Most of my life I’ve been been awash in assurances. Maybe this wasn’t so bad when I was a child. Approaching life with confidence in the world breeds positivity.
We’ve come to expect certitude. Our institutions and elders deliver most of their hard-earned knowledge with certainty.
Nuance and shades of grey feel dangerous these days. Too much room for interpretation leaves room for confusion. After all, if it’s just a small percentage on the edges, why give people cause to worry?
Except we all find ourselves in the small percentage at some point. As normal as we may be in some areas, or even most, you will probably find yourself being on the edge.
You will want assurances. And as it turns out we are not yet good enough at math to know many things. You can get close to the limit. Infinitely so. But we can never get there. Just try calculating out Pi if you are skeptical of my math.
One of our hens died today. My husband took on eight chickens from one of our friends a month ago It was an exciting moment. He really wanted chickens and it felt like great luck.
The family was moving and so Alex stepped in. If it were just me alone I probably wouldn’t have any animals as I don’t necessarily always have the physical capacity to do daily chores. I realize that’s a funny statement for someone who lives on a homestead in Montana but you get used to your limits and work around them.
But my husband lives for doing shit. I call him a “man of action” as he’s happiest when working on something. Chores and animals and homestead work are a hobby for him and I’m deeply grateful we could bring that way of living into our lives. I am envious that he has the capacity as there are few joys as deep as improving the world around you. I wish I could do what he does.
So it’s sheer bad luck I find myself on my own when one of the hens died. Alex was literally gone for a day and one of his birds dies on me. I feel responsible for the death even though I know I am not.
Death happens. Chickens are strange finicky animals and do in fact sometimes just up and die. I’m capable enough with death. I did plenty of farm work as a kid. But I’m not the one who does the bulk of the hard physical work and never will be. I contribute other things.
I simply wasn’t expecting that with just one day on my own being responsible for the hens that something bad would happen. But there I was finding myself responsible for dealing with the physical reality of a dead bird on my own.
I happened to have a doctors appointment in town this morning so I didn’t check on the chickens when I woke up. And that’s what I feel worst about. That I didn’t even notice.
I got in the car, went to get my own eggs checked (a follicular ultrasound if you are curious) and came back to find an entirely different egg problem on my hands.
I went to collect the morning’s eggs and saw a red hen laying underneath the raised coop. I briefly panicked wondering what the fuck was I supposed to do. She was clearly dead and I’d missed it. I’d just left for town without even checking on the hens.
I panicked and tweeted that I’d had no idea what to do. And then I found the heavy duty trash bags and nitrile gloves and moved the carcass out of the coop. The remaining hens seemed disturbed. The leader of the group in particular was quite vocal and came up to me as I was moving the body.
I feel horribly guilt that I didn’t check the hens before I left for the doctor. But what would I have done? Judging by the rigor she was dead before I woke up.
I’m not sure I could have done the clean up quick enough to make my appointment. But the idea that the hens were just poking about next to their dead compatriot for any additional time while I went about my business of living seems horrifying. I guess that’s my own human bias setting in as they didn’t seem particularly disturbed by the body only by me removing it. I bagged it and put it in a bear proof trash can. I pulled up poultry disposal procedures and asked my internet friends what the duck to do next.
Some of our neighbors came over after their workday to help me dig a hole in the back pasture to bury the body. Digging a hole 3 feet down to keep the predators from sniffing it out is the recommended procedure.
I wasn’t up to the task of digging a grave on my own. Mostly because I’m not good enough with the tractor to get the post hole digger mounted. Thankfully I had help.
The remaining hens had laid three more eggs in the intervening hours. I had also learned in those hours that my ovaries were producing more than ample follicles. It would seem that, like our hens, I produce eggs in adverse conditions too. The circle of life in just one day.
Every time I have have cause to interact with any medical speciality I find myself blown away by just how little we know.
I’ve been going back to doctors to understand what my options are for living with an autoimmune condition and having children. And the truth is we just don’t know much.
