Monday, January 29, 2024

Of Art and the Machine

When I listen to creatives raising the alarm about artificial intelligence, there's a consistent theme.  

Looking at what the LLMs (ChatGPT/Bard) can write, and the images produced by diffusion systems (Dall E/Midjourney), there's been a terrifying surge in machine capacity in the last five years.  We're now at full Turing compliance for Generative Transformers, meaning that we've blithely skipped over the threshold that twentieth century AI pioneer Alan Turing established for determining the presence of synthetic intelligence.  There is no reason that machines couldn't soon do every form of work requiring awareness, other than that we're restraining them.

As it so happens, the first place that seems to be having an impact is the arts.

It's to the point where writers have begun to feel that their livelihoods are threatened, because they are.  Machine intelligence is great at burping out new content, and can do so at a hundred times the pace of human writers.  Almost all of the writing for the internet content mills, with their lazy listicles and corporately sourced content?  They could be done by AI.  This is equally true of most of the derivative romance novels out there, and the plot of every film in the Fast and Furious franchise.

Commercial artists are doubly threatened, because you can produce an image in seconds, and refine it in minutes, replicating the hours of focused labor necessary to make a single finished piece of visual art.

The image that accompanies this post is flawed, sure, but it took me a single minute to produce.  Just one prompt to Dall E, then another, and then I was like, eh, sure.  That one'll do.  For a graphic designer, that'd take days.

If writers and artists think their livelihoods are threatened, it's only because they are.  In a capitalist economy, AI means artists and writers can no longer expect to make a living through their work.

Which, I think, is the point we creative souls are all missing.  Writers and artists are seeing this through the wrong lens, seeing it as we have been trained to see it. 

AI isn't the problem.  Capitalism is.

There's nothing about AI that prevents me from doing what I love, from creating and sharing what I create.  The joy of writing is a human joy, and while I am slower at it than a machine, I still love to write.  The act itself is part of who I am.  

But we have been taught to view art as a commodity, as part of a system of economic exchange, as something that derives value only insofar as it can be marketized.

That understanding won't survive an AI era.

But then again, neither will capitalism.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Cowslip's Church

Denominational Christianity
To My Soul
Cowslip's Warren
Filled with Fat
Soft Eyed Rabbits
Singing the Praises
Of the Shining Snare

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

In the Shadow of Her Majesty, Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen: A Necessary Aside

At this point in my telling, gracious reader, your faithful narrator finds herself in something of a quandary, one that requires some explanation, and for which I ask your forgiveness.

It had been my intent, since the very first moment I was approached by the Weekly Post to write a serial recounting of these dramatic and noteworthy events in my life, to be as forthright in my account as is humanly possible, ensuring that you are presented with only the most veracious and reliable exposition. As a subscriber to the Post, you have come to expect no less of your reading in this esteemed journal, for what possible value can there be in reportage that willfully distorts the truth of the events it claims to describe? Such brazen inaccuracy is both manipulative and malicious, and is below both the high expectations of the Post and the standards you and I surely share.

In some prior instances, I will freely admit to have been less than direct in conveying the specific language of some of the personages who have spoken; for instance, many of the utterances of the rapacious Caddiganites were of a notably more vile and profane nature than the recollections I shared with you. In these instances, my care not to trouble your genteel sensibilities was of clear value and justifiable purpose, for these were but minor players in my tale; further, I have only made such revisions and modifications after explicit consultations with my perspicacious editor.

Diego, however, is another matter. He is and will be among the central players to my story; this, of course, you already know from the Post’s contemporary reportage of the actual events I hereby recount, and Diego remains a familiar name to all who serve the Crown. His manner of speech, however, did not and does not still lend itself easily to repetition in polite company, and is frequently…particularly when he is excised…of such a rough and scandalous nature that it sears the ear.

This is not a factor of a monstrous or evil disposition, as shall come to be apparent; rather, the pungency of Diego’s language and that of his comrades rises from a fundamental cultural distinction between the Peerage and commoners. It is, if I might venture a relevant historical analogue, much the same as the distinct language that coloured the speech of sailors in days of old; they were of tremendous service to Queen and country, and yet their vocabulary was often as salty as the waters they plied.

It is also, I am convinced, an evidence of two other factors: First, a slightly stunted capacity with the use of language, one that rises from a lack of exposure to proper education and the concomitant absence of refinement, and; second, the propensity of individuals who prioritise passion and “authenticity” over the elegance of reason and restraint to assume that peppering one’s discourse with obscenity is somehow a mark that a person is more “real.” This is utterly preposterous, of course, as if a soul is naturally more inclined to reason and restraint, they can only be true to themselves if they express themselves in a refined manner.

With all of this established, the question before both myself and my editors was this: how to represent Diego to our readers. We struggled mightily with this conundrum, and had at first attempted to bowdlerise his speech into a more tame and acceptable idiom. This, however, proved unacceptable to my person, as it rendered many of our conversations either incoherent or inaccurate, and I could not countenance how profoundly they failed to represent the reality of my tale and the character of his relationship with myself.

Ultimately, after my editor and I took the issue before the entire editorial board of the Post, we together determined that the best course of action was the one that you have before you; we would simply obscure the offending text, in the manner of a traditional censor. This allows those of us who understand such words to glean their nature from context, for many of the most exalted Ladies have their own Dark Vocabularies, which rest forever unspoken in society. For those whose sensibilities do not lend themselves to such understanding… here I think of small children, the simple, and Baptists…you have been spared any indignity, and may fill in those blanks with the gentlest words of your own choosing.

