Yi-Yi-AI

AI engines are, “In too many cases… simply hallucinatory lunacy generators,” says Tom Wark, author of Tom Wark’s Fermentation Substack. He was helped to this conclusion when Google's AI Just Made Up a Supreme Court Decision in lurid detail. The case it cited, New York Wine & Grape Products Association v. Heastie (2019) simply does not exist. And certainly wasn’t decided 7-2 (or 6-3) by the Supreme Court.

I found about this from my friend Clark Smith, a winemaker and musician who reads the blog.

His take: “I don’t share the general excitement about AI. It can certainly improve the writing of people with no writing training or talent. This would not include you and me.

“For example it generally knows how to spell. This is offset by its propensity to hallucinate.”

My nephew Paul is working on a term project. He put all my love song lyrics into an AI engine, and asked it to render them in the style of Cole Porter or Stephen Sondheim. Here are the results. Clearly the AI lost interest after a few lines and only did a few of the 10 songs. Is the AI better than I am? It certainly has less skin in the game...

Clark looked at the AI output and wrote, “I wouldn’t call the AI any sort of improvement. Your lyrics… are at least concise and without pointless blather. You speak from the heart. AI can’t fake that. As you say, you have skin in the game, and it shows.”


Two-Way Wrist Radio/Star Trek Communicator

Dick Tracy used to be a big deal on the comics pages; like Batman, he frequently relied on gadgets. My favorite was the two-way wrist radio. Wherever he is, I imagine Chester Gould has a smile on his face every time he sees someone using an Iwatch to take a phone call.

During the 1960s, an attempt was made to duplicate the wrist radio, using a CB radio. No Bluetooth, so a wire ran down your sleeve. It just wasn’t the same.

While we’re on the subject, one of my professors (I think he was EE) discussed the Star Trek Communicator (the original show had only been off the air for a year or two).

“Saying someone’s name and reaching them instantly? Ridiculous. The radio gear would be larger than the device they use, and the computer power required to make the connection and do the voice recognition would be enormous. Impossible.”

I dearly wish I could remember his name. I wonder what he thinks when he asks Siri on his IWatch to dial his wife.


Copperpacolypse: Farewell Copper―Y2K Redux in the Making

[READ THIS!] Who cares, you may say, I haven’t had a copper phone line in years. Do you ride in elevators? Have a monitored burglar alarm at home or work? Buzz people up from the front door of your apartment building? Use a credit card in stores? Is your heart monitored? God Forbid, do you have a fax machine? Ready or not, here it comes. Do nothing, and in a few years there will be trouble.

This country, indeed, the world, has been well served by telephone service over copper wires for more than 147 years, but all that will end soon. I never thought I’d kiss copper farewell; there are MANY good reasons to keep a landline (know as Plain Old Telephone service or POTS) but they are clearly doomed. See this intelligent and balanced discussion of the copper sunset.

Britain will turn off all its landlines (an event known as PSTN Sunset) during 2025. AT&T has asked for a U.S. PSTN sunset, but the FCC hasn’t authorized one yet―although in August of 2022, the FCC did say that US Telecom companies needn’t provide new copper landline services anymore. What Telcos are not required to do, they won’t do.

The problems of copperpocalypse will be enormous and expensive. For example: phones in elevators will cease to work on Sunset Day. As will most burglar alarms and fax lines (hello 1985; they’re big in the healthcare business).

This is an emotional issue for me, as I started phone hacking in high school, providing touchtone service at my house, free, before it was free and legal on my phone exchange. I was then privileged to work on a real phone system at MIT. I have maintained an avid interest in telephony ever since. I owned a cellphone when they were still an automobile accessory that took up all the space between the two front seats, or the size of a brick or briefcase.

Just as copper wasn’t designed for data, the Internet was not designed for voice. Internet phone service, Voice Over IP (VOIP), is crap. But cellphones aren’t always a viable alternative. For example, there are numerous pockets in hilly Orinda with essentially zero cellphone service from any provider... 25 miles from downtown San Francisco.

The headline refers to the Year 2000 bug (Y2K), when all the computer programs storing two-digit dates would think that Jan. 1, 1900 was the day after Dec. 31, 1999. The apocalypse was projected, but didn’t occur because everyone was so scared they fixed the problem in advance.

The same thing could (and I hope will) be true when copperpacolypse occurs in the United States. We’ve got a few years at most. Of course this doesn’t affect 90% of my readers directly, since they gave up copper a long time ago. But if you have a burglar alarm, a fax machine or a heart monitor, it will affect you. If you’re stuck in an elevator, it very well could lengthen your stay. If you’re attacked in a college parking lot, those lovely kiosks may well be useless.

AT&T doesn’t care. The firm’s unofficial motto is: “We’re the phone company. We don’t care because we don’t have to.”


Incandoesn’t

Farewell incandescent lightbulb; it’s been a great 178 years. Yes, you read that correctly. Thomas Edison, the P.T. Barnum of electricity, patented the lightbulb in 1880, but as with almost all of his inventions, he stood on the shoulders of giants. The first such light bulbs were created in 1845. We credit Edison, as with most of his discoveries, because he improved and popularized work mostly done by others. And we credit Edison because he had a great PR machine and never hesitated to take credit for anything that happened while he was in the room.

