What is going on with OpenAI?

It’s mystifying. I’m not a fan of the company, OpenAI — they’re the ones hyping up ChatGPT, they’re 49% owned by Microsoft that, as usual, wants to take over everything, and their once and future CEO Sam Altman seems like a sleazy piece of work. But he has his fans. He was abruptly fired this past week (and what’s up with that?) and there was some kind of internal revolt and now he’s being rehired? Appointed to a new position?. Confusion and chaos! It’s a hell of a way to run a company.

Here, though, is a hint of illumination.

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, was unexpectedly fired by the board on Friday afternoon. CTO Mira Murati is filling in as interim CEO.

OpenAI is a nonprofit with a commercial arm. (This is a common arrangement when a nonprofit finds it’s making too much money. Mozilla is set up similarly.) The nonprofit controls the commercial company — and they just exercised that control.

Microsoft invested $13 billion to take ownership of 49% of the OpenAI for-profit — but not of the OpenAI nonprofit. Microsoft found out Altman was being fired one minute before the board put out its press release, half an hour before the stock market closed on Friday. MSFT stock dropped 2% immediately.

Oh. So this is a schism between the controlling non-profit side of the company, and the money-making for-profit side. It’s an ideological split! But what are their differences?

The world is presuming that there’s something absolutely awful about Altman just waiting to come out. But we suspect the reason for the firing is much simpler: the AI doom cultists kicked Altman out for not being enough of a cultist.

There were prior hints that the split was coming, from back in March.

In the last few years, Silicon Valley’s obsession with the astronomical stakes of future AI has curdled into a bitter feud. And right now, that schism is playing out online between two people: AI theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky and OpenAI Chief Executive Officer Sam Altman. Since the early 2000s, Yudkowsky has been sounding the alarm that artificial general intelligence is likely to be “unaligned” with human values and could decide to wipe us out. He worked aggressively to get others to adopt the prevention of AI apocalypse as a priority — enough that he helped convince Musk to take the risk seriously. Musk co-founded OpenAI as a nonprofit with Altman in 2015, with the goal of creating safer AI.

In the last few years, OpenAI has adopted a for-profit model and churned out bigger, faster, and more advanced AI technology. The company has raised billions in investment, and Altman has cheered on the progress toward artificial general intelligence, or AGI. “There will be scary moments as we move towards AGI-level systems, and significant disruptions, but the upsides can be so amazing that it’s well worth overcoming the great challenges to get there,” he tweeted in December.

Yudkowsky, meanwhile, has lost nearly all hope that humanity will handle AI responsibly, he said on a podcast last month. After the creation of OpenAI, with its commitment to advancing AI development, he said he cried by himself late at night and thought, “Oh, so this is what humanity will elect to do. We will not rise above. We will not have more grace, not even here at the very end.”

Given that background, it certainly seemed like rubbing salt in a wound when Altman tweeted recently that Yudkowsky had “done more to accelerate AGI than anyone else” and might someday “deserve the Nobel Peace Prize” for his work. Read a certain way, he was trolling Yudkowsky, saying the AI theorist had, in trying to prevent his most catastrophic fear, significantly hastened its arrival. (Yudkowsky said he could not know if Altman was trolling him; Altman declined to comment.)

Yudkowsky is a kook. What is he doing having any say at all in the operation of any company? Why would anyone sane let the LessWrong cultists anywhere near their business? It does explain what’s going on with all this chaos — it’s a squabble within a cult. You can’t expect it to make sense.

This assessment, though, helps me understand a little bit about what’s going on.

Sam Altman was an AI doomer — just not as much as the others. The real problem was that he was making promises that OpenAI could not deliver on. The GPT series was running out of steam. Altman was out and about in the quest for yet more funding for the OpenAI company in ways that upset the true believers.

A boardroom coup by the rationalist cultists is quite plausible, as well as being very funny. Rationalists’ chronic inability to talk like regular humans may even explain the statement calling Altman a liar. It’s standard for rationalists to call people who don’t buy their pitch liars.

So what from normal people would be an accusation of corporate war crimes is, from rationalists, just how they talk about the outgroup of non-rationalists. They assume non-believers are evil.

