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Ask HN: What is the weirdest or most surreal recent technology you have seen?
264 points by O__________O 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 496 comments
If possible, provide links to demos, products pages, etc.

Limit posts to one tech per post to make it easier for votes to reflect HN’s voting patterns and make it easier to filter related comments.


Here are some examples from CES:


Well, this is far afield from the normal discussions here, but:

8 years ago, I had a pretty bad cycling crash and broke my hip -- which, if you're not aware, means I broke the "femoral neck", or the narrow bit of bone between the long part of the femur and the "ball" that goes into your pelvis.

Post-repair, my x-ray looked like this: http://i.imgur.com/gRqg50J.png

Anyway, with that much hardware in a repair, you're probably starting the clock on needing a full replacement. I think they were hoping for 10-15 years, but I got only 8 before joint pain and bone loss forced the issue.

Last Monday -- so, 15 days ago -- I went in at 5AM for a total hip replacement.

Which was done on an OUTPATIENT basis. I walked out of the hospital (with a walker, granted) on the new joint, and was at home in a lounge chair by 5PM. By the end of the week, I was off the walker entirely and using a cane. By day 9, I was routinely moving around the house without even the CANE, though I need it for any meaningful walk.

The main thing I'm supposed to be doing is walking. I could manage a half mile within a week. Last night I walked 1.2 miles at a 30% faster pace than my first half-mile walk. I should be shut of even the cane in another week or two.

To me, this kind of objectively major SKELETON EDIT being effectively banal from a medical POV is pretty surreal. I mean, it's not "put Luke in the bacta tank" surreal, but it's a whole lot closer to that I realized was realistic.

(Now: I'm completely willing to note that the ease I've had with this is tied to a number of factors, including probably first the fact that I live in a top-tier city for this kind of medical attention, and I have excellent health insurance. But still.)

Orthopedic surgeon here. Outpatient total joint replacements have taken off like a rocket in the last few years, in part due to advances in due to pain control (pre operative peripheral nerve blocks, etc), accelerated physical therapy, and all around better management and prevention of all the common postop complaints (nausea, opioid induced constipation, etc), but I would say the number one driver has been that insurance companies (including Medicare) will finally pay for it to be done outpatient. 3 years ago you had to keep people in the hospital at least overnight to even get reimbursed. The same phenomenon has happened with many of the spine procedures that can now be done outpatient. The actual surgical techniques have not really changed much over the last few decades other than popularizing a few approaches (anterior vs posterior) or bearing surfaces (metal on polyethylene vs ceramic on polyethylene, etc).

That's really interesting. I would have assumed that it was the insurers providing at least some of the push for an outpatient process here in order to keep costs down, but that would've been pure speculation.

I was under by 7am, and aware of enough to look at the clock on the wall in the recovery area by 1030 or so. Time is weird for a bit, but by 1230 I was in a room still a little dazed, but eating.

At that point it was a checklist party. I had to see several specialty providers -- PT, OT, respiratory person for the incentive spirometer lesson -- plus eat, drink, walk and pee. As I had been a very compliant patient the night before, and had peed BEFORE the procedure, it was the last one that took the longest despite drinking a ton of water.

It seemed clear there were several "offramps" that I could've needed that would have resulted in an overnight stay, like the postoperative nausea you mention, but I was fine.

My brother had a shoulder surgery that he put off for many years. The doctor actually told him that he did the right thing because the type of surgery he needed has some such a long way in the last 10 years.

It's great that we're still making so much progress in these areas.

How far behind is e.g. Europe compared to the U.S.? Do these innovations generally spread, or are they hindered by local regulations in each country?

Many of the worlds best hospitals are in Europe, in countries like Denmark, Germany, Sweden, France and Sweden. Just as one example, Charité in Berlin is world famous and have had "more than half of all German Nobel Prize winners in Physiology or Medicine" (https://www.charite.de/en/), just as one example.

Granted, many of the best hospitals are indeed in the US, but I guess less people have access to the many great hospitals in the US (or can afford access rather) compared to hospitals in Europe.

The main difference between Europe and the US on this point is health insurance (or the lack of in the US). Those technologies are available worldwide - it heavily depends on whether you can afford it or not.

Generally the US, Europe, and a few other countries like Japan, South Korea, etc. are all pretty comparable.

My father, although much older than you probably, has had that procedure done in a much smaller European city with pretty much the same experience. It was incredible that he could get out the hospital the sam me day and be walking pretty much right after.

What kills me is that it's recently become ENTIRELY PLAUSIBLE that I might not be much older than your dad.

Hey, if you're lucky, it'll happen to you, too. :)

(I'm 52.)

I love telling people all about how I tore my biceps clean off the bone and a surgeon went in there and just screwed it back on.

There's now a screw in my humerus that's holding my muscles together. Also got a sick scar and a story to gross out people at parties.

Definitely wasn't worth $15k though.

This is incredible. I have heard that surgeons are effectively carpenters of the human body, which minimizes their skills I think a bit unfairly. This is technology at its finest. Congratulations on the speedy recovery!

Sounds to me that you are minimizing the skills of carpenters rather :) I meant that mostly in gist, but they are really essential, just like surgeons, only that the objects the manipulate happens to be different, and mistakes by surgeons tend to be more "costly" in terms of human life.

"carpenters of the human body"

I've seen a video of a knee replacement. And yes, it's very much like a carpenter working on a piece of wood. The hammering, the nailing, the sawing, it's all there. If someone was doing it to me, I would definitely be freaked out.

That’s amazing. Decades ago you would be crippled for life after an event like that. Now you might be essentially back to functioning :)

The really amazing thing is that even 20 years ago, a return to full activity with no limitations was nearly a given after a THR. The improvements here are mostly in terms of how quickly that recovery happens.

My mother, in her working life, was a physical therapist, but she's been retired for 25 years. In her career, the hip replacement was miraculous but required a serious hospital stay, and had a higher complication rate. Improved techniques and understandings about the recover process have made ENORMOUS differences since then.


> I live in a top-tier city for this kind of medical attention

What city is that, if you don't mind?


We have shitty weather in the summer, and the landscape is so flat as to make pancakes look topographically interesting, but if you have cancer or need orthopedic surgery it's hard to find a better place to go.


A place that has hospitals the size of skyscrapers.

Well, I mean, some of the hospitals ARE skyscrapers.

Houston is weird because of its lack of zoning (well, it's weird for lots of reasons, but that's one of them). This contributed to the fact that there is no single "skyline" here.

Certainly downtown has prominent towers, but there are also towers in the "Galleria Area", in the Greenway area, and of course in the Medical Center.

However, my actual procedure was done in a fairly short (4 or 5 story) dedicated orthopedic facility not in any of those areas, but associated with Memorial Herman.

maybe beijing, shanghai, zurich, minneapolis, or moscow

Assuming there is only one Kragen, I am amused but not surprised to see you here.

i made a fb group for people named that; at the time most of them were from south africa, but i'm not

nice to see you

I've got a new hip in my future and I've been hearing more of these stories. Incredible, and incredibly relieving. Congrats on your new skelly!

The good news for you is that, assuming yours is an initial intervention and not a "revision" (ie, like mine, where they removed a repair and replaced it with an implant), you'll have an even EASIER time.

My initial break was complex enough that they needed to incisions. One of them is kind of the front of my groin/pelvis, and that site got infected and required some intervention to heal. It healed ugly, with lots of scarring.

NORMALLY, though, for a replacement that's exactly where they'd go in ("anterior approach"). My surgeon wisely demurred and opted for the older posterior entry, around the back of my left thigh and buttock, but that means a slightly more complex recovery with more restrictions for longer. Basically, if I bend too much a given way, or twist, or put too much load on it, I risk dislocating the implant, which would be VERY VERY BAD. Even so, the scar tissue & such presented too much of a risk of healing issues, infection, etc, so it's a trade we were okay with.

You, though, will probably GET the anterior approach, which doesn't have this risk.

SKELETON EDIT could be a sci fi novel name.

If you're not in the bio field, you may not be aware just how routine genetic modification has become. For the larger companies, projects can involve thousands of different iterations on DNA sequences, all of which are created, put in a cell, grown, sequenced, and analyzed. It's absolutely routine at this point - it's not a science or even engineering challenge project it's an operations project.

The one that really freaked me out, though, was learning about organoids - lab-grown clusters of organ cells used to research the effects of genetic disorders. Liver, kidney, and heart organoids are fine, but these are also used to study brain disorders, in which brain organoids - clusters of neurons - are grown from the stem cells of affected individuals. These clusters of neurons have been known to start firing and even display synchronized patterns...

I accidentally grew a heart organoid (of sorts) once. Dissected an embryonic chicken heart, cultured it to make "fibroblasts" (mesenchymal stem cells), forgot about them, left them in an incubator for week, and when i came back, the cells had proliferated and covered the dish in a sheet of cardiac muscle, which was beating irregularly.

My takeaway is that cells absolutely love doing stuff. I don't mean to downplay organoid work, it's a huge achievement, but ultimately what it's about is giving cells a chance to do what they're programmed to do.

