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Ben Mann Monthly May 2022
Barcelona, Paso Robles, Midjourney, Gato, Kurzgesagt, Everything Everywhere
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Experiments and experiences
Our last stop in Europe, and the most lively by far. I met up with some European coworkers to hack for a week, while Diana and her friends from Zurich came to hang out and sightsee. During the warm nights, the streets buzzed with people eating, drinking, smoking, dancing, and having a good time. As I ran down Las Ramblas around 9pm, I thought, "I would've loved it here ten years ago," immediately followed by, "Am I old?? Nah, I'm just boring." The city was walkable everywhere: a bakery and a gelato shop on every block.
Some friends moved to Paso Robles at the start of COVID. We decided to drive the 3.5 hours each way to get sunburned by their pool and stay the night. A bunch of his pilot friends flew down too. At least half the guests still worked at Google. Diana and I tried our best to convince them to quit. David's building an airplane in his garage and is 200 of 2000 hours into the project. He expects it to take 4-5 years to complete. This seemed like a strange project to me, but if I didn't have something to care about I might be in the same boat (or plane?). The sunburn was worth it.
I got access to the Midjouney Discord. It's like DALL-E 2, but creates broader (including human faces, nudity, gore, and text) but lower quality images. I asked it to generate some pictures of babies with names Diana and I are considering. The results were mostly creepy but it was fun to play with and see what everyone else was trying. It was also interesting to see an app beta happening entirely inside a Discord server. It lent a feeling of collaboration, but also frenetic noise. I bet they have very high churn.
🏠 Back from Europe
🔎 20w ultrasound
💼 New hires
🔐 Registered for DEF CON in August
5 point Likert ratings for “I would recommend this content to a friend”, sorted
An anti-hero must save the multiverse from nihilism.
I loved this film's commitment to silliness and absurdity, especially "I decided to put everything... on a bagel"
Ultimate message: "be kind, have hope" 💖
Continuing the lineage of One model to learn them all, this paper turns everything into tokens and puts them through a transformer: "The same network with the same weights can play Atari, caption images, chat, stack blocks with a real robot arm and much more, deciding based on its context whether to output text, joint torques, button presses, or other tokens."
IMO this paradigm will take us all the way to AGI. We just need more data, bigger models, and tasks we care about.
How does the CIA convince people to commit treason against their country? Retired CIA agent Jim Lawler describes the techniques he used in his long career as a case agent.
The Batman 3/5
Take the Batman you know and crank up the grit and vulnerability to 10. I saw a HackerNews post from a dad complaining he couldn't take his kids to see superhero films anymore. Yep, this one definitely fits that bill. Do people want non-flat superheros? Should Batman confront his rich, white, privileged upbringing? He still wins in the end, but not alone, and he makes some friends along the way.
"Three Robots: Exit Strategies" - too heavy handed
"The Very Pulse of the Machine" - mind-bendingly beautiful animation, creative story
"Kill Team Kill" - over the top, bonkers action. Awesome.
"Jibaro" - haunting tour de force of 3d animation and motion capture
In a dystopian future, a dude working for a big tech co "Fuuber" (Facebook + Uber + Google?) invents an algorithm that ends up bankrupting him and forcing him to become a bicycle delivery guy. Things are looking grim until he falls in love with a trial version of an AI friend tailored just for him, who turns out to really exist. He goes on a mission to rescue her.
Watched most of this on the plane from Switzerland, but didn't finish. Liked the silliness, but had some strong Italian anti-futurist vibes.
Upload S2 2/5
A little heavy handed on the themes.