(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘search

“The key to artificial intelligence has always been the representation”*…

AI is coming for search. OpenAI’s chatbot offers paraphrases, whereas Google offers quotes. Which, asks the estimable Ted Chiang, do we prefer?

… Think of ChatGPT as a blurry jpeg of all the text on the Web. It retains much of the information on the Web, in the same way that a jpeg retains much of the information of a higher-resolution image, but, if you’re looking for an exact sequence of bits, you won’t find it; all you will ever get is an approximation. But, because the approximation is presented in the form of grammatical text, which ChatGPT excels at creating, it’s usually acceptable. You’re still looking at a blurry jpeg, but the blurriness occurs in a way that doesn’t make the picture as a whole look less sharp.

There is very little information available about OpenAI’s forthcoming successor to ChatGPT, GPT-4. But I’m going to make a prediction: when assembling the vast amount of text used to train GPT-4, the people at OpenAI will have made every effort to exclude material generated by ChatGPT or any other large-language model. If this turns out to be the case, it will serve as unintentional confirmation that the analogy between large-language models and lossy compression is useful. Repeatedly resaving a jpeg creates more compression artifacts, because more information is lost every time. It’s the digital equivalent of repeatedly making photocopies of photocopies in the old days. The image quality only gets worse…

Should we bank on AI in search? “ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web,” in @NewYorker.

For more of Chiang’s thoughts on AI, listen to (or read) his interview with Ezra Klein, in which he suggest that “most fears about A.I. are best understood as fears about capitalism.”

Also apposite: “AI, Minus the Hype” and “Imagining The QAnon Of The AI Era.”

Jeff Hawkins (who seems to be agreeing with Baudrillard that “the sad thing about artificial intelligence is that it lacks artifice and therefore intelligence”)


As we fiddle with our filters, we might spare a thought for a man whose work has created a gargantuan training set for AI: Alphonse Bertillon; he died on this date in 1914. A police officer and biometrics researcher, he applied the anthropological technique of anthropometry to law enforcement, creating an identification system based on physical measurements. Anthropometry was the first scientific system used by police to identify criminals; before that time, criminals could only be identified by name or photograph. While the method was eventually eclipsed by fingerprinting, then DNA analysis, it is still in use.

Bertillon is also the inventor of the mug shot. Photographing of criminals had begun in the 1840s only a few years after the invention of photography, but in 1888 that Bertillon standardized the process.

Bertillon’s work has been hugely impactful– and lies at the root of many AI systems being developed to finger criminals (especially via facial recognition). It’s worth remembering that his (flawed) evidence was used to wrongly convict Alfred Dreyfus in the infamous Dreyfus affair.

Bertillon’s mug shot self portrait (source)

“Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent”*…


people map


A People Map of the US, where city names are replaced by their most Wikipedia’ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place…

From our friends at The Pudding, a chart of our crazes– zoomable to reveal much more detail: “A People Map of the US.”

* Emily Dickinson


As we obsess on obsession, we might recall that it was on this date in 2009 that Kodak ceded the victory of digital photography and announced that it would discontinue the production and sale of Kodachrome print and slide film, a repository of “precious memories” since 1935.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 22, 2019 at 1:01 am

Hitting ’em where they ain’t…

The folks at Really Magazine have a bone to pick with Google and it’s Page Rank Algorithm, which determines the results that a search yields:

It is of course pure folly. It works by pushing up the pages which are already  popular and have lots of links to them. Although it is patented, there is and never was absolutely nothing new about it. It is just a computerized feedback version of ‘The rich get richer’ or ‘Nothing succeeds like success’ – which we all know too well.
full article

By way of remedy, Really commissioned Inframutt, which “is trained to automatically fetch and display the least popular results for any given search page.”

Try it here.

As we marvel at the ways in which democracy can seem positively random, we might recall that it was on this date in 1994 that the first phase of jury selection in the O.J. Simpson murder trial was completed (304 potential jurors were chosen).  It was exactly one year later– on this date in 1995– that the case was sent to the jury for deliberation.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 29, 2010 at 12:01 am

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