Tagged: smart

A Modest Proposal for Optimal Use of Artificial Intelligence

If you’re still in the camp that believes a near future dominated by artificially intelligent machines is nothing but a dystopian daydream, consider this: Not long ago, an artificially intelligent computer program called AlphaZero, hooked up to industrial-strength, Google-supplied processors, was given the rules of chess. That’s it. By playing countless games against itself, billions(?),...

One Unofficial Version of Events, Inspired by Terence McKenna

Moko the Hunter possessed all the attributes an early proto-human hominid needed for success. He was strong, strong enough to choke a wild boar with his bare hands. He was stealthy, able to blend into foliage and tree canopies like a biped chameleon. And he could wait patiently for hours, standing still as a birch...

“Nothing But Gifts,” by Edwin Dobb

Published in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine, the essay “Nothing But Gifts,” by Edwin Dobb, is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing we’ve lately had the pleasure of reading. Discursive and tangential in form, the essay nonetheless always returns to the author’s central inquiry: What does it mean to choose to love? The adoptive...

Better, From Several Perspectives

When a business owner replaces employees with automation — machines, robots, computers — the effects radiate in two opposite directions. On one hand, the employees (and their families), have less, since they no longer draw a paycheck. On the other, the owners (and their shareholders) have more, because lower payroll means higher profits. A dear...

The Mind’s I

We recently encountered the 1981 anthology “The Mind’s I,” by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett, and we’re pretty sure our brain will never be quite the same. The collection contains “fantasies and reflections on self and soul” expressed in essays, stories and one-act plays that work as literary thought experiments meant to refine (define?) our understanding...

Our Undemocratic Impulse to Defeat the Waze App

Vista, the little Sunset Square “capillary” street we live on, runs North-South between two major “artery” boulevards, Hollywood and Sunset. Because there’s a school at the end of our block, diverting traffic around the block to the East or West, Vista Street is inconvenient for those in a hurry. Most drivers take a more direct route, one that...

Xandria Phillips’ “Reasons for Smoking”

“I write to you from the predicament of Blackness,” is the opening line of Xandria Phillips’ new collection of poems, “Reasons for Smoking.” Unwritten, but deeply felt, is the predicament of Femaleness. And Gayness. And Differentness. All these challenges are met (and rhetorically bested) by this fierce poet’s keen sense of self and of the...

Lance Mason’s “A Proficiency in Billiards”

Like legions of other itinerant seekers, Lance Mason has backpacked and motorcyled the world, crossed the oceans on freighter ships, seen how the rest of the planet lives. He’s got tales to tell. All traveler’s do; among the peripatetic horde, Mason is among the most gifted writers we’ve encountered. His collection of travel essays, “A Proficiency...

Judah Friedlander’s “America is the Greatest Country in the United States”

Like their ancestor the King’s jester, modern comedians have implicit license to express out loud what many think but few are permitted to say. The best stand-up comics are truth-tellers. Their magic is to get you to laugh at the truth instead of cry. In his new special, “America is the Greatest Country in the...

The Struggles of Garry Kasparov

In 1986, when Jack Nicklaus won the Masters golf tournament at age 46, it was hard for us to understand what all the fuss was about. Sure, he made history, becoming the oldest player to win one of the four “majors.” But he was a lifelong athlete doing what he did best. Golf is a...