Defective Accelerationism

Hopefully this is a disinfectant that surfaces all the great tabs that everyone is publishing.

Imagine I awoke one morning from troubled dreams to find myself transformed in my bed into someone with an idea for how, if a global mega-corporation gave me tens of billions of dollars, and if I could collect a thousand of the smartest scientists, engineers, and coders who have ever lived, and if I had access to quantities of energy and computing power that would stretch the limits of what is technically imaginable in the next decade, I could build a machine that would relentlessly turn every atom of matter in the universe into paper clips. I feel like I would… simply not do that. Should I devote a huge amount of expense and effort to accomplish something objectively terrible? It’s not even a tough call for me, a person with what I flatter myself is a normal working brain.

But however implausible it is, imagine that instead of thinking “lol no?” someone had that idea and thought “lol, I better build this machine so that rather than paper clips, it will turn every atom of the universe into something positive for humanity, like ice cream.” This is incredibly stupid and abstrusely metaphysical, but also a pretty accurate overview of today’s business news. Yes, regrettably, I’m talking about OpenAI.

You already know whether you care about OpenAI or not, and if you do care you’ve probably already read a lot of articles about the weekend’s boardroom coups and countercoups. If you don’t care, I am here to reassure you that you don’t really need to. Max Read posted the definitive “where are we so far” summary in Read Max this morning and I would rather eat my own teeth than rewrite all of the backstory so if you want to catch up, go read that. If you like Dan Toomey and/or thirteen minute and six second semi-satirical YouTube news videos, you may also enjoy this version of the story:

The thing Max Read gets at that I haven’t seen anyone else dig into is how much of a “him?Sam Altman is.

But if you are not tuned to the Altman frequency--if you are not the kind of A.I. enthusiast for whom Altman represents an inspiring hero, or the kind of aging venture investor captivated by Altman’s fluency, or the kind of Silicon Valley founder to whom Altman has been nice--and, cards on the table, I am none of those things--it can be a bit hard to see what, exactly, is so impressive about the guy. Indeed, if you mostly know him for his tweets and blog posts you might think to yourself: this guy seems like a kind of dull mind.7

Altman founded Loopt in 2005, raised $30 million, and sold it in 2012 for $43.4 million to a prepaid debit card company. You can imagine Loopt did whatever you want, it absolutely doesn’t matter. It burned a lot of money and failed, and had no effect on anything. From there Altman impressed Silicon Valley idiot Paul Graham, who handed him the keys to Graham’s lottery ticket purchasing firm, Y Combinator. Altman collected money from rich people, bought lottery tickets with it, and distributed the occasional winnings until he managed to annoy enough of the rich people to get himself kicked out of what is one of the easiest jobs in human history. But who cares! Not Sam. By that time, his heart had already moved on to the paperclip machine company, which is OpenAI. Normal people who’ve worked in tech for a while mostly remember Sam Altman as the guy who wore two different neon popped-collar polo shirts for his YC demo day presentation.

Altman has had a career that any Silicon Valley exec would absolutely kill for, and he hasn’t accomplished a single worthwhile thing. He founded one failed company, ran a factory that bought predatory amounts of equity for virtually nothing from every Stanford dropout with an idea for software to replace something Mommy used to do, then founded a company to build a product that he himself believes could eventually destroy humanity. He managed to do such a bad job organizing that company that he nearly got it taken away from him by the guy who runs the Christian babies Q&A site and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s wife before he was rescued by a nightmare blunt rotation of Microsoft, Marc Benioff’s Number One Boy, and Larry Fucking Summers. And the Quora guy even got to stick around!

Ultimately, as Ryan Broderick explained today, all of this nonsense is an epiphenomenon of a dispute between two offshoots of the LessWrong “rationalist movement” which have become AI-focused religions known as EA and e/acc. EAs (“effective altruists,” and yes these are the same nitwits who ran FTX into the ground) believe that AI is existentially dangerous and they must carefully build the infinite ice cream machine lest bad actors build the infinite paperclip machine instead, while e/acc (“effective accelerationists”) believe that who knows, maybe paperclips are cooler than everyone thinks and furthermore lmao, yolo. Both sides are deeply insane, and from a strict longtermism pov the best option is to abandon all of them on a remote island and see how they’re getting along in a thousand years or so.

