Looking Out At The Road Rushing Under My Wheels

Life is funny. Not “ha ha” funny. At least, not for everyone. Not all the time. One might be tempted to think of clowns and comedians, but I always figured they were the most depressed people around.

Maybe I mean that life is odd. Weird. Peculiar. Some few people are lucky and don’t have much to worry about on a day to day basis. Others spend their lives around people and have good times and bad. Still, others, have a crappy day all the time.

Maybe you’re one of the people who, when the cashier tells you to “Have a nice day!” you say, “I will!” Or maybe you’re the kind of person to think, “I won’t, but by all means keep reminding me” and say, out loud, “Thanks! You too!”

There’s a good chance, though, that the cashier won’t. After all, they’re stuck at work on a nice day, dealing with people who are grouchy, bosses who don’t appreciate them, and whatever other problems they have going on.

But, we say it anyway, because that’s what we’re programmed to do.

That was one of my things about artificial intelligence. Programmed responses. Some guy (who was probably smarter than me) had said that AI was nothing more than a black box where something goes in and something comes out.

The example I read, likened it to having someone sitting in a box with a slot. Every once in a while, a card with a symbol would come in through the slot. The person in the box would look at the symbol on the card, find the symbol in a book with a symbol to be returned, and then shove the correct symbol card out of the slot.

It doesn’t matter what the symbol coming in is. The person in the box doesn’t understand, they just push out the corresponding symbol. So, if the card came in with Japanese written on it, maybe, “Where is the nearest bathroom?” the person in the box would send out a card saying “Down the hall, to the left.” The middle man would have no idea what was going on, so the ‘box’, seemingly intelligent, really wasn’t.

I figure, though, that humans are pretty much the same way.

“How ya doin’?!”
“I’m okay!”

We’re just programmed that way.

I don’t know where I was going with this. Life. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it sucks. The ratio differs from person to person.

It takes every kinda people.

There. You just got two for the price of one, though I’d be surprised if anyone picked up on it.

Something I think about every once in a while is that there are some things that will never happen again. Like, punk music. Or the advent of the home computer. Or the original Saturday Night Live. Or, maybe there are things happening “for the first time” that I just can’t be aware of. Blinded because of my age.

Something to think about.

Have You Ever Felt A Southern Night?

For a long time, I thought I would be a writer. A writer of what, I didn’t know. But I was pretty sure I was going to spend my life writing books, going on book signing tours, and all the other cool things that authors get to do. Instead, I’m doing what I’m doing now. Which has very little to do with writing.

One time in school, in one of my English classes, we were reading The Canterbury Tales (an abridged version, I’m sure). Then we had an assignment: we (the students) were to write a short story in the manner of one of Chaucer’s tales. Worse, we would then separate into groups of 4 or 5, hand our stories over to someone else in the group, who would then read that story out loud. Then the critiquing could begin.

I don’t remember much about that day, except that my story was passed to some other person who read it out loud. When they finished, one of the girls in my group said, “It was like it was written by a real person!”

That’s pretty high praise, I think. It’s also not the first time someone got confused by my reality, or lack of it.

Long ago, I went on a school trip. I think it was to some AT&T, or, rather, Bell Labs, place. Maybe not. It was some technology company in New York City. The building had a lot of computer and technology related things in there. I remember there were computer systems set up explaining colors on computers, maybe with some kind of color matching game.

There was also a few terminals that were hooked up together, back to back with a small wall separating them. You could chat back and forth, but not see who was on the other side. I was used to chatting with people over the computer because I used BBS programs quite a lot and chatted with many a person.

So, I was on one terminal and started typing away. Then someone else started typing and we sent messages back and forth. I don’t remember the conversation, but somewhere along the way, the girl I was chatting with became convinced that I was a computer. And this was years before AI became a thing. I tried waving my hand around the wall, but I never got her attention. Eventually the conversation stopped because she had walked away.

Sometimes I think of that and I wonder if she ever talks about it. The time back in the 1980s when AI was so advanced, a computer couldn’t convince her that it was human. I should feel bad about it, I guess, but at least I know I could pass a Turing test.

Speaking of AI, I was in a sort of computer club in school. It was run by one of the math teachers in a room full of Apple ][s. We got into an argument one time about artificial intelligence. He didn’t think we’d ever see a learning artificial intelligence but his entire argument boiled down to “because I don’t believe it.” I wonder what he thinks (if he’s still around) about the work that Google, Apple, and everyone else has been getting up.

For the record, I was for AI at the time. Then I changed my mind and figured it couldn’t really happen until computers could experience things. The simple form of this argument would be something like, you can ask a computer what a Fedora was. The computer could tell you it was a hat with certain characteristics that make it a Fedora. But it’s just spitting out a definition, it doesn’t actually know what a hat is, because it had never worn one. Or seen one, for that matter.

For the most part, I still feel what way. I think AI is different than machine learning. Being able to tell the difference between an intentional poke of a touch screen, or an accidental press of a palm is a lot different than having a computer refuse to open cargo bay doors. I do, however, think we’ll get there, eventually. I just don’t think it’s today.

Whenever someone sends me a link to whatever new amazing chat bot or whatever, I’m always disappointed.

But, then, I may be the pinnacle of artificial intelligence, for all I know. Women seem to think I am.

Things I want (but can’t spend money on)

Well, “can’t” is a rather strong word in this case. It’s more like “won’t.” But I would, because I want to, I just won’t because (as usual) I find it hard to justify it to myself.

Amiga 4000T

Amiga 4000T

First up would be an Amiga 4000T, although I suppose I would settle for a 4000. Maybe even a 3000. The reason why I want one is rather convoluted. I’ll start with by saying that it’s the latest and (I suppose) the most powerful model so it would make sense to start there. The other is that it’s more of an Atari computer than the Atari ST was. So what would I do with a 20 year old computer? I don’t have a clue, hence, why I haven’t gotten one along with the reason that they’re kind of expensive when they can be found on eBay or Craigslist.

But it would be kind of cool to have one and, maybe, do some NaNoWriMo writing on one. I could be, like, a slightly updated George R. R. Martin.

One of the key arguments against getting one is that I can just buy Amiga Forever for $30.00 and emulate just about any Amiga I could care to. So why don’t I do that?

First, I don’t need it. I can’t really come up with a really good reason for having it. Secondly, it’s not real. It can’t beat having the real hardware sitting on a desk. A desk that doesn’t have room for it.

Atari TT030

Atari TT030

This fell into the same category back in the 1990’s that the Mac Pro fits into today: A high priced computer with more power than I would’ve used at the time. But it would still be an awesome thing to have because they’re kind of rare. The reason why I don’t get one now is because… they’re kind of rare. And when one becomes available, it’s usually very expensive. Way too expensive for me to justify. Which I couldn’t anyway, just because I’m me.

Atari Falcon

Atari Falcon, the ultimate ST

Oh, I wanted one badly when this came out. Even though it looked like a 1040ST in a grey case. These things are also pretty rare to find for sale and, of course, expensive. My reasoning for not getting one is essentially the same as the other two computers up there. Expensive to get and I have no idea what I’d use it for.

Sure, okay, it’s nostalgia driven. I miss the old days of computers when things were different and companies made their own chipsets to get a leg up on the competitors. These days, every computer is exactly the same and it’s only the cellphone that gets any diversity.