Everything is virtual now

Google has just announced the very cool generative AI model that I’ve been vaguely hinting at for the last few time_intervals. The older, GPT-2-era, system was announced as “MEENA”, and the new one is called “LaMDA”. I don’t actually know how much the new one is based on the old one, not that it really matters.

It’s very cool! The featured LaMDA demos (rather quirkily, I thought) showed it answering questions as the planet Pluto, and as a paper airplane. I’ve been using it (well, one of its various models) in a colab where it’s more like the typical generator client I’ve played with before: you give it some random stuff, and it adds on more relatively likely stuff. Lots of fun. It feels a lot like GPT-3 to me, but then I don’t know anything about the insides of the system, or the features that it has that I haven’t played with.

Google also announced Starline, which at the moment is a prototype booth (not boot) that you sit in and talk to someone else in a similar booth somewhere else, and it’s like a video chat (gad, neither “chat” nor “conference” sit very well with me there, can’t we call it I dunno “encounter” or something?) except that (most obviously) it’s 3D without funny glasses (lightfield displays are really cool I had no idea!) and (less obviously) there’s subtle stuff going on to make everything feel better, like compensating for the fact that you’re looking directly at the other person’s eyes and that isn’t where the camera is and like that.

As far as I know there is no olfactory component at the moment.

People were speculating about the obvious combination of generative language models and the ability to create very realistic images of people (including nonexistent people), and this led to people talking about having a model of yourself around after your death for people to talk to (cool and/or terrifying), which led to someone pointing at this very cool piece of “artifacts from the future” SF in the form of a newsletter (currently five issues available) about hacks to make sure that your life in the Loop after death is the best it can be (roughly). Love it.

(See also Black Mirror.)

And to segue on the pivot-point of SF, I’ve now read the ebook form of the SCP Foundation Antimemetics Division Hub and it is just so good. As I wrote for goodreads and/or amazon or whatever:

[Five Stars] Perfection

This book is an explosion of ideas, astounding and obvious and transformative and crazy and valid. And the people are people, and intensely human through it all.

It feels odd to say that this is the best piece of science fiction I’ve ever read, both because how could that not be hyperbole, and because “science fiction” at the same time doesn’t do it justice.

But there it is: this is the best piece of science fiction I’ve ever read.

No doubt that’s partly because it happens to fit my personal tastes and interests so very perfectly.

But also, it’s just that good.


Now if I could just finish a book or two without starting two or three others in the meantime, maybe I could get goodreads to think I’m currently reading less than fifty (50) books…

2 Comments to “Everything is virtual now”

  1. The episode in Black Mirror that handles that premise a good conscious life after death was the episode called “San Junipero.” I found it very moving, more than horrifying.

    Liked by 1 person


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