It is important to remember that Yudkowsky’s ideas are dumb and wrong, he has zero technological experience, and he has never built a single thing, ever. He’s an ideas guy, and his ideas are bad. OpenAI’s future is absolutely going to be wild.

There are many things to loathe Sam Altman for — but not being enough of a cultist probably isn’t one of them.

We think more comedy gold will be falling out over the next week.

Should I look forward to that? Or dread it?

It’s already getting worse. Altman is back at the helm, there’s been an almost complete turnover of the board, and they’ve brought in…Larry Summers? Why? It’s a regular auto-da-fé, with the small grace that we don’t literally torture and burn people at the stake when the heretics are dethroned.

I guess you could argue that corporate capitalism is a kind of religion

Ken Ham is pissed off at this song from an upcoming Disney movie.

I know nothing about the movie, nor am I interested in seeing it (maybe my grandkids will enjoy it, I don’t know). I don’t think it will turn anyone into worshippers of Sol Invictus. All it is saying is that the world around us is pretty nifty.

Not in Ken Ham’s feeble mind, though.

Imagine if public school students in their science classes were encouraged to worship the sun. And yet this is happening! But how do they get away with it? Well, they just call worshipping the sun “science,” and then claim they can teach this “science” in the public schools! Really the Disney song mentioned above is all about worshipping the sun and stars.

That’s quite a leap, from a cheerful bit of fluff to a sinister plot to inculcate sun worship in public school classrooms. No one is teaching kids to pray to and worship natural objects in the universe.

By the way, he also doesn’t like Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Our ancestors worshipped the sun. They were far from foolish. It makes good sense to revere the sun and stars because we are their children. The silicon in the rocks, the oxygen in the air, the carbon in our DNA, the iron in our skyscrapers, the silver in our jewelry—were all made in stars, billions of years ago. Our planet, our society, and we ourselves are stardust.”

That statement was made by Neil deGrasse Tyson in the Cosmos series he narrated. Evolutionists encouraged teachers to use this series in public school classrooms.

Oh, how awful: he was suggesting that pre-Christian people were not stupid, and were trying to understand the world as best as they could. Tyson is not an animist. He’s not saying it would be a good idea to worship rocks, but that we should try to understand why some people might have. Damn those public schools! They’re teaching tolerance and empathy! You won’t get any of that in a Ken Ham-approved homeschool.

He really is a fully coked-up conspiracy theorist.

I think it’s about time Christians woke up and understood that even though there are Christian missionaries in the public (Government) school system (and they need our prayers), by and large these schools are actually churches of atheism. Millions of students are being taught that all life and the universe arose by natural processes—by naturalism. But we need to call naturalism what it is—atheism.

Well, so, True Christians™ reject understanding of the natural world? There’s no difference between studying physics, chemistry, and biology and worshipping pagan gods and being an atheist? Good to know.

Please to stay out of education and politics, Ken.

Unjustifiable crimes…unless you read the Bible

It makes perfect sense. Send tanks and bulldozers and soldiers into Gaza, and then when the panicked, displaced residents end up in refugee camps, drop bombs on the camp. Kill, kill, kill to exterminate Hamas to the point where you’ve got somewhere around 10,000 dead, mostly families and children, and then claim you’re killing terrorists. The logic is impeccable.

Oh wait. No. It makes no sense. None of this is rational.

The only way to understand it is to recognize that it’s driven by fear and religion. Here in the USA, we have nothing to fear from Hamas, so the motivation is just God. American support for Israel is based on an absurd belief in prophecy. Listen to Pastor John Hagee.

Pastor John Hagee, CUFI founder and Chairman, speaking at the (CUFI) Christians United for Israel’s 2018 Washington Summit held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC on July 23, 2018 (Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Who needs a reasonable justification for massacre when you can just claim God told you to slaughter people?

American evangelicals have long prided themselves on their undeviating support for Israel—but the basis of this alliance is not a standard convergence of diplomatic interests, and it’s certainly not a flourish of faith-based solidarity with the Jews. Instead, it’s a matter of the opportunistic choreographing of the foreordained final act of history. Believers in the literal interpretation of “endtimes” prophecy see the fortunes of Israel as a key harbinger of the Final Judgment and the elevation of fallen human history into the realm of the divine. In secular leftist politics, advocates of rapid escalation of class and geopolitical conflict are known as accelerationists; in endtimes prophecy belief, acceleration is left to God, but his Christian emissaries still retain the awesome power of recognizing and celebrating the signs of the pending judgment—and urging earthly powers and principalities to get in line with the divine plan before it’s too late.

