Bubbles Distilled By Time.

We all perceive the world through our own little bubbles. As far as our senses go, we only have touch, taste, feeling, hearing, smell and sight to go by. The rest comes from what we glean through those things, be it other people, technology, language, culture, etc.

If the bubble is too small, we feel it a prison and do our best to expand it. Once it’s comfortable, we don’t push it outward as much.

These little bubbles contain ideas that have passed down through the generations, how others have helped us translate our world and all that is in it, etc. We’re part of a greater distillation process, where because of our own limitations we can’t possibly carry everything from previous generations.

If we consider all the stuff that creates our bubble as little bubbles themselves that we pass on to the next generation, it’s a distillation of our knowledge and ideas over time. Some fall away, like the idea of the Earth being the center of the Universe. Some stay with us despite not being used as much as we might like – such as the whole concept of, ‘be nice to each other’.

If we view traffic as something going through time, bubbles are racing toward the future all at the same time, sometimes aggregating, sometimes not. The traffic of ideas and knowledge is distilled as we move forward in time, one generation at a time. Generally speaking, until broadcast media this was a very local process. Thus, red dots trying to get us to do things, wielded by those who wish us to do things from purchasing products to voting for politicians with their financial interests at heart.

Broadcast media made it global by at first giving people information and then by broadcasting opinions to become sustainable through advertising. Social media has become the same thing. How will artificial intelligences differ? Will ChatGPT suddenly spew out, “Eat at Joes!”? I doubt that.

However, those with fiscal interests can decide what the deep learning of artificial intelligences are exposed to. Machine learning is largely about clever algorithms and pruning the data that the algorithms are trained on, and those doing that are certainly not the most unbiased of humanity. I wouldn’t say that they are the most biased either – we’re all biased by our bubbles.

It’s Pandora’s Box. How do we decide what should go in and what should stay out? Well, we can’t, really. Nobody is actually telling us what’s in them now. Our education systems, too, show us that this is not necessarily something we’re good at.

Distilling Traffic

Having pulled Data Transfer out of cars, I’ll revisit traffic itself:

“…Each of them is a physical record of their ancestors, dating back to their, marked by life events – living memory. In minds alone, each human brain is 100 terabytes, with a range of 1 Terabyte to 2.5 Petabytes according to present estimates. Factor in all the physical memory of our history and how we lived, we’re well past that…”

me, Traffic, RealityFragments, June 6th 2023

So while we’re all moving memory in traffic, we’re also moving history. Our DNA holds about 750 megabytes, according to some sources, of our individual ancestry as well as a lot of tweaks to our physiology that make us different people. Let’s round off the total memory to 2 Terabytes, 1 conservative terabyte for what our brain holds and roughly another terabyte of DNA (conservative here, liberal there…). 100 cars with only drivers is 200 Terabytes.

Conservatively. Sort of. Guesstimate built of guesstimates. It’s not so much about the values as the weight, as you’ll see.

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.

Richard Feynman, Chapter 1, The Law of Gravitation, p. 34 – The Character of Physical Law (1965)

Now, from all that history, we have ideas that have been passed on from generation to generation. Books immediately come to mind, as do other things like language, culture and tradition. All of these pass along ideas from generation, distilling things toward specific ends even while we distill our own environment to our own ends, or lack thereof which is an end. That’s a lot of information linked together, and that information is linked to the ecological systems that we’re connected to and their history.

Now, we’re beginning to train artificial intelligences on training models. What are in those training models? In the case of large language models, probably lots of human writing. In the case of images, lots of images. And so on. But these models are disconnected in ways that we are not, and we are connected in ways that we’re still figuring out.

I mean, we’re still learning some really interesting stuff about photosynthesis, something most of us were likely taught about in school. So these data models AI’s are being trained on through deep learning are subject to change and have to be changed as soon as information in that data model is outdated.

Who chooses what gets updated? It’s likely not you or me since we don’t even know what’s in these training models. For all we know, it’s data from our cellphones tracking us in real time, which isn’t that farfetched, but for now we can be fairly sure it’s someone who has decided what is in the machine learning models in the first place. Which, again, isn’t us.

