One of the great things in Illinois is the libraries are structured as taxing districts. With voter permission they can levy a property tax, and then receive the funds from that tax. So there’s no danger that the city, township, or county will decide that it needs the money more. Or, as in this case, that the library is doing something wrong, and therefore shouldn’t get any money until they toe the line.

https://literaryactivism.substack.com/p/a-pennsylvania-public-library-had

(I normally don’t link to substack posts, but this one seemed important.)

The Winfield Village finance committee (everyone here interested enough in the budget to show up) met last night. The subject of interest rates came up, and I was surprised to find it a near-unanimous opinion that rates were going to stay high at least through 2024.

Thinking of myself as a contrarian, I always worry just a bit when I agree with everyone, but I think they’re right.

Speaking as someone who has advocated for a return to local solar time (now that everyone has a supercomputer with GPS in their pocket to handle the necessary conversions), I was intrigued to read this article about just how bad things were before we started using timezones.

It’s peripheral to the main article, but I was kind of intrigued by this bit:

When he arrived in Ann Arbor in 1852, Tappan gave a speech outlining his vision for a new type of university. Drawing on the German model of education, he sought to transform the University of Michigan into an institution where knowledge was not just taught, but created.

There’s a lot of talk these days about the risks of AI, with many suggestions that it should be “regulated,” but with little specificity of what regulations would be appropriate. As usual, anybody who has an AI loves the idea of some sort of regulation, which would serve as a barrier to entry for competitors.

I have a suggestion that avoids that trap, minimizes the harm of regulation, and yet sharply constrains the opportunities for AIs to do bad stuff. It’s also easy to implement, because it requires little or no new legislation.

It’s very easy: enforce copyright laws.

Any firm that uses or makes available a large language model AI should be required to identify every copyrighted text used in training the model, and then share with all the copyright holders any revenues that the use or availability of the AI brings in.

This burdens existing AIs whose creators thought they were getting all their content for free by scraping the web for it, while giving a big leg up to any AIs that are simply trained on a corpus of text that the AI owner has the rights to. (I read about a physician who had been answering patient questions by email for twenty years training an AI on his numerous messages. He’d be fine.) That seems all to the good.

As to how much to pay the copyright holders, I think the publishing model of the past couple hundred years provides a good guide. Roughly speaking, book publishing contracts proved half the profits to the writer—but because it’s too easy to game the expenses side of the business to make the profits disappear, the contracts are written to provide something more like 10% to 15% of the gross revenues. That would probably be a reasonable place to start.

The huge cost of actually identifying each copyrighted text used, and finding the copyright owner is very much part of the desired outcome here: We don’t want people pointing at that difficulty and then saying, “Well obviously we should be able to just steal their work because it’s too much trouble to figure out who they are and divvy up the relatively small amount of money they’re due.” Making firms go through the process would provide a salutary lesson for others tempted to steal copyrighted material.

Our first look at the lease from new owner of Country Fair Apartments made it clear that they would ruin the place—a place we’d lived happily for 20 years—so we moved out. Even so, I’m a little surprised to see this just 8 years later:

Because the heat is not working, 9 out of 42 buildings are considered unlivable…. If the property owners don’t fix the issues in a timely manner, tearing down the buildings may be the next step.

https://foxillinois.com/news/local/tenants-living-without-heat-at-apartment-complex-court-steps-in

In happier times.

Thought it might be getting a little late for third coffee, but looked at the clock and it was barely after 9:00 AM! Maybe we should go back to standard time every day!

I would prefer local solar time, and had thought next best would be permanent standard time, but maybe setting the clocks back an hour every day would be even better!

Sun setting over a Winfield Village parking lot

The ancient Greeks were big on the idea that virtue lead to happiness and success, so this was kind of interesting:

I used to scoff at much of this, thoroughly convinced that institutions mattered more than virtue…. But the example of the past seven years… has pushed me in the opposite direction. Institutions matter, but so does virtue, especially among the nation’s leaders. —Attack on Paul Pelosi Has Unmasked the Republican Party