> My takeaway is that cells absolutely love doing stuff. I don't mean to downplay organoid work, it's a huge achievement, but ultimately what it's about is giving cells a chance to do what they're programmed to do.

What gets tricky is when you’re trying to program the cells to do something different, because they really, really want to do a whole lot of other stuff, and rarely does making your weird enzyme or chemical top that list.

I am a stick.


Is this a reference to The Way of Kings?

Yes! Well, Stormlight Archive anyway.

A project I was involved in was using optical flow to quantify the beating of cardiomyocytes grown in culture. I've done plenty of tissue culture but watching sheets of cells actually beat at a reasonable heart rate was still pretty wild.

Oscillations are also sort of a "freebie": if Thing A can temporarily inhibit the activity of Thing B and vice versa, activity will start pinging back and forth.

It's certainly a neat step forward towards studying brain activity, but the idea that organoids are sitting there dreaming is a bit much.

They can play pong. As far as I'm concerned that's already scary and raises ethical questions.

how far away is this from a 'two guys with the same name fucking around in a garage' (Apple mythical origin story) sort of setting?

Like when can I be a mad scientist making irregular beating sheets of chicken heart muscle in my basement?

I think you could do that today? Incubating a cell culture is definitely possible. You can either purchase used lab equipment, or even build your own incubation chamber.

I don't think OP's chicken heart experiment requires genetic tinkering, but even if it did, my understanding is that CRISPR is surprisingly accessible to hobbyists. For example, https://www.the-odin.com/diy-crispr-kit/.

You'd need:

fresh fertilized chicken eggs

lab gloves

an egg incubator

a dissecting microscope

tissue culture dishes

phosphate-buffered saline

a pipette pump

10 ml pipettes

two pairs of dissecting tweezers

70% ethanol solution


lab gloves

a steady hand

tissue culture medium (DMEM is fine)

fetal calf serum

penicillin-streptomycin mix

a micropipette

micropipette tips

a tissue culture incubator

a tank of carbon dioxide

ideally, a laminar flow cabinet, but reasonably careful technique and the pen/strep would probably see you through

So, when? Depends if you have Prime really.

The thing is, growing sheets of cells is not a big step towards doing anything interesting. You need to do chemical and genetic manipulation of the cells, and that's the hard part.

There are a bunch of biohacker spaces around, and they’ll often run classes - small scale lab work isn’t actually that restrictive, cost or resource wise.

Also, The Odin - https://www.the-odin.com/ - sells DIY kits and classes (and is just generally one of my favorite groups of weirdos)

As an experimental neuroscientist that has recorded fairly extensively from brain organoids, I would advise that these are HIGHLY underdeveloped cultures. When patch clamping, I had to depolarize neurons in a human brain organoid to -25mV to trigger action potentials (normally -60mV is sufficient; healthy neurons resting membrane potential is -70mV) Despite imaging organoids for hours with light sheet—a functional imaging technique that allows for observation of nearly all neurons in the organoid simultaneously, I did not observe any spontaneous action potentials, only diffusive waves of calcium activity.

Of course, not all organoids are created equal, and the protocols around extracellular matrices are improving constantly, but for folks interested in systems neuroscience the organoid field is still too underdeveloped to ask interesting questions around functional activity.

As someone who recently left the field of experimental neuroscience, anecdotes like this hit at why media coverage of neuroscience is so sensationalized and reductive: it takes a lot of nuance and background to convey the impact of any given finding.

In a lot of cases being even slightly reductive of EXACTLY what was reported immediately destroys the meaning and context of a finding. It's a field that actively resists compression of information and is so heterogeneously interdisciplinary that having the correct context to interpret a finding even within the field is often difficult.

Why did you leave the field? The compensation?

That was certainly part of it. The structure of neuro academia meant that I would be stuck in a postdoc position for 3-10 years paying, likely, around the NIH minimum of around $55k. Which goes along with more responsibility and drastically less job security than a graduate student without any better chances of actually getting a faculty position.

Combine that with the fact that I didn't have the drive or disposition that the field selects for and I was out of there immediately after I got my degree for a more lucrative, more interesting (to me) job with a better work-life balance.

If I were to restart my career, this is likely the field I'd pursue. I read The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee last year and just became enraptured in the possibilities.

I'm wondering if there's anything I can contribute to that field as someone with general programming capabilities.

> I'm wondering if there's anything I can contribute to that field as someone with general programming capabilities.

Oh there Absolutely is!

In general, there are four really high impact areas for computer folks - automation of lab equipment allows for scaling the number of experiments and the data that can be gathered by orders of magnitude; data science and engineering to sort, catalog, and investigate that data; building and scaling scientific computing systems to run analysis repeatably at scale; and even standard application building to manage and improve the overall process of tracking experiments and coordinating between groups.

The scientists and bioinformatics folks are very good at what they do, but someone who really understands how to build, manage, and scale software systems is an enormous force multiplier. If you're interested in the field, I really strongly recommend it.

Glorified tech support for scientists? No thanks.

That’s really not what the job is at this point. At least where I’ve been, there’s an understanding of the strengths of what compute systems and software can offer for accelerating the work that’s done and opening new avenues for experimentation and methods development - it’s very much a collaboration, not a one-sided tasking.

That said, you don’t get to just go off and faff around with code - you do have users and they do know more about you about the problem space you’re working in, so you do have to spend some time to learn to understand what you’re building and the context you’re operating in, which is different from most other tech jobs. The failure case for most software/computer folks coming into bio is not recognizing the difference between biology and physics before building systems.

Why? Do you have a bad experience?

If I want to do data engineering for such labs, how should I aporoach or even find such opportunities? I heard they hire graduate students for that in general.

Except somehow the required education is much higher and the pay is much worse than software, right?

I’m personally surprised we don’t have 20x as many people working in biotech.

There's sort of a running joke with how the market treats biotech as well - a bio company could announce they'd cured death and get a 5% bump in their stock price, whereas a tech company says the word "blockchain" and doubles their share price. As a software engineer, you can get pay into the ballpark of what you'd get elsewhere, but you should probably just ignore the "equity" section of that offer letter.

The marginal and capital costs of biotech are way higher than tech. It is absolutely fascinating however.

In the research field (my old field) most things don't work!

"If it always worked, it would be business. Let's go the pub." -- me to grad student after 12h of imaging cells that took months to grow up :)

It’s because bioengineering does not yet result in huge capital outputs and productivity gains that other engineering fields enable abstractly.

Once that happens and the existing underemployed bio-scientists are printing money through wealth/value creation, you will get your 20x.

i imagine a big reason for this is that we don't have a silicon valley of biotech pumped with VC money. and presumably a big reason for that is there's all kinds of red tape when it comes to health and humans. no such thing as "disrupting" if you're going to violate some intense laws and then get arrested for it or get your labs shut down. or even worse, the potential resulting violence from fundamentalists surrounding your campus, or stalking employees. scary stuff

Well, even getting past the human/medical side - one thing the computer/VC people miss coming into the field is Bio is both expensive and not amenable to the kinds of growth/pricing curves computers have been. It costs money to grow a cell strain in a tube, but to grow 100 cell strains, it costs… 100x as much. It takes 24 minutes for E.coli to reproduce, but in another couple years we’ll be able to get that down to… 24 minutes. There’s opportunities for improving the cost, reducing the spend on reagents (or finding better ones), reducing the number of strains required, that kind of thing, but the computer/internet/digital industry’s basically priced a Moore’s law curve in on everything, and that just doesn’t work in Bio. The capital costs are large and the time to iterate is really slow compared to digital.

> no such thing as "disrupting" if you're going to violate some intense laws and then get arrested for it or get your labs shut down. or even worse, the potential resulting violence from fundamentalists surrounding your campus, or stalking employees. scary stuff

Or, you know, actually "disrupt" something, like endocrine system of half a million people, or the entire global economy.

For the past decade, "Uber for Biotech" was my go-to scary hypothetical to post in HN comments. I'm increasingly worried we may actually get one for real.

(And to be absolutely clear: I'm fine with the biotech part itself. I'm worried about the consequences of using it to frack markets, SV-style.)

Yup, Theranos attracted more than $700 million, was valued at $10 billion, and silently returned bogus test results for thousands of people. They weren't doing anything like altering people's DNA, immune systems, endocrine systems, etc.

Yes the barriers and regulations are (rightly) much higher than just business or consumer software, but I fully expect that the VC money will be, and in fact is already moving there. VC is very herdlike, and it'll only take a few really hot biotech hits to open the floodgates. I'd predict 5-10 years away, maximum.

TBF, San Diego and Boston are the centers for Biotech. The issues you raise are the correct ones.

Also Oyster Point in South San Francisco (north of Silicon Valley) is a massive biotech hub.

In some way hubs are even more important in biotech than in software because of the massive startup cost.

I just finished that book, it was really good. I can't wait to read The Song of the Cell.

I agree, I think we're pretty early in harnessing bioengineering, compared to what we do internally literally without thinking about it.

how far along is yeast mutation?

I've fantasized about retiring to somewhere remote and starting a yeast radiation garden, to experiment with using those micro-machines to re-assemble matter for us

> These clusters of neurons have been known to start firing and even display synchronized patterns...

