A joy of wonder . . .

The icon that was inadvertently dislodged from Ninjago City and fell beneath a set of shelves in my porch/office/LEGO studio.

In one of my writing groups, the monthly task has been to do a piece on the deep significance of something very small. The writing should embody the meaning, rather than telling us. I decided to write something about my discovery of an iconic piece of LEGO.

I was pleased (I confess that I am easily pleased with my own output) with the nuance and structure of my little poem, simple as it was, in that it broached something significant in the consideration of something very small. So far so poetic.

After I shared both my effort, and a startling piece in yesterday’s Guardian about the emergence of a new generation of chatbot, our son presented a couple of stories he’d inveigled the public chatbot to compose. You can create your own account, and venture into the ‘playground’ area where you too can ask the chat to create something for you. You might be as surprised, and as filled with wonder, as I’ve been, this morning.

My instruction was quite precise: Write a poem about a grey-haired grandpa who is downsizing with his beloved partner and discovers an iconic piece of LEGO under a set of shelves that reminds him of a lovely day with their grandson building and illuminating Ninjago City.

Instantly, the chatbot returned this piece, untitled:

Grandpa's hands, grey-haired and steady,
Turned over an old piece of Lego
It was Ninjago City, in all its glory
A reminder of a special day

The day he and his partner, his beloved sweetheart
Had built the city with their grandson
Laughter and light had filled the room
As they set up the pieces one by one

As Grandpa and his partner downsized
They stumbled upon a forgotten surprise
It was Lego Ninjago City they found
The day that had been lost was now found

Grandpa smiled, recalling the day
When joy had filled them all
The memories flooded back to him
As his hands held the Lego small

As he reminisced, a tear ran down his cheek
As he thought of that special day
He knew he'd never forget that moment
When the city lit up and glowed in all its way

Since I have spent the past three years composing a trilogy of science fiction novels about the advent of the Artificial Superior Intelligence (Biome NE47), I’m really interested in any auguries of the Great Singularity, which is that point, predicted sometime between 2030 and 2050 when Artificial Intelligence becomes able to exist, and think, independently. When its capacity begins to outstrip anything humanity can do, and then proceeds to develop in ways far beyond our capacity even to understand. Or something like that — whether consciousness enters the equation is a moot point.

The classic test of computer intelligence has always been the Turing Test, in which questions asked of human or machine elicit answers indistinguishable from each other. But now the AI scientists have developed a chatbot that can make passable poetry — I might quibble with its capacity to write lines that scan but still, wow. Its story-telling ability is even better!

Of course, I’d like to think that my own effort, titled Ninjago City, of course, is a bit more nuanced, dynamic and, well, poetic in a word. I might reveal it here after my writing group has had a chance to consider. But for now, I’m going to let the chatbot have the last word, and just sit back in dumbfounded wonder.

Maybe I should reinvigorate my efforts to get an agent (and then a publisher) interested in my prose, which concerns a human response to the mysteries imposed by the Artificial Superior Intelligence, come the day. Can the Singularity be far away?

2 responses to “A joy of wonder . . .”

  1. Larry, Just getting to yesterday’s Joy. I can identify with the thrill of finding a small something which I thought was lost forever. Please don’t spread that around bc I feel childish when I find the small object & do a happy dance. The happy dance is only in my mind. Bc of Today’s Joy the next time I find something & rejoice I will stop & ponder why i an so happy. BTW I used to love the animation of Grandpa with Grandkids using Legos which you created & posted in yesteryear. (Don’t let grammarians see that sentence.)

    Today’s Joy increases paranoia in someone imprinted with paranoia. Yesterday I read an 9nline article about AI applications collecting all the data it does and how one big AI program mines apps for data to file away. We’ve quickly given permission to various consumer apps to collect everything from our faces, our voices, singing online, dancing, sports, our photos & videos. In other words everything we do is being converted into data bits. The article detailed some bad ways certain industries are having AI create. In turn my imagination created a bit of lasting paranoia about AI. Later I thought that a science fiction writer like yourself could make it even scarier. When will AI censor writers? I won’t make a suggestion as some would but do you own a pipe? Write on. Henry


    1. Well, I’m behind with today’s joy, Henry, as things are pressing on a lot of fronts. Very amusing thoughts though, as well as being really quite concerning. I think a lot of folks do a kind of mental happy dance — I remember doing a real physical one, with a hop and a skip, in the lab one day! I think that in general we’re quite blissfully unaware of the dramatic advances in Artificial Intelligence already, or of the predicted huge leaps that AI could/would make once the Singularity arrives. A writer from Australia, however, (Future Superhuman) suggests that 2100 will be unrecognisable to us. I just hope that somehow biodiversity will not be lost in the meantime, before the Artificial Superior Intelligence saves the planet, as James Lovelock wrote in his last book Novacene. Keep smiling!



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