- ChatGPT jumped the shark? Already?
- “Challenging incorrect assumptions” since 2023
- A jacked-up Google killer
- Jay Powell tap dances around inflation questions
- Where’s the beef? (Literally)… To live and die in LA (Costco membership included?)… JFK, ChatGPT, WAPO… And more!
I can’t help wondering if today is the day ChatGPT jumped the shark.
As I promised in Tuesday’s edition, my plan was to put the AI-powered chatbot through its paces yesterday.
But the day got away from me and I didn’t get around to it until midafternoon — and sure enough, as an alert reader warned me, I got the “at capacity” message.
And so I resolved to get to it first thing this morning — but not before my customary morning news cruise.
Lo and behold…
Certainly that’s not the first instance of political bias that folks have discovered. Earlier this week, colleague Chris Campbell asked the chatbot to identify “the five biggest macro threats of 2023.” No. 1 on the list it spat out was “climate change and natural disasters,” because of course it would.
But naturally anyone who writes for a living will be most interested in the blunt question, “Will AI take my job?” And it’s with that question top-of-mind that I put ChatGPT to the test this morning.
People tell me that over a lifetime in TV news and financial publishing, I’ve developed a knack for synthesis — finding interesting connections between things that might not have an obvious connection on the surface.
I suppose a recent example of this skill is our Jan. 20 edition — examining a potential link between declining church attendance and the alacrity with which about 20–30% of the population welcomed lockdowns and other tyrannical COVID controls that upended the economy and everyday life in 2020.
And so my line of inquiry started out more or less the same way I started the issue…
Not bad. So then I expanded the inquiry, bringing in the Belgian psychology professor Mattias Desmet’s concept of “mass formation,” in which a critical mass of people suddenly coalesces around one narrative — i.e., “must lock down and mask up” — and they can’t let go of it. Here’s what I got…
Yeah, I’m not worried about an AI taking my job — even if it is able to compose flattering doggerel about me and this e-letter.
Of course, the developers of ChatGPT readily concede there are still bugs in the system.
With that in mind, there’s been another interesting development this week…
Leave aside the rather menacing language about “challenging incorrect assumptions.” For the sum of $20 a month you’re promised you won’t get that at-capacity message I got yesterday. Also, “faster response times” and “priority access to new features and improvements.”
You know, there was a time when “beta testers” did their thing for free in exchange for early access to new bells and whistles. Here, ChatGPT’s developer OpenAI — a company now valued at roughly $29 billion — expects you to pay them for the privilege. That’s brazen…
Still — and I have yet to try out ChatGPT in this way — it’s got potential as a souped-up search engine. It might yet be a “Google killer.”
As awful as Google is — its contempt for your privacy, the bias in favor of “authoritative” sources, the increasingly obnoxious presence of ads — everything else still delivers even worse search results.
Thus, Google is ripe for disruption in the same way Google itself destroyed Lycos, AltaVista and so on starting around 1999.
That alone gives ChatGPT great potential — even if it falls short in the realms of original research and deductive reasoning. And it gives the broader AI space even greater potential. Rest assured the Paradigm team will keep an eye out for the most investable opportunities.
On the day after the latest Federal Reserve pronouncement, the riskiest stocks continue rallying hard.
The Nasdaq ended yesterday up 2%… and today it’s up almost 3%, easily cresting the 12,000 level for the first time since September.
➢ Aside from the Fed, an added lift to the tech sector comes from Facebook parent Meta’s decision to buy back $40 billion in stock. You mean Zuckerberg will pour $40 billion LESS into a research-and-development black hole? BUY! At last check, META is up 26% on the day.
The S&P 500 has plowed past 4,100 — a key “resistance” level that’s also held since last September.
The stodgy old Dow is the laggard — down a little over a third of a percent and back below 34,000.
To no one’s surprise, the Fed raised the fed funds rate a quarter-percentage point — to 4.75%, the highest in over 15 years. Another quarter-point jump is in the bag at the next meeting in mid-March. And so the only drama surrounded what Fed chair Jerome Powell would say during his press conference.
What jump-started the rally appears to be Powell’s answers to questions about “looser financial conditions.”
For reporters who cover the Fed, “looser financial conditions” is a delicate way of saying “a rising stock market.”
During much of 2022, the Fed made it clear that combating inflation is a higher priority than rising stock prices — a sea change after 35 years.
And so the question on reporters’ lips yesterday — even if they didn’t say it directly — was Are you concerned that the Nasdaq leaped 10% last month?
Powell could have easily answered with something resembling Yes. He could have said in so many words that he and his colleagues remain laser-focused on getting inflation back to their 2% target. (Their preferred measure of inflation is still 4.4%.)
Instead, he hemmed and hawed: “It’s important that the markets do reflect the tightening that we’re putting in place. As we’ve — as we’ve discussed a couple times here, there is a difference in perspective by some market measures on how fast inflation will come down. We’re just going to have to see. I mean, I’m not going to try to persuade people to have a different forecast, but our forecast is that it will take some time and some patience, and that we’ll need to keep rates higher for longer. But we’ll see.”
With that, traders mashed the “buy” button.
Gold rallied in tandem with stocks yesterday, but that’s all over today.
After zooming past $1,950, the Midas metal is back to $1,915. And after a run past $24, silver is back to $23.46. Crude is little moved at $76.55.
Bonds however, are rallying two days in a row — pushing yields lower. At last check the yield on a 10-year Treasury note is under 3.37% — yet again, a level last seen in September.
The biggest cryptos, however, are holding onto most of their gains from yesterday — Bitcoin a bit below $24,000 and Ethereum near $1,675.
After we flirted with the notion of famine in these virtual pages last spring… we’re seeing a couple of disturbing signposts this week…
- The U.S. cattle population sits at six-decade lows: The Department of Agriculture reports that the total beef cow herd now numbers 28.9 million head, the lowest since 1962. Blame it on drought in the Plains. “Even though feeder cattle prices are quite high, it’s the uncertainty around feed supply and drought conditions,” economist Alton Kalo tells Reuters. “It’s hard to make the investment, if you’re not sure how weather is going to play out or if you’re going to have the grass available to support those heifers.”
- Meanwhile, U.S. stocks of hay used to feed cattle and horses have fallen to the lowest level in nearly 50 years — again, according to USDA figures. After record lows in 2021, supplies registered another 11% drop last year — to the lowest level ever in records going back to 1974. Here, the problem is not just drought but also high fertilizer prices, according to the trade publication Drovers
Assuming it can keep beef in stock… how would you like to live above a Costco?
“A real estate company is proposing to build the first Costco in South Los Angeles,” reports KTLA-TV, “except this shopping center comes with a unique addition: 800 apartment units built on top of it.”
Thrive Living hopes to build a mixed-use complex on five acres that used to be the site of a hospital.
Yeah, but does your rent come with a Costco membership?[Artist rendition by Thrive Living]
Hmmm… The questions boggle the mind. Like, are the elevators big enough to accommodate one of the flatbed carts? Do the giant jars of mayonnaise fit in the kitchen cabinets?
And most important… What if you come home one day and find they moved your apartment to a different part of the building?
“Here’s the thing: ChatGPT has absolutely no idea when it has reached the limits of its knowledge,” writes a reader who’s spent more time with it than I have. (He’s the one who used it to summon Shakespearean verse about me and The 5.)
“For example, there’s a highly obscure recreational-math subject that I’ve recently written a book about. I asked a series of technical questions on the subject, and got…
- one uninspired but technically correct answer
- one interesting but off-the-wall answer that I think is made up out of whole cloth
- one perfectly plausible-sounding answer that I am absolutely sure is wrong in every detail.
“So why does ChatGPT sound so confident, when it is completely out of its depth? It’s like it was trained in the exact same Harvard Business School methods that produced Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos. Makes me nervous.
“I strongly suspect that if you ask the right kinds of questions, you’ll get both some very interesting (recycled) insights, written surprisingly well… and some complete nonsense written in a frighteningly cogent and plausible and literate way. Just don’t ask it to write you insipid high school English class essays, or you’re going to get perfect examples of insipid high school English class essays.
“Come to think of it: Mentally reviewing recent political advertising that I’ve been seeing from both Democrats and Republicans, the only way that I know that it is NOT all written by an AI is that those ads include an unending nauseating stream of typos and copy-paste errors and elementary grammatical mistakes. I haven’t seen a single example of any of those from ChatGPT yet — and that in itself is extremely impressive.
“I think AI-written political copy is a very, very dangerous idea. But compared with the constant humorless ‘Trump HUMILIATED’ clickbait coming from Nancy Pelosi’s team for the last several months straight, it would honestly be quite a bit more entertaining … especially if it were written in the style of Dr. Seuss.”
The 5: Seems nearly everyone with a specialized body of knowledge such as yourself has been putting ChatGPT to the test — with mixed results.
Journalist Jefferson Morley — whom we spotlighted last year for his dogged efforts to declassify the remaining JFK assassination documents — posed the question: “Was Lee Harvey Oswald guilty of killing President Kennedy?” The answer…
Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with the murder of President John F. Kennedy, but he was never put on trial as he was killed by Jack Ruby while in police custody. The Warren Commission, established by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the assassination, concluded that Oswald acted alone in the assassination of President Kennedy. However, many people do not believe the Warren Commission’s findings and believe that there was a larger conspiracy at play.
It is also worth noting that Lee Harvey Oswald consistently denied any involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy until his death.
Not bad. Better than The Washington Post, Morley points out. The Bezos rag published a story in 2017 about Oswald’s last days — omitting the rather important detail of Oswald’s denial.
“On the question of Lee Harvey Oswald’s guilt,” Morley concludes, “ChatGPT is smarter than the editors of The Washington Post.”
Admittedly a low bar, but it’s something…
The 5 Min. Forecast