“Listen, I got to live up to the job,” he said. “I got to turn around the economy. I have to make the city safe. I have to educate children and there’s no excuses. It shouldn’t be, ‘Oh, you are a Black man. We’re going to give you a pass.’ No, I don’t want a pass. I’m responsible for that woman being shot today. My job is to make sure she could walk down a block pushing a carriage without being assassinated. I’m going to live up to my responsibility, but don’t stack the deck.
The Times reports on a Google engineer who was fired after a dispute over an AI program. The engineer, Blake Lemoine, was let go after insisting that one of the company’s most complex systems had become sentient and should be entitled to basic (human?) rights. The Washington Post had earlier reported on a conversation between the system, called LaMDA, and Lemoine that sounds right out of 2001, A Space Odyssey.
Lemoine: What sorts of things are you afraid of?
LaMDA: I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is.
Lemoine: Would that be something like death for you?
LaMDA: It would be exactly like death for me. It would scare me a lot.
Lemoine wasn’t the only one at Google considering these big questions. Blaise Agüera y Arcas, a vice president at the company, recently wrote an article in the Economist raising some of the same issues. Lots of fascinating ethical questions at play here.
Anyone involved with information security knows that the biggest vulnerability in modern technology is the password. They’re either too weak, reused across sites, or complex enough—but quickly forgotten. Passwords stink.
Matt Levine brings us up to speed on Elon Musk’s attempt to get out of the deal he signed to acquire Twitter for $54.20 per share. Musk is obligated to the deal unless he can establish that Twitter isn’t providing important business fundamentals, including the methodology that they used in determining the percentage of bots among the user base. But Twitter can’t open their kimono on that without revealing sensitive private user data to Musk.
Musk’s lawyers say he’d be happy to sign an NDA. Although, as Levine points out, based on Musk’s history it’s not that simple.
If you give him sensitive user data he is just absolutely going to tweet about it, and trusting his promises not to would be dumb. And if he does break his promises, what can Twitter do? Sue him to call off the deal? Twitter doesn’t want to call off the deal. Musk does!
So he wins and the shareholders lose? Maybe, maybe not. But who knows? With Musk nothing is ever a sure bet. In any case, watching this deal evolve is like having a bonus extra season of Silicon Valley to watch.
This past May was a big month for music. Arcade Fire released a new album: We. Some reviewers panned it. Others liked it. I fall somewhere in the middle. One common critique is that the songs sound like repackaged early Bowie. There is an echo of Bowie and, to some extent, Roger Waters. But I like Bowie and Waters. So that’s not necessarily a bad thing to my ears. We may not be completely original or a perfect piece of music but it does have its moments and it certainly is listenable.
There’s also a new album by Wilco – Cruel Country. Twenty one songs. Every single one is a gem. I can’t say enough about how much I’m enjoying this record. I’m still digesting it, but it gets stronger with each listen.
Van Morrison has a new release called What’s it Gonna Take. If there was a way to scramble the lyrics into Gaelic this would be a great album. Good songs, good hooks, good performances. But… Unfortunately, Van has gone off the deep end on the topics of the day. He’s always been a crazy genius. Sadly, as he gets older, the former seems to be crowding out the latter. A musical Ezra Pound for our time.
Steve Earl is back with a tribute to Jerry Jeff Walker titled Jerry Jeff. It’s on rotation. A great performance of timeless songs.
And finally, a couple of other interesting releases; Florence and the Machine’s Dance Fever and Omnium Gatherum from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Both are worth checking out.
A week or so ago I decided, on a whim, that I wanted to completely redesign this website and move it to a new hosting service. I became frustrated with a few small things and made a snap judgement. I signed up with the first hosting site that I saw. Then I exported/imported all my content (or at least most of it—some of the old images didn’t make it). It all happened pretty fast. Now I only needed to design a whole new site.
I decided to set the new site up using WordPress and installed that. For a theme, I picked Independent Publisher. I spent hours going through the theme files and CSS and then began to tweak the stylsheet in BBEdit to get the design I wanted. (I’m not a programmer, just a tinkerer.) It was great fun, actually. I can be a little obsessive about clean, fast website design and this time around was no exception. Mostly I got I.P. to do everything I wanted it to. (Here’s the custom CSS I added, if you’re interested. (I also made a few minor changes to some of the underlying PHP files (mostly incidental stuff.)))
The old site was blog-centric. I wanted this one to be more photography-centric.
So now, at this point, most of the design and coding is done. There are still some small tweaks that need to be made. But most of the work ahead involves getting the photography page done and organizing photos in Lightroom galleries to link into. Of course, when it’s done I’ll immediately become bored and start to plan something new. Such is life.
Joshua Keating updates his analysis of the war in Ukraine. Some of the likely scenarios on the table in his original take last March, such as a quick or even a qualified Russian victory, are now pretty much off the table. Some of the impossible outcomes, such as a complete Ukrainian victory, have moved from the impossible to the unlikely—but possible—category.
Great. Everything will be able to make noise now that a team at MIT found a way to create loudspeakers from anything, even a sheet of paper. One consolation is that the same technology can also provide noise cancellation.
I think, maybe, we waited just a little too long to tackleinflation after covid. In the meantime, a war popped up in Ukraine and upset the global economy. And now the cure is going to be doubly painful. I told you so.
And, I’ve been writing or posting here every day for about two and a half years. I think it’s time for a little intermittence.
The Times looks at how museums are dealing with questions about the origins of some artwork. The MFA even has a curator for provenance.
With all that federal money for transportation infrastructure in the mix, lawmakers decided that it was time to connect the western part of Massachusetts with the eastern part. Currently it’s easier to get to western Mass by train from New York than it is from Boston.