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PINE NUTS – Glad to be Here to Bear Witness

July 20, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

Residing in the 19th century has long been a convenient and comfortable escape for me. But I’m starting to feel a little cramped now, as I’m not always able to escape 21st century assaults of internecine war, climate catastrophe, and the advance of artificial intelligence.Not being a poet, it is not possible for me to wax melancholy, but the country I love and call home is no longer seen by the rest of the world as a shining beacon of hope and happiness. We are regarded more today as a well-armed failed state. A 19-year-old French citizen, in referring to the teenage driver whose killing at a traffic stop prompted recent unrest in France, is quoted as asking, “How can someone be killed for refusing a traffic stop? Are we in America or what?”

Our sending cluster munitions to Ukraine could come back to bite us in the asparagus, as mission creep morphs into morals creep. We’ve seen how preparation for war begets war, and escalation is usually the tripwire. Robert Oppenheimer cautioned us, “If there is another world war, this civilization may go under.” Scarily, we accept that genocidal weapons are now in the hands of persons of questionable character.

Comparable dangers lurk in the arrival of artificial intelligence, where danger and solutions to danger are mixed together. Here again, if mission drift wafts into mission creep, well, we could be toast. 

Our little skulls are Davids compared to the Goliath skull of AI, and while the intelligence of AI expands exponentially, our intelligence seems to be on hold. There doesn’t appear to be anything about us that cannot be surpassed by AI, and surpassed in a New York minute. Mitigations must be put in place to control this colossus before it controls us…

I used to escape to Mark Twain’s home…  

“To us, our house was not unsentient matter – it had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals, and solicitudes, and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.” 

But now the very thought of matter being sentient is somewhat unsettling to me…

As for climate, when I was a kid, we used to say it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Today in Las Vegas it is too hot to get to the sidewalk, for your brain might get fried before you arrive. The two hardest things to find in Las Vegas today are designated shade and a designated driver.

Know what keeps me almost sane? The arrival of a good friend, sharing a couple cold Icky IPA’s, smoking a couple Cohibas, and engaging in some vigorous conversation, this is what keeps me almost sane in this troubled 21st century. Hell, I’m just glad to be here to bear witness…

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

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