareholders will be wiped out, but their executives must also be held accountable. Mr. Becker of S.V.B. took home $9.9 million in compensation last year, including a $1.5 million bonus for boosting bank profitability — and its riskiness. Joseph DePaolo of Signature got $8.6 million. We should claw all of that back, along with bonuses for other executives at these banks. .

After Bank Debacle, Silicon Valley Reckons With Its Image Even as start-ups and investors began recovering their money from Silicon Valley Bank, the episode exposed the tech industry’s vulnerabilities. ........ On Twitter, several tech investors pointed fingers of blame for the situation at almost everyone but themselves, and then were surprised that so few outside the industry were sympathetic to their plight. ........ Some of the “loudest voices of the investment community” were “screaming about the end times,” positioning themselves as the victims of the bank’s failure, rather than the small businesses who couldn’t make payroll .........

some of the loudest voices were also those who had been repeatedly on the record against any government funded safety nets in other contexts

.......... Over the weekend, Garry Tan, the president of the start-up incubator Y Combinator, sent a message to hundreds of founders and entrepreneurs telling them to begin posting “tweetstorms” to humanize the impact that Silicon Valley Bank’s failure was having on them........... He later posted an online petition to the government asking them “to save innovation in the American economy,” which was signed by more than 5,000 chief executives representing nearly half a million employees. ........... the bank provided banking services to nearly half of all venture-backed technology and life-science companies in the United States and was also a bank to more than 2,500 venture capital firms. ......... “People are never going to unremember what happened on Friday.” ......... It offered low-interest loans to investors and start-up founders who banked with it, so they were able to secure such loans — which traditional banks declined — for multimillion dollar homes ........... said Silicon Valley Bank gave him a $4 million loan for his San Francisco home with an interest rate of 2.2 percent, while other banks were offering rates of 3 percent and higher. ........ the white-knuckle ride ended only on Monday when they and their companies got access to their bank deposits that had been frozen for more than 72 hours.

Jimmy Fallon Recaps Trump’s ‘Off the Rails’ CPAC Speech Fallon said Donald Trump “made some pretty intense promises” in his headlining speech on Saturday...... “In 2016, I declared, ‘I am your voice,’” Trump said. “Today I add, I am your warrior, I am your justice, and, for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution. I am your retribution.’” ......... “He’s either running for president or auditioning to be the next John Wick.” — JIMMY FALLON ........ “But let’s be real, the funniest comedy special last weekend was the CPAC, or as I like to call it, crazy white people.” — MARLON WAYANS, guest hosting “The Daily Show” ........ “If you don’t know about it, it’s an annual event where all the Karens and their husbands come together, and they complain about the rest of us. The Karens and the Darrens.” — MARLON WAYANS ....... “And some of that [expletive] make no sense at all. Like, Nikki Haley said, ‘wokeness is more dangerous than a pandemic.’ I never had to miss two weeks of work because of wokeness.” — MARLON WAYANS ........ “Yes, wokeness is such a dangerous virus that it apparently killed two-thirds of her audience. It’s got to be stopped.” — STEPHEN COLBERT .

As Economy Falters, China’s New Premier Tries to Boost Business Confidence Li Qiang, the country’s No. 2 leader, sought to reassure entrepreneurs who have been wary of making new investments. ....... private-sector companies would be treated equally with state-owned ones ...... many local governments have forced private companies to make large “donations” or pay arbitrarily imposed fines to help cover the costs of social programs. ...... At his first news conference as premier on Monday, Mr. Li delivered the most forceful statement by a Chinese leader in years of the need to preserve the vitality of the private sector. He promised a commercial environment “in which businesses of all forms of ownership will be treated equally, protecting the property rights and interests of entrepreneurs according to the law, encouraging fair competition between business entities of all types.” ........ “There is the massive scale of its market, its comprehensive array of industries, abundant human resources and a robust base for development — even more important, there are our clear institutional advantages,” he said, apparently referring to Communist Party rule. ............

Mr. Li’s remarks triggered a sharp jump on Monday morning in share prices in Hong Kong

........ The difference in tone and substance between the two men’s comments suggested that Mr. Xi would leave the details of economic policy to the premier, while Mr. Xi would play the role of the paternalistic Communist Party leader who provides security for the people but is not directly responsible for the month-to-month vicissitudes of the economy. ......... strong pressure on businesses to cooperate with the military under a “civil-military fusion” policy ........ “Opening up to the outside is our fundamental national policy, and no matter how the international situation changes, we will be unwavering in advancing it” ......... “This raft of appointments seems to at least partially buck the narrative that demonstrated fealty to Xi Jinping will trump technocratic competence in assigning top-level government positions,” said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist. ........ factory activity accelerated strongly in February. In many Chinese cities, the subways, airports and hotels are busy again. ........... youth unemployment remains high, and the housing market is in a slump. China’s factories, the engine of its trade with the world, are facing weakening demand from the United States and Europe.

