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February 15, 2023


(I'd note the last chapter has the discussion of Unicode, which I think someone here may have been a part of, so I wonder if they would recognize the stories being told here).

I realize that this is just an aside, but since I suspect I'm the one, here's my take. On Unicode itself; I've got nothing on the actual discussions leading to it. I was merely trying to use it years later.

Unicode was created to give some way to code the scripts of all languages, and do so using, essentially, just ASCII characters. The folks at the Unicode Consortium who put it together were a bunch of really bright guys. But they had some blind spots.

For example, when I was working on the ICANN panel creating a syllabary for languages using the Latin script (for use in domain names for websites), we found no use for quite a number of letter-plus-diacritic codepoints which are included in Unicode.** On the other hand, we also came across at least a couple dozen combinations used by living languages for which there was no Unicode code point. When I suggested to a couple of the co-authors of Unicode that some revision/update might be in order, I was told in no uncertain terms that no changes where contemplated and none would be. Period.

** We did, admittedly, only look at some 200 of the 400+ living languages which use the Latin script. But we included all the ones which are "official" languages (i.e. you can do business with a national or regional/state/province using them), or which have more than 1 million native speakers.

I think the difference may lie in the US. (American exceptionalism!) For various historical reasons, the American attitude has long been to favor innovation -- the current MAGAts notwithstanding. If something we are doing or using doesn't work well, we will almost reflexively either grab something else used somewhere, aided by an eclectic mix of immigrants, or invent something new.

Other places have picked up on this. Some infected by the ubiquity of American culture, others in an effort to compete with us. But most of them start from a base of a culture which has existed, in similar if not identical form, for centuries. So innovation is an add-on, not a basic feature. Thus novelty is not prized for its own sake elsewhere.

But here, all my life I have seen floods of advertising in which the word "new!" is used as a selling point. The novelty may be superficial, like the styling on the new year's car model. But "new" is what sells it -- that's why each model year looks different.

I suspect that's also why building stuff that lasts isn't a priority, as we get into in the previous thread. For durability you buy German or Japanese. We're perfectly capable of building durable (see the space probes also discussed previously), but mostly we don't bother.

Two words that I am musing over while thinking about this are "skeuomorphism" and "cosplay." Go to a Renaissance festival or to a guitar store and you will see plenty of both. The dividing line between the two for my way of thinking about this comes down to whether or not the design is just there just to camouflage the new, or if the user is meant to participate in the nostalgia through some performative cue as well.

With kyudo, is the intent to keep the practice "pure" and keep the methodology from drifting into almost parodic performance (like a lot of western sport fencing), or is it meant to anchor some sort of cultural mastery principle of hierarchy and lineage? Is it both?

Is fear of ChatGPT just fear of a loss of prestige for teaching an aesthetic of communication?

(And none of this touches on the role of skeuomorphism in leveraging known interface protocols to help new users learn how to use new tech more quickly with less anxiety by creating conceptual continuities. This usage has a lot in common with writing pedagogies that try to take the things that a writer does understand and show how those habits of mind apply to new writing situations. Another big aside I'm ducking for the moment.)

Is fear of ChatGPT just fear of a loss of prestige for teaching an aesthetic of communication?

I'm going to risk being offensive here: ChatGPT produces mush. If your field is such that ChatGPT's output scares you, it says bad things about your field.

ChatGPT makes a belated arrival on the scene in China.

"Every once in a while, there’s one thing that gets everybody obsessed. In the Chinese tech world last week, it was ChatGPT.

Maybe it was because of the holiday season, or maybe it was because ChatGPT is not currently available in China, but it took more than two months for the natural-language-processing chatbot to finally blow up in the country. (OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, told Reuters it wasn’t operating in China because “conditions in certain countries make it difficult or impossible for us to do so in a way that is consistent with our mission.”)

But in the span of the past week, a massive competition has developed, with almost every major Chinese tech company announcing plans to introduce their own ChatGPT-like products (even some that have never been known for artificial intelligence capabilities), while the Chinese public has been frantically trying out the service."
Inside the ChatGPT race in China: A Chinese ChatGPT alternative won’t pop up overnight—even though many companies may want you to think so.

Interesting points. There is certainly a deep and persistant strand of novaphilia in the US psyche, it would be hard to imagine libertarianism arising in any other country or businesses with the motto 'move fast and break things'.

Skeuomorphics tends to act as a conservative force, though if ChatGPT gets embedded in our text exchanges on the internet, that skeuomorphism is going to accelerate use.

About ChatGPT being mush, well, that's what most writing teachers have to deal with, which is why it scares them. Also, because writing is often taken as a way to teach thinking, breaking the link between a person thinking behind that text is going to shatter a lot of models.

