Reactions to Situational Awareness


My first glance reactions to Situational Awareness: The Decade Ahead by Leopold Aschenbrenner.

I enjoyed reading it a lot.

The most persuasive part of his argument to me is the relationship between compute and intelligence. This is sort of like the New England Patriots to me; I'm going to believe in it until it stops working. I see reasons why it might stop (run out of data, limited by energy / computing power available), but I don't know when or if we'll actually hit those constraints. People are pretty good at avoiding constraints!

I think he underrates the likelihood of a bottleneck somewhere that keeps us from getting to the AGI he imagines. Any individual bottleneck might be unlikely, but as long as one exists, the entire system is constrained.

Something I see Leopold do at points is assume a super AI, in his case, an automated AI researcher that is 100x as competent as today's top AI researcher. With this assumed, any AI research problem is solvable because you can scale up infinite 100x AI researchers to get around the problem. Once any AI research problem is solvable, then any problem is solvable.

What I think will ultimately happen is something like this:

  • An AI will exist that is super human on many dimensions. It will be able to do many things way better than humans and will be inarguably smarter than most humans. [0] Most of todays knowledge work will be offloaded to the AIs. This will be similar to the way that a lot of the production work of 1750 has been moved to machines in factories.
  • That AI will also have limitations. There will be some things that it can't do as well as humans or where humans will have the ability to reliably trip it up, despite it's intelligence. To extend the factory analogy, you'll still have humans pressing buttons for reasons other than just keeping the humans in control.
  • This will be really destabilizing. Society is going to change more between 2020 and 2040 than it did between 1950 and 2020.

Somewhat off topic: earlier this year, I read Meet You in Hell, which is the story of Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie. The dynamics of that era, with the railroad leading to a spike in demand for steel and steel leading to a spike in demand for coke were very recognizable in today's AI race.

[0]: I think GPT-4 is already this! Do you know a single person who knows as much stuff about as many things as it does? I don't. And yet it still has limitations!

Goodbye, Bill Walton



Bill Walton is my favorite athlete I never saw play. He passed away yesterday.

In the summer of 2007, I read David Halberstam's classic book, Breaks of the Game, which is about the Portland Trailblazers of the Late 1970s who briefly shot to the top of the NBA world before falling back down to mediocrity.

Breaks of the Game is as close to a perfect book as I've ever read. The focus for the story is Bill Walton's foot, which breaks in the 1977-78 playoffs with his Portland Trailblazers set to win a second straight NBA title. This bad break cuts short a championship run, a budding dynasty, and according to Halberstam, the perfect basketball team with Walton the perfect basketball star.

With this as his lens, Halberstam tells the story of how basketball and American culture are changing, becoming more financially driven, and in the process something is being lost. If you have even a passing interest in basketball, you should read it.

I met Bill Walton through this book, but I fell in love with him when he came on to the Bill Simmons podcast. [1]

Simmons wanted to have a fairly conventional conversation about the 2007 NBA season. [0] But Walton wanted to use basketball as a metaphor for life, specifically how to create a meaningful life, especially for young people, through preparation, judgement, and irrepressible joy. He had a sense of the interplay between individual talent and team chemistry that I love most about the basketball and articulated in a way no one else can.

Over the years, I've probably re-listened to that conversation 15 times to try and capture a little bit of his approach to life. [2]

As I've gotten older, the list of athletes I want to meet has dwindled. I still appreciate the skill, but cringe at the awkwardness of approaching another grown man... to talk about what exactly? I'd rather leave them to practice their craft and enjoy their time with their families.

Bill Walton remained the exception. When I moved to San Diego in 2021, I would go on runs past his house in hopes that he might be out checking the mail and I might get a chance to thank him. For what exactly? Having a great basketball career? A wonderful approach to life? I'm not exactly sure, but I know he mattered to me. Of course, I flattered myself that he'd recognize in me a kindred spirit and a friendship would be born. It wasn't to be. With his passing, it never will be.

It's an odd thing to care this much about someone who you never saw play. If anything, it's a reminder that how we live matters and can echo out into the world to the people around us, even people who've never met us and never saw us do the thing that we were best at.

Thank you, Bill Walton, for sharing your gifts with me.

[0]: Such a great time to be an NBA fan.

[1]: At the end of the podcast, Simmons brings up Breaks of the Game and it's so painful for Walton that he has to end the show.

[2]: I also printed out a copy of John Wooden's Pyramid of Success and bought a handful of old Sports Illustrated with Walton on the cover.

ChatGPT Mac App


I'm one of the early users here, but this app is severely underbaked, even for a beta rollout.

Forget about advanced features — I'm having issues with basic scrolling. It's also slow. The speed of response time that's so exciting on the web isn't there for some reason.

I also miss the ability to cmd + f for pieces of text within a chat. For some reason, on the app this does a search across my chats but not within the chat I'm focused on. Not helpful!

I don't want to draw too many conclusions from a bad week for OpenAI, but it definitely seems like they've lost focus on what matters.

What makes a political office non-partisan?


The state of Georgia has certain offices that are designated as non-partisan. How does this get decided? Where is the line drawn and why? Are there any restrictions placed on the candidates when running for a non partisan office, or does it just mean that the party isn’t listed on the ballot?

If you feel like you understand how this works, let me know: jdilla.xyz @ gmail dot com.