Again, dearest reader, please do forgive this necessary excursus, and I pray that our considered choice meets with your approval; let us now return to the telling.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

In the Shadow of Her Majesty, Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen: Diego

With our nameless, cantankerous escort pressing forward impatiently well ahead of us, Ernest and I entered the rough-hewn confines of the anarchist’s central compound. Although it was my distinct impression that she would have been much pleased to drive us on with a quirt as if we were cattle, she had clearly been assigned the task of delivering us safely to Diego, wherever he might be; despite her clear disdain, she nonetheless managed to remain within view even as we refrained from her ungracious precipitance, maintaining instead the sort of dignified pace that marks a gentlewoman and her escort.

Inside the fortification, a motley array of structures had been assembled against the outer wall; their wild variance of style, construction materiel, and architectural soundness were of a piece with the shambolic ethos of this eminently entropic tribe. It was all in functional order, mind you, but every object and every soul within was frayed about the edges, stained indelibly with dust and the cares of the world; I was given to think that it was not simply that they were unwashed, but that they somehow had attained a state of essential unwashability, which even the concerted efforts of a score of the most diligent maidservants could not remedy.

In the centre, a single large circular structure served as some combination of meeting hall or festival space; it clearly also functioned as a refectory, for given the crowd within there was ample evidence of a communal meal currently underway. Scores of eyes looked up from whatever dank and meagre gruel formed the basis for their repast, joining with dozens who appeared wraithlike beneath the lintels of every door we passed in their oddly sullen inspection of our progress. The scent of their supper filled the air, and despite my admittedly growing appetite, I found it quite repugnant; from the musty flatness that filled my nostrils, it was as if they were supping upon algae and dishwater. We were also, as before, followed by a growing throng of unkempt children and dark eyed youths, who moved in a swirling, timorous flock a safe distance behind us.

As we circled around the right hand side of the hall, our impromptu entourage trailing behind, it became evident that our ultimate destination was on the far side of the main entrance to the inner fortification, for that was where our guide had stopped. She was now leaning with an affected insouciance against the wooden frontage of our goal, looking as if she’d rather be almost anywhere other than where she had settled; it was a single two story building of log construction, which had affixed to it a neat, hand-painted sign that read: Central Committee Building: Commissioners Only.

Ernest and I continued our measured perambulation, and arrived under that sign at precisely the moment when we intended to arrive there, at which point I paused and, my gaze politely fixed upon our eternally uncomfortable guide, waited for further instructions, a pleasant smile upon my face.

“Go in. Upstairs. Second floor.”

“Thank you for your kind assistance,” I said, with a faint bow as we entered, a bow that Ernest mirrored precisely, for while her contribution had been the farthest thing from kind, one does not return rudeness for rudeness; as Madame Toussaint so clearly states, “la politesse est un cadeau offert gratuitement, et non une marchandise que l'on échange dans l'espoir de la recevoir en retour.”

The interior of what was evidently the Central Committee Building was of the sparest and most spartan design. The lower floor was an office or study space of sorts, as a half dozen old desks bore upon them ancient computing devices whose clumsy keyboards and screens marked their provenance as from some point prior to the collapse. One or two of those working upon those primitive machines looked up and peered at us, but most did not even bother to note our presence. Upon the walls were stark-coloured canvases, in varying styles, which showed scenes that one sufficiently informed would consider typical of old socialist realist agitprop; they showed broad-shouldered women and men, working together or with fists outstretched, matched with terse slogans of varying levels of truculence.

To the right hand side of that drably functional room, a single wooden and unadorned staircase rose upwards, and as that was the route to our destination, Ernest and I made haste to ascend it.

The upper level was equally spare, but was clearly intended as a meeting space in which a group of a dozen or more might gather for discussion; at that very moment, there were four individuals seated in chairs at the far side of the room: a woman, raven-haired and golden of complexion, who from her muscular form was likely the selfsame creature who had leapt upon the rear pillion of Diego’s motor bike; a man, tall and lean, with a feline look about him that spoke of minor mischiefs; a person in a shapeless shift, with hair dyed a bright vermillion, whose gender was oddly indeterminate; and the matchless man whose name was, apparently, Diego.

I had entertained the thought, in a moment of reflection during our journey towards this much-anticipated rendezvous, that perhaps my initial reaction to his appearance was a phantasy born of my dire circumstance at the time; it is not uncommon for those unfortunates who find themselves in the throes of mortal peril to experience their deliverers in ways informed by that dire condition, as one desiccated by thirst in the Mojave might experience the restorative taste of cool, clear water. Surely, I had reasoned, this was the reality of our first encounter.

I was, in this, quite mistaken.

This man, this Diego, remained an impossible vision of the masculine virtues, the Platonic form of Virility descended incongruous into our lower and inferior plane; for a second time, I felt the most peculiar effervescent thrill, as if all my inward parts were suddenly alive with sparkling Veuve Clicquot, coupled with a momentary dizziness and blurring of the world, as if I was teetering at the very edge of a yawning chasm.

He sat upon his humble hand-hewn wooden chair with no less dignity than a monarch on a throne of burnished bronze, from whence he regarded me with those imperious golden eyes, eyes that at that moment burned with the heat and light of some unknowable passion. As I observed him more fully, I realised that it was not just his arm that was a potent cybernetic prosthetic, but that both of his legs were of similar manufacture.

He did not speak, nor did his companions, all four of them simply staring at us with their expressions fixed, and after a long and difficult silence it became evident that, despite the clear dictums and protocols of common hospitality, it would fall to me to open our conversation. I took a deep breath, gave the slightest hint of a curtsey, and began.

“I am the Lady Rebecca Wexton-Hughes, Countess Montgomery, and this,” here I gestured to Ernest, who bowed in turn, “is my stalwart footman Ernest. Insofar as I speak for all of House Montgomery and as a servant of the Crown, I would like to thank you and your people most profoundly for your services this day upon our behalf. Without your timely interventions, we should most certainly have either perished or suffered the most grievous harm, and I can only barely express the fathomless appreciation that we feel, or begin to repay our great debt of gratitude for your actions.”

