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User ID: 651

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I've seen other signs of hope too, like LaCroix seltzers becoming so popular that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were forced to respond. Just today I read this article from ArsTechnica, and was surprised by its relative frankness: https://arstechnica.com/health/2023/09/what-can-we-do-about-ultraprocessed-foods/

I generally expect Ars to be solidly lefty, and while they pay a bit of lip service to mention "exposure to racism and weight bias" as potential causes of poor health (eye roll) the message is pretty clear: obesity is unhealthy, it's widespread because people are eating too much, and our modern diet of ultra processed foods is the culprit.

I'm shooting from the hip here, but I think produce in America has gotten a lot better in the last 20 ish years. When I was young, my family was an early adopter of Natural and Organic foods, and the only places to get it were Whole Foods and local "health food" boutique grocery stores. We immediately noticed that, while processed foods didn't have the heightened artificial flavors, the produce and simpler items (such as seedy whole grain bread) were richer and more complex. There was plenty of coverage pooh-poohing the movement (heard plenty of "duh all food is natural and organic dummy" back in the day, and if you were anti-GMO you were letting people in Africa starve). Now, even the chain grocery store in my grandma's podunk town carries some Organic produce. Perhaps the popularity has encouraged "conventional" produce to pull back a bit on prioritizing looks at the cost of taste in order to compete.

As the author of the first thread I feel a need to comment, though I don't have strong feelings on the matter. My impression from my original research was that Ballard is a weirdly motivated guy who actions were probably on net good. My guess here is he, like many men with a little power, simply couldn't keep it in his pants. Disappointing, but not surprising. Of course now the media is feeling vindicated and taking this opportunity to do victory donuts over the conservatives who rallied around the film. I doubt it will have any large effect since the public has already moved on from the spectacle of the "weird conservative Christian Qanon etc. movie" hitting it big. People who disliked the movie will feel smug, and the people who liked it will ignore the scandal and make excuses, or simply move on.

How far is "that far"? Have you ever worked in robotics or automation? Outside of tasks that are purely software I mean.

At first this comment annoyed me - you can't reframe it this way, it completely changes the question! But upon further thought, it helped me see why the original poll might have turned out the way it did. To a rational person, like most of you here, the pills can be treated as machines. Pull lever A, you might die. Pull lever B, you are guaranteed to not die. Obviously you pull B. However, to a socially driven person, like those on Twitter, nothing is merely an object. Everything has character, and which you choose reflects on you. You don't drive a car: you're a Toyota driver. You don't enjoy a movie: you're a Star Wars fan. You don't vote for a politician: you're a Burnie supporter. I don't think the blue pillers are literally imagining their choice as an election, but the framing was the kick I needed to see things in the society centric way. If you don't choose the blue pill, you're signaling that you're anti-social. This is the essence of culture war: when everything is viewed from the tribal perspective, all choices are made in judgement of others.

I don't think the CIA was telling people they had psychics, but they spent quite a bit of time researching it https://www.cia.gov/stories/story/ask-molly-did-cia-really-study-psychic-powers/

Don't underestimate the stupidity of supposedly intelligent people. Remember that the CIA (or some element of it) seriously studied psychic powers after believing that the Soviets had them. If 9/10 Russian science advisors say "no UFOs" but one says "yes absolutely UFOs we need to study this it could be the end of us!", I'd say the chance of Putin listening to the UFO guy is greater than 1/10 thanks to how human psychology works. Those odds might be worth it.

For the record, I don't believe there's a concerted UFO psyop, but I think it is likely at least some of the US intelligence apparatus is happy to let the believers run with it a bit for the counterintel effect. There are enough wacky people already, you don't need to plant evidence.

It'll get him some good PR with the UFO believers.

Ugh, the "unknown elements" quote made me facepalm when I first heard it - because I can imagine how a perfectly reasonable reality got twisted into "woah aliens!" Firstly, there is absolutely research being performed on wreckage of UFOs; literally, flying objects that are unidentified. Zero implication of extra terrestrials or advanced technology. Say US Intel dredges up some scrap from the ocean floor in the vicinity of a North Korean missile test, or collects shards of metal from a Middle Eastern desert where they detected what could be an Iranian drone crash - those could easily (and correctly) be classified as "UFO wreckage". They're going to perform tests to identify what they collected, which could involve classifying what they're made out of - not because it's some mysterious wonder element, but because they want to know if NK is being provided Chinese metals, or they want to estimate how far Iran is in developing composites. Some of the material is inevitably going to be unidentifiable because tests aren't perfect - there's always a chance of false readings and the samples could be damaged beyond recognition or contaminated or many other reasons. Now imagine some bookkeeper with no context reads the report. They're going to see "TOP SECRET", "UFO", and "test inconclusive, composition unknown". They leak that to the whistleblower with aliens on the mind, and of course it's going to turn into "alien vehicles with unknown elements."

