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  • UL NO. 412: OpenAI's Prompt Guide, My Neovim Overhaul, the UL Character Sheet, and…

UL NO. 412: OpenAI's Prompt Guide, My Neovim Overhaul, the UL Character Sheet, and…

Also: Ubiquity cross-pollination, passcode laws, China's AI Influence network, bodycam shenanigans, and one year independent!

Unsupervised Learning is a Security, AI, and Meaning-focused podcast that looks at how best to thrive as humans in a post-AI world. It combines original ideas, analysis, and mental models to bring not just the news—but why it matters, and how to respond.

Happy Monday!

Ok, a bit of a shorter show this week with the holiday coming up. And there’s no show next week, as a reminder.

But I’ve been busier than ever somehow!

  • The response to the course announcement has been INSANE, and I’ve been adding new stuff to it every day. So excited to deliver this! Couple of quick FAQ items: 1. I’ll be announcing the date in the next week or so, 2) it’s a live course, and 3) it won’t be recorded.

  • I also finally finished my annual December Vim Refresh Ritual of many of hours of Neovim study. And I now have my full 2024 configuration. And I published it for the first time! You can check it out in my new dotfiles repo on Github. GET IT

    • Switched to Lazy for my plugin manager and base

    • Deleted all my custom configs and started over

    • Added each config and remap by hand so I know every single setting and what it does

    • I even created my own oh-my-zsh theme that I like better than my old go-to. It’s also in the repo.

    • I now have that Irish Spring feeling! Feels wonderful!

    • Basically my Vim setup now looks and feels sicker than ever, and because of Lazy it is far easier to manage plugins and updates. I simply add one definition file under /plugins and it does the install and config by itself. No more adding in one place and configuring in another and then kicking off an update manually. Plus I have full LSP functionality and a million other smoothed edges that come with Lazy.

    • Hat tip to Primegean and Josean for a lot of config inspo.

    • Folke is the creator of Lazy and also my favorite Vim theme—TokyoNight, and he’s a hero.

    • To use my configs (it’s pretty customized so be sure to read the options.lua and keymaps.lua files, simply back up your existing nvim directory and copy it into your .config directory. When you launch Vim, the distro will do the work. And the docs are pretty damn good as well.

My new NVIM setup with Tokyonight

Let’s get into this week’s show!

Purposelessness—Not Social Media—is Making Our Kids Depressed
My new piece on how I believe the lack of purpose is the root cause of a lot of young peoples’ suffering. MORE

🗡️The UL Character Sheet
My new essay and D&D model for showing how Talent and Luck matter far less than Discipline. MORE


❤️ Purposelessness—Not Social Media—is Making Our Kids Depressed
My new piece on how I believe the lack of purpose is the root cause of a lot of young peoples’ suffering. MORE

🗡️The UL Character Sheet
My new essay and D&D model for showing how Talent and Luck matter far less than Discipline. MORE

Reserve a limited slot

🚨I am running a space-limited 3-hour AI course called AUGMENTED in January. Here’s what it covers:

My Approach

  • What I want from AI (the problems I’m solving)

  • My framework / approach for solving them

  • A live demo of multiple workflows

Architecture Overview

  • The tech stack that I’ve built

  • My prompt/templates approach and lessons-learned


  • A step-by-step for building the server-side infra

  • A step-by-step for building the client-side infra

  • Hosting recommendations


  • The full guide to building my stack for yourself

  • Multiple full-text copies of my actual modules

  • A set of ideas you can use for different professions and areas of focus, e.g., security, writing, copywriting.

Basically, by the end of the 3 hours, you’ll be able to build a copy of my AI ecosystem for yourself.

The course will be limited in attendance, and early access prices start at $495. The date will be announced soon for the middle of January 2024.

Super excited to share my full philosophy, ecosystem, and workflows, and now I have the avenue to do that!

  • UL Subscribers can get early subscriber access for $445. GET YOUR SPOT

  • UL Members get a full $200 off the course, bringing it to $295! BECOME A MEMBER


Ubiquiti customers are reporting access to other people's UniFi devices and getting their notifications. One user received a security camera notification that wasn't theirs, while another found themselves with control over 88 devices from someone else's account. MORE

Channel 1 is a new TV channel launching in LA in 2024, and it’s going to use AI-generated news anchors for the first time on American TV. My first question is why TV? I guess they still need to grab that long tail while they switch to streaming. Really curious how people respond to it. The question is whether the need for constant news will outweigh any bad vibes from the uncanny valley. MORE

Discord just rolled out WebAuthn for MFA. Go do the thing. MORE 


The 2023 Kubernetes Security Report

The shocking reality of critical vulnerabilities in publicly-exposed containers.

