I’ve been reading about a new on-line application for students to resource that will complete written assignments for them. Given subject and context, ChatGPT will not only produce an essay or term paper of desired length but will write it in a manner consistent with the sort of language and syntax expected of a student of average intelligence. The technology is apparently leading some instructors and schools to re-think their curricula, which, I guess, means substituting oral responses or in-class spur of the moment essays for more conventional written work.
Just wondering what a chatbot might do with my brief musings, what the AI, given a few samples of past posts would deem consistent, whether it would find it necessary to throw in a misspelling or two, maybe a sentence fragment; a few unnecessary semi-colons.
Well, I don’t think I’ll go there; what would I do with all the spare time?
I’ve been reading about the conflicting philosophical thinking occurring among the dons of Oxford in the early 20th century. Conventional exegesis centered on issues of morality, how to think about the idea of the ‘Good’ in action and deed, whether there existed an intrinsic moral intuition directing man’s behaviors.
In opposition to such thinking, others maintained issues of morality were beyond the realm of obtainable knowledge, had no truth value, since such knowledge is dependent on the opinion, state of mind, of the individual thinker. The only knowledge obtainable, the logicians determined, will be found in mathematically verifiable constructs, truths within the bounds of scientific investigation. The Ethicists responded that man’s behaviors are much richer, rely on moral constructs and consist of a multiplicity of remembrances and inputs not reducible to mathematical formula.
I guess the atrocities of World War II must have brought the discussion of Good and Evil back to the philosophical table for everyone.
I’ve been reading the stories of Flannery O’Connor lately. The secluded culture of rural Mississippi in the 1940’s along with her inventive brilliance led to the creation of phrases that capture essential human experiences. One phrase that particularly struck me relates the idea of sudden discomfort someone might experience as thoughts unravel in contemplation.
‘A whole fear quick’ effectively captures, it seems to me, the anxieties that tend to spring up as one proceeds through unsettling daily encounters, dark thoughts emerge from the past and/or uncertain anticipations invade the mind: mental meanderings in which WFQ’s bound to the surface of one’s mind with regularity.
Such uncomfortable thoughts are all controllable, of course, understood in context. These are thoughts that can be dealt with prior to any sort of panic attack. If it were otherwise, if the unpleasantness became incapacitating, it might be time to home in on thoughts of an escapist nature, thinking about existence on an uninhabited desert island while at the same time experiencing amnesia. Such a scenario would promise a serenity of sorts, think.
I’ve been wondering how to think about what has been. No longer existent, one’s past can only be imagined. Unlike the present or future, the past would seem to be ‘written in stone’ but for the interpretations we impose on it as we encounter new experiences.
Interpreting one’s past is further complicated by the complexities of our belief systems, moral imperatives and ability to think logically and reason. Our memories, furthermore, record only snapshots of past experiences limited by our fragmentary sensory capacities and fleeting attention spans, and for some of us experiential bits are conveniently forgotten in support of a delicate ego.
I’m beginning to realize the ‘what was’ is a realm of Being steeped in mystery. I sense my history is rich with unrecoverable experiences: makes me wonder how much potential understanding I’ve left behind.
I read in the paper the other day that Burt Bacharach died. News items sprinkled with his biggest hits reminded me, and I’m sure many others who grew up in the ’60’s, of our post-high school days. Listening to Burt’s music has me remembering the naivete we shared, the romantic perspectives we embraced. Remembering some of the lyrics now, though, is a real eye-opener. Consider: ‘on the day that you were born the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true, so they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of gold and star light in your eyes of blue.’ Deeply romantic, I guess, but now it makes me wince.
Even considering Viet Nam and the Kennedy assassination we were of a simpler nature then, a bit less jaded, it seems to me. The tunes do bring back fond memories of convertible cruising on summer nights and minimal responsibilities, and I guess listening to Burt’s music may have had some positive effects on our developing psyches.
I’m finding that my language is deteriorating since I left the workforce. ‘ing’s’ have become ‘in’s’ or worse, ’em’s’, requested acknowledgements have devolved into ‘init’s’, assents into ‘yabetcha’s’. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Now though, on the upside, having been reading a bio of the consummate short story writer Flannery O’Connor I find that when she applied for appointment to the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop as a young woman in the 1940’s her interviewer asked her to please write her responses to his questions because he couldn’t understand her speech, modified as it was due to her secluded southern upbringing.
