Friday, January 29, 2016

The Book of Questions: 006

The Book of Questions (by: Gregory Stock) is just that - a book of questions. The only answers are the ones we, the reader, come up with on our own in isolation or with a group of friends. These are guaranteed to shift the conversation with loved ones in whole new directions. For me, I decided to take it upon myself to slowly, but surely, go through the entire book.  There are 292 questions. This could take awhile.

Keep in mind that I write these as if they were spontaneously presented during a fireside chat. I don't plan out or outline what I am going to write. It's my belief that sometimes, in certain situations - such as a fireside chat - we need to know that while we are accountable for what we say out loud, we need to be given a fair chance to retract. Sometimes we need to hear our thoughts to truly see the validity and truth behind them and to comfortably say, "You know what? I take that back." I think this becomes more and more necessary as media pounces on anything said so they can twist and manipulate the real meaning, behind the words - granted, the truth isn't always pretty. 


With our culture obsessed with in-your-face reactions and responses, we're rarely given time to think before speaking - Not excuses for things that are said, but just saying that sometimes we need to give the benefit of the doubt seeing that you, as well as myself, have felt relieved on more than one occasion to be given such grace. With that said, I'll take a mound of burning logs under a mountainous, starry sky than a camera in my face. Can I get an "Amen"?

Question: How would you react if you learned that a sad and beautiful poem that touched you deeply had been written by a computer?

Supplementary Question: How would you feel if you knew that within a century, intelligent machines would be self-aware and much smarter and more creative than humans? Why?

I will start with the latter first. I say, bring it on! Truth be told, it's already happening. At least it seems like it. We have crash-proof cars in the works and cars that already sense objects in the road - although this has yet to be perfected. Does any of this mean machines are smarter than us? No. It does mean technology is progressing rapidly in certain realms and that's a frightening reality. The good news is that we have a choice to embrace and accept the change or not. There are people now that choose to live where technology doesn't reach them. The dusty lands of Texas or the arctic chill of Alaska come to mind not to mention the places where people only wish they had their geographical location gave them a choice. But along with their choice comes big decisions. If you want to maintain an income and some sort of social connections, you may just have to bite the bullet and go with the flow. Come on, it's not that bad. Self-driving cars that won't crash? I'm in.

As far as being more creative, I say, challenge accepted. The best producers, thinkers and creative minds - by by guess - work better under pressure. Their best results come when the ticking of time is clear and present. Sure it can be stress-inducing, but when has stress ever killed anyone? Okay, don't answer that. In all seriousness, if machines becoming more creative than us is what it takes for America as a whole to start producing better quality products then I can't wait. I'm personally fed up with the mediocre-at-best-quality that continues to come off the production line.

Now, how about learning that your favorite song, poem, book or even TV show or movie was written by none other than a computer. It would be a bittersweet. The bitter comes with the realization that Bono - the person responsible for inspiring my hobby of writing - wasn't the author of such spiritually and visionary lyrics. Or that David wasn't the genius behind Psalms.  Or J.J. had nothing to do with Lost! The sweet? Well, the fact of the matter is that those and all other masterpieces of writing would still exist. Would they be any less inspiring if they didn't originate from a human mind? I suppose knowing that there is another person out there painting a picture with words of how you feel is why we are so drawn to the powerful beauty of words and stories. But don't ask me. This is just a fireside chat. 

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