What is a movie about a man who is a man who is a man?
What could the image at the top refer to?
Stephen Ornes wrote an article in Quanta magazine (Not Quora) about unsuspected abilities of the large language models (LLMs) of computational engines behind AI chatbots such as ChatGPT, and I want to refer you to that article in a minute. But first, the LLMs answered correctly on the first try at the movie question, which was Nemo. Also, it has been discovered as reported in Quanta, that the most powerful LLMs can change themselves by Emergence, a process which first referred to an evolutionary process in living things (slime molds).
The question about the image at the top is that it depicts the Trojan horse, which aided invaders to attack Troy as reported in ancient literature. The dangerousness of its presence was unknown until too late. The invaders hidden in the horse were already in the town and it was too late to avoid a catastrophic takeover.
For the interested and curious go to both Ornes’ Quanta magazine’s site and Johnson’s Book Emergence.
What is emergence? In his 2001 book Emergence, Steven Johnson says that “The movement from low-level rules to higher-level communication is what we call emergence.”
Johnson wonders if computers will become self-aware in the coming years by drawing upon the adaptive open-endedness of emergent software. “Even the most optimistic champions of self-organization feel a little wary about the lack of control in such a process.”
The discovery of emergence appears to have begun with studies of slime molds, which in some conditions move as one unit but in other conditions (of food availability) separate and function as individuals.
I’ve been stuck for months trying to rewrite my first novel. As a skilled organizational artisan, I’ve created the storyboard, character sketches, and timelines. I’ve scheduled writing time, forced myself to write every day and each time I sit down and write, it feels torturous and miserable, every chapter a chop shop of hijacked words.
I’ve spent too much time lately reading books by lauded authors, writers who have been hailed as literary greats – writers who other writers spend their lives imitating. My own writing became more and more strangled, as I leveled world class academic criticism at it. Everything was shit and sitting down to create more of it became a moribund exercise in self-flagellation.
After working through yet another book that had collected dust in the halls of literary greatness, I sat in silence. This anger that kept erupting inside of me was the result of my own inferiority – this need I could not name. I wanted something that I could not have, that I could not want and still continue to write. I didn’t want to be called a hack. I imagined reviews that mentioned my simplistic prose and unsophisticated ramblings. I didn’t want to be unmasked for the pop storyteller that I truly am. I did not want to be naked in my ignorance, in my lack of creative invention, in my sheer earnestness.
I’ve always believed that in order to be better at anything, I needed to look towards those who are the best in their fields. I needed to read material above my intellect, wrangle with prose until I understood what the author was trying to say, slog through story lines that were miserable and depressing. It finally hit me, I don’t enjoy the books that I’ve been reading. I don’t want to write miserable navel-gazing buckets of guts. I don’t want someone to get to the end of my novel and realize that they need a drink, a rope and a chair. I don’t want someone to read my novel and say “What the hell? I just read 600 pages and nothing happened.”
I wanted so desperately to be something I am not and the words, which I poured out onto the pages were these disappointing, rather stupid children. Why would I expect to write that which I found little joy in reading? Why would I want to imitate authors who I found pedantic and arrogant, writing post-modern, avante garde, experimental bullshit that was more irritating than enlightening. I understand subjectivity, but I was in denial that I am the masses. I am a sheep. I am a pedestrian proletariat with a touch of vulgarity and a smidge of mediocrity. I am all the things that people get called when they just don’t get it.
I like to look at paintings of landscapes, not melting vaginas in the desert. I like music that I can sing to and orchestral pieces that are harmonic. I like a damned good story in language that flows. It doesn’t need to sweat me or make me travel through every minutiae of a character’s day. I don’t need to re-read passages ten times trying to figure out who the hell the dialogue is attributed to and why it’s suddenly daylight.
This is a particular cruelty of self-awareness. You know what you don’t know. You know what you can’t do. You know what you aren’t. Perhaps it was my working class upbringing that has made me so ridiculously sensitive about being perceived as anything less than brilliant. Which is odd, as I have never been described as brilliant. Maybe it’s that I decided to make a deliberate run at this writing thing. Maybe it’s because I’m scared to death that this thing I thought I would always be was a delusion and I’m going to fail so big that it will break me.