Still from Jurassic Park of the huge iconic park gate, but the text above it reads "Silicon Valley"

Your Loopt founders were so preoccupied with whether or not they should… that they didn't stop to think if they could.

Now that everyone who enjoyed the Raven post is back to hating me, here’s Intern Kira to defend tax evasion, in certain circumstances:

Tax The Rich (But Not Shakira)

Shakira may have famously truthful hips, but is she lying about tax evasion? 

Our favorite She Wolf was charged with evasión fiscal in 2018, with Spanish prosecutors alleging that she failed to pay $16 million in taxes between 2012 and 2014. Shakira maintains that she was not living in Spain during these years and listed her residence as the Bahamas, where she owns a private island. On the first day of the trial, Shakira cut a deal with prosecutors for a suspended 3-year sentence and more than $8 million in fines.

Shakira may officially have accepted her guilt but the fact is it doesn’t matter if she’s guilty or not. Consider this list of her many accomplishments: she is the best-selling female Latin artist of all time, her song “Hips Don’t Lie” was the most played pop song in a single week in American radio history, she has 3 Grammys and 15 Latin Grammys, she fought off a wild boar, and she allegedly caught her cheating ex with a jar of jam.

Have any of our tax-evading tech billionaires come close to being this iconic? Jeff Bezos is making climate change worse, Elon Musk ruined Twitter, electric cars, and space, and Mark Zuckerberg wants you to pay for privacy. Could any of these creeps perform an astonishing career retrospective performance on MTV, film a music video atop a surfboard, or write the linelucky that my breasts are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains?” I think not!

@huntychan posted: “I don’t care that Shakira didn’t pay her taxes! Jeff Bezos doesn’t either and he didn’t release She Wolf”

—Kira Deshler still regrets not choosing Shakira as her Spanish name in high school Spanish class

Today’s Fresh Hell: TikTok gossip surveillance videos are finding the people behind whose backs strangers are talking shit and telling them about it, making everyone involved miserable. And also from The Guardian, “Monaco yacht buyers shrug off climate concerns.” May they all have eventful passage through the Strait of Gibraltar.

#Sliving paused due to antisemitism. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Hopefully this is a disinfectant that surfaces all the great work that all of us are doing at X,” said Linda Yaccarino. I love that it’s impossible to tell whether or not I made up that quote.

Meanwhile, in crypto, Changpeng Zhao has stepped down from Binance and plead guilty to money laundering charges. With everyone in crypto now heading to jail, a newly clean and revitalized digital currency market finally looks ready to boom again.

Lachlan Cartwright reported that Jezebel will probably be bought and relaunched, and took the opportunity to extensively roast The Herb.

The media bigwig’s latest “big” idea: Roundups of the previous week’s top posts to publish on the weekends in the hope of juicing traffic. (“The idea came from staff and is something we are currently testing and is something commonplace in digital publishing,” the G/O rep said.)

Asher Elbein posted “Mom, can you come pick me up? The best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity”

Finally: What is it like to be a crab?” asks Kristin Andrews in Aeon, a question I have also attempted to answer.

Today’s Song: My friend Cat made a Spotify playlist of eighty four songs from “Letterkenny” so via that, here’s “Groovy Dead” by Rusty (no relation).

Thanks to Senior Contributing Editor for Finding the Right Font Alison Headley for today’s Jurassic Valley graphic. Thanks to you for being chill about me taking Monday and Tuesday off and then also taking Thursday and Friday off. By the way, Tabs will be off tomorrow and Friday for Mulch-giving. We will feast on mulch, red 40, and microplastics, then share a lobotomy. See you next week, sisters of the loam.


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