Search the KHIT Blog

Friday, September 1, 2023

More on The Golden Years

A dyskinesiac's digressions
I love that graphic above.
Well, it's now September 2023 as I amble along toward the age of 78. "Pop" and "GGdaddy" to my Grandson Calvin (43 mo) and Great-Grandson Kai (37 mo), respectively.


My daughter-in-law Eileen
My Ganddaughter-in-law KJ
Parkinson'a addled, old washed-up guitar player. People keep reading this blog, so I keep posting stuff. Whatever, keeps me off the streets. Hope that I'm not just adding more noise to the digital fray. I'm workin' on stuff, but I have to cop to some episodic suboptimal focus as I wrassle with these increasing PD symptoms.
apropos of my prior post: What head-shaking bozo stuff will confront us this week? Looking ahead, we have 30 days until the end of the U.S. Federal Fiscal Year, and our right-wing hardliners are hollering for a "government shutdown" in order to try and coerce a theatrical House "Impeachment Inquiry Resolution" against President Biden.

I guess we'll see.

College football is once again upon us. Can't help it, I'm a life-long fan. Recently watched a couple of new Netflix "UNTOLD" documentaries:

Those were excellent. And painfully candid with respect to the cultural and economic problems of high-end football.

With respect to football fiction:

I got in trouble for playing this DVD for Keenan when he was in high school. The laughs were worth it.
And a great non-fiction book which spawned both a movie and an awesome Netflix series.

Connie Britton, Lordy Mercy! 
W/respect to "Johnny Football," and "Swamp  Kings," we have some personal historical affinity:

Notwithstanding that I'm likely leaving serious money on the table, I eventually gave up on that idea, after drilling down deep into more detail about the increasingly morally hinky aspects of online sports gaming. Cheryl would never have any part of it, I am certain.  I dropped any further mention of it with her and family and friends. Money isn't everything (even though Trump never got The Memo).


Jimmy Buffet has died, "only" 76 yrs old.

I continue to update my monthly Lake Mead surface level Excel sheet (we lived in Vegas 1992-2013). The level has risen 20 ft YTD 2023. It's still down 149 vertical ft since Jan 2000, though. I often called Vegas "The Next Anasazi Ruin."
Actually, I have monthly data going all the back to the original filling of the lake. The high water mark came in July 1983, at 1,225 ft. Click to enlarge below.

This young man is a blessing to humanity.

One thing I particularly dig about Jacob (his incomprehensible talents aside). He now has a 6-member worldwide concert touring band (including him). THREE of them are amazing young women: Alita Moses (vocals, percussion), Bryn Bliska (keyboards, vocals), & Emily Elbert (guitar shredder, vocals).

Now, my Vegas tribe is certifiably badass, but this crew is way scary. I would love to see them show up one night at the Copa hang and sit in. It'd be a whole new level, off the chain.


Gotta say, Jacob is the low-hanging fruit of live performance photographers. To mix metaphors, can you say "target-rich environment?" I been known to take a shot or two. For a number of years I was the goto Vegas "20 ft from stardom" photo dude, roaming the stages dressed in black, always vigilant for the opportune click.

Total fun. Never asked for a penny. I had plenty of money. I had to support my peeps.

Good grief...

10,000 words of sobering detail.
...Editing human embryos for reproduction is taboo in the world of genetic engineering; the possibility is too great that a scientist will accidentally introduce mutations that harm the subject and affect future generations... 

Crispr, which may be the single most transformative biological technology of the twenty-first century, is a natural phenomenon, evolved over billions of years. It was first observed in the nineteen-eighties, when researchers noticed unexplained sequences of viral DNA in E. coli. Eventually, they realized that these sequences played a role in the bacteria’s immune system: they could find and destroy other pieces of viral DNA. Isolated and distributed in tiny vials to laboratories around the world, crispr would become the primary tool of genetic engineering. A couple of drops, introduced by pipette to a cell, could reliably cut the double strand of DNA, changing the function of its genes. Research that once consumed years of a scientist’s career could now be completed in a few weeks.

The crispr system is often likened to a pair of scissors. In 2012, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier found a hand to direct those scissors: a guide-RNA protein that could target specific genes. It was a monumental discovery, and in 2020 they won the Nobel Prize.

