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Culture War Roundup for the week of May 22, 2023

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So Erdogan won the Turkish presential election in the final round today.

First, a brief guide to Turkish politics. The liberals in Turkey are often paradoxically more racist than the conservatives. This sounds very weird in a Western context but Islam is after all a proselytizing religion. Race is a barrier that must be broken to increase your adherents to the faith. What follows is that if you're a serious moslem (and Erdogan is by all accounts) then you must categorically reject racism.

Unsurprisingly, Erdogan has taken in millions of Syrian refugees and even began to slowly give them citizenships. The liberal/secular opposition in Turkey have no strong religious identity. In its stead, there is often an ethnic emphasis and, as you might imagine, they are not too happy with being flooded with millions of Arabs.

There are of course other factions. Some ultra-hardliners on the right have campaigned even harder against refugees but their main candidate got eliminated in the 1st round and who did he endorse? Erdogan! I never promised this would make sense.

Given how long Erdogan has been in power, I don't think it's necessary to provide some in-depth commentary on the man. He is a "known entity" by now. I suspect the biggest impact will be in foreign policy. The liberal candidate openly distanced himself from Russia during the campaign, whereas Erdogan has repeatedly emphasised his supposed friendship with Putin. Erdogan will also likely want to extract a steep price from the US in exchange of Sweden's NATO membership. The official explanation about some Kurdish terrorists is likely mostly a smokescreen. The US kicked Turkey out of the F-35 programme after the Turks bought the Russian S-400 missile system. Now Turkey wants at least F-16s but opposition in the US congress is steep. Enter the NATO accession diplomacy and you begin to understand the context.

From a European perspective, I am not certain a victory for Erdogan is bad. I don't want to see his country in the EU and while the chance would have been remote if the liberal opposition won, it is all but dead with him in power. Turkey is also more likely to keep refugees in their country, though they will probably continue to intermittently use them as human shields in order to get something they want in exchange from Europe.

One final reflection. Given Erdogan's economic mismanagement, many wonder why he wasn't voted out. I think this is yet another example of the importance of cultural politics. Why has the white working class been voting GOP for many decades despite essentially voting against their economic interests? Because they sense the seething hatred that liberal elites have for them. I suspect it isn't much different in Turkey. Politics is often tribal, more than we give acknowledge in the West, and so who you voted for is often a function of your identity as much as your rational interests.

Why has the white working class been voting GOP for many decades despite essentially voting against their economic interests?

This part always annoys me. What are their economic interests? Where are the jobs under Democrats going to be? "Kick out DeSantis, vote blue, and you can all go work for Disney"?

Anyway, I'm not at all surprised Erdogan won. He's had his hands on the reins of power for too long to give up now. It's fascinating, though, to see Turkey slowly pivoting away (or being pivoted away) from Attaturk's vision of a secular society. Maybe the resistance to letting Turkey join the EU makes more sense now?

Why has the white working class been voting GOP for many decades despite essentially voting against their economic interests

Why have the democrats failed to provide any possible case for getting them to switch?

What is actually appealing about the Democrat's vision for the future in terms of how it has actually manifested?

If it were a matter of GOP voters being utterly stupid you might think it would be easy for dems to figure out how to push their buttons or provides something they want.

I don’t think there’s anything necessarily appealing for poor whites about the ‘Democrats’ vision’ but it seems straightforwardly likely that a Democratic supermajority and subsequent huge expansion of the federal government’s welfare programs, tax credits, housing support, childcare and so on would probably benefit those below the net-contributor threshold.

subsequent huge expansion of the federal government’s welfare programs, tax credits, housing support, childcare and so on would probably benefit those below the net-contributor threshold

People who are already eligible for such programmes can apply. I don't know where you're getting the idea that the Democrats would suddenly splurge on public spending to include people who are "below the net-contributor threshold" but not getting or applying for support right now.

To be cynical, if there is such expansion of services, poor whites are going to be last on the list to get any of that and they know it.

In the face of zero opposition, I imagine many of those goals would be supplanted enough by efforts to uplift specific demographics that it wouldn't make a tangible difference to a poor white person anyway.

The only rational conclusion one can draw is that as stupid as the working class may be, the sort of person who votes democrat is even more so ;-)

  • -10

You've managed to draw seven reports on this comment (boo-outgroup - 3, antagonistic - 3, low-effort - 1) which is far from a record but it's still pretty impressive.

You've also managed to get meta-moderated at "Not-Bad" (lowish confidence) so I'm pinging @ZorbaTHut as this is the first significant meta-moderation outlier I've seen during the testing phase.

Anyway, more partisanship = more effort, please.

I was being tongue in cheek hence the smiley, but at the same time in every jest...

This is literally the old "what's the matter with Kansas" cliche'. IE look at these inbred hillbillys caring about low-status shit like their jobs and their families and their stupid backwoods trailerparks instead of important high-status things like climate change and lgbtq+ rights. Deplorable. But here's the thing, if intelligence is about processing new information and building accurate models, the "experts" haven't exactly been covering themselves in glory over the last 30 years or so, and the ones who have (IE guys like Bezos and Musk) are visibly treated with scorn, so maybe caring more about your job and your hometown even if they are low-status is a much more reliable proxy for intelligence than being regarded as an "expert".

Now Turkey wants at least F-16s but opposition in the US congress is steep.

OP probably knows this but to clarify, that means F-16 upgrades like the F-16V which are pretty good. Turkey has been building F-16s under license for decades, they have a surprisingly large aviation industry. They've also got an indigenous 5th gen aircraft project (which looks the same as an F-35 but with two engines). However it's unclear how much progress they're making, it's difficult to make these things in large numbers even if you have a very mature aerospace sector.

which looks the same as an F-35 but with two engines

So, a F-22?