The best-known promoter of this worldview is Texas-based Pentecostal televangelist John Hagee, the founder of the advocacy group Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Hagee is a longtime fixture in the endtimes media complex, claiming that the march of time is rapidly aligning with the events foretold in Revelation and other prophetic books of the Bible. After Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack on Israel, he took to his pulpit at his Cornerstone Church in San Antonio to urge immediate US intervention against Iran, as several Israeli diplomats looked on, and right-wing members of Congress offered taped testimonials of their own.

The “endtimes media complex” — now there’s a scary thought. They’re a bunch of loonies, but look at that: representatives of Israel and congress are hanging out with him. And listen to what his big message is:

“The righteous rage of America must be focused on Iran,” Hagee announced, as journalist Lee Fang, who recently released a documentary on the evangelical-Israeli alliance called Praying for Armageddon, reports. “Let me say it to you in plain Texas speech: American should roll up its sleeves and knock the living daylights out of Iran for what they have done for Israel. Hit them so hard that our enemies will once again fear us.” Hagee’s son and co-pastor, Matt Hagee, took up the same refrain in lurid prophetic language. “The secretary of state is not going to get us out of this one,” he declared in a burst of self-satisfied scriptural omniscience. “God has a hook in the jaws of these nations, and he’s drawing them here. God tells Ezekiel exactly how he’s going to defend Israel. He speaks about raining down fire and hail and brimstone. That’s a heavenly air assault.”

What kind of sane person would pray for Armageddon, and would urge another bloody war with a large populous country that can only end with millions dead? It takes religion to drive that kind of hatred.

And now we’ve got one of these murderous kooks appointed to the Speaker of the House, third in line to the presidency.

Who the heck is Clay Clark?

I never heard of him before, but suddenly my email is flooded with crap from him — some troll probably signed me up. What I’m seeing is flyers portraying stark raving madness, like this one.

WTF? Straight-up MAGA Jesus, with some of the more outrageous hate-ranters available, like Greg Locke. Oh, look, they got “comedian” Jim Breuer making funny faces, which is pretty much the entirety of his act (oh, wait, there are also obnoxious noises.) This tent-revival-style shrieking looks like my personal vision of Hell, but the impresario isn’t Satan, it’s some asshole named Clay Clark. So I looked him up on Wikipedia.

The ReAwaken America tour was founded by Clay Clark, a business coach and entrepreneur and former mayoral candidate in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In August 2020, Clark initiated a lawsuit against the city of Tulsa for its mask mandate to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The lawsuit alleged that wearing masks caused oxygen deprivation, leading to “migraine headaches, shortness of breath and dizziness.” The lawsuit was dropped in March 2021.

Clark has publicly espoused his belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories. When he spoke at the January 5, 2021 rally held at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. in support of Donald Trump’s protest of the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Clark told attendees that the coronavirus pandemic was a hoax and instructed them to “turn to the person next to you and give them a hug, someone you don’t know. Go hug somebody. Go ahead and spread it out, mass spreader. It’s a mass-spreader event!”

On a June 2021 episode of the Stew Peters Show, he argued that the COVID-19 vaccine contained luciferase, which he believed was a cryptocurrency technology associated with the Mark of the Beast prophesied in Revelation 13:16-18. This conspiracy theory, according to Clark, included Bill Gates (under the influence of performance artist and alleged Satanist Marina Abramović), and Jeffrey Epstein. Clark accused Gates and Epstein of attempting to create a new race of humans by combining luciferase and Epstein’s DNA into the COVID-19 vaccine.

At an October 2021 rally in Salt Lake City, Utah, Clark made the unproven claim that “COVID-19 is 100 percent treatable using budesonide, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.” He also accused George Soros of funding remdesivir, a drug used to treat severe cases of COVID-19 but which Clark said was “killing COVID-19 patients in the hospital because it causes renal failure”.

