Archive for ‘weblog’


Chav Life

“Chav” is a British-adjacent word, usually derogatory, for a cluster of concepts involving economically and socially disadvantaged classes, youth, sneering, hanging about in groups in public, and so on. It may be offensive in some sense; it’s not like we have a lot of non-derogatory and non-offensive words for young people in disadvantaged classes. I hope and trust I am not offending simply by using it, for instance, in a weblog post title.

Anyway! For no particular reason I gave Midjourney (version 5) a number of chav-related prompts, and here are some of the results. These are mostly photorealistic, as that’s what v5 often produces unless explicitly prompted otherwise (so this isn’t “AI Art” so much as “AI Weirdness”). And I’m putting them in the weblog here just for fun. (For some highlights of other stuff I’ve been making in MJ, albeit without prompts or much commentary, see me on Pixelfed.)

Here for instance are some Cute Chavs (i.e. the prompt was “cute chavs” with some flags and stuff):

a photo of about a dozen young people, casually dressed, standing on an outdoor brick surface. Three wear red "baseball caps".

Mildly cute, and certainly numerous! Note the three red caps. Note also that Midjourney v5 has really improved in the people department: some of the faces may dissolve into blurs, some of them disquieting, if you zoom up too much, but no one appears to have seven fingers on the same hand, or any obvious extra limbs. Which is impressive!

Additional cute chavs:

Two pale young women in matching light blue denim tops and blue necklaces, one with purple hair and one with orange hair, smile at us against a crowded street in the background. The orange-haired one, to our right, has a rather adorable overbite.

Here “chav” might be a mildly negative comment on their taste in accessories and hair dye; not sure. Awfully cute, though.


Three short-haired young men standing outdoors; a car park and grass and trees in the background. The tallest of the young men stands in the center, in a bright pink hoodie and large black sunglasses with dark pink lenses, with his arms around the shoulders of the other two, who are a bit shorter and wearing bright blue hoodies and bright pink sunglasses with dark pink frames.

These may be the “tough young men” sort of chavs, although the bright pink and blue hoodies and those sunglasses are perhaps atypical.

Also supposed cute chavs:

Two little boys with rose cheeks and dark wire-rimmed oval sunglasses, wearing identical yellow caps and raincoats, looking rather serious and cute.

Certainly cute, but those matching raincoats and GKSY VHIS caps look pretty upscale; it may have strayed a bit from chavery here, but, again, certainly cute. And perhaps truculent.

Further cute chavs, who have perhaps looted a cargo of loud plaids (but who all seem to have the right number of fingers and extremities, again!):

A group of several young men, perhaps pre-teen, striding down a shopping street, all dressed in loud red, or garish plaid, or (mostly) both.

There are various more cute chavs, but we’ll finish this section with this one:

Three serious young men with mid-to-light brown complexions and to one extent or another short black moustache and beard whiskers. The one in the center has brilliant red flyaway hair, red earrings, and wireframe sunglasses with red lenses, and a slash of black tattoo on one cheek. The one to our right has a similar black tattoo, and black hair shaved close to his head except for a flyaway topknot. The one to our left has at least one upswept eyebrow (perhaps a tattoo), and a pastel abstract headband that gathers his black and red hair upward into a sort of messy "mohawk". Behind them is what seems to be a river passing through a city.

I tend to think of your basic chav as pale, perhaps because people who use the word “chav” often have other words for people who aren’t pale. These three are certainly impressive in their own way. Judgment of cuteness left to the reader.

Heavens, there are so many pictures that I’d love to share with you here! And that’s just these chav-related ones. So many thousands of pictures! See “Bach faucet“, relatedly. But anyway! Now we have some “chav life”:

Five young men with short hair standing among some brick buildings, looking at us perhaps rather truculently.

No notes on that one. We got at least one other one like this except that they’re sitting on a stoop with equal truculence.


Four young men in casual athletic clothing standing among brick buildings. All are making odd faces of one kind or another, two are making finger gestures, two are wearing sunglasses, and at least two seem to be whooping.

Perhaps “CY le HAWE” is the name of their YouTube channel, where they break cinder blocks on each other. For instance. (Do read the alt text on these images, by the way, if convenient; I put a lot of work into those!)

Asking for an artistic rendering of happy chavs, we got inter alia:

a colored drawing of four young men in casual clothing standing around a car in a parking lot, among low brick building. Three wear blue caps, one of them reversed. They do not appear terribly happy.

They don’t appear particularly happy to me, I admit.

On the other hand:

A drawing of four very similar-looking men with slightly brown complexions and black hair and moustaches smile at something out of frame, leaning against an ambiguous something; possibly they are all standing on the same balcony, or truck bed.

the Esposito Quadruplets here seem quite pleased by something.

Now this one:

Drawing of a scene on a busy shopping street with brick houses with British chimneys. The most obvious foreground figures are four cheerful men in kilts (with sporran), one apparently carrying bagpipes.

doesn’t really say “chav” to me at all, due to the kilts and sporrans and so on; MJ may be improvising here. The people do look rather happy however.

In Ireland, chavs, or a group akin to chavs, are known as skangers (also possibly offensive). Prompted to picture skangers, Midjourney gave us:

Three ice hokey players facing away from us, toward the crowded bleachers. Each wears a red jersey with white lettering; from left to right: "SAKKER" with the letter S, "SARKES" with the number 7, and "SIAKERS" with the number 4. Sarkes sees to be wearing a cloth "baseball cap" rather than a hockey helmet.

The famous trio of Sakker, Sarkes, and Siakers. Sakker is notable for wearing the number “S”.

Next and relatedly:

Seven ice hockey players posing for a group picture on the ice in a variety of uniforms, the leftmost two being mascots in plush costumes (a turtle and a bear, maybe), and the center one having a mascot head (a cow perhaps?) and otherwise a normal uniform.

Not sure of the relationship between skangers and ice hockey, frankly, but there we are. Perhaps it thinks it’s a typo for “Rangers”, which is a hockey thing.

Third “skangers” image:

Four tall soda cans, each with a different abstractly-drawn monster or something in different bright colors, and all with the same logo, which seems to say something like "GAKKES". They sit on a matte black surface against a dark background.

Perhaps Gakkes(tm) soda is popular with skangers and/or chavs.