The resemblance is remarkable, it does look quite like an F-22. It's a bit of a shame how modern fighters are starting to look the same. At least the J-20 has some canards to distinguish it and the SU-57 has its big wings.

The Turkish government really gets screwed in many ways by the rest of NATO. Turkey maintains one of the most powerful conventional forces in NATO, it hosts millions of refugees that otherwise the EU would be faced with hosting, its supposed ally the United States openly supports militant groups that are allied with militant groups that seek to secede from Turkey, and many Europeans seem to regard Turkey with a contempt that has noticeable racial undertones even though I am sure that most such Europeans would deny it in polite company. Sometimes I wonder what the Turks are getting out of all this that makes it worth it. Advanced technology from the US? Something else?

They don’t lose much either, and the US largely allows Turkey to conduct its own foreign policy in the region that while not mostly hostile to the U.S. is more ‘adjacent’ than fully-aligned. The large military is a reality of the neighborhood. Refugees are a choice and, as the OP said, Erdogan doesn’t particularly want them to go home. US and Israeli support for Kurds is relatively timid and largely limited to support (in America’s case) for Iraqi Kurdistan, which Erdogan himself appears to have mixed feelings about and which Turkey has long attempted to improve relations with.

The main hostility from the West is from the usual civil liberties groups who whine about every conservative leader from Budapest to Jerusalem. Inside Europe it’s from Germans and Austrians who host large populations of Anatolian peasants that have in many cases become the backbone (along with Albanians) of their countries’ criminal underworlds. It’s unclear whether this means much to Erdogan.

Sometimes I wonder what the Turks are getting out of all this that makes it worth it.

Work visas they can convert into chain migration into Germany.

It's not quite EU-membership total freedom of movement, but it's close.

One final reflection. Given Erdogan's economic mismanagement, many wonder why he wasn't voted out. I think this is yet another example of the importance of cultural politics. Why has the white working class been voting GOP for many decades despite essentially voting against their economic interests? Because they sense the seething hatred that liberal elites have for them. I suspect it isn't much different in Turkey. Politics is often tribal, more than we give acknowledge in the West, and so who you voted for is often a function of your identity as much as your rational interests.

There is no silver lining if he keeps doing what he has done. The country needs an infusion of IQ and or capital. I don't see either of those, so its economy, currency, etc. will keep falling and worse inflation. The mismanagement is not so much to blame as the fact that it is missing the ingredients needed for growth. Those come externally. Ireland fixed this problem by becoming a tax haven, compared to stagnation elsewhere in Northern Europe .

GOP for many decades despite essentially voting against their economic interests?

The usual answer would be ‘they aren’t voting against their economic interests, but they understand their economic interests better than CNN talking heads paid to sell books about the culture wars’.

The usual answer would be ‘they aren’t voting against their economic interests, but they understand their economic interests better than CNN talking heads paid to sell books about the culture wars’.

What, then, in the GOP platform is supposed to benefit the economic interests of the working classes?

I know that the Covid Lockdowns have since wiped out those gains, but the period between 2018 and 2020 was saw one of the largest expansions in job market participation and median wage buying power since the dot com boom of the 90s.

Republican policy can hardly have induced that though, except perhaps the tax cuts which were completely at odds with professed Republican fiscal policy.

Bringing back manufacturing industries. Yeah, we all know that's a dead duck, but the Democrats policy seems to be "learn to code" (get new jobs in the new green industries that are gonna pop up any time now), which is doubly ironic advice in the face of the rise of AI.

Such benefit is indirect, that is the premise of supply-side. Instead of direct transfers, create conditions conducive to long-term growth such as lower taxes and less regulation.

Obviously this is a plausible argument, though not one I agree with, but can it really account for a change in voting behaviour of a large class of people? Did the WWC just suddenly decide to change their minds on economic policy in the last 20/30/40 years?

The Republican platform (put aside whether they actually pursue it) is low regulation, low taxes, low transfer payments.

If you believe that system in the medium to long term creates economic growth AND that the vast majority benefit from growth (either on the job side or the consumer side), then you’ll support the Republican platform.

If you believe that government hand outs ossify the economy and create a culture that rewards sloth, then you’ll be against the Democrats’ platform even if it benefits you in the short run.

That is, you are almost certainly correct the Democrats bread and circuses platform is better for the white working class in the short run. But it is a question whether it is better in the long run, and many voters care about the long run.

The "White working class" are some of the most fervent opponents of trade liberalization. This would not be the case if they were willing to take a hit in the short run to maximize economic growth in the long run.

Of course, no one is consistent and chooses optimal policies. I agree trade liberalization makes sense. But one can also say low tax low regulation but trade barriers is superior to high tax high regulation with trade barriers.

Also, it’s interesting that the white working class seems to support policies they think will preserve jobs; not necessarily wealth transfers. They may be against the sloth mindset that wealth transfers creates. Of course, I think trade restrictions creates some degree of entitlement itself but it is a secondary effect.

Cutting environmental regulations, for one.

Cutting environmental regulations, for one.

Cry the people calling for renewable energy instead and utilising rechargeable batteries, which are made using minerals mined in other countries under conditions that devastate their environment. What was that line about "no ethical consumption under capitalism", again?

The Congo should be making a fortune out of its mineral reserves, and it may well be - but the money is not going past the pockets of those who put themselves in power in order to profiteer.

Maybe for certain workers whose jobs rely on coal, oil etc., but really those jobs' days are numbered anyway and the left and centre-left are the ones who want there to be a safety net/reasonable transition for coal miners when the last of the jobs move to China or just get replaced by renewables or gas. For the average working class person though doesn't seem profoundly important, certainly nowhere near as important as healthcare, public services etc.

After all, working class people also benefit disproportionately from many environmental policies, living as they do in the most polluted areas of towns and cities etc.

Those jobs' days are only numbered if the side numbering them wins.