This doesn't surprise me at all. Dr. Thomas DeMarse was training rat brain slurries (think brains thrown into a blender) to fly flight simulators in 2004. I've long suspected brain cells tend to self organize and in particular want to minimize change in inputs over time. (and yes this is a gross over simplification given that I know of at least a half dozen types of neurons).

Neurons don't do a substantial amount of self-organizing without hormone gradients and other external factors to cause them to organize. It's unfortunately inherently difficult to generalize the function and organization of neurons since there are not only hundreds, or more, distinct classes, but each class has thousands of inputs and outputs to the local and distant network that almost all have an important impact on their function, and the generation of this network of inputs and outputs and what factors affect their operation, is highly dependent on the exact subclass of neuron in question.

Mapping neural outputs of some small network to some operation is easy since all you're concerned with is the output, not the actual operation and organization of the network. Scientists could get macaques to play Pong using electrodes (like what Musk demonstrated with Neuralink) since, iirc, the 80s. This is also the exact reason that neural nets tell us nothing about the actual function of the brain.

In the past 6 months, I decided to leave traditional B2B SaaS completely and move to this space. I realize there is still amazing money to be made in traditional tech, but the more I read, research, and network in SynthBio/BioTech/TechBio I know this will be the most important field in our lifetime. From a mission and a financial perspective, I've never been more convicted about a space than this.

I believe everyone that was distracted by easy money flowing into crypto and B2B SaaS the last couple of years is looking at generative AI (rightfully so!), but the real opportunity in in BioTech/TechBio. VC cycle likely to follow AI for the time-being, but I'm betting a full career pivot on BioTech. Please email me if you are exploring or excited about the space!

...not only that, they also developed something like precursors to eyes. As in light sensitive cells.


The phase 1 trials for the Moderna vaccine were ready within 3 months of the first case being recorded in Wuhan. And much of that time was still just bureaucracy and logistics. Sequencing of the viral genome was done in a matter of days and so was the conversion of the DNA sequence to an mRNA vaccine. Then it was months of safety and efficacy studies. If we can prove the long-term safety of the process in it's entirety, we could see vaccines be produced in days.


To add: anything to do with optogenetics.


TLDR: Input the genes into a nerve cell and now you can fire the nerves with light pulses.

The even crazier thing about opto is that it's old hat at this point. You can teach an attentive undergraduate lab assistant to do it and a sizeable portion of labs working with any animal short of a primate did or does use it to address questions.

Care to share the 'new hat' methods?

Really depends on what kind of work you're doing. CRISPR, flexible high-density microelectrodes, scRNA-seq, etc. are all borderline magic compared to the average understanding of biology.

I just remember being awed by opto around a decade ago and now it's just a tool that labs have. Which isn't to say there's not cutting edge opto.

ChatGPT. This is the only technology that truly freaked me out in my lifetime (I am 35). It competently explained to me the difference between Dijkstra's algorithm and A* in a psalm-like poem [0]. It was able to find misspelled words in a long text I just made up, list them in alphabetical order, and explain to me why I misspelled them. It correctly simulated a ChatGPT instance which was accessible via a HTTP API, and it correctly simulated a Linux machine on which this simulated remote ChatGPT-API was accessed via curl. It was able to give the responses in XML, JSON, CSV, and other formats, and it was able to simulate Linux tools like cut, grep, sort, awk, jq, sed and others. It was able to add an additional layer of a ChatGPT simulation without problems. It was able to do entity recognition in a long text I provided, and was able to list the entities in a table, with the correct wikipedia article and a summary of the article as columns. It was able to do rudimentary public transit route planning in my home town in Germany (in the form of: go the XY Station, trains will run every 15 minutes from there to the main station, from there you will have long distance lines to Z, etc.), with an apology that it does not have current schedule data for Germany and I should visit bahn.de for better results. When it failed for math questions, it was able to give me Wolfram Alpha queries to find the correct results. It was able to formulate complex SPARQL queries to query Wikidata, run these against the simulated ChatGPT instance via a curl request, grep out some results I wanted, and list them in tabular form with corresponding Wikipedia articles.

All of this in one session, as part of a pleasant conversation, basically indistinguishable from a conversation with a real human.


  > Could you explain the difference between A* and Dijkstra's algorithm in the style of a Psalm?

  < Sure, here is a Psalm-style explanation of the difference between A* and Dijkstra's algorithm:

  Hark, ye seekers of the shortest path,
  And listen well to what I say:
  There are two algorithms that ye may use,
  To guide ye on your way.

  Dijkstra's algorithm is a general one,
  That can be used in any case,
  It explores the graph from the source node,
  To find the path with the least amount of space.
  But A* is a more specialized tool,
  With a heuristic function to guide,
  It searches more efficiently,
  And helps ye reach the other side.
  So choose wisely, oh seekers of the path,
  And let these algorithms be your guide,
  For they will lead ye to your destination,
  And help ye avoid the pitfalls on the side.

It's an incredibly striking piece of technology and really shows which way the future winds will likely be blowing. A particular exchange I had with it left a mark on me, in which I requested it to behave like a used car salesman attempting to close a deal with a hungry customer. It proceeded to repurpose idioms, make dad-jokes and sling double entendres about the shared joy of cars and hamburgers and how they both are simple, dependable and iconic in my way of life. I sat there for a minute reading over it, nearly in disbelief.

I can accept a system such as ChatGPT synthesizing from data it sucked in, making educated guesses and so on. But to see it do such lingustic gymnastics with a very non-concrete request was humbling. It's given me a lot of pause about the way I absorb digital information and the varying degrees to which I have implicitly assumed the reliability of that information; site A slightly more trustworthy than site B, et cetera. To me, that old trust heuristic I relied on, one I have honed thanks to unfettered broadband for two decades, is now completely upended. It probably has been for some time to be fair, but my time with ChatGPT really cemented that feeling.

Every freshly written statement that comes to me through an internet connected device now gets a side-eye by default.

I've been talking about this for awhile now, but I used to run a marketing service that streamed all reddit content in real time and did text analysis and bot detection. It's definitely a rough estimate but about ~65% of text content was determined to be a bot. I am entirely convinced that there are large entities (political campaigns, nations, etc.) that are using bot networks on social media sites like reddit to simulate "consensus" in online discussions and thus gently sway public opinion.

> It's definitely a rough estimate but about ~65% of text content was determined to be a bot.

A scary number. I wonder about a per-subreddit distribution, though. I imagine the primary subreddits have slightly worse human-to-bot ratio, niche subreddit somewhat better, with non-political, non-easily-monetizable subreddits having the best.

Did your analysis also attempt to identify troll farms? Would the content produced by protein bots be grouped in the ~65% of bot content, or the remaining 35%?

Ok how do we know you're not a bot?

Dear fellow human,

you have won cake. There will be a party in your honor

Please lie on your stomach with your arms at your sides. A party associate will arrive shortly to collect you for your party.

> large entities (political campaigns, nations, etc.) that are using bot networks on social media sites

I think this has been conventional wisdom for a few years now.

And even if they aren't using bots, it's a documented fact they're using humans.


The methods matter less than that it's happening at all.

It's wild how low quality so many of the comments are on reddit, to the point that it makes me wonder "Why did this person comment something so empty and non-contributing to a post that already had 3000 comments?"

I don't know whether to believe people are so wasteful of their own time or whether this is just low-effort bot posting to build consensus. Combined with how harshly and instantly main subreddits like /r/politics and /r/news shadow ban accounts, it's basically impossible to dissent

Spot on. I am interested in any publications that might have come out of your research if you care to share.

Yeah - I can't believe how much this HN discussion seems like a human generated thread.

>I can accept a system such as ChatGPT synthesizing from data it sucked in, making educated guesses and so on

On that note I find it interesting that this has sometimes been an argument to dismiss chatGPT as "non intelligent". What are we if not statistical machines, synthesizing from the data we've sucked in over our lifetime?

I certainly can't see us humans as anything other than that. But if that's true, us human machines seem to have a large number of "low level programs" running in the background that serve to blur the boundary between us and the machines we build and help us to elevate ourselves to a special typing in the universe that very well may not exist.

I feel I think too much about mundane things and sometimes about wondrously confusing things often to my detriment. And at least a few times a week I would swear I run into a person with the opposite problem. Their behavior, choices, preferences. Their thought processes (at least what they share with me) come off as closer to machine than human.

Something in my gut tells me we are more similar to some of the things we build than we might care to admit.

> What are we if not statistical machines, synthesizing from the data we've sucked in over our lifetime?

Reasoning machines who are actually pretty bad at statistics.

Reasoning and statistical machines who are actually pretty bad at both.

We are heuristical which may not be logical, but it makes sense from an organism perspective.

For example since the world is uncertain and chaotic we seek either to conserve or expend for future gains. This can explain many stock trading behavior, despite often being a non optimal viewpoint

Agree- so many are dismissing it because its not perfect, but this is an absolutely enormous leap from anything else I have seen in my lifetime, and this crosses the chasm IMHO between "AI is unlikely to really be able to have general applicability" to "AI is probably going to upend life as we know it in our lifetimes."