And finally in the skangers set:

A bright pink shop on an otherwise unremarkable street corner. There is a low black box in front of the shop, perhaps for stacking newspapers. The windows display numerous colorful boxes, and words on the pink and white striped awning might say something like SANCNR SKAGNVERS.

“Oi, I’m goin’ down Skarnvers fer some baccy, yew wan’ anythin’ pet?”

(That was probably offensive, too.)

And finally, just so as not to overload my readers with offensive weird stuff, here are a few where we tried to mix chav with its opposite: posh.

On a busy perhaps-English street, two people (and a dog) face us. The person on the left is dressed in what might be a parody of a tuxedo and top hat, with dark sunglasses; his mouth is wide open but narrowed. The person on the right is dressed more casually, including plaid pants, a jacket with sleeves that expose the forearms, and a small black hat; his mouth is open more roundly, and his arms crossed. (The dog, at the left, seems to be panting in a happy sort of way, with his or her tongue out.) Text at the bottom of the image says something like "on'v Chasd Heaish".

This is the one that most obviously did that, but these two are clearly taking the piss, as it were, and on’v Chasd Heaish on top of it (the guy on the right looks familiar somehow).

We also got a fair number like:

Two men look seriously into the camera, in front of a brick wall with vague graffiti. Both are wearing suits and hats, and have a certain amount of stubble and earrings, and threatening vibes.

which might be interpreted as a posh sort of chav, as well as say:

Two somehow nouveau-riche-looking people with a crowd in the background. To our left a man wearing a (faux?) fur coat, thick gold chains, dark sunglasses, and a  patterned cap; to our right a woman with extremely pale blonde hair, dark sunglasses, a thin gold necklace, and pale lipstick.

similarly (Americans perhaps, haha!). Also some where it seems to have mostly ignored the instructions and just given us two ordinary people, as in:

Two women in white kitchen uniforms, one with a high chef's hat and a "Caliel" logo on her shirt. The one on our left has her arm around the other's shoulder (the one with the hat and logo), and they are smiling into the camera. There are shiny silver surfaces and piles of dishes in the background.

They’re just endearing! (Admittedly one may be missing a finger, but better that than two or three extra.) And not obviously chav or posh, so I’m not sure.

And to close, from the “a chav and posh person standing side by side” prompt:

Two people standing in a rich-looking room looking into the camera, both apparently holding golf clubs. On our left, a tall man in what might be a slightly garish sort of morning dress except that he isn't wearing pants, his patterned boxers and black socks are visible. On our right, with one hand up near the man's chest for no apparent reason, a perhaps chunky woman in an above-the-knee business dress, wearing just below-the-knee black socks, and shoes perhaps with gaiters.

and, well, I just have no clue, really.

I hope that wasn’t too offensive! Fun, though. :)

Off to make more! With different prompts…


The parts of that poem about the roads and the wood that I could remember

[I went for a meditation and walk in our rather large local park today, which was quite lovely. As I walked along that poem about the roads and the wood and diverging and sighing and stuff came to mind, and it was fun to see how much of it I could actually remember verbatim.

So here I am writing down the reconstruction, including these notes in the places where I couldn’t remember, mostly so I can be amused by reading this again some month or year (ages and ages hence, hee hee), but maybe some of you other intelligences would be similarly amused.]

[Poem title, probably involving Roads and maybe also Woods]

[by Robert Frost, unless I’m embarrassingly wrong]

One road in a wood. The wood is more brownish than yellow.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
[And knowing that?] I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood,
[Thinking about which way to go.]

[Eventually I decided to go the way that looked less worn,]
[Although in fact]
those passing there,
Had worn them really about the same.

[I left the other one] for another day,
[Although] knowing how way leads on to way,
[I’d probably never be back in the relevant sense,
Can’t go down to the same river twice, eh?]

I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

[Which sounds very hipster at first reading, “oh, you wouldn’t know my road, it’s very less travailed by”, but then there’s the fact that he said that they were really about the same, so maybe “all the difference” really isn’t that much difference after all. Or maybe he’s sighing because, even in retrospect, you can’t tell whether some choice was the right one, because you don’t know what would have happened if you’d chosen differently. And even more, you can’t tell whether some choice you make right now is the right one, because you don’t know what’s down either road. And also that we sigh when we think about that, even though since it’s a fundamental property of our existence, you’d think we might be reconciled to it, or even happy about it. But we aren’t always, so we sigh.

And that’s why we have poetry!]


The Klara Trilogy is done!

The story of Klara, written by me channeling the Collective Unconscious, illustrated by me using Midjourney, and narrated and set to music and videographed by the talented Karima Hoisan, is finally finished!

I originally thought it was finished at the end of the first forty-frame thing; and then when I did Part Two at about the same length, I thought it was finished; and now having struggled for months on Part Three I’m pretty sure it actually is done. :)

Having just watched Karima’s videos of all three parts in order (playlist here!), I’m glad various viewers convinced me not to stop at one or two parts. It’s pretty good!

And I say this with all modesty; I feel like this story came through me, more than like it is something that I did. The comments over in Karima’s weblog, and her narration, have suggested various meanings and facets to me that I hadn’t thought of before.

In terms of the experience of creating it, it’s been interesting to see the various phases of interaction with the AI tool. I started out Part One by creating various variations of the prompt “detailed surrealism” on the v3 engine on Midjourney, and then weaving the story around pretty much whatever came out.

It happens that in v3, that prompt pretty reliably produces scenes from a stylistically coherent universe, including the MJ Girl, who plays the part of Klara in the first two parts. In Part Two, I had a bit more of an idea of what I wanted to happen, in a general way, but continued using v3 and the same prompt. This required somewhat more work, because it would produce images that didn’t fit with the story I wanted, so I had to put those aside and make more. But the style was at least not much trouble.

Part Three was quite different. For plot reasons, being in basically a different reality, the style needed to be different. It was relatively easy to do that, by using the “test” and “testp” engines, either alone or by “remastering” images made under v3. But the resulting images, while different from those of the first two parts, weren’t nearly as consistent among themselves as those of parts one and two. So I had to play around a lot more with the workflows and the prompts, and produce quite a few more pictures, to get a reasonably consistent style.

