Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues











Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues










Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues











Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues

"History is just people doing things"


                 ISSN 1087-2302   Online Edition Number 325......January 2023

Published since 1985 for clients and contacts of 
ABQ Communications Corporation, the fuzzy focus

of The ABQ Correspondent is "the impact of new 
technology on society." If you'd like to receive email 
notification when each monthly issue is posted, please 
let us know.   correspo at swcp dot com


ARTISTS ARE REVOLTING…um no, don’t mean that that exactly…

The internet is awash in outraged commentary about the heartless, soulless, artificial, wholly derivative product of image and text generators that have become good enough, fast enough, and cheap enough to be genuinely useful. One article getting much attention is Artists Are Revolting Against AI Art on ArtStation in which Author Chloe Xiang explains the issues. ArtStation is a site on which commercial artists can present their portfolios to prospective clients. Some of those artists are the ones protesting the inclusion of AI generated art on the site in competition, one supposes, with theirs.

It's easy now, using several sources, to describe a picture in words so that machine intelligence can render images that match the description…often in various styles, in no time flat.

Similarly, people are worrying loudly about the ethics of using text generators like chatGPT, which can compose astonishingly good articles/stories/ explanations, etcfollowing  suggestions or questions the user provides. Among the many commentaries online, it’s worth taking a look at this one by Tegan Jones. Even if you just skim it, go all the way to the end.  

And there are the deepfakes the Correspo has touched on more than once: synthetically generated video and audio simulating the sound and look of real people persuasively. Intel* has now announced development of a highly reliable system for detecting fakes…which would probably have to be embedded in your glasses and ear buds to keep you aware of transient fake sounds and images around you.

The upside is that people are using these tools to produce better work faster. One of my excellent granddaughters has recently joined a writers group, some of whose members tell her they are running copy through chatGPT to see if it contains unintended implications or the system suggests any angles that hadn’t occurred to them. It’s like bouncing ideas off another person, very useful. Presumably artists are using DALL-E2 to suggest ideas for work using their own insights. It helps them to make a living.

For centuries people have been intrigued by the possibility of machine intelligence, developing systems (maybe even self-aware) that are capable of “thinking” the way people do, hoping to simulate the performance of people. The early systems we’ve been talking about sometimes get things wrong, show poor taste, use foul language, are bigoted, and not trustworthy.

Gee, sounds just like people. 

*Back when Earth was still cooling we

often drove to our studio/lab in Mountain

View CA, past a just-opened business in

a single bay in one of the million office/

warehouse buildings that sprang up like

mushrooms as Silicon Valley was

forming. Their name was puzzling.

Was it pronounced INtel or InTEL?

Still not sure.



Bruce Schneier is best known as a cybersecurity expert who offers practical observations about inhibiting hacking and which widely used systems seem likely to cause us regret, but he thinks more broadly about society. As a figure at Harvard’s Kennedy School among other institutions he, has a number of bully pulpits from which to speak. He recently hosted a two-day workshop on “reimagining democracy,” pointing out that the circumstances… travel …communication, etc… under which the fellows set up the U.S. government in the 1700s were different from those of the 2000s. We might helpfully tweak some organizational features of our system, enabling the spirit of the thing to flourish more satisfactorily. This recalls a slightly more ill-tempered proposal of Iben Browning’s back in the 1970s. Iben observed that to nobody’s surprise the massive bureaucracy of government centered on the District of Columbia has assumed an identity of its own. It has been proposed that the residents of D.C. should have the right to vote in national elections, even that it should become a state with senators and a least one congressional district. Some worry that those legislators might have disproportionate influence in the operations of the bureaucracy they represent. Iben’s suggestion was to alter the constitution to require the national capital to be mobile, moving every five years to a different place in the U.S. chosen by lot. That would bring the harrowing realities of operating a big organization right into the neighborhoods of the voters who are paying for it, remove any complacency of the bureaucrats, and reduce the insulation between legislators and the folks back home. The mutual pain could be instructive for all. At any rate, there’s a whole lot of entertaining speculation and one hopes that Mr. Schneier’s efforts are productive.




A couple of fellows who call themselves The Slo-Mo Guys  have a YouTube channel on which they show movies of fast action events …from “normal” stuff like hitting a pane of glass with a bullet to crazy stuff like firing a cue ball from a cannon to break a triangle of balls on a pool table...taken with cameras operating at hundreds to hundreds of thousands of frames a second. Beware! This is addictive, and you’ll find it hard to get back to work. In one episode they visit Cal Tech to watch a camera operating at ten trillion frames a second. Wow.



Some of the best fun we ever had was watching automated systems in food and pharmaceutical factories. These are all sorts of machines doing what machines do in various pursuits.  Have fun.