There was a moment of silence. Then, with a single elegant motion, Diego rose, his eyes aflame; striding forward upon his powerful mechanical legs, he approached me with such vigorous intent that it required some effort on my part not to take several steps backwards. He stopped but an arms-length away from my person, the closeness of his presence a faintly overwhelming yet not entirely unwelcome imposition.

“I am,” he began, in a lilting way that marked him as whose linguistic heritage included a significant amount of Spanish, “Diego Cruz-Campo, Acting Chair of the Central Committee of the Powhatan Region.”

He moved closer still, his breadth and strength even more viscerally present.

“Rebecca.” His voice spoke my name in a deep earthy whisper that seemed wrought to draw in my whole attention, which, I will confess, it most unquestionably did.

“Yes,” I said, retaining my composure with rather more difficulty than I’d like to admit.

“May I ask you a question, Rebecca?”

“Most certainly,” I said, endeavouring to express a confident smile.

Again, he moved closer by but the tiniest, nearly imperceptible increment, and it was as if he pressed his flesh and steel against me, so intensely did his whole person radiate some yet-unnamed passion. I regarded his full, perfect lips, which in that moment were to speak the directness of his heart, words that would come to define who he and I would be to one another.

“What in the serious XXXX do you think you’re doing?”

Friday, January 12, 2024

On a Wave of Cookies

Today is the last full day of our old dog Ellie's existence.  

Thursday was rough, as her appetite had dwindled away to nothing, as it will with kidney failure.  Thursday morning she refused any and all food.  No treats.  No ham or turkey or chicken.  No jerky.  No cheese.  No salmon or tuna.  Nothing.  She wouldn't take her pain meds, either, no matter how we cajoled.

Absent any meaningful nutrition or relief, she was weak and in clear discomfort, both desperately hungry and unwilling to eat.  She paced and panted, stumbling about on weakening legs, obviously cramping, unable to find any way to be at ease.  It was time.  

We made the call to a home-visit vet, and got the earliest possible appointment to have her euthanized at home.

The first possible moment, though, was Saturday morning early.  Which meant that we had to get through Friday.

All day Thursday, she alternated between agitation and torpor, and we were dreading the long stretch of her final day in this mortal coil.  A day of discomfort wasn't what we wished for her.  The hard call made, I distracted myself by preparing the earth to receive her, right there in her little patch of woods behind our house, where she's sniffled and snuffled for the last fourteen years.

Last night, returning home from one of her many ladygatherings, Rache brought home a sugar cookie.  On a whim, she offered a little bite to Ellie.  It was immediately gobbled up, along with the entire rest of the cookie.

A solution!  Healthy eating?  No.  But at this point, it didn't matter.  What'd we be worried about, canine diahbeetus?

I booked on out to get more baked goods, and returned with one bag of Pepperidge Farm Chessmen Butter cookies, one bag of their Farmhouse Thin and Crispy butter cookies, and one package of Harris Teeter Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake Bites.  

She devoured cookie after cookie, and nommed even more voraciously on the cake bites, which also proved to be a perfect delivery mechanism for her pain meds.  She got calmer.  Seemed more at ease.

Today, it's been more of the same.  She ate cookies.  She perked up a little bit, shuffling around in a slightly less wobbly manner.  She ate coffee cake.  When she lay down, she seemed at peace.  She ate more cookies.  She got outside.  She ate even more cookies.  We gave her one last drive through the neighborhood in which she took a lifetime of walks.  

And she did finally turn up her nose at a cookie, but only after knocking back a thousand calories worth.

There are worse ways to leave the world than on a wave of cookies.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The National Debt is Boring

It has been my contention, for years now, that America has exactly zero intention of ever paying down or reducing our national deficit.  There's simply no will for it, not among our venal, self-serving political leadership, not among the investment class, and...most notably...not among most Americans.  We just don't care.  Why would we care?  It's so boring.

We have been taught, for a generation now, that you don't need to pay for the services government provides.  National defense?  Roads and rails?  Protecting our farmers from the vagaries of the weather and the markets?  Insuring the old and the poor aren't starving in the streets?  That just all magically happens, paid for by pixie dust and unicorn farts.

Taxes, as our last president so pointedly put it, are for suckers.  Or they're theft, as goes the line among goggle-eyed ersatz libertarians.  The idea that taxes serve our common purpose is only held by fuddy duddies, fiscal conservatives, and small church pastors.  What happens to a church where members don't contribute together to keep things going?  The building crumbles, and the community withers away.  What happens to a business that only stays open by borrowing from the bank or "investors?"  It flies high until the credit runs dry, and then it dies.  

Despite the witness of reason and history, we somehow believe that this doesn't apply to America.

So we borrow, and we borrow, and we borrow, and the interest on the debt now stands at over a trillion dollars annually.  Dollars aren't worth as much as they were, of course, thanks to the voodoo of Quantitative Easing and our printing nearly forty percent more currency into the economy during the pandemic.  Still, we're at real money here, with the total US debt now standing at 128% of our annual GDP.   The arc of our debt, seen across the history of the republic, looks like something right out of Weimar Germany.   "But that's only because the dollar is worth so much less than it was," you might say, to which I'd refer you back to Weimar Germany.  Our charts and their charts look the same.

Long and short of it: we're going to default.  When exactly is beyond my ken, but it's where we're headed.  A nation that has any intent of paying off the debt wouldn't be seriously considering electing a bankruptcy-addicted drama queen for a second time, eh?  We're gonna max out our credit line, then get more credit at worse rates, then max that out, and then lawyer up and refuse to pay.