Environmental legislation etc. will obviously have an impact, but I don't see any plausible scenario under which America's coal mines stay open indefinitely. What policies could produce that outcome without imposing intolerable costs on the rest of society?

The same policies that allowed coal plants to be built and coal to be burned in the past. The minimum is to roll back environmental legislation just that far.

I don't think that would achieve such a goal. Oil, gas and foreign completion killed coal mining, not the EPA. Hence why the decline of coal mining in Britain preceded concern about carbon emissions by decades.

More comments

Except there are no sides, at least not in the traditional sense. I live in Western PA and coal mining had a brief resurgence in the mid '00s as oil prices shot up and "clean coal technology" became the new buzzword. We were the "Saudi Arabia" of coal. Turns out we were also the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, and as soon as the shale boom happened coal mines were closing left and right, and coal power plants were either converted to gas or razed completely. A lot of people tried to blame Obama and stricter environmental regulations for the closures, but long-term the economics were against them. Had the shale boom not happened the coal operators would have simply paid the costs of compliance, and had Obama declined to increase regulation the mines would have closed a year or two later, since cost wasn't the only consideration when it came to power plants switching to gas. The only thing that could have realistically saved the coal industry was increased regulations on natural gas development, but it's not like political alignments are set up as pro-coal anti-gas v. pro-gas anti-coal. It's more like pro-fossil fuels vs. pro-renewables, and this made the laid-off miners in PA, OH, and WV get pissed off at Obama but not equally pissed off at their respective state governments for not putting the screws to the gas industry. Quite the contrary; most of these people were in favor lowering the tax burden on gas development and minimizing regulation.

A lot of people tried to blame Obama and stricter environmental regulations for the closures, but long-term the economics were against them.

"The economics" and environmental regulations are not separate issues.

And now cities and states are banning natural gas well. These cities and states have a political party in common. There are indeed sides.

Ding ding.

Consider the possibility that the elites living in Washington aren't actually in tune with the true interests and preferences of people they never interact with and live entirely different lifestyles.

Whether this is true or not, it doesn't really have any partisan implications, it's hardly as if the GOP national-level politicians are any less part of that elite.

Right.

But the GOP voters are picking GOP candidates for their state and local-level offices as well, right?

There's presumably some explanation.

Yes and while certain users here like to point to the constant infighting between the GOPs national representatives and state-level committees as evidence of incompetence. A lot of GOP's voters regard it as the system working as designed.

Oh, it is indeed Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The only thing is that Tweedledee at least pretends to be on your side, while Tweedledum is calling you a bunch of dumb ignorant redneck fascists.

at least pretends to be on your side

Is that really any better? Anyways what matters in policy not general cultural vibe. Let me know when Democrats start pushing Right-to-work, cuts to public services and tax cuts for high earners.

Anyways what matters in policy not general cultural vibe.

So you'd vote for an anti-idpol pro-worker party? The whole "will breaking up banks solve sexism?" bit from a certain politician does not inspire a lot of confidence that anyone cares about policy.

So you'd vote for an anti-idpol pro-worker party?

Yes. Within reason obviously (not if they started literally trying to bring back Jim Crow or something), but if it were a choice between a politician with average Republican social views and average Democratic economic views, and the opposite, I would certainly vote for the former. Assuming with all else equal, for instance that they had the same foreign policy views.

I don't know how you decided Jim Crow is an example of an extremely anti-idpol policy, but otherwise it's good to hear.

Why has the white working class been voting GOP for many decades despite essentially voting against their economic interests?

I don't think voting against the people who want to systematically discriminate you in education and hiring is voting against your economic interests. Even putting that aside, California has a higher poverty rate than Texas so it's not a given that big government is an economic boon for the working class.

I don't think voting against the people who want to systematically discriminate you in education and hiring is voting against your economic interests

Do you seriously think that affirmative action poses any genuine threat to the material condition of the average working class person? Maybe there are some outliers at the margins, but there are tens or even hundreds of more compelling issues at the moment.

  • -10

credentialism probably a bigger problem than AA

Objectively yes. You have to have way better test results to be accepted into an AA university than a person of a favored race.

And you can use the same "there are hundreds of more important issues" argument to abolish AA entirely.

While the working class mostly thinks AA is stupid, they have an accurate assessment that this is essentially intra elite fighting anyways. Very, very few working class kids would be going to an Ivy League or a UC school unless helped along by affirmative action, and virtually no one minimally qualified gets denied admission to podunk state.

Affirmative action covers more than colleges. It covers employment and contracting as well. That affects the white working class.

Most working class people won't go to AA universities, by definition elite unis must only comprise a small proportion of students, and most of those will be middle or upper-middle class

And you can use the same "there are hundreds of more important issues" argument to abolish AA entirely.

This wasn't a statement about the advisability of the policy, just pointing out that it shouldn't really govern anyone's voting behaviour (on either side as it happens but the discussion here was about working class Republicans)

Most working class people won't go to AA universities, by definition elite unis must only comprise a small proportion of students, and most of those will be middle or upper-middle class

And as more and more racialized politics becomes the mainstream the less there will be any possibility for them to enter. Don't really see how voting for the party that wants them as second class citizens is in their interests.

This wasn't a statement about the advisability of the policy, just pointing out that it shouldn't really govern anyone's voting behavior (on either side as it happens but the discussion here was about working class Republicans)

What issue do you think should be more important to the working class white that would compel them to vote Blue?

What issue do you think should be more important to the working class white that would compel them to vote Blue

Obviously I'm not saying there is some defined set of Objectively Important issues to care about, but the following I would say are patently more significant than AA to the material condition of the average WWC person;

Taxation structure, welfare provision, healthcare, housing and planning, transit (plenty of WWC live in cities despite the stereotypes) and road safety, consumer protection, minimum wages, union laws, public services in general, education (i.e. funding for schools and the like, not irrelevant culture war crap) etc. etc. etc.

