So, with all this fuss about Artificial Intelligence, I went to the horse’s mouth. ChatGPT, it turns out, lurks in the Bing search engine in my Microsoft Word. Here is my article on the subject, along with my conversation with my Chat BOT: bit.ly/3ILUihg
Me to Chat GPT: “What is AI.? What is OpenAI and how does ChatGPT relate to it? What is a Bot, and how do these work with Large Language Models?”
Chat: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. The term is frequently applied to the project of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience¹. AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to intelligence displayed by humans or by other animals². At its simplest form, AI is a field that combines computer science and robust datasets to enable problem-solving³. (the sources are www.brittanica, Wikipedia, and IBM)
OpenAI is a research institute that focuses on developing artificial intelligence. One of their products is ChatGPT, which is a chatbot that interacts in a conversational way.
A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.
A large language model is a type of neural network that has been trained on lots of text data.
ChatGPT is a version of GPT-3, which is a large language model also developed by OpenAI2.
In summary, OpenAI developed ChatGPT, which is a chatbot that uses a large language model (GPT-3) to interact with users in a conversational way. Learn more: 1. openai.com2. technologyreview.com3. arstechnica.com
After a long, dry stretch in a particularly reserved (okay, anally retentive) academic department where I felt that my humanity was being drained out of me through my toes, I wrote a poem asking “Did anyone ever die for lack of gossip?” I answered myself that “We are born for a web of words, an embracing patter,” and then I threw my Full Professorship out of the window to find a more socially nourishing life.
From birth, we live in a rich matrix of other people talking to us and to each other. As toddlers, we begin to formulate our replies within that context of interactive chatter; by the time we are six we are skilled linguistic manipulators within our particular social milieu.
Chattering generates mattering: we figure out our place in our world through verbality. Feral children raised without language – let’s say by wolves – communicate in wolf submission gestures, taking their correct place in the pack on hunts, and in growls and grunts, but remain poorly wolf-socialized because they lack non-verbal wolf information like smell – the enormously detailed array of scents wolves respond to – and the multiple meanings that a tail can express. If rescued, it is often too late for feral children to acquire human language and live fully as humans.
A lone wolf ejected from the pack for bad behavior is not likely to survive on its own. American culture, in contrast, often considers an individual the center of the universe, despite our Surgeon General’s warning that the current plague of isolation leads not only to mental but also to bodily disease (apparently, we canactually die from lack of gossip).
Our development of language, with the evolutionary outcome of a larger and more complex neo-cortex than other animals, enables us to transmit a considerable body of how-to and what’s-it-all-about information among each other and down the generations. For many millennia after we came down from the trees, we did this by word of mouth, orally. Think of the West African Griot, responsible for keeping centuries of tribal history and genealogy in his head; of “Homer,” who was actually a group of people writing down a cluster of epic narratives; or of the New Testament Gospels, stories told in the Christian communities that remained oral for most of the first century after the life of Jesus.
Unfortunately, this treasure of human knowledge can be used for evil as well as good: it all depends on that ambivalent human gift, the gift of choice. At the beginning of the twentieth century, we assumed that our bright new technologies would, in and of themselves, lead to human progress. Silly us: we got a century of total war. As Justin Gregg puts it in If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals about Human Stupidity: “If Nietzsche had been born a narwhal the world might never have had to endure the horrors of the Second World War or of the Holocaust.” Unlike animals, which seem to know what they are doing, human beings – for all of our linguistic skills and our museums and libraries and symphonies – are tragically prone to muck things up.
Gossip is that way too: talking about whose mother called, what he said, then what she said can lead to kind understanding or turn toxic in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, we can’t live without it: we feel all creepy crawly if we go even one day without talking to someone. So, if you live alone, like me, find somebody to chat with today, even if it is a familiar stranger like the check-out lady at the supermarket; she probably hankers to verbalize just as much as you do.
It isn’t that I have anything personal against the young couple whose parents erected a huge house for them right across the street from me – I just don’t see the point of it. Too, our town has a scarcity of affordable houses for people who don’t have millions to build or buy one. Here’s my take on how that problem spreads out across America.
Since 2016, those of us who love justice and fairness have been floundering in a gloom-inducing mire of injustice and inequity, for which almost none of the principal perpetrators have been held accountable. This apparent failure of our country’s social contract has left us dizzily boundaryless. If moral harm involves being psychologically damaged by seeing social wrongs which are loathsome to our sense of what is right and good continuously going unpunished, we have become the walking wounded.
Now, just in time for our battered spirits, here comes the Rule of Law in the form of 30 points of indictment decided upon by a Grand Jury of 23 of former President Trump’s New York City peers.
One of the elements of the moral swamp we have being lost in for the last 7 years is the relentless flogging of everything that is unjust and loathsome by the progressive media we like to watch – MSNBC, in my case, but also CNN and, sometimes, Public Television itself. It doesn’t matter how scornful the pundits’ tone in reporting it: continuous streaming of morally disturbing speech and acts rattles our minds almost as badly as watching Fox News.
