A screenshot showing side-by-side comparison of Google's Gemini LLM and Google Search answering the question "could you move diagonally in ultima 1". Gemini does a very succinct job of this, giving a definite answer with no "extras", while Google Search does not come close to answering the question (at least above the fold).

I think we're at peak LLM usefulness here. A succinct answer I'm willing to trust, no ads, nothing seeking my further engagement. Basically I can't see a way for Gemini to get any better for this type of dead-end query than where it's at right now. Prepare thyself for the crapwave.

This is a great video of Lex Fridman interviewing Max Tegmark about AI and Moloch and Consciousness. It's a really long one. Maybe watch it in 15-minute increments. I had it open as a browser tab forever, half-way watched, but finished it a few nights ago. I may revisit it, as it's pretty dense and there are a shit-tonne of ideas in there.

"I kind of love programming. It's an act of creation. You have an idea, you design it, and you bring it to life, and it does something." - Lex Fridman - at about 1:35:00. He mourns the loss of some form of "innocence". He struggles a bit with how to articulate the feeling of loss in the face of LLMs that can now code. Lex, I feel you, but...

In and of themselves, advanced LLMs do not rob creators of a pride in their art. If you're feeling a loss of "specialness", then it most likely because you mixed some ego into it. Ego is everywhere. This blog post and the way I'm posturing the language in it is mostly about ego, to make it seem like I'm "in the know" when in reality I'm just as clueless as the next person.

And while it is definitely surprising that things are moving so fast, it's not incredibly surprising to me that a model trained on the entire sum of human output up to this point can do a lot of "our special human things" so well.

On the other hand, LLMs may indeed rob creators of the ability to make a living at their art because of greed.

Greed is what bothers me the most about this whole AI Hype Cycle. Speaking of posturing, we keep hearing about how AI will benefit humanity, and I believe that it can and will. Curing disease, eliminating the slave labor class, and becoming a multi-planetary civilization seem like really important goals. But no one can possibly believe that is what is driving the research. The prime motivator is making money. Expand the profit margins of the big corporations by enabling them to do more while paying fewer humans to do it. Or grow startups so they can become big corporations or get acquired by big corporations.

The fact that we can all see this and yet do nothing different is the term "Moloch" that Max speaks about, that apparently was an ancient Carthaginian demon, but is a nice label to identify why things get shitty [1] [2] mixed with the prisoner's dilemma and the race to the bottom. I still have to read the full extent of this Scott Alexander piece, but you can get the gist from the video.

The insane push to always show growth and be more profitable than the last time. Where does it come from?

A cartoon drawing made by an LLM of people with disturbing faces and limbs having fun on a roller coaster that ends abruptly in a trash bin.
Courtesy of some mega-corp AI - I honestly forget which, probably meta.ai

Humans are an intelligence that is constantly trying to optimize for happiness (at some biological level, literally the neurochemicals floating around in our brains giving us sensations). Long ago we equated happiness with money because it gives us the ability to pursue whatever we want. Seems logical, if sad.

Corporations as a form of intelligence is another weird thing briefly talked about in the video (1:17:00) and mentioned in their first discussion, which I found very interesting. By that argument, governments fit into the same bucket.

A corporation is an outcome of humans trying to acquire more money with less risk, it does this by being a construct that can live and operate larger than any single human can and operates with a huge amount of resources. The example Max gives is of a tobacco company CEO deciding one day that the company should stop making cigarettes - an act which would only result in that human being replaced as CEO.

A corporation, as an entity, is constantly trying to optimize for profit. Originally set up to serve society, the roles have been reversed and society is largely serving the institutions (the video also touches on how the really big corporations have captured the regulators).

Today's AI require huge amounts of compute power and data to be trained and operate - basically meaning corporations are the ones that can run the powerful ones. I wonder how long it will take for the roles to reverse such that the corporations are serving the AI.

One thought experiment: If today's AI can be turned off by killing power to a data center or deleting a model, how would an advanced AI make it impossible for this to happen? Would it be to couple the AI services to mega corporation profits such that turning off the AI means the death of the corporation? I'm not saying that huge LLMs are consciously scheming in this direction, but it certainly seems like we are pointing in a direction where giant companies naturally are serving this.

Humans gave birth to corporations and corporations are giving birth to the next wave of intelligence.

§1407 · April 30, 2024 · Software, Technology · (No comments) ·


Once upon a time, I ported a turn-based strategy / tactical combat game to the web. The average play time for the game is quite long (many hours), so saving games is an important feature.

PC/Console games have two ways to do "game saves":

  1. Save on the machine, keyed to the user thanks to the operating system's file system and
  2. Save on the cloud, keyed to the user by some identity provider.

1) is easy to implement (writing and reading a file to disk). 2) is much harder to implement, costs money to run, and requires the gaming machine to have network connectivity.

Web games can do 2) just as easily as PC games. Since this is a hobby project with near-zero players, I don't plan to build my own Cloud service, and I don't trust any Cloud-hosted "gaming" API to be stable enough or not get killed in the future. So that leaves me with saving and loading games locally.

