What to Read

🎶 Welcome address to freshman parents at Boston Conservatory — Karl Paulnack

Pianist and director of music division at Boston Conservatory Karl Paulnack shares a powerful testimony on just how critical music is:

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of "arts and entertainment" as the newspaper section would have us believe. It's not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can't with our minds.

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H/t to my dad for sharing this with me.

🧠 What Kind of Mind Does ChatGPT Have? — The New Yorker

Computer scientist Cal Newport provides a great, non-technical explanation for how ChatGPT works. I've written previously about the power of consistent iteration, and the training that systems like ChatGPT go through are a great example of that.

What kinds of new minds are being released into our world? The response to ChatGPT, and to the other chatbots that have followed in its wake, has often suggested that they are powerful, sophisticated, imaginative, and possibly even dangerous. But is that really true? If we treat these new artificial-intelligence tools as mysterious black boxes, it’s impossible to say. Only by taking the time to investigate how this technology actually works—from its high-level concepts down to its basic digital wiring—can we understand what we’re dealing with. We send messages into the electronic void, and receive surprising replies. But what, exactly, is writing back?
What Kind of Mind Does ChatGPT Have?
Large language models seem startlingly intelligent. But what’s really happening under the hood?

🧑‍⚖️ These radically simple changes helped lawmakers actually get things done — Washington Post

The U.S. Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress may not sound like a group that could help lawmakers work together more effectively.

But it recently made meaningful steps towards that goal and did so with fully bipartisan membership:

The last select committee created to reform Congress, which focused on budgeting, passed exactly zero recommendations by the time it ended in 2018. So, how did this modernization committee become one of the most high-functioning bipartisan workplaces on Capitol Hill, creating what a Roll Call reporter called a “parallel congressional universe”? How did it manage to adopt, in just four years, 202 bipartisan recommendations, about two-thirds of which have already been executed or made significant progress in that direction? What in God’s name is going on over there?

And what, if anything, can the rest of us learn about how to get things done in our own divided institutions and families?

H/t to my mom for sharing this with me.

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Links for April 15, 2023