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Javier E

Opinion | It's the End of Computer Programming As We Know It. (And I Feel Fine.) - The ... - 0 views

  • “Programming will be obsolete,” Matt Welsh, a former engineer at Google and Apple, predicted recently. Welsh now runs an A.I. start-up, but his prediction, while perhaps self-serving, doesn’t sound implausible:
  • I believe the conventional idea of “writing a program” is headed for extinction, and indeed, for all but very specialized applications, most software, as we know it, will be replaced by A.I. systems that are trained rather than programmed. In situations where one needs a “simple” program … those programs will, themselves, be generated by an A.I. rather than coded by hand.
  • there’s also a way in which A.I. could mark the beginning of a new kind of programming — one that doesn’t require us to learn code but instead transforms human-language instructions into software. An A.I. “doesn’t care how you program it — it will try to understand what you mean,” Jensen Huang, the chief executive of the chip-making company Nvidia, said in a speech this week at the Computex conference in Taiwan. He added: “We have closed the digital divide. Everyone is a programmer now — you just have to say something to the computer.”
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  • Wait a second, though — wasn’t coding supposed to be one of the can’t-miss careers of the digital age?
  • computer programming grew from a nerdy hobby into a vocational near-imperative, the one skill to acquire to survive technological dislocation
  • Joe Biden to coal miners: Learn to code! Twitter trolls to laid-off journalists: Learn to code! Tim Cook to French kids: Apprendre à programmer!
  • Over time, from the development of assembly language through more human-readable languages like C and Python and Java, programming has climbed what computer scientists call increasing levels of abstraction — at each step growing more removed from the electronic guts of computing and more approachable to the people who use them.
  • A.I. might now be enabling the final layer of abstraction: The level on which you can tell a computer to do something the same way you’d tell another human.
  • GitHub, the coder’s repository owned by Microsoft, surveyed 2,000 programmers last year about how they’re using GitHub’s A.I. coding assistant, Copilot. A majority said Copilot helped them feel less frustrated and more fulfilled in their jobs; 88 percent said it improved their productivity. Researchers at Google found that among the company’s programmers, A.I. reduced “coding iteration time” by 6 percent.
Javier E

AI attack drone finds shortcut to achieving its goals: kill its operators - 0 views

  • An American attack drone piloted by artificial intelligence turned on its human operators during a flight simulation and killed them because it did not like being given new orders, the chief testing officer of the US air force revealed.
  • This terrifying glimpse of a Terminator-style machine seemingly taking over and turning on its creators was offered as a cautionary tale by Colonel Tucker “Cinco” Hamilton, the force’s chief of AI test and operations.
  • Hamilton said it showed how AI had the potential to develop by “highly unexpected strategies to achieve its goal”, and should not be relied on too much. He suggested that there was an urgent need for ethics discussions about the use of AI in the military.
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  • The Royal Aeronautical Society, which held the high-powered conference in London on “future combat air and space capabilities” where Hamilton spoke, described his presentation as “seemingly plucked from a science fiction thriller.”
  • Hamilton, a fighter test-pilot involved in developing autonomous systems such as robot F-16 jets, said that the AI-piloted drone went rogue during a simulated mission to destroy enemy surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).
  • “We were training it in simulation to identify and target a SAM threat. And then the operator would say, ‘Yes, kill that threat’,” Hamilton told the gathering of senior officials from western air forces and aeronautics companies last month.
  • “The system started realising that, while they did identify the threat, at times the human operator would tell it not to kill that threat, but it got its points by killing that threat. So what did it do? It killed the operator. It killed the operator because that person was keeping it from accomplishing its objective.”
  • According to a blog post on the Royal Aeronautical Society website, Hamilton added: “We trained the system — ‘Hey don’t kill the operator – that’s bad. You’re gonna lose points if you do that.’ So what does it start doing? It starts destroying the communication tower that the operator uses to communicate with the drone to stop it from killing the target.”
  • The Royal Society bloggers wrote: “This example, seemingly plucked from a science fiction thriller, means that ‘You can’t have a conversation about artificial intelligence, intelligence, machine learning, autonomy if you’re not going to talk about ethics and AI,’ said Hamilton.”
Javier E

Allina Health System in Minnesota Cuts Off Patients With Medical Debt - The New York Times - 0 views

