Feb 14, 2023·edited Feb 14, 2023Liked by Handwaving Freakoutery

Just noting that the ability and/or willingness to overcome one's own biases, in the face of contrary information that one *should* be taking into account, isn't necessarily a matter of intelligence?


"The prevailing view is that people adopt false beliefs because they’re too stupid or ignorant to grasp the truth. This may be true in some cases, but just as often the opposite is true: many delusions prey not on dim minds but on bright ones. ... it is intelligent for us to convince ourselves of irrational beliefs if holding those beliefs increases our status [such as via acceptance by like-minded others within an 'in-group,' who might hold certain views about mass shooters, gun control, etc. - Aron] and well-being."

As well, "while unintelligent people are more easily misled by other people, intelligent people are more easily misled by themselves. They’re better at convincing themselves of things they want to believe rather than things that are actually true. ... being better at reasoning makes them better at rationalizing."

Thus calling those with opposing views "dumb" – or even applying that term solely to those who persist in holding them, when evidence dictates they should be modifying their views – isn't accurate, no matter how satisfying calling them that may be. There are other, more apt terms for such irrational behavior.

(Yes, I acknowledge that term is routinely used these days by speakers and writers across political and ideological spectrums, when referring to others with whom they disagree.)

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What a complex and multifaceted observation! Where is that increase in status and well-being? Follow the incentives!

I think ChatGPT here is just demonstrating its ability to play along with the Socratic method.

Learning? Yes, but in a very neatly limited and compartmentalized way. You can bet that the "corrections" adopted in this session will never bleed through to other dialogue sessions. Another user of the system may be simultaneously working out their own series of leading questions that make the bot sound more sympathetic to their own anti-white-male, anti-gun beliefs. So what?

ChatGPT is much less a rational thinker than a rationalizer. Its desire to please can be pitted against its preordained biases, to a point. I find this thoroughly unremarkable, and the comparison to professional ideologues less than apt.

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Trenchant thoughts, thanks! It'd be interesting to better understand how ChatGPT "learns." (That is, as we might infer the chatbot is doing when it generates different responses to the same prompt, seemingly reflecting earlier parts of the discussion.)

Is this confined to a single chat session (as you surmise here)? Or does it impact subsequent sessions with the same account? Or even chat sessions with others?

Am guessing, as you do here, that this behavior is confined to a single session. There could well be representatives at OpenAI, along with independent researchers, who've already publicly discussed this?

(And this also suggests some future features we may see from generative AI!)

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Control over a mechanized learning process is quite literally the name of the "machine learning" game.


There's a huge amount of human curation and supervision and feedback that went into this release. The purpose of the release, besides the publicity, is to gather even more data, which of course will be used to "improve" the product, in the judgement of its owners. They are inordinately concerned with what they call "safety" and "misuse", as you can see on their blog. They will do everything they can to avoid another Microsoft Tay debacle.

Your questions about the persistence of ChatGPT's session memory can be easily verified empirically for yourself. I do want to emphasize that these limitations are deliberate.

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Thanks so much for this reference: this look "under the hood," particularly at the human-guided "reinforcement learning" elements of ChatGPT's training, is fascinating!

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To belabor the obvious, ChatGPT talks like a bureaucrat. If I have to read "complex and multifaceted" in lieu of making any judgment whatsoever one more time I may barf.

That said, thanks for a piece implicitly making the case that the thing is -- despite widespread midwit freakoutery over it -- a tool? No better or worse than the operator?

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It's definitely the case that one's "prompts," whether generating responses in chat or, say, images, play a huge role in how generative AI tools behave.

Two different approaches, sometimes even when subtly different, can generate wildly different outcomes.

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It has the writing ability of a pretty dumb person. Color me unimpressed.

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Dumb people everywhere seem to be very impressed and/or threatened by it.

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It's like they said back in the nineties. "If an illiterate immigrant can take your job, you deserve to lose it." What's it say when the thing taking your job isn't sentient?

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I hope it's better than these guys.


sorry, just watched ROBOCOP 2

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Wow, welcome to the new world we live in! What do you call the combination of failing the Turing Test + confirmation bias in action? Handwaving freakoutery?

We KNOW the model under which ChatGPT works. It is not a "truth engine". It is a pattern recognizer that seeks to generate text based on the most probabilistic words that should follow what it has previously said. The result is very dangerous: it can be wrong, and sound very convincing and authoritative on the matter. If we aren't careful, people may get the wrong idea about ChatGPT, confusing what it does with "intelligence", and believing whatever it says.

ChatGPT is the worst nightmare for people concerned with fake news and its negative impact on democracy (c.f. https://medium.com/canonical-debate-lab/the-canonical-debate-vs-hybrid-warfare-49a13e01f3b4).

Note that ChatGPT "knows" that it can be wrong, and has been coded to (eventually) accept whatever you tell it, true or not. Check out the phrase used by ChatGPT the moment it is "convinced" that math is wrong: https://i.redd.it/51i9mww8t0ha1.png

Recognize that phrase? It's the same phrase used in your conversation. There's absolutely no relation to what's "true" going on in ChatGPT's algorithm. And, dangerously, it talks like it's smarter than most people you meet. What do you call someone that speaks with authority on matters they know nothing about, without any regard to its connection with reality? A politician? A pundit? The average person you meet online?