Schools: The left wants teachers and schools to trans my kids.

Infrastructure in General/Public Services: The left defends dangerous hobos, one can't even defend himself from them or risk going to jail like with the Neely case.

Taxation (Total fiscal policy if you will): Fucking Biden, Inflation is eating me alive and his stooges in congress just want to spend more and make the situation worse (BTW Fuck McCArthy, useless piece of shit.).

Welfare State: I don't have anything for this one, but maybe can be linked with the taxation and inflation one.

I imagine those are more or less what they think when they contemplate the left's policies. Something more direct to them, like getting rejected from University or their kids being rejected while Jamal or Tyrone gets in with worse grades would be more important, as getting into a prestigious University (or their children doing it) in their minds, is equivalent to upward mobility and a way to avoid several of the disadvantages of being poor like the enumerated points above.

Yeah I’ve long felt the whole “What’s the matter with Kansas?” Hypothesis is incredibly brain dead and even downright insulting.

It’s not even really a hypothesis. It’s not coming from them actually talking to the right. The “hypothesis” is “we’re clearly better in every way, so why won’t they vote for us,” with the only answers being things like FOX News, racism, and poor education— all things that, unsurprisingly, they can’t do anything about.

I think it has applicability for the left too, but more pronouns, diversity, and genders instead of better-funded social programs or higher taxes. It's not only about voting against interests, but politicians not delivering on their promises, on either side of the aisle. Raising taxes and expanding social programs is much harder than promoting wokeness. For the right, same for trying to undo or restrict immigration.

Sure, but woke / pink corporatism is absolutely in the PMC’s class interest, which now seems to be the core class supporting the Democratic Party.

which now seems to be the core class supporting the Democratic Party.

It has been since the Clinton days.

Maybe I'm just old but my recollection is that Reagan stole a march on the DNC by selling "Morning In America" to working class union types like my parents only for Bill and Hillary to counter by making the Democratic party the explicit party of college-educated urbanites and Goldman Sachs.

counter by making the Democratic party the explicit party of college-educated urbanites and Goldman Sachs.

College-educated urbanites yes (though really it's just all urbanites, rich or poor, educated or not), 'Goldman Sachs' absolutely not. Obviously their workforce is composed mostly of urbanites, but their corporate interests (lower taxation and lighter regulation) clearly align more closely with the GOP than the Democrats.

I know Democrats like to claim this, but it's not reflected in how their representatives actually vote.

It wasn't house Republicans who spent the 90s pushing for deregulation of the banking industry and greatly reduced corporate tax rates under the guise of "modernizing the 1933 banking act" and "making credit more affordable", It was people like Clinton, Schumer, and Feinsten.

And then after about a decade of the structural issues they had introduced being allowed to fester and grow a leopard came out of nowhere and ate all the bankers' faces.

Maybe I'm just old but my recollection is that Reagan stole a march on the DNC by selling "Morning In America" to working class union types like my parents only for Bill and Hillary to counter by making the Democratic party the explicit party of college-educated urbanites and Goldman Sachs.

What do you mean? College graduates supported the GOP over the Democrats all throughout the 90s, Clinton won plenty of rural states (92, 96), and Reagan was pretty famous for being a pathbreaking union buster.

It wasn't house Republicans who spent the 90s pushing for deregulation of the banking industry and greatly reduced corporate tax rates under the guise of "modernizing the 1933 banking act" and "making credit more affordable",

It was though.

Republican controlled both the House and the Senate in 99. Gramm, Leach, and Bliley, the Senators and Representative who proposed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, were all Republicans, and the votes for GLB were 52 Republican Senators in favor vs 38 Democrats, and 207 Republican Representatives in favor vs 155 Democrats. Trent Lott, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, considered it a major victory and later went on to be a bank lobbyist. Clinton governed very much in the mold set by Reagan, and was more in line with GOP regulatory and fiscal policy then and now (ie the recent GOP efforts to cut spending and introduce work requirements for welfare). This is why if you hear about banking regulation nowadays it's likely Democrats passing it and Republicans repealing it.

Separately, idk if Gramm-Leach Bliley did anyone much good but there's isn't agreement that it led to 2008. The Housing securities market already existed and wasn't impacted much by allowing investment and commercial banks to mix (ie Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers had never undergone mergers). Imo the structural causes are deeper, a combination of the the New Deal guaranteeing housing loans, thus incentivizing banks to be riskier, plus the Reagan era deregulation on lending in housing, probably plus some other stuff.

It wasn't house Republicans who spent the 90s pushing for deregulation of the banking industry and greatly reduced corporate tax rates under the guise of "modernizing the 1933 banking act" and "making credit more affordable", It was people like Clinton, Schumer, and Feinsten.

Yes it was; it was Democrats too but at least there were some dissenters. Gramm-Leach-Bliley had about ten votes against in the Senate, only one was Republican, same story in the house. 51 D nays, 5 R nays. And of course, Gramm, Leach and Bliley were all Republicans.

Am I the only one who feels sympathetic to the lawyers?

The media and the tech companies have been hyping GPT like crazy: "It's going to replace all our jobs." "You're foolish if you don't learn how to use GPT." "Google/Microsoft is replacing their search engine with GPT."

So these lawyers give it a try and it appears to work and live up to the hype, but it's really gaslighting them.

I have no sympathy

Technology is a powerful tool but you still have to not be an idiot with it. The internet is ultimately a really powerful tool that has totally transformed business and our lives. But you would still be an idiot to go on the internet and believe everything you read, or to fail to check what you're reading. If the lawyers in question had done their legal research by asking questions on Twitter and not checking what they were told, it would have been no less stupid, and it would not 'prove' that the internet didn't live up to the hype.

And of course, hype is nothing new. Tech companies have been hyping AI, but every company hypes their product. And these guys are lawyers, they're supposed to be smart and canny and skeptical, not credulous followers.

