What have humans just unleashed?

Charlie Warzel/The Atlantic:

ChatGPT doesn’t really resemble the Manhattan Project, obviously. But I wonder if the existential feeling that seeps into most of my AI conversations parallels the feelings inside Los Alamos in the 1940s. I’m sure there were questions then. If we don’t build it, won’t someone else? Will this make us safer? Should we take on monumental risk simply because we can? Like everything about our AI moment, what I find calming is also what I find disquieting. At least those people knew what they were building.

The People Building AI Don’t Know What It Will Do Next – The Atlantic

Mackenzie Scott sets new “open call” to donate $250m

Glenn Gamboa/Associated Press:

Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, said when Scott originally announced her open-call plans in December that her approach says, “We as donors can yield to those talented people in nonprofits working closest to communities who know best what is needed and how to do it.”

MacKenzie Scott Sets New ‘Open Call’ to Donate $250 Million (philanthropy.com)

A family fund gave all its assets to a nonprofit newspaper focused on the Black community

Alex Daniels in The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

… before the Holofceners agreed to cede control over their assets and help Snowden-McCray with her mission, they wanted a sense of confidence that the paper would be managed well, say both the family members and Snowden-McCray. For instance, in 2020, when he saw the first draft of the paper’s business plan, Rick Holofcener said it lacked basic information about how the Baltimore Beat would attract revenue and didn’t properly account for all of the paper’s probable expenses.

Working for several months with Snowden-McCray and Soderberg, the paper’s co-founder, the family and the journalists fine-tuned their vision. The process, Soderberg says, was stress-free because they knew the money was coming; the time-out was simply to make sure the nonprofit paper would have a smooth rollout.

Snowden-McCray remembers the period before the grant became official as a “really good time.”

The foundation wasn’t laying out preconditions or must-dos. Instead, the pause gave the paper and the family time to thoroughly nail down their plans…

The extra time also allowed the paper to plan fundraising events and to hire Black journalists. Leaders focused on hiring editors, then gave those staff members the opportunity to hire and train rising journalists of color in the city. To keep operating costs in line, the refined business plan also called for a biweekly paper instead of a weekly, as originally planned. As a result of the extended planning, Snowden-McCray is optimistic about the paper’s future.

“Everybody wants everything fast,” she says. “But I think slow cooking it will ultimately help us last.”

The Politics of Forgiveness

February 8, 2023 @ 4pm Pacific time — You are invited to a webinar hosted by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust on “The Politics of Forgiveness.” This conversation will include Elizabeth Bruenig of The Atlantic, Bishop Claude Alexander of The Park Church in South Carolina, and Rev. Fleming Rutledge of The Episcopal Church. More info and registration details are here.

In 2019, 3,000 new churches opened – but 4,500 closed

Adam Gabbatt in the UK Guardian:

About 4,500 Protestant churches closed in 2019, the last year data is available, with about 3,000 new churches opening, according to Lifeway Research. It was the first time the number of churches in the US hadn’t grown since the evangelical firm started studying the topic. With the pandemic speeding up a broader trend of Americans turning away from Christianity, researchers say the closures will only have accelerated.

“The closures, even for a temporary period of time, impacted a lot of churches. People breaking that habit of attending church means a lot of churches had to work hard to get people back to attending again,” said Scott McConnell, executive director at Lifeway Research.

“In the last three years, all signs are pointing to a continued pace of closures probably similar to 2019 or possibly higher, as there’s been a really rapid rise in American individuals who say they’re not religious.”