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The Boy Who Cried Extinction
morning report #1 // the curious case of AI doomers building AI doomer shit, electric vehicles ascendant, debt limit groundhog day, and brand new clown world target targeted
Good news for the Pirate Nation: we’re expanding the “Tuesday Report” into a bi-weekly update, which we’ll deliver Tuesday and Thursday in a similar manner. Welcome to the Pirate Wires Morning Report. In addition to the MR, we’re still sharing the White Pill every Saturday morning, an original banger from yours truly every other Friday — which I’ll send from “Mike Solana” to help you better sort your inbox — and a wide variety of fire guest reporting from the intersection of technology, politics, and culture.
Empire rising. Tell your friends (seriously though, Jeff Bezos inspired me, and I would also like a statue of my hot lover on my next megayacht — tell them, tell everyone goddamnit).
One last, important update: we are finally live on the butts app. Follow us on Instagram.
Onto the lead —
Happy Memorial Day, we’re all gonna die (again). Tuesday, some time after the soft release of Mark Zuckerberg’s newly-jacked body, and just before the Washington Post’s inevitable, full-throated endorsement of the nation’s most popular Chinese spy app (on grounds it’s helping “stigmatized” people), hundreds of high-profile leaders in the field of artificial intelligence signed another open letter warning the entire project could lead to human extinction. The warning, so consistently made to the utter confusion of our American press, public, and government, has thus finally evolved from novel bit of clownery to entire, cherished genre in the field. As with every enduring meme, the story persists for a reason. So today we ask: who is benefiting from the AI doomer shit?
The last, disastrous “expert” AI letter — in which the Future of Life Institute proposed a moratorium on AI development — famously included many fake signatures, from Sam Altman to Ja Rule. It then stealth edited the letter’s body after gathering names, and finally managed to attract its most ferocious criticism from two of my favorite AI doomers: Eliezer “bomb the data centers” Yudkowsky, and Timnit “robots are racist” Gebru. This cast of characters locked in heated opposition over what is ostensibly their common cause is your first tell: most of this is just about attention.
AI is a booming space in need of doomsday thinkfluencers for appearances on CNN with shocking quotes to scare the sheeple, but there are only so many scrolling hours in the world for aspy neckbeards with apocalyptic predictions. Our “intellectuals” therefore find themselves at odds in a zero sum game for a very specific kind of nerd god status, and the only way to attract attention in so crowded a space is to accelerate the doomer message. Gary Marcus’ proposal, finally picked apart by Congress, further and unfortunately proved it is actually riskier to suggest something actionable while terrifying people than it is to keep it all ambiguous. Tuesday, the Center for AI Safety therefore tweaked its message. This new “open letter,” now signed by many actually important leaders in the field (the former really just included Musk), was a single sentence long. It read, simply:
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”
Naturally, the press picked the letter up, as it is admittedly shocking to hear the very people working on AI think it is on course to destroy the world, and a lot of people on the internet freaked out. But a handful of obvious questions follow:
How exactly might artificial intelligence destroy the world? What is the timeline here? How does prioritizing the risk posed by artificial intelligence actually mitigate the odds, given China doesn’t seem to give a shit about popular American sentiment, or open letters? Then, what are you even proposing the governments of the world do? In what manner? Who is leading this effort? Which governments are we leaving out? Most importantly, why — if the stakes range from global extinction to literally endless human suffering in an immortal AI hell dimension — are you working on this technology at all? Should you not be doing everything you can to stop it, which surely includes a little more than op-eds and open letters? Is there perhaps some utopian upside to the technology? Might you consider describing that upside in similar, colorful detail as you often describe the various ways we might all die because of your life’s work? No?
Okay then, I guess I’ll just wait for the next letter.
I think what’s happening is this: there are a small number of Bay Area rationalists who really do believe AI will probably kill us all, and a great many more who peacock the opinion because it denotes high status in the world of intellectuals online. But none of the AI doomers actually working on AI believe they’re at any risk of destroying the world. For most, talking about such things simply makes them feel important. The public terror they evoke, to no discernible end, is just an unfortunate after effect. For a more clever few, this is marketing. Surely any company building something as powerful as an evil AI god is valuable, no? But for our very top students, from our very top companies, this is all, more clearly by the day, an attempt at regulatory capture.
Artificial intelligence is a serious and potentially (probably!) paradigm-altering technology. There are risks, here, which will become obvious, in a more concrete sense, as the technology matures. I only hope that when this day comes, after so many months of self-serving histrionics, there’s someone left to listen when our technologists attempt to warn us.