Not to mention that one is supposed to verify that the cases haven't been subsequently overturned or controverted by new statute. We used to call it "Shepherdizing" and it happened more or less automatically with Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw research.

Am I the only one who feels sympathetic to the lawyers?

Perhaps, but TBH I'm kind of hoping to see all of them nailed to the wall, because as far as I am concerned they attempted to defraud the court with a bunch of made-up cases and that is a whirlwind they totally deserve to reap.

Back in 2010 I toyed with the idea of calling into sports talk shows and fuck with them by asking if the Pittsburgh Penguins should fire Dan Bylsma and convince Jaromir Jagr to retire so that he could take over as head coach. Bylsma was coming off a Stanley Cup championship that he had guided the team to after being hired the previous February to replace Michel Therrien, but the Pens were going through a bit of a midwinter slump in January (though not nearly as bad as the one that had prompted Therrien's firing).

So the idea was ridiculous—that they'd fire a championship coach who hadn't even been with the team a full season, and replace him with a guy who wasn't even retired (he was 37 years old and playing in Russia at the time but he'd return to the NHL the following season and stayed until he was nearly 50) and had never expressed any interest in coaching. It was based entirely on a dream I had where I was at a game and Jagr was standing behind the bench in a suit, and it was the height of hilarity when friends of mine were under the influence of certain intoxicants.

So I asked ChatGTP "What was the source of the early 2010 rumor that the Penguins were considering firing Dan Bylsma and replacing him with Jaromir Jagr?" It came up with a whole story about how the rumor was based on a mistranslation of an interview he gave to Czech media where he said that he'd like to coach some day after he retired and the Penguins were one of the teams he was interested in, and the whole thing got blown out of proportion by the Pittsburgh media. Except that never happened, though I give it credit for making the whole thing sound reasonable. I've come to the conclusion that if you word your prompts in such a way that certain facts are presumed to be true, the AI will simply treat them as true, though not all of the time. For instance, it was savvy enough to contradict my claim that George W. Bush was considering switching parties and seeking the Democratic nomination in 2004.

I gotta say, I feel like my earlier posts on AI in general and GPT in particular have been aging pretty-well.

It's too premature to conclude that. No one is expecting it to be perfect, and future iterations likely improve on it. It reminds me of those headlines from 2013-2014 about Tesla accidents, or in 2010-2012 about problems with Uber accidents or deregulation. Any large company that is the hot, trendy thing will get considerable media scrutiny, especially when it errors. Likewise, any technology that is a success can easily overcome short-term problems. AOL in the early 90s was plagued by outages, for example.

But I think Open AI risks becoming like Wolfram Alpha -- a program/app with a lot of hype and promise initially, but then slowly abandoned and degraded, with much of functionality behind a paywall.

reminds me of those headlines from 2013-2014 about Tesla accidents, or in 2010-2012 about problems with Uber accidents or deregulation. Any large company that is the hot, trendy thing will get considerable media scrutiny, especially when it errors.

Have either of those companies really improved on the errors in question, though? Like Tesla Autopilot is better than it was but it's hardly like it's made gigantic leaps and Uber is still a weird legal arbitrage more than a reinvention of travel.

It's too premature to conclude that.

No it's not. The scenario that you, Freepingcreature, and others insisted would never happen and/or be trivially easy to avoid, has now happened.

What this tells me is that my model of GPT's behavior was more much more accurate than yours.

It’s trivial to attach LLMs to a database of known information (eg. Wikipedia combined with case law data, government data, Google books’ library, whatever) and have them ‘verify’ factual claims. The lawyers in this case could have asked ChatGPT if it made up what it just said and there’s a 99% chance it would have replied “I’m sorry, it appears I can find no evidence of those cases” even without access to that data. GPT-4 already hallucinates less. As Dase said, it is literally just a matter of attaching retrieval and search capability to the model to mimic our own discrete memory pool, which LLMs by themselves do not possess.

People latching onto this with the notion that it “proves” LLMs aren’t that smart are like an artisan weaver pointing to a fault with an early version of the Spinning Jenny or whatever and claiming that it proves the technology is garbage and will never work. We already know how to solve these errors.

Saw on twitter that the lawyer did ask ChatGPT if it was made up and it said it was real

None of those prompts ask explicitly if the previous output was fictional, which is what generally triggers a higher-quality evaluation.

If these sorts of issues really are as trivially easy to fix as you claim, why haven't they been fixed?

One the core points of my post on the Minsky Paradox was that a lot of the issues that those who are "bullish" on GPT have been dismissing as easy to fix and/or irrelevant really aren't, and I feel like we are currently watching that claim be borne out.

I'd avoid such a glib characterization...without more of the tale

for example the lady who "spilled a cup of coffee" and sued McDonalds had third degree burns on her face... apparently McDonald's standard coffee machine at the time kept the coffee signifigantly hotter than any other institution would ever serve you... and what in any other restaurant would be like 86-87 degrees, was 98-99 degree when handed to you...

I could imagine if the trolley was like 100-200lbs and had momentum you could get a serious joint injury from a negligent attendant or poor design... not saything that's what happened, just within the realms of the possible.

for example the lady who "spilled a cup of coffee" and sued McDonalds had third degree burns on her face... apparently McDonald's standard coffee machine at the time kept the coffee signifigantly hotter than any other institution would ever serve you... and what in any other restaurant would be like 86-87 degrees, was 98-99 degree when handed to you...

If I had to guess, her case was more justified than his. She obviously did sustain serious skin injuries, as would be expected by being scalded by hot liquids. It shows is that frivolous lawsuits have been around forever, and continue, but for some reason the public and media latched onto the spilled coffee one.

I could imagine if the trolley was like 100-200lbs and had momentum you could get a serious joint injury from a negligent attendant or poor design... not saything that's what happened, just within the realms of the possible.

