It’s true I’ve been critical of human beings becoming overly-dependent on artificial intelligence (AI). Although there’s no question it can help improve our lives in certain ways, it can also be used to seduce people into giving up too much personal power. In addition: it makes it easy to dismiss such things as the ethical concerns which determine how many of us do or don’t experience our collective human condition.
Where and when to draw lines of AI propriety has to be mindfully considered for many reasons. For example: How comfortable should anyone be entrusting their health to a “doctor” who relied on AI to pass final med school exams? How much can anyone presenting themselves as an “expert” in any field be considered a professional if they lack the ability to discern for themselves the accuracy, or least the plausibility, of automated information?
My Human Bias and ChatGPT
To challenge any biases of my own concerning what some media commentators are calling the “AI revolution,” I allowed myself to be guided through a test run of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. With the help of a more knowledgeable human associate, I asked what kind of insights it could offer regarding a current GoFundMe Music Heritage Project. I anticipated comical results similar to ones comedians had been quoting to draw big laughs. It didn’t exactly turn out that way. A few of the results follow below and others will be in the article titled Artificial Intelligence and Authentic Human Concerns scheduled for posting on LinkedIn.
Since producing a human-written book on the life and times of radio programmer Theron “Ike” Carter is one primary goal of the Music Heritage Project, I wondered about its possible impact outside Carter’s hometown of Savannah, Georgia (USA). ChatGPT suggested this possibility:
“…The book could provide a model for documenting and preserving cultural heritage in other communities, serving as an example of how local residents and cultural leaders can work together to celebrate and preserve their shared history and identity. This could have broader educational benefits, as it could inspire other communities to undertake similar projects and could contribute to a more nuanced and inclusive understanding of American cultural heritage.”
In all honesty, I had considered possible educational applications but not the noted “broader educational benefits.” My human conclusions had come from video-recording weekly interviews with Mr. Carter for more than a year. The chatbot had determined its AI analyses by drawing on digital resources beyond my instinctive reach. My feelings might have been mixed but how could I deny, at least in this case, the validity of the results?
What, then, about the GoFundMe Campaign?
I had scheduled the GoFundMe Music Heritage campaign to run from Jazz Appreciation Month until the end of African-American Music Month because of Ike Carter’s work in the industry. All that made good human sense. It took the enthusiastic counsel of someone who knows much more about AI than me to ask the chatbot what reasons potential donors might have to feel good about supporting the campaign? This the first part of the answer:
“…Contributing to the GoFundMe campaign could provide a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction for donors, as they contribute to the preservation and celebration of an important cultural legacy. This could be particularly meaningful for donors who have a personal connection to Savannah or who have an interest in music or cultural heritage more broadly.”
And here is the second part of the answer:
“By contributing to the project, donors would become part of a community of individuals committed to celebrating and preserving Savannah's rich musical heritage, and would have the satisfaction of knowing that they played a role in creating a valuable cultural resource.”
Did smiling while reading the above response mean I was allowing myself to be seduced by AI-powered reasoning? It could be interpreted that way. Except I had already immersed myself in the organic process of collecting, sorting, and structuring relevant creative material in my own human way. This was a case where it might be said I had accepted a limited partnership with AI to construct the kind of dialogue someone might have had with a Shark Tank expert.
Humanity at a Crossroads
There is no doubt situations will arise (and already have arisen) where AI will provide life-saving assistance. Does that mean we should relinquish to it all the essential components of what makes us human? Including not caring about the livelihoods it threatens to erase en masse? Or reducing our own capacity for analytical thinking? I’m inclined to say no.
So what now? As with any historic situation placing humanity at a crossroads of hopefulness and doubt, we first weigh the risks before us. Then we proceed, or step firmly on the brakes, with caution. [Also check out: Artificial Intelligence and Authentic Human Concerns]
Co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
Author of These Black and Blue Red Zone Days
Enjoy More Conversations with the World
“It had been more than a year since the Joker’s conquest of America and we were all still in shock and going through the stages of grief but now we needed to come together and set love and beauty and solidarity and friendship against the monstrous forces that faced us. Humanity was the only answer to the cartoon. I had no plan except love. I hoped another plan might emerge in time but for now there was only holding each other tightly and passing strength to each other, body to body, mouth to mouth, spirit to spirit, me to you.” –Salman Rushdie (The Golden House)
Production-wise, in addition to the list of essays and poem noted in the previous post, 2017 will go down in my personal history as the year I completed the long-promised book of essays on different aspects of life in Savannah, Georgia (USA). Among the topics addressed in the book are: the increasing wrath of hurricanes, slavery of the past and present-day human-trafficking, the cultural arts, family life, the legacies of James Alan McPherson and Flannery O’Connor, John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the enduring allure of the city of Paris, France.