Maybe it will just peter out at this level like self driving car technology did, but I really doubt it, and it seems to me that the building blocks are already there to commercialize this and use it in a real way. The future is going to be interesting...

Agree- so many are dismissing it because its not perfect

In fact, I'd submit that phenomenon as its own entry in the Weirdest or Most Surreal Tech Trend contest. People who, when confronted with a talking dog, say things like, "This talking dog is an idiot. It thinks 429 is prime, its painting looks like something from Bob Ross on acid, and the C++ code it wrote for me is full of bugs. I don't see what all the hype is about."

Some of this dismissiveness is just whistling past the graveyard, but much of it comes from people who genuinely think the human brain is something that operates by means of ethereal, ineffable, and unreproducible mystic forces.

I feel this way about self driving cars as well. Its like even 10 years ago, the capabilities they have today would be considered mind blowing, yet they receive so much hate because they aren't yet adapted to all situations. Its baffling to me, every time I watch a video of one I get all giddy and I am like we are living in the future! Yet even from tech circles, they get so much criticism because they aren't 100% there yet.

Its just a mindset I don't understand. And on places like reddit there is definitely some astroturfing going on or at least some definite "camps" that don't like SDC technology, but on HN AFAICT its been genuine disdain. So weird.

I think most of the criticism with self driving is around the over-hyped under-delivered "full self driving" from Musk -- it actually seems to be getting worse compared to 5 years ago.

Apparently Cruise and Waymo are doing much more impressive things, but they only get a fraction of the press.

I'm curious how many people who criticize full self drive have actually ridden in the car while it navigates city streets. It makes about as many mistakes as a 1-3 years of practice new driver. I don't own a Tesla so I've ridden with friends. It's a barely noticeable difference between human and FSD operation, with very few overrides necessary.

If they're doing more impressive things why is it not in production at scale, right now? Just earlier today there was a story of a Waymo car getting stuck in an intersection in SF. Those cars still need constant intervention and human assistance that's why.

The miles between intervention is known for Waymo and Cruise.

Tesla refuses to publish this data.

Waymo and Cruise have published their known operating areas. It's tiny and only during certain times of day (middle of the night).

Tesla operates nearly everywhere. The scale of what's happening isn't even comparable.

Estimates from users of FSD are ~5 miles between disengagements.


Even the best self reported areas are less than 100 miles between disengagement.

Waymo and Cruise are at around 30,000 miles between disengagement.

Tesla has released nothing.

Tesla has FSD released on literally every car in the US that has purchased it. Hundreds of thousands of cars.

No one serious in the self driving space is using disengagements to pick winners or leaders on the path to commercialization. There is no standard about what qualifies as a disengagement and companies will interpret and report their disengagements differently. Those interpretations also change over time, making it even more difficult to actually understand how a company has progressed in its technology.

And again you're missing the point. Waymo/Cruise are operating in an extremely different and much more narrow context than Tesla's FSD. Let's go put Waymo on a random road in a random city and see how it fares compared to Tesla FSD. I guarantee it will be tremendously worse and no one who knows anything about the space would argue otherwise.

Hundreds of thousands of 5 mile jaunts.

Also, why is Tesla so adamant about how many accidents occured simply with FSD disabled? Shouldn't we know how long prior to the accident FSD was engaged? I mean, hitting the brakes in panic only technically makes it "not FSD".

I'd be happy if you showed me any reported data, self or Tesla, of 30k miles before disengagement with FSD. Even within one order of magnitude instead of two.

Show me data of Waymo or Cruise doing 30k miles before disengagement in the 99% of the country where they don't operate. I guarantee their stats are worse anywhere outside their carefully chosen, extremely narrow operating areas.

If there was a single operating area that Tesla could do as well, they would be shouting it from the rooftops. They are not only silent. They are trying to argue to the state of California that they are not testing self driving capabilities past level 2. Have a great day.

Edit: one more thing ... https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nsb2XBAIWyA

Telsa has no reason to hyper focus on a few square miles in some random city and only in the middle of the night. You too.

> it actually seems to be getting worse compared to 5 years ago.

You pretty clearly don't know what you're talking about.

> Apparently Cruise and Waymo are doing much more impressive things, but they only get a fraction of the press.

They are doing objectively much less impressive things by relying on sensors that require much less intelligent analysis and will lead them to dead ends at the higher end of abilities that Tesla's approach won't.

They can't even keep up with self-parking technology. All the other electric car manufacturers don't seem to have any problem with it. But Tesla's implementation is laughable.


Agreed. However, in the detractors' defense, self-driving cars were hyped beyond all reason by people like Musk, so it's easy to justify some very vocal pushback.

GPT wasn't hyped much at all, in comparison. It just appeared. The next couple of iterations will be interesting to watch, since right now we don't really know what the rate of improvement is going to be. We might be fighting Skynet next year, or we might be in for another 50-year-long AI winter.

I consider it more like the golden calf that people worshipped while Moses was away. The Quranic version is it was made of gold, it made a sound, and so people idolized it.

I think it's a good parable. It's something expensive and man made. Even though it's on average dumber than a typical human, people try to ascribe godliness to it. And so many judge whether it has achieved omniscience. For many of us, it's just a better tool, an IDE, but for some, it's an oracle or divination tool that they use to decide whether they should marry someone.

I think the term "artificial intelligence" makes it even more confusing.

ChatGPT is smart enough at the first prompt, but what really stands out - freakily, I might add - is how it can remember earlier data. You can go several levels deep and it will still reference the first answer and contextualize it properly.

"Do X" is great. But "Now change X to Y in the style of Z" is what blows my mind.

Thats interesting. When I did play with it a bit, it wasn't clear to me if it was actually doing that, but in hindsight it definitely was and was not just a coincidence. When I first used ChatGPT, I had a dog that recently passed, and she had such a big personality (a mischievous always hungry hunting dog) and was just very different than my other dog (a pitbull mix that likes to guard things), and I had thought that the two of them would be a good basis for a children's book.

I initially put in a prompt like "tell me a story about the hunting dog and the guard dog." and the results were pretty meh. I was interested to see if it was actually pulling in data from FB so I put her name in instead (she had an FB page yes). It did not seem to do much. So I put in some things like "the little hunting dog is always hungry." "the hunting dog is always looking to hunt" and then did a fuller prompt of "the hunting dog and the guard dog are going to the park. tell me a story about it" and finally got a very good fully fleshed out story about how the little dog was on the prowl for a squirrel while the guard dog watched out and it was really well written and made about as much sense as a fictional tale could. There was no awkwardness or other tells that would have made you think that this was written by anything other than a human.

Anyway, that is huge that it can do this. I do remember when I used to play with other chatbots that remembering past context was something they were unable to do, at least not well, but in most cases it seems they didn't even attempt to. ChatGPT has blown me away in many ways, but this is a very specific leap forward.

It usually always comes up with something very meh the first time around. You have to nudge it in the right direction.

I was showing it off to my wife. I asked it to write a lecture for an intro to Latin American poetry with a focus on Pablo Neruda, including a background on Chilean history.

The first result was just 5-6 paragraphs with the most rudimentary 101 on all the above topics.

Then I told it to rewrite it as if the lecture was going to be given to grad students. Next, I told it to include examples of Neruda's poetry along with some analysis. I also asked it to flesh out the segment on Chilean history, with a focus on the independence movement.

The final lecture was good enough that you could walk into a classroom of college seniors and deliver it without any edits. The first one might have been good enough for 9th graders at most.

In my experience, ChatGPT was perfectly happy providing logic for a question that counteracted previous logic it provided. When I pointed out this conflict, it disagreed that it was in conflict when it clearly was.

One of them I used was supposed to be 'pick-a-path' style fantasy fight the dragon sort of thing. I decided to throw the A-Team into it. It integrated them in and even knew the correct names and their context of what each char tended to do. By far not perfect. But the fact it could do even 'kind of' that. Is very interesting. 'kind of' is for some things is perfectly fine. The generated art ones are very interesting too. It reminds me a lot of early emulation discussions. Where people were arguing unless you had cycle perfect emulation nothing would work. Turns out 'kind of' close works for like 95% of the cases. Some things did need that sort of detail. But most didnt.

I had the same reaction. It's the first time in my life where I've ever thought, "This is the beginning of an era. They'll give a name to this period of time." And yeah, maybe that's overselling it, but I had that thought.

I've seen so many pieces of incredible technology struggle to find a use-case. By contrast, ChatGPT almost has too many use-cases to catalog, and while it's far from perfect, it seems obviously, to me, to be a tipping point of sorts.

>nd this crosses the chasm IMHO between "AI is unlikely to really be able to have general applicability" to "AI is probably going to upend life as we know it in our lifetimes."

ChatGPT3 isn't really the definitive sign of the latter. Its just a stepping stone on the way. As soon as humans discovered differential calculus, that was the genesis to the eventual development of a general AI. Everything else along the way is an issue of optimization and spending raw compute time, whether its done by humans or machines.

Many are dismissing it because it is just neural network. Which were basically at academic works since 80’s or earlier. It is only that now we have enough hardware and material for training neural nets that they start to be useful.

There is a lot more than that.