Doudna and Charpentier’s method was highly replicable and relatively inexpensive. You can buy a vial of crispr and a guide RNA on the Internet for a few hundred dollars. Gene-editing research has accelerated rapidly, along with efforts to commercialize the technology. Doudna, a professor at Berkeley, founded the Innovative Genomics Institute to study practical applications of crispr, and five companies to exploit the discoveries.crispr promised to transform medicine, providing a way to cure a patient of genetic disease by editing the DNA of the affected tissues. That form of editing is known as “somatic”; the changes it introduces are limited to the individual patient. Editing an embryo, by contrast, changes the DNA of the embryo’s future eggs or sperm—its “germline”—causing modifications that will pass down to subsequent generations. As crispr became available, a broad consensus emerged among scientists that they should, at least for the time being, resist the temptation to make heritable changes to the human genome. crispr was too new and too poorly understood. “You never know what you will introduce,” Charpentier told me. “Is it the realization of a nightmare?”...
...imagine an attempt to address the profound social inequality associated with race in the United States by editing away features that can drive discrimination. “If you move into the zone of fixing social problems with genetic changes, that’s throwing a door wide open that takes us to terrifying places,” Hurlbut said. “The mandarins of science have a remarkable inability to see that’s the doorway this first experiment passed through, and it is the most plausible doorway, and people will be inclined to avail themselves of it again.” In mid-August, he sent me a paper from a group at Stanford, documenting newly discovered genes governing the production of melanin, which determines skin pigmentation.

By refusing to accept the role of rogue scientist, JK presents a kind of rolling crisis for the scientific community—a dark mirror of its own ambitions. Expanding beyond his goal of devising a therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he said last November that he was hoping to cure as many as five genetic diseases in two to three years...
Highly recommended reading. (Yeah, subscription-paywalled. Well worth it.)
Thinking about Jacob Collier, it occurred to me that this song of mine is 14 yrs older than him.

I cut this demo in my home studio in Knoxville in 1980, LOL.
  BobbyG, 1980, "You've Got The Magic"

That's my bud Jellyroll Johnson on harp. A great friend.

Our (mostly analogue) audio tech was pretty primitive in comparison to today.


From a recent Atlantic Monthly article on Donald Trump, featuring an embedded audio companion. The "female" V/O is AI, not a human narrator.

  "Artificial Intelligence Audio V/O example"
Following each new indictment of Donald Trump, the former president and his allies have wasted no time in attacking the case. Their complaints have gravitated toward one idea in particular: the notion that prosecutors have charged Trump for engaging in the normal work of politics.

The latest indictment, in Fulton County, Georgia, is “an example of this criminalization of politics,” commented Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—who’d made a similar comment last month about Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump on charges related to January 6. Jenna Ellis, who was charged alongside Trump in Fulton County, tweeted on Tuesday, “The Democrats and the Fulton County DA are criminalizing the practice of law”—a reference, presumably, to the indictment’s focus on her role as a member of Trump’s legal team working to overturn the 2020 presidential election...
The human-like vocal interpretative cadence and inflection emphases, while not yet "perfect," are rather impressive. I simply played the embed in the article web page while using my iPhone "Voice Memo" app as a medium rez mono .mp4 file. No post- enhancements.

There are already a bunch of startups out there promising to convert all of your text (e.g., essays, articles, blog posts, books) to V/O in "your" distinctive (digitally-faked) voice—for a fee, of course (one-time or subscription). Given that I've been told I have "a great face for radio," this could work for me. arf, arf.


Gonna be 98F here in Baltimore today. Lyin' low, staying in the house reading. Interesting take on AI development.

… “If we understand—or we have evidence, and very clear evidence in the form of language-like communication—that intelligent creatures are living there and that we are destroying them, that could change the way that we approach our Earth.”

“I always look to Roger’s work as a guiding star,” Gruber told me. “The way that he promoted the songs and did the science led to an environmental movement that saved whale species from extinction. And he thought that ceti could be much more impactful. If we could understand what they’re saying, instead of ‘save the whales’ it will be ‘saved by the whales.’

“This project is kind of an offering,” he went on. “Can technology draw us closer to nature? Can we use all this amazing tech we’ve invented for positive purposes?”

ChatGPT shares this hope. Or at least the A.I.-powered language model is shrewd enough to articulate it. In the version of “Moby-Dick” written by algorithms in the voice of a whale, the story ends with a somewhat ponderous but not unaffecting plea for mutuality:

I, the White Leviathan, could only wonder if there would ever come a day when man and whale would understand each other, finding harmony in the vastness of the ocean’s embrace.
Elizabeth Kolbert always rocks!

Hmmm... recall my prior ChatGTP riff? Also, how about Dr. Nita Farahany's concerns regarding AI, Ethics, and Democracy? ... Could AI do "Argument Analysis?"

… I hear a coyote bark, then another. Where else on Earth does sentience reside? Do dogs feel pain like mine? Does an earthworm enjoy smells? Are machines ever going to have conscious feelings? Do they already? How could we know?

