On machine learning, Mescaline and the pitfalls of a wooden dildo
SUCH a great post - such diversity woven into gorgeous coherence. Great story. And this line: "I sipped my napkin-flavoured gin in silence, thinking: splinters" in the context of the post up to that point is hands-down my favourite set of words today. 🙌
And 'The Phantom Tollbooth'? One of MY favourites, too! It was given to me decades ago by a family friend (who is now 95), and I've reread it again and again. I was so sad to come across Norton Juster's obituary in the paper a couple of years ago. I clipped the cutting and slipped it inside my copy of the book.
Thank you so much for this cracking read, Jill.
I am going to go see if I can dig up this fun little thing we use from time-to-time inspired by Gareth Morgan's "What is the Pig?" exercise - the internet is failing badly today at pulling up many good references for it. Basically, we ask people to describe the invisible pig that is with us. We get a huge variety of responses from "a slab of bacon" to "a 4-legged mammal" to "a cop" to "a sloppy person" etc. We use it to emphasize that there is no agreement on a simple 3 letter word much less anything more complex and that words create the illusion of agreement. I think that you will conjure the same meaning of pig that I assume everyone has.
There's this book - Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram - that really messed me up. It's about the phenomenological origins of language. Very complementary to Robert Macfarlane. There's a part where he is describing the introduction of abstract alphabets and uses Hebrew as an example. The letters have no reference to the thing they are signifying (like a hieroglyph might). They are abstract symbols. But, original Hebrew had only consonants, no vowels. That meant each person who was reading needed to decide where to put their breath and each of us would put it someplace different and you wind up with lots of different interpretations of the text. Well, the Greeks introduce the vowel and then it becomes possible to separate the body and mind, control people's breath across time and space... and basically muck us all up from there on out.
Imagine another universe where an AI chat bot reads ALL of that and decides to “@“ you for childish gags (Coz that’s what I wanted to do lol. But still, a chatbot wouldn’t “know” it’s a joke. Chatbots may pass the Turing test, but they aren’t conscious. My music teacher was saying that we are heading for doom because AI is now creating music. He said it could combine all manners of chords and tunes that humans find appealing and people would be out of jobs. The only problem--It doesn’t know what sounds “subjectively” good. It can scan the past, and give you a medley of “Spoonful” and “Nothing else matters.” But it cannot know whether it would sound good, whether it sounds good to it...let alone figure out a new genre of music.
That’s the key point that you caught on. For a person not lodged in the hodgepodge of tech, you did awesome, Jill ! Chatgpt may have read everything in the world (including some of my words), but every time I read something you write, I feel like I would’ve written exactly like that (albeit with caveman vocab). I guess, there’s a little chatGPT in me as much as there’s a little “me” in chatGPT lol
Happy MayDay! I love my people better than words:) I like my book clubs cause we share, sometimes with limited word power, but we tried.
Thank you for this! I laughed out loud and cried because you are so smart and correct. I experience love reading your words. ❤️