Discover more from Liberty’s Highlights
384: Microsoft & OpenAI's AI Bing + Edge, Google's Bard AI Chatbot, The Story of HBO, Factorio, and Vitamin D
"Take your time until you get it right, don’t rush things."
Most things are not as difficult as they seem—if you focus each day.
However, giving one topic your full attention for an extended period of time is even harder than it seems.
Over a long timeline, the bottleneck is usually attention not ability. –James Clear
🤔When did Big Tech run out of colors to choose for their logos?
(If you have good color perception, this is your cue to tell me that these are NOT the same colors!)
🚨🗣️🎙️ In case you missed it, yesterday I published a new podcast with my friend MBI (💎🐕). We discuss Big Tech compensation & management incentives (💰💰💰💸):
The concept was supposed to be: let’s try to keep it short, kind of like Ben Thomspon and John Gruber’s Dithering. You can guess how that worked out for us 😬
I hope you enjoy it!
👂🏻🤖📝 Back in edition #335, I wrote about OpenAI’s open-source audio-to-text transcription model, Whisper.
If you’re looking for a convenient way to get quick transcripts for free with an app that runs locally on your computer (Mac only), I recommend MacWhisper by Jordi Bruin.
There’s a free version that uses the smallest inference model. If you have more heavy-duty needs, you can pay for the Pro version that also supports the medium and large models.
But even the tiny free model is surprisingly accurate and supports 100 languages. And, well, free is hard to beat.
A neat feature is that it’ll synch the transcription with the audio, so you can listen to the playback as you read.
🎮 🏭⚙️🛠️ I think I may have found my boy’s next obsession:
He’s really into Minecraft, and this seems like the next level when it comes to designing/building systems and learning basic programming logic.
The game follows an engineer who crash-lands on an alien planet and must harvest resources and create industry to build a rocket; however, as a sandbox game, players can continue the game past the end of the storyline. The player survives by locating and harvesting resources to craft various tools and machines, which in turn create more advanced materials that allow for the progression to more sophisticated technologies and machines. The game progresses as the player continues to build and manage their automated factory-style system, which automates the mining, transportation, processing, and assembly of resources and products. Players research advanced technologies that allow them to create new structures, items, and upgrades, starting with basic automation and eventually leading to oil refining, robots, and powered exoskeletons.
I wonder how many engineers will be created by this game..? I would have loved to have this as a kid.
💚 🥃 🐇 This is the free edition of Liberty’s Highlights with 14,700+ subscribers.
You can get 2 extra editions/week full of juicy stuff + access to the private Discord 🗣🗣🗣 community by becoming a paid supporter (it’s quick & easy).
Paid post since last week 🐇:
I guess this is the OpenAI and Microsoft edition. I have like 4-5 items about those in there. I also explain why I decided to sign up for Twitter Blue and talk about a new post-CRISPR gene editing breakthrough.
I really like the intro of this one where I make a parallel between how, as a general rule, most new things are combinations of old things arranged in new ways and generative AI. The item about a self-driving car running over firefighter hoses until it got an axe to the window is also 😬👩🚒🚒
If you click the links above, you can see the intros for free and there’s a link to get a 7-day free trial of the paid version. What have you got to lose?
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🪶 Google announces ‘Bard’ chatbot, its answer to ChatGPT
I can’t quite tell if the AI people at Google are D&D nerds or literary nerds. Which one am I supposed to think of?
One day before Microsoft and OpenAI announced ChatGPT’s integration into Bing Search and the Edge browser (more on that below), Google rushed out an announcement to try to steal the competition’s thunder and tell us that they’ll have something to show us at some later date:
Two years ago we unveiled next-generation language and conversation capabilities powered by our Language Model for Dialogue Applications (or LaMDA for short).
We’ve been working on an experimental conversational AI service, powered by LaMDA, that we’re calling Bard. And today, we’re taking another step forward by opening it up to trusted testers ahead of making it more widely available to the public in the coming weeks.
Sundar Pichai apparently sent an internal memo asking all Google employees to test Bard, so we’re still in the internal testing phase.
We’re releasing it initially with our lightweight model version of LaMDA. This much smaller model requires significantly less computing power, enabling us to scale to more users, allowing for more feedback. We’ll combine external feedback with our own internal testing to make sure Bard’s responses meet a high bar for quality, safety and groundedness in real-world information.
This sounds like the reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) that OpenAI helped to tune ChatGPT from its GPT-3 ancestor.
Google doesn’t really give any other details about Bard, so we’ll have to wait. If I had to speculate:
On the tech side, Google is probably the best, or at least as good as anyone else.
But on the product side, it remains to be seen how they implement this and what kind of constraints they feel they have because of their immensely large and profitable search business — anything that changes it has a chance of making it a worse business, so they’re probably very aware of that and may tread very carefully.
Microsoft & OpenAI announce ChatGPT integration into Bing Search and Edge browser 🤖🤝🤖
“An AI copilot for the web.”
Whoever came up with that tagline at Microsoft or OpenAI needs a raise. That’s good copywriting.
Today, we’re launching an all new, AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser, available in preview now at Bing.com, to deliver better search, more complete answers, a new chat experience and the ability to generate content. We think of these tools as an AI copilot for the web.
