Friday, December 29, 2023


ChatGPT Is an 
Ideology Machine

On February 16, Vanderbilt University’s office for equity, diversity, and inclusion issued a statement on the shooting at Michigan State University. The statement was boilerplate... The only remarkable thing… was that a footnote credited ChatGPT with producing its first draft. The office apologized one day later, after an outcry.

This curious incident throws the most recent panic-hype cycle around artificial intelligence into stark relief

These debates, including the exhibitionist scaremongering, are mostly vapor. But the systems themselves should be taken seriously. They may supplant low-level tasks in both writing and coding, and could lead to a mass cognitive deskilling, just as the industrial factory disaggregated and immiserated physical labor.

But however the next phase of technological capitalism plays out, the new AI is intervening directly in the social process of making meaning at all. GPT systems are ideology machines.

Language Models Are the First Quantitative Producers of Ideology

The three main takes on GPT systems are that they are toys, that they are harmful, and that they present a major change in civilization as such. Noam Chomsky thinks they are toys, writing in the New York Times that they have no substantial relationship to language, a human neural function that allows us to divine truth and reason morally. Emily Bender and Timnit Gebru think they are harmful, calling them “stochastic parrots” that reflect the bias of their “unfathomably” large datasets, redistributing harm that humans have already inflicted discursively.

 Henry Kissinger thinks they are societal game changers, that they will change not only labor and geopolitics, but also our very sense of “reality itself.”

Kissinger is right, alas: GPT systems, because they automate a function very close to our felt sense of what it means to be human at all, may produce shifts in the very way we think about things. 

Control over the way we think about things is called “ideology,” and GPT systems engage it directly and quantitatively in an unprecedented manner.

“GPT” stands for “generative pretrained transformer,” but “GPT” also means “general purpose technology” in economic jargon. This highlights the ambition behind these systems, 

What GPT systems spit out is language, but averaged out around a selected center of words. It’s a mush with vague conceptual borders…

Hegemony and Kitsch

Ideology is not just political doctrine. When Marx wrote of the “German Ideology,” he meant his fellow socialists’ implicit belief in the power of ideas, to which he countered the power of material forces. 

But Marxists slowly took up the problem of the power of discourse and representation, acknowledging that what we are able to think, imagine, and say is a crucial political issue. Antonio Gramsci called the dominant set of ideas “hegemony,” arguing that these ideas conformed to the dominance of the ruling class while not being about that dominance. Literary critic Hannes Bajohr has warned against privatized GPT systems in just this sense, saying that “whoever controls language controls politics.”

Hegemony and kitsch are combined in the output of GPT systems’ semantic packages, which might miss aspects of ‘the world’ but faithfully capture ideology. 

Thursday, December 28, 2023


The Vegetariat is at wits end to find protein alternatives that make mealworms and crickets look comparatively appetizing, for in advertising the climate crisis as an immanent eschaton, activists have deprived fake meats and Falafel Fridays of the power of myth, by alienating millions of tofu-friendly Scandiavian Social Democrats from the belief that the ultimate existential threat is the completion of Óðin's iceberg-proof funeral barge
 constructed  entirely out of marine-grade human fingernails, as fit object for biosynthesis as lab-grown chicken or Frankenbeef.
Here begins the saga of Snorri The Meatless  
And thus it ends.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

                          A  MILLION  DEATHS  IS A  STATISTIC

Andy @RevkinDec 27 · Sustain What

Please set this… aside... many self-described climate activists who’ve blocked or attacked Roger Pielke Jr. over the years will never read it, and that’s a shame, because he appropriately challenges some longstanding shibboleths - one being that the climate of the 19th century was wonderfully equable. 

He lays out how much is missed by a warming-centered, instead of risk-centered, approach to building a better relationship between people and the turbulent and changing climate system. 

When the Climate Was Perfect

Was the global climate of 1850-1900 really so great? 


Global climate policy has evolved from an emphasis on reducing risks associated with altering the climate to one focused on seeing global average surface temperature as an indicator of the quality of life on the entire planet that we can fine tune through energy policy.

This singular focus is clear in the figure below from the most recent assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR6 WG2 Figure FAQ16.5.1), which summarizes “reasons for concern” about “climate-related hazards” — these include “extreme weather events” and “large-scale singular events.”...

There is a lot that we could unpack here about science, politics, belief and the pathological collapse of the climate discourse into the notion that global average surface temperature provides a single, reliable indicator of human well-being and planetary health — what Hulme calls “climatism.” 

Today, I’ll pass on those deeper issues and instead take an empirical look at the IPCC’s 1850-1900 “pre-industrial” period that has come to represent a time before climate change — the white parts at the bottom of the “burning embers” diagram. The Paris Agreement’s 1.5C and 2.0C temperature targets are anchored on this period of zero Celsius. 