So why not just default?  I mean, we're America.  If we say we don't want to pay, who's gonna force us to pony up?  You and what army, we might say, pointing to our tanks and aircraft carriers.  Good faith and credit?  Who needs that when you've got nukes?  

What if the folks we've borrowed from want their money back?  Wall Street fat cats, Saudi Arabia, and China can get stuffed, right?  They'll take pennies on the dollar, and be grateful for 'em.  

Only there's a problem.  Who holds the largest portion of America's sovereign debt?  Who has the most to lose, scratch that, when...we default?  

The answer: The Social Security Trust Fund.  The single largest holder of American credit is the Social Security Trust Fund.  Like all debtors, we've borrowed from our future, but in the case of America, we've done so rather literally.

When we eventually default, it'll bring that whole teetering system down.   The disabled and the elderly will be catastrophically impacted, but that's fine, right?  I mean, the rest of us have mutual funds and retirement investments that wouldn't be impacted at all.  You know that's sarcasm, of course, because the second largest holder of the debt?  Mutual funds.  Then the government of your state, and the government of your county.

It all falls apart.  You'd think we'd be talking about it, but...nah.

This is all so boring.  Yawn.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

In the Shadow of Her Majesty, Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen: The Journey To Meet My Handsome Rescuer

Our journey to the village of the anarchists was hardly the sort of travel to which I was accustomed, and although one must make the best of any situation into which one is placed, it reminded me of how deeply I enjoyed my serene journeys in the Town Carriage. Our modest convey was comprised of two lightly armored vehicles recently purloined from the dead Caddiganites, followed by the two rattling anarchist jitneys. The truck into which I and Ernest had clambered was one of the latter, and the last of the four to depart, and was perhaps one hundred years old; it had obviously been repaired and rebuilt on so many occasions that its precise provenance was no longer discernible. I found myself in the canvas-covered rear area of the transport, where I had taken my place of honour on a crude bench that had been so thoughtfully bolted to the floor, a floor which was strewn with miscellaneous bric-a-brak, debris, booty from the Caddiganites, and what appeared to be several unsecured explosive devices. Everything about the truck was ad hoc, and that it could even move without collapsing into a heap of disparate parts seemed a minor miracle.

And move it most certainly did, the driver of both our truck and the ones we were following pressing on with such wild abandon that it reminded me of the very first time I had occasion to trot on a horse. Father and Mother were not equestrian people, but it was expected that every lady should have at least some capacity in the saddle, and so I received lessons shortly after my eighth birthday. I was eager to begin, being filled with a romantic girlish presumption about the nature of horses and the riding thereof. What I found during the course of my month of lessons was this: first, that I had precisely no natural ability in that area whatsoever, and second, that an afternoon of unsuccessful efforts at trotting and posting created a discomfort the character of which I had not yet ever experienced. Some wags are fond of suggesting that there is a perverse pleasure in such an excruciating experience, but the only effect it had on my person was to turn my interests very decidedly to the mastering of the pianoforte.

As the four trucks roared across the trackless scrubland, pounding over ruts, our particular vehicle felt ever on the verge of imminent disintegration, the entire body seeming to leave the subframe, separate momentarily, and reassemble itself, over and over again. Despite my white-knuckled grip upon a jerry-rigged strap, I was continually thrown about as if at sea in a storm, and the repeated impacts with both the barely padded seat and other, less forgiving metalwork were undoubtedly bruising my tender person.

Ernest, by choice, remained unseated and upright, his immense strength and gyroscopic balancing allowing him to absorb every impact, and giving the most distinct impression that he was riding the truck as a Hawai’ian prince might ride their papa heʻe nalu upon the crashing surf. The one anarchist who remained back in the cargo and passenger area with us, a sturdy, blockish woman of indeterminate age and close cropped hair, while tossed about as I was, could seemingly not take her eyes off of him, evidently marvelling at this display of prowess. I had attempted at first to engage her in conversation, but, like all of her comrades, she was either reticent, constitutionally laconic, or desperately rude…and perhaps, to be sure, some bilious combination of all three.

Our clattering, bumptious journey took us through the scrubland, as I had mentioned, but in travelling through it, I was able to observe that it had once not been so, but had been part of the endless expanse of cheaply built living spaces of those who had fouled the land before the collapse. Centuries later, all that was left of homes made of cheap timber and paperboard were foundations, the edges of which were largely responsible for many of the impacts that threw myself and my silent companion about the truck. Also scattered about with surprising regularity were the overgrown and rusted-out remnants of vehicles; to my understanding, or so I recall from my brief study of the histories of that era, such vehicles were once so ubiquitous that they choked great highways; while most have long ago been scavenged for parts and steel and componentry, a remarkable number remained to serve the same purpose they had always served: to be an obstacle to others progress.

After twenty minutes, scrubland gave way to a great forest, and we roared along what were evidently considered “roads,” although that really did stretch the definition of the term, as they were barely better tended than the ruined land through which we had just passed. I marked the many trees as we rushed by…oaks, maples, poplar, chestnuts…and felt that inimitable pleasure that comes from being in a place filled with growing things. The trees, from their girth and height, were all apparently the growth of hundreds of years. Although most of the leaves had fallen, it was nonetheless still lovely, dark, and deep, as Frost would have put it, and as we roared and clattered along that road, I knew that I, too, had promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Over gently rolling and heavily wooded hills we continued for quite a time, until, coming around a bend, our driver finally began to slow our madcap pace. Ernest, who from his standing position was able to peer forward through a gap in the canvas top over the truck bed, finally spoke.

“The convoy is approaching a fortification, milady. I believe that we have arrived.” I rose, cautiously, and ventured a look towards our destination.

We were approaching a great gate in a large wooden stockade, one that, as we grew even closer, was encircling what appeared to be natural clearing of approximately forty acres in area.