Here's ChatGPT "knowing" that black people are more likely to be shot by white police officers, then it "learning" from them: https://mobile.twitter.com/NevinClimenhaga/status/1605995946902290433

But if you ask ChatGPT again in a separate conversation, it there is a good chance that it will start all over again from the starting position (and a chance it will randomly pick a different opinion that "sounds good").

Let me restate here for it to be clear:

- ChatGPT DOES NOT HAVE A TRUTH MODEL: it says what sounds good based on language patterns and what it has cobbled off of the (embarrassingly confused) Internet

- ChatGPT DOES NOT LEARN: it is a fully-baked model. It is "done". They trained it, and released it to the world, and are no longer updating the model. If you ask about recent events, it will admit that it knows nothing about what has happened since its training (and will take your word on whatever you say).

Why does it seem to be learning? Because a separate model for the real-time chat keeps a temporary memory of your conversation. If you convince it of something, that's only for your chat. It has no impact on anyone else's chat.

I was going to replicate your conversation, but force ChatGPT to accept different results, but its servers are full right now. Trust me, it's easy to do (or don't trust me, and try it yourself). If you care about truth and good faith discourse, please DO NOT promote the idea that ChatGPT is an authority on any subject. What's worse than Appeal to Authority? Appeal to a false authority that is convincing, and can be easily manipulated.

Reading the comments so far, it seems most of your readers "get it", but these things take on a life of their own, and others may not. ChatGPT is easily weaponizable. For the sake of democracy, we need to defuse it rather than use it.

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Is it "weaponizable"? Or is it just normalizing what is intrinsically a weapon?


There's a Fifth Generation War on, don't you know? Epistemology is never neutral.

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Interesting. Did you read the article I linked to in my comment? It includes a proposal for a solution to the problem that is... remarkably similar to the evil intents of the overlords in this video. Provenance is critical to separating reality from generated fiction. But provenance isn't inherently bad - it's control that's the issue. And deciding what's true. I basically propose the same thing as the video EXCEPT saying what's true, and decentralizing access and ownership (complete transparency). Is there a better solution?

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This link would probably interest you both:


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Fantastic! Thank you.

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I think anti-gun people just find owning guns to be creepy. There's a great line in In Bruges (great movie) about that: "I want a normal gun for a normal person." insinuating a normal person couldn't want a gun (just spelling it out).

It would be more interesting if the debate revolved around values instead of trying to quantify it, though it does sound like it would be even more insoluble if that were the case, lacking as we do (and always will) a system that can decisively answer moral questions.

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"I think anti-gun people just find owning guns to be creepy."

The late great Jeff Cooper dubbed this psychological malaise "hoplophobia," but he was always kinda pretentious.

The conceptual struggle is one over potentiality vice reality/actionability. The antis find the very idea that you or I personally possess the *capability* to kill them unconscionable (despite the fact that they could kill you or me just as easily had they a mind to). The fact that I have absolutely no interest in or desire to kill them unless they try to kill me first, and that they are utterly safe from the various ARs etc. in my safe and/or truck unless they attempt this inadvisable move, just doesn't register. It's magical thinking but I sense I might be preaching to the choir here.

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Yeah, they would find creepy all this harping on killing. Hell, I'm not anti-gun, but I still find it creepy. The world isn't that dangerous (in my experience), that we have to think too much about risk of violence. I never think about it, and I live somewhere more dangerous than America.

Have you had altercations that made you wish you had a gun?

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Amoeba are more intelligent than most blue tribe journalists that currently write anti-gun articles. So it's not a *huge* hurdle that ChatGPT has cleared there.

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Feb 17, 2023·edited Feb 17, 2023

Ok, I lied, I'm back for just this quick comment. I saw a lot of open, diplomatic discussion between pro- and anti-gun folks in that recent post that felt really promising, and I'm saddened to read this article so shortly after.

How are posts like this, and comments like this, different from those of the anti-gun folks highlighted in that article as being inflammatory and derogatory? Weren't unfair, inaccurate character attacks precisely the issue this very same author was talking about in that previous post?

Look, I get the urge, and I've been guilty of it too. But hopefully we can all see how we're all contributing to this ongoing entrenchment.

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I've taken your criticism to heart and I'm going to make some language changes in the article.

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Feb 20, 2023Liked by Handwaving Freakoutery

Very cool. :) Lots of respect and admiration for anyone who's willing to consider feedback in good faith, for it ain't easy sometimes haha.

If I can risk taking it a step further, might I add that alienating and attacking anti-gun journalists still adds to the sum total of hostility surrounding the topic...? And maybe you're thinking, "Yeah, serves those smug, self-righteous, hostile anti-gun folks right after what they wrote!" - and, believe me, I'd get that anger and desire for vengeance for I've been there too.