→ More AI
University of Washington professor calls for six-month moratorium on AI extinction risk statements (Twitter)
Nvidia debuts real time AI-generated NPC dialogue in video games (haters in the quote tweets unimpressed) (Twitter)
Lens-free camera turns geo-data into AI photo (Twitter)
UpCodes drops AI tool for navigating building codes — we love a robot that eats our bureaucracy (TechCrunch)
CrowdStrike’s security tools now come with generative AI assistant (Axios)
Dot AI domain names skyrocket (Axios)
→ Catch up on Pirate Wires’ previous AI doomer dispatches
Against Safetyism: Why safetyism — and not climate change or artificial intelligence — has become one of the biggest existential risks facing humanity
Robots are Racist: Breaking down the work of our media’s favorite AI ethicist, our last defense against the tech bros' genocidal superintelligence
Bomb the Data Centers (Smart People Agree): On the AI doomer suggestion we start bombing data centers
The Battle Over AI Surveillance at the Paris Olympics: France's plan to use AI to help surveil the 2024 Paris Olympics has some groups saying it would turn the country into a “dystopian surveillance state”
Even The Politicians Thought the Open Letter Made No Sense In The Senate Hearing on AI: An April hearing on AI covered AI regulation and challenges, and the infamous open letter, which nearly everyone in the room thought was unwise
TECH SPOTLIGHT: EV GLOW-UP
America dominates western battery terrain, European leaders cry about it (perennial). Famously obsessed with peacocking their FernGully climate virtue, European leaders are now upset with American battery subsidies. But isn’t government funding in this regard a good thing? What about the common cause in beating back the dangers of global climate change? Lol literally nobody actually cares. Business is business, baby, and when the Americans come to play they don’t lose. (NYT)
EV boon threatens invisible, political powerhouse: car dealerships (Slate)
California loves a gold rush, EV-charging station edition (WSJ)
Tesla disables video game feature scrutinized for driver distraction, US ends probe (AP)
New EV workhorse just dropped (TechCrunch)
Welcome to AOC’s mall cop era — inevitable. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez logged onto Bluesky Tuesday afternoon and wondered “where the line is to leave the other place,” — which is to say Twitter — where the horrors of “unchecked disinfo” are bringing our democracy to its knees.
AOC’s disinformation mall cop era was inevitable, and immediately attracted the approval of NBC’s chief “disinformation expert” Ben Collins. But upon closer examination the Congresswoman did have an actual grievance aside from the fate of our grand nation, and it was, in keeping with her beloved character, amazingly stupid.
Our pressing, national danger: Elon Musk laughed at an AOC parody account implying the Congresswoman had a crush on him. Nonetheless, we’re glad to see our politicians take up the important cause of disinformation online, and eagerly anticipate AOC’s reflections on her own fire takes, including such bangers as ‘Republicans did a rapist rights bill,’ and ‘the Hunter Biden laptop story wasn’t real.’
Newsom urges NetChoice to drop lawsuit over social media privacy protections. California’s AB 2273 stipulates social media companies must enact privacy protections for adolescent users. NetChoice sued the state on grounds the bill is unconstitutional (alas, this enduring problem of ‘free speech’ strikes again). Following the Surgeon General’s warning social media may harm adolescent mental health, Newsom attempted a final gambit: pretty please requesting NetChoice simply drop the case. They chose violence. (Yahoo)
Supreme Court declines to hear Reddit child porn case. The Anti-230 lobby can’t catch a break. Can Reddit, an ostensibly neutral platform, be held liable for illegal content that appears on its platform? It still can not. (Bloomberg)
Black Wolf: an ATL-based rideshare app with armed drivers (News Nation)
→ Space, chips, stablecoin, streaming
State Department releases strategic framework for space diplomacy. Its goals are to “build international partnerships for civil and national security space, promote a rules-based international order for outer space and work to secure the United States and its allies from space-enabled threats.” The framework was unveiled shortly after China announced plans to put humans on the moon by 2030. Space Race 2 LFG (WaPo)
Intel goes to war with Nvidia. The company is gearing up to invest “as much as hundreds of billions of dollars into new factories that would make semiconductors for other companies alongside Intel’s own chips.” (WSJ)
Nvidia rides stock price surge to $1 trillion valuation (Bloomberg)
PayPal eyeing stablecoin features, calls space “fundamentally important” (Axios)
Amazon, Apple, Fox, Netflix bidding for NBA broadcast rights (Bloomberg)
Esports players plan walkout in protest of Riot Games rule changes (The Verge)
Debt Limit Groundhog Day grinds to a close. Members of Congress once again came together last night, across party lines, to remind America that money is a made up thing, and what is debt, anyway, but an abstract concept? An egregore imbued with power for belief in such things alone? My brothers and sisters, hear me: there is no monster in your closet, there is no goblin lurking in the dark. Money does, in fact, grow on trees. It’s literally paper, people. Spend!