Oh. So he’s like the stupid version of Satan, then. He seems to believe that COVID, a disease that killed over a million Americans over the last few years, is a hoax…and that wearing a mask, which I still do for hours every day, causes oxygen deprivation. I’ve used luciferase, it’s just an enzyme. Epstein’s DNA isn’t in any vaccine. Ivermectin doesn’t work. But he has turned these loony beliefs into a big money-maker for himself.

There is also a nice Rolling Stone expose, which mainly reveals what a colossal asshole the man is. At least I was happy to learn that devout Christians are waking up and protesting these MAGA megachurch vermin as enemies of their faith.

Each stop on the tour now draws protests, of varying size, and the show is sometimes booted from venues — as it was in upstate New York this summer — leaving Clark scrambling. In Virginia, a lone van sent by the liberal clergy group Faithful America, which has been organizing against the tour since early this year, putters past the location with a rented billboard denouncing the speakers. (No one from that group is in attendance, citing safety concerns.) Reached by phone, Nathan Empsall, Faithful America’s director, says, “This tour is the face of unholy Christian Nationalism and they are bringing this deadly message to many churches.”

We atheists despise him, too. This sounds like the kind of thing where atheists and theists can find common cause. At least on agreeing that Jim Breuer is not funny at all.

Lorie Smith is a liar

I knew the Supreme Court was corrupt, but they aren’t even trying to hide it anymore. Their recent decision to allow businesses to discriminate against gay people was a total sham, in violation of basic principles even I, a legal ignoramus, recognize as baseless.

But what makes this clown show even worse is that the complaint at the heart of 303 Creative v. Elenis is completely made up. In Masterpiece, there really was a baker who really did discriminate against a gay couple, creating both standing and a fact pattern to discuss in court. With 303 Creative, however, the “facts” justifying the case are all make-believe. The plaintiff, Lorie Smith, sued on the grounds that she doesn’t want to make wedding websites for same-sex couples. But no one had actually requested that she do so, for one simple reason: She didn’t make wedding websites. Her lawsuit was purely hypothetical. Legally, she shouldn’t have had a right to sue at all.

To get around the fact that their client had no right to sue, ADF claimed she had received an inquiry from a man named “Stewart” who had some vague questions about maybe hiring 303 Creative in the future for a wedding to “Mike.” But it appears that the entire story may be fabricated. Melissa Gira Grant of the New Republic contacted Stewart, using the email and phone number included in the lawsuit. He denies having sent that request, pointing out that he is already married, to a woman.

Who needs facts anymore? Just make up any ol’ story you want, demand justice, and this Supreme Court will invent an excuse for you, as long as it aligns with their biases. I wasn’t surprised to learn that this particular decision was authored by Gorsuch, who is always happy to lie to promote his religious agenda.

This isn’t even the first opinion Gorsuch has written based on made-up “facts.” Last term, Gorsuch ruled in favor of a football coach who wanted to lead prayers at a public high school, in direct violation of the First Amendment. To get to the desired outcome, both Gorsuch flat-out lied about the situation. Gorsuch claims the coach merely “offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied.” That, and this cannot be stated firmly enough, is a lie. As Sotomayor noted in her dissent, the coach actually held showy prayers at the 50-yard line during games. He made such a spectacle that “[m]embers of the public rushed the field to join Kennedy, jumping fences to access the field and knocking over student band members.” She even included helpful pictures, which is unusual in a dissent, to illustrate what a lying liar Gorsuch is.

The court is illegitimate and needs to be dissolved. Expect it to instead litter the law with phony precedents that will poison justice for years to come.

Mormonism is declining

Good. Can they die a little faster, please?

I always felt that living in Utah was like living in a nest of Scientologists — all this money-making scheming plastered over with a veneer of florid scripture written by a mountebank. I wouldn’t miss it if it disappeared altogether.

That’s nothing special about Mormonism, though. Look! All religions in the USA are dying slowly.

There are many factors behind this decline. Here’s one:

Meanwhile, the church’s close alliance with the GOP might be costing it members. As Notre Dame political science professor David Campbell, who was raised Mormon, told me, “There’s an allergic reaction among many Americans — particularly those who lean to the left politically — when religion and politics mix. We see it among Catholics. We see it among evangelicals. And we’re seeing it among Mormons.”

