Are Generative AIs just really expensive Ouija boards?

I wonder if Generative AIs are like Ouija boards. Every time I hear someone get freaked out about something that an AI wrote, they ascribe human characteristics to it. They anthropomorphize the computer program and act as if there’s a thinking being expressing human-like desires and feelings. But what the AI produces exists in dialog with the humans who read it. It both comes from human thought (because it has access to a vast quantity of human writing) and it gets filtered through human brains.

We interpret works of art the same way, as if if each piece has a specific, inherent, immutable meaning. But each of us brings something to a work of art. We bring our experiences and biases and we project our own identities on the work in front of us. We create meaning in dialog with the art. The art doesn’t mean anything without an observer. A blob of AI text doesn’t mean anything until we invest it with meaning.

The current crop of AIs are really good at what they do, but they don’t think any more than a Ouija board thinks. A Ouija board isn’t controlled by a supernatural being, but we can convince ourselves that it is if we want to. The AIs are a reflection of ourselves, and that reflection can often fool us into thinking there’s something in there. Like a parakeet with a mirror. It’s a really cool and useful trick, but let’s not give the really clever software more credit than it deserves.

Just bought my first carbon removal offsets on nori.com/. It was super easy, and I wish I had done it sooner.

Well, I’ve done it: I finished my Sustainability Certificate from UCLA Extension. I enrolled in it because the climate crisis felt so huge that I couldn’t begin to think about it. I’m far from an expert now, but I at least I can understand the big picture. Now to figure out how to apply what I know…

Ecological tipping points could occur much sooner than expected, study finds

“More than a fifth of ecosystems worldwide, including the Amazon rainforest, are at risk of a catastrophic breakdown within a human lifetime.”

♻️ A promising development in plastic recycling: Scientists convert everyday plastics into fully recyclable and potentially biodegradable materials If it’s scalable, plastic waste could become raw material for plastic with the same qualities as that created from virgin petroleum. No new oil needed.

Just getting the word out there: A lot of us support climate change policies… “Research published in 2022 in Nature Communications showed that although 66 to 80 percent of Americans support climate change policies, they think only 37 to 43 percent of the population does.” –Scientific American

Boy… losing Mrs. Maisel, Barry, and Ted Lasso in the same week has me a bit emotional. Three great shows with crackerjack writing and exceptional ensembles. I’ll miss them all.

A factoid I read tonight and can’t get out of my head: In 1978, there were 4 billion people on earth. Today there are over 8 billion. By 2100, there will be 10.1 billion.

Congratulations to the Toronto Maple Leafs for getting their first Round One playoff win in nearly 20 years. And big cheers to my Tampa Bay Lightning, who have had a hell of a few years of playoff hockey. Three Cup finals in three years, winning two… that’s a hell of a run.

And that’s it for the climate quiz. Hope you enjoyed it. Remember: climate change is real and scary, but it’s not hopeless. Lots of people are working on ways to keep the worst of global warming at bay, so educate yourself, and do what you can to help. 4/4

Microscopic fossil shells can reveal climatic conditions by the amount and type of calcium carbonate in their shells.

CarbonBrief.org has a great primer on “How ‘proxy’ data reveals the climate of the Earth’s distant past” 3/4

You’re familiar with paleoproxies if you’ve ever heard of studying tree rings to understand historic periods of drought, pests, or fire. Evidence of chemical changes in air and water can also be found trapped in layers of ice drilled out of ancient glaciers. 2/4

Today’s answer: By studying “paleoproxies” such as ocean sediments and sedimentary rocks, we can study ocean and atmospheric temperature from as many as tens of millions of years ago. 1/4

Sooo… How far back can we measure ocean and atmospheric temperatures? a) Hundreds of years b) Thousands of years c) Hundreds of thousands of years d) Millions of years

Climate.gov has a great dashboard of climate indicators so that you can check out some of this evidence for yourself. Just take a look at some of the trend snapshots. The trends are… not great. https://www.climate.gov/climatedashboard

3/3

… more things you can measure to look for evidence of climate change: 6. Strengthening mid-latitude westerly winds 7. Fewer extreme cold events / more extreme heat events 8. Increased precipitation events 9. Biological and ecological changes

2/3

Things you can measure to look for evidence of climate change include:

  1. Surface, oceanic, and atmospheric temperatures
  2. Ice melt
  3. Sea level rise
  4. Storm frequency and intensity
  5. Reduced snow cover … 1/3

Next question: What types of physical evidence could you look at to understand whether climate is changing? What could you measure?

Okay, let’s check your answers: Aside from methane and carbon dioxide, natural greenhouse gases include: water vapor, nitrous oxide, ozone

Synthetic greenhouse gases are: chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)

Okay, next climate question: Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, obvs. Methane is another. Name a third.