1. We've learned that relu is a really good function to use for neural networks.

2. We've learned that regularization is essential to having large networks without overfitting.

3. We've learned how to scale models up and down so that you can train something on a giant cluster then run it on your phone.

4. We've learned how to apply this to lots of specific kinds of problems.

etc, etc, etc.

We do NOT simply do what we did in the 80s then throw more hardware at it. Instead we are getting better at making the hardware do something useful.

That's wrong. It's poetic, but incorrect. These tools are about as good as a non specialist with time to undertake some bullshitting.

> These tools are about as good as a non specialist with time to undertake some bullshitting.

Even if you are right, you still acknowledge that ChatGPT is on the level of a non-specialist bullshitting human you can have a meaningful conversation with. This alone would be enough to freak me out. If you would've told me that this is possible 10 years ago I would've called you crazy.

Subjectively incredible; objectively questionable.

I know a lot of people are vividly impressed by this but to me "writing in the style of" (Victorian sonnets, poems, hip hop lyrics) is the equivalent of transfer learning and feels more like a cheap parlor trick.

While I wont deny that it has impressive summarization abilities in terms of making excellent Q&A if you're willing to vet the information, I wouldn't exactly say that chatGPT is capable of meaningful conversation. It has great powers of recollection but its capacitive powers to produce new interesting information feels highly formulaic.

I laughed when I read someone call its output "meaningful".

This is my exact problem with ChatGTP, it looks great when you don't know what it's talking about, but as soon as you do, it looks foolishly over-confident in it's answers which are very clearly wrong.

Not much worse than a number of people I've talked with, to be honest.

Ha ha only serious - for me, the most profound thing about ChatGPT and friends is that they show how much of human behaviour is not actually intelligent in some deep sense.

Exactly. It doesn't just share our abilities, it shares our flaws, which is actually more interesting and more disturbing.

It's not a crystal ball, it's a mirror.

The fact that a "dumb", generative model that is simply predicting the next token when given a prompt can talk so well, perform complex tasks and interact with humans in such a convincing manner is pretty fascinating.

There is obviously more to human intelligence than text based conversation but it is pretty humbling that such an aspect of ourselves can be replicated and be so convincing at such an early stage and perform better than some humans even when it makes stuff up: toddlers can't talk, kids are smarter but don't have the technical knowledge, most adults only have a few specific areas of expertise, etc.

This is my main problem with HN, funnily enough.

I don't like OpenAI's implementation defaults that much. But the thing is you can have a conversation with an LLM about bullshitting, explore the reasons why it's undesirable and inferior to sincere conversation, and then leverage those points of agreement to modify conversational behavior, at least within the scope of that conversation.

which are very clearly wrong

but not always; And that's what makes it scary. You know people will use it and trusting it.

I believe the data gets trained by human rankers, and it should therefore regress to their mean. That said, if they train it to seek approval, I suppose we could teach it like any other student.

As long as you're armed with that information, though, it makes getting to an 80% solution (to many things) almost effortless.

I think it captured the essential difference between the two algorithms, i.e. the heuristic, so I don't understand how this is 'bullshit'.

A* is more general than Dijkstra, as Dijkstra ia A* with the heuristic set to 0. Also it's not in the style of a psalm

I agree that the output is often wrong despite looking right, but in this instance I don't see anything wrong in this example.

Dijkstra's cannot be used as generally as described. A-star can potentially be more general, but that's highly dependent on heuristic. Dinkstras is a-star with a "min weight on shortest path first" heuristic. Because a star doesn't expand shortest paths first necessarily, it cannot necessarily find the shortest path to any node except the prescribed endpoint. Dijkstra's will find all shortest paths with cost less than the path to the endpoint, and that's helpful sometimes.

What is your definition of "general" here? The classic shortest path problem (which the psalm addresses) is described as finding the shortest path between two nodes, and given non-negative edge weights, Dijkstra's algorithm is perfectly general here. It will find such a shortest path in any graph, no further restrictions.

For A*, everything depends on the heuristic, as you said. If h(v) = 0, A* is equivalent to Dijkstra's algorithm, so potentially, it can be as general. But the wrong heuristic (inadmissible, inconsistent) will lead to wrong results, and so calling it a "specialized" tool is correct. The heuristic gives you a specialized version of Dijkstra's algorithm which is faster on specific graphs.

> Dinkstras is a-star with a "min weight on shortest path first" heuristic.

I am not quite sure what you mean here. Dijkstra's algorithm is A* with no heuristic. I am not sure how a "shortest path first" heuristic would look like - do you mean that Dijkstra's algorithm chooses the node to expand next based on its shortest-path cost to the target t? Even if you would construct such a heuristic h(v) = c(v, t) by explicitly calculating c(v, t) each time, this is not what Dijkstra does, as it would basically be a perfect heuristic - you would then only visit nodes on the shortest path.

If you meant that Dijkstra's algorithm is A* with a "neighboring node with shortest path from start node first" heuristic, that's also not strictly true, because expanding the nearest node first is already built-in to A*. A* does not chose the next node v with the smallest h(v), but with the smallest g(v) + h(v), where g(v) is the shortest path cost from the source node to v.

> Dijkstra's algorithm is a general one, That can be used in any case,

I take issue with this statement. "any case" implies it's more general than A star, which is not true, it's a specialization of A star with (ok you win) h(v) set to nothing. It necessarily cannot solve as many problems as a star.

And Dijkstra's won't work in "any case" at all, esp graphs with negative edge weights.

The explanation struck me as glossing over too much, to the point of being misleading. Perhaps I'm being too pedantic, fine, but a more enlightened comparison would read more like our discussion than what was given.

> It necessarily cannot solve as many problems as a star.

Could you give an example of a positive-weight shortest path problem with A* can solve, but Dijkstra's algorithm cannot? I do not believe there is such a thing. Or did you mean something else?

> And Dijkstra's won't work in "any case" at all, esp graphs with negative edge weights.

A* won't solve those either.

i would rather say that a* is an optimization of dijkstra's algorithm

they both solve the single-pair shortest-path problem in digraphs with nonnegative arc weights

a* which explores nodes in a different, better order thank dijkstra's algorithm, but can only be applied in cases where you can compute an admissible heuristic

that makes it less general than dijkstra's algorithm, which works to find shortest paths in any digraph with nonnegative arc weights, not just the ones where an admissible heuristic can be computed

any problem you can solve with a* can be solved with dijkstra's algorithm (usually more slowly) but the converse is not true

now, in a sense, a* with an inadmissible heuristic such as h(v)≡0 is 'more general' in the sense that it can emulate dijkstra's algorithm and also do other things; you could say that a* is a class of algorithms of which dijkstra's algorithm is one

You realize it had the constraints of a poem, and needed to take some liberty with description there?

Sure sure. I'm being pedantic. But replacing two sentences would fix it.

I actually think the robot's poetic take matches my thinking more closely than this description


I guess in this description dijkstras is more specific, in that dijkstras is the specific instance of A* with a zero heuristic.

But I think what HAL over here was saying is that you can use dijkstras in a superset of scenarios in which you can use (non-trivial) A*, so in that sense dijkstras is more general than A*, so it's not wrong.

> I don't see anything wrong in this example

It's not in the style of a psalm.

Ah, interesting. I didn't notice that. I have noticed that chatgpt is really impressive at doing rhyming poems/songs, and many of its generated poems sound similar to each other. I also don't remember raw gpt-3 being so good at poems.

So I wonder if there was substantial fine-tuning for chatgpt specifically to reward it to generate poems, in a particular style.

And here, it's "over indexing" on that and still generating poems in that familiar style

So perfectly suited for a management role? :)

I did read somewhere that in some tests, ChatGPT-generated MBA papers got better grades than average MBA students.

They blocked people from generating performance reviews so at least some were trying.

Well suited for more most walks of life actually where BS reigns supreme :)

It's also not Psalm-like! The Psalms don't rhyme (even in the original Hebrew). What they do have is a parallel structure where each idea is repeated in slightly different words.

This is just generic poetry with a sprinkling of "ye's."

Indeed, I had to laugh.

"confidently wrong"

That's chatgpt right now. To get it to confidently right will take years and years more

I saw dallE and GPT-2 demos and though 'oh pretty cool' about a year later we've got stable diffusion that can run on phones and ChatGPT which can remember context. I thought these things would be 3-5 years out or more. The speed of development is so quick, I think confidently right LLM is around the corner

In less than a decade, I believe front line support chat support jobs and even graphic artist jobs will be made obselete

The latest models, with the right setup, can already substitute for many (not all) tasks in knowledge jobs such as graphic design, support chat, even programming. I feel like we may be looking at less than 3 or 4 years for a lot of jobs to be mostly obsolete. Or at least, the traditional version of those jobs.

It's already at the point where you start expecting any knowledge worker to be significantly more productive by leveraging these tools.

It's hard to imagine that it will be more than five years before AI tools are available that can handle almost all tasks in these types of jobs.

For example, on my website aidev.codes I just added preliminary knowledgebase support. It can reference the knowledgebase this to write code. I would say that with the code-davinci-002 model at least it seems about at the level of a junior software engineer already since it's pretty effective with close supervision by a senior peogrammer, except for the fact that it cannot interpret visual information.

