A MAGA Murderer's Row in Ohio
Plus, How AI Is Being Transformed by ‘Foundation Models’
Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: Tucker and the Dangers of Crying Wolf.
You can support The Bulwark by subscribing to Bulwark+ or just by sharing this newsletter with someone you think would value it.
BRENT ORRELL: How AI Is Being Transformed by ‘Foundation Models’
At a recent Stanford University conference, scientists and engineers described how the arrival of foundation models was made possible by substantial advances in hardware engineering that have lowered data processing costs by reducing the amount of time and energy the system uses in managing itself as it executes its analysis of data. The result is that AI research has succeeded in creating models that are generic in the sense that they are essentially pre-trained using an enormous, single data set and can perform a variety of different tasks with relatively little programmer input rather than being tailored to a single task and dataset. One AI scientist analogized it to learning how to skate. If you know how to walk, you have most of the skills you need to skate; minor changes and some practice is all you need.
As might be imagined, a quantum leap like this is generating controversy, beginning with whether the very term “foundation model” signals an effort by a single institution—Stanford, which launched a Center for Research on Foundation Models last year—to exert intellectual hegemony and epistemic closure over the AI field. Professional and institutional envy and rivalries come into play (“Leave it to Stanford to claim they have the foundation!”). However, beneath this seems to be a mix of genuine “don’t get ahead of yourself” concerns and worry about how the terminology might affect distribution of investment capital and research support.
Folks: it’s primary season! The Ohio U.S. Senate primary is tomorrow, and it’s been…less than nice. Two candidates had to be physically separated at a recent debate. Now, Trump has picked his horse in the race…listen to hear what the voters think of the Trump endorsement and whether the most insane things the candidates are saying are crossing people’s radars (spoiler alert: no). Sarah breaks it all down with Dave Weigel of The Washington Post, who’s been on the trail in Ohio during the home stretch.
Bulwark+ members can listen to an ad-free version of these podcasts on the player of their choice. Learn more at Bulwark+ Podcast FAQ.
A new generic congressional ballot poll shows Republicans may be losing ground ahead of the midterms. Plus, Tucker Carlson’s racism, JP Mandel, JD Mandel and the real guy, Vance, who’s proud to campaign with Marjorie Taylor Greene. Will Saletan is back with Charlie Sykes for the Charlie and Will Monday podcast.
BRUNO V. MANNO: ‘College for All’ Is Broken. Let’s Embrace Opportunity Pluralism Instead.
It may surprise education advocates that the two surveys found parents and young adults supporting a practice that many in the industry disapprove of: tracking within high schools. Because the term “tracking” has negative overtones, the survey used “tracking” when presenting the question to one half of respondents, and used a more neutral alternative, “diverse pathways,” for the other half.
The question gave respondents two high school models to choose between: one where schools “use [tracking/diverse pathways] to offer students different pathways based on their aptitudes and interests,” and a second where schools have “a goal of bringing all students along to the same end point, which is typically preparation for college.”
Tracking was overwhelmingly popular irrespective of terminology: Across the board, 86 percent of parents supported the tracking/diverse pathways model, and young adults were similarly supportive.
CATHY YOUNG: DHS Disinformation Board: An Unserious Solution to a Serious Problem.
In one of the more measured, though skeptical, conservative responses to the announcement, National Review’s Jim Geraghty acknowledged that “if this new DHS group spends its time publicly declaring that there are no special, secret, or little-known loopholes for migrants who wish to enter the U.S., it will do some good.” (On the other hand, a remarkably stupid Washington Examiner editorial found a way to explain why even this was a bad thing: You see, under Joe Biden the border really is effectively open, so telling potential migrants it’s not is actually . . . disinformation. Creative!)
Another sober and measured critique came from Matthew Feeney, director of the Cato Institute Project on Emerging Technologies (disclosure: I’m a cultural studies fellow at Cato), who pointed out on Twitter that the board “won’t be an Orwellian Ministry of Truth,” “will be constrained by the First Amendment (i.e. it will not be able to remove legal speech),” and has a relatively narrow mandate “with a focus on election integrity and border security/immigration enforcement.” However, Feeney also cautioned that “the DHS has a history of using surveillance tech and expressing an interest in social media monitoring” (including, during the Trump years, aggressive surveillance of immigrants’ social media use, which somehow failed to alarm the likes of Carlson and Hawley) and that the board’s mandate could expand, as often happens with federal agencies. He also expressed concern that when a unit within the DHS labels certain speech (e.g., claims that “the 2020 election was stolen and the results of the 2022 midterms can’t be trusted”) as equivalent to “Russian disinformation,” it may have a chilling effect…
Greetings from Washington! Well, the I-95 Express Lanes. I was in Washington today to catch up with fellow Bulwark folks, but have to get home to the kids and those who’ve lived here know what traffic is like. Better safe than sorry.
Despite having lived in the D.C. area since 2007, the last two years I’ve been in town so infrequently, it does feel, in certain parts, like an entirely different city. One that smells a lot more like weed than I remember it.
Meet the guy who has been to every Capital Bikeshare station… There are 683 of them, and they span a great distance in the D.C. area.
I rode today from downtown over to the Senate side today for a cool $1.30, except it was 80 degrees and I was in dress khakis and a backpack, so it was not so cool. But it did only take me six minutes, which is more than can be said if I had taken Metro.
My last ride on the system was in October of 2019, when I took a bike from L’Enfant Plaza to our old downtown office, a ride that took 21 minutes but cost me $0, as I was a yearly member back then. (It’s $8 a day or $95 a year, which is a great deal.)
The check washing scam… At Bloomberg, a look at how an old scam has taken on new dimensions.
Jimmy’s Kitchen… Shares the secret Panda Express shrimp recipe.
No jail time for an Arizona voter fraudster… But 2 years’ probation. I’m with the prosecutor: jail time was warranted because she lied, and election truthers who commit voter fraud to counteract the conspiracies they’re sold.
A Russian and a Ukrainian fall in love… And flee the invasion, only to be turned away at the U.S. border? What happens next? A border wedding in Tijuana, with a sort of Fandango feel. The newlyweds were able to come to the U.S. shortly thereafter.
Judge upholds J6 Committee subpoena of RNC. A big win as the GOP continues its stonewalling about who did, knew, and said what.
That’s it for me. Tech support questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions for me? Respond to this message.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. For full credits, please consult the article.