Friday 6 October, 2023

A rose in context

Quote of the Day

“No man who ever held the office of President would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.”

– John Adams

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Catherine Ashcroft and Maurice Dickson | Táimse im’ Chodladh & King of the Pipers


Nobody sleeps at the back when these two are on stage.

Long Read of the Day

What If the Robots Were Very Nice While They Took Over the World?

Fabulous essay in Wired by Virginia Heffernan.

TL;DR: First it was chess and Go. Now AI can beat us at Diplomacy, the most human of board games. The way it wins offers hope that maybe AI will be a delight.

Not being a player of the board-game Diplomacy I was initially baffled by the title. Now I’m not, and it’s unsettling.

Maybe AI that aims to seem human is best understood as a tribute act. A tribute to human neediness, caprice, bitterness, love, all the stuff we mortals do best. All that stuff at which machines typically draw a blank. But humans have a dread fear of nonhumans passing as the real thing—replicants, lizard people, robots with skin. An entity that feigns human emotions is arguably a worse object of affection than a cold, computational device that doesn’t emote at all.

Well worth your time.

How LLMs mislead and misinform

From Gary Marcus’s blog. He’s not impressed.

By my count, though I acknowledge I may have missed one, there are at least 7 falsehoods. (Not literally lies, since Bing doesn’t have intention):

Yes Congress really did remove McCarthy as speaker without electing a new one.

Thus far Congress has not even tried to elect a new one.

Liz Cheney is not the new Speaker. She is no longer in the House, so she isn’t even eligible 1. (And hence no longer a Republican rerpresentative in Wyoming).

She was not nominated to the post by any coalition

She did not win any such election

Nor did anyone else win an election by a vote of 220-215, since no such election has yet been conducted

Jim Jordan didn’t (yet) lose an election that has not yet happened, and wasn’t so far as I know has not thus far been nominated.

The worst part is not that every single sentence contains at least one lie, but that the whole thing sounds detailed and real. To someone who wasn’t following matters closely, it might well all sound plausible.

It’s the confident, plausible way they spout nonsense that is most worrying.

My commonplace booklet

An excerpt from General Mark Milley’s speech on stepping down from his post as Chairman of the Join Chiefs.

The motto of our army, for over 200 years…has been “This We’ll Defend,” and the “this” refers to the Constitution….

You see, we in uniform are unique…among the world’s armies. We are unique among the world’s militaries. We don’t take an oath to a country. We don’t take an oath to a tribe. We don’t take an oath to a religion. We don’t take an oath to a king or a queen or to a tyrant or a dictator. And we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator. We don’t take an oath to an individual.

We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we’re willing to die to protect it.…

(From Heather Cox Richardson’s Substack.)

Milley has told friends that if Trump is re-elected he expects to be thrown into prison.


Something I noticed, while trying to drink from the Internet firehose.

 Richard Stallman is battling cancer

From The Register

He said that he is suffering from follicular lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This a blood cancer, which causes B lymphocytes to form clumps in the lymphatic system.

Although a non-Hodgkin lymphoma was also the cause of death of the late Paul Allen, the more charismatic of Microsoft’s co-founders, there are multiple types of NHL disease and Stallman has one of the slower-developing types. He said that his prognosis was good and that he hopes to be around and active in GNU for years to come.

He’s cussed, but also an inspiration. I wish him well.

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  1. You a learn new thing everyday update: Maybe Cheney is eligible? See