Morfternight #76: ChatGPT understanding you is a big deal.

👇 tl;dr

Today we look at a fun photo made in Palermo that plays on stop signals and red traffic lights. We think about the aspects of AI as a tool that understands humans. Finally, we chat briefly about the importance of contrast.

🤩 Welcome to the five new Morfternighters who joined us last week.
I love having you here and hope you’ll enjoy reading Morfternight.
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📷 Photo of the week

Stop! – More Photos

👋 Good Morfternight!

It seems impossible to go one day without hearing about ChatGPT, the new Bing, Bard, Sydney, and all their friends. It’s a Large Language model party out there.

The debate is focused on details and minutiae. Copyright issues when the output sounds right, how dumb the tools are when it’s wrong, is this the end of humanity, or just another techno-gimmick that’ll end up in storage next to 3D TVs?

I think we are missing the point.

Since we invented computers, humans have had to adapt to them. From the early days to the most recent ones, the only way to program a computer was to learn a programming language.

It doesn’t matter how much they evolved; until recently we were still screwed by a missing semi-colon.

The requirement to learn a language has limited programming to a tiny portion of the human race. Everyone else has to use the apps created for them by developers.

It’s a bit like watching the F1 championship.

One thinks these are the best drivers in the world, but they aren’t. The ones you see on TV are only the best drivers among the minuscule percentage of humans with access to racecars in their youth.

When I use ChatGPT or the other alternatives, I am not that concerned about the output right now. That will inevitably improve. I am fascinated that humans don’t have to adapt to computers and can ask for things in plain-spoken human language for the first time since computers were invented.

It’s not the sheer power of a new chip that will change the world but opening access to programming for every human being.

Current estimations put the number of software developers worldwide at about 27 million. That’s about 0.3% of the world’s population. On top of that, it’s not a representative sample of the world population as software engineers are much more representative of technically educated people than artists, for instance.

I can’t wait to see what we can create when everyone can ask a computer what to do in their own language.

🗺️ Three places to visit today

  1. Speaking of misunderstanding what’s happening with AI lately and Large Language Models, too much of the conversation only focuses on text generation to be used as is. If you play with ChatGPT, remember it can produce more than text.
  2. If you heard of Silicon Valley Bank over the weekend and are trying to figure out what that means before Monday, when we’ll discover if it’s just a blip or a major confidence crisis trigger, I suggest you read Startup Bank Had a Startup Bank Run.
  3. This short 10-year-old Farnam Street blog post introduces a fascinating concept: The Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are The Most Important. I love the approach distancing itself from the idea that a book has to be purchased, read from the first to the last page, and then put on a shelf. I also appreciate how it makes a similar point to the one I will try to make in the next section.

🏙️ Reviving old memories

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between,” is a quote often attributed to Mozart. Although there is no obvious evidence that he said it or that he said it first, it makes a lot of sense.

Notes can only be heard because of the silence between them.

To remain in the music world, Miles Davis has also been cited saying, “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.” I am not a musician, so I am sure we could also interpret it differently, but I appreciate how both ideas send us back to the notion of contrast.

If you have been reading Morfternight or the blog for a while, you may know that I like to use charts to illustrate ideas, so here’s the same idea through simple charts.

On the left, we plot y=1 , and on the right y=-1

I use these as metaphors for “all is well” and “all is bad,” respectively.

What appears quite obviously is that the two lines have the same shape, only the referential changes. Humans are highly adaptable, so the referential difference will soon be forgotten, and the two situations will feel identical.

In other words, like there is no music without notes and silences, there is no joy without sadness.

(I know that life is not a sinusoidal function; this is a metaphor 😉

These ideas are on my mind as of late, as many hours of priceless conversations since I got to Italy have made me realize how some of my childhood’s best periods were simultaneously some of the hardest.

Consequently, it seems that my mind decided long ago that it would be better to remember little to nothing of some of those times for my protection.

I don’t know whether that was a good decision, but I also don’t care: it’s what happened, and I can’t go back in time to change it.

I know that today, as an adult, I am beyond happy to open those doors and not select which ones to privilege joyful moments and leave sad times untouched because the beauty comes from the contrast.

It’s all ebbs and flows all the way down.

👨🏻‍💻 From the blog, last week

It was a quiet week for the blog, so there is nothing to see here today ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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