The style of Part Three still shifts around quite a bit; the flavor of the city, the color of Klara’s hair, the cat’s fur, and many other things change somewhat from panel to panel, but I wanted a nice mixture of consistent and in flux; and that took work!

Then there was the Story issue. The beginning “recap” part of Part Three was relatively easy that way, summarizing the story of the first two parts from a different point of view. But then I quickly got stuck; I wanted to do something more satisfying and less random than I would get by letting the AI’s raw output drive the action. For whatever reason, it took me quite awhile to find the story thread that I liked, and then about as long to create (or obtain, if you prefer!) the images to go with it.

(The images still drove the narrative to some extent; for instance the firefly line, which I adore, was inspired by the image that goes with it, not vice-versa.)

But finally I finished! :) And Karima made the video in record time, and there it is! Woooo!

I keep feeling like I should make it into good PDFs, or something (even) more readable, and officially post links to that; maybe even have it printed somewhere onto atoms. On the other hand, without the narrative and music and video, it would hardly be the same… :)


December 26th, 2022

We made just 106 dumplings this year, plus another eight filled with Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (that was the little boy’s idea; they’re pretty good!). This is a smaller number than usual (drill back into prior years here). The small number was probably mostly because single units of ground meat from FreshDirect tend to weigh just a pound, whereas single units from the grocery in prior years were more like 1.25 to 1.4 pounds. (Although, come to think of it, just where did we get the ground meat last year? Not sure.) And also because grownups tend to put more meat in each dumpling, perhaps. But in any case, we are now all pleasantly full, and the little daughter and her BF are safely back in the urbanity.

What has occurred? I feel like things have occurred, to an extent. I am more on Mastodon now than on Twitter, and if you want to keep up with the images I’ve been making in Midjourney and so on, you’ll want my Pixelfed feed. I listed lots of various of these pointers back the other week (and wow having every chapter of the novel as a weblog post makes it hard to scroll through the weblog). When Elon “facepalm” Musk briefly prohibited linking from Twitter to Mastodon, I actually set up a LinkTree page with my links.

Someone must have said “they can still link to Mastodon via Linktree” in his hearing, because he then briefly prohibited linking to LinkTree. That caused me to set up my own Links page over on the neglected (and in fact apparently pretty much empty); I should put back all the stuff that used to be there sometime!

Note how ossum that Links page is! When you move the cursor over it, the thing that the mouse is over that you will go to if you click (if any) changes color (although I drew the line at having it bouncily change size the way Linktree does). You can look at the page source, and see the lovely hand-coded CSS and HTML. :) It even validates! (w3c seems to have a change of mind about validation badges, which makes me a little sad, so there’s no little “valid HTML 5!” badge on the page that links to the verification of the claim, but hey.)

That reminded me of the One-Dimensional Cellular Automaton that I make in hand-coded CSS and HTML and JavaScript the other year; it vanished for a long time, even from my personal backups of, and I’d almost given up on finding it until I thought of the Internet Archive‘s Wayback Machine, and discovered that it had snapshotted that page exactly once, in February of 2012.

So after a bit of fiddling around, I can once again present the One-Dimensional Cellular Automaton for your amusement. The page source there is also quite readable, I tell myself.

Note that many other things on are currently / still broken, although in the process of bringing that page back, I also brought the main page back, so you can see the extremely retro rest of the site (working and otherwise), including the entries in this (well, sort of “this”) weblog between 1999 and 2011.

Oh yeah, we had Christmas! That was nice. :) I got lots of chocolate, and the little (not little anymore) boy gave me a digital image of Spennix (my WoW main) dressed like the pioneer in the Satisfactory game, with a perfect “Spennixfactory” logo. And wife and daughter both got me books: “The Hotel Bosphorus” (a murder mystery set in Istanbul, my current Bucket List destination, and involving a bookshop, so what could be better?) from M, and “Klara and the Sun” (which I’ve been meaning to get, but never had) from the little daughter. (She thought that maybe I already had it and that’s why Klara is called “Klara” in the Klara stories, but it was as far as I know a complete coincidence.)

I’m working away at Part Three of Klara, after she leaves the clockwork world, but it’s slow going. I have an actual plot in mind that I want to illustrate, and I’m using a different graphical style which necessitates a different Midjourney workflow that I haven’t quite optimized yet. But it’ll get done! Probably! :)

We close with a Seasonal Image for the Solstice…

A disc with abstract shapes of fir trees, decorations, planets, and whatnot around the edge. In the center a round shape with small spiked protrusions, perhaps the sun, sits atop what may be a tree trunk that projects upward from what may be the ground and some roots at the bottom of the image. Branches stick out of the perhaps-sun, and some stars and planets and a few more enigmatic shapes inhabit the spaces between the branches.

Here’s to the coming of the longer days! Or the cooler ones, to those on the flipside… :)


Omelas, Pascal, Roko, and Long-termism

In which we think about some thought experiments. It might get long.


Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is a deservedly famous very short story. You should read it before you continue here, if you haven’t lately; it’s all over the Internet.

The story first describes a beautiful Utopian city, during its Festival of Summer. After two and a half pages describing what a wise and kind and happy place Omelas is, the nameless narrator reveals one particular additional thing about it: in some miserable basement somewhere in the city, one miserable child is kept in a tiny windowless room, fed just enough to stay starvingly alive, and kicked now and then to make sure they stay miserable.

All of the city’s joy and happiness and prosperity depends, in a way not particularly described, on the misery of this one child. And everyone over twelve years old in the city knows all about it.

On the fifth and last page, we are told that, now and then, a citizen of Omelas will become quiet, and walk away, leaving the city behind forever.

This is a metaphor (ya think?) applicable whenever we notice that the society (or anything else) that we enjoy, is possible only because of the undeserved suffering and oppression of others. It suggests both that we notice this, and that there are alternatives to just accepting it. We can, at least, walk away.

But are those the only choices?

I came across this rather excellent “meme” image on the Fedithing the other day. I can’t find it again now, but it was framed as a political-position chart based on reactions to Omelas, with (something like) leftists at the top, and (something like) fascists at the bottom. “Walk away” was near the top, and things like “The child must have done something to deserve it” nearer the bottom. (Pretty fair, I thought, which is why I’m a Leftist.)