I made a life altering decision several years ago by letting a medical decision be framed to me like a consumer product. We opted to freeze eggs and embryos and it turned our entire lives inside out. It triggered an autoimmune response in me that I’ll live with forever.
Somehow in the intervening half decade years we’ve learned precious little about women’s health and fertility. And we are advocating for somehow knowing even less.
Because that’s what we’ve done by letting the government into our health decisions. Don’t kid yourself into thinking when we involve government and bureaucrats we somehow improve our knowledge and safety. At it’s most friendly, when the government shows up it’s about ass covering. At it’s most hostile it’s about control.
We argue about ethics, safety and life as if we even have a shared ideal of any of those concepts. Whose life? My life? My unknown children? I’m not convinced we ever cared about women’s health as an independent variable. We treat fertility as a sideshow and hormones as some variable over which we pretend to have control. And yet every time I try to assess my own risks I find out that we known just about nothing. There are no good answers. And it’s all poorly understood risks.
Humans are horny for hierarchy. We are eager to give our power away as a species. Please will someone else just be responsible for making our decisions for us? Can someone point me to the person in charge? “Take me to your leader!”
If someone seems smarter, richer, more capable, more aggressive, heck even if they have better taste than us, they become an instant candidate for us delegating our authority over to them. My most popular blog post ever was about dickriding. Yes it was about Elon Musk’s fans.
I’ll be the first to say that people who court you to gain power should be viewed as suspect. But someone who has power is not themselves always suspect by default. I know it’s a fine distinction. But people fall into positions of authority simply by going out and being competent. Competence is a fast route to power.
Sure being competent has a lot of downsides. Suddenly you’ve got power you maybe didn’t want. We have an incentive shunt power off to someone else as it generally sucks to be in charge. It’s energetically expensive to be responsible. Just ask one of your friends with a toddler.
Sometimes we have to wield power because it’s our job to take care of our corner of the universe. Again ask someone with a toddler. We are in charge of sustaining some portion of the grand experiment called life. Even if it’s just our own families. Even if it’s just yourself.
So why am I titling this post “I am Beff Jezos?” Right now online there is a movement gaining recognition for encouraging people to have agency and build for the future. It’s a movement that wants you to own your own power. And to help others get more power of their own.
It’s principles are simple. The future will arrive and we should build like it’s coming. Slowing things down, or even worse, going backwards, is not a solution to our problems. We can only go forward. If you’d prefer a driving metaphor, we should accelerate into the curve. Slowing down just spins out the car. Civilization is the car.
So what, you want to just uplift humanity, build AI and populate the universe with the maximum diversity and quantity of life?
The movement is more of a meme space than anything else. It is decentralized. I’ve not met anyone that runs it though I’ve spoken to many vocal supporters. And I’ve chatted with folks that are at the nexus of of its online presence. Everyone is positive and friendly. Most of them are anonymous. I’m not even of sure if some of the accounts are singular or plural. Which is pretty cool. It doesn’t have a president or a CEO or even a founder who owns anything with any amount of authority. It could be one dude or multiple dudes gender non specific.
It’s just a bunch of people who make stuff. It’s popular amongst engineers but it’s an ethos that to anyone who can make something. Even this blog post counts. I am e/acc as much as anyone.
Naturally if no one is in charge it’s a bit threatening. If there is no hierarchy how do we control it? If no one is in charge then what will we do if someone under their banner does something bad?
Such is the beauty of an idea. A meme can’t really be owned. A decentralized group of goofballs on the internet can’t really be snuffed out for bad think. Maybe a few nodes go down. They literally cannot kill all of us.
The messages does seem to be resonating. I know being hopeful has improved my mood. A decent number of people who make shit want the future to come a little faster. They want more people with more ownership of the building process.
More complexity and more abundance is appealing even if it seems impossible to achieve. Don’t worry, just build for your corner of the world. Put power and responsibility in as many hands as possible. We can build it together.
You too can have a toddler and own the joy of being responsible for your corner of the universe. It’s dangerous for sure. Folks will tell you for your own good you need to have a hierarchy and someone responsible for the power.
But guess what? It can be you. And sure heads will get bonked. Crying will ensue. Remember I said ask someone with a toddler? What if you are the competent and in charge parent? Shit right?
We’ve got to go forward. I am Beff Jezos. You too are Beff Jezos. And they can’t stop us all from arriving at the future. Go ahead and accelerate into the curve.
The insecurity is palpable. The lust for control is high. How many people you’ve had sex with and how it affects marriage and family formation has been a contentious topic in culture wars in America for sometime. For a private matter between partners, it’s shocking how much it’s become fodder for social media grist.
Presenting scorn to women for being without significant others and children strike me as callus. Fertility is one of the most sensitive possible areas for anyone. I know it has been for me. You never know why someone is childless.
I wouldn’t recommend diving into gender bait topics if you aren’t already aware of the discourse and it’s champions. This variant appears to have gained momentum with a YouTube celebrity boxer feud.
It’s now percolated out to every engagement farmer looking to grow their outrage crops. And it looks like business is booming. Sadly, lonely people are desperately searching for control and reassurance and gender bait gives it to them.
If you are looking for ways to judge, shame and coerce others into behaving in a way that provides you comfort without their consent please consider that the problem might be you. It’s your insecurities speaking when you apply sweeping generalization to an individual you may not even know.
Once you are secure in your value and worth it’s a lot easier to get what you want from others simply by having boundaries and standards. There is no need to rain judgement on others. You wouldn’t want them doing it to you. Apply the golden rule and nurture empathy. The security you will find will last longer than any temporary control you may find through shame or judgement.
I’ve spent a lot of time this summer thinking about who gets to decide the boundaries of society.
Automation of civic and cultural life has been happening at the speed of capitalism. It’s about to happen at the speed of artificial intelligence’s processing power.
At least during most of techno-capitalism, corporations and governments were still run by humans. You could blame an executive or elected official. What happens when more decisions are snapped into reality by a numerical boundary?
High frequency traders have found many an arbitrage they whittled into nothingness. Who will get whittled away when the machines decide how society should run?
We got a taste of the horrors of treating people like statistics instead of humans during the first Biden era crime bill with mandatory minimum sentencing. And here we are rushing to find new ways to nudge consensus back to hard lines and institutionalization.
I don’t know how we handle virtue in a world without grace. Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue seems prescient. Forgiveness in the face of horrific reality has been the hallmark of humanity’s most enduring religions. But then again so has swift punishment and inscrutable cruelty. Humans are quite a species.
I am, like manyothers, concerned about reinforcement learning in machine learning and artificial intelligence. How and where we set the boundaries of the machines that determine the course of daily life has been a pressing question since the invention of the spreadsheet.
Marx certainly went on about alienation from our contributions to work. But division of labor keeps dividing. And algorithms seem to only increase the pace of the process.
If you are working in artificial intelligence or medicine I’d like to pleased my case to you. Id just like to pass along a note.
The current “responsible” safety stance is that we should not have AI agents dispense healthcare advice as if they had the knowledge of a doctor. I think this is safetyism and rob’s sick people of their own agency
I have very complicated healthcare needs and have experienced the range of how human doctors fail. The failure case is almost always in the presumption that you will fall within a median result.
Now for most people this is obviously true. They are more likely to be the average case. And we should all be concerned that people without basic numerate skills may misinterpret a risk. Whether it’s our collective responsibility to set limits to project regular people is not a solved problem.
But for the complex informed patient knows they are not average? The real outliers. Giving them access to more granular data let’s them accelerate their own care.
It’s a persistent issue of paternalism in medicine to assume the doctor knows best and the presumption that the patient is either stupid, lying, or hysterical is the norm. It’s also somewhat gendered in my experience.
