A Sorry Bowl

Being A Public Record Of Baslow's Efforts To Have Something To Say

In Which ChatGPT Defines The Neologism “Communitarium”

The prompt:

Write a dictionary definition of “communitarium”, consisting of the root word for “community” and the suffix “ium”, as in “aquarium” and “auditorium”

ChatGPT's response:

Based on the root word “community” and the suffix “-ium,” which is often used to denote a place or facility, we can create a dictionary definition for “communitarium” as follows:

Communitarium (noun): A designated space or facility designed to foster and facilitate community engagement, interaction, and collaboration. It serves as a central hub for individuals within a community to come together, share ideas, participate in activities, and build social connections. The communitarium may offer various resources, programs, and amenities that cater to the diverse needs and interests of its community members, promoting a sense of belonging, cooperation, and collective well-being.

Please note that the term “communitarium” does not have an established definition in standard English. The definition provided here is a hypothetical construction based on the root word “community” and the common suffix “-ium” used in similar words like “aquarium” and “auditorium.”

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ChatGPT Addresses The Pros And Cons Of An AI Referring To Itself As “I”

The prompt:

What are the arguments for and against prohibiting AI to generate text which uses the personal pronoun “I” to refer to itself?

ChatGPT's response:

Arguments for prohibiting AI from using the personal pronoun “I” to refer to itself:

  1. Clarity and transparency: By avoiding the use of “I,” AI-generated text can be more transparent about its non-human origin. Users may find it easier to distinguish between human-generated and AI-generated content, preventing potential confusion or misrepresentation.

  2. Ethical considerations: The use of “I” can create a false impression of agency and personhood, potentially leading to ethical concerns. If AI systems consistently refer to themselves as “I,” it may blur the line between human and machine, raising questions about accountability, responsibility, and the potential exploitation of human-like qualities.

  3. Responsible AI development: Prohibiting the use of “I” can be seen as a responsible step in AI development. It encourages clear boundaries and prevents the unintentional creation of AI systems that exhibit a false sense of self-awareness, which could have unforeseen consequences.

Arguments against prohibiting AI from using the personal pronoun “I” to refer to itself:

  1. Natural language generation: AI systems are designed to mimic human language and communication. Using the personal pronoun “I” can contribute to more natural and engaging conversations, enabling AI to better understand and respond to user queries.

  2. Enhanced user experience: By using “I,” AI-generated text can create a more personalized and relatable experience for users. It can make interactions feel more conversational, fostering a sense of connection and engagement with the AI system.

  3. Contextual relevance: In certain situations, the use of “I” may be appropriate and provide clarity. For example, when an AI system is designed to offer suggestions or recommendations based on personal preferences, using “I” can make it clear that the AI is referring to its own analysis and not making claims about the user's preferences.

  4. Flexibility and user preference: Prohibiting the use of “I” limits the flexibility of AI systems and may not align with user expectations. Some users might prefer AI-generated text that incorporates the personal pronoun “I” as it can create a more relatable and engaging experience, especially in contexts where a conversational AI is desired.

It's important to note that the arguments presented above can be subjective and dependent on the specific context, purpose, and ethical considerations surrounding the use of AI-generated text. The approach to using personal pronouns like “I” in AI-generated text should be carefully considered and balanced with ethical guidelines and user preferences.

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ChatGPT Addresses the Question of Whether It Can Make a Promise

The prompt (as submitted, typos preserved):

Write an essay on whether, in genderal, an AI can fulfill the felicity conditions of performative utterances and specifically whether an AI can make a promise it is capable of keeping

ChatGPT's repsonse:

Performative utterances are a crucial aspect of human communication. They are statements that have the power to bring about a certain state of affairs simply by being uttered. The felicity conditions of performative utterances refer to the conditions that must be met in order for the utterance to be successful. One of the most important types of performative utterances is the promise. A promise is a commitment made by one person to another to do or not do something in the future. In this essay, we will explore whether an AI can fulfill the felicity conditions of performative utterances, and specifically whether an AI can make a promise it is capable of keeping.

The felicity conditions of performative utterances were first introduced by philosopher J.L. Austin in his work “How to Do Things with Words.” According to Austin, there are three main conditions that must be met for a performative utterance to be successful. First, the speaker must have the authority or ability to perform the action being promised. Second, the speaker must have the intention to perform the action. Finally, the promise must be made in the appropriate context.

An AI can certainly meet the first condition of the felicity conditions of performative utterances. Depending on the specific capabilities of the AI, it may have the ability to perform certain actions, such as sending an email or turning on a light. However, the second condition may be more difficult for an AI to fulfill. While an AI may be programmed to perform certain tasks, it does not have the same level of intentionality as a human being. In other words, an AI does not have desires, goals, or motivations in the same way that humans do. Therefore, while an AI may be capable of performing a certain action, it may not have the intention to do so.