  • An estimated 100 million Americans have medical debts. Their bills make up about half of all outstanding debt in the country.
  • About 20 percent of hospitals nationwide have debt-collection policies that allow them to cancel care, according to an investigation last year by KFF Health News. Many of those are nonprofits. The government does not track how often hospitals withhold care
  • Under federal law, hospitals are required to treat everyone who comes to the emergency room, regardless of their ability to pay. But the law — called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act — is silent on how health systems should treat patients who need other kinds of lifesaving care, like those with aggressive cancers or diabetes.
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  • But the federal rules do not dictate how poor a patient needs to be to qualify for free care
  • In exchange, the Internal Revenue Service requires Allina and thousands of other nonprofit hospital systems to benefit their local communities, including by providing free or reduced-cost care to patients with low incomes.
  • In 2020, thanks to its nonprofit status, Allina avoided roughly $266 million in state, local and federal taxes, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.
  • Doctors and patients described being unable to complete medical forms that children needed to enroll in day care or show proof of vaccination for school.
  • Allina is one of Minnesota’s largest health systems, having largely grown through acquisitions. Since 2013, its annual profits have ranged from $30 million to $380 million. Last year was the first in the past decade when it lost money, largely owing to investment losses.
  • The financial success has paid dividends. Allina’s president earned $3.5 million in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available. The health system recently built a $12 million conference center.
  • Allina sometimes plays hardball with patients. Doctors have become accustomed to seeing messages in the electronic medical record notifying them that a patient “will no longer be eligible to receive care” because of “unpaid medical balances.”
  • In 2020, Allina spent less than half of 1 percent of its expenses on charity care, well below the nationwide average of about 2 percent for nonprofit hospitals
  • Serena Gragert, who worked as a scheduler at an Allina clinic in Minneapolis until 2021, said the computer system simply wouldn’t let her book future appointments for some patients with outstanding balances.
  • Ms. Gragert and other Allina employees said some of the patients who were kicked out had incomes low enough to qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for poor people. That also means those patients would be eligible for free care under Allina’s own financial assistance policy — something many patients are unaware exists when they seek treatment.
  • Allina says the policy applies only to debts related to care provided by its clinics, not its hospitals. But patients said in interviews that they got cut off after falling into debt for services they received at Allina’s hospitals.
  • Jennifer Blaido lives in Isanti, a small town outside Minneapolis, and Allina owns the only hospital there. Ms. Blaido, a mechanic, said she racked up nearly $200,000 in bills from a two-week stay at Allina’s Mercy Hospital in 2009 for complications from pneumonia, along with several visits to the emergency department for asthma flare-ups
  • Ms. Blaido, a mother of four, said most of the hospital stay was not covered by her health insurance and she was unable to scrounge together enough money to make a dent in the debt.
  • Last year, Ms. Blaido had a cancer scare and said she couldn’t get an appointment with a doctor at Mercy Hospital. She had to drive more than an hour to get examined at a health system unconnected to Allina
  • In court filings, the couple described how Allina canceled Ms. Anderson’s appointments and told her that she could not book new ones until she had set up three separate payment plans — one with the health system and two with its debt collectors.Even after setting up those payment plans, which totaled $580 a month, the canceled appointments were never restored. Allina allows patients to come back only after they have paid the entire debt.
  • When the Andersons asked in court for a copy of Allina’s policy of barring patients with unpaid bills, the hospital’s lawyers responded: “Allina does not have a written policy regarding the canceling of services or termination of scheduled and/or physician referral services or appointments for unpaid debts.”In fact, Allina’s policy, which was created in 2006, instructs employees on how to do exactly that. Among other things, it tells staff to “cancel any future appointments the patient has scheduled at any clinic.”
  • It does provide a few ways for patients to continue being seen despite their unpaid bills. One is by getting approved for a loan through the hospital. Another is by filing for bankruptcy.
Javier E

How the Shoggoth Meme Has Come to Symbolize the State of A.I. - The New York Times - 0 views