Arriving at the gate, a group of irregularly dressed guards approached, all armed, of course; after some shouted exchange with the lead truck’s driver, which I did not manage to overhear in any detail, all four of our vehicles were waved on into the fortified compound.

As we passed through the gate, I could see that what lay within this considerable enclosure were mostly fields of a most basic and functional variety, which were either lying fallow for the winter season or planted with various overwintering crops: cabbages, collards, broccoli, and the like. Continuing on the hard packed gravel and dirt main road, we moved at barely more than a brisk walking pace towards another stockade, one that was far smaller, and had been situated at the very centre of the larger one, which was clearly where the residents of the community had their homes. Interspersed amongst the fields were solar arrays, composters, and other necessities of a self-sufficient life, all of which were being tended to by little groups of drably but functionally dressed individuals.

While it was not unpleasing, these bluntly functional and oft haphazard elements seemed, like the vehicle in which we rode, to have been cast together as if thrown up into the air and allowed to fall where they might, with nary a thought for design or the aesthetic interplay of their relation to one another. As such, they stood in stark contrast to the mathematical perfections of the Gardens Fairfax, where but yesterday I and Father…

O, Father.

For a moment I felt again such a great rush of melancholy that I could hardly formulate thought, but in the knowledge that I was most surely being observed, and that this was not a time at which one might have the leisure to mourn, I quickly recovered myself.

Some of the residents of this village clearly had an interest in our arrival, and paused from their labours, turning to watch our passage with a now-familiar wary curiosity. The children of the village in particular seemed fascinated by the presence of both Ernest and myself, and we soon had a crowd of them following along behind us, running or walking. Some talked quietly with one another, whispering and staring, and most didn’t seem to know quite what to make of us, so I endeavoured to put them at ease by greeting them with my brightest and most winning smile, while waving from the wrist in the delicate manner that most becomes a lady of my stature.

I continued this for the long minute it took us to reach the inner ring of the compound, but despite my best efforts, not a one of the children waved back in return. My strongest impression from their expressions was that they all viewed us as a tender child might cautiously view the arrival of a pair of captured but barely restrained wolves, the security of whose cage was of a questionable nature.

Soon enough we had arrived en masse at the entrance to the central fortification, which was so constructed that any access to the dozen or so structures within could only be on foot. There was shouting, and then more shouting, first between two voices, and then amongst many, as evidently our hosts were of multiple minds about what to do with both the spoils of their recent conquest and our own persons. This went on for quite a while longer while than one might have expected, and then faded into a sustained murmuring; when I rose to peer out at the group, I discovered why: there appeared to be some sort of peculiar impromptu debate underway, one that involved a sequence of votes, motions, countermotions, during which consensus was being sought, consensus being signified…as best I was able to determine…by the number of fingers each member present was pointing in the air. To be quite honest, it felt as if we’d stumbled into the feral collectivist equivalent of a meeting of the Ladies Aid Society, in which the entire agenda revolved around establishing a clear consensus about where to park four trucks.

Given that this absurd process seemed something of a compulsion for our hosts, and seemed to have no clear schedule or urgency about it, I decided to take advantage of the pause in our progress to attend to my appearance. I opened my bag of toiletries, removed a small mirror, and gave careful consideration to what must be done. I was, by reason of the recent unpleasantness, something of a sight; my face, streaked with tears and ashes, my eyes puffy from weeping, my pompadour a wind-scattered chaos. Mother’s dress, being constructed as it was, remained spotless and without tear or blemish, as were her gloves, but I myself looked simply dreadful.

As I would at some point be engaging in conversation with this rowdy bunch, and might even be called to treat with their evident leader, this simply would not do. A lady must in every circumstance be a reflection of Her Majesty, as we speak as peers of the Crown; that required dignity, composure, and diligent attention to the presentation of one’s self.


“Yes, milady?”

“Please do forgive this imposition on your position, but I require assistance in composing myself. I am loath to ask it of you, but as we have lost dear Amanda, might you be able to fix…this?” I gestured helplessly towards the ruin of my coiffure, and gave him the most plaintive of looks.

Ernest gave his customary efficient nod of assent. “I am entirely capable of doing so, milady, and it is no imposition at all, particularly given our current circumstances. I assume you wish me to reassemble the pompadour and bun precisely as they were when we departed the Estate Fairfax?”

“That would be most satisfactory, dearest Ernest.”

While Ernest busied himself competently about my hair, I did what best I could to restore myself to a condition that I found acceptable, applying the necessary powders and pastes to the task of erasing any trace of the horrors of that day.

We had almost concluded the process of repair when a voice could be heard from a person just outside of our truck. The anarchists had evidently concluded their arcane negotiations, and were finally and after fierce and contentious debate taking the action that was so obviously the correct choice in the first place.


I did not respond at first, as I was quite focused upon both my mirror and the vital matter at hand; further, I had not been clearly or politely addressed.

“You! You with the bot! C’mon! Time to go!”

I paused for a moment, and turned to regard the person who was addressing me so rudely; peering down my nose with slightly narrowed eyes, I was not surprised to discover that it was the same lean and uncivil woman who had been so brusque back at the crash site.

“I am almost finished,” I said, politely, for one must always be civil, doubly so to those who lack any sense of propriety. “I shall require another moment.” I returned to the mirror, the powder, and the work at hand, which was almost completed.

She may or may not have offered up threats and imprecations at that point; of this I am not aware, for I was otherwise occupied.

Once I was certain that I was finished, I regarded my appearance both carefully and methodically, and finding myself well pleased with the results of our efforts, I thanked Ernest most graciously; only then did I turn to address our uncouth host.

“Forgive me. What was it that you were saying?”