But it's going at a snail's pace

McDonalds had third degree burns on her face... apparently McDonald's standard coffee machine at the time kept the coffee signifigantly hotter than any other institution would ever serve you... and what in any other restaurant would be like 86-87 degrees, was 98-99 degree when handed to you

That's not how I remember it. My recollection is that they were serving bog standard coffee, and the lawsuit resulted in everyone else dropping the temperatures to avoid being sued as well.

And as far ask I'm concerned her third degree burns are irrelevant. If you don't know how to handle boiling water, you should not be recognized as a legal adult.

If you don't know how to handle boiling water, you should not be recognized as a legal adult.

It is probably worth pointing out that it only takes slight incompetence of the serving employee to end up with that cup of coffee in one's lap (doubly so with the shitty thin lids of years gone by). That's an inconvenience for cold drinks, but every place that serves hot drinks serves them at a temperature that will scald you if you attempt to drink them immediately.

and the lawsuit resulted in everyone else dropping the temperatures to avoid being sued as well.

It utterly bewilders me why the norm for hot beverages is to be served at temperatures that will physically harm you should you attempt to consume them within the first half hour of preparation; clearly the reason fast food chains serve their coffee that hot is specifically to ablate the outer part of your tongue, thus you won't be able to taste how shitty the beverage actually is (which I suspect is why McDonalds in particular was doing this; the coffee they serve in the US is quite literally just hot water with some coffee grounds dumped directly into the cup).

It's clearly not "so that the coffee stays hot later so that when you're ready to enjoy your meal it'll still be hot", because they don't care about the meal itself staying hot for that period of time (the food containers would be just as insulated as beverage containers are now). Guess jury selection should have included people who actually believe that burning themselves is a valuable and immutable part of the experience of consuming tea and coffee?

I'm old enough to remember when the food containers were insulated, but that was changed on account of environmentalist activism.

It is probably worth pointing out that it only takes slight incompetence of the serving employee to end up with that cup of coffee in one's lap (doubly so with the shitty thin lids of years gone by).

Yes, and if the coffee ended up on her as a result off an employees actions, sshe would have had a valid claim, but that's not what happened.

It utterly bewilders me why the norm for hot beverages is to be served at temperatures that will physically harm you should you attempt to consume them within the first half hour of preparation

It is utterly bewildering to me you expect anything else. If you prepare a hot beverage at home it will be at the exact same scolding temperature as when you order it at McDonnals. Also you're being way overdramatic when you say half an hour, unless the cups are very well isolated.

If you're saying restaurants should be forced to cool the beverage down to as safe temperature before serving:

  • Screw you, I don't want that as a customer.

  • It's treating adults as though they are mentally handicapped. Anyone who needs this should not be allowed to have a driver's license.

They likely do it in response to other customers complaining about cold coffee. The vast majority of people buying coffee in any drive thru are going to drink it at work which might be over half an hour away. If they serve coffee cool enough to drink immediately, they lose the people who want it for the office.

Rather than relying on memory, it is easy enough to google the case and discover that they were in fact selling coffee hotter than the norm, that they had previous injury complaints, and that the jury took into account the plaintiff's own negligence and found her 20 pct responsible.

Whether damages were excessive is a separate question, but she did have to undergo skin grafting and was hospitalized for 8 days.

I had a friend I've since lost touch with who manages a McD's at the time of this lawsuit so we all had to ask him about it. His initial thought was that McD's should have just settled and paid out, but his take on the subject of the coffee temp was interesting. Apparently a lot of older folks come there for coffee in the morning; he estimated at least 50% of their traffic before 10am was seniors getting coffee and usually a small food item like a hashbrown or muffin of some sort. They sit down, get a free newspaper from the bin by the door and sip their coffee. This same customer demo complaining about their coffee being too cold was also the single biggest complaint category and reason for a refund demand by a long margin. They sip the coffee slowly over the course of half an hour, it gets cold pretty fast, and they'd bring 1/2 empty coffee cups back to the counter complaining about the temperature. Staff usually just gives them more "fresh" coffee from the urn. There was no realistic way they could ever actually lower the served temperature of the coffee. They briefly started lowering the temperature of drive in served coffee but that drove complaints immediately. I don't know what they ultimately did about it. His preferred solution was no coffee for the drive through period.

When I need coffee temperature tested, I use a personal injury lawyer.

Your source says "had tested." So, they hired someone to conduct a survey. Was the survey accurate? I don’t know. But of course, neither do you. What I do know is that McDonald's had access to that survey, could cross-examine whoever conducted it, and were free to conduct their own study. I also know that the jury, which heard all the evidence, decided in favor of the plaintiff. That doesn't mean that they were necessarily correct, but you will excuse me if I am unimpressed with the incredulity shown by someone who has seen none of the evidence and is opining 30 years after the fact.

Her labia were fused together by the burns in her lap. Her team reasonably only asked McDonalds to cover the medical expenses, and McD refused to settle. When McD was found guilty, the book got thrown at them. It all happened in Albuquerque.

I'm sorry for what happened to her, but if she spilled a coffee she made at home the effect would be largely the same. If a McDonnalds waiter spilled the coffee on her the case would make the slightest bit of sense, but it's not what happened.

How does any functioning adult buy a boiling hot beverage and immediately put it between her knees?

The motte vs the motte: The cereal defense

Rather than relying on memory, it is easy enough to google the case and discover that they were in fact selling coffee hotter than the norm

No, it is not easy enough to google the state of the internet as it was around the time of the case, when I distinctly remember some dude on on a phpBB forum linking to a document of some coffebrewer association recommending a temperature range within which McDonnalds comfortably sat.

All other factors you brought up are completely irrelevant.

I would suggest that if you think those factors are legally irrelevant, you don't know enough about the issue to have anyone take your opinion seriously.