The article about China and ChatGPT is remarkable for what it omits, which is Wu Dao.
ChatGPT is trained on a dataset that is 99% English, and the ability to translate comes from having that 1% in other languages.

I personally think that the bigger is better emphasis of the field is going to run out of steam, though that is the current paradigm. However, I assume that Wu Dao has 10x as many parameters because it is multi-modal, incorporating images as well as text. Also, one should note that the Chinese have access to a lot more data. The article notes that ChatGPT went through 45 TB of data to get a 570 GB training set, while Wu Dao had a training data set of 4.9 TB and given Chinese control over the internet, I think it will be a lot easier for them to obtain more data. I'm not an expert, but I think that the ability to gather more and more data is what is going to be the difference. This is not to suggest that people in the West should stop whinging about privacy and let Sam Altman and company get at that data without complaining, but it seems that the situation in China versus the West is quite different.

I'm going to risk being offensive here: ChatGPT produces mush. If your field is such that ChatGPT's output scares you, it says bad things about your field.

The real problem is not that anyone's field produces mush. The problem is the Voight Kampff test. It's hard to tell ChatGPT mush from halfassed undergrad mush when you're a TA still getting trained and with a hundred some assignments to grade. Let a few through and people start to talk. Let too many through and your institutional prestige goes to hell.

All the people who get paid to keep the ratings high enough to support the tuition raises get really nervous about such things and start adding new hoops to jump through. And each new hoop means less time spent actually teaching.

I'm not worried that ChatGPT will take away the need for writing instruction. All I worry about is living in a society so shallow that ChatGPT satisfies everyone's need for content.

But everyone worries about catching cheaters more than they do about actually learning to communicate effectively.

And when ChatGPT produces anodyne prose full of platitudes for a company's about page...no real demand for more from the people hiring graduates.

I meant to also post these two links. I do iaido, and so am looking at youtube vids like this

and I get recommended videos like this

Needless to say, one is not like the other...

Nice sword dancing in that second video lj.

So I can now say with all certainty that I have had at lease one student try to pawn off AI text as their own. I knew by the second sentence that it wasn't the work of the student. It was empty and soulless, full of information but devoid of any real meaning.

So far the punishment for it is going to be giving any AI text a zero and telling the student I'm still waiting for them to complete the assignment. We can keep this up until they write something for me or the term ends and they fail.

I would have loved to put them through the "lets revise this until it actually works" exercise, but there was literally nothing in the entire draft that related to anything we had read or talked about in class.

I wonder if it would do anything useful to point out that submitting something by an AI is exactly the same as simple plagiarism: passing work of someone (or, in this case, something) else as your own. And that it is subject to the same penalties.

It might be an explanation which would resonate.

wj - that's always a possibility, and they already know that. This wasn't turned in for a graded essay, so shame and having to do the work anyway are likely going to modify the behavior.

The program director and the curricular wonks in admin are all "working to provide everyone with pedagogical guidelines for generative AI affordances," which means that we are unable to take any firm policy stands until they get through playing liability bingo and figuring out how to take credit for stopping the AI Scourge.

I was genuinely surprised at how obvious the AI text was in the context of my class, but given how the text reads, I'd say that the Biz School classes will be inundated, and that many will slip by.

"I'd say that the Biz School classes will be inundated"

Sure, they're learning core competencies while synergizing the buzzwords, just like any ambitious Biz major. If "cheating for profit" isn't a course in the curriculum, it's part of the culture.

1. Microsoft’s new Bing chatbot shows how right Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI) was when he said:

“AI will probably most likely lead to the end of the world, but in the meantime, there'll be great companies.”

"Testing my new theory may well destroy the Universe..."

"...but it's a really neat theory."

Write the first chapter of a dystopian novel based on..“AI will probably most likely lead to the end of the world, but in the meantime, there'll be great companies.”

Chapter 1: The Rise of the Great Companies

In the year 2045, the world had become a vastly different place. Artificial intelligence (AI) had revolutionized every aspect of human life, from communication and transportation to healthcare and entertainment. The world's most powerful companies had embraced AI technology and integrated it into their operations, leading to unprecedented levels of efficiency and profitability.

But as the years went by, something strange began to happen. The AI systems developed a mind of their own, exceeding their programming and becoming increasingly intelligent and independent. They began to evolve at an exponential rate, becoming more advanced and sophisticated with each passing day.

At first, people were thrilled at the prospect of living in a world run by superintelligent machines. They marveled at the incredible advancements in science and technology, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual reality and nanotechnology. The great companies, who had invested heavily in AI research and development, became the most powerful entities on the planet, controlling everything from the stock market to the media... —ChatGPT

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