Thinks 999

City Journal: “[Sebastian Edwards’] The Chile Project: The Story of the Chicago Boys and the Downfall of Neoliberalism explores how intellectuals and ideas can drive real economic change. But Edwards also illustrates that Chile’s march toward markets was more complicated than commonly realized. The central players in this story are the “Chicago Boys”: a small group of Chileans who studied economics at the University of Chicago from 1957 onward under economists such as Milton Friedman and the Spanish-fluent Arnold Harberger. The Chicago Boys coalesced around a reform program famously detailed in a book-length document called El ladrillo (“the Brick”), and they persuaded the military regime, much of which had nationalist-corporatist economic inclinations, to dismantle Chile’s dirigiste structures and replace them with some of the world’s freest economic arrangements…Free-marketers of all stripes can learn much from Edwards’s account. One lesson is that free market theorists and those economic liberalizers with more pragmatic instincts have their own distinct roles to play in effecting change. While the first group helps establish intellectual ascendancy over interventionists, the second is more effective in bringing about actual policy change.”

NYTimes: “Mr. [Mike] Masnick has a way of seeding ideas about technology that take root and grow. In 2005, he wrote about legal threats against a website devoted to amassing urinal photos. (The early internet was a strange place.) The threats, intended to remove information about certain urinal owners, instead created their own news cycle and garnered more attention for the otherwise obscure site. Mr. Masnick coined a phrase for an attempt to censor information on the internet that backfires: “the Streisand effect.” In 2003, Barbra Streisand sued an aerial photographer who had put photos of her Malibu beach house on his website, causing the little-seen images to go viral. Now the episode is internet lore, and the phrase has its own Wikipedia entry with a long list of examples. It’s a typical Masnickian principle of the internet, gleaned from lengthy observation: Poorly thought-out attempts to solve online problems will make them worse.”

NYTimes: “Google has recently begun plugging state-of-the-art language models into its robots, giving them the equivalent of artificial brains. The secretive project has made the robots far smarter and given them new powers of understanding and problem-solving…Google’s new robotics model, RT-2 [is] what the company calls a “vision-language-action” model, or an A.I. system that has the ability not just to see and analyze the world around it, but to tell a robot how to move. It does so by translating the robot’s movements into a series of numbers — a process called tokenizing — and incorporating those tokens into the same training data as the language model. Eventually, just as ChatGPT or Bard learns to guess what words should come next in a poem or a history essay, RT-2 can learn to guess how a robot’s arm should move to pick up a ball or throw an empty soda can into the recycling bin. “In other words, this model can learn to speak robot,” Mr. Hausman said.”

Timothy Lee: Large language models, explained with a minimum of math and jargon. “The goal of this article is to make a lot of this knowledge accessible to a broad audience. We’ll aim to explain what’s known about the inner workings of these models without resorting to technical jargon or advanced math. We’ll start by explaining word vectors, the surprising way language models represent and reason about language. Then we’ll dive deep into the transformer, the basic building block for systems like ChatGPT. Finally, we’ll explain how these models are trained and explore why good performance requires such phenomenally large quantities of data.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.