My point is that there is nothing notable about the content of the movie to warrant controversy - it's all about how it was made and is watched by the wrong type of people. Skim through that linked Rolling Stone article - it's pretty obvious culture war. And understand that this isn't an isolated event; there are many more articles like that one, and most of the discussions of this movie on Reddit quickly devolve into claims of conservative histeria over supposedly non-existent child trafficking.

I don't follow Hollywood and didn't know anything about Caviezel before writing this, so I missed this angle, but it sounds plausible. There's definitely a larger "red vs blue" dynamic here, however, given how much space the articles dedicate to trashing the audiences.

I purposely kept my focus limited for this piece but I would be curious to know more about OUR. The critical articles throw out some accusations of questionable tactics and effectiveness, but I don't recall anything claiming it's a scam. The credible thing to do, if you wanted to undermine the film, would be to publish a scathing expose of OUR, but that would take effort.

Timothy Ballard is a former DHS agent who, in 2013, left his role fighting criminal child exploitation and founded Operation Underground Railroad, or OUR. It's a parapolice organization which operates internationally, infiltrating child trafficking rings, identifying ring leaders, working with local law enforcement to arrest the leaders, and providing support to the victims after they are rescued. [1] I have not delved deeply into the history or workings of the group, so their actual effectiveness is a mystery to me, but they boast some impressive sounding results; a blog post from yesterday claims 51 survivors of an international sex ring saved and 22 suspects apprehended in "a joint effort by the Hellenic Police, the Spanish National Police, INTERPOL, O.U.R., A21, and Homeland Security Investigations." [2] It sounds very impressive, uplifting, and even badass. It's the kind of thing Hollywood would love to make a movie about - and they did.

In 2015, director Alejandro Monteverde and a production company approached Ballard to make a movie documenting his exploits. Ballard had been approached many times before by for movie deals but had turned them all down. This time, Monteverde's work was able to impress Ballard (and his wife) enough to convince him to sign on to a movie deal. Ballard was extensively interviewed, a script was written, and filming started in the summer of 2018. Interestingly, Ballard requested that actor Jim Caviezel portray him - Caviezel notably portrayed Jesus (yes that one) in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, though Ballard cited Caviezel's performance in The Count of Monte Cristo as the reason for his request. The film was completed that year and Fox was signed on to distribute the film under the name The Sound of Freedom. [3]

Fox was not around long enough to complete the deal. They were acquired by Disney, who shelved the movie (Disney later claimed they had no knowledge of the movie, which is plausible given the enormity of both Disney and the former Fox). It sat in limbo until earlier this year, when the filmmakers bought back the rights to the movie and approached Angel Studios for distribution. Angel Studios is an interesting company; they are entirely supported by equity crowdfunding, in which small investors provide funding in exchange for securities. As the name might suggest they are heavily Christian focused, with one of their largest previous projects being The Chosen, a dramatic television retelling of the life of Jesus Christ. They implement their crowdfunding model by presenting their investors with several options for new projects and ask them to vote for which ones they would like to see. Reportedly, The Sound of Freedom reached a critical threshold of votes within days, the release was greenlit, and the movie hit theaters on July 4, 2023. It instantly became a hit, and a target for hits.

If you have heard about this movie before now, it was probably in the context of controversy. Lefty media outlets have been dogpiling it, with Rolling Stone calling it "a Superhero Movie for Dads With Brainworms"[5] and a CBC Radio columnist saying it was "a dog whistle for xenophobic Pro-Trump, Pro-Life types".[6] Criticism of the movie itself is weak, with the arguments boiling down to "it's not realistic" and "the plot doesn't always make sense", things that could be leveled at any summer blockbuster. External to the film, they criticize Caviezel and his penchant for QAnon conspiracy theories, but never mention the Mexican native director, whose father and brother were kidnapped and killed by a cartel.[7] What many have been focusing on is these outlets' attempts to seemingly pull the rug out from under the whole movie by downplaying child trafficking as a real world issue, trotting out 'experts' to point out how the depiction is 'dangerous' because it sets 'unrealistic expectations' and generally setting the tone that trafficking isn't really a thing people should be worried about.

