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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

We come to bury ChatGPT, not to praise it.

danmcquillan.org – We come to bury ChatGPT, not to praise it. “Large language models (LLMs) like the GPT family learn the statistical structure of language by optimising their ability to predict missing words in sentences (as in ‘The cat sat on the [BLANK]’). Despite the impressive technical ju-jitsu of transformer models and the billions of parameters they learn, it’s still a computational guessing game. ChatGPT is, in technical terms, a ‘bullshit generator’. If a generated sentence makes sense to you, the reader, it means the mathematical model has made sufficiently good guess to pass your sense-making filter. The language model has no idea what it’s talking about because it has no idea about anything at all. It’s more of a bullshitter than the most egregious egoist you’ll ever meet, producing baseless assertions with unfailing confidence because that’s what it’s designed to do. It’s a bonus for the parent corporation when journalists and academics respond by generating acres of breathless coverage, which works as PR even when expressing concerns about the end of human creativity. Unsuspecting users who’ve been conditioned on Siri and Alexa assume that the smooth talking ChatGPT is somehow tapping into reliable sources of knowledge, but it can only draw on the (admittedly vast) proportion of the internet it ingested at training time. Try asking Google’s BERT model about Covid or ChatGPT about the latest developments in the Ukraine conflict. Ironically, these models are unable to cite their own sources, even in instances where it’s obvious they’re plagiarising their training data. The nature of ChatGPT as a bullshit generator makes it harmful, and it becomes more harmful the more optimised it becomes. If it produces plausible articles or computer code it means the inevitable hallucinations are becoming harder to spot. If a language model suckers us into trusting it then it has succeeded in becoming the industry’s holy grail of ‘trustworthy AI’; the problem is, trusting any form of machine learning is what leads to a single mother having their front door kicked open by social security officials because a predictive algorithm has fingered them as a probable fraudster, alongside many other instances of algorithmic violence…”

I’m a teacher in Florida. Here’s what the DeSantis book bans look like in my classroom

The Guardian: “A new crackdown on books in Florida schools has had a chilling effect in classrooms. “I’m done! I’m done! What do I do now?” Every teacher, in every classroom, hears this many (thousands) of times daily from their students. In my classroom, for more than a decade, the answer has always been “Get… Continue Reading

Hide your books to avoid felony charges, Fla. schools tell teachers

Washington Post – Unsure what titles violate new state rules, two school districts tell educators to conceal every book for now..Students arrived in some Florida public school classrooms this month to find their teachers’ bookshelves wrapped in paper — or entirely barren of books — after district officials launched a review of the texts’ appropriateness… Continue Reading

Measuring and Mitigating Racial Disparities in Tax Audits

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research: Working Paper, Measuring and Mitigating Racial Disparities in Tax Audits. Hadi Elzayn; Evelyn Smith; Thomas Hertz; Arun Ramesh; Robin Fisher; Daniel E. Ho; Jacob Goldin. Publication “Government agencies around the world use data-driven algorithms to allocate enforcement resources. Even when such algorithms are formally neutral with respect to protected… Continue Reading

Judiciary Studies Use of Online Tool in Presentence Reports

“The Federal Judicial Center (FJC) will soon begin a two-year pilot study of the impact of including data from a U.S. Sentencing Commission online tool in presentence investigation reports used during the sentencing phase of criminal cases. Called the Judiciary Sentencing Information platform (JSIN), the publicly available tool provides five years of cumulative data for… Continue Reading

New Online Tool Provides Health Snapshot of All 435 U.S. Congressional Districts

“Today, researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), unveiled the Congressional District Health Dashboard (CDHD), a new online tool that provides critical health data for all 435 congressional districts and the District of Columbia. The dashboard incorporates 36 key measures of health, such as deaths from… Continue Reading

Books Unbanned

“Brooklyn Public Library is adding our voice to those fighting for the rights of teens nationwide to read what they like, discover themselves, and form their own opinions. Inspired by the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement, BPL’s Books Unbanned initiative is a response to an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling… Continue Reading

Is It Equitable to Protect Corporate Leaders From Covid-19 More than Employees and Customers?

Via LLRX – Is It Equitable to Protect Corporate Leaders From Covid-19 More than Employees and Customers? Augie Ray asks a simple question to encourage you to think more about #COVID19 risks and engage in a discussion about equity in the workplace: If the world’s top business leaders recognize and take precautions against COVID during… Continue Reading

Justice – Official Site

Jezebel – “It’s been nearly five years since Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court by the Senate in a 50-48 vote—despite allegations of sexual misconduct by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez and about 4,500 other tips that the FBI seemingly just kind of ignored. Justice, a new documentary about the botched… Continue Reading

Students want new books. Thanks to restrictions, librarians can’t buy them.

Washington Post: Schools are struggling to keep their shelves stocked as oversight by parents and school boards intensifies – “States and districts nationwide have begun to constrain what librarians can order. At least 10 states have passed laws giving parents more power over which books appear in libraries or limiting students’ access to books, a… Continue Reading

Disquiet in the archives: archivists make tough calls with far-reaching consequences – they deserve our support

The Conversation: “Right now, for technological, ethical and political reasons, the world’s archivists are suddenly very busy. Advances in digital imaging and communications are feeding an already intense interest in provenance, authorship and material culture. Two recent discoveries – a woman’s name scratched in the margins of an 8th-century manuscript, and John Milton’s annotations in… Continue Reading

SCOTUS Statement Concerning the Leak Investigation Jan 19, 2023

I am updating this post with the most recent article in response to the “we do not have any idea who did it” investigation [hint – they did not quiz the justices and spouses]. CNN –  Supreme Court embarrassed by the opinion leak is embarrassed again Follow up to May 2, 2022 Politico article –… Continue Reading