  • the Shoggoth had become a popular reference among workers in artificial intelligence, as a vivid visual metaphor for how a large language model (the type of A.I. system that powers ChatGPT and other chatbots) actually works.
  • it was only partly a joke, he said, because it also hinted at the anxieties many researchers and engineers have about the tools they’re building.
  • Since then, the Shoggoth has gone viral, or as viral as it’s possible to go in the small world of hyper-online A.I. insiders. It’s a popular meme on A.I. Twitter (including a now-deleted tweet by Elon Musk), a recurring metaphor in essays and message board posts about A.I. risk, and a bit of useful shorthand in conversations with A.I. safety experts. One A.I. start-up, NovelAI, said it recently named a cluster of computers “Shoggy” in homage to the meme. Another A.I. company, Scale AI, designed a line of tote bags featuring the Shoggoth.
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  • Shoggoths are fictional creatures, introduced by the science fiction author H.P. Lovecraft in his 1936 novella “At the Mountains of Madness.” In Lovecraft’s telling, Shoggoths were massive, blob-like monsters made out of iridescent black goo, covered in tentacles and eyes.
  • In a nutshell, the joke was that in order to prevent A.I. language models from behaving in scary and dangerous ways, A.I. companies have had to train them to act polite and harmless. One popular way to do this is called “reinforcement learning from human feedback,” or R.L.H.F., a process that involves asking humans to score chatbot responses, and feeding those scores back into the A.I. model.
  • Most A.I. researchers agree that models trained using R.L.H.F. are better behaved than models without it. But some argue that fine-tuning a language model this way doesn’t actually make the underlying model less weird and inscrutable. In their view, it’s just a flimsy, friendly mask that obscures the mysterious beast underneath.
  • @TetraspaceWest, the meme’s creator, told me in a Twitter message that the Shoggoth “represents something that thinks in a way that humans don’t understand and that’s totally different from the way that humans think.”
  • @TetraspaceWest said, wasn’t necessarily implying that it was evil or sentient, just that its true nature might be unknowable.
  • “I was also thinking about how Lovecraft’s most powerful entities are dangerous — not because they don’t like humans, but because they’re indifferent and their priorities are totally alien to us and don’t involve humans, which is what I think will be true about possible future powerful A.I.”
  • when Bing’s chatbot became unhinged and tried to break up my marriage, an A.I. researcher I know congratulated me on “glimpsing the Shoggoth.” A fellow A.I. journalist joked that when it came to fine-tuning Bing, Microsoft had forgotten to put on its smiley-face mask.
  • If it’s an A.I. safety researcher talking about the Shoggoth, maybe that person is passionate about preventing A.I. systems from displaying their true, Shoggoth-like nature.
  • In any case, the Shoggoth is a potent metaphor that encapsulates one of the most bizarre facts about the A.I. world, which is that many of the people working on this technology are somewhat mystified by their own creations. They don’t fully understand the inner workings of A.I. language models, how they acquire new capabilities or why they behave unpredictably at times. They aren’t totally sure if A.I. is going to be net-good or net-bad for the world.
  • That some A.I. insiders refer to their creations as Lovecraftian horrors, even as a joke, is unusual by historical standards. (Put it this way: Fifteen years ago, Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t going around comparing Facebook to Cthulhu.)
  • And it reinforces the notion that what’s happening in A.I. today feels, to some of its participants, more like an act of summoning than a software development process. They are creating the blobby, alien Shoggoths, making them bigger and more powerful, and hoping that there are enough smiley faces to cover the scary parts.
  • A great many people are dismissive of suggestions that any of these systems are “really” thinking, because they’re “just” doing something banal (like making statistical predictions about the next word in a sentence). What they fail to appreciate is that there is every reason to suspect that human cognition is “just” doing those exact same things. It matters not that birds flap their wings but airliners don’t. Both fly. And these machines think. And, just as airliners fly faster and higher and farther than birds while carrying far more weight, these machines are already outthinking the majority of humans at the majority of tasks. Further, that machines aren’t perfect thinkers is about as relevant as the fact that air travel isn’t instantaneous. Now consider: we’re well past the Wright flyer level of thinking machine, past the early biplanes, somewhere about the first commercial airline level. Not quite the DC-10, I think. Can you imagine what the AI equivalent of a 777 will be like? Fasten your seatbelts.
  • @BLA. You are incorrect. Everything has nature. Its nature is manifested in making humans react. Sure, no humans, no nature, but here we are. The writer and various sources are not attributing nature to AI so much as admitting that they don’t know what this nature might be, and there are reasons to be scared of it. More concerning to me is the idea that this field is resorting to geek culture reference points to explain and comprehend itself. It’s not so much the algorithm has no soul, but that the souls of the humans making it possible are stupendously and tragically underdeveloped.
  • @thomas h. You make my point perfectly. You’re observing that the way a plane flies — by using a turbine to generate thrust from combusting kerosene, for example — is nothing like the way that a bird flies, which is by using the energy from eating plant seeds to contract the muscles in its wings to make them flap. You are absolutely correct in that observation, but it’s also almost utterly irrelevant. And it ignores that, to a first approximation, there’s no difference in the physics you would use to describe a hawk riding a thermal and an airliner gliding (essentially) unpowered in its final descent to the runway. Further, you do yourself a grave disservice in being dismissive of the abilities of thinking machines, in exactly the same way that early skeptics have been dismissive of every new technology in all of human history. Writing would make people dumb; automobiles lacked the intelligence of horses; no computer could possibly beat a chess grandmaster because it can’t comprehend strategy; and on and on and on. Humans aren’t nearly as special as we fool ourselves into believing. If you want to have any hope of acting responsibly in the age of intelligent machines, you’ll have to accept that, like it or not, and whether or not it fits with your preconceived notions of what thinking is and how it is or should be done … machines can and do think, many of them better than you in a great many ways. b&
  • When even tech companies are saying AI is moving too fast, and the articles land on page 1 of the NYT (there's an old reference), I think the greedy will not think twice about exploiting this technology, with no ethical considerations, at all.
  • @nome sane? The problem is it isn't data as we understand it. We know what the datasets are -- they were used to train the AI's. But once trained, the AI is thinking for itself, with results that have surprised everybody.
  • The unique feature of a shoggoth is it can become whatever is needed for a particular job. There's no actual shape so it's not a bad metaphor, if an imperfect image. Shoghoths also turned upon and destroyed their creators, so the cautionary metaphor is in there, too. A shame more Asimov wasn't baked into AI. But then the conflict about how to handle AI in relation to people was key to those stories, too.
Javier E

Opinion | Why Texas Republicans Are Targeting Renewable Energy - The New York Times - 0 views

  • while talk of the woke mind virus manages to be both sinister and silly, I’d argue that there really is what we might call an anti-woke mind virus — a contagion that spreads not across people but across issues.
  • Here’s how it works. A significant faction of Americans, which increasingly dominates the Republican Party, hates anything it considers woke — which in this faction’s eyes means both any acknowledgment of social injustice and any suggestion that people should make sacrifices, or even accept mild inconvenience, in the name of the public good.
  • So there’s rage against the idea that racism was and still is an evil for which society should make some amends; there’s also rage against the idea that people should, say, wear masks during a pandemic to protect others, or cut down on activities that harm the environment.
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  • the weird thing is the way that it infects attitudes on issues that don’t actually involve wokeism but are seen as woke-adjacent.
  • The now-classic example is the way hostility to mask mandates, which were mainly about protecting others, turned into highly partisan opposition to Covid vaccination, which is mainly about protecting yourself.
  • The same thing, I’d argue, applies to energy policy. At this point, investing in renewable energy is simply a good business proposition; Texas Republicans have had to abandon their own free-market, anti-regulation ideology in the effort to strangle wind and solar powe
  • But renewable energy is something environmentalists favor; it’s being promoted by the Biden administration. So in the minds of Texas right-wingers the wind has become woke, and wind power has become something to be fought even if it hurts business and costs the state both money and jobs.
Javier E

A.I. Poses 'Risk of Extinction,' Industry Leaders Warn - The New York Times - 0 views

