The Most Interesting Tech Reads in January 2023

mostly fascinating takes on AI, but I’m also cheating and sneaking in some politics!

The aim of this page📝 is to share my monthly bookmarks. Book-wise, I’ve been reading the famous Pragmatic Programmer by Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt and Black Earth by Timothy Snyder

I was, frankly, stunned. While I do understand that Copilot doesn’t understand the code it suggests, Hedgehog is sufficiently esoteric that I didn’t expect Copilot to have enough training data to enable it to make a useful contribution in this niche. I was wrong. I’ve repeatedly seen Copilot make suggestions to my F# and Haskell code. It’s not just for C#, JavaScript, or python code.

Human beings are often more effective when we’re a bit self-effacing. “I think,” “Perhaps,” or “I might be missing something, but…” are fine ways to give our assertions a chance to be considered.

I’ve started dividing the people I know into three camps: those who are not yet aware of LLMs; those who complain about their current LLMs; and those who have some inkling of the startling future before us. The intriguing thing about LLMs is that they do not follow smooth, continuous rules of development. Rather they are like a larva due to sprout into a butterfly. It is only human, if I may use that word, to be anxious about this future. But we should also be ready for it.

Premature optimization is the root of all evil.

But the real impact of AI isn’t going to be that it regularly and consistently does far better than the best human effort. The impact will be that it is widespread, cheap, and always there.

SQL should be the first option considered for new data engineering work. It’s robust, fast, future-proof, and testable. With a bit of care, it’s clear and readable. A new SQL engine — DuckDB — makes SQL competitive with other high performance data frame libraries, making SQL a good candidate for data of all sizes.

Shell Genie is a command-line tool that lets you interact with the terminal in plain English. You ask the genie what you want to do and it will give you the command you need.

People are anticipating that large language models are going to revolutionize the world. And maybe they will. But a chatbot won’t.

An iPhone is a superior device to a Motorola Razr, but does this mean 12-year-olds should be using them?

The West has an old problem: that is fear. The West has always been afraid of the Soviet Union. It believed the USSR was big and powerful and could solve everything quickly through military means. No conclusions were made even after the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979. And they couldn’t do anything there against the uneducated, at that moment, the mujahideen. That is when a conclusion should have been made that the USSR is not that powerful.But those conclusions were not made. And the West kept on being afraid.

And I say this as somebody who had been a hardened skeptic of the artificial intelligence hype for many years. Note that I didn’t say likely transform. It will transform higher education. Here’s why. The first use-case is that the machine “filters mundane questions,” as one of our students put it quite eloquently. Means: you can ask dumb questions to the AI, instead of in-class. Yes, there are dumb questions — or at least there are questions where the answer is completely obvious to anybody who knows even just a little bit about, say, malware analysis (or has done their assigned readings).

The magic trick begins with realizing that the get-to tasks are priceless want to moments if we choose. And, if we’re careful and plan ahead, we can get to the point where the have to agenda is something we can eagerly look forward to.

My overall view is this: it is a good rebuttal to “the unrealistic ones,” who don’t see the benefits of fossil fuels. But it does not rebut a properly steelmanned case for a transition away from fossil fuels.I view the steelmanned case as this: we cannot simply keep on producing increasing amounts of carbon emissions for centuries on end. We thus need some trajectory where — at a pace we can debate — carbon emissions end up declining. I’ve stressed on MR many times that climate change is not in fact an existential risk, but it could be a civilization-destroying risk if we just keep on boosting carbon emissions without end. I don’t know a serious scientist who takes issue with that claim.

At my agency, a great deal of operational work involves simply taking information from email conversations and inputting them in structured ways into a spreadsheet or web app. This is quite tedious to do and is prone to errors/missing data. But ChatGPT is pretty good at this!



Infrastructure Support Engineer/Technical Writer ( with a passion for Python/writing documentation. More about me:

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Pavol Kutaj

Infrastructure Support Engineer/Technical Writer ( with a passion for Python/writing documentation. More about me: