Friday 24 May, 2024

Travelling light

King’s Cross the other day.

Quote of the Day

”It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of art.”

  • Oscar Wilde* 

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Bruce Springsteen | You Never Can Tell (Leipzig 7/7/13)


A good illustration of what the Springseen experience is like. And what a great backing band.

Long Read of the Day

Academia: The Heroic Prompt Engineers of Tomorrow

Nice sharp essay by Timothy Burke on the latest hype-cycle in ed-tech.

I’m of the same mind as people who think generative AI is grossly over-hyped by people who see it as their meal ticket. It is in many respects a big con, a solution desperately in search of problems, a product that was made and sold without a use case for it. Unfortunately, as many people have observed, the money being made off the hype is going to be used to destroy institutions, jobs and practices before the whole thing ebbs back to being whatever modestly or possibly useful thing it might turn out to be.

I hope that higher education withstands AI hype as much it (mostly) successfully held off the worst of the previous assaults by ed-tech speculators who insisted that massively-online courses were inevitably going to replace all brick-and-mortar education and usher in an era of cheap, plentiful, high-quality education available to everyone.

One thing that briefly produced a respite in the ed-tech assault was that for two years, we experienced a live demo of their best products and the results were bad for the most part…

Do read on. It’s good.

I worked happily at the Open University for many years, which was a real centre of excellence in this stuff, and so we had a ringside view of successive waves of hype, inflated expectations, undelivered promises and poor critical evaluation by an industry that knew nothing about education, or indeed about how people learn. One of my colleagues, Tim O’Shea, who was a leading expert on Ed-tech — and a frequent keynote speaker at conferences on the subject — had a wicked way of annoying his audience by saying that “the only piece of educational technology that is known for sure to work is the school bus”!

My commonplace booklet

There’s a really interesting NBER paper on how the market for ‘AI’ technology might evolve.

Here’s the Abstract:

Drawing insights from the field of innovation economics, we discuss the likely competitive environment shaping generative AI advances. Central to our analysis are the concepts of appropriability—whether firms in the industry are able to control the knowledge generated by their innovations—and complementary assets—whether effective entry requires access to specialized infrastructure and capabilities to which incumbent firms can ration access. While the rapid improvements in AI foundation models promise transformative impacts across broad sectors of the economy, we argue that tight control over complementary assets will likely result in a concentrated market structure, as in past episodes of technological upheaval. We suggest the likely paths through which incumbent firms may restrict entry, confining newcomers to subordinate roles and stifling broad sectoral innovation. We conclude with speculations regarding how this oligopolistic future might be averted. Policy interventions aimed at fractionalizing or facilitating shared access to complementary assets might help preserve competition and incentives for extending the generative AI frontier. Ironically, the best hopes for a vibrant open source AI ecosystem might rest on the presence of a “rogue” technology giant, who might choose openness and engagement with smaller firms as a strategic weapon wielded against other incumbents.


Something I noticed, while drinking from the Internet firehose.

  • Why Tesla FSD is not safe

From Dave Winer (Whom God Preserve):

Here’s what I’ve learned from owing a Tesla Model Y with Full Self Driving. I don’t believe it’s safe. It absolutely does require your full attention at all times. You are still driving the car. I’ve seen it do crazy stuff in simple situations. I’ve seen it panic, basically throw its hands in the air and say Dave this is your problem. That’s why you always have to be ready, as if you were driving the car yourself because at any moment you could be. You never know when it’s going to happen. Now focus on that moment. Your car has given up and turned the driving over to you. How much experience do you have with that? Do you know where to look? Do you hit the brakes or veer to the left or right? If you’re an experienced driver, a lot of these reactions are completely programmed into the lower levels of the brain. You don’t have to think at all. When the car panics, I tend to panic. If I had 10 or 20 years experience with this connection, then I guess it’s probably safe. But not the way it is. #

I’m amazed there aren’t more terrible accidents with FSD, and that Tesla still promotes this as “self-driving,” which it is not.

Yep. It’s the aircraft industry’s “auto-pilot problem” on steroids.

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