What if they decide to omit… your religious text of choice? Or let’s say that they only want to train it on Mein Kampf and literature of that ilk. Things could go badly, and while that’s not really in the offing right now… we don’t know.

This impacts future generations and what they will do and how they will do it. It even impacts present generations. This seems like something we should be paying attention to.

We all live in our own little bubbles, after all, and our bubbles don’t have much influence on learning models for artificial intelligence. That could be a problem. How do we deal with it?

First, we have to start with understanding the problem, and most people including myself are only staring at pieces of the problem from our own little bubbles. Applications like ChatGPT just distill bubbles depending on their models.

Language as a Communication Technology

We don’t talk about how much language is a communication technology with it’s own compatibilities and incompatibilities. Until around 2004, I had no idea how much of an impact it had. CARDICIS opened my eyes to a lot, as simple as it was.

Growing up, the education system and or my school decided that it was a brilliant idea to teach both Spanish and French at the same time, and I quickly decided neither was worth pursuing not because of my teachers, but because I did not understand how important it was and because it was initially difficult for me. Then I got behind, then I got further behind, and then I was past the point of no return for the academic aspect in secondary school.

If the system was dumb, so was I, but the system was older and I had the excuse of being young and ignorant.

I bring this up for a few reasons. In the vein of what I have been writing about bias, medium and messages and other stuff in the context of artificial intelligence, language is a bigger deal than what most monophones (people who speak only one language) might begin to understand.

“Because language flows in the same direction as other elements of culture… For the most part, language flows in the other direction, from the conquerors to the conquered.”

Speaking Of Tongues: Justin E.H. Smith On The Mysteries Of Language“, Justin E.H. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris

Language through conquest has long been a topic of colonialism. The Treaty of Torsedillas that Spain and Portugal agreed to started off by a Papal decree. Conquest was religious, divided by language because of division of European nations. England, France and the Netherlands simply chose to ignore the treaty. England was still Catholic when the treaty was written, and continued to be until 1534.

The medium was the language, and the message was the language, but the message brought new medium of religion which had it’s own message, and so on.

“…I think we’re now moving into a period when we will leave it to the machines to speak to each other. A lot of the tedious work of coding came during an early phase of computing. We’re developing artificial intelligence to do that for us. When we have only machines speaking machine, however, it’s going to be a big problem, because their language is going to proliferate beyond our ability to fully grasp even how it’s proliferating.”

Speaking Of Tongues: Justin E.H. Smith On The Mysteries Of Language“, Justin E.H. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris.

Well, when artificial intelligences did start talking to each other – we’ve already seen it happen, as in 2017 when Facebook chatbots were designed to negotiate with each other. In 2022, DALL-E2 was noted using it’s own language as well. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had not happened before and we didn’t hear about it. We certainly will be hearing more about it.

None of this is simple. Different languages evolved largely because of geographic isolation until people started wandering between civilizations. There’s other types of isolation too, but in the end what is remarkable is that these large language models, and machine learning/deep learning with a multilingual content may be some of the best ways for us to get that universal translator that Star Trek always has breaking (probably Microsoft updates), and that Douglas Adams simplified to a BabelFish.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai.

And it goes beyond that.

Consider The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. Some of you reading this, if not most at the time of this writing, read left to right so when we view the image, we see the wave first, then the boats. Many people don’t even notice the boats and the people on them.

Yet the artist Hokusai was Japanese, and Japanese look from right to left. A native Japanese speaker would likely see the boats first, and therefore the peril those in the boats are in seems more real. A simple thing like the direction of reading impacts how we view images even beyond language.

As a software engineer, I wrestled with internationalization, different keyboard types, etc – but if we accept language as a communication technology, as well as an art, it’s pretty clear that transmitting and receiving information lacks the depth of interpreting.

That can be much more complicated for us, as well as our creations presenting unbiased output for us.

Justin E. H. Smith, who I quoted from an interview, has a fresh book coming out that you can pre-order now: The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning

Bias in AI, Social Media, and Beyond.

One of the things that is hard to convey to many people is how bias actually affects things. So I’ll offer a unique perspective, one that involves hamburgers.

All good stories should have a good burger of some sort, whatever your meat or lack of meat allows for. Some people will see ‘burger’ and go for the default of beef in their head, some people will think chicken or turkey or lamb or mushroom or… that right there is a bias.

