March 29th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Should AI Be Paused? Plus, Trump's Tuesday's gone with the wind.

More than a thousand signatories from Steve Wozniak to Yuval Noah Harari have penned an open letter calling on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4. The experts aren’t calling to deep six AI or to send it six feet under, but merely to temporarily eighty-six advancements to give humanity six degrees of separation from a technology that, according to their sixth sense, could change our lives six ways from Sunday. There were plenty of pauses and concerns in the past, but once ChatGPT and Microsoft went public with their offering and got the attention of Joe Six Pack, the race for dollars was underway. Thus, it seems unlikely key players will hit the pause button. Tech companies within arms reach of cash are like sugar-infused kids at Six Flags, and whether anyone waits a few months or not might be a case of six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Don’t feel like reading the whole letter? I asked ChatGPT to summarize it: The development of AI systems with human-competitive intelligence poses significant risks to society and humanity. It is essential to pause the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4, develop shared safety protocols, and AI governance systems including regulatory authorities, oversight, and tracking of AI systems, auditing and certification ecosystems, liability for AI-caused harm, and public funding for technical AI safety research.

I also asked ChatGPT to offer a rebuttal, and it seemed to offer more of a corroboration: The concerns raised in the argument about the risks of AI systems with human-competitive intelligence are shared by many experts in the field. It is important to carefully consider and address the potential risks and challenges associated with the development of advanced AI systems to ensure their positive impact on society. The proposals to pause the training of AI systems, develop shared safety protocols, and implement AI governance systems are important steps towards achieving this goal.

I sort of cheated on the analysis by using AI. But the six puns were all mine, baby. Humans FTW!


Internal Affairs

“‘They cannot continue down this road,’ Joe Biden told reporters. Mr Netanyahu later tweeted that Israel would make its own decisions, ‘not based on pressures from abroad.'” This rift between allies Biden and Netanyahu is a reminder that the key struggle of our time—Democracy vs Authoritarianism—doesn’t necessarily stop at borders. The fight Netanyahu has with Biden is the same one he has with millions of Israelis who took to the streets to stop his judicial overhaul. This fight is as much within nations as between them.

+ Related: “Alarmed over young people increasingly proving to be a force for Democrats at the ballot box, Republican lawmakers in a number of states have been trying to enact new obstacles to voting for college students.” Republicans Face Setbacks in Push to Tighten Voting Laws on College Campuses.


Narcan You Hear Me Now?

“Last February, when a teen-age boy died of a fentanyl overdose in Kyle, Texas, south of Austin, local law enforcement hoped that it was an isolated incident … Then, in May, a fifteen-year-old named Noah Rodriguez was found unresponsive after taking drugs; he spent four days in a coma before recovering. In June, another local high-school student suffered a fatal overdose. Weeks later and a few blocks away, a teen-age girl was found dead in her room with slivers of a blue pill on the windowsill by her bed. ‘At that point I knew—there’s something coming,’ Barnett said. ‘This is a tidal wave.'” The New Yorker: The Horrifying Epidemic of Teen-Age Fentanyl Deaths in a Texas County.

+ “Rallying voices are trying to fix this community under siege. But it’s unclear if the story of Española, where a quarter of the population is poor and the murals of the dead are painted on junction boxes, will be a narrative about how to save a town from addiction — or lose it.” LA Times: Can this town save itself from fentanyl addiction? The race to turn around a threatened community.

+ The FDA approves the overdose-reversing drug Narcan for over-the-counter sales. “Today’s action paves the way for the life-saving medication to reverse an opioid overdose to be sold directly to consumers in places like drug stores, convenience stores, grocery stores and gas stations, as well as online.” (Hurry.)


Yank Chain

“It is ubiquitous on the beaches of Rio, and in the bars of São Paulo. It was perched on the heads of some right-wing protesters demanding a military coup to oust Brazil’s leftist president. And last month, it hung from a tree, torn and muddied, at an illegal gold mine deep inside the Amazon rainforest. Just don’t expect many Brazilians to understand what the hat means.” NYT (Gift Article): The Yankees Cap Goes Viral in Brazil: ‘Is It Basketball?’


Extra, Extra

Admission Accomplished: “The Senate voted Wednesday to repeal the resolution that gave a green light for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a bipartisan effort to return a basic war power to Congress 20 years after an authorization many now view as a mistake.”

+ If Not Now, When? Tennessee Governor says now’s not time to talk legislation. (They say we shouldn’t talk about gun laws right after a mass shooting. But it’s always right after a mass shooting in America.)

+ A Month of Sundays (and Tuesdays): “The Manhattan grand jury examining Donald Trump’s alleged role in a hush money payment to a porn star isn’t expected to hear evidence in the case for the next month largely due to a previously scheduled hiatus.” In the words of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tuesday’s gone with the wind.

+ Serial-ized: “A Maryland court did not give the family of the murder victim in the case chronicled in the hit podcast ‘Serial’ enough time to attend a court hearing in person that led to Adnan Syed’s release, a Maryland appellate court ruled Tuesday, and it ordered a new hearing to be held.” Can anyone take another season of this case?

+ We Didn’t Start the Fire: “The situation exploded on Monday when a protest at a government-run migrant detention center in Ciudad Juárez led to a fire that killed at least 40 people. But scenes of overcrowding and desperation have been unfolding in recent weeks along the length of the border as the Biden administration prepares for yet another surge in migration this spring.” NYT: U.S. Border Policies Have Created a Volatile Logjam in Mexico.

+ Ivy Tower: “US college costs just keep climbing. And the increase is pushing the annual price for the upcoming academic year at Ivy League schools towards yet another hold-on-to-your-mortarboard mark: $90,000.” (And they’re still turning customers away in droves.)


Bottom of the News

“The Füde Dinner Experience is hosted by the artist and model Charlie Ann Max. For $88, and after Ms. Max has approved the applications, guests come together to enjoy, according to the website: ‘a liberating space that celebrates our most pure selves, through plant-based cooking, art, nudity, & self-love.’ Put another way: It’s a naked vegan dinner party with a bunch of strangers.” This is the last thing I’d participate in. In my world, we dress for dinner. NYT (Gift Article): Private Dinner Party: Clothing Not Allowed. Seriously, no chance, even though I’d love to attend just long enough to stand and announce, in that Arby’s Ving Rhames voice: “We have the meats!”

+ 33 swimmers in Hawaii accused of ‘pursuing, corralling, and harassing‘ dolphin pod. (This would be a pretty good opening scene for Jaws 5.)

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