Kubernetes (K8s) has transformed the way applications are deployed and managed in the cloud-native landscape. Based on our scans of over 200,000 cloud accounts, the Wiz Security Research team exposes how many clusters are at risk, and what it means for your cloud defense. You’ll discover:

Think of it as your playbook against cloud threats. All this and more can be found here:

Utah's Supreme Court just ruled that suspects don't have to give up their phone passcodes to the police. The case involved a kidnapping, and I see this one going to the Supreme Court. MORE

A new report discusses a Pro-China YouTube network used A.I. to spread disinformation about the U.S.. The network's content, spanning 30 channels, had almost 120 million views and over 730,000 subscribers since last year. These channels have been disseminating rumors and misinformation on topics ranging from politics to social media narratives. MORE (This was a fully AI-written summary. How was it?)

💡One thing you might be wondering is how much AI I use to generate the newsletter. The answer is a lot, but mostly for the collection, filtering, and organizing steps. I and/or OpenAI would still need to do a lot more work to be able to pass AI output directly in for main stories. For one, I use the newsletter as my news consumption activity, so I actually need to read the stories, and there’s still a massive difference between me writing something and the AI writing it.

I intend to keep the human aspect in play for the foreseeable future because it’s still better than AI. And the value to you is largely the analysis, not the story summary. If/when the balance changes in the future I’ll let you know, and at that point I’ll transition to summaries being fully AI-generated and then custom-written analysis, commentary, and long-form content. Still a bit early for that, though.

Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd are halting Red Sea transits due to increased missile and drone attacks, impacting global shipping routes. MORE


⚠️ INL Data Compromise — Over 45,000 people's personal info was stolen from the Idaho National Laboratory. | SEVERITY: HIGH | RESPONSE: INL and federal agencies are investigating. MORE

⚠️ MongoDB announced an incident exposing some customer details but not the data stored in MongoDB Atlas. The breach was detected on December 13th, and while the full extent is still under investigation, customer account metadata and contact information were compromised. MORE


🤖 OpenAI released its own prompting guide. It’s quite good and includes examples. Here are the main tactics:

🔥Eleizer Yudkowsky (yeah, that one), tells AI to create a “normal” image. And then whatever it gives back he tells it to make it “more normal”. It keeps going and the stuff it ends up with is completely insane. Read the whole thread. MORE

Facebook’s being swarmed by fake social media photos that people think are real. We all knew this was coming, but it’s still weird to see it actually happen. An artist posted a real version of a thing and now he’s being copied by people using AI. MORE

Apple's already working on a 2nm chip process for 2025, with TSMC's mass production plans hinting at a possible 1nm before too long. This is why you should get your Apple hardware to Apple Silicon and start skipping a generation or two. MORE

OpenAI is putting more emphasis on its Superalignment research team run by Ilya Sutskever. The team's recent experiments show progress in guiding smarter AI models without diminishing their capabilities, using a method where an inferior AI influences a superior one. MORE

OpenAI just cut off ByteDance for training a rival AI using GPT-4. ByteDance reportedly violated Microsoft and OpenAI's developer licenses by using GPT output to enhance its own AI model. Do they not know OpenAI looks for this in API call patterns? MORE

GM just dumped Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, claiming they're not safe because they might make drivers use their phones more. People are still going to use car computers; now they’ll just use a worse one. Ford came out and basically called BS, and said they’d still be supporting them. MORE


ProPublica did an investigation on NYPD use of bodycams, and it showed that despite millions spent on the cameras, police departments often delay, redact, or refuse to release footage, undermining their entire point. This reminds me of tax law. When powerful people and mechanisms don’t want a thing to happen, they find ways to make sure it doesn’t. MORE

The Pope has approved priests to bless same-sex marriages. This guy has changed so much about the Catholic church that I wonder if some of it won’t be reversed by successors. I suppose not since future generations will (likely) be more progressive. MORE

Solar and wind energy are set to surpass coal in the US power mix for the first time in 2024. MORE

Netflix's recent viewership data reveals a strong contrast between the shows people discuss online and the ones they actually watch, with series like "Ginny & Georgia" dominating real viewership. The report shows "Ginny & Georgia" was in the top ten most viewed between January and June 2023, despite less online buzz compared to genre hits like "The Witcher." I love this disconnect between real and stated preferences. Reminds me of the book Everybody Lies, about Google search query analysis. MORE | EVERYBODY LIES BOOK

