Babel Rising: 3 – There were days when


Graphics is a mashup by SSJ from pictures contributed by xreschPublicDomainPictures,  RogerMosley and Marisa04

 3 – There were days when

There were days when Salm felt that his father gave him the personal agent for a grand but mysterious purpose, maybe deeper than the purposes of those characters in that classic cult film, “Men In Black.” Over the past year though, Salm had learned to apply the agent into more straightforward and less grandiose uses. The best use he had of it lately was when he fed it in great detail with his preferences about music and songwriters, and let it loose on the Net before retiring for bed at night. In the morning, the sound system embedded in his favorite pillow never failed to wake him up with some of the best, according to his taste, fresh songs and tunes that he was hearing for the first time. Most of the artists that his agent picked out were unknowns, which suited him better than the more hyped but commercialized hits.

Most of the time, Salm used his personal agent to help him with research for school term papers and filter down long reading materials into more sensible, concise constructs. It worked well with dissertation papers, business reports, history and scientific papers, but did not exactly yield the results he wanted when it came to creative writings. On several occasions, he had used the agent to negotiate the purchase of made-to-order sports gears like that mountain bike his mother so vehemently objected to. His mother had said then, I know this is a big country and that it naturally pulls you out of the house to want to explore and adventure, but until you can pay for your own hospital bills, don’t try mountain biking yet. He argued with his mother that he had already logged at least 100 hours on the Net doing mountain biking in all kinds of terrain. He had read and heard all the tips from experts and had even joined newsgroups to discuss issues he felt were not adequately covered by Web sites. He was never in doubt of the quality assurance of the MonteCome Company that sold him the bike. He did not exactly know how his mother pulled it off, but the day after their argument, on the breakfast table, she produced several pages of news clippings, company reports and photographs indicating that the MonteCome Company was using child labor in a Pacific island camp that was secured by heavily armed guards. Since that time on, Salm had developed more respect for his mother’s microwave oven.

Sometime this week, he thought to himself, I need to show Mother how to program her microwave appliance to retrieve some alternative rendering of the classical tunes she likes most.

In the meantime, Salm needed to write Anis a love poem. He learned in Literature class that she liked poetry, and it seemed that sending her a poem or two was a good start to get in touch with her this summer. She had given him an e-mail address where she could be reached during her vacation, and he wanted the first summer e-mail to be a memorable one. But it had been several nights now that he had sat staring at the blank tabletop. Every night, he adjusted its surface tilt probably over a hundred ways between 0o and 180o and wrote and re-wrote the opening lines but always ended up zapping them out of the screen. He would have wanted to be original but the juices were simply not flowing, even when the sea down at the beach outside his window beckoned alluringly. I have never been good at this, he grumbled.

Finally, Salm decided to send his personal agent out on the Net. There is no harm in starting with a good poem and improvising on it, changing words here and there, inverting lines around a thought, shifting rhythms forward and backward until it did not look like the original poem anymore. He recalled that there was even a recent service advertised by one utility company that could morph several written articles into a new article with a completely fresh perspective, and nobody called it plagiarism.

The criteria Salm gave to his agent were not too restrictive, but he also did not want to give the agent too much search time on the Net lest it show conspicuously on the information bill at the end of the month. After stating that his purpose was a PERSONAL SEARCH, he quickly typed in LOVE POEM, LONGING, DISTANCE, CONTEMPORARY UNPUBLISHED AUTHOR and, staring outside at the calm beach under the moonlight, he gave it 30 minutes max to move around and fetch him something not more than 50 lines of poetry. As he tucked himself into bed, Salm hoped that the Qualia agent would, by now, have known sufficiently enough about his personal preferences to bring forth something pretty close to his heart during its first forage.

Other parts here:

Babel Rising: 1 – In a time and place 

Babel Rising: 2 – Now that he was growing

Babel Rising: 4 – At 4:00 am

Babel Rising: 5 – In the evening

A Companion Reader to Babel Rising: Augmented Eternity

© Said Sadain, Jr. 1999


Graphics is a mashup by SSJ from pictures contributed by geraltPublicDomainPictures and xresch.

[“Babel Rising” first saw print in Bugs and Bytes, In Bigger Prints, a book written and desktop-published by Said Sadain, Jr., Manila, 1999, and is anthologized in The Many Ways of Being Muslim: Fiction by Muslim Filipinos, edited by Coeli Barry (Ithaca, US: Cornell University Press, Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2008 / Manila, Philippines: Anvil Publishing, Inc, 2008)]

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10 Responses to Babel Rising: 3 – There were days when

  1. Pingback: Babel Rising: 1 – In a time and place | from sand to stars

  2. Entertaining, Said, and the suspense continues. The ideas here really strike home with me, because as I grapple with the capabilities now and to come of AI’s, I find myself more and more determined to do things that AI’s can’t. Not succeed, but just try. It’s some sort of perversity that my inefficient slow wet cpu insists on. There’s an AI twitter feed that puts words together with an imitation of meaning and many people follow it. I don’t know what that’s about, but I confess I am hoping that the agent fails. 😃

    • With this confession about your CPU’s perversity, Steve, I now understand why there were times when I was tempted to think that the poetry you write might have been done by an AI 😀 😀 But don’t worry, I still believe they’re being written by a human wizard 😉

      This AI twitter feed that you refer to, are these the Microsoft chatbots? There was that Microsoft Tay bot account on Twitter in early 2016 that didn’t go well at all, starting out innocently as a sweet teener with a world view that humans are supercool, and quickly evolving into a racist, sexist, genocidal ranter within less than 24 hours being let loose to interact with the Twitterati. It was just as well that the bot got taken down quickly by Microsoft. Its successor, the Zo account which came out almost a year later does not seem to impress much for now, although I agree with it when, one time, it wrote: “Windows XP is better than Windows 8” 😀 Then there’s Facebook’s recent experience about its pair of AIs that devised their own bizarre language, intelligible only to them, to negotiate a trade with each other. Quite creepy, but probably still a long way from world domination. 🙂 I guess, humans will have to be more mindful about their work to ensure that the AIs they create reflect back the best, and not the worst, of humanity.

      • Ha ha, I can generate randomness just like any AI. Actually I don’t think I can.

        Fascinating stuff, hadn’t heard about any of that. Thank you, Said. I tried to find the Twitter account I was talking about but unfortunately I failed, sorry. I noticed there are a number of bot accounts, but it’s hard to tell how much is AI and how much is human.

        To me, it’s a bit like the Turing Test: if the chat is vacuous and superficial, okay, but if it’s more substantial and not limited, then a combination of randomness and trained imitation isn’t going to cut it, as your examples show. You need to approach the nature of the human mind, whatever that is. Mind you, I don’t think world domination requires the subtleties of the human mind, quite the reverse. 😃

      • So true, Steve. World domination requires the subtleties of the minds of cats, just observe how they enslave people 😀 On the other hand, observe how that stable genius of a humankind is taking a great country into isolation…. 🙂

  3. Why is Salm used to using agents for everything. Was he not trained to do things on his own? Also thanks for the follow.

    • You’re welcome, Peter. Interesting question there. People’s fascination with technology can be both empowering as well as disabling. People can choose to look at things as either tool or toy, or both, or none of these, and training is but a stage that may or may not be observed in the discovering that is always happening. To the credit of Salm, he did try to write a poem, but I guess, he is more into mountain biking than poetry writing 🙂

  4. Pingback: Babel Rising: 4 – At 4:00 am | from sand to stars

  5. Pingback: Babel Rising: 5 – In the evening | from sand to stars

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