May 1st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

AI's Godfather Wishes He Had Refused the Offer

“When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success.” So said Robert Oppenheimer about the development of an atomic weapon. That was a quote often paraphrased by Geoffrey Hinton when discussing his role in another arms race. But the man known as “The Godfather of AI” has soured on the sweet tech he helped create. Hinton is worried about the risks his project now poses to humanity, in part because, as he explains, “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things.” That concern wasn’t raised by insiders thirty years ago, when the world wide web launched into in the public domain, and we’re the worse for our over-exuberance at the expense of measured development. But the web’s development was a slow moving locomotive compared to AI’s self-acceleration that’s already faster than a speeding bullet. NYT (Gift Article): ‘The Godfather of A.I.’ Leaves Google and Warns of Danger Ahead. Hinton now looks back and says, “I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have.” AI made the godfather an offer he couldn’t refuse. For better or worse, I don’t see how we can refuse it either.


The Long Run

If Silicon Valley Bank was taken down by a bank run then First Republic was ruined by a bank jog, a slow stomping away at deposits and the stock price that couldn’t be reversed. “Regulators took possession of First Republic
on Monday, resulting in the third failure of an American bank since March, after a last-ditch effort to persuade rival lenders to keep the ailing bank afloat failed. JPMorgan Chase, already the largest U.S. bank by several measures, emerged as winner of the weekend auction for First Republic” First Republic’s remaining depositors are safe. Its shareholders are toast. Meanwhile, all these bank runs are giving me the trots. JPMorgan Chase takes over First Republic after biggest U.S. bank failure since 2008.


Good Times Bad Times

“Around the time that The Handmaid’s Tale emerged as a global hit for Hulu and became the first streaming show ever to win the top drama Emmy, one of its writers, John Herrera, was working a second job. The good news was that he still heard some solid gossip from Hollywood insiders. Or overheard, to be more accurate: They were talking to each other in the back of his Lyft. ‘There were a couple of instances of driving people to LAX and dropping them off while a billboard for Handmaid’s was staring down at me,’ he says. And that was the golden age.” TV’s Streaming Bubble Has Burst, a Writers Strike Looms, and ‘Everybody Is Freaking Out.’ (This was a plot twist that everyone in Hollywood saw coming. That won’t make the scene any easier to watch.)


Whistle While You Work

“About six months ago, Will Wilkerson was the executive vice president of operations for former president Donald Trump’s media business, a co-founder of Trump’s Truth Social website and a holder of stock options that might have one day made him a millionaire. Today, he is a certified barista trainer at a Starbucks inside a Harris Teeter grocery store, where he works 5:30 a.m. shifts in a green apron and slip-resistant shoes, making Frappuccinos for $16 an hour.” I’d call that a promotion. I’d also call this a strange, interesting story about a whistleblower (though I’m not sure a business that involves a SPAC and Donald Trump really needed a whistleblower to let you know it wasn’t on the up and up). He blew the whistle on Trump’s Truth Social. Now he works at Starbucks. (He’s probably the first barista to be able to say he came from a business with more froth.)


Extra, Extra

Sons of Anarchy: “Although Guzmán’s trial revolved around cocaine shipments, the case against his sons exposes the inner workings of a cartel undergoing a generational shift as it worked “to manufacture the most potent fentanyl and to sell it in the United States at the lowest price … Synthetic opioids — mostly fentanyl — now kill more Americans every year than died in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.”

+ More Shooting: “Authorities in southeast Texas are offering a $80,000 reward for any tips that lead to the capture of 38-year-old Francisco Oropesa, who police say shot five people to death in a home early Saturday morning and then fled the scene.” The suspect had been deported 4 times after entering US illegally. The victims include an eight year-old child. The violence started with Oropesa was asked to stop firing his gun because it was keeping the family’s baby awake. These mass killings are not an accident. They are the obvious outcome of laws designed to enable them. This juxtaposition says it all.

+ Counteroffensive Lines: “On one side, farmers defend their land and 20‑something engineers build eyes in the sky, using tools that would be familiar to 20‑something engineers anywhere else. On the other side, commanders send waves of poorly armed conscripts to be slaughtered—just as Stalin once sent shtrafbats, penal battalions, against the Nazis—under the leadership of a dictator obsessed with ancient bones. ‘The choice,’ Zelensky told us, ‘is between freedom and fear.'” Anne Applebaum and Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic on the future of Ukraine, and maybe the democratic world: The Counteroffensive.

+ Mind Blown: “The system got a lot of help constructing intelligible sentences from artificial intelligence: an early version of the famous natural language processing program ChatGPT. What emerged from the system was a paraphrased version of what a participant heard.” NPR: A decoder that uses brain scans to know what you mean — mostly.


Bottom of the News

“Udden said those concerns are ‘completely ridiculous’ and appear to stem from a series of recent Instagram posts implying that one of the characters would be dressed in drag.” Houston-area schools scrap field trips to see ‘James and the Giant Peach’ over concerns about cross-gender casting.

+ “A South Korean art student who ate a banana that formed part of a renowned installation by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan said he did so because he was hungry.”

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