US Steel used to be a total behemoth, and now it’s selling to Nippon Steel. MORE

TikTok's car confessionals are becoming the new short-form video blogging. TikTok creators like Cheryl Porter and Keith Lee are amassing millions of followers through their car-based content. The trick here is authenticity. The car setting I think makes both the creator and the viewer feel more unguarded and real. MORE

Costco is selling gold bars online. As soon as they go up they sell out. I think I might get a few. MORE


RPG Literature and The Connection to Grinding
So I’ve been reading a genre called RPGLit (RPG Literature) for a few years, and I just realized a connection with the Discipline post I just wrote. So I’m starting the second book in The Primal Hunter series and I’m enjoying it more than I should be. Actually I’m often confused about whether I’m enjoying this genre or not. But I definitely am sometimes. Like I can’t tell if I’m wasting time or having fun or relieving stress or whatever. Or even why I enjoy it at all. Well this week I finally isolated what it was. It’s an entire genre about self-improvement. With clear stats. Clear skills. Clear ascension. Clear progress. So it’s basically a proxy for life grinding! It’s like erotica for D&D-minded self-improvement nerds. Anyway, if any part of that appeals to you, you should sample the genre. I’m not sure what the best stuff is, but fellow ULer Joseph Thacker (rez0) and I are all about the CRADLE series. THE FIRST PRIMAL HUNTER BOOK | THE FIRST CRADLE BOOK 1


I can’t tell you how much joy it gives me to tweak my terminal / Nvim setup every year or so. Especially this year because it was such a drastic rewrite and fresh start. I feel like Vim is one of my replacements for religion.

I am extremely excited for 2024. Tremendous momentum and energy heading into Christmas, and honestly am looking forward to January.

🥳 As I read what I just wrote, I realized that it’s now been 1 year since going independent. Wow. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I think we can call it an unambiguous success. I’ve never felt more free or more creative in my life. This is why I keep pushing all my friends to think about a similar jump!

🙏 I want to say thank you for reading this newsletter and engaging with all my content. I’d still be doing it if nobody was listening, but the fact that you are makes it possible to do for a living. And I appreciate you.


🤖 Microagents — Python-based agents that evolve to answer queries and improve over time. And they write their own code to do it. | by aymenfurter | MORE

🗣️Kelly Shortridge argues here that cybersecurity isn’t special, and that we tend to exaggerate our challenges compared to other departments. She also gives practical advice. Worth a read for sure, and it didn’t go unnoticed that she put it on her own site, and not on a company site! More of that please! MORE | EXTWIS SCREENSHOT

🤖 The Lever Prompting Technique — Give it levels and tell it to move up or down on a 10-point scale. | by Moritz Kremb | MORE

📺 My buddy Gunnar Andrews posted a new video on building bug bounty automation. MORE

🔍 Nmap Peek — Easily view Nmap scan results directly in VSCode for better analysis and workflow. | by marduc812 | MORE

🎶 StemGen — A new end-to-end music creation model, with demos. MORE | TELOS AI SCREENSHOT

🧱 BELAY — BELAY offers a modern twist on the traditional executive assistant role by providing U.S.-based virtual assistants and accounting professionals to help leaders manage their tasks. MORE

🔍 Incogni — Actively seeks out and removes your sensitive information from the web. MORE

🔧 SQL Polyglot — A tool to help you write SQL queries that work across different databases. | by antonz | MORE 

🔨 Be Family — A modern, AI-powered family organization tool designed to simplify family management. It's an interesting approach to keeping family life calm and collaborative, and they're offering it free for life to early sign-ups. MORE

📚 The Munger Operating System — It's about aligning your actions with the value you want to create. It's a reminder that trust and success aren't just handed to you; they're the result of consistent, hard work. MORE

🤔 Improvements Since the '90s MORE

📚The Verge’s favorite books from 2023 MORE 

Engaging OKR Check-ins with Hill Charts MORE

Taylor Swift's Eras Tour concert film is now on AppleTV. It’s worth watching even if you don’t like her music. It shows a complete mastery of the craft, on all dimensions. MORE

Stock funds managed by less attractive individuals beat those managed by their better-looking counterparts by a solid 2%. MORE

On being wrong about AI MORE

Ask HN: Terrified I Won’t Find Another Job MORE


No matter how much family and/or in-laws can annoy you with politics or whatever, put your mind years or decades in the future when they’re not there.

Find something to appreciate—something to agree on—and try to be present.


In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

Thank you for reading.

UL is a personal and strange combination of security, tech, AI, and lots of deeply human content. And because it’s so diverse, it’s harder for it to go as viral as something more niche.

So if you know someone weird like us, please share it with them. 🫶