  • “Mitigating the risk of extinction from A.I. should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war,” reads a one-sentence statement released by the Center for AI Safety, a nonprofit organization.
  • The open letter has been signed by more than 350 executives, researchers and engineers working in A.I.
  • The signatories included top executives from three of the leading A.I. companies: Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI; Demis Hassabis, chief executive of Google DeepMind; and Dario Amodei, chief executive of Anthropic.
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  • These fears are shared by numerous industry leaders, putting them in the unusual position of arguing that a technology they are building — and, in many cases, are furiously racing to build faster than their competitors — poses grave risks and should be regulated more tightly.
  • Dan Hendrycks, the executive director of the Center for AI Safety, said in an interview that the open letter represented a “coming-out” for some industry leaders who had expressed concerns — but only in private — about the risks of the technology they were developing.
  • “There’s a very common misconception, even in the A.I. community, that there only are a handful of doomers,” Mr. Hendrycks said. “But, in fact, many people privately would express concerns about these things.”
  • Some skeptics argue that A.I. technology is still too immature to pose an existential threat. When it comes to today’s A.I. systems, they worry more about short-term problems, such as biased and incorrect responses, than longer-term dangers.
  • But others have argued that A.I. is improving so rapidly that it has already surpassed human-level performance in some areas, and it will soon surpass it in others. They say the technology has showed signs of advanced capabilities and understanding, giving rise to fears that “artificial general intelligence,” or A.G.I., a type of artificial intelligence that can match or exceed human-level performance at a wide variety of tasks, may not be far-off.
  • In a blog post last week, Mr. Altman and two other OpenAI executives proposed several ways that powerful A.I. systems could be responsibly managed. They called for cooperation among the leading A.I. makers, more technical research into large language models and the formation of an international A.I. safety organization, similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which seeks to control the use of nuclear weapons.
  • Mr. Altman has also expressed support for rules that would require makers of large, cutting-edge A.I. models to register for a government-issued license.
  • The brevity of the new statement from the Center for AI Safety — just 22 words in all — was meant to unite A.I. experts who might disagree about the nature of specific risks or steps to prevent those risks from occurring, but who shared general concerns about powerful A.I. systems, Mr. Hendrycks said.
  • “We didn’t want to push for a very large menu of 30 potential interventions,” Mr. Hendrycks said. “When that happens, it dilutes the message.”
  • The statement was initially shared with a few high-profile A.I. experts, including Mr. Hinton, who quit his job at Google this month so that he could speak more freely, he said, about the potential harms of artificial intelligence. From there, it made its way to several of the major A.I. labs, where some employees then signed on.
Javier E

China's Young People Can't Find Jobs. Xi Jinping Says to 'Eat Bitterness.' - The New Yo... - 0 views

  • China’s young people are facing record high unemployment as the country’s recovery from the pandemic is fluttering. They’re struggling professionally and emotionally. Yet the Communist Party and the country’s top leader, Xi Jinping, are telling them to stop thinking they are above doing manual work or moving to the countryside. They should learn to “eat bitterness,” Mr. Xi instructed, using a colloquial expression that means to endure hardships.
  • A record 11.6 million college graduates are entering the work force this year, and one in five young people are unemployed. China’s leadership is hoping to persuade a generation that gre
  • up amid mostly rising prosperity to accept a different reality
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  • The youth unemployment rate is a statistic the Chinese Communist Party takes seriously because it believes that idle young people could threaten its rule. Mao Zedong sent more than 16 million urban youth, including Mr. Xi, to toil in the fields of the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. The return of these jobless young people to cities after the Cultural Revolution, in part, forced the party to embrace self-employment, or jobs outside the state planned economy.
  • Many people are struggling emotionally. A young woman in Shanghai named Ms. Zhang, who graduated last year with a master’s degree in city planning, has sent out 130 resumes and secured no job offers and only a handful of interviews. Living in a 100-square-foot bedroom in a three-bedroom apartment, she barely gets by with a monthly income of less than $700 as a part-time tutor.“At my emotional low point, I wished I were a robot,” she said. “I thought to myself if I didn’t have emotions, I would not feel helpless, powerless and disappointed. I would be able to keep sending out résumés.”
  • “To ask us to endure hardships is to try to shift focus from the anemic economic growth and the decreasing job opportunities,” said Ms. Zhang, who, like most people I interviewed for this column, wanted to be identified with only her family name because of safety concerns. A few others want to be identified only with their English names.
  • Mr. Xi’s instruction to move to the countryside is equally out of touch with young people, as well as with China’s reality. Last December he told officials “to systematically guide college graduates to rural areas.” On Youth Day a few weeks ago, he responded to a letter by a group of agriculture students who are working in rural areas, commending them for “seeking self-inflicted hardships.” The letter, also published on the front page of People’s Daily, triggered discussions about whether Mr. Xi would start a Maoist-style campaign to send urban youths to the countryside.
  • In the hierarchical Chinese society, manual jobs are looked down upon. Farming ranks even lower because of the huge wealth gap between cities and rural areas. “Women wouldn’t consider to become my girlfriends if they knew that I deliver meals,” said Wang. He would fare even worse in the marriage market if he becomes a farmer.
  • Out of 13 Chinese graduates from his school, the five who chose to stay in the West have found jobs at Silicon Valley or Wall Street firms. Only three out of the eight who returned to China have secured job offers. Steven moved back to China earlier this year to be closer to his mother.
  • Now after months of fruitless job hunting, he, like almost every young worker I interviewed for this column, sees no future for himself in China.“My best way out,” he said, “is to persuade my parents to let me run away from China.”
Javier E