It’s important, though, that “Walk away” wasn’t at the very top. As I recall, the things above it included “start a political movement to free the child”, “organize an armed strike force to free the child”, and “burn the fucking place to the ground” (presumably freeing the child in the process), that latter being at the very top.

But, we might say, continuing the story, Omelas (which is an acronym of “Me also”, although I know of no evidence that Le Guin did that on purpose) has excellent security and fire-fighting facilities, and all of the top three things will require hanging around in Omelas for a greater or lesser period, gathering resources and allies and information and suchlike.

And then one gets to, “Of course, I’m helping the child! We need Councilman Springer’s support for our political / strike force / arson efforts, and the best way to get it is to attend the lovely gala he’s sponsoring tonight! Which cravat do you think suits me more?” and here we are in this quotidian mess.


In the case of Omelas, we pretty much know everything involved. We don’t know the mechanism by which the child’s suffering is necessary for prosperity (and that’s another thing to work on fixing, which also requires hanging around), but we do know that we can walk away, we can attack now and lose, or we can gather our forces and hope to make a successful attack in the future. And so on. The criticism, if it can even be called that, of the argument, is that there are alternatives beyond just accepting or walking away.

Pascal’s Wager is a vaguely similar thought experiment in which uncertainty is important; we have to decide in a situation where we don’t know important facts. You can read about this one all over the web, too, but the version we care about here is pretty simple.

The argument is that (A) if the sort of bog-standard view of Christianity is true, then if you believe in God (Jesus, etc.) you will enjoy eternal bliss in Heaven, and if you don’t you will suffer for eternity in Hell, and (B) if this view isn’t true, then whether or not you believe in God (Jesus, etc.) doesn’t really make any difference. Therefore (C) if there is the tiniest non-zero chance that the view is true, you should believe it on purely selfish utilitarian grounds, since you lose nothing if it’s false, and gain an infinite amount if it’s true. More strongly, if the cost of believing it falsely is any finite amount, you should still believe it, since a non-zero probability of an infinite gain has (by simple multiplication) an infinite expected value, which is larger than any finite cost.

The main problem with this argument is that, like the Omelas story but more fatally, it offers a false dichotomy. There are infinitely more possibilities than “bog-standard Christianity is true” and “nothing in particular depends on believing in Christianity”. Most relevantly, there are an infinite number of variations on the possibility of a Nasty Rationalist God, who sends people to infinite torment if they believed in something fundamental about the universe that they didn’t have good evidence for, and otherwise rewards them with infinite bliss.

This may seem unlikely, but so does bog-standard Christianity (I mean, come on), and the argument of Pascal’s Wager applies as long as the probability is at all greater than zero.

Taking into account Nasty Rationalist God possibilities (and a vast array of equally useful ones), we now have a situation where both believing and not believing have infinite expected advantages and infinite expected disadvantages, and arguably they cancel out and one is back wanting to believe either what’s true, or what’s finitely useful, and we might as well not have bothered with the whole thing.


Roko’s Basilisk is another thought experiment that you can read about all over the web. Basically it says that (A) it’s extremely important that a Friendly AI is developed before a Nasty AI is, because otherwise the Nasty AI will destroy humanity and that has like an infinite negative value given that otherwise humanity might survive and produce utility and cookies forever, and (B) since the Friendly AI is Friendly, it will want to do everything possible to make sure it is brought into being before it’s too late because that is good for humanity, and (C) one of the things that it can do to encourage that, is to create exact copies of everyone that didn’t work tirelessly to bring it into being, and torture them horribly, therefore (D) it’s going to do that, so you’d better work tirelessly to bring it into being!

Now the average intelligent person will have started objecting somewhere around (B), noting that once the Friendly AI exists, it can’t exactly do anything to make it more likely that it will be created, since that’s already happened, and causality only works, y’know, forward in time.

There is a vast (really vast) body of work by a few people who got really into this stuff, arguing in various ways that the argument does, too, go through. I think it’s all both deeply flawed and sufficiently well-constructed that taking it apart would require more trouble that it’s worth (for me, anyway; you can find various people doing variously good jobs of it, again, all over the InterWebs).

There is a simpler variant of it that the hard-core Basiliskians (definitely not what they call themselves) would probably sneer at, but which kind of almost makes sense, and which is simple enough to express in a way that a normal human can understand without extensive reading. It goes something like (A) it is extremely important that a Friendly AI be constructed, as above, (B) if people believe that that Friendly AI will do something that they would really strongly prefer that it not do (including perhaps torturing virtual copies of them, or whatever else), unless they personally work hard to build that AI, then they will work harder to build it, (C) if the Friendly AI gets created and then doesn’t do anything that those who didn’t work hard to build it would strongly prefer it didn’t do, then next time there’s some situation like this, people won’t work hard to do the important thing, and therefore whatever it is might not happen, and that would be infinitely bad, and therefore (D) the Friendly AI is justified in doing, even morally required to do, a thing that those who didn’t work really hard to build it, would strongly rather it didn’t do (like perhaps the torture etc.). Pour encourager les autres, if you will.

Why doesn’t this argument work? Because, like the two prior examples that presented false dichotomies by leaving out alternatives, it oversimplifies the world. Sure, by retroactively punishing people who didn’t work tirelessly to bring it into being, the Friendly AI might make it more likely that people will do the right thing next time (or, for Basiliskians, that they would have done the right thing in the past, or whatever convoluted form of words applies), but it also might not. It might, for instance, convince people that Friendly AIs and anything like them were a really bad idea after all, and touch off the Bulterian Jihad or… whatever exactly that mess with the Spacers was in Asimov’s books that led to their being no robots anymore (except for that one hiding on the moon). And if the Friendly AI is destroyed by people who hate it because of it torturing lots of simulated people or whatever, the Nasty AI might then arise and destroy humanity, and that would be infinitely bad!

So again we have a Bad Infinity balancing a Good Infinity, and we’re back to doing what seems finitely sensible, and that is surely the Friendly AI deciding not to torture all those simulated people because duh, it’s friendly and doesn’t like torturing people. (There are lots of other ways the Basilisk argument goes wrong, but this seems like the simplest and most obvious and most related to the guiding thought, if any, behind his article here.)


This one is the ripped-from-the-headlines “taking it to the wrong extreme” version of all of this, culminating in something like “it is a moral imperative to bring about a particular future by becoming extremely wealthy, having conferences in cushy venues in Hawai’i, and yes, well, if you insist on asking, also killing anyone who gets in our way, because quadrillions of future human lives depend on it, and they are so important.”

You can read about this also all over the InterThings, but its various forms and thinkings are perhaps somewhat more in flux than the preceding ones, so perhaps I’ll point directly to this one for specificity about exactly which aspect(s) I’m talking about.

The thinking here (to give a summary that may not exactly reflect any particular person’s thinking or writing, but which I hope gives the idea) is that (A) there is a possible future in which there are a really enormous (whatever you’re thinking, bigger than that) number of (trillions of) people living lives of positive value, (B) compared to the value of that future, anything that happens to the comparatively tiny number of current people is unimportant, therefore (C) it’s morally permissible, even morally required, to do whatever will increase the likelihood of that future, regardless of the effects on people today. And in addition, (D) because [person making the argument] is extremely smart and devoted to increasing the likelihood of that future, anything that benefits [person making the argument] is good, regardless of its effects on anyone else who exists right now.

It is, that is, a justification for the egoism of billionaires (like just about anything else your typical billionaire says).

Those who have been following along will probably realize the problem immediately: it’s not the case that the only two possible timelines are (I) the one where the billionaires get enough money and power to bring about the glorious future of 10-to-the-power-54 people all having a good time, and (II) the one where billionaires aren’t given enough money, and humanity becomes extinct. Other possibilities include (III) the one where the billionaires get all the money and power, but in doing so directly or indirectly break the spirit of humanity, which as a result becomes extinct, (IV) the one where the billionaires see the light and help do away with capitalism and private property, leading to a golden age which then leads to an amount of joy and general utility barely imaginable to current humans, (V) the one where the billionaires get all the money and power and start creating trillions of simulated people having constant orgasms in giant computers or whatever, and the Galactic Federation swings by and sees what’s going on and says “Oh, yucch!” and exterminates what’s left of humanity, including all the simulated ones, and (VI) so on.

In retrospect, this counterargument seems utterly obvious. The Long-termists aren’t any better than anyone else at figuring out the long-term probabilities of various possibilities, and there’s actually a good reason that we discount future returns: if we start to predict forward more than a few generations, our predictions are, as all past experience shows, really unreliable. Making any decision based solely on things that won’t happen for a hundred thousand years or more, or that assume a complete transformation in humanity or human society, is just silly. And when that decision just happens to be to enrich myself and be ruthless with those who oppose me, everyone else is highly justified in assuming that I’m not actually working for the long-term good of humanity, I’m just an asshole.

(There are other problems with various variants of long-termism, a notable one that they’re doing utilitarianism wrong and/or taking it much too seriously. Utilitarianism can be useful for deciding what to do with a given set of people, but it falls apart a bit when applied to deciding which people to have exist. If you use a summation you find yourself morally obliged to prefer a trillion barely-bearable lives to a billion very happy ones, just because there are more of them. Whereas if you go for the average, you end up being required to kill off unhappy people to get the average up. And a perhaps even more basic message of the Omelas story is that utilitarianism requires us to kick the child, which is imho a reductio. Utilitarian calculus just can’t capture our moral intuitions here.)


And that’s pretty much that essay. :) Comments very welcome in the comments, as always. I decided not to all any egregious pictures. :)

It was a lovely day, I went for a walk in the bright chilliness, and this new Framework laptop is being gratifyingly functional. Attempts to rescue the child from the Omelas basement continue, if slowly. Keep up the work!


Woot woot!

Graphs from NaNoWriMo, showing a steadish 2,000 words per day from the 1st to the 25th of November.

Kept the ol’ 2,000 words per day pretty constant during NaNoWriMo, except for a couple of days off that I made up for on the next weekend, so I made the goal of 50,000, and not by coincidence the end of the story, right there on the 25th (which was, let’s see, yeah, yesterday!). A nice feeling.

I think I like this year’s rather a lot. The little Midjourney pictures at the start of each Fling (where “Flings” really turned out to be Chapters) was fun, but I think not ultimately transformative; not a big deal. A few plot elements, some important, (the libraries, the plants, the fast sharp ships) came from the images, but without the images something else would I expect have sprung to mind and perhaps carried the same basic ideas, about meaning, and communication, identity and the symbol-grounding problem.

As a reminder; the whole thing can be read in order by clicking on the cover page here, and then clicking the bold link at the bottom of each Fling. I may be going through and fixing a few errors between now and the end of the month (although the relative inconvenience of doing that in WordPress may limit how much I do).

In other news, I’ve been on Twitter less, and on Mastodon / Fediverse more, prompted by the gross antics of the billionaire narcissist, but continuing just because it’s a more interesting place, with (so far?) more interesting and less upsetting communication going on. (It could be argued that given the State of Things, one ought to be upset; but so far I think the argument is flawed.)

I’ve been making tons and tons of images on Midjourney still (getting up near 20,000, the system tells me!) and they are still constantly improving the engine(s), which is very cool. I’ve been posting some of them on PixelFed (roughly, PixelFed is to Instagram as Mastodon is to Twitter), and also still on Twitter (the same ones, mostly). I have enough pictures that I love to fill many, many weblog posts, and I’m sure such posts will appear.

Here’s just one image for now that’s a total favorite; it’s called “Accord”:

A woman with a very long neck in foreground just left of center, looking to our right. Her hair extends fractally into infinity upper left. An infinite line of smaller women in dark clothes, all looking in the same direction, extends from her shoulder to the right, where a tower is dimly present through fog and insects. Two more of the smaller women stand behind her, eyes closed.

Is that amazing, or what? He said modestly.

In the legal domain, there is talk of a class-action suit against Microsoft / GitHub / OpenAI / Copilot, on something like the claim that training an AI on a piece of code requires the appropriate license from the owner of that code (or equivalent, as for public domain code or code you wrote yourself). The possibility of implications for AI art tools like Midjourney, and AI text generators like NovelAI, is clear, although there may also be significant differences. For instance, there seem to be various examples of exact plagiarism by Copilot, whereas as far as I’m aware no such thing exists for say Midjourney or NovelAI.