Incandescent bulbs produce more heat than light, and burn about four times as much energy for the same amount of light as LEDs. Don’t like LED or fluorescent light? Get used to it buddy. It’s too late to stock up on old fashioned bulbs.

Labor derailed the U.S. transition to the metric system in 1975 for fear jobs would be off-shored as a result of a common measurement system. How well that worked, and we’re still stuck with pounds and feet (as are Liberia and Myanmar). Somehow, no one managed to derail the death of the incandescent bulb.

Yes, we are going to pry the last space heater/lightbulb from your warm, overcharged fingers. OK technically not: there are no lightbulb police. No one is going to take your soon-to-be-burned-out lightbulbs out of your home or business: but from now on, your only choice after the imminent heat death of your light bulbs will be LEDs or fluorescents (Am I Blue?). And you may have to turn the furnace up 


The Costs Of Flying

It’s time to consider giving up flying. It would be nice if it were possible to do that entirely, but autos, buses and trains are not practical means of transportation in many cases.

Flying leaves a terrible carbon footprint. One nonstop round trip from San Francisco to New York releases about a metric ton of carbon per passenger. I was reminded of this (which I already knew, approximately):

Yes, it’s possible to give up flying for the climate. These are the Bay Area residents who’ve done it

The BBC has created a handy chart of relative impact of travel methods, in the relatively unhelpful units of grams per kilometer per passenger. To convert to pounds/mile divide the grams by 454 and multiply the km by 1.2.

Co2_compare


 Winning the Genetic Lottery

Did I win the genetic lottery, or the sperm/egg dance? I am not sure which, but I am eternally grateful for what I got and didn’t get at the instant of my conception. I got wit, intelligence and charm―mostly from my mother’s Irish side, and from the Celts who almost certainly bred with the Schindlers of St. Galen. I did NOT get alcoholism and depression―mostly from my dad’s Swiss side. I did get the dicky ticker that sent my mom’s dad to his grave at 54, but lucked out from having been born a half-century later, so that I can be protected by my pacemaker/defibrillator. I apparently dodged my maternal grandmother’s glaucoma; “You’re almost 70. If you don’t have it by now, you’re not likely to develop it,” my optometrist said this week.

Talk about being born on third base! And I, for one, never mistook that for hitting a triple.


More Heart-Mind Stuff

I decided to check out some more heart/mind information on the Internet. When we speak of having a “heart to heart” talk, apparently it isn’t just a metaphor. Our hearts communicate, via a strong electromagnetic field.

When you are near your mate, your hearts synchronize, an effect that increases as you grow older. When older couples are close together.

When you place a happy person close enough to a sad person, the electromagnetic field of their heart cheers the other person up. Heart-Mind Synchronicity For Manifestation.

All my life, people have been telling me I light up a room when I enter it. Now I know the mechanism; the electromagnetic field of my heart.


Personality Tests

Turns out my daughter Rae has paid much more attention to personality tests than me. Last week's item, Myers-Briggs and Me was not about the most well-tested personality test; the Ocean Test (covered a year ago) has much more longitudinal data.

Also of interest: Enneagram and Via Character Strengths. An Enneagram report costs $19, and is quite complicated. The headline: I am a Type 2: The Giver. “Twos seek to love and help the people around them.” Via Character Strengths (free summary, $20 report, $50 report). In short: kindness, love and humor. Humility comes in last; quelle surprise.


Myers-Briggs and Me

Of course, everyone―by which I mean employers and job counselors and matchmakers―would like it if a simple written test allowed us all to be sorted into bins that reliably predicted the best route for our personal and professional lives. Until that day arrives, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment (based on the work of Jung) is a first-order approximation of that desired tool.

My first exposure to it was unwitting. In April 1979 I moved to California for a job with CMP Publications, which I expected would last six months, tops (it lasted 20 years). David Dietz, business editor of the San Francisco Examiner  told me in June, he had the courtesy to call and tell me management had filled the post with someone else.

In the meantime, I had met the business editor of the San Jose Mercury-News, Jim Mitchell―who chided me for years over the time I took a call from him in my hot tub. Like all applicants at that time, the paper had me take the MBTI, after which Jim offered me a job, which I declined as my now-wife had accepted my marriage proposal and declined a move 50 miles south.

I don’t know what my profile was then, but this year, it’s ESFJ (of whom, according to Reddit, 25% are gay). Those of you who know me will not be surprised that my strongest vector is extroversion (very likely), with a likely S, a somewhat likely F, and a likely J. MBTI research says the best match for journalists is ENFJ, so close.

Fast forward to 1991, when, at a staff meeting of Windows Magazine, we all took the professional, paid-for version of the MBTI (there are lots of less-rigorous free versions on the Internet). The biggest surprise: more than half our staff were introverts. Admittedly, most were more technology people than writers, but still…

The most useful thing I learned was that the way I was managing my direct report, Tom Lasusa, could be improved based on his profile and mine. I adjusted my management style based on this advice.

The MBTI also offers marital advice, via a large table that matches up spousal profiles which puts my wife and I in “uh-oh” territory. The much-less-well-researched alternative sorting mechanism, astrology, helped me meet her: she was looking for a Virgo when we met.

So, our rock-solid 44-year-long relationship seems to indicate that science isn’t everything when it comes to matters of love.

MBTI

Finally, a little MBTI humor

Mbti2