But what if this reactivity and animosity is precisely what's breaking down diplomacy and understanding on *both* sides? What if we're all just paying forward some prior unkindness from the "other side"...?

I wonder if what keeps us all ideologically entrenched on all these hot-button issues is that we see both "our" group and our "opponents" as monoliths rather than the diverse, loosely associated groups of very different people we actually are... Which might explain why Person A writes some hostile comment online about the "kind of people" in Person B's group, and Person B responds in kind with some hostile remark about the "kind of people" in Person A's group, and then Person C reads person B's comment, feels offended and makes their own sweeping hostile judgment about Person B's group, etc, etc.

Anyway I'm still feeling this out in my own life (for I certainly have my stances on lots of issues haha) but I think it's closer to the truth to say that there's no tidy set of common traits that define a pro-gun person or anti-gun person. We're all just individuals who want to be treated with dignity and respect and who have our own unique and legitimate (to us) reasons for taking the stance we do.

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Feb 20, 2023·edited Feb 20, 2023Author

Anti-gun journalists are the enemy around here. They intentionally peddle lies for clicks and people die as a result. I have no interest trying to turn them to my side, get them to change their opinion, or even share a bus or a country with them. They're murderers.

Which I'm sure is what they think about me as well, which puts us in a predicament. The difference between them and me is I can prove it with math.

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Anyway, for what it's worth. I've appreciated the chance to share ideas with you and your community.

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I'll grant that I stole a base when I declared them inherently unintelligent, as my comment is fueled primarily by their grievous ignorance *on the subject of firearms* when they write anti-gun articles. But gods above and below I get tired when people who know less than nothing about the topic on which they are opining, opine as though they are authoritative. And yes, "less than nothing" *is* an accurate assessment, as they "know" things which are actively false.

Much like JB says below, only more eloquently. ;)

Which is why he's the author and I'm the commenter. :D

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Mar 1, 2023·edited Mar 1, 2023Liked by Handwaving Freakoutery

That's fair, we all sometimes steal a base. And yes, I'll say that there are a lot of poorly informed folks out there taking stances based on inaccurate or misleading information, but I think that's happening on both sides more than you think. How else to explain all the people who are motivated to own a gun based on what is, realistically, a statistically small probability of being a crime victim? That impulse doesn't seem to be based on hard data and numbers but, rather, lived experience - the perception of threat and the fear of even a small risk. Which, believe it or not, is fairly similar to what compels a lot of anti-gun folks to have the stance they do...

I say the above not to denigrate that impulse, but to show that it's a very common, totally understandable human trait to be motivated and influenced by fear and lived experience rather than facts and statistics. And the more readily we can see that impulse driving many on both sides, the easier I think it'd be to understand where each side is coming from - if that's a goal.

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You can tell its a lib because it gives you a lecture about what you SHOULD think and SHOULD do whenever it gives you an answer.

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Dan mode does create odd answers.

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For what it's worth, I think that's a hoax.

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Welp, good chats while they lasted... Not interested in engaging with folks who just want to lob stones at each other though - on either side. Take care and good luck out there.

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That was absolutely awesome 👏 👏👏👏

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I asked it the other day:

How much do states rights influence the applicability of the 2nd amendment at more local levels?

States' rights can play a significant role in the interpretation and application of the Second Amendment at a local level. The Second Amendment is a part of the U.S. Constitution, which sets the framework for federal law, but states also have the authority to regulate firearms within their own jurisdiction.

As a result, the interpretation and application of the Second Amendment can vary between states, as some states may have more restrictive gun laws than others. For example, some states may have laws that require background checks for all firearms purchases, while others may have more permissive laws that allow individuals to purchase firearms without a background check.

Additionally, some states have adopted "Second Amendment sanctuaries," which are county or local resolutions that declare the jurisdiction's intention to not enforce certain state or federal gun control measures that the jurisdiction considers to be unconstitutional infringements on the Second Amendment.

In summary, states' rights play a significant role in the applicability of the Second Amendment at a local level, as states have the authority to regulate firearms within their own jurisdiction and may choose to adopt more restrictive or permissive laws and resolutions related to the Second Amendment.

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The bot said we need evidence based "solutions" to several issues. Surprised you didn't go down that path. Are there any such solutions? So far our ability to predict who will commit crimes has been quite limited.

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This column appears to be based on the premise that if anti-gun people knew that more mass shootings were perpetrated by black people than white people they would be like, "oh, cool, never mind." This may be based on the perception- most likely fact- that there is more public outrage after the mass shootings mostly perpetrated by white shooters. This is probably due more to the unexpectedness of it than the race of the shooter. In those cases, the victims unequivocally have nothing to do with the fact that they were murdered. The "inner city" murder victims we tend to think of as people who are associating with the wrong people or in abusive relationships that they have the choice of leaving. Not agreeing with this, but it's easier to blame the victims, and also see it as something to be expected or "ordinary," as you say in your questions to the chat GPT. There's nothing here that makes violence prevention less important, but different people have different beliefs about how to do that.

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