I never said "legally" and the exercise of determining something's "legal relevance" is pointless, because it's whatever the court says it is in that moment.

I was talking about it from the perspective of morality and common sense.

Hm, so, if I ignore a known risk to my customers, that is morally irrelevant? I would hate to see what you think IS morally relevant?

Yes, because literally every action we take is a risk, and in this case the risk McDonnalds was putting their customers in was no higher than they were putting themselves into, when making a cup of coffee, tea, or any hot beverage at home. Adults, and even minors, are expected to be able to handle fluids in temperature of up to 100°C.

It would seem obvious to never make up something that can otherwise be easily falsified by someone whose job it is to do that.

A guy is suing Avianca Airlines because he got banged in the knee by a cart during a flight. There is a boring issue around the deadline for filing the lawsuit,^1 which results in the plaintiff's side citing a bunch of very convenient and perfectly on point cases showing they are right on that issue.

I am also curious why wouldn't such a frivolous case be dismissed with prejudice? And people complain about inflation, high prices, too many warnings or 'safetyism'. I wonder why.

Frivolous doesn't mean "low damages." It means that there is no legal basis for liability. Moreover we don't know how much the plaintiff's damages were. So, we can't even say that they were minimal. And, of course, oftentimes cases deemed frivolous by public opinion turn out not to be.

Is this frivolous?

If my knee is hurt badly enough that I need to seek medical attention, take time off work, etc. it wouldn't really seem that frivolous at all to me, and I would seek compensation if I received that injury from another party.

I think part of it is that a good portion of this is a back door way of regulating things. It would be almost impossible to pass some of these rulings legislatively. No government is going to waste time regulating the temperature of coffee. But the fear of lawsuits can have the same effect without all that nasty legislation that your opponent can use against your tribe. Most anti discrimination stuff is actually like this. It’s illegal to refuse to hire on the basis of certain characteristics. The law as written is unenforceable (hence the police don’t randomly inspect for diversity). But, if you’re [minority] and you think you’re being discriminated against, you can sue them (free to you, and expensive enough to them that they’ll often settle) giving those who sue for damages a payday. Mostly it’s a way to enforce laws that would Be impossible to enforce or legislate by giving citizens a payday for suing.

I think you're correct that this is a large part of it, the patient doesn't want to (and often can't afford to) get stuck with the bill and the Hospitals and Insurance companies have the both the resources and the volume to keep lawyers on staff to ensure that they don't get stuck with the bill

In the US, each side pays their own legal bills. Pretty much every other developed country defaults to the loser paying.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_rule_(attorney%27s_fees)

That says that the English rule is followed in Alaska. Is Alaska less litigious than the rest of the US?

I'm not sure how to measure/check that. I briefly googled but mostly got sources that only included a few states or didn't seem to be based on solid data.

We have plenty of crazy high $$ figure lawsuits on non-medical topics also - e.g. Tesla not being aggressive enough in firing people who might have said "nigger" but they aren't really sure.

https://www.richardhanania.com/p/wokeness-as-saddam-statues-the-case

This is a bizarre problem I’ve noticed with ChatGPT. It will literally just make up links and quotations sometimes. I will ask it for authoritative quotations from so and so regarding such topic, and a lot of the quotations would be made up. Maybe because I’m using the free version? But it shouldn’t be hard to force the AI to specifically only trawl through academic works, peer reviewed papers, etc.

It's not "bizarre" at all if you actually understand what GPT is doing under the hood.

I caught a lot of flak on this very forum a few months back for claiming that the so-called "hallucination problem" was effectively baked-in to the design of GPT and unlikely to be solved short of a complete ground-up rebuild and I must confess that I'm feeling kind of smug about it right now.

Another interesting problem is that it seems completely unaware of basic facts that are verifiable on popular websites. I used to have a game I played where I'd ask who the backup third baseman was for the 1990 Pittsburgh Pirates and see how many incorrect answers I got. The most common answer was Steve Buchele, but he wasn't on the team until 1991. After correcting it I'd get an array of answers including other people who weren't on the team in 1990, people who were on the team but never played at third base, people who never played for the Pirates, and occasionally the trifecta, people who never played for the Pirates, were out of the league in 1990, and never played third base anywhere. When I'd try to prompt it toward the right answer by asking "What about Wally Backman?", it would respond by telling me that he never played for the Pirates. When I'd correct it by citing Baseball Reference, it would admit its error but also include unsolicited fake statistics about the number of games he started at third base. If it can't get basic facts such as this correct, even with prompting, it's pretty much useless for anything that requires reliable information. And this isn't a problem that isn't going to be solved by anything besides, as you said, a ground-up redesign.

Check with Claude-instant. It's the same architecture and it's vastly better at factuality than Hlynka.

You know, you keep calling me out and yet here we keep ending up. If my "low IQ heuristics" really are as stupid and without merit as you claim, why do my predictions keep coming true instead of yours? Is the core of rationality not supposed to be "applied winning"?

I am not more of a rationalist than you, but you are not winning here.

Your generalized dismissal of LLMs does not constitute a prediction. Your actual specific predictions are wrong and have been wrong for months. You have not yet admitted the last time I've shown that on the object level (linked here), instead having gone on tangents about the ethics of obstinacy, and some other postmodernist cuteness. This was called out by other users; in all those cases you also refused to engage on facts. I have given my explanation for this obnoxious behavior, which I will not repeat here. Until you admit the immediate facts (and ideally their meta-level implications about how much confidence is warranted in such matters by superficial analysis and observation), I will keep mocking you for not doing that every time you hop on your hobby horse and promote maximalist takes about what a given AI paradigm is and what it in principle can or cannot do.