I’ll go a bit further.

My father, well into his 50s, felt like having a hamburger and I asked him why we didn’t just make them instead of going out and buying some crappy burgers. He admitted something that floored me.

He didn’t know how to make them. Here he was, having lived decades eating burgers, but he never learned how to make burger patties. My father. The guy who always seemed within 10 feet of a burger joint when it came to feeding times.

Now, why was that?

First, he grew up in a Hindu home, and beef was not on the menu at home. He never would have been exposed in that household on how to make a beef patty – or a beef anything, for that matter. So he had an implicit bias from the start on not knowing how to make a hamburger.

He did, according to his oral history, like eating hamburgers, and would go to a place near his school to eat some. His eyes would glow when he discussed that memory, as simple as it might be.

Now, he also got married in the 1970s in the U.S., and Mom handled all the cooking. We cooked burgers there, but he managed to not learn about making the patties. He worked night shift, and so he wasn’t around most of the day anyway. More bias on him not learning how to make a hamburger, which an American of his generation generally considers an art form – but he was not American. More bias.

After decades, he assumed that learning how to make them was beyond him – which seemed peculiar considering how much time and care he would put into an omelette.

If my father were an AI of some sort and you asked him about how to make a beef patty, he would have likely said, “they come in stores.” While not knowing how to make burger patties is a pretty low threshold when compared to human extinction– it’s not hard to see how omitting information can be a handicap and create a bias.

It’s also not hard to see that by creating information or perspectives can also create bias. If we don’t teach AI about weight loss, an AI might suggest amputation for someone wondering how to lose weight – and even recommend low weight prosthetics. Ridiculous, but we never thought kids would be eating tide pods. We don’t exactly have as high a threshold as we might like to think.

There are good and bad biases, and they’re largely subjective. We see systemic biases now over all sorts of things – can you imagine them happening faster and more efficiently?

Aside from the large sweeping biases of culture, the artificial construct of race, and the availability of information, what other biases do you think can impact an artificial intelligence? Social media? Beyond?

Trinidad and Tobago and/vs AI.

When I wrote ‘Artificial Extinction‘, I briefly touched on coverage related to artificial intelligence here in Trinidad and Tobago. It’s hard to explain just how out of mind it is, so I’ll just write a bit of the local scene.

Today, as I stood in line waiting an annoying amount of time waiting to pay for the 5l bottle of water at a local convenience store, I glanced at the headlines. As usual, there was someone having trouble with something at the head of the line, the other register was closed, and the line formed.

One of the benefits of that line is that I get to run my eyes across the front pages of the local newspapers: Newsday, Trinidad Express and Trinidad Guardian.

The Rastafarian gentleman in front of me found something of interest in the Trinidad Express. I saw something about the need for Constitutional Reform, a picture of “Indian Arrival Day Stalwarts”, ‘Paradise in Peril’ and a plea from the mother of a kidnapping victim. Having been back and forth over the decades, the news seems to say the same with only names changing. The politicians play politics, the crime has spiraled so long that it is now in control of the criminals, and nobody has fresh ideas. They all seem to be foreign and abused ideas, much like some of the used cars you can buy from Japan.

This is the canvas upon which local news is painted daily. I thought about seeing Trinidad and Tobago represented on Planet Earth (Episode 6) through Grand Riviere Village’s volunteer work to assist and protect the leatherback turtles. when I did a web search, I found the leatherback turtle site offline (something I’m considering digging into). That’s a shame. Keeping a website online for something with international attention seems important.

I get home, walking past the condo’s office, I wave briefly at the administrator who was busy talking with someone. 15 years as a corporate secretary, retired, decades of experience that could soon be replaced with something purchased off the shelf. The latent thought of my own experience being replaced looms quietly in the background as I enter the elevator, my thoughts on how to connect the local perspective on technology and thus artificial intelligence to the larger global perspective of “this could end very badly“.

My friends and neighbors are more worried about their family’s security than some online application spitting out gobs of text when asked a question. In a land where there are no questions, no one needs an oracle. The economic diversity of Trinidad and Tobago is simply not there, the oil money stolen or squandered (or both), and the youths see increasingly little opportunity outside of crime, as we talked about while I was at the barber shop last week.

