Literary Imagination

The matter of a certain literary style and practice came up a couple of months ago – and I was reminded again of the discussion in a weird way, when my daughter and I watched the Night at the Museum movie series. This was in the interests of not freaking out Wee Jamie terribly, who is soaking up information and stimuli like a small, child-shaped sponge. I vaguely recall watching the first of the series, but my daughter did not, so I must have seen it in a theater, possibly when the Gentleman With Whom I (Once) Kept Company was on one of his yearly visits to Texas. Cute movie, and one which loaded in a lot of established actors in supporting roles (Ricky Gervais? Seriously?) …but anyway. (It is kind of cool, though – imagining an animated dinosaur skeleton playing ‘fetch’ the bone, and behaving like a playful puppy…)

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Subsidization, Regulation, and AI

A bipartisan working group led by Charles Schumer has introduced what this article calls a “long-awaited AI roadmap.”  The document calls for at least $32 billion to be allocated for nondefense AI innovation.

Bill Gurley,  a venture capitalist of long standing, says:  In the entire history of the VC industry has there ever been a category LESS in need of incremental $$$$$.

Indeed. Corporations and individuals with money to invest are falling all over themselves to invest in things AI-related.  Meanwhile, there are all kinds of serious issues–the hardening of the electrical grid against both enemy-caused EMP and natural magnetic storms, for example–that are not being adequately funded by the private sector and could benefit from some of that $32 billion.  But they’re not as trendy at the moment.

Today’s WSJ includes an op-ed by Martin Casado and Katherine Boyle, both of Andreessen-Horowitz.  They write about the Department of Homeland Security’s formation of an AI Safety and Security Board, whose purpose is to advise the department, the private sector and the public on “safe and secure development and deployment of AI in our nation’s critical infrastructure,”  and they note that:

Of the 22 members on the board, none represent startups, or what we call “little tech.” Only two are private companies, and the smallest organization on the board hovers around $1 billion in value. The AI companies selected for the board either are among the world’s largest companies or have received significant funding from those companies, and all are public advocates for stronger regulations on AI models.

Much of the discussion of AI risks reminds me of the parable of Baptists and Bootleggers.  And when regulation becomes a dominant competitive factor in an industry, it becomes very difficult for new players to survive and thrive unless they are exceptionally well politically-connected.

Your thoughts?

RFK Jr

A significant number of people seem to be showing interest in RFK Jr’s candidacy….which I guess is somewhat understandable given the widespread frustration with the two major parties.  His highly-recognizable name surely doesn’t hurt, either.  But I see major problems with some of his policy positions..and the attitudes underlying those policies.

First, he doesn’t seem to be much of a supporter of free speech–listen to this video clip, in which he expresses a wish that climate change skeptics could be jailed.  And note the shot at “the Koch brothers”, which sounds like something one would expect to hear from a politician of the extreme Left.  (Also this, which seems to be the first part of the above video)  ‘Reckless endangerment’–for what? For operating chemical plants?

Second, he seems to be anti-vaccine…not in the sense of raising specific concerns about a specific vaccine, but much more broadly–read this articleand watch this video clip.  See also this NIH paper on vaccine safety.

Here’s an estimate of the number of lives saved by various vaccines over the last 50 years.

I don’t agree with the guy who linked the above chart at Twitter when he said “There is no vaccine problem. There has never been a vaccine problem. There will never be a vaccine problem.”  We can’t possibly know what problems will occur with future vaccines, and there have indeed been some problems with past vaccines. But he is certainly correct that vaccines overall have been a major lifesaver.

Neo has done some research into RFK Jr’s past statements about vaccines.

I find it interesting the RFK Jr thinks people should be put in jail for doubting what he thinks is the scientific consensus on climate, while he himself makes quite bold statements against the scientific consensus on vaccines.

Third, here is what RFK Jr had to say about nuclear energy.

So, it sounds like basically he would take nuclear off the table over any relevant time frame…while simultaneously demanding extreme action against fossil fuels in the name of climate.

Fourth, here’s an absolutely bizarre RFK Jr statement concerning Covid and Ashkenazi Jews.

Fifth, here’s what he said about the people who live in ‘red’ states. Reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” and Obama’s comment about people who are “bitter” and who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

Overall, RFK Jr seems more interested in attacking and casting blame than he does in solving problems–in this, he resembles Joe Biden.

Your thoughts?

Evolutionary Stability is Real.

From time to time, Cold Spring Shops calls attention to the effects of the sexual revolution and hook-up culture on human unhappiness.  Two observations from a 2011 post structure that argument.  First, “contemporary mating practices and admissions policies might not be evolutionarily stable.”  Second, “younger people have different time horizons, and different rates of time preferences.”  Those observations tended to rely on opinion columns.  The mini-dissertation below the jump will engage recent Serious Scholarship on those themes.

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Poor Mexico …

… so far from God, so close to the United States, went the comment attributed to one of their presidents. Mexico was very close to us, when I was growing up in suburban Los Angeles in the 1960s and early 70s. My elementary school had us study Mexican history in the 6th grade – if I remember correctly, that was part of the unified school district curriculum. We did a field trip to Olvera St., in the old part of downtown, at least three of the old Spanish missions were within a short drive from our various homes, and we weren’t allowed to forget that Los Angeles itself had Spanish origins and Mexican governance for decades before American statehood. For Southern California, Mexico was just a hop, skip, and a jump away – just as it is for South Texas.

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