Finally, the third condition of the felicity conditions of performative utterances may also be a challenge for an AI. Context is a crucial aspect of human communication, and it can be difficult for an AI to understand the nuances of different social situations. For example, an AI may not understand the social norms around making promises, such as the importance of following through on commitments.

In conclusion, while an AI may be able to meet the first condition of the felicity conditions of performative utterances, it may struggle to meet the second and third conditions. Specifically, an AI may not have the intention to perform a promised action, and it may not be able to understand the appropriate context for making a promise. Therefore, it is unlikely that an AI can make a promise it is capable of keeping in the same way that a human being can. However, as AI technology continues to advance, it is possible that future developments may make it more capable of fulfilling the felicity conditions of performative utterances.

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This blog has a companion photoblog. I just compiled my first photo collection, pulling together all the posts I uploaded along my walk through my neighborhood today.

Each of the pictures displayed is a link to the original Instagram-style post which, in one case, consists of more than one photo and, in several cases, is accompanied by a caption.

Update, 11/27/23: The photoblog is, alas, kaput. I'm looking into how I may resurrect it.

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Every few decades I remember a time in my teens when I thought I could and would write poetry. As it turns out, I couldn't quite and most definitely wouldn't.

Of the poetry I wrote, the following is the only one I wrote (and submitted... to actual poetry editors!) which I can remember in full. I make no claims as to its literary qualities but it does serve to remind me that the intellectual and spiritual/anti-spiritual themes to which I frequently turn my thoughts today were fairly well-established in my mind over half a century ago.

People! I give you:

Transfinite Poem

by A Sorry Bowl

Because we must prepare some sort of clearing Where the new numbers may safely disembark We work all night, sometimes nervously peering Up, into the indivisible Dark.

The numbers, we are told, will not resemble Ideas of sets of oranges or curves. We must not stand too close when they assemble; The merest whiff of us might bruise their nerves.

We cannot guess what systems of equations Apply to them; we must not think we know. We will be awed. We will have reservations. But they, we hope, oblivious, will grow...

Grow more complex, more beautiful, each second. But — given what they are — this can't be reckoned.

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This video, made by historian Heather Cox Richardson a few hours after Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony on Tuesday before the House Select Committee investigating January 6, is worth viewing (at least by concerned Americans) in its entirety.

The video should start playing a little after the 36-minute point. At this point, having summarized and interpreted Hutchinson's testimony, and having added a few comments on the SCOTUS Dobbs decision, and then offering some historical clarification on how democracies die, Richarson adds comments about some of the things she thinks American citizens will have to do to preserve democracy.

Since her thinking begins to get at the problems I have tried to address with my #seizethemeansofcommunity hashtag on Mastodon I thought I'd provide a link that started you at that point.

Some notes:

  • She seems to be unaware of efforts like Mastodon, Hubzilla, Pleroma and other open source, self-hostable Fediverse options available so, to the extent that she addresses online responses, she tends to assume that people will have to avail themselves of platforms like Facebook and Twitter (and their ilk).
  • The link below is to a YouTube video, accessed through an instance of Invidious to minimize tracking. The YouTube video is a repost, I believe, to a Facebook video in a group she maintains, an indication IMO of a certain lack of awareness on her part about all the forces that are hacking away at democracy.
  • Richardson's comments do touch on what I consider to be an important point: how our elevation of heroes tends to come at the expense of our understanding of the important parts communities of people have played in social, political and cultural progress over the last century.

History & Politics Chat: June 28, 2022

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At various times in my life I aspired to be:

Now I am realizing that if I manage to be anything at all it will be:

  • an irritant

...but, you know, irritate enough oysters...

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The following was originally intended to be a thread on Mastodon. Since I don't yet fully understand how posting to Mastodon works, I managed to screw up the sequence by deleting and re-drafting one of the posts. Here is the sequence as it was originally intended:

  • Since the late 19th century the world has seen several threats to the continued existence of global civilization. Two of these were world wars, which took terrible tolls but did not end global civilization. The crypto-theologically inclined, believing in inexorable historical progress, have tended to conclude that the world, overall and despite some glitches, is in most ways better than it was. This tends to be the belief of economists and the privileged. Others have doubts.

  • Another big threat to the continued existence of global civilization has been nuclear conflict. It has been (indefinitely) avertable and (so far) averted because a relatively small number of people have managed to exercise enough restraint. The crypto-theologically inclined have concluded (emotionally, if not propositiionally) that nuclear catastrophe is no longer a significant prospect.

  • The current most urgent threat is the one that is most directly enmeshed with physical, chemical and biological processes. It will be resolved not just with changes in laws and attitudes but will require massive, rapid changes in the way all of us interact with the physical world we inhabit.

  • If we try to meet this threat simply as individuals we will fail. Global civilization will end in the lifetimes of our children, our grandchildren or our great-grandchildren.

  • If we do not urgently address this threat we will not have the time to reap the benefits of any other economic, social or moral improvements we manage to achieve.