Artificial intelligence is not going to help with these things, because these are largely broken systems that those who profit from do not want to fix. ChatGPT can go blue in the face telling the politicians what they should do. They’ve been told what it has to offer thousands of times before over the decades. The faces largely have not changed, only grown older and in one case distinctly more cadaverous.

Years ago, I had a Minister message me once because something I wrote, and he asked where I got the data from – I cited the source that he should have been aware of, the open data portal of Trinidad and Tobago. He was agog. He’d been asking for that information for over a year and no one seemed to know where it was. The website has since been updated, the data not so much.

Meanwhile, the largest employer in Trinidad and Tobago is the government, where many good people participate in overcomplicated wheels of bureaucracy. We could use technology to replace much of that, but then where would the people work? And since they vote, who would they vote for if they lose their jobs?

With this context, now, I can now discuss AI in Trinidad and Tobago in the context of jobs, particularly the last 3 paragraphs:

“…Taking charge of this rapidly evolving scenario of workplace change will demand one fundamental and overdue evolution in governance, the continuous gathering and distribution of actionable information about how this country operates.

It was a note that Jonathan Cumberbatch, Assistant VP, Human Resources and Administration at UTT touched on cautiously when he noted that, “Data drives most of the conversation outside of TT, but we don’t have a sense of that in TT.”

The propensity of governance to proceed on feelings, hunches and political expedience might have worked in the past, but the national distaste for transparently gathered, publicly available information cannot continue into an era hallmarked by a reliance on reliable, continuously updated datasets.”

AI and your job“, Mark Lyndersay, TechNewsTT and BitDepth#1408 for May 29, 2023

Of course, it wasn’t a global roundup of people related to AI, just those with local interests talking to the local Chamber of Commerce related to their products. Microsoft was definitely there, others… not here.

The short answer is that Trinidad and Tobago isn’t ready. Neither is most of the rest of the world, which is why there’s concern by some. I’ve seen firsthand government offices and even business offices completely ignore data driven approaches. Just recently, I proposed starting with the basics in the condo’s office, only to hear that without actual data they’re just pushing forward into a ticket system to solve all the problems. In time they will find it creates new ones, but that will be another story.

The point is that if you can’t even do data driven stuff, keep a volunteer website up when there’s international attention, the wave of artificial intelligence that will drive the world economy will leave many people stranded on islands, perhaps even twin island Republics. What will be done about this?

Maybe they’ll talk about it in Parliament. Then, if history repeats itself, nothing will happen.

Or, things could change. Things definitely should change, but those changes need to happen faster and faster as the government slides into the Pitch Lake, dragging it’s citizens with it. .

Broken Time.

This space was going to be intentionally left blank as I spend some time on Memorial Day, but then this I was reminded by a vibrating watch that I had to write something here – a reminder.

Reminders allow us to remember to do things, which is also a fitting thing to write about given that it is Memorial Day.

The day itself sits comfortably on American calendars, itself a technology from the Roman Empire era. It allowed scheduling and organization. In time, it enforced scheduling and organization and to some today, it is a tyranny. Deadlines make wooshing sounds as they rush by.

The technology that I was reminded by is voluntary, I set it up and of course it doesn’t have settings to take public holidays off – and if it did, it might not work because where I am located, Memorial Day is not a public holiday. The world outside of the United States trudges on.

Much of the reminders I get these days are involuntary. Some software company wants to update something just about every time I touch a different device. The poor woman at the optical center who wants to remind me of needing to check my eyesight this year calls while I’m in the middle of talking to someone.

Reminders can be interruptions, as the reminder was today for me.

When I was younger, I recall seeing those older than myself sit quiet for periods of time, lost in thought or memory – or both. It was an inordinate amount of time, I thought, to be so long without motion and observation. As I grew older, I learned the time is never enough, there’s always something that shakes us from the moments of deep thought, of reflection, of revisiting events, of studying problems and possible solutions, or simply taking a moment to be human.

We don’t talk about the time it takes to be ‘simply human’ that much, and we have neatly shoved it into the realm of the introverts that the extroverts scream outside of. It’s necessary, and while technology pushes the frontiers of productivity employers push the frontier of the clock, tapping their watches insistently as they look at us.