Barking again. Have the coyotes caught a rabbit? Poor rabbit. One minute she's comfortably scratching her ear, the next a coyote has her by the neck.

What to say about the downside of sentience? The philosopher Schopenhauer wrote: ‘If the reader wishes to see whether the pleasure in the world outweighs the pain, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of whom is engaged in eating the other.’

… Suppose consciousness as it exists on Earth is a one-off accident of evolution. Astronaut Frank Borman, looking from the window of Apollo 8, remarked, ‘the Earth is the only thing in the universe that has any colour’. This can't be strictly true. But it could be true that the Earth is the only place where sensations of colour exist. Or sensations of anything: sweetness, warmth, bitterness, pain. Which would be better: a universe without either joy or tears or a universe with both? Philosopher Thomas Metzinger agrees with Schopenhauer: the net utility is negative. He says that if an all-powerful and all-knowing ‘superintelligence’ could look across the world of pleasure and pain, and do the sums, it would conclude that it had a moral obligation to eliminate conscious life.

I think he's wrong. We don't live by bread alone. Pain and pleasure can't be all that matters. But there's no question that they matter. When we have reason to think someone is suffering, we have a duty of care. Some people think we have an equal duty towards any sentient being—human, nonhuman, even robot. It's not self-evident. But it could still be a rule we choose to live by. In that case, we have a heavy obligation to get it right about what in the world is conscious and what isn't.

The Norwegian government permitted the drawn-out, ugly, killing of more than 1,000 whales, including breeding females. But the Swiss government has made it illegal to boil lobsters alive and the British government soon may do the same…

Humphrey, Nicholas. Sentience. MIT Press. Kindle Edition. loc 61-77
I look out now across a wide space of nothing but water and birds ending in a line of green slopes with clumps of trees. Right over the edge of the boat the water contains seemingly just under the surface a ceaselessly moving network of reflected sunlight through which a school of very tiny fish passes delightfully uncaught. Yet only a few yards from where we are moored, tackle shops sell the salmon and crabs with which this particular area abounds.

This is the paradox of the ocean. Sand, flying spray, pebbles and shells, driftwood, sparkling water, space incredibly luminous with cloud banks along horizons underlying skies into which one's imagination can reach without end. But under the surface of both sky and water there is the grim business of preying. Men and birds against fish, fish against fish. The tortuous process of life continuing by the painful transformation of one form or body into another. To creatures who do not anticipate and reflect imaginatively on this holocaust of eating and being eaten, this is perhaps not so terrible. But poor man! Skillful beyond all other animals, by being able to think in time, and abstractly knowing the future, he dies before he is dead. He shrinks from the shark's teeth before they bite him, and he dreads the alien germ long, long before its banquet begins.
At this moment I see a gull that has picked a crab from a tidepool. Sprawled now upon the sand, the crab shrinks from the walls of its shell which is resounding to the tap, tap, tap of the gull's beak. Who's that knocking at my door?

I suppose the shell of a crab, a clam, or a mussel is the boundary of its universe. To put ourselves into their position, we would have to imagine a knocking sound louder and louder, a sound which doesn't come from anywhere in particular, from some door, the walls, the ceiling, the floor. No, instead think of a knocking which comes from everywhere, beating against all the boundaries of space and consciousness, intruding like some utterly unknown dimension into our known and familiar world.

"Let me in! Let me in! I love you so much I could eat you. I love you to the very core, especially the soft, juicy parts, the vitals most tender and alive. Surrender to this agony, and you will be transformed into Me. Dying to yourself you will become alive as Me. We shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, on the morning when the last trumpet sounds. For behold! I am He who stands at the door and knocks."

There is simply no way of getting around all this. The gull can't really be said to be rapacious or greedy. It's just that his being alive at all is the same thing as eating crabs. Sea birds are transformations of fish; men are transformations of wheat, steers, and chickens. A love for the food is the very agony of the food. To object to this inseparability of pleasure and pain, life and death, is to object to existence. But, of course, we cannot help objecting when our time comes. Objecting to pain is pain. So far as we know, the gull and the fish don't philosophize. They appear instead to enjoy life when they are eating, and hate it when being eaten. But they don't reflect upon the process as a whole and say, "How rough to have to work so hard for a living," or, "It's just hell having to watch out all the time for those damn gulls." I'm sure that in their world this is all something that just goes along with life like having eyes or feet or wings.

But man, with his astonishing ability to stand aside from himself and think about himself-in short, to comment on life, man has done something which confuses his own existence down to its roots...

Tomorrow will be 14 months precisely to the 2024 U.S. national elections.

No comments:

Post a Comment