This has set them up for the obvious counter from the Right: why are you so mad about a movie where a guy saves children? Child trafficking is bad... right? These commenters point out how outlets like Rolling Stone defended Cuties (the infamous Netflix movie about pubescent girls dancing in modern sexually charged style) and didn't seem to have a problem with Taken, the 2008 movie with an obviously exaggerated human trafficking plot. But that was a decade and a half ago, and we know why this is happening now: it's culture war, pure and simple. While Righties are accusing the Lefties of covering up for their corrupt pedo elites, I theorized this might be legacy media feeling threatened by upstart conservative alternatives, but after researching I don't think there's much more to this than "Red Tribe likes this, so it must be bad". Or perhaps I am not blackpilled enough yet to believe that the slope is so slippery that pedophiles are already being introduced into the pantheon of Letter People.

Other titbits I want to mention:

  • Ticket buyers are "predominately female", and a third of the audience is Hispanic.
  • The movie's conception predates QAnon, and production was around when QAnon was starting but not yet known to the mainstream.
  • The movie has a CinemaScore of A+ (the highest) and is the only movie currently in theaters with that rating. The score is measured by polling theater atendees as they leave the screening and is often used by the industry to gauge audience reaction.

[1] https://ourrescue.org/ [2] https://ourrescue.org/blog/51-survivors-of-human-trafficking-freed-in-greece [3] https://www.deseret.com/2018/6/4/20646317/actor-jim-caviezel-set-to-play-second-most-important-role-in-o-u-r-story-the-sound-of-freedom [4] https://variety.com/2023/film/box-office/sound-of-freedom-box-office-success-1235664837/ [5] https://www.rollingstone.com/tv-movies/tv-movie-reviews/sound-of-freedom-jim-caviezel-child-trafficking-qanon-movie-1234783837/ [6] https://twitter.com/Harry__Faulkner/status/1679207525495844865 [7] https://people.com/crime/ali-landrys-father-in-law-and-brother-in-law-found-dead-in-mexico/

This is the nature of taking risks, no? You can always say in hindsight that it was a bad idea, but when you succeed it's a triumph. They can seem more or less sensible in the prior analysis, but you're only really going to know if your assumptions are correct once you try it.

If only it were so simple. Even the high IQ people with previously successful ventures come up with real stinkers. Many such cases.

That's all just a matter of opinion though. You might not find any interest in a "hunk of metal at the bottom of the ocean" but many people clearly do. If the CEO was being truthful about his desire to inspire people, then his submarine could have been a stepping stone to letting the average person view the Titanic with their own eyes, and further beyond, opening the depths of the ocean to occupation and exploitation. History has shown there is plenty of glory in colonization!

What really determines if your risk was stupid? An old saying goes, "if it's stupid and it works, it ain't stupid." Likewise, if this Titanic exploration venture worked, would we be calling it stupid?

I do agree there is plenty of adventure to be had today, and as someone who finds "rocks in space" pretty interesting I am participating in the greater efforts to explore and exploit them. Consider my original post a bit of nostalgia.

His comments about the old white guys are absolutely a cover for hiring cheap, impressionable fresh-outs, to his investors and possibly to himself.

But I have to wonder... is the sentiment wrong? He's absolutely correct that, if he hired experienced people, they would force him to take a maximally conservative approach. It would take many more years and millions of dollars to get to the point of taking paying passengers to sites like the wreck of the Titanic. It's easy in hindsight to see the current crisis and say it was a stupid decision, but I have previously read comments from people on The Motte lamenting that modern people are too afraid of their mortality and unwilling to take risks. I've felt it too, the desire for adventure, for glory, and lamented that the Earth now feels too small to support those things. I have a small amount of sympathy for the CEO because I think he felt the same way. He was fully aware of the risk he was taking - there is a video of him reading, without apology, the waiver signed by his customers which lays out explicitly that the submarine is experimental and could result in serious injury or death. And the fact that he was on board shows he was willing to face those potential consequences.

An interesting comparison is SpaceX, who have a similar approach in some ways. They hire young enthusiastic engineers and take a "move fast and break things" approach, which has resulted in spectacular failures. The devil is in the details, of course. Most obviously, the launches which carry the most risk don't have any passengers on board. There are also industry veterans among their ranks, and the young engineers are selected from the top of their class. OceanGate reportedly hired a graduate who was considered qualified because they were a surfer.