The difference between a reminder and an interruption is the importance of the what you are doing versus what you needed to be reminded of. If you’re rushing to get online to check for an email about a deathly sick relative, that interruption from Microsoft is likely a very negative experience.

“You’ll upgrade my operating system to the next version of Windows for free? That news on Aunt Samantha can wait! Screw that lady!”, simply doesn’t seem to be something would think in such a situation.

It does seem that in my lifetime, we get interrupted more than reminded. That could also simply be my anecdotal experience as I grow older, but it does seem to me that Pavlov might have a lot to write about these days.

Science Fiction in Latin America.

When I read the image to the left from over at Classics of Fiction about the New Prehistory, I was surprised that I didn’t know about the lack of science fiction roots in Hispanic countries. It opened a door. Science fiction fires the imagination for applying science and technology to issues, so this is important.

At the first CARDICIS, way back when, I thought I’d been invited by mistake. Suddenly I found myself in St. Lucia at a conference about ICT (or in Spanish, TIC) and culture. There was, for the first time as they said, real time translation allowing people from the Caribbean and South American region to speak to each other.

The core of this was wrapped around the metaphor of cooking, and food is certainly something that we all share around the world since we need to eat. It was a great conference, and I learned a lot about the region, barring US and UK territories and the Bahamas.

The Caribbean is poorly defined any way you look at it, and one can argue it’s by design. European territories were never designed to be independent, and it shows even now. CARICOM members include nations from the South American continent (Suriname, Guyana and Belize), and those nations all have something in common: They don’t speak Spanish. I don’t know how that happened, but it happened.

Geographically, the countries considered in the Caribbean are not the same, and within the Caribbean itself there are islands of isolation in language. By land mass or population, though, the majority of nations in the Caribbean speak Spanish, French, English and Dutch in descending order, and these islands come from the European influences which, to this day, define who does what with who.

After CARDICIS, I spent a lot of time in South America and the Caribbean in places where English was not the native language. I even became conversational in Spanish during that time, though I fear that part of my brain goes on vacation now and then. I enjoyed getting to understand how people lived throughout the region, and yet here’s this gaping hole in my knowledge that I knew nothing about.

It was never a question, so I never sought an answer. So I started digging in.

Science Fiction in Latin America

Science fiction (SF) is not a literary form native to the region, but many Latin American writers have utilized its creative freedom to reflect local settings and concerns. The definition of science fiction is particularly fluid in Latin America, where it overlaps considerably with horror, mystery, fantasy, and other genres…

Science Fiction in Latin America, Encyclopedia.com, accessed on 26th May 2023.

I had no clue, but in the books I read in Spanish I never did read any science fiction. Thinking back to when I picked them up in my travels, availability could have been a factor, though my focus at the time was trying to understand how people lived.

La gente real” is a common enough phrase but one I picked up in Nicaragua. The real people. Not what you see in the tourist brochures, the news, or what your friend who visited that all inclusive hotel thinks about the people who made their stay comfortable.

So this was a new thing to research, and since I’m procrastinating about a particular part of what I’m writing, I drilled in this morning. The thing about science fiction is that there’s science involved. It’s not exactly a big secret with the name being stuck in the title of the genre, but science and technology are not that far apart. In fact, technology is best described as science practically applied. So science fiction would go hand in hand with ICT.

I recalled conversations I had over the years with many of my Spanish speaking friends, and not once did we really cover common ground in science fiction aside from stale Star Trek and Star Wars stuff. Those are so ubiquitous that a billion years from now errant signals will reach a planet with intelligent life who will think Yoda is a demi-god and that Captain Kirk is a reason to bolster their planetary defenses. They may eventually get here and find some plastic light sabers and phasers to help prop up that mythos in their culture. There’s a book idea.

And then I remembered using the word, “Grok” to one of my friends in Costa Rica, who was (and probably still is) an Argentinean Penguinista, steeped in the Linux command line. She didn’t know what it meant, and I attributed that to language. I do recall explaining the origin from Stranger in a Strange Land and Robert Heinlein, but she had not read that book and I thought little of it.

Latin America has it’s own science fiction, and I had somehow completely missed that.

