Mind expanding 19 May 2023: signal from the AI noise📡universal plausible deniability🙈seaflooding🌊the ethics of depopulation📉architectures of mind🐙how to rebuild our world from scratch🧰
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Mind Expanding is my ~fortnightly curation for Memia subscribers of links to deeper dives and bigger thinks and other eclectica that I’ve come across while compiling the weekly newsletter. Thanks for reading!
Links in today’s post:
📡 Signal from the AI noise the most insightful / downright profound AI commentaries that I’ve dipped into in the last few weeks, including a deep dive explainer on AI transformers, the dangers of generative AI, AI and democracy (or lack thereof), Kaila Colbin on universal plausible deniability and why there is no AI in Dune.
PLUS🧠 AI debate of the week: Yuval Harari and Yann Lecun
🌍 Our flexing world the most extreme climate scenario ever; 🌊Seaflooding: a completely fascinating exploration of creation of new inland seas as a solution to rising sea levels, and the ethics of depopulation
🐙 Architectures of mind the cognitive structures of different organisms: octopus, spiders (…their webs) and the transhuman exocortex.
🔀Miscellany 🧬longer telomeres, shorter lives? 🌙what the moon is made of ( not cheese) 🏢 Self-assembling things and Robin Hanson’s 🛸UFO theory of 🧑🤝🧑Panspermia siblings
📚 Reading list Tim Urban’s new book What’s Our Problem? and How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch
🎧 For your listening pleasure Podcasts on missing ecological words and the “regenerative AI” startup Digital Gaia
🎥 Entertainment section Grimes discusses AI, simulation theory, abundance, and more, Spain’s Concéntrico festival of temporary architecture, a Chilean pre-ARPANET network from the 1970s and deciphering the architecture of the original Intel 8086 processor.
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📡Signal from the AI noise
There’s so much blanket coverage of AI these days, it’s getting increasingly hard to sort the signal from the noise. A few of the more insightful / downright profound AI commentaries that I’ve delved into in the last few weeks:
Transformers from Scratch: GPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer”. What exactly is a transformer? An in-depth and well-written explainer from Brandon Rohrer.
Louis Rosenberg, Unanimous AI, Why generative AI is more dangerous than you think:
“From my perspective, the place where most safety experts go wrong, including policymakers, is that they view generative AI primarily as a tool for creating traditional content at scale. While the technology is quite skilled at cranking out articles, images and videos, the more important issue is that generative AI will unleash an entirely new form of media that is highly personalized, fully interactive and potentially far more manipulative than any form of targeted content we have faced to date.“
Alt Man Sam, Democracy in the age of AI:
“One thing ppl don’t realize: 𝙙𝙚𝙢𝙤𝙘𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙮 𝙙𝙚𝙛𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙮 𝙬𝙤𝙣’𝙩 𝙡𝙖𝙨𝙩 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙖𝙜𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝘼𝙄 To put it very simply—we’re going to be living among digital minds of all shapes and sizes. So how do you determine who gets a vote? How do you deal with the fact that to reproduce, it takes a human 9 months to make 1 copy of itself, while it takes a digital mind 1 second to make 100,000 copies of itself? Can we have a democracy when the AI population grows to 300 𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑜𝑛 while the human population stagnates at 300 𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑜𝑛? Moreover, how do you deal with 10000x intelligence differences? We don’t give frogs a vote over human affairs; are we supposed to give 100 IQ beings a vote when it affects those with 1000 IQ’s? What if a single mind ends up with 99% of the intelligence/compute (which seems likely)? Above all, everyone is failing to think about the downstream consequences of this new world we are entering and just how weird and different it’ll be. None of the old frameworks apply.“
🙈My friend Kaila Colbin, Universal plausible deniability:
“Almost every concern I’ve read about these tools focuses on what can be created: fake porn. Misinformation and disinformation. IP-infringing creations.
Often less-discussed is the effect these content-generation capabilities have on non-AI generated material. As the tools get better and better, and there becomes no way to distinguish between real and fake, it becomes harder to prove that real content is real…When it’s possible to fake anything, it’s possible to claim anything is fake. Incriminating audio or video can be easily dismissed: “It wasn’t me. It’s AI-generated by my enemies.” The burden of proof has now skyrocketed. We have achieved Universal Plausible Deniability.“
Too right, generative AI is a distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack on the truth. (Reminder: join me in a virtual fireside conversation with Kaila on Tuesday 30th May).
David Rotman in MIT Technology Review, ChatGPT is about to revolutionize the economy. We need to decide what that looks like:
“New large language models will transform many jobs. Whether they will lead to widespread prosperity or not is up to us…as businesses scramble for ways to use the technology, economists say a rare window has opened for rethinking how to get the most benefits from the new generation of AI.
“We’re talking in such a moment because you can touch this technology. Now you can play with it without needing any coding skills. A lot of people can start imagining how this impacts their workflow, their job prospects…The question is who is going to benefit? And who will be left behind?”
Advice for public servants: How not to get overwhelmed by AI trends
“So, how can we bridge the divide between how quickly technology is being embraced by the general public and how bureaucratically governments are responding? And how can we ensure that overwhelm by all the options doesn’t prevent adoption? By honing in on what is most likely to improve the public sector for the people — both within, and affected by it.“
The Economist: Just how good can China get at Generative AI?
…though American export controls may not derail all Chinese model-building, they constrain China’s tech industry more broadly, thereby slowing the adoption of new technology. …Many of the thousands of new AI startups are AI in name only, slapping on the label to get a slice of the lavish subsidies doled out by the state to the favoured industry.
As a consequence, China’s private sector may struggle to take full advantage of generative AI, especially if the Communist Party imposes strict rules to prevent chatbots from saying something its censors dislike. The handicaps would come on top of Mr Xi’s broader suborning of private enterprise, including a two-and-a-half-year crackdown on China’s tech industry … [which] …left deep scars, not least in the AI business. Last year private investments in Chinese AI startups amounted to $13.5bn, less than one-third of the sum that flowed to their American rivals. In the first four months of 2023 the funding gap appears only to have widened“
Howie Xu: We Are Reliving the Cambrian Explosion: Could Open Source Be the New Oxygen?
AI debate of the week: Yuval Harari and Yann Lecun
(Translated from French):
First of all, what is your definition of intelligence ?
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