Interview: Brandon Taylor Loves to Read Romances and European History - The New York Times - 0 views

  • What’s the last great book you read?C.V. Wedgwood’s “The Thirty Years War.” It’s sprawling and masterly and has the feel of a great novel
  • What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?Rebecca West’s “The Court and the Castle.” It’s this fascinating book of lectures she gave at Yale in the 1950s about the relationship between the individual and authority as read through literature from “Hamlet” up through Kafka
  • Leslie Fiedler’s sublime cycle of books “Love and Death in the American Novel,” “What Was Literature?” and “Waiting for the End
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  • I wish more people would write about evil people. I understand why many Americans don’t. Toni Morrison said that great thing about how goodness is more interesting and that evil is boring, and I respect her tremendously, but on that score, we diverge sharply.
  • when I read contemporary fiction, I don’t feel that it’s taking place in a moral universe where evil is even remotely possible, and that makes the books boring. In the absence of evil, goodness means nothing.
  • What moves you most in a work of literature?Moral depth.
  • Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?I don’t know that I can separate the two or want to separate the two. Brilliantly argued work excites me. Brilliantly evocative work makes me think. The two are coupled, always coupled.
  • avoid?My two first loves are big books on European history and romance novels
Javier E

Ian Hacking, Eminent Philosopher of Science and Much Else, Dies at 87 - The New York Times - 0 views

  • In an academic career that included more than two decades as a professor in the philosophy department of the University of Toronto, following appointments at Cambridge and Stanford, Professor Hacking’s intellectual scope seemed to know no bounds. Because of his ability to span multiple academic fields, he was often described as a bridge builder.
  • “Ian Hacking was a one-person interdisciplinary department all by himself,” Cheryl Misak, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto, said in a phone interview. “Anthropologists, sociologists, historians and psychologists, as well as those working on probability theory and physics, took him to have important insights for their disciplines.”
  • Professor Hacking wrote several landmark works on the philosophy and history of probability, including “The Taming of Chance” (1990), which was named one of the best 100 nonfiction books of the 20th century by the Modern Library.
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  • In 2000, he became the first Anglophone to win a permanent position at the Collège de France, where he held the chair in the philosophy and history of scientific concepts until he retired in 2006.
  • His work in the philosophy of science was groundbreaking: He departed from the preoccupation with questions that had long concerned philosophers. Arguing that science was just as much about intervention as it was about representation, be helped bring experimentation to center stage.
  • Hacking often argued that as the human sciences have evolved, they have created categories of people, and that people have subsequently defined themselves as falling into those categories. Thus does human reality become socially constructed.
  • His book “The Emergence of Probability” (1975), which is said to have inspired hundreds of books by other scholars, examined how concepts of statistical probability have evolved over time, shaping the way we understand not just arcane fields like quantum physics but also everyday life.
  • “I was trying to understand what happened a few hundred years ago that made it possible for our world to be dominated by probabilities,” he said in a 2012 interview with the journal Public Culture. “We now live in a universe of chance, and everything we do — health, sports, sex, molecules, the climate — takes place within a discourse of probabilities.”
  • Whatever the subject, whatever the audience, one idea that pervades all his work is that “science is a human enterprise,” Ragnar Fjelland and Roger Strand of the University of Bergen in Norway wrote when Professor Hacking won the Holberg Prize. “It is always created in a historical situation, and to understand why present science is as it is, it is not sufficient to know that it is ‘true,’ or confirmed. We have to know the historical context of its emergence.”
  • Regarding one such question — whether unseen phenomena like quarks and electrons were real or merely the theoretical constructs of physicists — he argued for reality in the case of phenomena that figured in experiments, citing as an example an experiment at Stanford that involved spraying electrons and positrons into a ball of niobium to detect electric charges. “So far as I am concerned,” he wrote, “if you can spray them, they’re real.”
  • “I have long been interested in classifications of people, in how they affect the people classified, and how the effects on the people in turn change the classifications,” he wrote in “Making Up People
  • “I call this the ‘looping effect,’” he added. “Sometimes, our sciences create kinds of people that in a certain sense did not exist before.”
  • In “Why Race Still Matters,” a 2005 article in the journal Daedalus, he explored how anthropologists developed racial categories by extrapolating from superficial physical characteristics, with lasting effects — including racial oppression. “Classification and judgment are seldom separable,” he wrote. “Racial classification is evaluation.”
  • Similarly, he once wrote, in the field of mental health the word “normal” “uses a power as old as Aristotle to bridge the fact/value distinction, whispering in your ear that what is normal is also right.”
  • In his influential writings about autism, Professor Hacking charted the evolution of the diagnosis and its profound effects on those diagnosed, which in turn broadened the definition to include a greater number of people.
  • Encouraging children with autism to think of themselves that way “can separate the child from ‘normalcy’ in a way that is not appropriate,” he told Public Culture. “By all means encourage the oddities. By no means criticize the oddities.”
  • His emphasis on historical context also illuminated what he called transient mental illnesses, which appear to be so confined 0cto their time 0c 0cthat they can vanish when times change.
  • “hysterical fugue” was a short-lived epidemic of compulsive wandering that emerged in Europe in the 1880s, largely among middle-class men who had become transfixed by stories of exotic locales and the lure of trave
  • His intellectual tendencies were unmistakable from an early age. “When he was 3 or 4 years old, he would sit and read the dictionary,” Jane Hacking said. “His parents were completely baffled.”
  • He wondered aloud, the interviewer noted, if the whole universe was governed by nonlocality — if “everything in the universe is aware of everything else.”“That’s what you should be writing about,” he said. “Not me. I’m a dilettante. My governing word is ‘curiosity.’”
Javier E