“The man could feel his eyes filling with tears. Before him stood a spaceship, a gigantic metallic disk that seemed to be made of two immense plates joined at the edges.” These first words of Argentine Eduardo Goligorsky’s “The Last Refuge” could open any American or European science fiction story. However, the rest of the story largely deviates from Western models of sci-fi in its overt treatment of political themes, as “The Last Refuge” quite openly critiques authoritarianism. The story’s protagonist, Guillermo Maidana, must escape an authoritarian society that proclaims itself as the “the last refuge of Western civilization,” directly referencing Argentine dictator Juan Carlos Onganía’s paternalistic crusade against communism. Maidana’s crime? Possessing a photo album of historic technological and scientific achievements…

…Despite its clear relevance to political themes across the region, Latin American sci-fi does not receive the credit it is due inside or outside Latin America. Historically, the literary establishment across Latin American has not taken sci-fi seriously. In Mexico, literary contests and publications “did not think it was sufficiently literary, so it was frowned upon,” said Schaffler. Likewise, the Argentine cultural establishment looked down on Argentine scientists in general. “Scientists’ opinion has as much weight as that of rock stars or sports idols,” Capanna explained. Even when sci-fi did enter the mainstream, popular audiences often believed that imported sci-fi was somehow “purer.”…”

Looking to Las Estrellas: The Political Role of Latin American Science Fiction“, Kendrick Foster, Harvard Political Review, April 13th, 2020.

There’s a lot of text between the elipses in this last quote, and I encourage people to go read the article if they’re interested in this topic. I had no idea about all of this.

Science fiction in many ways drives technology. Technology today emulates science fiction of yesteryear. Many people won’t remember Dick Tracy’s watch where he could video chat with people. Many more people don’t even know who Dick Tracy is. Somewhere on this planet, right now, someone’s trying to build a light saber. Tricorders and tablets, artificial intelligences and those presented in science fiction…

The last article gives a big hint about the difference in focuses, and it likely has to do with the situations in Latin America itself, which are painfully political as we see here in Trinidad and Tobago. With an influx of Venezuelans taking the jobs nobody in Trinidad and Tobago seemed to want, Venezuelans are making their way into Trinidad and Tobago culture. It’s a drum that people beat every now and then about the Venezuelan influx, but Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela have a long standing relationship – enough so that 1920s calypsonian King Radio sang Matilda long before Belafonte recorded anything.

There’s certainly a lot of space to think about this, but I sadly have not read any Latin American science fiction. The intentionality, be it “make the world a better place through science” or “get rid of authoritarian society” all drives the imagination that drives technology… and is something maybe we should be paying a little more attention to.

I wonder now about French, Dutch…

Rolling The Text Dice.

I haven’t published any science fiction other than some things here and there on my blogs, so I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert on writing Science Fiction – but I most certainly would consider myself an expert on reading Science Fiction. And it’s Sunday, and this is what I feel like writing about today.

Presently, there’s an inflection in technology where technology can write like a science fiction author (poorly), however banal one might think it is. There’s a recurring theme right now about people worried about creative endeavors being taken over, but as far as I know nothing very impressive has come out in this regard and I don’t expect it anytime soon.

…There’s one barrier that AI can’t cross, as of now. And that’s creating new science fictional concepts. The writer who can take in everything that’s going on now and speculate about the near future in any coherent way has the edge – for the moment. AIs based on current training models are essentially limited to rearranging the deck chairs on the Carnival Cruise’s Mardi Gras. What’s disappointing, is that’s exactly what most current human science fiction writers are doing too…

The Future of Science Fiction“, James Wallace Harris, 4/2/23

I fully endorse what he writes there. Most human science fiction writers these days seem to have Ye Olde CookeBooke of Formulaic Books which has been greatly disappointing when I explored bookstores, running my fingers gently across a creative cover of a book to flip it open, glance within, and see… the same formulae.

I’m not saying there isn’t good original science fiction out there. It’s just gotten so hard to find for me. The dwindling number of bookstores no longer seem to hold that many new ideas and thoughts, and Amazon, while convenient, lacks the tactile experience and probably has adversely affected any romantic relationships that blossomed over book choices in line. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll eventually create a dating app based on books you’ve purchased through Amazon, regardless of whether you read or understood them.

