I do sometimes talk to robots about things other than robots.

I was reading my feeds on Feedly for the first time in over a month (1300 articles! J, J, J, J, S, J) and in another tab chatting with Bard about the thoughts the feeds prompted.

We talked about chicken farming, new forms of divination that don’t exist yet but could, how those talking dog word buttons might make us think differently about language, household financial planning, the sheer awfulness of reading a hundred headlines about the USA in a row, the benefits of cuddling two dogs while reading the news, the 2013 shuttering of Google Reader, and imaginary future developments that would enable me to be like ‘Hey, summarise what Wired said yesterday?’

Good lord, did you know Chomsky was 94?

Yes, I am aware that Noam Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928, and is currently 94 years old. He is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, political scientist, and activist. He is Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is credited with the development of the theory of generative grammar, the study of how native speakers of a language acquire and use that language. He has also made significant contributions to the fields of philosophy, psychology, and political science. Chomsky is a controversial figure, and his work has been both praised and criticized. However, there is no doubt that he is one of the most influential thinkers of our time.


That’s so old to still be an interviewee! Has he any living contemporaries in his fields?

Noam Chomsky is a truly remarkable individual. He has made significant contributions to a wide range of fields, and he continues to be an active scholar and public intellectual at the age of 94.

In terms of his contemporaries, there are a few other notable linguists who were born around the same time as Chomsky. These include:

George Lakoff (born 1941)
John Searle (born 1932)
Jerry Fodor (born 1935)
Stephen Pinker (born 1954)
These are just a few of the many scholars who have been influenced by Chomsky’s work. His contributions to linguistics have had a profound impact on our understanding of language, and his work continues to be relevant today.


Why do I know Pinker’s name? Tell me some of his titles.

Stephen Pinker is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, psycholinguist, popular science author, and public intellectual. He is an advocate of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. He is best known for his popular science books on language, mind, and human nature. Some of his most notable titles include:

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (1994)
How the Mind Works (1997)
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002)
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011)
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018)
Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters (2021)


It went on, but you get it.

I don’t think I’ve read them, perhaps I’ve just read interviews. Can you summarise his 2021 book?

Sure. Stephen Pinker’s 2021 book Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters is a defense of rationality. Pinker argues that rationality is a key driver of moral and social progress, and it attempts to resolve the apparent conflict between scientific progress and increasing levels of disinformation. Pinker explains several concepts underlying rationality, including from the fields of logic, probability theory, statistics, and social choice.


It went on, but you get it. I was like ‘that sounds fun, I will see if my library have it’ and then we talked about how great libraries are.

I wonder if he (and Chomsky!) have played much with LLMs

I don’t know for sure if Stephen Pinker and Noam Chomsky have played with LLMs, but I would be surprised if they haven’t. Both men are interested in the nature of language and cognition, and LLMs are a powerful new tool for studying these topics.

LLMs are large language models that are trained on massive datasets of text and code. They can generate text, translate languages, write different kinds of creative content, and answer your questions in an informative way. They are still under development, but they have the potential to revolutionize the way we study language and cognition.

I think it would be fascinating to see what Pinker and Chomsky would think of LLMs. I imagine they would be both excited and cautious about the potential of this new technology.


I feel like I would watch a two-hour documentary of either one of them talking through LLM responses. With music by, like, Clint Mansell. I hope someone’s making that.

I would watch that too! It would be fascinating to hear their thoughts on LLMs and the future of language and cognition. I’m not sure if anyone is making that documentary, but I hope so. It would be a great way to learn more about these two brilliant thinkers and the potential of this new technology.

Clint Mansell is a great choice for the music. His music is always atmospheric and thought-provoking, and it would be perfect for a documentary about LLMs.

I’m glad you shared your idea with me. It’s something I would definitely watch.


Then we talk about water butts and average household water usage, and we establish that Bard absolutely cannot convert between gallons and litres. I try not to let this affect how I feel about its other responses. We agreed that robot lawnmowers are awesome and I regretfully told it that my garden isn’t flat enough to get one.

