Weekend Briefing No. 478
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
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37%—Two-year community colleges have had a rough decade, with enrollment down 37% since 2010.
32—Stanford University's 2023 AI Index: Of the significant new machine learning models released in the past year, 32 came from private industry while three came from academia.
10—These are the 10 best foodie cities in the U.S.
Shut It Down
An open letter has called for a mere six-month pause on training AI systems that are more powerful than GPT-4. However, researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky confidently argues that this is only a small step toward addressing the threat of superhuman AI. He emphasizes that building a superhumanly smart AI would almost certainly lead to the extinction of humanity and that we are not ready for such a scenario. Yudkowsky boldly calls for an indefinite and global halt on new large training runs, as well as the shutdown of all large GPU clusters. He stresses that this is not a political or national issue, rather a natural one. To prevent AI extinction scenarios, he recommends multinational agreements to prevent prohibited activities from relocating and to track all GPUs sold. Yudkowsky firmly believes that if policymakers continue with their current approach, it will result in the death of everyone, including innocent children. Therefore, he insists on a complete shutdown of all large training runs and GPU clusters to avoid a catastrophic outcome. TIME (12 minutes)
What is your thought on the pace of AI development? a) Pause for 6 months. b) Shut it down. c) Let it run free. d) other.
Most of us have lived within a bubble that has been "outside of history." For a long time, two features have characterized our basic landscape: 1) American hegemony over much of the world and relative safety for Americans, and 2) a lack of truly revolutionary technological change. Now, in 2023, at least one of these assumptions is going to unravel, specifically #2. AI represents a significant, transformational technological breakthrough, and how it will shape society is not yet clear. The truth is that no one had any real idea of the changes that the printing press and the fossil fuel era would bring. Nobody can accurately predict the longer-term or even medium-term outcomes of such radical technological changes. When people predict a high degree of existential risk from AGI, it is not appropriate to argue back on their chosen terms. Instead, radical agnosticism is the appropriate response, where all specific scenarios are pretty unlikely. Nonetheless, working constructively on the alignment problem, just as we do with all other technologies, is still advisable. Marginal Revolution (7 minutes)
Diversify Your Portfolio
Did you know it's estimated that over 180 million Americans invest in stocks but only 10 million invest in real estate? Some might say it’s because real estate investing is complex, confusing and, quite frankly, dated. Yet, single-family real estate continues to be one of the most powerful and reliable ways to build long-term wealth. Mynd is reimagining SFR investing by making it accessible to all investors. Mynd handles everything from leasing your rental property to collecting rent to coordinating repairs. With industry-leading technology and local experts on the ground, Mynd offers a true full-service property management solution. Join the 5,500+ investors who trust Mynd with their single-family investment portfolio. Mynd (Sponsored)
Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT, leads OpenAI, a company that develops cutting-edge artificial intelligence. He seems to be a bit of an enigma. Altman avoids profit as an incentive and has not taken a direct financial stake in the business he built. Some say he is the ideal person to lead OpenAI's social-minded capitalism, while others criticize him for being too commercially minded and immersed in Silicon Valley's culture. However, OpenAI's $10 billion deal with Microsoft in January has disappointed key early leaders who believed in the initial commitment to develop AI outside the influence of shareholders. The deal allows the tech giant to own 49% of OpenAI's for-profit entity. Wall Street Journal (11 minutes)
Can a society achieve "zero crime"? That's the question being asked by several Gulf states. They believe that police surveillance technology, including artificial intelligence, facial recognition and drones, which have become part of everyday policing in the Middle East, may hold the answer. However, there is a clear tension between the potential benefits of these technologies in stopping crime and terrorism and concerns about their impact on privacy and political power. New York Times (7 minutes)
Living near friends can increase our happiness. However, it can be difficult to give priority to friendships over other life factors, such as career and family. This is due to societal norms and the current housing market. Society does not place as much importance on friendship as it does on other life factors, and friends may be scattered far and wide, making it hard to choose a location. The housing market can also be a barrier to finding affordable housing near friends. Moreover, job mobility can be difficult, especially for those in specialized fields, and some people may be hesitant to leave their current location due to family or other reasons. If you have considered moving closer to friends, could these obstacles be overcome? Anne Helen (10 minutes)
Beneath the ocean waves lies a world filled with unknown creatures. Off the coast of Madeira, fluorescent lizardfish illuminate the dark sea. Near Edinburgh, Scotland, thumbnail-sized porcelain crabs delicately move along yellow coral called dead man's fingers. In California, deep water plainfin midshipman fish travel from ocean depths to rocky shorelines, and males "hum" to attract a mate. Daring photographers capture these underwater wonders for us to see. Check out this brilliant underwater photography. Atlas Obscura (4 minutes)
Should We Work Together?
Hi! I’m Kyle. This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm that helps startups move fast without breaking things. Most founders want a trusted legal partner, but they hate surprise legal bills. At Westaway, we take care of your startup’s legal needs for a flat, monthly fee so you can control your costs and focus on scaling your business. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a one-on-one call with me.
If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking. -George S. Patton