385: New Bing vs Google, Altman & Nadella, Adyen, Starlink's Stupid Move, and Facebook
"am I the only one who thinks that this is *insane*"
Progress through trial and error depends not only on making trials, but on recognizing errors. –Virginia Postrel
🗣️🤖 The good news is that Siri, Alexa, and Google Home are about to become much more useful.
💻 Time to do some real-world testing: I have set Bing as my browser’s default search engine and homepage.
I hadn’t really tried it in a while — you can’t judge a search engine by doing a handful of random searches in it, you have to live with it for a few weeks and put some real mileage on it. I figured that now is as good a time as any to do that.
I’ve long been a browser and search engine nerd.
I cycle through browsers once in a while to stay up to date on the strengths and weaknesses of each, and on the evolving UX paradigms.
I also do the same thing periodically with search engines.
In fact, I wrote about DuckDuckGo being my primary search engine for about 85% of my searches back in edition #11 (that’s the Paleoarchean era). At the time I wrote:
A while ago I realized that the majority of my searches were more navigational than actual research. I just want the search engine to give me some company’s website or an artist’s Wikipedia page or a film’s IMDB page or whatever. I know where I want to go, I just want a handy link to click on.
For real research, I trust Google to have better results, but I don’t mind being off their radar for the rest of my searches. Don’t put all your data eggs in the same basket.
DuckDuckGo makes it trivial to do a Google search from the DDG page. You just append “!g” to your query and it’ll bounce you to Google. The rest of the time, you can have a very uncluttered experience with few ads (you can even turn ads off in the settings!), a dark background, etc. It’s very pleasant.
I’ll update you on my Bing experience once I’ve had time to form an opinion. But note that it isn’t the fully ChatGPT-integrated version yet. I’m on the waiting list for that.
📚📖 I like this post by Dwarkesh Patel. I’ll file it under the “Good Will Hunting” approach to learning.
Here are a couple of highlights:
David Deutsch points out in The Fabric of Reality that contra conventional wisdom, it actually is possible for a single person to understand most things - not in the sense of memorizing the names of ant subspecies or the GDP of different Asian countries, but in the sense of appreciating the main explanatory theories in each field.
One consequence of living in The Great Stagnation is that there is relatively little turnover in these fundamental ideas. Quantum mechanics, that nascent branch of physics which elicits the sense of woo woo from popular culture, is about a hundred years old. So is the theory of computation. The neo-Darwinian synthesis is over 50 year old.
So you don’t have to be scouring through the newest papers on Arxiv in order to know the most important things. A dozen or so textbooks even from a few decades ago contain about 80% of legible scientific knowledge.
But almost NOBODY actually does this. Because while it’s simple, it’s also HARD.
to understand something is not to know random minutiae about it - to understand is to know how the parts compose the whole, to notice patterns and discern their causes, and to be able to make predictions on the basis of these insights. In that sense, understanding is precisely what the weighty small print books fail to provide and what books advancing or attacking an explanatory theory are supplying.
Which means it is actually possible to understand a wide range of topics and fields with a reasonable number of books. In most fields, you really could understand the most important ideas by reading a dozen books (or depending on the technical complexity of the field, a textbook or two plus a handful of seminal papers). If you took reading seriously and read a book a week (approximately an hour or two of reading a day), that’s just 3 months of reading. Half a semester to understand much of an entire field. That is unreasonably effective.
It doesn’t apply to every field, but to enough of them that the non-universality of the method shouldn’t be an excuse not to do it (if it’s what you want to do):
Admittedly there are many fields where it takes a longer climb to reach that plateau of insight and understanding, and where the esoteric details and specific examples are not distractions from the subject, but rather the subject itself. In this category I include biology and history - more than a few great historians have been close to death before they were ready to compose their magnum opus. Think of your study of these fields as you would a Roth IRA account - your investment slowly accumulates in the background and eventually, when you are appropriately mature, that compounding sum is made available to you for use.
Dwarkesh then goes into “Why are there so few of these well-read generalists?”.
I recommend you read the whole thing, it’s thought-provoking.
🤔🎮 Nintendo should just call their next console the Super Switch™️.
Why mess with a proven formula?
💣🌎 We’re lucky that nuclear weapons are as difficult to make as they are.
How would the world be different if building a nuclear bomb was about as hard as manufacturing, say, a car?
This is one of the things I worry about with future AI capabilities:
Things that are very hard may become merely hard, or maybe even easy. That’ll be great for 99.99% of things, but there may be a few things in there that become a lot easier to do and that are catastrophic (ie. synthetic super-viruses and such).
We should be thinking deeply about this.
🥼🩺 TIL that apparently the white lab coats worn by doctors now are made with pockets sized specifically to carry iPads because this is such a common practice in the profession.
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Interview: Sam Altman and Kevin Scott (OpenAI and Microsoft) + My Thoughts about Google Search vs Bing
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