Friday Finds (GPT-3, Tradition, Priorities)


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Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

We just wrapped up another Write of Passage cohort. As a student body, we drafted almost 1,000 essays and published 463 of them, leading to roughly 500,000 words worth of writing.

Elsewhere, my passion for upending the traditional education system is taking off. Liftoff to be exact. I couldn't believe this stat: 74% of 5th graders love school, but by 10th grade, only 33% of them do. Yikes! Liftoff (our writing program for high schoolers) rekindles the joy, prepares teens for college and careers, and introduces them to a peer group that shares their passion. I’m hosting a webinar today about this very topic, and you can register here. If you know a kid who should Liftoff, encourage them to apply here.

Friday Finds

GPT-3 Introduction: A long-form piece on how artificial intelligence will change writing. The piece begins with a history of AI doomerism. It explores the founding of Open AI in 2015 and the work of researchers like Nick Bostrom and Stephen Hawking, who said: ‘‘the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.’’ We've been surrounded by small examples of language learning models for years, such as the Google predictions in Gmail and Google Docs. But lately, progress seems to have accelerated beyond auto-complete. These shifts will favor writers with a distinct style who can also tell compelling stories about their own lives that AI will never be able to replicate. If you want to understand what's happening, this is a good place to begin. If you're more interested in the philosophical implications of GPT-3, I recommend this anthology of essays. Perhaps most surprising is this technology's threat to Google. Until now, we've searched for answers. But Google search results lack synthesis. They'd improve if they were structured like a conversation and didn't depend on somebody having already written about exactly what we're interested in.

A World Split Apart: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist and critic of both communism and the Soviet Union. In his 1978 commencement speech, he warned against the West’s wholehearted embrace of individual rights and the decreasing responsibilities towards God and society. Voluntarily self-restraint is almost unheard of now. Sexual and economic norms have been forgotten. Ideas like sacrifice and selfless risk aren’t celebrated as they once were. Instead, in the name of liberation, the West has caved into the allures of consumption, hedonism, and short-term thinking.

Tradition is Smarter Than You Are: As a general rule, the faster information flows, the less a society will value tradition, and today, information flows faster than ever. Our respect for the wisdom of our ancestors is further diminished by social media’s bias for the present, which I call the Never-Ending Now. But tradition is often a strategy for helping culture survive over long periods of time, even though the people within it are short-term oriented. This article does a good job of explaining the often ignored value of tradition.

The Problem with Human Rights: Trigger warning: this video might shatter your worldview. At least, it did for me. The substrate of human rights rests on Judeo-Christian theology, and in particular the idea of imago dei (every human is made in the image of God), which is one of the biggest reasons I’ve been drawn towards faith. So with that, take a big ol’ swig of water and confront this red pill.

Amp it Up: Frank Slootman is the former CEO of two successful software companies: Data Domain and ServiceNow. This article outlines his leadership style. It orbits around three vectors: upping intensity, narrowing focus, and increasing quality. I like the analogy he makes between drivers and passengers in a company. In a car, as in a company, both parties reach the same destination even though the passengers are dead weight. Productive companies are filled with drivers. It's a leader's job to set the pace for an organization. Otherwise, tempo slows to a static glue. Moving quickly is about more than just getting things done. It's about attracting great employees, because the best people like to move fast and get stuff done. However, narrowing your focus as a company is the only way to move quickly without sacrificing the quality of your product. Slootman writes: "Most teams are not focused enough. I rarely encountered a team that employed too narrow an aperture. It goes against our human grain. People like to boil oceans. Just knowing that can be to your advantage... Do less, at a time. I've often felt that providence moves, too, when you un-clutter priorities. Like an Invisible Hand, all of a sudden things are on the move."

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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