For example, on the Friday when the former president announced that he would be indicted the following Tuesday (he wasn’t), MSNBC spun a relentless loop, all weekend long, of his accumulated misbehaviors, unaccountably illustrated by one exceptionally dignified Presidential photograph after another. Just as we thought that the Rule of Law had guided us to the safe edges of the moral swamp, the (liberal) media’s relentless footage went right on immersing us in moral miasmas of reminiscence.
During the coming months (perhaps years?) as indictments come down and trials drag on for all four offenses, we must find ways to protect ourselves from media driven moral harm. Some of my friends have turned off their television sets and canceled their newspaper subscriptions. Convinced that a democratic citizenry must be an informed one, I am keeping up with my New York Times and my cable news, skipping Trumpy articles and muting every fulmination from the far right that MSNBC gives space to. I will only pay attention to news of accountability in analyses and commentary about the heartening workings of our Rule of Law.
Have you found firm paths out of the swamp for yourself? Tell us about them!
I have always assumed that we human beings have evolved as far as we can go, that our neo-cortexes are as advanced as they are ever going to be, and that the processes by which our hearts and minds blend to make decisions are completely finished off.
There are some doomsayers out there like Adam Kirsch who are convinced that our very advancement, our “traditional role as earth’s protagonist, the most important being in creation” might be bringing us to well-deserved self- extinction, given that we have used so many of our talents for degrading the very environment that sustains us.
A dear friend of mine has moved to a community for retired clergy, theologians, and missionaries where they improve the shining hour by “hearing each other into speech,” publishing their interesting discussions in a series of paperbacks. In the most recent edition that I have read, William Moreman brings up the idea that we are still evolving in ways that make surviving the chaos of our times quite hopeful. He explores “the notion of evolution as a driving force pressing the human race to take a leap to a new stage, a new consciousness and a new ordering of our life on this planet…to be a fractal part of the larger chaotic, evolutionary thrust.”
According to the paleontologist/theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the entire cosmos is conscious, with human beings as integral elements in its continuing evolution. Tuning into that wider consciousness, we find that we are fractals in the heart of everything – all paradigms aligned. Teilhard’s ideas have led Al Gore to hope that human beings can evolve toward an Omega point where a harmony will be achieved with the inherent balance of the universe.
Surrounded as we are with doomsaying media (if it bleeds, it leads), I think we take the world, and our role within it, far more gloomily than we need to. I certainly felt more optimistic after reading Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature, a data-driven analysis of how violence has actually diminished over human history, And, more recently, I have been cheered by the news that mitigation of carbon emissions has become so economically and technologically effective that we may be able to use these tragic brains of ours to halt our destruction of nature in time to save the human race.
And how about what goes on inside each of us – haven’t we felt some kind of lifetime evolution within ourselves? When I consider my own personal evolution, -not my predictable developmental from child to adult, but the changes in the way I have understood things so much better and act on them far more effectively since my sixties – there is a delightful and significant evolution in my life.
Discernment (seeing how things have gone over and over again when I behave in a certain way) has combined with determination to improve my act until I have got my heart and brain to act in entirely different ways than before. How about you?
Like a lot of my friends, I read newspapers and magazines and listen to TV a lot, and I find myself making piles of clippings and notes around a given subject. Every now and then, I figure out a way to amalgamate these into a column for Impakter.Com.
Here is the latest, about the way that progressive environmental interests and businesses are beginning to work together.
I belong to a little group of friends who meet every month to check in with each other’s lives and discuss a topic like “silence” or “hospitality” or “compassion.” This January, it was “Paradigm Changes.” Wouldn’t you know it, we decided that each of us would select a way we were doing things and change it, for which purpose we used a “30 Day Challenge” chart with “Every Day I Will…” at the top and 30 little squares to record our progress. Does it sound like New Year’s Resolutions to you? It did to me, so I resolved to choose something light-hearted – to cultivate a (child-like) beginner’s mind.
It’s a core teaching of Buddhism, having to do with being entirely present in each moment the way we used to get so caught up in our play that everything else vanished from our minds. One of Buddhism’s ways of cultivating this state is to look at everything you encounter through the bandbox fresh, brand-new eyes of a child.
The trouble is, this winter proved a hard time to be light-hearted. It turned out to be one of those grim, grey Januarys we often have in Michigan, with no sun whatsoever plus sheets and sheets of cold, hard rain – a challengingly bleak time to cultivate childhood joy. Or, “if there is no self, then whose arthritis is this?”
So I did little things, like bet myself I wouldn’t see a single patch of blue driving home through the murk, and then click my mental heels when I saw one. (It turns out that this isn’t a very smart thing to do with your foot on the accelerator, so I resolved to have my moments of hilarity when I wasn’t driving.) When I heard a lovely flute piece on the living room radio I would attempt a jig; when a Tufted Titmouse alit on my feeder I stopped and stared, and jumped with joy when children tore whooping around the playground. There was a huge snowfall, delightful in its dazzle (until tree branches started falling all over my yard); I got excited in a blissfully child-like way the next morning when I saw determined little possum tracks etched in the new snow, punctuated by a tail dragging along between them.
