Altair vs. Bokeh (part 3): Scatterplots

This is my third entry in a series comparing two interactive data visualization libraries for python, Bokeh and Altair. In part 1, I went through a basic overview of some of the differences in terms of syntactic style and defaults. In part 2, I went slightly deeper into some of the interactive features and more fundamental limitations. In this part, I want to deepen the comparison further, by exploring the basic capabilities each package offers with respect to a basic chart type, namely scatterplots.

The OpenAI Library

The New York Times recently ran a brief article about the reading room in OpenAI’s office in San Francisco. The article was heavy on images and light on text, but the overall theme was the tension between the company’s GPT models—which have been trained on vast swaths of human culture, and are therefore able to regurgitate, remix, and approximate it—versus embracing the design and aesthetic trappings of a traditional library reading room. The article mentioned a handful of books that could be found in the OpenAI library, but many more were clearly visible in the photographs that accompanied it.

Sociotechnical Considerations

A whole genre of podcasts seems to have emerged recently, taking the shape of interviews with CEOs of AI companies, or similar. Although I have not listened to many of these, they mostly seem to be pretty abysmal, both because of the amount of hype they involve, and due to the lack of meaningful specifics. That being said, of the ones I’ve heard, the recent interview with Dario Amodei of Anthropic on the Ezra Klein Show seems to me to be vastly better than the average.

Financing Common Crawl

Mozilla recently published an excellent new report out about Common Crawl, the non-profit whose web crawls have played an important role in the development of numerous large language models (LLMs). Written by Stefan Baack and Mozilla Insights, the report is based on both public documents and new interviews with Common Crawl’s current director and crawl engineer, and goes into some detail about the history of the organization, and how its data is being used.

ChatGPT Prompt Speculations

In a recent tweet that went viral, Dylan Patel claimed to have discovered or revealed the ChatGPT prompt, using a simple hack. The tweet included a link to a text file on pastebin and a screenshot of that same text with newlines removed. More interestingly, the author suggested in a reply that anyone could replicate this finding, and a subsequent tweet included a video of ChatGPT generating text in response to the same trick. That, however, is where things get somewhat strange.

Infinitely Wide Culture

A lot of this is still unresolved in my mind, but I think there is something interesting happening at the intersection of generative AI, art, style, and entertainment. Rather than letting it gestate until more fully formed, I figured I’d just post some preliminary thoughts and come back to this at some later date. The main reason I’m thinking about this now is the ongoing debate about how generative AI will impact creative fields, such as writing and design (as well as white collar jobs more broadly).

Tightly-woven Cultural Commentary

I recently started listening to the Art of the Score podcast, which does an amazing job of unpacking movie soundtracks in depth, beginning with Raiders of the Lost Ark in the first episode. Like most such explorations of music, however, it ultimately leaves me wanting something that I’ve long thought there should be much more of—namely, more tightly interwoven cultural commentary, especially for music. As I will describe below, I’m broadly interested in different ways of combining context, commentary, and criticism with the thing being commented on or critiqued.

Altair vs. Bokeh (part 2)

In the first part of this series, I used a basic bar plot to illustrate the differences between Altair and Bokeh in terms of defaults, chart configuration, and syntactic style. In this post, I’ll get into some of the more substantive differences, including more complicated chart types, combining plots, basic interactivity, and how to deploy the output online. Note that this is not intended to be a systematic comparison, but rather more of a preliminary exploration of the options.

Refik Anadol

Last week’s speaker in the Penny Stamps Speaker Series was Refik Anadol, one of the most successful artists working primarily with AI, data, and visualization. Over a decade or so, Anadol has produced work in collaboration with organizations and venues like the LA Philharmonic, Gaudi’s Casa Batlló, the Exosphere in Las Vegas, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The lecture he gave was basically a review of his body of work, and that of his art and design studio, which is comprised of about 20 people.

Ubi Sunt

There is a duality at the heart of large language models. On the one hand, they are essentially a backwards-looking invention, a “cultural technology”, in the words of Alison Gopnik—algorithms which index and remix a large slice of human culture (though one that is typically heavily biased towards the recent past). On the other hand, they can often seem to be producing something entirely new, and can thereby leave many people with the impression of having a personality or even “sentience” (whatever that means exactly); in the most extreme cases, some people have apparently convinced themselves that such models are a step on the path towards some sort of successor species to humanity, a new regime of algorithmic children that will survive our own human catastrophes.