MR VS HN

Last night, my earlier post on polymaths was featured on Marginal Revolution. What followed were some of the nicest comments I’ve ever seen on the internet:

Over email

  • I came across your blog after seeing the recommendation in Tyler Cowen’s post. I accidentally read (almost) every post. I admire your writing style.
  • I’m very curious who you are and what you do. I love your blog—it’s brilliant—and would like to work with you in some professional capacity.
  • I enjoy the way you think and the way you write, so you have my email.

And from the comments:

  • Just in case you haven’t clicked on the link above labeled “Beware the Casual Polymath, it takes you to a blog called Applied Divinity Studies that is really terrific. Highly recommended!
  • “From Beware the Casual Polymath (excellent link btw):”

Around 9 hours later, it was reposted to Hacker News where it’s accrued 150 points and 75 comments. Some of them are mean, but the real surprise is that many of them accuse me of being a bot. In other words, I fail the Turing test.

Over email:

  • Can you tell me how you’re doing it? A retrieval-based language model, perhaps?

And from the comments:

  • I’m about 95% certain this article was written with GPT or some similar algorithm.
  • Probably machine generated.
  • Would a human write that crap or are you shouting at a computer generated thingie?
  • It’s absolute rubbish. This is an experiment.
  • This looks like an experiment. Please de-cloak and explain.
  • Assuming this isn’t some GPT-3 garbage, why does any of this matter?
    This is an experiment (I think) along the lines of the Turing test.

I don’t spend enough time on Hacker News to know if this is a common reaction or if there’s something uniquely bot-like about my writing. Maybe the unintended consequence of GPT-3 is that it makes people deeply distrustful of each other.

Upon closer examination, 5 of the 8 comments are from the same user. In one sense, this is comforting, at least there are fewer people. But in another sense, it’s much more worrying. When it comes to negative reactions, I would rather have 8 mild ones than 1 strong one.