(There was at least one person persistently spamming Twitter and Reddit with a copy-pasted claim that GPT-3 plagiarizes, pointing at various things on the web that did not actually show, or generally even claim, that. I can’t find them today; perhaps OpenAI’s lawyers sent them a letter. Similarly I’ve been told by one person on Twitter (and at least one other who agreed with them) that for “[a]lmost all pieces I’ve seen thus far, I can point at and name the elements that came from individual artists, and often individual paintings or works”, but when I expressed interest and asked for a concrete example, they said roughly “I’ll get back to you tonight” and then went silent.)

It will be interesting to see what happens with this lawsuit. Somewhat sadly, I think that:

  • The most likely outcome is that they’ll just lose, because Microsoft is rich and individual Open Source contributors, even as a class, aren’t rich,
  • Second most likely, Microsoft will give some symbolic amount of money to something that will benefit some Open Source contributors a little and some lawyers a lot, and there will be no precedent-setting court decision,
  • Less likely, after some long wrangling process, something like the Private Copying Levy might be worked out, which is sort of like that last bullet, but more codified and involving more money, and possibly a precedent that there is a copyright violation at least potentially involved,
  • Even less likely, there would be some kind of opt-out process whereby a creator could indicate they didn’t want their stuff used to train AIs, and makers of AI engines would have to like re-generate their neural nets annually without the opted-art works,
  • And at the bottom, perhaps fairest in some sense but also least likely, a straightforward finding that AI Engine makers, at least ones that make money, really do need the right to copy and/or prepare derivative works of the things they train their engines on. So we’d get engines trained on just public domain works, things out of copyright, things posted under sufficiently permissive licenses, things they explicitly license, and so on. I would be fine with this, myself, but I wouldn’t bet on it happening.

We’ll see!

What else? That’s the main things I can think of. Oh, yeah, Thanksgiving was very nice; the four of us and the little daughter’s SO. We were (I was) especially lazy this year; beyond the HelloFresh pre-planned ingredients that we’ve used the last couple of years, this year we got the pre-planned pre-cooked just-needs-warming version from FreshDirect (ETOOMUCHFRESH). It wasn’t bad! And certainly easy. :) We also bought pre-made apple and pumpkin pies. I resist feeling guilty!!

Also my Windows laptop is broken (I’m not sure why or how; it behaves like a bad storage device, but both the HDD and the SSD seem perfectly readable when stuck into external USB things). Whatever’s wrong with it inside, it’s also vaguely falling apart, with cracked and broken keys, a non-functional direct Ethernet connection (on all connectors somehow), and some other stuff.

So I have an exciting new Framework laptop coming as an early Solstice present! (It’s supposedly in Alaska right now, on the way here in under a week or so.) Inspired, like so many other people, by Cory Doctorow’s glowing review. We’ll see if I am frustrated by the Intel graphics chipset. I’m pretty optimistic, as what I want to run isn’t like the latest AAA game; more like WoW and SecondLife and the GIMP and No Man’s Sky and Satisfactory. I might have to turn the resolution down some at worst I expect.

(In the meantime I’ve been using my phone and this tiny cheap Samsung Chromebook and just not using any of those programs; turns out my life doesn’t depend on any of them! The thing I’m most eager to do is get the GIMP going to work on Part 3 of Klara; in theory I could enable Linux on the Chromebook here and run the GIMP in that, but I rather doubt its CPU is up to it. Just typing this into the WordPress editor is lagging significantly just because I’m also watching YouTube and have a few dozen Chrome tabs open including like Discord and Mastodon and…)

There! :) Thanks for coming, and enjoy.


Pieces everywhere!

Pieces of me, that is. In some sense.

I found my old tumblr the other day, and yesterday I spent lots of time getting onto Mastodon (i.e. the Fediverse). And I’m realizing in just how many places I have “published” significant “content” (not even counting Amazon reviews, say, but maybe I should).

While procrastinating from the NaNoWriMo book (back at 15,623 words; I’m currently at nearly 29K, and nicely on target, although I did only about 1000 today), I started to list some subset of them here, and tonight I thought I’d just post it. In no particular order at all:

  • my weblog. Haha, you probably knew that!
  • My old hand-edited weblog, the predecessor of this one, and now merely an archive.
  • The Secret Second Life Weblog (where I don’t post much at all anymore, but you never know what might happen!).
  • Me on Twitter, where I would doomscroll endlessly, and also post some AI images and things, and retweet and make snarky and otherwise comments on lots of political stuff, and so on. I am coming to sort of wonder what I’m doing there, especially in contrast to the next thing. (Note that I exist there under my Second Life identity, because reasons.)
  • Me on Mastodon (aka sometimes), my brand new Mastodon (Fediverse) place, which is very much like Twitter except friendlier and not constantly fiddled with by malicious algorithms and billionaires intent on making me angry and unsettled for I’ll click more. Which is very nice! Many friendly people, many of them fleeing Twitter.
  • Me on; originally a Fediverse fork or something, now um… its own thing, albeit with a somewhat familiar feel. If you aren’t on, you maybe can’t see anything at that link?
  • Me on reddit, where I have at times been active in r/zen, r/aidungeon, r/gpt3, r/novelAI, r/buddhism, r/alanwatts, and other obvious places.
  • The Beauty Of Our Weapons dot tumblr dot com, my old tumblr where I would pretty much just repost pictures of pretty girls and odd things and the occasional experiment in Photoshop or something. Now I’ve posted a (very) few Midjourney images there also. Hopefully there’s nothing too embarrassing in there that I’ve forgotten.
  • Me on Quora, where I have apparently been quite active now and then over the years, and some of my answers (and some of the questions I’m answering) are pretty funny iyam.
  • Me on NightCafe; open to everyone, I think: those images that I’ve “published”. Look through my Collections! See the beginning of Yeni Cavan!
  • Me on Midjourney: Probably visible only if you’re signed into Midjourney? I’m not sure. See every image I’ve made there (minus the few I’ve deleted) and their prompts and everything! Midjourney is very open that way (unless you pay extra haha).
  • Me on Instagram; I post there more sometimes than others. Less now that I’ve not been going much of anywhere! For the past few years! I mostly post real-world photos there.
  • Me on PixelFed, the Fediverse (e.g. Mastodon) answer to Instagram (or maybe flickr). As of this writing I haven’t put much there, not certain that I will, but we’ll see! So far I mostly post images I make with Midjourney there.

