Category: Omnium-Gatherum

I have seen the enemy and it is…

Words. An odd thought from someone who lives for them and earns a livelihood from them.

But while we’re all still fighting over fake news and free speech and truth and consequences, less than two months ago on November 22nd the San Francisco company Open AI released its latest generation writing bot called Chat GPT. It is to the revolution of thought what wheels were to roads.

Given the initial media response, ChatGPT will either shutter universities, vaporize teachers and homework, and eliminate rational debate, or usher in a new age of enlightenment. But as with many new technologies and bad drugs, the early days ChatGPT is fun and often magic. You ask it a question; it gives you a lengthy, thoughtful, nuanced, and often chummy reply. From 50 words to 5,000. Kul!

Meanwhile…

I’m not wild about Harry.

Like most people who come from a family, I cringe for the Windsors whose prodigal son gives fresh new meaning to the idea of zealous indiscretion. And we haven’t even heard yet from the really offended party, Harry’s wife, who lived for some years in Toronto at 10 Yarmouth Road.

Perhaps we can turn our heads, then, to the matter of Royal Warrants. These are granted to companies that provide goods or services to the Royal Household. Everyone is waiting for Charles to be crowned so that an entire new generation of companies can put on their jam jars: “Supplier of jam to King Charles III.” You, too, can apply!

Meanwhile…

Little Losses

The big losses we all know and dread. It’s the little ones that chip away at who we think we are. I read this week that the Kiwi shoe polish company is ceasing sales in Great Britain. It seems no one is shining their shoes any more. The cause is people working from home and wearing running shoes when they go outside. I, of course, took it to mean the decline of all standards of self-discipline, like making your bed.

Meanwhile…

“Come see us before we come see you.”

I remember growing up in Edmonton, Christmas was the busiest time of year. My father was a florist and my mom and I picked him up at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and brought him home, exhausted, to sleep – just as soon as he dealt with the complaints from customers who hadn’t got their flowers yet. He’d be in bed by 10 and slept for 12 hours straight, which let Santa deliver gifts late the next morning. But no matter how tired he was, we never forgot to put out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, a tradition that still has me headed to the fridge tonight.

Meanwhile…

Happy birthday, Jesus

I remember growing up in Edmonton, Christmas was the busiest time of year. My father was a florist and my mom and I picked him up at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and brought him home, exhausted, to sleep – just as soon as he dealt with the complaints from customers who hadn’t got their flowers yet. He’d be in bed by 10 and slept for 12 hours straight, which let Santa deliver gifts late the next morning. But no matter how tired he was, we never forgot to put out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, a tradition that still has me headed to the fridge tonight.

Meanwhile…

Fear and loathing…and awe.

We all knew the day would inevitably come. But so soon?

It seems artificial intelligence can now write almost as well as humans. Last week, OpenAI released their new ChatGPT chatbot for public testing, and the raves are pouring in. Try it now: it’s free. Just log in and ask it a question or assign it a task. But remember, it doesn’t search the internet; it ‘thinks’. For example, here’s what it comes back with when you ask: “What are the ethics
of creating test-tube babies?” and “Why did the chicken cross the road?”, and on a whole other level of thought: “Write a rhyming couplet poem about playing hockey in Canada.”

Given the pace of AI not just imitating language, but thinking in original ways, I’m relieved I’m an old writer and not a young one. Then again, new technologies always create jobs that didn’t exist before. But buckle up; real creativity is about to become a lot harder, as is ethics.

Meanwhile…

There’s no such thing as bad weather. There’s only bad gear.

Indoors, there’s also “no such thing as information-overload, there is just filter failure.” So as we march into the most information- overloaded season of them all, let us not go unarmed.

Active avoidance of useless information means being fully aware that you’re blocking huge gobs of internet reality and doing it to save yourself. This has now grown to be a core competence for digital citizens and it’s called Critical Ignoring. It starts with the idea that “Low-quality and misleading information online can hijack people’s attention, often by evoking curiosity, outrage, or anger.” So don’t let yourself be snowed this winter.

Meanwhile here is this week’s Omnium-Gatherum…

The Horse’s Mouth

Far too few of us get our information from it. We only have time to gnaw at the click-bait,and my mirror reflects who the biggest culprit is.

So let’s see what lies at the other end of the world: the original reports and enquiries that spawn the snappy headlines. They’re incredibly easy to find online, and here’s what I learned from three of them this week:

Complicit

Victory may have a thousand hand-maidens, but so does complicity.

This podcast tells how to avoid turning your gaze when others’ bad behaviour comes into view. But while a big part of complicity is often silence – “Nothing to see here, folks” – explicit badness can never seem to shut up and sit down. See FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s “meandering” one-hour take-down of Western countries for daring to criticize World Cup host-nation Qatar; and Donald Trump’s “rambling” one-hour speech announcing his run for President in 2024.

But the best examples of this growing art form are the filmed tributes to mendacity on a national scale, like this with David Beckham as part of his £150 million sponsorship deal touting Qatar.

Meanwhile, here is this week’s Omnium-Gatherum…

Loud Quitting

Richard II said that, or at least his creator William Shakespeare did in 1595 when the word “doth” was used a lot before “waste”. I mention this for two reasons: the New Yorker cartoonist, George Booth, died this month at 96. As the magazine’s art director said: “if you can’t recognize a Booth cartoon, you need the magazine in Braille.”

But also because our under-rated Canadian seer, Dan Gardner, wrote about Booth’s passing on how we always misjudge time, and especially age, and most especially, other people’s age.

Booth’s cartoons were as quirky and charming as the man himself who was profiled in a 23-minute documentary on getting old and staying in the game.

Meanwhile…

“I wasted time, and now time wastes me.”

Richard II said that, or at least his creator William Shakespeare did in 1595 when the word “doth” was used a lot before “waste”. I mention this for two reasons: the New Yorker cartoonist, George Booth, died this month at 96. As the magazine’s art director said: “if you can’t recognize a Booth cartoon, you need the magazine in Braille.”

But also because our under-rated Canadian seer, Dan Gardner, wrote about Booth’s passing on how we always misjudge time, and especially age, and most especially, other people’s age.

Booth’s cartoons were as quirky and charming as the man himself who was profiled in a 23-minute documentary on getting old and staying in the game.

Meanwhile…

Jack Diamond, Architect, 1932-2022

Jack Diamond died last Sunday, one week short of his 90th birthday, and proof that living an engaged life often means a long one. He hated the word “starchitect”, but he was one because he had the will and the vision and the ego to create some of the great concert halls and opera houses in the world today. These are not run by people who lack willpower themselves, as this documentary (Password: Master) on his creation of the Mariinsky II Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, reveals.

RamsayWrites

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