Ultimately, I don't refute the popular sentiment. This guy and his company were not smart and they've suffered the consequences. However, part of me is saddened that future submariners will have to live in this man's shadow, partially for better but mostly for worse.

The steelman: if the occupants of the submarine are saved (which is nigh impossible at this point) he would be made an example of: his company discredited, he himself fined and possibly jailed. As it is, the sub will either not be found, or it will be found filled with corpses, which also serves as an example of what not to do but is arguably not as effective as having a person to haul in front of a courtroom.

To anyone looking for a history of the French Revolution, I recommend the Revolutions podcast by Mike Duncan. The other revolutions he covers are also done well, though I only made it to the Haitian revolution. Listening to the history of the French Revolution throughout the turmoil of 2020-21 was something.

I was thinking in % as accurate as a human, but didn't say that. I'll correct my original post.

I was also assuming it wouldn't be as good as a human, because of course a general model wouldn't accidentally be better than a specialist... Or would it?

I don't think it would be that hard to devise an experiment to get at least a rough idea of it's capabilities. Get some doctors, maybe professors, to devise questions of the sort OP was generating, present them to LLMs and real doctors (and maybe non-doctors with Google for an extra point of comparison), then have the professors grade the answers blind. I recall people giving LLMs math problems in this way, but I don't know if experiments have been performed with any rigor.

To your final point: what is the purpose of a doctor? Is it to heal at all costs, or is it to make people feel better? Many people go to doctors seeking specific prescription medication as a goal, when they could cure their ailment in a better but more laborious way. Some of them don't even have an ailment and only desire the effect of the meds. Many people also have procedures performed which physically make them less healthy, but fulfill their desires.

So, what should an LLM say to these people? "Don't take the pills, exercise" or "don't have surgery, improve your social life?"

I suppose it's not a new problem, but it does move the power and responsibility. Who is it moving to though?

I find this idea very scary - I'm sure you know about the LLM phenomenon of what's been dubbed hallucination, so how can you trust the model with something as impactful as medicine? It might be better than a human doctor* 99% of the time, or even 99.99%, but like self driving cars this is exactly the kind of case where being good but not quite as good as a human is really dangerous. Remember that the script of House, MD is in the training set right along side WebMD with nothing to distinguish the truth from fiction - are you going to catch when the model probabilities switch from being driven by Gray's Anatomy to Grey's Anatomy? There's no way to know mathematically, because the whole thing is a non-deterministic black box.

If the process is as simple as to pattern match symptoms to diagnosis from a list of previous diagnoses with their associated symptoms, why can't this be done with a good old stupid database? Something like this has to exist. Does the LLM have an advantage beyond writing the answer in nice prose?

My warning to anyone trying to evaluate LLMs: your ability to judge it is inevitably compromised by the fact that the only optimization parameter the model has is how good the output sounds to a human, and you are not immune to being human!

*Edited, original was overall accuracy instead of relative to a human

Even in a helical mag 90 rounds is going to be... Well maybe you could come up with a clever way to multi stack Trounds and make them telescoped, but that is still going to be a chunky mag. Sounds badass though.

I would appreciate if you could find that post, I don't think I've read it.

I do have to wonder, does the US military produce more procurement boondoggles than other nations on average/per capita?

My gut feeling is that it is partially true. There are almost certainly more boondoggles in other countries that we don't hear about because they aren't as open as the USA and they don't get the same media attention.

However, the US military is terrified not of their adversaries technologically surpassing them, but of them merely closing the gap. All of US strategy relies on overmatch, the theory that you don't just outperform your enemies, you can totally crush them if desired. In the situation where your advancement is plateauing, the bad guys are rapidly catching up, and you're at a severe disadvantage in manpower but you're flush with money and brain power, why not throw everything at the wall and see what sticks?

Agree on all accounts. There is so much we still don't know, especially about the cartridges. The Army could be hiding this information because it's embarrassing... or that could be SOP. I don't have the experience to say, and I doubt many of the detractors do.

I wonder, if one looked at everything the Army ever adopted and counted up the number of items with performance claims that turned out to be false, how many times it actually happened. People point to failed programs saying "look at all the stupid stuff they tried to make!" but the vast majority failed before adoption... which is how the system is supposed to work! And don't even mention The Pentagon Wars, that book is full of stupidity and lies.

I remember reading discussions on the plastic ammunition before the NGSW was awarded. Some (most?) of the commentators had the Sig entry in distant third because it was barely any different than existing platforms and we're talking up the supply chain benefits of the GD and Textron entries. Honestly, the seethe when Sig won was pretty funny. I take it to mean that the other systems just didn't work very well. At least True Velocity is continuing to develop their ammunition, so maybe even.277 Fury will come in plastic someday.

