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On Technique

In a previous article, I wrote about how models like DALL-E and Imagen disassociate ideas from technique. In the past, if you had a good idea in any field, you could only realize that idea if you had the craftsmanship and technique to back it up. With DALL-E, that’s no longer true. You can say, “Make me a picture of a lion attacking a horse,” and it...

Scaling False Peaks

Humans are notoriously poor at judging distances. There’s a tendency to underestimate, whether it’s the distance along a straight road with a clear run to the horizon or the distance across a valley. When ascending toward a summit, estimation is further confounded by false summits. What you thought was your goal and end point turns out to be a lower...

The Metaverse Is Not a Place

The metaphors we use to describe new technology constrain how we think about it, and, like an out-of-date map, often lead us astray. So it is with the metaverse. Some people seem to think of it as a kind of real estate, complete with land grabs and the attempt to bring traffic to whatever bit of virtual property they’ve created. Seen...

Radar Trends to Watch: August 2022

The large model train keeps rolling on. This month, we’ve seen the release of Bloom, an open, large language model developed by the BigScience collaboration, the first public access to DALL-E (along with a guide to prompt engineering), a Copilot-like model for generating regular expressions from English-language prompts, and Simon Willison’s experiments...

SQL: The Universal Solvent for REST APIs

Data scientists working in Python or R typically acquire data by way of REST APIs. Both environments provide libraries that help you make HTTP calls to REST endpoints, then transform JSON responses into dataframes. But that’s never as simple as we’d like. When you’re reading a lot of data from a REST API, you need to do it a page at a time, but pagination...

Artificial Creativity?

There’s a puzzling disconnect in the many articles I read about DALL-E 2, Imagen, and the other increasingly powerful tools I see for generating images from textual descriptions. It’s common to read articles that talk about AI having creativity–but I don’t think that’s the case at all.  As with the discussion of sentience, authors are being misled by...

Radar Trends to Watch: July 2022

This month, large models are even more in the news than last month: the open source Bloom model is almost finished, Google’s LaMDA is good enough that it can trick people into thinking it’s sentient, and DALL-E has gotten even better at drawing what you ask. The most important issue facing technology might now be the protection of privacy....

2022 Cloud Salary Survey

Last year, our report on cloud adoption concluded that adoption was proceeding rapidly; almost all organizations are using cloud services. Those findings confirmed the results we got in 2020: everything was “up and to the right.” That’s probably still true—but saying “everything is still up and to the right” would be neither interesting nor informative....

“Sentience” is the Wrong Question

Last weekend, Blake Lemoine, a Google engineer, was suspended by Google for disclosing a series of conversations he had with LaMDA, Google’s impressive large model, in violation of his NDA. Lemoine’s claim that LaMDA has achieved “sentience” was widely publicized–and criticized–by almost every AI expert. And it’s only two weeks after Nando deFreitas,...

Closer to AGI?

DeepMind’s new model, Gato, has sparked a debate on whether artificial general intelligence (AGI) is nearer–almost at hand–just a matter of scale.  Gato is a model that can solve multiple unrelated problems: it can play a large number of different games, label images, chat, operate a robot, and more.  Not so many years ago, one problem with AI was that...

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