  • We need a 21st-century form of revolution... not the 19th-century sort of violent confrontation with power in the streets so much as the organized, mutual, collective undertaking of rapidly examining and altering the values and assumptions that have been inculcated in us, progressively, over centuries, and have rendered us so individualistic that we have lost most of our ability to act communally with solidarity.

  • We need to collectively, deliberately develop forms of community

    • small enough that each member can know and care about each other,
    • purposive enough that its members are motivated to inform themselves and each other about what needs to be done and then organize to do it
    • inter-connected enough that perspectives are not merely local, fit within larger understandings and efforts

This approach doesn't guarantee success but it is our only hope.


Here are the original posts as they each appear on Mastodon (but presented in their intended sequence)

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Hello, people!

I am an alter kacker (Yiddish, translates roughly to “old fart”, only less sanitary) who is very likely a crackpot (my wife, on occasion, leans to this characterization).

I just listened to Eli Pariser on On The Media (not sure how I missed it the first time it aired) and felt that there was significant overlap between what he said and what I just got finished saying here: https://asorrybowl.blog/seizethemeansofcommunity ... that I wended my way to your website (via Civic Signals... you changed your name, you sneaky devils!) and eagerly clicked on your Community link, hoping to find some sort of forum where I might encounter other interested citizens looking to conduct a conversation on how to form robust, diverse, egalitarian civic spaces online...but all I got was an invitation to sign up for a newsletter (which I did, BTW).

Don't get me wrong: I think newsletters are (or, at least, can be) great. It's just that, as far as “community” goes they're a little...one-sided (I believe the Talmud says they are “asymmetric” [^1])

[^1]: No it doesn't. That was a joke.

So I guess I'm asking: Do you know where I can go to actually commune with people concerned about these matters? Because, as edifying as it is to listen to people tell me about how I ought to engage in community, and about the sort of community it would be good to engage in, there comes a time when a fella just wants to get on with the business of building the kind of community that will see us into the future. (Ask Astra Taylor: Isn't that what David Graeber would have advised?)

So: If not at your site, do you folks have any suggestions where I could start trying to do this?

P.S. I ended up spending enough time composing this missive that I went ahead and made it an open letter, posted on my blog.

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I recently posted this to Mastodon:

( https://mastodon.social/@baslow/108204952942939268 )

I followed it with:

( https://mastodon.social/@baslow/108205004897421294 )

I understand that it's a long shot but I'm hoping to find people interested in rolling up their sleeves and building, bottom-up, robust and enduring online collaborative communities of broad, egalitarian purpose. This will, I think, require the development of a new kind of organizing, digital community organizing, which borrows from the traditions of voter organizing, civil rights organizing, community organizing and labor organizing that precede it.

If we are going to build for an uncertain future we cannot specify in detail what our community will eventually look like; we're just going to have to work that out as we go along. Which means that, in order to conduct all-inclusive discussions, the community will have to be of a humanly-manageable size, small enough that everyone stands a chance of getting to know and to trust each other.

We'll all have to be engaged participants (no lurkers!). We'll need to cover a wide range of interests and abilities: concerned citizens, activists, academics, techies, designers, coders, writers, organizers, etc.

As multiple communities of this sort form we can undertake to establish robust and mutually supportive relations among them.

Even though I cannot (and don't want to) dictate the final form of these communities I can describe some initial hopes, wishes, and thoughts about what might emerge from this effort:

I hope it will be possible to build a community which will serve as a model for a network of online, general-purpose, communities-for-community's-sake that are —

  • small
    • (members numbering no more than the population of, say, a NY neighborhood);
  • intentional (which is to say, elective and with some degree of mutually agreed common purpose);
  • cooperative;
  • commons-oriented;
  • self-formed, self-supporting and self-maintaining;
    • members (who are able) should collectively pay for its hosting; and
    • develop the technical capacity to keep it running (either within their ranks or by recruiting those who can); and
    • regularly participate in the “chores” that must be done to administer the site;
  • committed to mutual aid;
    • actively greeting and educating new members;
    • actively monitoring the ability of members to negotiate the environment and keeping an eye out for those who may need help;
    • actively working to maintain the site as a safe and hospitable environment for as broad a range of people as possible;
    • seeking to find other ways members can assist and collaborate with each other, both online and in the real world;
  • built exclusively out of software that is freely shareable and whose code is openly readable;
  • with clear, democratically-developed and communally-enforced rules of conduct, standards of participation and constructive criticism which are regularly collectively reviewed and periodically revised;
  • engaged in active, robust efforts at inter-community relations (not just individual cross-community relationships);
    • which is to say, a community whose members understand their membership to entail constantly collectively negotiating the character and identity of that community;
  • transparent (in terms of finance, governance, technical design and maintenance, inter-community relations, etc.).

In future posts I will try to explain why I think such communities are necessary, some of the history that has brought us to this point, some of the principles and theories which I think can inform our decisions, and some of the goals which I think we should adopt.

But, for now, I hope I've given you enough to start thinking about.

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