Nice reference on the Trounds too, the Dardick makes a lot more sense when you look at it as a platform for the Trounds instead of a serious pistol design. I think they also had an auto cannon design that used the Trounds to achieve some ungodly fire rate.

I'm going to attempt to temper your enthusiasm a bit. While I agree that the rifle is not the wunderwaffe the Army wants it to be and their procurement practices are, in typical bureaucratic fashion, utter garbage, I think this article is overreaching for a clear cut conclusion. It would be nice and easy if the rifle was just terrible and we could dismiss it as another M-14, but I think the reality is not so simple.

Going point by point: the mud test he cites is, as stressed by it's creator, extremely intensive, and should not be taken as a standard measure of reliability. Notably, the HK-416 performs the same as the XM-5 did, but this has not stopped the 416 from being adopted by many of the world's largest armies, including the US Marines (though I admit the USMC plan make the M-17 standard issue is half baked at best). The author also mentions the issue of carcinogenic gas but dismisses it without properly addressing it; alarmingly, this could be interpreted as stating that giving soldiers cancer is worth a marginal increase in reliability. I don't think that was his intention, but the result of cherry picking evidence to over emphasize the rifle's worst qualities.

On the armor piercing capabilities, he acknowledges that defeating level IV plates "unassisted" (which I take to mean with lead core ball ammunition) is not in the spec, so from my perspective we should assume it doesn't exist. Criticizing the Army for saying otherwise is completely fair. A notable issue with citing civilian testing is that civilians do not have access to the high pressure ammunition, which is specified. Every commentator I've seen has raised their eyebrows at the promised 50k PSI (iirc) of this cartridge, so the feasibility is fair game for discussion and criticism. But if that was the author's intent then he should have addressed it directly, instead of deflecting to an Alabamian shooting the civilian loading.

I won't try to rebut issues with the supply chain, I am also concerned about how intertwined the military industrial complex is with the global supply chain (I have a personal conspiracy theory that government support for environmentalism is at least partially driven by a desire to preserve the natural resources of the USA for a potential war... but I digress). Again, the author glosses over a fix in the form of steel penetrators by simply stating that they are also hard to make, but wouldn't they be easier than tungsten? I assume the reason for tungsten he alludes to is because it has better penetration, but is it necessary for the 6.8 cartridge to achieve penetration or is steel sufficient? These are things I think would be worth investigating, but they are glossed over in service of snappy quotes for detractors to cite.

I'm not sure what point he is trying to make about the ballistics. I thought he was trying to say the high pressure as specified isn't possible, but then weakly praises the increased case pressure technology. If his criticism is that this is just higher pressure 7.62, then it's still an improvement. Competition shooters and hunters already benefit from cartridges like 6.5mm Creedmoor, another 7.62 case necked down to a 6mm-class bullet, achieving flatter trajectories with little loss of terminal performance. The even higher pressure of the military spec cartridge should push these benefits further.

The supply chain criticisms for the XM-157 sight are again valid, though I wonder if they also apply to existing sights like Aimpoints. I have never seen any claim that the XM-157 was supposed to be "auto aiming." Those "usable seconds" that the shooter needs to range the target would otherwise be spent wasting one or more shots missing as they walk in their fire, and if those seconds are critical then the shooter can still fire without ranging. The bigger benefit of the sight which is glossed over, in my opinion, is how it integrates the IR laser that every infantryman straps to his rifle anyway, saving space and weight. The rangefinder also has uses in target identification, for reporting positions and calling in fire support. I fail to see many downsides here.

This is a typical watered down hit piece, the same kind of thing that was leveled at the M-16 or the Maxim gun by curmudgeons who fail to see the benefits of technological progress. There are legitimate criticisms of the NGSW program: increased weight while shrinking ammunition capacity, introducing a new cartridge to the supply chain, and yes, terminal effectiveness of the cartridge. Only the latter is addressed here, and poorly. Notably he does not even mention the XM-250 machine gun, which by all accounts is f**king fantastic.

All of that said, I agree the XM-5 will not be the next standard service weapon. I think it has potential though, in a DMR or specialist role. The XM-157 should be mass issued now, and I hope the XM-250 also sees wide adoption, perhaps chambered for 7.62 or 5.56.

Edit: I do like the memes though https://ifunny.co/picture/bApDQZJa9