It gets messy when you include politics, though: the Republicans have become increasingly cult-like. That’s the next religion that needs to go!

I am not a “tentmaker,” go away

Lately, I’ve been getting a flood of spam about “tentmaking”. It’s not what it sounds like — it’s an evangelical Christian term.

Today Tentmaking has taken on a much broader definition than just referring to the skill of making tents. A Tentmaker is a dedicated, spiritually mature Christian man or woman who views work in light of the Great Commission and as an opportunity to serve the Kingdom of God. Therefore, work is a vital aspect of Christian witness because it provides substantial means of developing relationships, credibility, and contexts for ministry.

That’s not me, to put it mildly. However, I’m seeing a bizarre angle in all the email I’m deleting, and here’s just one example.

I’ve got a bunch of these in the trash right now — the curious thing is that none of them talk about god or Jesus, although they do use words like “side-hustle” and making thousands of dollars per week in your spare time. I think Jesus is the side-hustle here.

I’ve snipped out the contact information, but if you’re really excited about the possibilities, contact me and I’ll let you know. By the way, the workshop will only cost you $497, although they drop hints about additional upgrades.

This is what Christianity has become — a grifter’s refuge.

When they said “pathetic, posturing little wimp” I thought they were talking about me

Lawrence Krauss, of all people, defended Geoff Marcy on the pages of Quillette last week.

Well, that’s a sentence that probably killed all further interest.

That Richard Dawkins then waded in to accuse people who oppose the abuses of power of being pathetic, posturing little wimps probably doesn’t help.

I went ahead and barreled right in, and even compared their defense of sexism to the revelations that emerged from the recent documentary, Secrets of Hillsong. The good ol’ boy network is often deployed in the name of god, but sometimes it’s fired up in the name of science.

Transcript coming up!

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Texas rides again!

After their attempt to stuff the ten commandments into classrooms failed, the Texas legislature rebounds and succeeds in stuffing chaplains into the schools.

Senate Bill 763 was approved in an 84-60 vote in the Texas House, one day after it passed the Texas Senate. It allows Texas schools to use safety funds to pay for unlicensed chaplains to work in mental health roles. Volunteer chaplains will also be allowed in schools.

Note: they want to use safety fund for this futile effort, in a misguided belief that this will keep kids safe. But then the bill specifically allows unlicensed chaplains, that is, the local Baptist minister with no training in education or safety is going to get paid to come in and pester the kids. And they’re expected to provide mental health assistance! Like mental health care is just something anyone can do adequately.

Wow, but that one sentence — “It allows Texas schools to use safety funds to pay for unlicensed chaplains to work in mental health roles” — is doing a lot of work.

The Democrats made an effort to reduce the harm this bill is going to do to no avail.

Earlier this month, House Democrats also offered amendments to bar proselytizing or attempts to convert students from one religion to another; to require chaplains to receive consent from the parents of school children; and to make schools provide chaplains from any faith or denomination requested by students. All of those amendments failed.

Those are reasonable requirements, but they don’t go far enough. In particular, you need training to do counseling. Republicans think it’s going to help, for their usual ignorant reasons.

As with other faith-driven legislation this session — including a bill to require the Ten Commandments in classrooms that failed to reach a crucial vote on Tuesday — conservative Christians argued that religious chaplains could help prevent school shootings, drug use, suicide and other societal ills by returning God to classrooms.

My experience with most religious nutcases is that they’re only going to increase the sense of futility and despair. Not to mention the increase in sexual abuse by priests, which always seems to follow.

They tried. They failed

Look at that stupid gomer.

Texas tried to pass a blatantly unconstitutional ten commandments law.

Texas lawmakers are scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to require that the Ten Commandments be posted in every classroom in the state, part of a newly energized national effort to insert religion into public life.

Supporters believe the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer in favor of a high school football coach who prayed with players essentially removed any guardrails between religion and government.

OK, with our current Korrupt/Konservative Kourt, maybe it would have flown. But Texas Democrats didn’t let them have the opportunity!

That’s what we all need to do from now on, stop these disgraceful bill before the Supreme Court can endorse them.