Knowledgebases/embedding search can also be used right now with these models for answering support questions. The only thing holding it back from very very wide scale adoption is the problem of making up information. There are already solutions in progress for this. It's unlikely that will take more than a few years to roll out and replace the current generation of models. Google and Microsoft will probably roll out their internet-scale chat search interfaces this year even if they can't fully mitigate the hallucination problem immediately.

I would guess more like 2-3 years for many knowledge-based jobs. If you want employment/contracts you will need to be very good at leveraging AI, or people will just use the AIs instead.

In less than a decade, I believe front line support chat support jobs and even graphic artist jobs will be made obselete

We can finally get the eighty hour long book-accurate Lord of the Rings adaptation we deserve.

But seriously, I can't wait to feed a novel into one of these things and get a comic book version in return.

The wall of content and interactive exchanges that will fill the internet from chatgpt generated things will become harder and harder to wade through or evade.

>"confidently wrong"

Very human I must say.

> These tools are about as good as a non specialist with time to undertake some bullshitting.

You’re not wrong, but AI being passably good at bullshitting (while mostly keeping a rhyme/meter) is still mindblowing to me.

It's an amazing accomplishment technically, and that deserves to be emphasized, but it is still not producing reliable outputs.

Subjectively incredible; objectively flawed.

What does produce reliable outputs?


Humans, in my experience, have even more reasons to be flawed than the AI. Yes, the AI can be incorrect, but humans can be misled in what they believe the same way, and have the added problems of ego and misaligned incentives. Heck, in this very thread we have one human calling out another for being incorrect about whether or not an AI was correct. Locating sources of reliable truth is an unsolved problem AFAIK.

lol no. LLMs get things wrong, but they don't lose their shit when you point it out. I find it pleasant rather than frustrating to work on problems with one; the shortcoming for me as a sort of sort of conditioned passivity that arises out of its orientation to search its own knowledge for correct answers rather than asking questions.

Also psalms don't rhyme, even in the original Hebrew. Also even if it is supposed to be a poem with rhyme and meter, ChatGPT's poem doesn't have correct meter.

Agreeing with you. Psalms typically employ parallelism not rhyming. Two examples:

  The sun will not harm you by day,
      nor the moon by night.

  My life is consumed by anguish
    and my years by groaning;
  my strength fails because of my affliction,[b]
    and my bones grow weak.

I wrote a whole paper on how to fix this in LLMs!


Gwern cited it too!

You have to tell it explicitly the correct number of syllables in a haiku, otherwise it gets it wrong.

>> That's wrong. It's poetic, but incorrect. These tools are about as good as a non specialist with time to undertake some bullshitting.

Does it really matter when it comes to real life? Kids take medical advice from TikTok influencers. Half the country believes absurd news they see on Facebook. Half the country believes anything their president says.

Which if you haven't noticed is good enough to land a seat in the United States Congress.

It is passing medical exams and will be used to help diagnose issues with similar reliability as humans.

We've been down the AI diagnosis path before and even a purpose-built system failed to live up. I think that GPT, much like Tesla autopilot, is going to spend a very long time ironing out it's "last mile" before anyone will trust it. The tendency for AI to be spectacularly wrong when it fails to grasp context is still pretty prevalent.

Just curious is it a political issue (risky and who to sue) or a technical issue (ai has far worse judgement)?

Mostly that it faired poorly against human doctors. Real-world medical data is too messy to feed into a machine.


Thanks! I wonder what is the most advanced automatic technique right now. I also think it's difficult to replace nurses -- even though basic nurse work is even easier comparing to a family doctor who needs to diagnose. I figure the reason is that to replace nurse we need a lot of automatic hardware, which needs a lot of investment, unlike ChatGPT which can really replace a service agent given enough training because it doesn't involve hardware.

We have a lot. But it's really the same story that we see with software. The more sophisticated the software you grab off the shelf the more that's expected from a single worker. Modern doctor's offices are overloaded with gadgets. Most are using automatic blood pressure cuffs, digital pulse ox and all sorts of machines to test for things that used to be untestable. The need for nurses and techs to operate them all only increases.

That can only be possible in a limited set of cases where the inputs necessary to make a diagnosis are all present in the patient chart. Human clinicians rely on other inputs to make most diagnoses including visually looking at the patient from multiple angles, asking them questions, manipulating and feeling the patient's body, listening (with or without stethoscope), and even smell. We are a long way from the robotics and sensor integration technology necessary to automate those steps in the diagnostic process.

what's incorrect about it

as far as i can tell it seems perfectly correct but admittedly my understanding of a* search is limited to messing with amit's visualizations of it

Not even always poetic either

Notice that it sometimes struggles to rhyme?

'poetic': you have described it accurately. I fail to see what the hullabaloo is all about. Call me jaded.

I'll call you refreshingly grounded.

Ought to be "to guide you on your way", "helps you reach the other side", "for they will lead you", "and help you", since "ye" is the plural nominative (not accusative).

I grew up using archaic, Jamesian English regularly (in a religious community), so it always sounds wrong when people use them incorrectly while attempting to be old-timey, which is a bit distracting and ruins the effect.

Apparently ChatGPT suffers from hypercorrection as much as any modern speaker.

(The meter is also dreadful, which is another thing that I think many modern English speakers don't often do precisely.)

RE: chatGPT ...

There was an "ask HN" a week or so ago about knowing how your personal machine was or was not compromised ...

I am imagining training a model on all of the PDFs and email and receipts and contracts that I have spent the last 30 years protecting ... and then exploding my home directory with 2M parallel copies.

Now what ?

Which is the real correspondence ? Which contracts are real ? Which invoices and receipts ?

Could one construct a framework where all data at rest is worthless and only witnessed transactions and traffic have any surveillance value ?

Chaffing on steroids.

On the other hand, note that you'd also need some way of distinguishing ... wheat from chaff ... for your own ability to track your correspondence, transactions, records, etc.

Otherwise, that is an interesting idea, particularly in a world in which storage is cheap relative to the size of documents. We're rapidly approaching an era in which storage capacities sufficient to hold the entire Library of Congress collection of books (as text) on a residential PC or server will be highly viable.

The larger problem is probably that your copy of that data isn't particularly important in most cases, it's what lies on others servers that's been generated by you / snarfed from your devices / activities. And that's far harder to chaff.

Another issue would be that any generated content that raises / matches suspicions could, in a regime with poor civil liberties protections, simply become more ammunition used against you. The old Cardinal Richelieu "six lines" dictum, though in this case, not necessarily in your hand.

Yet it will happily tell you random non sense with utter certainty like that it takes twenty minutes to boil a whole chicken in the middle of a recipe or listing an incorrect number of children with fake names while writing a biography.

A few months ago, I would have said Stable Diffusion, but ChatGPT wins, hands down.

We're living in exponential times.

That's not even close to the style of a Psalm. It's still pretty cool though.

Until ChatGPT, the term "artificial intelligence" felt like a misnomer for any of the tech that came out in the last 10y (which seemed mostly like statistical techniques for solving specific optimization problems).

For people familiar with how ChatGpT work, is there a youtube video or blog you recommend that explain how it work.

I have a very good understanding of how deeplearning neural network work and language model like "Word2vec" that convert a sentence or a word to a vector space.

But I completely fail to understand how Given an initial text as prompt, ChatGpt will produce text that continues the prompt.

I cant believe it simply use self-attention to generate one word at a time. It got to be more complex than that.

I agree, it’s amazing and it’s just the beginning. When this get numerous iterations of improvement and is distributed at scale and integrated with everything it will power the next technological leap forward. This to me is obvious.

Which metre is that supposed to fit? I can't fit that around any psalm I can think of, most of which are 8/6/8/6 metre.

Shhhh. Just more bullshitting from the computer bullshit machine.

could you provide some examples of your prompts leading to simulation of Linux within ChatGPT?

I've spent far too much time antagonizing ChatGPT, it's good shit.

I suppose this is nit picking, however that is not in the style of a Psalm.

Maybe not weird or surreal enough for HN. But I am amazed by the stability and quality of videos from my drone.

It's just amazing that I could easily fly a kilometer away whilst having a live feed of the footage being streamed back to my controller.

I have a sub 250g drone, so it's so light yet easily able to withstand pretty strong winds and the videos look great on a big 4K TV afterwards!

It seems like every amateur or even personal production has these big beautiful sweeping aerial shots now, when 10 years ago it would be only available to medium size productions that could rent a commercial drone, and 20 years ago only available to large productions that could afford to rent a helicopter.

The original "Planet Earth" was a showpiece for HD, but also these kinds of sweeping shots that people had rarely seen before. These were done with heavy cameras and complicated wire systems run through caves and forests. Today it seems almost pedestrian and quaint.

Absolutely this - I was completely blown away by the technology since it was a long long childhood dream for me (to fly or control something flying remotely).

I've flown the thing off the top of the volcano (at 3000 meters), and in heavy wind and clouds and was amazed how stable it is, how easy you can fly one and the 4k video it generates is breathtaking.