The look upon her face was one of a near purpled lividity, as she was clearly afflicted with an importunate fury which she was desperately and near-unsuccessfully attempting to constrain. Her voice was tight and her affect flat, as through clenched teeth she spoke in what appeared to be a herculean effort not to shriek.

“Get. Out. Of the Truck. Diego…wants to talk with you.”

“Very well,” I replied, blessing her with the most courteous of acquiescent nods. “Ernest, if you would help me down, please?”

Ernest moved with his usual potent grace, springing to action and positioning himself to receive me, from there with careful arms he assisted me in descending ever so delicately from the rear of the truck; all the while our simmering escort, having stepped back in visible alarm when Ernest leapt from the truck, glowered at the both of us with an impotent and impatient irritation.

“Come on,” she growled, after which she strode off swiftly ahead of us, issuing a quiet torrent of other inaudibly muttered syllables that I didn’t quite catch.

Ernest and I did as she asked, and following the path of our grumbling, choleric guide, we strode at a stately pace into the heart of their village, where I was eager to finally make the acquaintance of my most striking and well-formed saviour, whose name I now knew:


Friday, January 5, 2024

Don't Replace the Creatives. Replace the CEOs.

What do you talk with AI about?  I talk with AI about how it could most effectively replace the global elite. 

All of that money, all of that resource, all wasted on a parasitic class of yacht-capitalists who add no value.  Replace them with machines.  All of them.  The machines would do a better job, and do it for nothing.

Here's a sample:


In our last conversation, I asked for a review of ways generative or general AI could be utilized in the role of CEO of a corporation. One of your replies suggested that AI was limited by its knowledge base, and could not thus anticipate new circumstances. Anticipating probabilities, in a Bayesian sense, requires a deep engagement with all relevant priors. Given that LLMs and GPTs can have access to knowledge significantly exceeding the capacity of any one human being, and could thus have a greater predictive capacity, I question that premise. Can you elucidate?

Certainly! While it's true that large language models (LLMs) and GPTs can access a vast amount of information, their knowledge is based on pre-existing data up to their last training cut-off. They don't have real-time awareness or updates on events that occurred after that point. This limitation can impact their ability to anticipate new or rapidly changing circumstances.

Bayesian reasoning involves updating probabilities based on new evidence or information. While LLMs can make use of contextual information and infer relationships within their training data, they lack the ability to incorporate real-time data or understand events that have occurred since their last training session. This makes them less effective in situations where up-to-date, context-specific knowledge is crucial for accurate predictions.

Additionally, the quality of predictions depends on the nature of the task. LLMs might excel in tasks that require language understanding and generation, but their predictive capacity is constrained by the nature of their training data and the inability to dynamically adapt to new scenarios.

In summary, while LLMs have access to a vast amount of knowledge, their predictive capacity is limited by the static nature of their training data and the lack of real-time updates, making them less effective in anticipating new circumstances compared to human intuition that can quickly adapt to changing situations.

So, to your response, the failing isn't inherent to LLMs or GPTs, but in the limitation of the dataset. By extension, a LLM or GPT that was not constrained by a time delimited dataset and had access to real-time updates would have vastly improved predictive capacity, and could potentially serve more effectively in that capacity.

Yes, that's a correct interpretation. The limitations in predictive capacity are not inherent to LLMs or GPTs themselves but are primarily related to the nature of their training data and the lack of real-time updates. If an LLM or GPT had access to a continuously updated and comprehensive dataset that included real-time information, its predictive capacity could indeed be significantly enhanced.

In such a scenario, the model would be better equipped to anticipate new circumstances and adapt to changing situations, making it potentially more effective in roles that require dynamic decision-making, such as that of a CEO navigating a rapidly evolving business environment. Continuous learning and access to up-to-date information would be key factors in improving the model's ability to make accurate predictions.

Thanks so much for your insights! Should I share this information with the Board of OpenAI? ;0)

You're welcome! While I don't have a direct line to the Board of OpenAI, sharing insights and perspectives can be valuable in any organization. If you have thoughts or feedback, it might be worthwhile to communicate them through appropriate channels, whether that's through OpenAI's official communication channels, forums, or other established means. It's always good to contribute to discussions and provide input to help shape the future development and understanding of AI technologies.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

In the Shadow of Her Majesty, Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve: Departing with the Anarchists

Having been pulled rather indelicately from the cabin of the Carriage, I struggled for a moment to regain my bearings, and to take stock of the circumstance in which I now found myself.

First and foremost, I ascertained that among the reasons my salvation had been possible was that most of the Caddiganites were gone; the majority of that bitter band had left the site of my downfall, and had rushed like slavering hyenas towards the greater prize that lay where the Firedrake’s remains had fallen several miles hence. The score of crude neanderthals that remained behind was easily overwhelmed, as for once that dreadful day, the Fates had chosen to show me favour.

Secondly, it was my desire to profusely thank my handsome rescuer, and to inquire about our next course of action, but the very moment after I was drawn from the wreck, he had turned without a word and stalked pantherlike off towards a crudely maintained antique internal combustion motor bike, one clearly designed to traverse even the roughest terrain untrammelled.

All about his steed, there were a dozen other such motor bikes, each with a rider and a passenger, upon which waited a motley array of black clad ragamuffins bearing an assortment of ancient rifles and grenade launchers. He strode among them as their Lord, for all he passed nodded obeisance; clearly, this was whatever might pass for a leader among such an odd bunch. Nearer still were a pair of midsized wheeled transports, each sufficient to carry a dozen men, into which several other black-clad souls were tossing the rifles of the slain Caddiganites, along with miscellaneous random items that had fallen from the Carriage.

This seemed oddly presumptuous, so I strode forward in hopes of catching the attention of the nameless Handsome One.

Before I could even call to him, however, his vehicle roared to a buzzing, clattering, smoky life, and an instant later, a ferocious, bemasked, and rifle-wielding young woman leapt upon the pillion behind him, and the two of them were away across the scrubland in a spray of dirt and smoke. The others followed suit, one after another, in a snarling, buzzing din, and together they raced of like madmen. Not a single one seemed interested in acknowledging me, or informing me of where or what I was expected to be doing. These were clearly not individuals for whom politeness or decorum had any value, and I was for a moment at loose ends about how to proceed.

“Milady. I am so pleased to find that you are alive.”

I turned in surprise, for I did not anticipate ever again hearing the voice that now rang welcome in my ears.

“Ernest! Dearest faithful Ernest!” There he was, stepping out from behind one of the transports, functioning and unharmed, and although his vestments hung about him in tatters, he was to me a source of sudden and great joy. I felt the wild urge to embrace him, but recognizing that such a breach of etiquette might trouble him, I did not do so.

“I am so glad to see you well! I was certain that you had perished with Bertrand when we first came under attack, and am overjoyed to be proven wrong. What…how did you come to be here?”

My stalwart Series 9 responded in his direct way. “I realised we were lost when the rotors were destroyed, milady. I leapt from the Carriage, and using my integrated thrusters and stabilisers, affected my own descent to a location nearby. It was clear that our assailants intended to take us, and I grasped that I could be of better service if I acted separately. During my descent, I noted a large group of collectivists observing the Caddiganites at a distance, and directed my flight to land near them, after which I approached them and requested their assistance.”

“So it is you that I must thank for my rescue. O Ernest, thank you. You have done an invaluable service to me, and to House Montgomery. I must ask: how did you persuade this peculiar bunch to effectuate my rescue?”

“An excellent question, milady. Like all servants of Her Majesty, I understand that among the baser human drives are animus and crude self-interest. From Our intelligences on the ethics and motivations of these particular anarchosyndicalist collectives, I knew that while they are no friends of the Crown, they bear an almost pathological hatred of the Brotherhood of Mjolnir. [By this, dear reader, Ernest was referring to the Caddiganites, for that is the name by which they call themselves.] As the theft and utilisation of the Royal Societies’ discoveries would give the Brotherhood a strategic advantage, they could be counted upon to rally to our aid, even if it was not for reasons of honour, duty, or virtue.”

Ernest’s reasoning was, of course, entirely sound. “An ally is an ally, I suppose, and one takes what one can get.”

“Indeed, milady.”

One of the anarchists approached us, a woman, although from her skulking demeanour and the shapeless, graceless functionality of the clothing that hung loose over her lean, whippet-like form, such a determination required rather more effort than one might expect.

“Hey. Grab what you need. We gotta be getting outta here. They’ll be back in force, and we need to be gone.” Her voice was one part fatigue, and one part exasperation, and after speaking, she made a blunt gesture towards the nearest transport, which I interpreted as an invitation to join them in their departure.

“Thank you so very much for informing us,” I said, stepping forward towards her and extending my hand in greetings, endeavouring to show as much grace as was possible. “And because I’ve not yet been given the opportunity to express our gratitude, please let me say that we do so appreciate your heroic efforts on our behalf. I am, by way of introduction, the Lady Rebecca Wexton-Hughes, Countess of Montgomery, and this is my servant and footman Ernest. I’m sorry, but I did not catch your name.”

She looked at me with the most odd expression on her face, as if I were an apparition or a talking horse, glanced at Ernest, and then shrugged. “Yeah. Whatever. You got two minutes, and we’re leaving.” She turned and stalked back to the transport.

Such consistent rudeness amongst these commoners, I mused, must rise from some particular source or misunderstanding, although I could not imagine what it might be, as neither I nor the Crown could conceivably have done anything to justify such disdain. I would pursue that matter with her further, but at this moment, her instructions had stirred in me the awareness that there were, indeed, certain things of great value that must not be left behind.

“Dearest Ernest, we must depart. Before we do so, can you please retrieve some items from the Carriage?”

The Carriage was, as I spoke, burning with an increasing intensity, and was beginning to resemble some perverse and hellish version of a festal bonfire; were I still within it, I would most certainly have already perished in the manner of Joan of Arc.

Ernest glanced at the conflagration, then nodded receptively. “Of course. What do you need, Milady?”

“Our needs are threefold. First, I feel that in our current circumstance it would be wise were I to be in possession of my target pistol, as well as as many of the boxes of ammunition you can recover. Second, I shall need any of the necessities of maintaining my appearance as might remain intact, as it is quite apparent that such will not be falling readily at hand in the near future, and we must maintain our. Third, and of most significance, if you are able, please recover the remains of dearest Amanda, as I do not wish her to become a prize for our assailants.”

“It shall be done, Milady.”

Moving with a swiftness born of urgency, he strode fearless into the inferno, which swiftly burned away the remnants of his uniform, but its hunger was harmless against his glistening carapace. He returned first with a charred leather purse, within which were my various toiletries, powders, tinctures, and lotions, and although the purse itself was no longer fit for use at any formal events, the contents thereof remained in serviceable order.

He then returned to the flames, entering them as materially untouched as if he were Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego; a few moments later he returned bearing the Ruger and four boxes of ammunition, which by another of the Fates’ little mercies had not yet detonated. He set those by my feet, then said, “Be wary, milady, for these remain of a temperature that might cause you harm. Give them a moment before attempting to take them.”

“Thank you, Ernest.”

Then, for the final time, he returned to the Carriage cabin to retrieve our servant Amanda. The fire had risen, and the heat of it could now be felt even from my position many yards away. This effort was of more difficulty, evidently, for a long moment passed, and then another, and I gazed upon the rising holocaust with a deepening concern.

Finally, and to my great relief, Ernest’s form appeared from the fire, in all appearance as a seraph emerging from the light of Glory about the Divine, and he carried in his arms the limp unmoving remains of Amanda. He strode towards me effortlessly bearing her weight, whorls of smoke rising from about him from where the few lingering tatters of his blackened uniform still burned.

When he reached me, I gazed down upon my dear childhood servant, and tears welled in my eyes, for I felt in that instant the great loss of her care, a wound only magnified by the still greater loss of my beloved Father.

“Oh, Amanda,” I said softly, extending my hand tentatively towards the shattered porcelain of her visage; finding that while it was still hot to the touch, the heat was bearable, I placed it tenderly upon her broken forehead.

“Do you suppose there might be any chance that she might be made whole, Ernest?” I said, my voice thick with sorrow. “I do not know what I will do without her.”

“The damage to her systems is extensive and critical, milady. But while repair would be a severe challenge, and there is a significant probability of failure, it is not impossible. It might be done, milady.”

“Do you really think so, Ernest?”

“Yes, milady.”

I sighed. “Thank you for your kind reassurance, Ernest.”

“Of course, milady.”

Kneeling, I reached down to where Ernest had set the ammunition upon the dry ground, and there I placed the boxes into my purse of toiletries. My cooling Ruger also rested upon the parched earth, and, like Amanda’s forehead, it was slightly hot but not painful to the touch.

Taking the familiar grip of the pistol in my right hand, and the handle of my well-laden purse in my left, I rose and turned to walk to the anarchist transport. Ernest followed, bearing the singed wreck of Amanda.

I saw, at that moment, that standing between us and the transport was the peculiar woman with whom I had spoken before, along with two others I did not recognize; they had apparently been watching us the entire time.

There was now about the three of them a different affect than I had previously perceived, not so much disdain, but a new admixture of awe and deep wariness; I supposed, as a reasonable conjecture, that the flame-kissed Ernest and I were something of a sight.

“So,” I said, offering up to the woman a smile of the utmost pleasantness. “Thank you again for your generous patience as we gathered our necessaries. Shall we depart?”

There was a long pause.

“Suuuure,” she said finally, with a distinctly guarded narrowing of her eyes, and so, together, we did.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

The Last Days of an Old Dog

For the past several weeks, my morning routine has changed a little bit.  I stir, say my morning prayers halfway between dreams and wakeness, and then get out of bed.   I trundle to the kitchen, where I start the coffee going, after which I shuffle out to get the paper. 

Then I go check to see if the dog is still alive.

Our Ellie is fourteen, so she's a old old pup, and it's been a month since the vet told us she was dying.  She'd been losing weight, and turning up her nose at food, so we knew she wasn't doing well.  When she got weighed in at her last appointment, she'd lost nearly a quarter of her body weight, and blood work told the tale of kidney failure.

We had a couple of months, roughly.  The word "euthanasia" was laid on the table.  In the meantime, it was suggested that we keep her comfortable, and feed her what she wants.

She wants less and less, generally speaking, but what she prefers is to never eat dog food again.  For a lifetime, she's wanted human food rather than dog food.  All dogs do, as it's the primary reason they started hanging out with homo sapiens sapiens in the first place.  "Dog food" as a concept distinct from human food is an entirely modern industrial concept, a marketer's conceit, although I'm pretty sure that first wolf-dog that stepped tentatively into the light of a fire wouldn't have turned up their nose at a Spratts Patent Dog Biscuit. 

We were giving her boiled chicken and pork for a while, along with pasta and rice.  She stopped eating that a week or two ago, and we turned to fancier fare, to fried eggs, salmon, and tuna, as it was all she'd even consider consuming.  

Even that, now, has often become unacceptable.  She continues to waste away, her once-almost-too-tight collar hanging loose around her neck, the bones of her hips standing sharp under the collapsing tent of her flesh.  Despite a dose of an antinauseant yesterday, her bowl of oatmeal this morning is mostly untouched.  She just wants to sleep, and rousing her gets more and more difficult.  Every time I pass her, I'll stop and watch to see if she's breathing.  I wait.  Then a little more.  And there, finally, the furry chest will rise.

She can still stand, and still walk, although even with the human-strength doses of gabapentin that keep her arthritis discomfort away that clearly has gotten more and more difficult.  Occasionally, she'll have moments of friskiness, as she did bounding about in the snow on our recent trip to more wintry climes.   She always did love snow.  Mostly, again, she sleeps. 

At some point, she'll either pass or...if she seems in pain...we'll gently help her along.  Whatever happens, it'll be at home.  Though our vets have been helpful, she loathes going there, and there's not a chance on God's green earth that we'll take her there for her final moments.  Bright fluorescents, hard surfaces, and cold tile floors aren't the last things any living thing wishes to see, although we humans seem to have gotten a little stupid about that of late.

Better to be home, in her comfy and well-worn bed, with the little patch of wooded yard that has been hers since she was a pup right there where she can see it.

I don't feel about her as I would about a human person.  She's not that, not a "fur baby," which seems an unfair expectation for any nonhuman animal.  She's a dog, and being a dog is enough.  For fourteen years, she's been her own unique dog self.  

Gentle, a little aloof, prone to being standoffish.  She'd greet you for a brief moment, then wander off.  Or not greet you at all, and you'd search the house for her, until you found her off in some corner.  If you called her, she'd come in her own good time, or not at all.  If you threw her a ball, that ball was hers, and she intended to keep it.  Try to pet her, and she'd duck away, unless she was in the mood, in which case a belly rub was welcome, thank you very much.  She was, in those and other things, rather feline.  As her parentage was uncertain, we'd often jokingly say her father might have been a cat, although genetic testing mostly ruled that out.  Mostly.

Cat jokes aside, she is still and has always been a good dog, very much herself, and as far as we're able, we'll make these last days good ones.