I now regularly work with my doctors using an LLM precisely so we can avoid these failure cases where I am treated as an average statistic in a guessing game. I’m a patient not a customer after all. I decided my best interest.
A strict regulatory framework constricts access without solving any of the wider issues of access to care for those outside of norms. Artificial intelligence has the capacity to save lives and improve quality of life for countless difficult patients. It’s a social good and probably a financial one too.
I’ve been running a risk analysis on something personal. I think it’s worth considering the consequences of any decision. Especially when you take on some amount of risk.
We live in a time of safety. Some of us run the numbers and assume we will be the worst case scenario. Some of us presume the best case scenario.
Reality is never so black and a white. A risk for one person is good sense for another. We all have different values.
You shouldn’t be looking for permission from life. You will never get it. But you have to decide what risk parameters make sense for you. Maybe you like to play things a little faster. Maybe you like to play it safe.
I do think it’s worth evaluating how much you value what everyone tells you and what you think might work without accounting all the risks. Maybe some things are just worth it.
It’s clearly the deep dog days of summer as I’m in a bit of a mood. I’ve got all kinds of things on my mind and yet it’s slow going executing on anything. The doldrums has certainly gripped me. And yet I take hope.
This corner of Twitter is going through a paroxysmal fit of whether it’s rational to be embracing pro-social behavior. Without having to cite all my sources we had Jane Goodall being packaged into a deceleration meme about removing a billion or so people.
So I think my entire mood when staring down the barrel of the future is “what’s it going to cost me in my soul?”
The cost of knowing it’s not just about us is slamming into the hard reality that you can’t do a damn thing about other people. And so we have to ask if we preserve what we have or do we leap into the great unknown. I don’t know anyone who is in the mood for much safety at the moment. There doesn’t seem like much to be had.
What does assigning value mean to you? How do you begin to investigate what is valuable? If someone asked you to value “object X” do you know what tools you would use first to make a measurement?
If I tell you determining value is a cultural problem, you may investigate the problem of value through religious or philosophical frameworks. If I tell you value is an artistic problem, you may use taste in finding value.
If I tell you that assigning value is primarily a computing problem, you may search for weightings, databases and referents to determine value.
So what happens when determining value has to account for multiple or even contradictory frameworks? Which framework assigns the ultimate value? And how do we align them?
Congratulations, you’ve known become an artificial intelligence alignment researcher. I bet you thought that required a doctorate but it doesn’t.
It’s not an entirely intractable problem. The Industrial Revolution found ways to align competing frameworks. We assigned labor value and made currencies to facilitate the exchange of different goods.
Markets can, and do, spring up for all kinds of previously impossible to value things. Capitalism done its best to make cultural value fungible and legible to an agreed upon value. Sure, artisans and artists complain we conclude incorrect values regularly. But we don’t always agree on value.
Generally we’ve found that what can pay for itself survives and what can profit for others thrives.
Not all people are motivated by profit, but we all are motivated to survive. And so we contribute what we believe has value to each other and hope the frameworks of value that others have will align with ours. The balance between the two has held together humanity for sometime.
I don’t always agree with the author of the piece Cory Doctorow. But I think he’s raising a powerful point on how we are assigning value when we overlay competing frameworks.
This is the true “AI Safety” risk. It’s not that a chatbot will become sentient and take over the world – it’s that the original artificial lifeform, the limited liability company, will use “AI” to accelerate its murderous shell-game until we can’t spot the trick
If you aren’t familiar with Doctorow, he’s a powerful voice in right to repair circles, a classical hacker opposed to corporate oligopoly, and a bit of a anarcho-syndicaticalist in his preferred solutions.
I like markets more than governments for most things. More of us can contribute to markets than we can contribute to specialist bureaucracies
But we have assigned value to end of life care inside the convoluted system of profit motives and medical ethics and it’s not the value most of us share on life.
And that’s going to happen a lot more as we get further and further abstracted away from the existing models of value that govern our lives. So remain skeptical when someone tells you that they know what you value. How they assign value might be different than you.