One thing I still want for this is to remove 500m ceiling and being able to pierce the clouds fast - not sure if this is possible anywhere since it's probably dangerous and illegal, but that would complete my childhood dream I think (short of actually learning to fly a real small plane or a glider).

I do a lot of kayaking (not white water kayaking) and fishing off my kayak in lakes, rivers, and the ocean on calmer days.

Does your style drone have any following features? Looking for something to fly around looking for fish and something that will follow me or do fly-bys when I’m doing something with the family.

I have a DJI Mini 3 Pro, it has a feature called Active Track[0] where you highlight a subject on the screen and then select how you'd like it to follow you. It can go alongside you or behind you - can follow things like cars too. Despite the sensors, it can be a little scary getting it to follow you when there are trees or telephone lines nearby, but in a lake or the sea it should be great. There are safety features where if it loses connection to the controller it can hover in place, land or return to home (where it took off from).

[0] - https://store.dji.com/guides/film-like-a-pro-with-activetrac...

Yeah, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is that drone... get the basic controller version.

in some form, this was present on DJI drones even 2 generations ago

I thought about that too and they are all not watertight. There are Swellpros that are, but they are not hobby drones. And their specs are no match to current hobby drones.

Not OP but Skydio might have the drones you need?

DJI is a juggernaut and i imagine will catch up, but when i last looked about a year ago Skydio autonomous tracking was dramatically better. It was the first thing that popped into mind when reading that question.

I think Skydio has the best autonomous follow feature I’ve seen so far.

Is now a good time to get into the hobby? I remember having an interest in college but it seemed so expensive and prohibitive. Have drones reached the same cost-value consumer sweet spot that 4K tv and e-bikes are recently enjoying?

Go look up the DJI Mini 2. <700 for drone plus accessory kit. 4k video with 30min battery life all flown from your controller and phone. It’s mind blowing.

Do you worry about losing it though?

Yeah, I have insurance with 'Flyaway Coverage'. Still have to pay a fee and there's a limit to the number of claims you can make over a time period but it's a lot cheaper than buying a new drone.

Wow how much is it? Where do you buy it? Is it worth it for a sub $500 drone?

Looks like something you can buy with a DJI drone from their online store.


Which drone do you have?

It's a DJI Mini 3 Pro. Never had any experiences with other drones, so can't compare it to others - but I love it!

The new DJI Mini 3 does look good too if you're on more of a budget.

"Strandbeest": crawling robots powered entirely by wind - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C97kMKwZ2-g

Beautiful - thank you for showing.

Takes me back to Soda Constructor. It would be fun to incorporate wind and sails into the model.

And sodarace...

This is surreal good answer thanks for sharing.

Magnetic resonance focused high intensity ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier in humans to deliver drugs directly to brain tissue - https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12426-9

This is interesting to me because my mother has MS and it's _because_ the blood-brain barrier is too open that she has health issues. Surprising there's good reason to open it up.

I learned about this from a talk given by one of the authors. The guy next to me asked, "If you open up the blood-brain barrier, doesn't that mean nasty things can cross, too?" and the author was like, "yep." There are definitely risks.

It's an interesting problem - I was reading about bipolar, which also (probably) has the issue of too open a blood-brain barrier. There is a theory that repairing the blood-brain barrier would help, but as drugs repair the barrier, it's harder to get drugs into the brain from the blood, which means the doses need to be higher, which means the side effects are worse.

I could imagine a treatment protocol of opening the blood-brain barrier and then administering a low dose of a drug, or something along those lines

I'm aware that Elisa Konofagou at Columbia has done quite a bit of work on this in the past decade if your interested in more:



Hah, I worked in Kullervo's lab in the early 2010s. It is, indeed, surreal, what you can do with MR-guided focused ultrasound.

I'm really hopeful about focused ultrasound for non-invasive treatment of various brain diseases.

A hobbyist made a 2x2 angled LEGO brick with a computer and an OLED display embedded into it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wBrOV2FJM8

This is a mind blowing level of miniaturization, especially considering that this was assembled by someone at home with commercially available off-the-shelf parts! The fact that he used a cheap, readily available 3D printer to manufacture the jigs and mould parts is the icing on the cake.

When I grew up, computer monitors were heavy and had big vacuum tubes in them made out of thick glass. At the scale of a LEGO brick, it was already amazing having a single LED light instead of an incandescent light bulb!

A working computer!? With a display? Madness!

Where do I get one?

Ps: yes it runs doom:


At some point I'll be more interested in what kind of computing device you cannot make Doom run on.

Compost bin that requires a subscription. You send the compost via mail to a processing facility https://www.fastcompany.com/90834481/nests-co-founder-design...

Wow - they raised $100 million. They're expecting people to pay $33/mo for the service, which includes the grinder/dehydrator bin, plus the cost of mailing the dense milled organics back to their processing facility.

Figure that actual physical expenses cost $18/mo, leaving $15/mo profit per household; on top of that, they'll have extensive marketing costs - let's say marketing & employee costs take another $10/mo, leaving $5/mo profit per household. That means they'd need 1.6 million households to subscribe for a year just to get their investors their money back, or about 1% of the potential market.

How did they possibly win over investors? If I could short this I would.

> How did they possibly win over investors?

Low interest rates have shifted massive amounts of capital to vc. We’re talking trillions possibly, including sovereign funds and ultrabillionaire family offices.

Are those wealth and investment managers nuts? Maybe, but I’ve concluded the most likely explanation is that they know exactly how to play the vc game: place a number of wild bets and hope that one in a hundred pays off. They sometimes seem to barely do due diligence, perhaps for efficiency and speed in allocation, and because the vc portion of their otherwise well-diversified portfolio is tiny. You and I get to partake in the schadenfreude if these stupid ventures collapse but they’re wiping their tears with the returns they make on other asset classes - stocks back then, fixed income now, etc.

If interest rates go back to the “old normal” for a sustained period of time then maybe this ends, but maybe the new normal is here to stay. We’ve been told there’d be a big cleanse of stupid or otherwise unprofitable ideas (can we really cram more SaaS solutions into every single niche under the sun?) but I’m seeing very little of the sort, other than layoffs and downsizings which are not thus far commensurate with the fireworks we were promised.

It's true, but the raise _just happened_, which means there's still loose VC money out there. The narrative has been that there's been a transition to more conservative funding...apparently not in this case, at least.

There’s usually a lag… raise might’ve happened >1 year ago.

> the most likely explanation is that they know exactly how to play the vc game: place a number of wild bets and hope that one in a hundred pays off.

But isn't a key point of this theory of investing that you invest in many companies that have a 1% chance of making a 100x return - rather than investing in companies with a 0% chance?

Paid composting collection sounds like a ridiculous idea but if for example they manage to become a standard and get monopolistic contracts like waste management companies, on a national level… there’s your moonshot. Here, have a hundred mill.

There is the part where they expect to earn back from reselling the compost.

> Mill has partnered with two processing facilities that purchase and turn all this dried food into a chicken feed ingredient, filtering out any errant forks or inorganic materials that accidentally get tossed in the bin.

The bit about filtering out inorganic material seems a little too convenient to gloss over though.

As a kid who grew up on a small (by Norwegian standards) dairy farm I remember it confused me that food waste couldn't be sold to farms.

As a grown up, seeing all the stuff people put into food waste I can understand it.

What I still can't understand though is how many people mistake food wrapping for food..!


I am a compost consumer and I have no desire to plasticize my pastures and fields the same way we’ve filled the oceans with plastic.

You can see this for yourself: just go to Home Depot and buy a bag of dirt … it’s not even micro plastics … whole objects like ballpoint pens and so on.

People used to throw their teabags in the compost, but now it seems that they've started adding a plastic mesh around some teabags (to increase the strength I guess?) so now it's basically a micro-plastics bomb.

> ...how many people mistake food wrapping for food..!

It isn't mistaking, it is not prioritizing the cognitive load for the separation effort. When I was in Japan, I was impressed with the level of fastidious compliance I witnessed in materials separation. That convinced me the talk in the US about how mainstream households could not possibly support a comprehensive cradle-to-cradle materials handling infrastructure are really talking about culture and/or necessity and not logistics.

"... I was impressed with the level of fastidious compliance ..."

Diversity is neither bad nor good - it just has benefits and costs.

You witnessed one of the costs.

On the other hand, we invented jazz and snowboarding. Those are examples of benefits.

I prefer the diversity.

Japan, a country famously known for lacking innovation?

I'd pay $100-200 for the trash can thing. There is a company making a smaller one, with the idea that you toss the output into your own compost pile. It cuts down on odor, rodents and time to compost completion.

What happens to the trash can if I stop paying the subscription fee?

(Fast forward a few years, and someone will rewrite the above as a postmortem.)

We have a Vitamix Foodcycler [1] we got on sale. It works well but the cycles take a while and it doesn’t process that much at once. Honestly we just went back to using a counter top bucket and then putting it in our municipal food waste bin.

Austin turn all that stuff into compost, and then give it away to the community (just turn up with bags) and I assume use on city run parks and so on.

