For the past few days, my Twitter feed (yes, it’s still there) has been cluttered with dialogs with the ChatGPT chatbot. Some are on the level of polite and trivial human conversation: the form is correct, but not much fact. Where fact is called for, it is often incorrect, but presented in a correct form.
There are also several art generators available. Neither they nor the chatbots can be called “intelligent.” As far as I can tell (and I’ll be happy to hear if I’ve missed something), they are basically weighted averages of their training sets, which are very large and consist of samples of art or conversation. A part of the program also recognizes, from those training sets, questions from humans and what might be appropriate responses. The programs also add the inputs of people asking them questions to their data bases.
That is a significant achievement, although machine translation, which relies on similar operations, impresses me more, particularly of agglutinative languages.
All this is enabled by large computer memories and fast computation.
Vladimir Putin has made clear his ambition to reintegrate Ukraine into a Russian Empire. Russia expanded from the Ukraine-Moscow-Novgorod area across Asia over a period of centuries. By 1721, it was at its maximum extent, including colonies in North America. Like other empires, it indulged in various forms of genocide as it incorporated peoples of many languages and living conditions.
The Soviet Union grew out of the Russian Empire and continued its imperial characteristics, but its rhetoric denied those characteristics. It was the friend of oppressed people everywhere, and the members of the Union were happy to be part of it, so went the official line.
The polling/pundit debacle that predicted a “red wave” in the election has reminded me of this brilliant title of a short story by James Tiptree, Jr. Except that’s Alice Bradley Sheldon. Back in the day, a sure way not to be seen was to have a name coded as female.
Names coded as female are more acceptable now, but, as in Shelton’s story, much that is female is still not seen. We could still be traveling down to Mexico to get a lift to other solar systems, and nobody would know. The story is told from the limited viewpoint of a man who stumbles into two women’s vacation to Mexico. He cannot understand the women in any way but as sexual targets.
A great many pollsters live in a similarly limited world. Theirs depends on their models and the limited worldview those models encapsulate – gasoline prices, inflation fears, what they sometimes call kitchen table issues. Additionally, a conventional wisdom of how elections play out and fluctuate. No space for self-determination being taken away from half the population.
Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s National Security Advisor, has been in contact with Vladimir Putin’s advisors over the past several months. This is no surprise, because contact is particularly important in times of conflict. The US maintained contact with the USSR, and has maintained contact with Russia in regard to both countries’ activities in Syria. This is diplomacy.
The Biden administration is also urging Ukraine to signal willingness to talk to Russia. That would mean dropping or softening insistence that diplomacy can talke place only after Putin is no longer in power. This is diplomacy.
A New York Times reporter responded to the WSJ news by saying that The Letter – the one that Dan and Rob have written about – made a difference. I am sorry to see that a reporter from the Paper Of Record has such a naïve view of how things work. I’ve lost the tweet.
If the administration leaked this news, it is because diplomacy has been going on for weeks to months and has some stability. A too-early leak of such information can damage or end the connection. So all this diplomacy was in progress before The Letter.
Vladimir Putin has made a number of statements that can be taken as threats to use nuclear weapons. He reminds us that Russia has nuclear weapons. The statements are ambiguous, but, in the context of Russia’s war on Ukraine, can be taken as threats. Let’s look more closely at those statements.
At the beginning of the war, there was a cluster of statements: February 24 and 27, and March 5 and 16. Then a statement in the middle of April, and then a jump to June, and another jump to September and October. During the summer, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant was under attack, which kept nuclear fears in the news.
No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history. No matter how the events unfold, we are ready. All the necessary decisions in this regard have been taken.
This statement is stronger than the customary US statement “all options are on the table” and has the tone of Donald Trump’s statements to North Korea about possible nuclear use.
Vladimir Putin is throwing it all against the wall today. Today’s statement includes that Ukraine has become an instrument of US foreign policy, has practically lost its sovereignty, its territory has been turned into a testing ground for biological experiments, and now it is being pumped up with weapons. I think that included nuclear weapons. Moar:
Putin has used nuclear fear since the beginning of his war. He started with threats when he declared war on February 24.
No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.
Update 10/25/2022:I’ve added an April 20 quote at the suggestion of François Heisbourg and September 30 from Gene Dannen. Thanks to both.
As we try to decipher Sergey Shoigu’s phonecalls to the Defense Ministers of the US, UK, and France, I decided to look at the threats Vladimir Putin has made since February 24. I combed through all his speeches on the President of Russia website, and this is what I found. Let me know if I’ve missed something. I have left out threats by others like Dmitri Medvedev and the Russian tv brigade.
I’ve included context with each quote, and you can link back to the speeches to find further context.
I would now like to say something very important for those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside. No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history. No matter how the events unfold, we are ready. All the necessary decisions in this regard have been taken. I hope that my words will be heard.