Pending a vote in the Senate (it will definitely pass), the deal will suspend our national debt ceiling for another two years. (NYT)
U.S. National debt currently stands around $31 trillion dollars, around $10 trillion more than 2018, and $26 trillion more than 2000. Sounds crazy, but I’m sure it’s nothing. (Debt clock)
Woman who threatened to hang Pelosi during Capitol riot gets over two years in prison. The Pennsylvania restaurant owner was convicted of five riot-related charges in January. Prosecutors had recommended a six-and-a-half year sentence. (AP)
Trump aides subpoenaed over firing of election cybersecurity official (NYT)
Minnesota legalizes weed (AP)
State Farm halts California homeowner insurance applications, citing wildfire risk (ABC)
More than half of Baltimore students are “chronically absent” (Fox 45)
Along with nearly half of Philadelphia students (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Nine injured in Memorial Day shooting at Hollywood Beach (AP)
Flesh-eating bacteria invading Florida beaches (NY Post)
Elon Musk opposes decoupling from China. In a meeting with Foreign Minister Qin Gang, Musk said US and Chinese interests are intertwined, and the two nations need to maintain diplomatic ties. While he’s certainly right our interests are intertwined, it’s unclear how he sees the dependence as advantageous. Presumably, nobody actually does — they just have to say it. In other words: these words of encouragement just made me a lot more anxious. (Bloomberg)
Samsung and Apple diverge, push forward with plans for independence from Chinese manufacturing (WSJ)
US sanctions Chinese firms over counterfeit fentanyl pills (Bloomberg)
China sends three astronauts to Tiangong Space Station (WSJ)
Russia issues arrest warrant for Senator Lindsey Graham (wut) (NBC)
Target targeted: “woke” company loses $10 billion over Pride merch controversy. Vastly overestimating the number of their customers who are openly homosexual babies and/or well endowed transsexuals, the big box store came under fire from right-wing activists, facing boycotts last week, after rolling out a line of Pride merchandise including LGBT-centric children’s clothes and “tuck-friendly” women’s bathing suits. The company responded by Rosa Parking the displays at the back of some stores in ole Dixie — spurring another untethered backlash from left-wing activists.
The controversy comes in the wake of Bud Light’s disastrous sponsorship deal with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which devastated sales and Anheuser-Busch’s stock price. Target has long sold Pride merchandise, though mostly tacky, rainbow-splattered t-shirts for gay adults that nobody bought. If they really wanted to sell things gay people would actually wear to Pride, they’d sell mesh tank tops for the fellas and orthopedic sandals for lesbians. Selling the other stuff always hit like more of a PR stunt than anything, but now it seems there’s a limit on the amount of corporate virtue signaling the public is willing to accept. Next year, I suspect the six trans women who shop for bathing suits at Target will simply have to tape their hogs back a little tighter. (NY Post)
“Boycott Target” more popular than Taylor Swift on iTunes (Twitter)
“Extremism experts” urge Target to double down (ABC)
Kohl’s criticized for woke onesie (The Street)
Chik-Fil-A’s fall from red pilled grace: “Are we going to have to boycott?” (Twitter)
Kias and Hyundais with updated anti-theft software are still getting stolen (WSJ)
UC Berkley names Chesa Boudin founding director of new (pro-)Criminal Law & Justice Center (Twitter)
Solo plane crashes in Utah; pilot frees himself, denies medical treatment (ABC4)
Frankly iconic: 3-year anniversary of David Guetta shouting out George Floyd’s family (Twitter)
Operation Chokepoint 2.0 no match for Cardano’s massive $COCK wave (Twitter)
Important: “some asexual people still have and enjoy sex” (Twitter)
Are Barbies classist? (Twitter)
Vatican singles out shitposting Bishops in attempt to tame “toxic” Catholic Twitter (AP)
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