Thursday 20 April, 2023

The visitor

In Kettle’s Yard, a lovely little art gallery.

Quote of the Day

”For white-collar workers, the rise of Large Language Models, or LLMs, has created a very nerdy version of the opening of Alec Baldwin’s speech in Glengarry Glen Ross. The bad news is, you’re probably fired. The good news is, you’re on a temporary probationary period in which you’ve gotten a nice promotion and now have a direct report with an unlimited attention span, a wide range of somewhat superficial knowledge, and a frustrating tendency to make elementary mistakes that require close supervision. You might be frustrated to work with such a subordinate, but at $20/month they’re not asking for much.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Cowboy Junkies | Sweet Jane


Long Read of the Day

I Saw the Face of God in a Semiconductor Factory

Great reportage by Virginia Heffernan, from Taiwan.

I ARRIVE IN Taiwan brooding morbidly on the fate of democracy. My luggage is lost. This is my pilgrimage to the Sacred Mountain of Protection. The Sacred Mountain is reckoned to protect the whole island of Taiwan—and even, by the supremely pious, to protect democracy itself, the sprawling experiment in governance that has held moral and actual sway over the would-be free world for the better part of a century. The mountain is in fact an industrial park in Hsinchu, a coastal city southwest of Taipei. Its shrine bears an unassuming name: the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

By revenue, TSMC is the largest semiconductor company in the world. In 2020 it quietly joined the world’s 10 most valuable companies. It’s now bigger than Meta and Exxon. The company also has the world’s biggest logic chip manufacturing capacity and produces, by one analysis, a staggering 92 percent of the world’s most avant-garde chips—the ones inside the nuclear weapons, planes, submarines, and hypersonic missiles on which the international balance of hard power is predicated…

Keep reading. It’s terrific

So the camera never lies? Except when it does.

Boris Eldagsen, the creator of a ‘photograph’, has refused to accept the prize awarded him by the Sony World Photograph Awards after revealing that the winning photo he submitted was created using an artificial intelligence image-generator.

It’s a striking image which I can’t reproduce because it belongs to Mr Eldagsen — but you can see it if you follow the link above.

By entering a computer-generated image to a traditional photography prize, and then subsequently refusing to accept the ensuing award, Eldagsen claims he hopes to “drive debate” about a technology that is poised to dramatically alter how we define and understand photorealist imagery.

Eldagsen’s winning image, Pseudomnesia: The Electrician, was created using DALL-E 2, an image generator developed by OpenAI, the San Francisco-based company that also created the AI chatbot ChatGPT.

In his submission, Eldagsen described the image as “a haunting black-and-white portrait of two women from different generations, reminiscent of the visual language of 1940s family portraits”.

The Sony Awards people, needless to say, didn’t see the joke and have accused the photographer of acting in bad faith.

How chatbots learn

Well, well…

The Washington Post ($) looked inside the training data set used for LLMs from Facebook and Google and found Russian propaganda sites, white supremacist sites, extremist Christian sites, anti-trans sites, etc.

That’s what you get when you scrape the Web.

Thanks to Jason Kottke for spotting it.

My commonplace booklet

Photograph of a notice affixed to the rear of a Tesla Model S.

I feel this driver’s pain. One of the drawbacks of having a Tesla is that people hold one responsible for Elon Musk.

  This Blog is also available as a daily email. If you think that might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email a day, Monday through Friday, delivered to your inbox. It’s free, and you can always unsubscribe if you conclude your inbox is full enough already!