At the time, she was, of course, without the benefit of exposure to a strong, accent free media voice that everyone, nowadays, hears on a daily basis. Which leaves me without excuse; my deteriorating language use must be attributed to laziness. The thing is no one seems to mind. I suspect that my slovenly language use lowers expectations, my murder of enunciations and shorthand phrases are accepted, fit into what I sense is a collective disregard for proper enunciation.
This is not an uplifting perspective, I know, but I have nothing to prove, no one to impress and really mean no ill-will. I’ll stick with my written musings as my primary means of communication, though, at least partly out of embarrassment.
I’ve been reading about a new technology: a computer chip inserted into one’s pointer finger along with a screen capable of projection implanted into the palm of one’s hand. A truly personal computer available to everyone.
Well, SciFi you know, but an intriguing idea. What a great innovation it would be. We’ll no longer have to keep track of I. D.’s or credit cards. It’ll be a communal data base, essentially a hive mind, a collective intelligence making everyone smarter and more informed.
But, I suppose, on the downside, one becomes an identifiable cog subject to not only AI algorithmic manipulation but in danger of persecution if malevolent entities gain control of the hive, which then may devolve into uncritical conformity.
I guess new innovations will almost always come with a downside.
On occasion, as my mind drifts from thought to thought, it occurs to me something is missing. I harbor a vague feeling that I’m forgetting something of importance, that has slipped my memory and become irretrievably lost.
Realizing such a dilemma is not unique to me and rather than attribute such memory lapses to rampaging thoughts, I’m thinking that the way we think about things should be re-thought. We are, each of us, after all, inclined to produce a linear personal storyline, a story that evolves through the limitations of language and that our logical minds are apt to modify, disallowing any non-conforming variables our thoughts drift through. Things like dream-time hypnogogic imagery, non-reflective of any remembered personal experience and linear time defying Deja vu occurrences.
Maybe disappearing thoughts find their way into another reality, a parallel universe where what might have happened here if the thought hadn’t been lost, did happen. Which leads me to the unsettling idea that the very trajectory of my life may have veered, taken a different path than it did and that somewhere my alternative life is actually occurring.
It’s kind of fun to imagine the positives of an alternative existence but more than likely there would be plenty of negatives involved as well.
I’ve been reading scifi again. In this reading reality as we wish to know it is upset by some sort of spatial distortion that causes the same transcontinental flight to land twice three months apart. Each passenger in the earlier landing is found to have an identical other in the later landing, not simply doppelgangers but indistinguishable pairs with the very same helices of DNA.
This got me thinking about how I might respond to such a situation, how I might respond if face to face with my identical other. Aware as I/we are of my/our hesitancy to openly embrace new acquaintances on sight I suspect the need for me/us to feel each other out would be necessary. I/we would need to recall experiences had in common and being psychologically identical make each of me wince in embarrassment thereby confirming I/we are two and the same. Identity issues would likely ensue confusing our social status; would I/we become known as they/them? (No slight to the LGBTQ+ community intended).
Hard to say how it might all play out. Maintaining a distance from us will probably be the best solution.
I’ve been reading scifi lately. I know when I pick up a book of this genre there will be concepts, ideas that will stretch, challenge my understanding of how things can be. A gnomon, the reading informs me, is the part of a sundial that stands perpendicular to the horizontal plane on which the hours of the day are inscribed. In the book Gnomon becomes a metaphor (a being as well) for a conception of reality at odds, right angles, I guess, to what we understand to be so, dealing as it does with extranoematic ideas: concepts that lie outside the confines of human thought.
The story is of a futuristic, Matrix-like surreality of a controlling artificial intelligence that is growing increasingly oppressive, protected as it is by a firewall, ‘Firespine’, but opposed by a few freedom-lovers who would like to see it gone and Apocatastasis to occur, that is the restoration of creation to a condition of perfection. In order to do so avoidance of the planet-sized multiple consciousness, Zagreus (Greek mythology reference here) who absorbs beings that fall within its realm (sort of like the Borg on Star Trek) is necessary.
In the end the author informs us that we all we become Gnomon. I think I’m going to set aside scifi for a while.