Kirk Israel's commonplace and blog. Quotes and links daily since 2001.
2024.05.17
Happy Woulda Been 100 to Nana!

I must assume that eventually an army of shame engineers will rise up, writing guilt-inducing code in order to make their robots more convincingly human. But it doesn't mean I love the idea. Because right now you can see the house of cards clearly: By aggregating the world's knowledge, chomping it into bits with GPUs, and emitting it as multi-gigabyte software that somehow knows what to say next, we've made the funniest parody of humanity ever. These models have all of our qualities, bad and good. Helpful, smart, know-it-alls with tendencies to prejudice, spewing statistics and bragging like salesmen at the bar. They mirror the arrogant, repetitive ramblings of our betters, the horrific confidence that keeps driving us over the same cliffs. That arrogance will be sculpted down and smoothed over, but it will have been the most accurate representation of who we truly are to exist so far, a real mirror of our folly, and I will miss it when it goes.

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2024.05.16
I think my highschool girlfriend's dad (HI MR SALUPO!) ran this campaign in the 80s...
2024.05.15

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for some reason the asphalt on part of a street near me gives your shadow a rainbow halo that moves with you... or my canonization has been approved...

2024.05.14
so you agree immigration
2024.05.13
The Quran--the book that, we are told, comes from the divine encounters Muhammad had over a period of years--contains a striking story about Smokey [Bear "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires...Only You"] responsibility. At the very beginning, when God created human beings, before any of them entered the world, God asked them, "Am I not your Lord?" Every single one answered yes. And God took note so that no one who disregarded God's commands in their earthly life could plead ignorance.
Volf, Croasmun, McAnnally-Linz, "Life Worth Living: A Guide to What Matters Most"
I had not heard this aspect of Islam before, but I guess it's a pretty good dodge for that "but what about people who never get to hear about the REAL God" question that has driven a lot of Christian missionary work and some doctrine (like "limbo" for infants who die unbaptized) I mean I think it would still be sus that so many people got such a bigger familial and cultural dose of Allah than others, but still.

The "Life Worth Living" book is a wide but not deep survey along with some guided exercises about ponder The Question.

I feel like I've thought about my answers to that big question a lot already: for me, humanity's purpose is to create categorical novelty in this part of the Universe, kindness is paramount, there is DEFINITELY a universal absolute moral truth (that is an emergent property of human interaction) but we DEFINITELY can't KNOW what it is (so the universal truth might be one being multifaceted and culturally-subjective but it exists, so I reject existential "believe whatever you want there are no rules"), and the best way to live is a kind of cheerful Buddhist-tinged Epicureanism; seeking a cheerful, sustainable pleasant moderation.

One other bit I pulled from the book is journalist Kathryn Schulz asking her TED audience "How does it feel to be wrong?", but they would answer "how does it feel to REALIZE you are wrong" - because being wrong without realizing it feels exactly the same as being right.
2024.05.12
2024.05.11
Last night in Arlington phone cameras could pick up the Northern Lights even in this horribly light-polluted land

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Summons

Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up. Come any hour
Of night. Come whistling up the road.
Stomp on the porch. Bang on the door.
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light.
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look. Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before, and show me.
See that I see. Talk to me till
I'm half as wide awake as you
And start to dress wondering why
I ever went to bed at all.
Tell me the walking is superb.
Not only tell me but persuade me.
You know I'm not too hard persuaded.
Robert Francis