“We read, frequently if not unknowingly, in search of a mind more original than our own.”

Harold Bloom, How To Read and Why, 2000.

Harold Bloom’s quote has haunted me for at least a decade now, if not longer, because every time I go into a bookstore and see the same depressing stuff on the shelf that seems like corporate pulp fiction, I think that maybe it’s time I write something better. Something not formulaic.

Something that hits like Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, an oddly poetic work considering how conservative the author was to create such an interestingly liberal book.

I’m starting a new project tomorrow, holding myself to landmarks and deadlines, so I’ve been roving around the Internet and reading up on things like these. The reason I’m writing about it here is because in it’s own way, it’s a system as hinted at here:

…Right now we have more science fiction of all kinds being produced than ever before. That production is going into overdrive with AI. And the percentage of it that’s readable and entertaining is increasing. That’s also part of the problem – there’s too much science fiction – at least for any one work to become widely known. Good science fiction novels have almost become a generic product line, in white boxes with black letter labeling…

The Future of Science Fiction“, James Wallace Harris, 4/2/23

Anything sustainable in the world of our creation has to be fiscally sustainable. This is what happened with Web 2.0, this is what has happened with publishing in general, and so, it’s happened to the just about everything else.

Saying that there is a lack of originality in Science Fiction is very much like saying that there’s no real originality in modern music. It’s subjective.

As originality decreases, banality increases.

Now here’s the rub. Since bayesian probability, the core of just about every algorithm out there offering you suggestions on everything from Netflix to Facebook, targets the median, the median decides what is original or not.

As the average person experiences more original works, they increasingly see suggestions as banal. Bayesian probability only works based on what has happened.

Beating that system for marketing requires a mix of what people have liked with what is original, all of which are moving targets on a very small asteroid to be hit from a spaceship with really bad targeting.

Roll the dice, I suppose. I’d rather we had an infinite improbability machine.

WordPress.com discontinuing Twitter Auto-Share

While I was scheduling a post for RealityFragments.com I noticed that the auto-tweet functionality was no longer being done by WordPress.com.

Of course I looked into it, not because I’m a fan of Twitter – I wasn’t before Musk took it over and began breaking everything – but because it is an avenue that at least some people I interact with check in at. The auto-share was often a way to let people know I was still alive.

Why is the auto-share being turned off on WordPress.com? Costs, of course.

“In early April, we experienced an unexpected suspension of our Twitter API access. This access is what powers Jetpack Social, which in turn helps you automatically share your blog posts to Twitter. Though the service was restored that same day, it turns out that there were bigger changes looming on the horizon. 

Twitter recently notified Automattic that it was dramatically changing the terms and pricing of the Twitter API. The cost increase is prohibitive for us to absorb without passing a significant price increase along to you, and we don’t see that as an option. We have attempted to negotiate a path forward, but haven’t been able to reach an agreement in time for Twitter’s May 1 cutoff. 

Given that, we have decided to discontinue using the Twitter API.”

Why Twitter Auto-Sharing Is Coming to an End“, WordPress.com Blog, accessed on April 19th, 2023.

It went on to suggest checking out Tumblr, so I dusted off the old Tumblr account – and content from both RealityFragments.com and KnowProSE.com should be showing up here now.

Having never really used Tumblr, I expect there will be a learning curve involved, so please pardon me while I break things.

Beware The False ChatGPTs.

It was inevitable. Unscrupulous folks decided to cash in on ChatGPT’s financial successes by tossing some fake ones out there for cell phones – and they’re making some money, fleeceware, etc.

See this article by the experts at Sophos for more.

The immediate list you should delete from your phone at the time of this writing:

  • Open Chat GBT – AI Chatbot App
  • AI Chatbot – Ask AI Assistant
  • AI Chat GBT – Open Chatbot App
  • AI Chat – Chatbot AI Assistant
  • Genie – AI Chatbot
  • AI Chatbot – Open Chat Writer

More on these fake ChatGPT’s can be found on Tom’s Hardware in an in-depth article, which includes how to use the legitimate ChatGPT.

It should go without saying that you should always get software from the source and if deals look too good to be true, they probably are.