In spite of my friends still catching covid and my being in a high-risk group, I resolved to return to a few small local museums to experience the joy of finding something that delights me – most often a blazingly bright minimalist abstraction – before which to stand and stare. Look what I found!
I Sometimes stumble upon things at an art show that are just plain funny. There was an hilarious juxtaposition of installations where I laughed and laughed and took this picture:
After I posted it on our neighborhood newsletter, I got a furious repost demanding how could I be so insensitive as to promulgate a rape scene? Gentle reader, look again: the stuffed people are facing upward after apparently falling over backwards on top of each other, and that’s why the little boy from the other installation finds the whole thing (like I do) hilarious.
Cultivating one’s (long-lost) inner child involves returning, after years and years of heavily responsible adulthood, to a “beginner’s mind.” I tried to think of something I could get up to that was beginnerish in that way ? When I was seven years old I hit a mischievous streak in my otherwise rule-abiding life: I founded a Mischief Club with my best friend. to startle people – like jumping over their jump ropes in the middle of a game or moving their belongings to somebody else’s locker.
When a childhood friend (who had witnessed my Mischief Club phase ) turned up in town and asked me to stop by her motel, I decided it would be fun to engage in some mild social mischief. Although Lilybet comes from a family of rather reserved folks, she has a raucous sense of humor and a flair for writing and reciting limericks.
So I put of a couple of limericks in my pocket and drove to her hotel, where I found her on a sofa in the foyer flanked by relatives. Determined to carry out my resolution to be as silly as possible, I sat down with her and, instead of having the organ-recital about our ailments my crowd usually indulge in, I read her one of my limericks:
Way back in the 1940s
We were told it was always naughty
If we ever blew our noses
Anywhere on our own clotheses.
Nice girls in the 1950s
Always used our handkerchiefties
That is why I think it’s not
Nice to fill your sleeves with snot.
We hugged and jiggled and simply howled with laughter while, would you believe it, the relatives laughed right along with us!
People wrote down questions and voted on which to discuss. Th questions were:
What is consciousness; are animals conscious?
Can animals be people?
What is wisdom?
What is death?
and Why does Suffering Exist, which was the winner.
The conversation moves all around the table, with me as facilitator, calling on people when a turn opens up and interjecting my own comments here and there. Here’s how it went:
The word “why” appears in the question – this suggests that there a reason for pain?
Existentialists don’t think so – to them, it’s all random happenstance.
How about evolution? You learn what to avoid if you feel pain, so you survive to reproduce. But what if you can tolerate more pain than other people: isn’t that an evolutionary advantage too? On the one hand, you need to know what to avoid. On the other hand, Stoic endurance might have some genetic usefulness if it is passed on.
Is pain physical- of the body- or can it be emotional, or both? When you are in emotional pain does it take the form of bodily sensations (stomach aches, headaches?) What emotions are engendered by physical pain?
How about people who are perpetually consumed by their victimhood, even when the emotional or physical trauma occurred way back in their lives?
Can pain be transcended by thinking and talking about it? What role does conscious acceptance that suffering is part of life play, given that so many people think that life is supposed to be easy? How about talk therapy for emotional pain?
Do religious systems “rationalize” pain? How about Buddhism, with its belief that pain is a given if we exist, and Christianity with its teaching that suffering is redemptive? Is “rationalizing” in the sense of explaining pain and suffering as part of an overall “why” useful? Does it lessen pain to give it this kind of meaning? Does experiencing pain within a system of meaning mitigate it?
How about the question “How Could a Good God Let There Be So Much Pain in the World?” A Judeo-Christian answer is that life in the material world consists of random happenings and that God so values our decision-making capacities and wouldn’t want to govern our fates as if we were puppets. God grieves for our bad decisions and delights in our good ones. A Buddhist answer might be that pain is the way the world goes but we can control our responses to it through meditation and compassion for each other.
Victor Frankl wrote that he found meaning during the holocaust by thinking about what it would be like outside the concentration camp if he survived for a future after it, and by taking day to day actions helping other inmates. His take suggests that “hopelessness” is what makes pain unbearable and that hope for the future, plus present-time compassion for his fellow prisoners, is what got him through.
Here’s a little bit of light in our darkness, with wishes for tranquility at Holiday time for all of my subscribers.
At this time of year, we think a lot about food, but then we think of all the people who go hungry or suffer from poor nutrition. I learned recently that “hunger” is that raw feeling in your tummy but “food insecurity” is the stressful attempt to pay for all of life’s necessities when you haven’t got the means to do so.
Meanwhile, here in Detroit, communities are finding creative ways to provide their own food in a soul-heartening example of self-determination and empowerment.
When we look at the new Congress we see little possibility of meaningful legislation, given the very thin margin between the parties in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. I have felt cheered up, lately, by accounts of solutions to our most serious problems – like hunger and nutrition – that people are getting together to solve at the local level.
Here is my take on some really great programs addressing child hunger in Michigan, along with some good news about innovative indigenous farming practice: