The Legacy of Light

Son #2 just finished a new song called Legacy. It’s available at most of the usual places. In terms of light and darkness, his music is full of light and shadows. You can’t avoid the shadows down here on Earth if you really want to see how bright the light is.

Contrasts are necessary for context.

In writing news, I’m about 90% done with a new epic fantasy. It’s currently around 170,000 words. Once the draft is finished, I’ll go back through it to adjust things–(probably) mostly character arcs and sub plots.

I find the revision process more enjoyable than the first draft process. Polishing, nudging, refining, deepening, adding in narrator perspective, all that sort of thing. The danger for me in the revision process is allowing perfection and good to get in a protracted battle. Those can be lengthy battles, kind of similar to the Hundred Years War between England and France in the Middle Ages. Edward III should not be allowed a hand in any writing.

The new fantasy is about halfway in between the Tormay trilogy and the Fury Clock in terms of the mix of seriousness versus humor. Maybe an inch or two closer to the South Pole of humor. It contains all of the necessary characters: a semi-delusional farmboy, a dwarf (see photo–yes, I took a photo of him), a wizard, a bad-tempered (but pretty) elf girl, a unflappable swordsman, a stolen map to an Ancient Place You Should Not Visit Unless You’re Fine With a Horrible Death, an extravagant amount of treasure, the Darkness (definitely with a capital D), several psychotic aristocrats, cold ale, and lots of roast boar (in honor of Asterix and Obelix–if you have not read Asterix and Obelix books, you need to get some immediately, as they are pretty much the pinnacle of comic literature).

Speaking of Darkness, the world seems a darker place these days. All the more reason to curl up on the sofa with a good book and an endless supply of snacks. And hopefully not a psycho cat strolling by at random moments to sink her claws into your leg. We just acquired a new kitten who still has not learned when it is appropriate to use claws and when it is not to appropriate to use those same claws. Her name is Pepper and she’s proving to be in the Ghost Pepper-Carolina Reaper category for now. We assume she will mature and make wiser choices sooner than later.

 

ChatGPT

So now we have the AI-driven ChatGPT in our lives. Teenage students around the world are probably rejoicing, pausing in their perusal of TikTok to lift their hands in praise.

If you haven’t learned (or experienced) yet, ChatGPT is a chatbot that was officially released in November of last year. The chatbot is an artificial intelligence text-generator. Basically, you type in a question and ChatGPT responds with an answer. For example, you can ask it anything. Quite an example, yeah?

Okay, here’s a more specific example. You could type in a query such as “Explain black holes at a fourth grade level.” Which I just did. In about ten seconds, ChatGPT responded with this:

Black holes are like a big, invisible vacuum cleaner in space. They suck up anything that gets too close, even stars and planets! This happens because black holes have a super strong pull of gravity.

Light can’t escape from a black hole, which is why they look black and we can’t see what’s inside. Scientists study black holes by looking at how they affect things around them, like stars.

It’s important to remember that black holes are not a hole in space that you can fall into like a hole in the ground. They are just a place where the pull of gravity is so strong that nothing can escape.

As your brain is probably already realizing, this opens up a huge can of wriggly worms from an education perspective. What’s to stop a student from getting ChatGPT to write all of his or her essays? Nothing. Not a thing.

Sometimes, I wonder if there’s a secret cabal of little grey men meeting in some hidden location (perhaps a mountain retreat called The Meadows), conspiring and scheming to make children dumber. Stupider and more dull, with each passing year (which then begs the question: why?).

Cell phones are bad enough. Kids whip those things out to retrieve data which, in the past, might very well have been stored in their own brain. Mental math is a thing of the past. And don’t get me started on posture.

I’m sure there are plenty of beneficial reasons for the existence of ChatGPT and all the other AI equivalents. But, dulling the brains of the young and future generations yet unborn cancels out a considerable list of potential benefits.

Other possible harms exist. What’s to stop the use of the chatbot to write news articles? Frankly, its quality level is just as good, if not better, than many journalists these days. Or how about writing stories? ChatGPT doesn’t seem to successfully handle being prompted to write in specific styles–such as, write in the style of Conan Doyle, etc–but I imagine that tweak will come along soon enough. What’s important, and dangerous, is that it can write stories.

Brave new world, isn’t it? Though, I’m starting to suspect that our real-time foray into dystopia is proving more similar to CS Lewis’ That Hideous Strength rather than Huxley.

As the world progresses in technological advancement, it reduces in other areas. Reductionism? Kids’ memories stunt. Creativity shrivels in on itself like a salted snail. Mental math withers. Relationships diminish due to the poisonous interface of screens and social media.

What are we reducing ourselves toward? Perhaps the rough beast slouching toward its birth?