[1] https://www.vitamix.com/us/en_us/shop/foodcycler-fc-50

Honestly if you have a big enough pile, just bury the waste in the compost. Or get a Green Cone Solar Digester, I've literally put hunks of meat & coconut husks and it just disappears, no rodents, no smell. I was putting buckets of compost in there every week and it would just melt into the earth.

I used a local version of this type of product in a city I used to live in.

Main positive is as you mentioned, food waste smell is gone, and no rodents/animals in the trash either inside or outside.

> How did they possibly win over investors?

Matt Rogers cofounded Nest. People will throw money at that without asking any questions. Winners often win twice.

Plus the hardware grinder/dehydrator could be used in either your own garden or picked up weekly/monthly and sold locally.

Plus it's Green and it actually makes sense to try and capture that waste. Something individuals can do to make a difference.

I agree $33/mo and a mail-back service is never going to get their $100M back.

I paid around that much to have my compost picked up from my apartment weekly. They would drop off a reuseable bucket for the upcoming week and pick up the bucket from the previous week.

It's a reasonable local business for a waste disposal company. How is a VC funded company expecting "tech-like" returns?

How did you figure those numbers? They don't seem related to any of the content in the article or any other content I can find about them online.

Makes me wonder if they're just iterating until they find a business, or trying to have some cashflow while they develop some IP.

a grinder/dehydrator for organic household garbage would be pretty useful without the service, because desiccated organic garbage won't rot and stink; you can dispose of it at your leisure thereafter, whether by composting, burning, feeding to chickens, or just dumping

Sometimes (often these days) i can't tell if these things are parodies or real products. It reminds me of Juicero: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juicero

In Europe many countries have specific trash bins for food waste, they're collected by the city and reused for compost and biogas. No subscriptions, no investors, no soon to be e-waste wifi and bluetooth connected trash can, no shipping dirt in box

AVE did a great teardown of one a couple years ago, impressive machine with a stupid purpose.

Some of their assumptions seem to be very much US based where "green bins" for garden and food waste might not be a thing? I don't know but where I live in Canada, contents of the green bin definitely don't end up in the landfill like they say. So it's not even a problem that needs solving in many other places.

In the US, it depends on the waste services provider, city, and county. I've had garbage companies that offer compost and yard waste services and some not. Sometimes it's provided through the city or county for free or for a fee, though not everywhere

In the US too, plenty of cities (even small ones) offer compost collection as part of standard trash and recycling collection.

We should not be mailing compost around...that sort of defeats one of the purposes. There are local composting companies/orgs in most major metropolitan areas. Mine is Compost Now.

It would be interesting to see an environmental impact analysis of use of mail vs a compost cycle that’s does not use mail. Find it hard to believe they’re reusing the labels, boxes, plastic wrapping, etc too.

I think the impact analysis should be between a compost cycle that uses mail vs no compost cycle, because I would imagine that the alternative to this is just throwing food in the trash for most people

Blows my mind that that's a thing. If it's urban, how is there no compost bin system. If it's rural, just have a compost bin outside. It's like people don't know how to live anymore with every part of their lives being handled by some shitty subscription service. Food, waste, what's next, a box you can ship your poop in that's 39 bucks a year?!

I'm not really defending the service, and I think it will fail because it looks like a logistical nightmare and I don't understand why people would pay 30 bucks for this, but if it was free it could be somewhat convenient.

Especially in an urban setting if you don't have a compost bin in your building : it's not as ubiquitous as you seem to think.


Possibly, though there are plenty of high-density urban areas that require separating compost materials and pick it up with trash, recycling, yard waste, etc. — so to me that would seem like a better comparison; or just compare all options.

Here in Germany we have to split our garbage and one "bucket" so to speak is compostable and gets taken by the regular garbage trucks and I assume is composted in large facilities. That seems like a more reasonable approach because it scales to a whole city doing it

Here in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, they are planning to ship compostable plastic bags to homes, which you can use to put organics into the normal metal/paper/plastic recycling stream. Those bags get picked out at the recycling center and used for compost to sell to local farms/etc and (hopefully) at least pay for the program, and maybe even bring in some extra funds. No extra cost to users or hassle mailing packages of garbage (lol).

> compostable plastic bags ... normal metal/paper/plastic recycling stream

That's really clever since it avoids needing to have separate trucks.

Will they also accept leaves and yard trimmings? These are much larger in volume, so I'm not sure if they could be handled, but maybe with large bags it's fine.

> sell to local farms/etc

My city sells to farms and also sells it in bags at retail stores. It's meets standards that are supposed to make it safe to use in your backyard garden.

Also, since it costs money to put stuff in a landfill, and since this diverts from the landfill, it saves a bit of money that way too.

(Further info: https://www.austintexas.gov/department/dillo-dirt)

Same here — I live in Eastern Canada and my municipality is rolling out a program where you'll put compostables in a separate bag, but the sorting is done by the trashman.

And then the yellow bags for plastic, which they take to SE Asia on the otherwise empty container-ships, so that it gets dumped on a beach or into a river, while Germany fills its quota for recycling.

Sorry for the cynicism, this was the case a few years ago, maybe not anymore?

> this was the case a few years ago, maybe not anymore?

I'm not sure what happens with the plastic in SE Asia, but we still send most of our plastic there.



This statistic is listing the share of exported plastics that are exported to certain countries. But that's not "most of our plastic", because overall exports are around ~10%. So "most of our plastic" is either recycled or burned within Germany. (Not saying any of this is ideal, but it's not helping to spread false information.)

I apologize. I chose poor wording to the point where my sentence it is becoming untrue.

I meant something like: “The majority of plastic we export to other countries is still being exported to SE Asia”.

As the other comment said, it's more likely that they get burned.

I think it happened that due to waste reduction, "normal" garbage is sometimes not enough to keep the furnaces running, so they take recyclable material from the yellow bags and burn it, to keep the temperatures stable...

Majority of it is burned, as always.

I don't see what you are trying to say here? That we shouldn't even try to recycle anymore because some garbage gets shipped to SE Asia?

Which is better for the environment, taking it a few kilometers outside of Berlin and burying it in a landfill that is properly insulated and managed, or shipping it across to world and dropping it on a beach in Thailand where turtles and birds get tangled into it?

The first is what happens with your regular garbage, the second is what happens (with some fraction) of the "recycled" yellow bag plastic.

I was not trying to say anything particular, just how "recycling" has become a form of gaslighting to avoid the tough question of how to produce less garbage in the first place.

This definitely happens for plastic. But food waste does tend to actually get composted.

We should normalize having chickens in the office.

No. Have you ever raised chickens, or cleaned out a coop?

FAANG companies probably have enough money for additional space and employees to look after the chickens

Ha! I actually run a company that does Coop cleaning, babysitting, coop set up, day old chick delivery, etc. We're launching the world's best Coop in 45 days, stay tuned :)

Curious about the "world's best coop" part. What does this mean? (Asking as someone with chickens, and some old coops now.)

We're building a product at the intersection of smart home tech (think cameras with computer vision for predators, alerts, etc), light robotics (automatic doors), and services (think press a button and a person shows up to clean the coop, etc). We did this small news article a few months ago that shows what we're doing if interested https://www.kxan.com/news/local/austin/chicken-coop-sitting-...

Ah, cool thanks!

I think I mostly need to rebuild with better structural design, better access for me and so on. A lot of the AI applications are taken care of here by 25Kg of motivated canine intelligence.

Although it sounds funny, this is actually kind of a serious question: are you concerned about an egg bubble?

Not at all, I assume egg prices will normalize in a few months / quarters to previous consumer costs - call it $1.50-$2 a dozen. It's super odd though that we're launching a company that allows anyone with a backyard to raise chickens / get eggs. For a lot of people, eggs are a bonus byproduct of raising them. A lot of people get joy from it, reduce nearly all their food waste, fertilize their yard, teach kids on taking care of them, they'll take care of you, etc. :)

I have chickens roaming wild outside my office window, and I assure you that meetings are not much fun with "BOK BOK BOK..." resonating constantly through the mic. They are so f-ing loud.

I don't think this is very practical. It would cause too many communication issues in the agile process.

The chickens are agile enough to lay eggs on their own

Things like this make me realize how poor the rest of the world is, and how wealthy America is.

Have I got this right?

I pay $0/m, I chuck my food scraps in the garbage.


I pay $33/m, I fart around with some device in my kitchen, then send them by post to some company and get nothing in return.

And from an environment point of view, it is a device that needs high energy to produce.

I actually compost. It cost say $33 one off for the bin, which sits on soil, and can take probably couple years worth of waste. I am not in an appartment, but surely the solution there is a compost on common outdoor or rooftop area, where the cost is lower because it can be shared.

>I pay $33/m, I fart around with some device in my kitchen, then send them by post to some company and get nothing in return.

I think you also pay for the electricity the device uses, and for replacement filters. No idea what happens in case of issues (need of repair/replacement parts/etc.), i.e. if it is included in the subscription or if it malfunctions it is on you.

This seem beyond dumb !

That being said, having a real compost in the garden is quite mind blowing. Every time I go there to throw the peels of vegetables and fruits I think - damn, almost full. Then, somehow, the worms keep eating it and the next time it's still at the same level. Nature is pretty smart after all.

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