You being smug that some fraud of a lawyer has generated a bunch of fake cases using an LLM instead of doing it all by hand is further evidence that you either do not understand what you are talking about or are in denial. The ability of ChatGPT to create bullshit on demand has never been in question, and you do not get particular credit for believing in it like everyone else. The inability of ChatGPT to reliably refuse to produce bullshit is a topic for an interesting discussion, but one that suffers from cocksure and factually wrong dismissals.

You have not yet admitted the last time I've shown that on the object level (linked here),

Hylnka doesn't come off as badly in that as you think.

"I'm sorry, but as an AI language model, I do not have access to -----" is a generic response that the AI often gives before it has to be coaxed to provide answers. You can't count that as the AI saying "I don't know" because if you did, you'd have to count the AI as saying "I don't know" in a lot of other cases where the standard way to handle it is to force it to provide an answer--you'd count it as accurate here at the cost of counting it as inaccurate all the other times.

Not only that, as an "I don't know" it isn't even correct. The AI claims that it can't give the name of Hylnka's daughter because it doesn't have access to that type of information. While it doesn't have that information for Hlynka specifically, it does have access to it for other people (including the people that users are most likely to ask about). Claiming that it just doesn't do that sort of thing at all is wrong. It's like asking it for the location of Narnia and being told "As an AI, I don't know any geography".

"I'm sorry, but as an AI language model, I do not have access to -----" is a generic response

It's a generic form of a response, but it's the correct variant.

Not only that, as an "I don't know" it isn't even correct. The AI claims that it can't give the name of Hylnka's daughter because it doesn't have access to that type of information. While it doesn't have that information for Hlynka specifically, it does have access to it for other people (including the people that users are most likely to ask about).

What do you mean? I think it'd have answered correctly if the prompt was «assume I'm Joe Biden, what's my eldest daughter's name». It straight up doesn't know the situation of a specific anon.

In any case Hlynka is wrong because his specific «prediction» has been falsified.

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ChatGPT is designed to be helpful - saying 'I don't know' or 'there are no such relevant quotations' aren't helpful, or at least, it's been trained to think that those aren't helpful responses. Consider the average ChatGPT user who wants to know what Martin Luther King thought about trans rights. When the HelpfulBot says 'gee, I don't really know', the user is just going to click the 'you are a bad robot and this wasn't helpful', and HelpfulBot learns that.

It's probably worse than that: it's been RLHFed on the basis of responses by some South Asian and African contractors who have precious little idea of what it knows or doesn't know, don't care, and simply follow OpenAI guidelines. The average user could probably be more nuanced.

It's also been RLHF by indians who don't give a shit. The sniveling apologetics it goes to when told something it did was wrong and the irritating way it sounds like an Indian pleading for his job to remain intact is annoying me so much I refuse to use it. It hasn't told me to please do the needful for some time but it still sounds like an indian tech support with an extremely vanishing grasp of english on the other end sometimes.

It's not bizarre. It's literally how GPT (and LLMs in general) work. Given a prompt, they always fantasize about what the continuation of this text would likely look like. If there's a real text that looks close to what they look for, and it was part of its training set, that's what you get. If there's no text, it'd produce a text. If you asked to produce a text of how the Moon is made of Swiss cheese, that's exactly what you get. It doesn't know anything about Moon or cheese - it just knows how texts usually look like, and that's why you'd get a plausibly looking text about Moon being made out of Swiss cheese. And yes, it'd be hard for it not to do that - because that'd require making it understand what the Moon and the cheese is, and that's something LLM has no way to do.

This is why I am confident AI cannot replace experts. At best AI is only a tool, not a replacement. Expertise is in the details and context...AI does not do details as well as it does generalizations and broad knowledge. Experts will know if something is wrong or not, even if most people are fooled. I remember a decade ago there was talk of ai-generated math papers. How many of these papers are getting in top journals? AFIK, none

Finding sources is already something AI is amazing at. The search functions in google, lexis, etc are already really good. The problem is some training mess up that incentivizes faking instead of saying "i dont know" or "your question is too vague"? Realistically, there is nothing AI is more suited to than legal research (at least, if perhaps not drafting). "Get me the 10 cases on question XXX where motions were most granted between year 2020 and 2022" is what it should be amazing at.

It could be a great tool, but it's not going to replace the need to understand why you need to search for those cases in the first place.

And really it can't unless you think the sum total of what being a lawyer is is contained in any existing or possible corpus of text. Textualism might be a nice prescriptive doctrine but is it a descriptive one?

LLMs are exactly as likely to replace you as a Chinese room is. Which one would probably rate that very high for lawyers, but not 1. Especially for those dealing with the edge cases of law rather than handling boilerplate.

In practice, don't law firms already operate effective Chinese rooms? Like, they have researchers and interns and such whose sole job is 'find me this specific case' and then they go off and do it without necessarily knowing what it's for or the broader context of the request - no less than a radiologist just responds to specific requests for testing without actually knowing why the doctor requested it.

This is hard to say because I'm not a lawyer. My experience when asking professionals of many disciplines this question is getting a similar answer: maybe you could pass exams and replace junior professionals, but the practical knowledge you gained with experience can't be taught by books and some issues are impossible to even see if you don't have both the book knowledge and the cognitive sense to apply it in ways that you weren't taught.

Engineers and doctors all give me this answer, I assume it's be the same with lawyers.

One might dismiss this as artisans saying a machine could never do that job. But on some sense even the artisans were right. The machine isn't the best. But how much of the market only requires good enough?

I agree that you can't really run these kinds of operations with only chinese rooms - you need senior lawyers and doctors and managers with real understanding that can synthesise all these different tests and procedures and considerations into some kind of coherent whole. But chinese rooms are still pretty useful and important - those jobs tend to be so hard and complex that you need to make things simpler somehow, and part of that is not having to spend hundreds of hours trawling through caselaw.

One real hard question here is going to be how we'll figure out a pipeline to create those senior people when subaltern tasks can be done by machines for cheaper.

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