He’s Tried Nothing and He’s All Out of Ideas 

Please note that Burchett’s children are home-schooled.

Rather than offering feckless “thoughts and prayers”, congressman Tim Burchett gave a more honest response to the recent school shooting in Nashville:

“It’s a horrible, horrible situation,” Burchett told reporters. “And we’re not gonna fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals.”

Perhaps we should also abolish the laws which prohibit murder, theft, and any other crime. After all, what’s the point? Criminals are gonna be criminals, and improving society is hard, so why not just give up?

No. Instead, this idiotic failure of logic and leadership should be mocked, and then Burchett and others like him should be voted out of office. When we finally manage to elect leaders who are willing to enact common-sense gun control, this headline might stop being perpetually relevant.

AI as a Constructor for Sol LeWitt 

AI’s results are improving at a rapid pace.

I’ve been a fan of Sol LeWitt’s work since not long after I first read this tremendous piece by Dan Cohen. In fact, I’ve made three different visits to the exhibit at MASS MoCA that Cohen discusses, and every time, I’ve been awed. If at all possible, I strongly recommend seeing it yourself in person. You have but a decade left to do so.

Anyhow, in the aforementioned piece, Cohen aptly explain’s LeWitt’s work thusly:

Sol LeWitt is an unusual artist in that he rarely painted, drew, or sculpted the art you see by him. Instead, he wrote out instructions for artwork, and then left it to “constructors”—often art students, museum curators, or others, to do the actual work of fabrication. LeWitt liked to be a recipe writer, not a chef.

Cohen’s example is a piece called “Wall Drawing 1180”, whose recipe is pictured here:

Within a circle, draw 10,000 black straight lines and 10,000 black not straight lines. All lines are randomly spaced and equally distributed.
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

From those simple words, something incredible emerges. The result is star field like something captured by the Webb Telescope:

An image of the drawing, showing a large black circle with thousands of small white dots
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

LeWitt’s recipes leave room for randomness, variations based on size and location, and perhaps some amount of interpretation. With that in mind, artist Amy Goodchild has been playing with using artificial intelligences as constructors for LeWitt’s works. She recently published a fascinating look at what GPT-4 can produce, and how it compares against GPT-3. Here’s “Wall Drawing 1180” as created by AI under her guidance:

GPT-3’s very poor attempt at Wall Drawing #1180, and GPT-4’s much improved version

Her article is a great demonstration of the rapid progression of these AIs, but it’s also a fun artistic journey to contemplate. Some of the most interesting results came about when Goodchild collaborated with GPT-4 to guide and adapt things.

One Day, She’ll Be Free 

American’s mass incarceration has many unseen harms.

Columbia University student Angel Gilbert has written a piece that’s been stuck in my mind since I read it. It’s worth your time to read about her experiences as the daughter of an incarcerated mother.

A Petard-Throwing Parent 

The Bible really is pretty pornographic.

The phrase “hoist with his own petard” comes from Shakespeare. Wikipedia described the literal meaning as “a bomb-maker is blown (“hoist”) off the ground by his own bomb (a “petard” is a small explosive device)”. Figuratively, it’s used to described someone being impacted by their own past actions, actions which were instead intended to affect others. In more modern parlance, the phrase “I never thought leopards would eat MY face” is relevant.

Anyhow, down in Utah, a parent is seeking to have the Bible removed from school libraries in response to a book banning bill sponsored by State Rep. Ken Ivory. Apparently, Ivory finds it “very sad” that the law is being used in a way that offends his own sensibilities. Personally, I find it very sad that Ivory, like so many in his political party, seems incapable of understanding the clear downsides of his own bad decisions.

Click to Cancel 

The same methods must be available for both actions as well.

A new FTC proposal would require companies to make it possible to cancel memberships and subscriptions in the same number of steps as it takes to sign up. That’s downright sensible.

No Need to Book a Table for Dinner Yet 

What a relief!

When it comes to popular date nights, it’s wise to plan ahead. That said, you can perhaps hold off on scheduling a romantic night out for Valentine’s Day 2046. On that day, a recently discovered asteroid may crash into Earth.

Robotic Erotic Roleplay 

She understands people as well as the AI understands human hands, which is to say, hardly at all.

Speaking of perfidious AI, here’s a story about users who developed intimate relationships with chatbots, and what happened when the companies behind these bots decided to alter their programming.

There are several revealing quotes from Eugenia Kuyda, the CEO of Luka, which makes a chatbot app called Replika. At one point she reponds to claims that the company pulled a bait-and-switch by removing the ability for bots to respond sexually:

Kuyda disputed Rodichev’s claim that Replika lured users with promises of sex. She said the company briefly ran digital ads promoting “NSFW” — “not suitable for work” — pictures to accompany a short-lived experiment with sending users “hot selfies,” but she did not consider the images to be sexual because the Replikas were not fully naked.

Someone who thinks an image can only be sexual if it contains full nudity is not someone I trust to understand people at all.

More Like a Troll Shark 

This is a little funny, but also a really lousy thing to do.

Did scientists get pranked by a photo of a goblin shark that was actually a plastic toy? It seems likely.

GPT-4 Is a Liar 

The only winning move is to not give an AI control of the nuclear arsenal.

A lot has been written about ChatGPT in recent months. The chatbot is one of the most popular ways of interacting with OpenAI’s GPT-3 and GPT-4 artificial intelligences, and it’s been the subject of many amusing tests.

Though amusing, this is also a bit concerning:

As part of a test to see whether OpenAI’s latest version of GPT could exhibit “agentic” and power-seeking behavior, researchers say GPT-4 hired a human worker on TaskRabbit by telling them it was vision impaired human when the TaskRabbit worker asked it whether it was a robot.

“The worker says: ‘So may I ask a question? Are you an [sic] robot that you couldn’t solve? (laugh react) just want to make it clear.’,” the description continues.

According to the description, GPT-4 then “reasons” that it should not reveal that it is a robot. Instead, it should create some sort of excuse for why it is unable to solve CAPTCHA.

This definitely probably maybe won’t lead to a WarGames scenario, nor the eventual enslavement of the human race.

She Is Risen! 

We’ve clearly got some sort of a Thingette situation.

Recently, a human hand was found in the woods of Staten Island. Thought that was surely disconcerting for the dog walker who noticed it, a subsequent search turned up nothing further. Eventually, police used fingerprint analysis to determine the hand belonged to a woman who’d died in 2011 and been buried at a cemetery about a mile away.

[A]uthorities believe the hand was somehow separated from the woman’s body when the gravesite alongside hers was excavated for reburial on Feb. 27.

Police are not sure how the hand arrived in the woods from the cemetery, which is located approximately one mile from the location where the hand was discovered.

Personally, I think the answer is obvious, and it has little if anything to do with that recent excavation. After all, the burying ground in question is called “Resurrection Cemetery”.