Not too long ago, I responded to a tweet by fellow author J.K. Rowling in which she proposed something which prompted me to think about the scope of material covered in my book: “…If I had listened to 'the rules' back in 1990, there would be no Harry Potter. Stories about schools are passé. 95k words is too long” (https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/928688419332657153).
I thanked her with the following reply: @jk_rowling You just gave me a lot 2 think abt. I've been thinking my latest manuscript might actually be 2 #books, not 1. Btw I was a #bookseller in 1990 & HP [much later, around 1998] got me a sales bonus. #Thanks4That
Rowling’s comment––though she may have meant differently from how I first interpreted it–– made me wonder if, in my zeal to write a new kind of creative nonfiction about life in Southeast Georgia as it relates to a single individual and the larger world, I had overreached. She had noted the length specifically in regard to “Stories about schools.” But when I picked up copies of The World and Me, and The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates, I estimated each was no longer than 45,000 to 50,000 words. My manuscript by comparison was closer to what JK Rowling––or publishers responding to early Harry Potter manuscripts––had described as “too long.”
Then again, Ibram X. Kendi’s National book Award Winning volume, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas, is almost 600 pages long. So which was preferable: concision or heft?
This quandary, I decided, is by no means a tragedy because the new manuscript is written in such a way that it can be published as either a single large edition suitable for attracting those impressed by authorial range, or, as two separate corresponding books attractive to readers who prefer more compact volumes. The popularity of having options could ultimately add to the votes in favor of two volumes rather than one. For right now, the forced considerations provide further evidence of a year which turned out to be exceptionally productive despite endless streams of political, financial, and other kinds of unruly disruption.
Rebirth of a Visual Artist
The other important production news of the year 2017 came from the launch of the Postered Chromatic Poetics store at Fine Art America. As happy as I am that the store opened, it was one of those developments which evolved naturally out of already-established activities as opposed to stemming from a planned enterprise.
Digital art, photography, and mixed media creations have expanded my capacities for communicating literary and philosophical observations about life as we experience it on different physical, mental, and spiritual levels. They increasingly provide frames, inspiration, and useful commentary for some of my most accessed writings.
It was quite an honor when supporters of the Renaming the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge Symposium were presented with gift cards of my Savannah River Bridge The Morning after Hurricane Matthew No 2 as commemorative keepsakes for the historic event. (All of my Postered Chromatic Poetics artwork is currently available until January 7, 2018, at 40 percent off using promo code MEKCFJ). This specific piece formerly was named The Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge The Morning after Hurricane Matthew No. 2 for the sake of historical accuracy but more and more it seemed self-defeating to keep using Talmadge’s name while simultaneously calling for its removal from the bridge.
On Eulogies and Elegies
Diverse professional priorities and obligations made it impossible for me to respond, as I often have in the past, to the loss of every beloved figure in 2017 with individual poems or essays. Actress-singer Della Reese, actor Nelsan Ellis, playwright-actor Sam Shepard, actor Robert Gillaume, and rock and roll legend Fats Domino are only a few for whom I did not get a chance to write the kind of tribute I would have preferred. Thankfully, social media made it possible to at least acknowledge most of those to whom we bid farewell during the previous year. I did a little better when it came to jazz master Al Jarreau and the great human rights advocate Dick Gregory:
Prospects and Milestones
What does all of this mean as we settle into the year 2018? Simply that a lot good ground work has been laid to increase the potential for significant accomplishments over the next 12 months. In light of difficulties so many of us are facing on personal, local, national, and international levels, that is a valuable prospect to keep in mind. We can add to those prospects a number of notable milestones towards which we may look forward:
Positive as well as negative world events are going to have their say when it comes to whatever plans and resolutions we declare for this brand New Year 2018. That’s just the way reality rolls and it is all the more reason to salvage the best of everything worthwhile gained in 2017 while preparing to step up our games with just a little bit more inspired drive and determination for 2018.
8 January 2018
Bright Skylark Literary Productions
On any given day of the week, the creator of Postered Chromatic Poetics and co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Aberjhani, may be found wearing any number of hats: historian, visual artist, poet, advocate for compassion, novelist, journalist, photographer, and editor. Having recently completed a book of creative nonfiction on his hometown of Savannah, Georgia (USA) he is currently writing a full-length play about the implications of generational legacies as symbolized by efforts to rename the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge.
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.