Arnold Kling explains the difference between a prior and a bias. Here’s his conclusion:
You can have a prior belief about something, based on your own observations and the opinions of others you trust. That belief could be very strong without making you biased. But you are biased if you give negative weight to new information. That is, evidence against your prior belief should reduce your confidence in that belief, not raise it.
Megan McArdle had her priors changed about Gemini; she writes that
once Google shut down Gemini’s image generation, users turned to probing its text output. And as those absurdities piled up, things began to look la lot worse for Google — and society. Gemini appears to have been programmed to avoid offending the leftmost 5 percent of the U.S. political distribution, at the price of offending the rightmost 50 percent.
It effortlessly wrote toasts praising Democratic politicians — even controversial ones such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) — while deeming every elected Republican I tried too controversial, even Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who had stood up to President Donald Trump’s election malfeasance. It had no trouble condemning the Holocaust but offered caveats about complexity in denouncing the murderous legacies of Stalin and Mao. It would praise essays in favor of abortion rights, but not those against.
Google appeared to be shutting down many of the problematic queries as they were revealed on social media, but people easily found more. These mistakes seem to be baked deep into Gemini’s architecture. When it stopped answering requests for praise of politicians, I asked it to write odes to various journalists, including (ahem) me. In trying this, I think I identified the political line at which Gemini decides you’re too controversial to compliment: I got a sonnet, but my colleague George Will, who is only a smidge to my right, was deemed too controversial. When I repeated the exercise for New York Times columnists, it praised David Brooks but not Ross Douthat.
I am at a loss to explain how Google released an AI that blithely anathematizes half its customer base, and half the politicians who regulate the company. It calls management’s basic competency into question, and raises frightening questions about how the same folks have been shaping our information environment — and how much more thoroughly they might shape it in a future dominated by LLMs.
Also reflecting on Google and search engines is Andrew Stuttaford.
My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy, reflects on nostalgia for the economy of years ago. A slice:
In a recent article, economist [GMU Econ alum] Jeremy Horpedahl looked at generational wealth (all assets minus all debt) and how today’s young people are faring compared to previous generations. His findings are surprising. After all the talk about how Millennials are the poorest or unluckiest generation yet, Horpedahl’s data show them with dramatically more wealth than Gen Xers had at the same age. And this wealth continues to grow.
What about income? A new paper by the American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Corinth and Federal Reserve Board’s Jeff Larrimore looks at income levels by generation in a variety of ways. They find that each of the past four generations had higher inflation-adjusted incomes than did the previous generation. Further, they find that this trend doesn’t seem to be driven by women entering the workforce.
Eric Boehm asks why Panera Bread is exempt from California’s new minimum-wage requirement. Two slices:
When fast food restaurants across California have to start paying workers $20 per hour on April 1, one major chain will be exempted from the mandate—and it just so happens to have a connection to a longtime friend and donor to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Panera Bread is poised to get a boost from a bizarre clause in the fast-food minimum wage law that exempts “chains that bake bread and sell it as a standalone item,” Bloomberg reports, adding that “Newsom pushed for that break, according to people familiar with the matter.”
That exemption stands to benefit Greg Flynn, owner and CEO of the Flynn Restaurant Group, a conglomerate that operates more than 2,300 restaurants nationally and is the second-largest Panera franchisee in the world, according to the company’s website. Flynn and Newsom go way back: Bloomberg reports that the two attended the same high school at the same time—Flynn was student body president during Newsom’s freshman year—and the restaurateur has donated to Newsom’s gubernatorial campaigns and bragged to colleagues about his close relationship with the governor.
The deeper lesson is that giving the government more power to set wages (or regulate other aspects of the economy) creates the conditions for exactly this sort of thing to happen. It could be that a wealthy special interest used his connections to the governor to secure special treatment, or that a governor tried to help out his friend. Either way, it couldn’t have happened without the government injecting itself into the relationship between workers and employers.
GMU Econ alum Nikolai Wenzel writes about Chile.
Richard Reinsch argues that we Americans are indeed trudging down the road to serfdom. Two slices:
Many of us thought that Hayek’s Road—in the form of an ever-expanding entitlement state—couldn’t be paved, because the spending excesses and dismal demographics would make it impossible. Instead, we are learning the opposite. Concrete facts alone are much weaker than unleashed appetites, fed by the view that citizens are due and owed payments from the state. Both political parties and their constituents embolden and participate in this fraud.
Hayek finishes his book with the most essential truth: collectivism undermines our dignity as human persons. “Responsibility” must not be “to a superior, but to one’s conscience, the awareness of a duty not exacted by compulsion, … and to bear the consequences of one’s own decision, [is] the very essence of any morals which deserve the name.” Ever the advocate of the individualist society, Hayek counted its virtues as “independence, self-reliance, the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one’s convictions against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary cooperation with one’s neighbors.” We need these virtues today, and the tradition that undergirds them.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Nicholas Wade inquires into covid’s origins. A slice:
In the four years since the SARS-CoV-2 virus was unleashed on the world, data have steadily accumulated supporting the hypothesis that it emerged from a laboratory. The latest information, released last month, makes a formidable case that the virus is the product of laboratory synthesis, not of nature.
This startling fact will probably take some time to sink into the national consciousness, given the mainstream media’s sustained inability to report the issue objectively. Editors have failed to think beyond the extreme politicization that requires liberals to oppose the lab-leak hypothesis. Science journalists are too beholden to their sources to suspect that virologists would lie to them about the extent of their profession’s responsibility for a catastrophic pandemic.
Michael Absoud is not impressed with new research allegedly showing that covid “causes lasting damage to cognition and memory.” (HT Jay Bhattacharya)