Week of June 25, 2018

Incentives

Really interesting look at how OpenAI has evolved it’s AI to begin to win team battles in Dota 2. Let’s just hope that it’s never released into the wild with the “team spirit” hyperparameter set to 1…

OpenAI Five does not contain an explicit communication channel between the heroes’ neural networks. Teamwork is controlled by a hyperparameter we dubbed “team spirit”. Team spirit ranges from 0 to 1, putting a weight on how much each of OpenAI Five’s heroes should care about its individual reward function versus the average of the team’s reward functions. We anneal its value from 0 to 1 over training.

Dedication

I expect Koks to be on Chef’s Table next season. Rebecca Mead on the most remote foodie destination in the world.

Above all, there was a strange satisfaction in how hard it had been to get to the restaurant. Fäviken, the Michelin two-star restaurant in the snowy hinterlands of northern Sweden, was positively metropolitan by comparison; it was on the European mainland, after all. At Koks, we were getting not just extreme cuisine but an experience that was, quite literally, outlandish. A bunch of foreigners had gone to absurd lengths to eat food that even the natives didn’t fully expect us to like. Looking around the table, I calculated that, collectively, we would be burning through roughly thirty-two thousand air miles to enjoy a fanatically locavore, ecologically pristine meal.

Boundaries

Mike Dudas on frontier tech.

The people in frontier tech are different. They behave as if they’re in the Wild West — in competition with everyone, including other true believers. Few true believers share the same vision, the same “religion”, the same belief system. All can see something better — but it is impossible to translate fully what is in one’s mind to another’s mind. What is certain to one is uncertain to another. The path looks different to each. And while there is a glorious outcome in the future, it has infinite forms.

Infrastructure

Surely much easier said than done but interesting nonetheless.

Right now, fully autonomous cars are rolling around Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay area, and parts of Michigan, shuttling people from here to there with minimal manual intervention. Instead of fixing the old trains, let’s rip out the tracks and fill the tunnels with fleets of autonomous vehicles running on pavement. The result would be radical improvements in throughput while saving money and increasing the ability of the system to survive a fire, flood, or terrorist attack.

Hypocrisy

Rusty Guinn on a very pertinent topic.

The most painful realization of all in a world awash with Narrative, of course, is that the people who disagree with us are not especially hypocritical or contradictory. It is that they are our brother. Our sister. Made out of the same earth. And probably every bit as smart, upstanding, independent-minded and, yes, flawed as we are.

When we stop telling lies about why we disagree and start telling this truth, we can grapple with the uncomfortable fact that our brothers and sisters saw the same facts and came to different conclusions. As Narratives force us into ever narrower bands of acceptable views on markets and politics, the speech we must tolerate becomes more uncomfortable, and will feel more extreme. It will also feel more contradictory. Friends, if you would end the Competitive Game, if you would triumph over tribalism, you must learn to tolerate some hypocrisy — in yourself and in others. You must embrace the Acrobat and not the Fly. How?

Dream out loud, and don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Crisis

Michelle Goldberg expounds on why our current situation is not a breakdown in civility but a breakdown in democracy.

A great many of these citizens are working tirelessly to take at least one house of Congress in the midterms...But unless and until that happens, millions and millions of Americans watch helplessly as the president cages children, dehumanizes immigrants, spurns other democracies, guts health care protections, uses his office to enrich himself and turns public life into a deranged phantasmagoria with his incontinent flood of lies. The civility police might point out that many conservatives hated Obama just as much, but that only demonstrates the limits of content-neutral analysis. The right’s revulsion against a black president targeted by birther conspiracy theories is not the same as the left’s revulsion against a racist president who spread birther conspiracy theories.

Lies

Pro Publica has been busy doing really incredible work lately. Here are Hannah Dreier's observations after reporting on MS-13 for a year:

  1. MS-13 is not organizing to foil immigration ;aw

  2. MS-13 is not posing as fake families at the border

  3. MS-13 is sticking around, but It’s not growing

  4. MS-13 is preying on a specific community, not the country at large

  5. Immigration raids and deportation can only go so far

At the end of the day:

This all matters because the gang really is terrorizing a portion of the population: young Latino immigrants in a few specific communities.