Monday, March 13, 2023

13: India

This Changes Everything . “A.I. is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. I think of it as something more profound than electricity or fire.” ....... What is hardest to appreciate in A.I. is the improvement curve. ....... I find myself thinking back to the early days of Covid. There were weeks when it was clear that lockdowns were coming, that the world was tilting into crisis, and yet normalcy reigned, and you sounded like a loon telling your family to stock up on toilet paper. ....... There is a natural pace to human deliberation. A lot breaks when we are denied the luxury of time. ......... the people working on A.I. ...... a community that is living with an altered sense of time and consequence. They are creating a power that they do not understand at a pace they often cannot believe. ......... Would you work on a technology you thought had a 10 percent chance of wiping out humanity? ...... They believe they might summon demons. They are calling anyway. ........ This was true among cryptocurrency enthusiasts in recent years. The claims they made about how blockchains would revolutionize everything from money to governance to trust to dating never made much sense. But they were believed most fervently by those closest to the code. ......... Crypto was always a story about an unlikely future searching for traction in the present. With A.I., to imagine the future you need only look closely at the present. ........ In 2021, a system built by DeepMind managed to predict the 3-D structure of tens of thousands of proteins, an advance so remarkable that the editors of the journal Science named it their breakthrough of the year. ....... “Within two months of downloading Replika, Denise Valenciano, a 30-year-old woman in San Diego, left her boyfriend and is now ‘happily retired from human relationships’” ........ Could it help terrorists or antagonistic states develop lethal weapons and crippling cyber attacks? ........ These systems will already offer guidance on building biological weapons if you ask them cleverly enough. ........ A.I. is already being used for predictive policing and judicial sentencing. ........ The “thinking,” for lack of a better word, is utterly inhuman, but we have trained it to present as deeply human. And the more inhuman the systems get — the more billions of connections they draw and layers and parameters and nodes and computing power they acquire — the more human they seem to us. .......... “as A.I. continues to blow past us in benchmark after benchmark of higher cognition, we quell our anxiety by insisting that what distinguishes true consciousness is emotions, perception, the ability to experience and feel: the qualities, in other words, that we share with animals.” ......... The major tech companies are in a race for A.I. dominance. The U.S. and China are in a race for A.I. dominance. Money is gushing toward companies with A.I. expertise. ....... Slowing down “would involve coordinating numerous people .

The Return of the Magicians people talk increasingly about the limits of the scientific endeavor — the increasing impediments to discovering new ideas, the absence of low-hanging scientific fruit, the near impossibility, given the laws of physics as we understand them, of ever spreading human civilization beyond our lonely planet or beyond our isolated solar system. ....... — namely, beings that can enlighten us, elevate us, serve us and usher in the Age of Aquarius, the Singularity or both. ........... a golem, more the embodied spirit of all the words on the internet than a coherent self with independent goals. .......... With the emergent forms of A.I., they argue, we have created an intelligence that can yield answers the way an oracle might or a Magic 8 Ball: through processes that are invisible to us, permanently beyond our understanding, so complex as to be indistinguishable from action in a supernatural mind. ...... the A.I. revolution represents a fundamental break with Enlightenment science, which “was trusted because each step of replicable experimental processes was also tested, hence trusted.” .......... the spirit might be disobedient, destructive, a rampaging Skynet bent on our extermination. ....... we would be wise to fear apparent obedience as well. .

Should GPT exist? Gary Marcus asks about Microsoft, “what did they know, and when did they know it?”—a question I tend to associate more with deadly chemical spills or high-level political corruption than with a cheeky, back-talking chatbot. ........ in reality it’s merely a “stochastic parrot,” a glorified autocomplete that still makes laughable commonsense errors and that lacks any model of reality outside streams of text. ....... If you need months to think things over, generative AI probably isn’t for you right now. I’ll be relieved to get back to the slow-paced, humdrum world of quantum computing. ....... if OpenAI couldn’t even prevent ChatGPT from entering an “evil mode” when asked, despite all its efforts at Reinforcement Learning with Human Feedback, then what hope do we have for GPT-6 or GPT-7? ....... Even if they don’t destroy the world on their own initiative, won’t they cheerfully help some awful person build a biological warfare agent or start a nuclear war? ......... a classic example being nuclear weapons. But, like, nuclear weapons kill millions of people. They could’ve had many civilian applications—powering turbines and spacecraft, deflecting asteroids, redirecting the flow of rivers—but they’ve never been used for any of that, mostly because our civilization made an explicit decision in the 1960s, for example via the test ban treaty, not to normalize their use. ........

GPT is not exactly a nuclear weapon. A hundred million people have signed up to use ChatGPT, in the fastest product launch in the history of the Internet. ... the ChatGPT death toll stands at zero

....... The science that we could learn from a GPT-7 or GPT-8, if it continued along the capability curve we’ve come to expect from GPT-1, -2, and -3. Holy mackerel. ....... I was a pessimist about climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, drought, war, and the survival of liberal democracy. The central event in my mental life is and always will be the Holocaust. I see encroaching darkness everywhere. .......... it’s amazing at poetry, better than most of us.

The False Promise of Chomskyism . .
Why am I not terrified of AI? “I’m scared about AI destroying the world”—an idea now so firmly within the Overton Window that Henry Kissinger gravely ponders it in the Wall Street Journal? ....... I think it’s entirely plausible that, even as AI transforms civilization, it will do so in the form of tools and services that can no more plot to annihilate us than can Windows 11 or the Google search bar......... the young field of AI safety will still be extremely important, but it will be broadly continuous with aviation safety and nuclear safety and cybersecurity and so on, rather than being a desperate losing war against an incipient godlike alien. ........ In the Orthodox AI-doomers’ own account, the paperclip-maximizing AI would’ve mastered the nuances of human moral philosophy far more completely than any human—the better to deceive the humans, en route to extracting the iron from their bodies to make more paperclips. And yet the AI would never once use all that learning to question its paperclip directive. ........ from this decade onward, I expect AI to be woven into everything that happens in human civilization ........ Trump might never have been elected in 2016 if not for the Facebook recommendation algorithm, and after Trump’s conspiracy-fueled insurrection and the continuing strength of its unrepentant backers, many would classify the United States as at best a failing or teetering democracy, no longer a robust one like Finland or Denmark ....... I come down in favor right now of proceeding with AI research … with extreme caution, but proceeding.

Planning for AGI and beyond Our mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence—AI systems that are generally smarter than humans—benefits all of humanity.