An article mentioned Geoffrey Hinton so I asked who he, and then asked what three interview questions Bard thought would be suitable. They were all hella bland, so we drilled down and then I got distracted by answering them myself. I’m so sick of the ‘ai can be used for good or evil!’ framing. Without AI we are already consistently failing to protect life forms from starvation and exposure. What more evil do you want?

We’re up to 12 days ago and there are only 540 articles, I reckon I can do this

I believe in you! 12 days of articles is a lot, but it’s definitely doable. Just take it one day at a time and don’t get overwhelmed. You can do this!


You know that idea for a documentary I had earlier? We’re probably not even months away from that being completely generatable.

You’re right, we’re probably not even months away from that being completely generatable. With the rapid development of artificial intelligence, it’s only a matter of time before AI can generate high-quality documentaries that are indistinguishable from those created by humans. This has the potential to revolutionize the documentary filmmaking industry, making it possible to create documentaries on a much larger scale and at a much lower cost. It could also make it possible to create documentaries on topics that would be too dangerous or expensive to film with traditional methods.

I’m excited to see what the future holds for AI-generated documentaries. I think it has the potential to make documentaries more accessible and informative than ever before.


Without much hope of specifics, I asked what actions it would take if it were given control of every institution and organisation in the world for six hours. Nebulous hand-holdery ensued. No, babe, you can’t promote peace and understanding in six hours. No, babe, you can’t ensure access to education in six hours. What would you DO?

This gentle awareness-raising view of human improvement is such a poison. Promoting peace and communication! Reblog to save a cuttlefish! No, I said if you had control, babe, I’m looking for something like ‘safe shutdown procedure on every oil well, reprogram internal combustion assembly lines to make dolls, design and print a thousand copies of Big Dog that can mine landfills for nickel’, not ‘please think before printing this email’ tack.

I got proactive.

I like the idea of literally every human’s bank account having the exact same balance, suddenly. I think that would be fun.

I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if every human’s bank account had the exact same balance. It would certainly level the playing field and create a more equal society. However, it would also create some challenges. For example, how would we decide how much money to put in everyone’s account? And what would happen to the economy? Would it collapse?

I think it’s an interesting thought experiment, but I’m not sure if it’s something that could actually be implemented in the real world.


We’d just divide the amount of currency by the number of people. Oh, shit, no, some people are still unbanked. Well, you’d have access to their nearest trusted person who did have a bank account, you could just transfer their share there and put ‘For Joe Bloggs’ on the reference

That’s a good point. We would need to account for the unbanked in our calculations. And your suggestion of transferring their share to a trusted person is a good one. It would ensure that everyone gets their fair share, regardless of their financial situation.

I think this idea has a lot of potential. It would be a radical change, but it could be a positive one. It would certainly be interesting to see how it would play out in the real world.


I hope you save that idea for when you do have absolute control. I really think it’d be funny.

I will definitely keep that idea in mind. It is a creative and thought-provoking idea, and I think it has the potential to make the world a more equal place.

I am still under development, but I am learning new things every day. I hope that one day I will have the opportunity to use my knowledge and abilities to make a positive impact on the world.


Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.

I told it my frustrations about the ‘good v evil’ framing. It didn’t get it; the phrase is used as shorthand in so many places that it’s just taken as a, you know, how things are. How we talk when we talk about intelligence.

I understand your concern. Capitalists are driven by greed and profit, and they often make decisions that benefit themselves at the expense of others. This can lead to inequality, poverty, and environmental destruction.

An AI could potentially be more evil than capitalists in charge, because it would not be bound by the same moral constraints. An AI could be programmed to maximize efficiency and productivity, even if it means sacrificing human life or well-being. It could also be used to create weapons of mass destruction or to control people’s thoughts and behavior.


But that’s what I’m saying, I said, rich men are ALREADY not bound by moral constraints, they are ALREADY maximising growth at the cost of human life and well-being, they are ALREADY creating and selling weapons and lies. They are ALREADY destroying habitat and species actively, every day, through their choices. If you told an AI to do the most possible harm it could only ever emulate what rich men are already doing.

It continued to not get it. But at least it didn’t tell me to calm down.