Climate activists claim that every increment of warming over the historical “pre-industrial baseline” results in more harm to people and the planet.³ For instance, upon the recent release of the Fifth U.S, National Climate Assessment, Katherine Hayhoe of The Nature Conservancy and lead author of the report, claimed:

“This report says every 10th of a degree of warming matters. Every bit matters. It clearly shows that per 10th of a degree of avoided warming, we save, we prevent risk, we prevent suffering. And that’s pretty powerful.”

Let’s set aside the fact that we can’t measure global average temperature to 0.1C (e.g., for 2020, the IPCC AR6 provided a 90% confidence range of 0.25C, as you can see in the figure below) or that we have no ability to distinguish climate impacts with any meaningfulness at 0.1C differences.

Source: IPCC AR6. The grey zone is climate safety. Make note of the late 1870s as you read the text below.

One important reason that the period 1850-1900 serves as a useful baseline of climate utopia is that almost no one has any idea what the climate looked like back then, much less the climate impacts actually experienced. Most modern climate records start in the 20th century, and to the extent that the IPCC considers pre-20th climate it is in terms of physical quantities and not impacts or risks (e.g., as in the figure immediately above). Most attention these days in climate research is focused far into the future through the lens of climate models — there are very few old school Changnons, Lambs, Kelloggs and Diazes left in the climate community. 

Over the past few weeks I have read Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World, by Mike Davis.During my time as a scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I spent a lot of time researching impacts of and responses to El Niño and La Niña under the guidance of the one and only Mickey Glantz. I was aware of the 1877-78 El Niño event and its profound impacts, but I never connected its significance to the contemporary climate discourse until recently.

Davis compiles estimates suggesting that more than 50 million people died in the mid-1870s related to extreme weather and climate — 
That equates to about 4% of global population. Today, that same proportion of the world’s population would be…  almost the entire population of the entire United States

We cannot even imagine this magnitude of human suffering.

The proximate cause of the 1870s massive climate impacts was a very strong El Niño even in 1877 and 1878, but that event was also perhaps comparable to strong El Niño events in 1997/98 and 2015/16. What accounts for the massive loss of life in the 1870s? Davis explores this in depth, and the simple answer is colonial rule informed by Malthusian impulses.

For instance, Davis quotes Sir Evelyn Baring, UK finance minister at the time, who justified the unwillingness of the British Empire to ameliorate the impacts of drought on its subjects in explicit Malthusian terms:

“[E]very benevolent attempt made to mitigate the effects of famine and defective sanitation serves but to enhance the evils resulting from over-population.”

The U.K.’s 1878-1880 Famine Commission concluded:

“The doctrine that in time of famine the poor are entitled to demand relief … would probably lead to the doctrine that they are entitled to relief at all times, and thus the foundation would be laid of a system of general poor relief, which we cannot contemplate without serious apprehension …”

The figure below shows estimated decadal deaths related to weather and climate extremes for four decades, each separated by a half century, starting with the 1870s.

Estimated decadal deaths related to weather and climate for four decades: 1870s, 1920s, 1970s, 2020s (estimated based on deaths over the past decade). These estimates are highly uncertain and 1870s and 1920s numbers are certainly underestimates. They should be interpreted as orders of magnitude and not as precise figures. Sources: Davis 2017Our World in Data

Sunday, December 24, 2023


By Michael Bristow & Kathryn Armstrong 

More than 300 hours of below-freezing temperatures have already been recorded in Beijing this month The Chinese capital, Beijing, has experienced its coldest December since records began in 1951.

      Nature reports on Chairman Xi's latest climate crisis response:


Saturday, December 23, 2023


A  Psychedelics Boom Is 

Minting Environmentalists
It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate setting for Amanda Joy Ravenhill’s first psychedelic experience than Burning Man... In September 2009, while lying in an art installation resembling an osprey nest, Ravenhill queried the universe as the mushrooms kicked in:
“What should I do next?”

The answer pulsed through her. It was as if the psilocybin told her “to get my hands dirty,” she says. “It came through with such potency, and I got obsessed with soil’s role in stabilizing our climate.”

The next few decades will be “very turbulent” due to climate change, Ravenhill says, “but there are some options that are way less awful than the worst ones. Psychedelics helped me see and act more clearly to help make those happen.”

‘The most difficult truth’

many people transform their lives after taking magic mushrooms?...the founders of The Journeymen Collective, a Canadian startup whose 

“contemporary shamans” guide Executives, entrepreneurs and other professionals willing to drop at least $11,000 to “connect deeply into Self”...through multi-day psilocybin journeys on a mountaintop estate ...
A Journal of Environmental Research& Public Health  study, “From Egoism to Ecoism,” found a positive link between lifetime psychedelic use and “feeling close and kindly towards nature,” especially for participants who experienced “ego-dissolution,” wherein the sense of self dies during the hallucinogenic experience.

By November 28, 2023 at 7:15 AM EST 



Democrats And Industry Are At War With Themselves Over A Controversial Energy Plan

A cooling tower at Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant in Oswego, New York.
A cooling tower at  Springfield Nuclear Nine Mile Point  power plant in Oswego, New York.