A common sentiment in reaction to last month’s discussion of synthetic biological products is best expressed by the phrase “Lab grown meat creeps me out.” Maybe we’ll get used to it. There’s at least one other practical concern; those cells are grown with nutrients selected (empirically, one hopes, not theoretically) by experts who pretty well know what they’re doing. Are they missing anything? Critters that wander around field, forest, stream, and sea, eating what’s available, inevitably ingest and assimilate all sorts of things they’re not really thinking about. Plants don’t wander much, but they also ingest whatever is available. Nature is not tidy, and mixes things quite carelessly in her effort to keep the world running. What is missing from the diet of the cells that produce synthetic foods? Maybe it’s not only identifiable physical stuff, but also the experience that comes of scuffling through life filled with random helpful and unhelpful features. Is that important? We shall see.     



…and when the exterminator came on his monthly visit to discourage vermin from infesting the house, he was late, and driving a beat-up old truck instead of his nice new one. He hadn’t been able to start the new truck that morning. The mechanic told him that mice had been chewing the insulation on wiring in the engine. Turnabout is fair play.




This item from June 1998 comes to mind just because

we’re well into the third decade since the piece was

first published, and the world is full of decision-making

people who have no recollection of what Y2K was about.


The current difference of opinion between the U.S. Department of Justice and Microsoft Corporation over the propriety of Microsoft’s grip on the computer industry suggests that reason has little to do with the matter. While the company’s hubris insulates it from understanding the complaints of the people it frightens and overwhelms, the DOJ’s insistence on certain measures (dis-integrating internet functions from the operating system, for example) flies in the face of reality. It’s like legislating a value of 3.0 for Pi, to make all that bothersome arithmetic unnecessary. If you’re waiting for the public to express itself helpfully, don’t hold your breath. Consider that a well educated, technically competent geologist with decades of practical experience, inquired recently what all the fuss was about the Year 2000 Problem. After listening to the explanation (including the observation that it’s more complicated than anybody is likely to think, owing to thousands of arbitrary decisions made in ignorance over the years), he asked: “Does Bill Gates know about this?” He was assured that Bill has heard about Y2K. “Well,” he said, “why doesn’t he just fix the problem?” This was a serious question from an otherwise relatively sane man. Somehow, the Bill we knew slightly as a disheveled, driven young computer geek has not only become startlingly rich, but has acquired an aura of absolute invincibility with respect to computers. The mind boggles. I recall as a child being told that Horowitz was the world’s greatest pianist... and I believed that was an objective fact; the title was real, and had been established by some authority. A chap who was raised in Russia in the Stalin era observed that he believed without question that the Generalissimo was the best hand at everything, and if he wasn’t performing miracles of brain surgery every day, it was only because he was too busy with pressing matters of state. The chap was astonished to learn otherwise in his later years. Bill Gates is achieving the same superhuman status in the eyes of the general populace...not because he is striving for that, one supposes, but because he is a symbol of his time. Then again, maybe he really could haul off and solve the Y2K problem, if he weren’t too busy with brain surgery and pressing visionary matters. Perhaps we should ask.

Indeed, we got through the Y2K turnover without

major problems, aided probably by a massive review

of installed software that not only reduced the chances

of turning into a pumpkin as the calendar passed the

magic date, but doubtless cleaned up a lot of other

problems, and increased the efficiency of our systems

significantly. Apparently, Bill didn’t achieve that single-

handed. Meanwhile the hassle between the DOJ and

Microsoft has quieted somewhat while that between

Microsoft and the EU regulators has escalated. Mr.

Gates’ image has morphed from that of an untidy

geek to that of a major philanthropist with a geeky

history. Not all bad, probably.


For those who don’t remember, the Y2K problem

arose from the fact that to many people writing

inventory management software, for example, in

the 1970s and ‘80s the year 2000 seemed like the

irrelevantly distant future. If one of their systems

detected that a batch of perishable product was

approaching its expiration date, typically

represented by the digits of the year and month…

e.g. 198212, it might automatically discard the

product. To save limited memory space, it was

typical to drop the first couple of digits, making

198212 into 8212, which was OK until the turn

of the century came around, making 20012 into

0012. The system would assume that “00” meant

1900…unless the ambiguity was fixed.

(One retailer reportedly noticed in the late ‘90s

that they weren’t selling more dogfood than usual,

but they were buying vast amounts of it. When a

shipment came in with a 2000 expiration date,

the system would automatically discard it and

order more.) There were bigger, more complicated

potential problems… submarines not working,

people stuck in elevators all over the world, air

traffic control paralyzed, etc

In recent times, what with one thing and another,

Bill’s magical aura has dimmed a bit, but he and

a few others enabled a spectacular revolution in

how society operates That’s notable, probably



Everybody is a Somebody


Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceWell, the link to LuLu, which was printing and shipping the book, has stopped working after some months  of listing it on Amazon at an insane $37, rather limiting sales..

I’ll figure out a practical alternative one of these times, and post the information when I have it.

Meanwhile, the picture of the cover makes a sort of graphically useful anchor at the bottom of this page, so it will stay while I fumble.








Copyright © 2023 ABQ Communications Corporation   All Rights Reserved