The first thing I noticed is that this isn’t just vanilla ChatGPT, but it also doesn’t appear to be GPT-4 (if it were, they would have mentioned it, as that would get SO MUCH ATTENTION):
Next-generation OpenAI model. We’re excited to announce the new Bing is running on a new, next-generation OpenAI large language model that is more powerful than ChatGPT and customized specifically for search. It takes key learnings and advancements from ChatGPT and GPT-3.5 – and it is even faster, more accurate and more capable.
Microsoft also used OpenAI’s work to literally upgrade the core Bing search ranking engine, which they claim “led to the largest jump in relevance in two decades.”
I’m really curious about where this ranking tech comes from… Is this a separate OpenAI project? Can they somehow re-use some of the GPT models for this?
On the search side, it’s all about summarizing, answering questions, and even back-and-forth text conversation with the AI.
For more complex searches – such as for planning a detailed trip itinerary or researching what TV to buy – the new Bing offers new, interactive chat. The chat experience empowers you to refine your search until you get the complete answer you are looking for by asking for more details, clarity and ideas
In an interview, Nadella said about Search + AI: “I have not seen something like this since I would say 2007-2008, when the cloud was just first coming out.”
I wonder if DuckDuckGo will automatically get any of the Bing improvements through its API deal (not the chat part, but the ranking engine part) 🤔
As for the Edge browser, they added a sidebar where you can either chat with the AI, or compose things (emails, documents) with AI assistance based on the content you’re viewing on the web.
With the Edge Sidebar, you can ask for a summary of a lengthy financial report to get the key takeaways – and then use the chat function to ask for a comparison to a competing company’s financials and automatically put it in a table. [...] Edge can understand the web page you’re on and adapts accordingly.
(Trivia: Edge is my primary browser. It’s built on the Chromium open-source foundation, so it’s very similar to Chrome and compatible with all the same add-ons, but I find that the little finishing touches make it better than Chrome. Maybe it’s the old Avis principle: “We’re number 2. We try harder.”)
📺 The story of HBO: What makes it special, the mergers, competition with Netflix, etc (Podcast)
I really enjoyed this interview with the co-authors of a new book about HBO: It’s Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO.
The interview goes over the various stages in the company’s history and tries to tease out what makes it special. It’s not the vision of a single person or founder but has somehow maintained a very special culture. It’s also clever how they decided to counter-position against broadcast.
The section about how they may have learned the wrong lessons from the AOL-TimeWarner merger is also quite interesting to think about — It makes me wonder, what other companies have faced similar dynamics, or maybe are having that moment right now?
With the caveat that I know nothing about sports, I thought this was interesting ⚽️🏀🎾💰💰💰
Note that the list is truncated after #10 to show the two highest-paid women at #19 and #31.
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
🐢 Charles Darwin’s 176-year-old Tortoise ⌛️
Harriet was reportedly collected by Charles Darwin during his 1835 visit to the Galápagos Islands as part of his round-the-world survey expedition, transported to England, and then taken to her final home, Australia, by John Clements Wickham, the retiring captain of the Beagle. [...]
At the time of her death [in 2006], she lived at the Australia Zoo which was owned by Steve and Terri Irwin.
“Vitamin D supplementation associated with a 45% lower risk of suicide attempt and self-harm in veterans” 🥼🩺🌞😎
With the caveat that correlation isn’t causation and real life is extremely multi-factorial, it’s still very interesting and also matches with seasonal depression patterns (when vitamin D serum levels are lowest, among other factors).
A retrospective cohort study of US Veterans supplemented with Vitamin D. Veterans with any Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) or Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) fill between 2010 and 2018 were matched 1:1 to untreated control veterans having similar demographics and medical histories. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to estimate the time from the first Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) or Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) prescription fill to the first suicide attempt or intentional self-harm. [...] Vitamin D3 and D2 supplementation were associated with a 45% and 48% lower risk of suicide attempt and self-harm ((D2 Hazard Ratio (HR) = 0.512, [95% CI, 0.457, 0.574]; D3 HR = 0.552, [95% CI, 0.511, 0.597])). Supplemented black veterans and veterans with 0–19 ng/ml vitamin D serum levels were at ~64% lower risk relative to controls (Black Veteran HR: 0.362 [95% CI: 0.298,0.440]; 0–19 ng/ml HR: 0.359 [95% CI: 0.215,0.598]). Supplementation with higher vitamin D dosages was associated with greater risk reductions than lower dosages (Log Average Dosage HR: 0.837 [95% CI: 0.779,0.900]).
It’s grim that veterans have such a high rate of suicide attempts… If vitamin D can help, great, but much more should also be done (I’ve heard good things about the use of psychedelics along with therapy for treating PTSD, but just basic access to mental health care is often lacking).
Personally, I’ve been taking D3 gelcaps for about 20 years (5,000 UI/day lately). Get gelcaps because vitamin D is fat soluble, so the dry powdery tablets aren’t as well absorbed. For best absorption, take it with a large meal.
I don’t have a control group to know if I’d be doing worse without it, but there seems to be very little downside, and the more research gets done, the more convinced I am that it’s beneficial.
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🎸 ‘Why Radiohead spent 10 years making this song’ 📻
I love peeking behind the curtain at the creative process. How to take an idea from ‘okay’ to ‘good’ to ‘great’.
Once in a while, the step-by-step progression is documented, such as in this case.
On lesson is: Take your time until you get it right, don’t rush things.