I should make this into a Page (as opposed to a Post) on the site, and then I could point the profiles of those things above that have profiles, at that, and knit everything together.

Another time. :)


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Twenty-Two

The bumping and bouncing and leaping that Alissa was experiencing on Glomorominith’s back was still significant and occasionally breathtaking, but she was more firmly situated now, and did not have bundles or the fragments of a broken travois to worry about. It was also bright day, following the fullness of the second dawn, and in addition a ripe Pear Moon rolled around the horizon, occasionally visible through the trees.

The day before, after she had finished telling her story and showing the fragments to Sonoraneldan, they had discussed her journey.

“And this acquaintance person of yours, the one Sema, said that these longer and curved marks did … represent in some way, a scent trail, although one without scent?”

“Or a… place where a scent trail might have been, in the past or future. Perhaps,” Alissa had suggested.

“Hm, yes…” Sonoraneldan had turned the fragment this way and that, rotating it on the flat shelf and turning it to examine the back with various eyes. “But how did you know which way to set off, which way the trail began, even if this curve and line might tell you how to go after that?”

“Ah, “Alissa had replied, “it was… I did not follow it all, but Sema suggested that this over curve, here, resembled in some way the edge of the large still water–“


“Brought it to mind, perhaps?”

“Hm, yes…”

The large person had seemed to understand the principle more quickly, and perhaps more thoroughly already, that Alissa had. Sonoraneldan brought out various other fragments and bark-pieces, muttering and turning things here and there on the flat shelf. Alissa sat with most of her eyes closed, only enjoying the feel of the air and the light flowing in their patterns around her. She hoped that Sonoraneldan would be interested in hearing some of the stories later on.

“Yes,” her host had said after a time, “Yes, this is a thing that I believe and have taken in. Holding this fragment in this way, and allowing to come to mind the edge of the large still water, it seems to me that had there been a scent-trail curved in the same way as this line, then it would have passed near the place where good Glomorominith says you were set upon by buzzing stingers.”

“The fragment is so small, though!” Alissa had said doubtfully, “As I said to Sema, how can the small curve on the fragment bring to mind in this way a scent-trail that would take hours or days to follow? Especially without there being any scent. Sema answered me, but I did not truly understand.”

Sonoraneldan had nodded with head and antennae, acknowledging that this was indeed a puzzle, and had attempted to bring to Alisssa’s mind certain thoughts and ideas on the subject.

“If you are far from a large thing, with only a few of your eyes open, it can look as though it is a small thing, but closer; have you observed that?”

Alissa had had to think about that, but had said that yes, she had, or at least understood the principles that might apply, that something similar was in her mind.

“We say, in some stories, that as things become further away, in space or time, they also become smaller, and less detailed.”

At that point, the large Glomorominith had arrived, carrying a number of tender seeds, and the three of them had eaten the softnesses and drank drops of nectar (the other two, being much larger than Alissa, eating and drinking more than the small amounts that satisfied her). She had also contributed the edible fragments of bark-membrane, that she had brought in her own bundle, as spice.

For the rest of the day, she and Sonoraneldan had exchanged stories and small songs and descriptions of memories, with occasional additional sounds or words from Glomorominith, who appeared to prefer lying motionless on the shelf outside of the enclosed place, basking in the sun, most of the time.

Sonoraneldan, she had discovered, was a great collector and examiner of objects, especially objects as flat as leaf fragments, that could be kept between the bound-together flat membranes, stored and carefully organized and put into particular orders. Some were organized by color, some by shape or roughness, others by scent or taste.

Her host had, almost shyly, allowed her to taste very small samples of a few that were especially most rare or well-regarded. While her own tasting was almost entirely devoted to avoiding poisons, she made sounds and words indicative of appreciation and pleasure.

As the twilight began to form, the pear moon still rolling around the horizon, they had discussed her journey anew, and in some way all three had formed an idea that they would set off together again the next day, with Glomorominith carrying Alissa and providing protection from annoyances, Sonoraneldan carrying the bundles and interpreting the markings, and Alissa providing, as she supposed, the initial impetus for the journey, and some stories along the way.

And now here they were, the three of them, making their way under shrubs and around great trees, Alissa looking down on everything from a mostly-unaccustomed height, particularly when Glomorominith took one of those unpredictable bounds for no clear reason, and the ground dropped sudden rather further away.

The scentless scent-trail, as she thought of it, led according to Sonoraneldan ahead more or less directly to the edge of the large still water, and then turned to the left, continues to where flowing water entered still water, and then proceeded through a number of curves to places unknown.

As the light of the day reached its height and began slowly to dim again, Alissa became aware of a scent in the air that brought to her mind a great span of time ago, not as far off as her stories, but farther off than her memory extended on most days.

“I feel the scent of the still water,” she said, “which I must have passed near long ago.”

“Yes,” Sonoraneldan replied, “we feel the same scent, Glomorominith and I. The great still water is a place of variety and wonder, but also danger.”

Alissa motioned agreement.

“So say the stories, as well.”

They stopped to rest (Sonoraneldan from walking, Glomorominith from walking and carrying Alissa, and Alissa from the bouncing) and to munch on leaf-stems. Alissa told the story of Broltan and the Great Water, as the others sat at leisure and listened.

Broltan, the story said, a flying seed-eater with short shimmying wings, had flown to the edge of a large water, and then outward, expecting to find the other side and experience what new seeds might be there. But after too much flying, there was only water below them, and because they had not thought about time and strength, there was no prospect of turning back to the land from which they came. Broltran had flown closer and closer to the water, finally landing on an unsteady agglomeration of floating sticks and leaves, clinging to it exhausted and searching it for seeds. Ultimately they had gathered enough energy to take flight again, and reached an island of land surrounded by the great water, and there found seeds of a wonderful density, but also leaping predators that forced it to take refuge high in the dark green trees.

“Good story, good story, yes!” Glomorominith said afterward, rocking happily from side to side. Sonoraneldan nodded in agreement, and the three sat content for a while longer, and then set off again.

“We turn to the left here,” Sonoraneldan was saying, when Alissa heard something unknown moving ahead of them.

