My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.
“Ozymandias” sonnet by Shelley
I’m starting to feel like the grumpy old man next door when I go to museums. Case in point: this week’s sojourn to see the “Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharoahs” exhibit, at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. I was decidedly underwhelmed. Or, perhaps I should say overwhelmed by the crowds of people in small spaces, coupled with constant video and barking audio displays, to the point where it was hard to stand and just take in the 3200-year-old artifacts. I am such a history buff that I thought I’d be a little more impressed, so why wasn’t I? I have a theory, plus an important museum hack to share.
Teachers are worried. Screenwriters are watching developments closely. Technology creators are plowed forward, thinking only of the potential payoffs. Other technology creators are scrambling to create countermoves. The chatbot authors are coming.
The hullabaloo is over new artificial intelligence (AI) technology which can now plausibly replicate natural language. In December, the company OpenAI released a ChatGPT application which generated an immediate frenzy. ChatGPT can carry on conversations in concise and plain language, answer questions, and write coherent stories. Some students have already used the application to submit papers; some have already been caught. Microsoft has sunk money into the technology, and more big money is planned. As the NY Times puts it “the new gold rush” is in full sway.
Our blogger friend Fandango tested out the new ChatBot, and this has prompted the Provocative Question of the Week. He charged the GPT (his was an app called Genie) with writing a story using a handful of prompt words–a typical blog task. His big questions is whether this suggests that AI is now surpassing human intelligence, and, if so, what will happen. That is indeed a big and important question, but I’m more interested in the smaller version: Is an algorithm that writes simple stories indistinguishable from humans; why or why not?
Pity the poor month, January. It has such a Big Act to follow and so much that needs to be accomplished!
We’re now just two weeks past Christmas. Twelfth Night has gone, and the holiday decorations are either put away or in transit. The stacks of treats have dwindled; the refrigerator is emptying itself of eggnog. Calendars are being recycled, doctor’s appointments being scheduled, performance reviews due. In my office days, end-of-year recaps and summaries were routine, but we don’t tend to do them for ourselves. We should. Newspaper articles publish their end-of-year advice too soon, before New Year’s, when we’re still making merry. Now is when we should pay attention.
January has a useful function: take stock and clean house. If you’re reading this, odds are you’re a writer. If you’re a blogger, you know what to clean! Spruce up the website, try a new theme, or just take down pages that you know people don’t read. Remove those plug-ins that seemed important two years ago. Update your Bio. You can change at least a word, can’t you?
If you’re not a writer, there’s still stuff to do. Schedule the re-roofing. It might not be until April, but you can look at the calendar. Sweep out a few cobwebs while you’re putting away the ornaments. Update your resume; it’s easier to do a little every year than to let the changes pile up over a decade.
It’s January; channel your inner Janus. He was the God of Doors, which seems perfectly appropriate as we close the door on 2022 and open the door on 2023.