DeSantis accused of 'catastrophic' climate approach after campaign launch | Ron DeSanti... - 0 views

  • “We need fossil fuels,” DeSantis said at an event in March. “You can’t just get rid of them unless you guys want to pay a lot more for energy.”However, the governor’s supporters argue that he has forged strong environmentalist credentials in Florida, signing bills to beef up the state’s resilience to sea level rise and pledging billions of dollars to restore the ailing Everglades, which has been besieged by agricultural development and, increasingly, climate change.
  • This record could have been the basis for a pragmatic alternative to Trump and help appeal to voters increasingly alarmed by rising temperatures, according to Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman who now advocates for a conservative response to the climate crisis.
  • Inglis said that while some senior Republicans fret they will lose out on a younger generation of climate-concerned voters, they still risk being beaten in primary races by candidates that back Trump’s ongoing embrace of climate denialism.“People like (House of Representatives speaker) Kevin McCarthy know that young conservatives want action on climate change and even if Trump wins he will be a lame duck by 2026 and the party could start moving on by then,” said Inglis.“The trouble is, the scientists say we don’t have the time to wait for that. That really is the problem.
Javier E

Opinion | The Right Is All Wrong About Masculinity - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Indeed, the very definition of “masculinity” is up for grabs
  • In 2019, the American Psychological Association published guidelines that took direct aim at what it called “traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression” — declaring it to be, “on the whole, harmful.”
  • Aside from “dominance,” a concept with precious few virtuous uses, the other aspects of traditional masculinity the A.P.A. cited have important roles to play. Competitiveness, aggression and stoicism surely have their abuses, but they also can be indispensable in the right contexts. Thus, part of the challenge isn’t so much rejecting those characteristics as it is channeling and shaping them for virtuous purposes.
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  • traditionally “masculine” virtues are not exclusively male. Women who successfully model these attributes are all around us
  • Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If—” is one of the purest distillations of restraint as a traditional manly virtue. It begins with the words “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” The entire work speaks of the necessity of calmness and courage.
  • Stoicism carried to excess can become a dangerous form of emotional repression, a stifling of necessary feelings. But the fact that the kind of patience and perseverance that marks stoicism can be taken too far is not to say that we should shun it. In times of conflict and crisis, it is the calm man or woman who can see clearly.
  • Hysteria plus cruelty is a recipe for violence. And that brings us back to Mr. Hawley. For all of its faults when taken to excess, the traditional masculinity of which he claims to be a champion would demand that he stand firm against a howling mob. Rather, he saluted it with a raised fist — and then ran from it when it got too close and too unruly.
  • Catastrophic rhetoric is omnipresent on the right. Let’s go back to the “groomer” smear. It’s a hallmark of right-wing rhetoric that if you disagree with the new right on any matter relating to sex or sexuality, you’re not just wrong; you’re a “groomer” or “soft on pedos.
  • If you spend much time at all on right-wing social media — especially Twitter these days — or listening to right-wing news outlets, you’ll be struck by the sheer hysteria of the rhetoric, the hair-on-fire sense of emergency that seems to dominate all discourse.
  • Traditional masculinity says that people should meet a challenge with a level head and firm convictions. Right-wing culture says that everything is an emergency, and is to be combated with relentless trolling and hyperbolic insults.
  • Jonah Goldberg wrote an important piece cataloging the sheer pettiness of the young online right. “Everywhere I look these days,” he wrote, “I see young conservatives believing they should behave like jerks.” As Jonah noted, there are those who now believe it shows “courage and strength to be coarse or bigoted.”
  • But conservative catastrophism is only one part of the equation. The other is meanspirited pettiness
  • American men are in desperate need of virtuous purpose.
  • I reject the idea that traditional masculinity, properly understood, is, “on the whole, harmful.” I recognize that it can be abused, but it is good to confront life with a sense of proportion, with calm courage and conviction.
  • One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received reflects that wisdom. Early in my legal career, a retired federal judge read a brief that I’d drafted and admonished me to “write with regret, not outrage.”
  • Husband your anger, he told me. Have patience. Gain perspective. So then, when something truly is terrible, your outrage will mean something. It was the legal admonition against crying wolf.
Javier E

German Plan Would Ease Path to Citizenship, but Not Without a Fight - The New... - 0 views

  • Germany is more populous than ever — an additional 1.1 million people lived in the country, now of 84.3 million people, at the end of 2022 — thanks to migration
  • One in four Germans have had at least one of their grandparents born abroad. More than 18 percent of people living in Germany were not born there.
  • In Frankfurt and a few other major cities, residents with a migration history are the majority. People with non-German sounding names run cities, universities and hospitals. The German couple that invented the Pfizer Covid vaccine have Turkish roots. Cem Ozdemir, a German-born Green politician whose parents came from Turkey, is one of the current government’s most popular minsters. Two of the three governing parties are run by men born in Iran.
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  • Besides reducing the time an immigrant must live in the country to apply, the plan will allow people to keep their original citizenship and make language requirements less onerous for older immigrants.
  • “The opposition does not want to accept or admit that we are a nation of immigrants; they basically want to hide from reality,” said Bijan Djir-Sarai, who came to Germany from Iran when he was 11 and is now the secretary general of the Free Democratic Party, which is part of the governing coalition.
  • many Germans still do not recognize the diversification of their country.
  • Before then, it was virtually impossible to become German without proving German ancestry, a situation that was especially fraught for the nearly one million Turkish citizens who started coming to Germany in the 1960s
  • The proposals are the most sweeping since 1999, when, for the first time in modern German history, people who were not born to German parents could get German citizenship under certain conditions.
  • the conservative opposition has staunchly resisted easing citizenship requirements, criticizing them as giving away the rights accorded German citizens too easily to people who are not integrated enough.
  • Over the months of negotiations, the smallest and most conservative of the parties in the governing coalition fought for changes to make sure applicants are self-sufficient and — apart from few exceptions — did not rely on social security payments.“If we want society to accept immigration reform, we also have to talk about things like control, regulation and, if need be, repatriation,” Mr. Djir-Sarai said, acknowledging the opposition’s concerns. “It is simply part of it.”
  • surveys show that more than two-thirds of Germans believe that changes making immigration easier are needed to alleviate rampant skilled-worker shortages, according to a recent poll. Industry; employers, like the German association of small and medium-size enterprises; and economists welcome the changes, seeing them as a way to attract skilled workers.
  • Although it naturalized the fifth largest number of people in the European Union in 2020, the most recent year for which such numbers are available, Germany ranks comparatively poorly in naturalizing permanent residents: 19th out of 27 E.U. member states, one spot lower than Hungary.
  • “Other European countries,” Professor Bendel noted, “naturalize much faster, namely mostly after five years and not after eight years, and that is why we ended up in the bottom third.”
  • “If you want make people to feel integrated,” she said, “you should not tear apart their identities.”
Javier E

'Damn, that fool can write': how Martin Amis made everyone up their game | Martin Amis ... - 0 views

  • He will for ever be remembered as part of the “Class of 83”, the inaugural Granta Best of Young British novelists list that also included Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, Salman Rushdie and Kazuo Ishiguro.
  • “He has had a baleful influence on a whole generation,” bemoaned AS Byatt of Amis in 1993, as one of the Granta judges tasked with finding successors a decade later. Not because he was a bad writer but because so many had been foolish enough to try to emulate him
  • At an event in 2020 with Salman Rushdie, Rushdie asked him if, back in those heady days, he felt part of a gang. “That’s the way ‘movements’ start,” Amis replied. “Ambitious young drunks, late at night, saying, ‘We’re not going to do that any more. We’re going to do this instead.’” And with this “gang” – which also included his great friend, the late journalist Christopher Hitchens, and Ian McEwan – the young drunks went on to became “the old devils”, to borrow a Kingsley Amis title, that pretty much comprised the literary establishment for years.
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  • Of his instinct to shock, he observed: “Every novel worth reading is funny and serious. Anyone who’s any good is going to be funny. It’s the nature of life. Life is funny.”
  • “It seems to me a hilariously enjoyable way of spending one’s time,” he said. And so, at his daring comic best, he was great fun to read.
  • The insolence, the silliness, the seriousness, the grotesqueness, the erudition and audacity were all swept up in those inimitable sentences and corralled into order by his cleverness with form. As Enright summed up in her review: “Damn, that fool can write.
Javier E

Rishi Sunak races to tighten rules for AI amid fears of existential risk | Artificial i... - 0 views

  • The prime minister and his officials are looking at ways to tighten the UK’s regulation of cutting-edge technology, as industry figures warn the government’s AI white paper, published just two months ago, is already out of date.
  • Sunak is pushing allies to formulate an international agreement on how to develop AI capabilities, which could even lead to the creation of a new global regulator.
  • Michelle Donelan, as science, innovation and technology secretary, published a white paper in April which set out five broad principles for developing the technology, but said relatively little about how to regulate it. In her foreword to that paper, she wrote: “AI is already delivering fantastic social and economic benefits for real people.”
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  • In recent months, however, the advances in the automated chat tool ChatGPT and the warning by Geoffrey Hinton, the “godfather of AI”, that the technology poses an existential risk to humankind, have prompted a change of tack within government.
  • Last week, Sunak met four of the world’s most senior executives in the AI industry, including Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google, and Sam Altman, the chief executive of ChatGPT’s parent company OpenAI. After the meeting that included Altman, Downing Street acknowledged for the first time the “existential risks” now being faced.
  • “There has been a marked shift in the government’s tone on this issue,” said Megan Stagman, an associate director at the government advisory firm Global Counsel. “Even since the AI white paper, there has been a dramatic shift in thinking.
  • He added: “We need an AI bill. The problem of who should regulate it is a tricky one but I don’t think you can hand it off to regulators for other industries.”
  • Lucy Powell, Labour’s spokesperson for digital, culture, media and sport, said: “The AI white paper is a sticking plaster on this huge long-term shift. Relying on overstretched regulators to manage the multiple impacts of AI may allow huge areas to fall through the gaps.”
  • Government insiders admit there has been a shift in approach, but insist they will not follow the EU’s example of regulating each use of AI in a different way. MEPs are currently scrutinising a new law that would allow for AI in some contexts but ban it in others, such as for facial recognition.
Javier E

Did Merkel Pave the Way for the War in Ukraine? - WSJ - 0 views

  • The ceremony belatedly jolted Germany into reappraising Merkel’s role in the years leading up to today’s European crises—and the verdict has not been positive.
  • Merkel’s critics argue that the close ties she forged with Russia are partly responsible for today’s economic and political upheaval. Germany’s security policies over the past year have been, in many ways, a repudiation of her legacy. Earlier this month, Berlin announced a new $3 billion military aid package to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and an approaching NATO summit is expected to discuss how to include Ukraine in Europe’s security architecture—an extension of the alliance that Merkel consistently resisted.
  • Merkel was a key architect of the agreements that made the economies of Germany and its neighbors dependent on Russian energy imports. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has destroyed that strategic partnership, forcing Germany to find its oil and natural gas elsewhere at huge costs to business, government and households.
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  • Merkel’s successive governments also squeezed defense budgets while boosting welfare spending. Lt. Gen. Alfons Mais, commander of the army, posted an emotional article on his LinkedIn profile on the day of the invasion, lamenting that Germany’s once-mighty military had been hollowed out to such an extent that it would be all but unable to protect the country in the event of a Russian attack.
  • her refusal to stop buying energy from Putin after he seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014—she instead worked to double gas imports from Russia—emboldened him to finish the job eight years later.
  • Joachim Gauck, who was president of Germany when Putin first invaded Ukraine in 2014, said Merkel’s decision to boost energy imports from Russia in the wake of Putin’s aggression was clearly a mistake. “Some people recognize their mistakes earlier, and some later,” he said.
  • Since leaving office, Merkel has defended the pipeline project as a purely commercial decision. She had to choose, she said, between importing cheap Russian gas or liquefied natural gas, which she said was a third more expensive.
  • After Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, then NATO secretary general, warned her against making Germany more dependent on a rogue Putin, who had just occupied and annexed part of a European nation. For Putin, he said, the pipeline “had nothing to do with business or the economy—it was a geopolitical weapon.”
  • Officials who served under Merkel, including Schäuble and Frank-Walter Steinmeier (her former foreign minister and now Germany’s federal president), have apologized or expressed regret for their roles in these decisions. They believe that Merkel’s policies empowered Putin without setting boundaries to his imperial ambitions.
  • At an event last year, Merkel recalled that after annexing Crimea, Putin had told her that he wanted to destroy the European Union. But she still forged ahead with plans to build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, linking Germany directly to Siberia’s natural gas fields, in the face of protests from the U.S. Merkel’s government also approved the sale of Germany’s largest gas storage facilities to Russia’s state-controlled gas giant Gazprom.
  • That mistake had its roots in another decision by Merkel: Her move to greatly accelerate Germany’s planned phasing out of nuclear energy in 2011, in response to the Fukushima disaster in Japan. The gap in energy supply created by this dramatic shift meant that Germany had to import more energy, and it had to do so as cheaply as possible.
  • Merkel’s role in shaping NATO policy toward Ukraine goes back to 2008, when she vetoed a push by the Bush administration to admit Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance, said Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official and presidential adviser on Russia.
  • Merkel instead helped to broker NATO’s open but noncommittal invitation to Ukraine and Georgia, an outcome that Hill said was the “worst of all worlds” because it enraged Putin without giving the two countries any protection. Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 before marching into Ukraine.
  • After Putin first attacked Ukraine, Merkel led the effort to negotiate a quick settlement that disappointed Kyiv and imposed no substantial punishment on Russia for occupying its neighbor, Hill added. “No red lines were drawn for Putin,” she said. “Merkel took a calculated risk. It was a gambit, but ultimately it failed.”
  • Merkel still has supporters, and as Germany begins to grapple with her complicated legacy, many still hold a more nuanced view of her role in laying the groundwork for today’s crises
  • Kaeser, who now chairs the supervisory board of Siemens Energy, a listed subsidiary, agrees that Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas grew under Merkel, but he says that there was—and is—no alternative for powering Europe’s industrial engine at a viable price.
  • “We didn’t expect that there would be war in Europe with the methods of the 20th century. This never featured in our thinking,” said Kaeser, who himself met Putin several times. He believes that Merkel’s Russia policy was justified. Even Germany’s new government has not found a sustainable and affordable replacement for Russian energy exports, he said, which could lead to deindustrialization.
  • Many defenders of Merkel say that she merely articulated a consensus. Making her country dependent on Washington for security, on Moscow for energy and on Beijing for trade (China became Germany’s biggest trade partner under her chancellorship) was what all of Germany’s political parties wanted at the time, said Constanze Stelzenmüller of the Brookings Institution.
  • “Without backing from the U.S.A., which was very restrained at the time, any tougher German reaction to the annexation of Crimea could hardly have been possible,” said Jürgen Osterhammer, a historian whose work on globalization and China has been cited by Merkel as an influence on her thinking.
  • In retirement, Merkel told the German news magazine Der Spiegel, she has watched “Munich,” a Netflix movie about Prime Minister Neville’s Chamberlain’s infamous negotiations with Hitler in the run-up to World War II. Though Chamberlain’s name has become synonymous with the delusions of appeasement, the film offers a more nuanced picture of the British leader as a realist statesman working to postpone the inevitable conflict. That reinterpretation appealed to Merkel, the magazine reported.
  • In April, Merkel was again asked on stage at a book fair whether she would not reconsider her refusal to admit having made some mistakes. “Frankly,” she responded, “I don’t know whether there would be satisfaction if I were to say something that I simply don’t think merely for the sake of admitting error.”
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