OSWEGO, N.Y. — On the snowy eastern shore of Lake Ontario sits a beige metal shipping container roughly the size of a mobile home. Inside, a machine called an electrolyzer is zapping tanks of freshwater with enough volts to split the hydrogen out of H2O to harvest the gas, which the U.S. government is banking on replacing fossil fuels... 

The trouble is that making hydrogen from electricity still generates far fewer molecules than using natural gas, making the clean stuff much more expensive.  “Gray” hydrogen costs less than $3 per kilogram to produce today, and sometimes drops below $1. The price of “blue” hydrogen, which uses that same fossil method but captures the planet-heating carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere, maxes out below $5 and can be less than $2. The “green” hydrogen needed to make a difference on climate change can go for as much as $12, and costs more than gray in every market that analysts surveyed this year. 

That’s why the Joe Biden administration is spending billions of dollars to build a whole new American hydrogen industry from the ground up, and bring the price of green hydrogen down to $1 by the end of the decade….Late last year, Constellation, the biggest U.S. nuclear plant operator, began to generate clean hydrogen from its two reactors at Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station here in the rural lakeside college town in northwestern New York. 

Hailed by the Energy Department as a historic “milestone,” it was to be the nation’s first-ever experiment in producing hydrogen from nuclear power — and, according to Constellation, the only major commercial effort in the world. 

By March, the electrolyzer’s hum was vibrating the corrugated walls of its shipping container in a fenced-off area outside the nuclear plant’s main facility… Constellation said its homemade fuel was cheap enough for the power plant here to stop buying the hydrogen it uses in its own reactors from outside vendors, and made plans to keep the electrolyzer going permanently. Looking beyond its own facility, the company started working with the state energy agency in Albany to produce more hydrogen to help keep New York’s lights on. 

Constellation now wants to go nationwide with its hydrogen. The Baltimore-based utility giant announced a $900 million investment to build thousands of times as much electrolyzer horsepower at its LaSalle nuclear station in Illinois. In October, the White House gave the company its blessing.

All those plans may go up in flames as early as this week.

That’s when the Treasury Department is expected to release its proposed rules for how companies can qualify for the clean-hydrogen tax credit, known as 45V. 

It may turn out to be among the Biden administration’s most consequential — and controversial — climate policy decisions...

Such a rule would effectively bar the nuclear industry from getting in on the hydrogen bonanza. By the time any new reactors could be built — a process that may take more than a decade — the tax credit would expire. Eleven Democrats who also authored the bill — ranging from liberal Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to conservative Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — say the legislation was written specifically to allow for the use of existing nuclear stations and other already-built clean-electricity sources.

                        FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT

MIT's Technology Review is far behind the curve on synthetic meat development. Fake rubber chicken debuted on climate denial conference menus a decade before Beyond Beef left the lab, witness this strapping specimen conferring with late Unification Church Science Editor S.Fred Singer:


Lab-grown meat

Instead of killing animals for food, why not manufacture beef or chicken in a laboratory vat? That’s the humane idea behind “lab-grown meat.”

The problem, though, is making the stuff at a large scale. Take Upside Foods. The startup, based in Berkeley, California, had raised more than half a billion dollars and was showing off rows of big, gleaming steel bioreactors.

But journalists soon learned that Upside was a bird in borrowed feathers. Its big tanks weren’t working; it was growing chicken skin cells in much smaller plastic laboratory flasks.

Thin layers of cells were then being manually scooped up and pressed into chicken pieces. In other words, Upside was using lots of labor, plastic, and energy to make hardly any meat.

Samir Qurashi, a former employee, told the Wall Street Journal he knows why Upside puffed up the potential of lab-grown food. “It’s the ‘fake it till you make it’ principle,” he said.

And even though lab-grown chicken has FDA approval, there’s doubt whether lab meat will ever compete with the real thing. Chicken goes for (59 cents to) $4.99 a pound at the supermarket. Upside still isn’t saying how much the lab version costs to make, but a few bites of it sell for $45 at a Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco.

Thursday, December 21, 2023


    Large Language Models have made remarkable progress in question-answering tasks, but challenges like hallucination and outdated information persist. These issues are especially critical in domains like climate change, where timely access to reliable information is vital. One solution is granting these models access to external, scientifically accurate sources to enhance their knowledge and reliability. Here, we enhance GPT-4 by providing access to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and reliable source in this domain. 

  • We present our conversational AI prototype, available at, and demonstrate its ability to answer challenging questions in three different setups: (1) GPT-4,
  • (2) ChatClimate, which relies exclusively on IPCC AR6 reports, and (3) Hybrid ChatClimate, which utilizes IPCC AR6 reports with in-house GPT-4 knowledge. The evaluation of answers
  • by experts show that the hybrid ChatClimate AI assistant provide more accurate responses, highlighting the effectiveness of our solution.