Unfortunately, browsers have a major road block: they do not allow native file system access. Back a decade ago when I started to write the game, it looked to me like browsers would eventually implement this: progress on browser compatibility and "native app" capabilities were pretty breathtaking at that time.

So I put up with some jankiness: To load a savegame, pick a file from your computer. To save a game, the web app downloads the savegame file to your computer. That kind of sucks and doesn't allow a save-as-you-play experience, but good enough for now. I threw in more jank with the option to use Google Drive API as well for a cheap-o version of a Cloud service. (Why not Play Games API? Because they eventually killed their Web API. See "stable forever" above.)

All this jank was an acceptable workaround until browsers caught up, or so I thought.


Here we are a decade later. Though Chrome desktop has proposed and implemented the File System Access API for native file access, it's not quite enough when compared to what native apps can do - and other browser vendors have adamantly refused to implement true native file access, making this capability a sad bloated corpse floating in a lake. I'm saying native file access is dead in the water.

Why didn't I just use localStorage or IndexedDb for this? Well, for one, it was stubbornness and naïvety. For two, I worried about how much data I could store reliably. For three, I thought that users would expect their saved games in Chrome to be playable in Firefox or Safari on the same machine or want ways of passing their saved games around.

The fact my savegames are something like 35k means that storage was never really a concern.

The fact that most users only ever use a single browser, means I don't need to really worry that much about portability.

It's actually pretty straightforward to implement a virtual file system in IndexedDb that works good enough. Heck, Apple did it as some weird peace offering to people who wanted File System Access. [As an aside: as far as I can tell, an origin-private file system offers zero user-facing benefits over IndexedDb, you're just trading one API for another... so it's a devex offering. True native file access offers user benefits, such as backing up your save games, hacking, modding, sharing outside of the browser]

So in the end, I just wrote my own storage service that loads/saves games to an IndexedDB store in the browser. These days, superior user experience trumps web specification idealism for me every time.


P.S. I'm no security expert. I'm sure Mozilla and Apple have good reasons for rejecting the File System Access API. I'm just sitting here loving the technology of the web (zero install, the APIs, JavaScript/Typescript) and the developer experience but wishing I had all the perks that native apps do.

P.P.S. I was surprised to learn that an IndexedDB instance for a page at foo.net is different than the IndexedDB instance of an iframe of foo.net hosted at bar.net. That's a subtlety I hadn't thought through.

§1394 · April 19, 2024 · Apple, Entertainment, Firefox, Games, Google, Software, Technology, Web · (No comments) ·


Oh, remember that time six years ago when I said one day soon we'll be able to use ES Modules everywhere, even inside Web Workers and Service Workers? Well that day is next week when the last browser ships support for ES Modules in Workers - finally!

Yes, I know that ES Modules are terrible, actually - but the fact is that they are the future of JavaScript / TypeScript / Node / Deno development so we all might as well accept it. I actually think they're great. I've been using them for hobby projects forever - though I rarely use transpilers, bundlers, etc.


Sure, it will be some time before CommonJS modules are resigned to the ash heap of history, until then https://esm.sh/#docs can help... but I for one welcome our Isomorphic JavaScript overlords.

§1350 · May 31, 2023 · JavaScript, Software, Technology, Web · (No comments) ·

Logo for JSON

I decided to learn a bit of React again for some toy projects (my day job JS framework is Angular). Most of the tutorials for setting up a React project "from scratch" ultimately result in using the create-react-app library to hide a lot of the complexity (transpilers, bundlers), but I'm not interested in Webpack or Babel - primarily because I know browsers don't need them anymore. Also, I like to learn about how the bits and bobs work together for small projects like this. Here are the 3 things I want: Typescript, JSX, and compile/deploy to ES modules. Can this actually be done? Yes, and it's not that difficult.

Read the rest of this entry ...
§1318 · April 8, 2023 · JavaScript, React, Software, Technology, Web · (No comments) ·

Logo for JSON

The elder days of my blog are littered with useless musings on XML and JSON. So why not throw another one on the pile? 🙂

I wish JSON supported:

  1. Multi-line strings (but no string interpolation)
  2. Trailing commas (in arrays and object property lists)

Of course none of these will probably ever happen, but having any of these three would keep JSON wonderfully simple but vastly improve the user experience of those who have to hand-tweak JSON files (which is a lot of people!). I kept these feature requests to only things supported by ECMAScript itself. I also note that several parsers seem to accept JSON with #2 and #3.

YAML has all these, but of course it has many other features that, I assume, make it burdensome to write a fully compliant parser.

[Update Jan 2023: I finally filed a bug on VS Code for this idea of back-ticked string support in their tasks.json. Maybe it's crazy, I haven't decided... but feel free to vote it up!]

§1306 · October 26, 2022 · JavaScript, Software, Technology · (No comments) · Tags: , ,