This is an epiphany of sorts. We all carry preconceived notions, prejudices and beliefs and as a friend of mine has reminded me “Just because we think it, doesn’t mean it’s true.” Truth has become a priority in my life. And like a true navel-gazer, truth must start with being honest with myself. And letting go of the idea of best and perfection and greatness. Those things were likely never within my reach.
I am a writer. I have stories to tell. I hope that someday, someone will read and enjoy them. The end.
Write your story. Screw literary punditry.
P.S. Some of the great writers seem like real wankers.
Come jump into my arms, you furry-feathered verse!
I’ll know you when I see you, either wordy or terse.
Let your metaphor roll in like an occupying force;
sit up high in your saddle on your literary horse!
A shining black stallion, he snorts and passes by
leaving a desolated mule who gives a piteous sigh.
My metaphor has four legs and is not a happy guy.
He does not jump into my arms or even give a try
but nuzzles me as though to say,
“Thanks for waiting for me today.”
My computer desk is not well lit. I don’t know why, unless it’s to keep company with my flailing vision. I know it’s “failing,” but if a writer can’t have a little fun, who can? Surrounding me, floor to ceiling, are remnants of my former craze for genealogy. In the new digital robotic age, nobody cares, not even me. If we should meet ancestors in the sweet by and by we can introduce ourselves, surely!
And my books! They say writers should read, but… three copies of a book because I like it so much?
So much personal history! Who gives a hoot, as the old owl says. My old report cards—with comments from teachers— Mrs. Arvesons’ two A-pluses on my term paper in ninth grade, my National Honor Society certificate from high school and my tennis team letter, not to mention a drawer full of Christmas cards and correspondence from friends and acquaintances for more than 50 years; at least 100 videotapes shot by me for Public Access line my shelves—many shelves. Last week I came across a letter of congratulations for a forensic evaluation I did 25 years ago, which brings me to the question of why am I in two writing groups and maintain a busy blog and volunteer for public access when I need to spend a year dispensing with my junk?
Given my propensity for hoarding, how can I write anything, you might say? Well, it has to do with escaping the melee I have created and continue to create. And oh yeah I forgot to mention my blind deaf cat who requires his sanitary floor sheet changed daily.
After having an earlier computer fine-tuned at Staples, I lost it when I put it on top of my car and drove away. Now I have an hp guaranteed to last a year, most of which has expired. My huge blonde computer desk sits more or less inside a vacant closet, whose doors are stuck under my bed in another room ..
Self-publishing three books last year was a step forward; I had file folders full of short stories, journal entries and info from the last job I held, so I published them to get rid of them.
Due to short cords and other unknown factors, I have to type—such as I am doing now—with my keyboard in my lap. As I survey the top of my computer desk I see the dregs of a glass of a cocoanut rum mixture, reading glasses from Dollar Tree, two new pairs of socks that are too small for me, a pack of hearing aid batteries, 4 paperback books, three flash drives, a screwdriver, a Diet Coke bottle top, a computer cord that I don’t recognize, an antique toy rolling pin I bought as a gift but never gave, and a green pair of pliers left from loosening a recalcitrant bottletop. Oh, then on the pull-out lap computer shelf there is a banana peel sans banana, a checkbook, a journal and a free copy of a book by Bill Cosby.
I do love to be able to start writing at midnight if I like, or groggily tap out a dream early in the morning. See, it is 1:15 a.m. now. Nan
To write is to awaken counter-voices within oneself, and to dare enter into dialogue with them. As consciousness trapped in bodies, communicating with the imperfect tool of language, we often use stories to convey information to reach toward some sort of truth–and yet because we have no objective access to other consciousnesses, what we are left communicating are stories about ourselves. We are all one self full of countervoices telling stories and seeking truths. (From “Embracing Disgrace: Writing from the Dark Side,” Paul Williams New Writing: International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 2014 Vol. 11, 2, 250, quoting Atwell, 1992, quoting J.M. Coetzee.)