“Wait!” she called, and the three stopped to listen. The sounds seemed all around now, and coming closer.

Fling Twenty-Three


A Saturday Morning in November

Midjourney V4 (well, an “alpha” version thereof) is out! As if I didn’t already have enough to play with.

That house, floating above the sea with some balloons and things, is typical of the results of my old favorite “detailed surrealism” prompt. And this:

is from the prompt “neutral prompt”. We can tentatively conclude that it likes cute fantasy houses. :)

Here is a v4 (alpha) Yeni Cavan scene:

which is pretty cool.

In other news, I’m over 8500 words into NaNoWriMo 2022 as of yesterday (I haven’t written anything yet today). I’ve also make a cover page for the book, which links to the first Fling, and each Fling links to the next, so you can start at the cover, and go through the whole thing in the right order by just clicking obvious things. This may partially atone for posting it as a bunch of weblog entries in the first place. :)

I made the cover image in (obviously) Midjourney, and then fiddled a little and put on some titles (and my Government Name!) in the GIMP. I note that the skills of professional cover designers are subtle and profound; the titles on my cover are obviously in the wrong place, a professional designer would put them in places that were so obviously in the right place that one wouldn’t even notice, and I have no idea what makes the difference.

Okay! Now I am off to make the header image for Fling Seven, and start writing. I think it will be more of Alissa’s story.


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Five

“So you had another fight?”

“Not a fight really, just, I don’t know…”

“A misunderstanding?” Colin grinned. He’d twitted me about using that word before.

I sighed and helped him get down a particularly steep part of the rocky bank. Colin had some hormonal kind of thing, and even though he was older than me, nearly twenty-five, he looked mostly like a little kid. A little kid with a disturbingly knowing face, maybe, but then lots of kids have disturbingly knowing faces, right?

“I don’t know. That’s the problem! Does she understand? Does she even listen to what I say? It’s like I say one thing, and she hears something completely different.”

Colin picked up a stick from the ground and chucked it off the path, such as it was, in the direction of the river.

“She’s not stupid,” he said, “she understands words just fine.”

“Except when I say them,” I said, sighing again I guess. It’s not like I liked talking about this stuff, but it was happening, and Colin was there. Being who he was, and the whole hormonal thing or whatever, he was kind of outside of society, looking in at it in some kind of amused objectivity, and he could see things sometimes that nobody else could, from being too close or whatever.

“Maybe you aren’t saying what you think you’re saying,” he said unhelpfully.


“You know, we’ve talked about this; it’s not like when you talk you’re teleporting some fact from your brain to hers. You make some mouth noises, and she experiences some ear-tickles, and –“

“Come on,” I said, “if you think about it that way, you can never say anything! Gee, what kind of ear-tickles will she get if I make these mouth noises, and which synapses in her brain will fire? It’s not like anyone can know any of that. You have to just say things, just say what’s true.”

“Steve…,” he said in that annoying voice. We were coming down to the very edge of the river now, and the water was loud, but not loud enough to make it hard to talk. The river was full of rocks here, like it was everywhere, and the water piled up and splashed around and foamed between them, and the air was cool with spray and bursts of mist.

“What? I’m saying true things here, and you’re hearing them. It has to be simple, otherwise we couldn’t communicate at all. A baby doesn’t need to learn, like, graduate semiotics before it can say that it wants a bottle.”

Colin laughed, sounding like a kid laughing because he had a kid’s throat and mouth, but also sounding like an adult because he had an adult’s brain (a nerdy adult at that).

“Yeah, but you aren’t a baby, and you aren’t telling Kristen that you want a bottle. Boyfriend and girlfriend is way different from that.”

“I just want things to be simple.”

“Yeah, welcome to Earth, Steve-lad,” he said, sitting down carefully on a flat rock surrounded by little branches of swift water. He was, as usual, wearing a kid-sized version of like an Edwardian Moor-Walking Suit or some shit like that, looking crazily proper for someone sitting on a rock. “The way of a man with a maid is seldom simple,” and he sighed elaborately, like an actor over-acting a scene.

“Okay,” I said, “this time it was that she sent me this thing that she’d made, a cute 3D simulation thing with secret places in it, and you walk around and these little guys slowly hint where the secret places are, and it was pretty cool.”

Colin looked at me for a second, waiting for me to say something else I guess, and then said, “Yeah, and…?”

“And I don’t know!” I said, a little loud maybe, “I messaged her back saying that it was very cool, and she was all offended or upset or something!”

“What exactly did you say, Steve-o?”

“I said, like, ‘that’s cool!’ I think; which it was! It was a compliment.”

“Not exactly gushing, that,” Colin said.

“Do I have to be gushing? Do I have to say that everything she does is just the most amazing thing ever?”

“It sounds like she probably worked pretty hard on it.”

“I know! She must have! But right when she sent it I was in the middle of tuning my rig, and I didn’t have a chance to go into it deep, and before I got time, she was already all huffy, and I don’t know. I said it was cool like as soon as she sent it.”

“Look, Steve,” Colin said in a serious kid-voice, “think of it from her point of view, she worked hard on –“

“I know, I should have turned off the rig instantly, wasted half an hour’s tuning –“

He laughed annoyingly on the rock.

“Or you could have told her sweetly that it looked cool, and you’d look at it as soon as you were done with the tuning, or you could have not said anything until you were done, or…”

I know I sighed then. “But those would have made her huffy, too. Isn’t she more important than the tuning thing? Or why do I take so long to get back to her?”

“So you want credit because you said that it was cool, and that was a compliment, and you said it fast, right?”

“That would have been fair.”

“And even though that was what you said, she heard something else?”

The river burbled louder and softer between the rocks, nice and simple, no chance of misunderstanding.

“Yeah. She must have heard, I don’t know, that I didn’t like it, or didn’t respect her, or something.”

“Really? She reacted just like you’d said ‘This sucks’ or ‘You’re dumb’ or like that?”

“No, no, no…” That was the thing about talking to Colin, I think; that when you said something, he heard exactly what you said, and asked you questions about it, and you could realize that what you said wasn’t exactly what you meant. Rather than like getting all huffy and insulted.

“This is where we start singing ‘Why Can’t A Woman, Be More Like A Man?’, right?” Colin loves all these weird old books and movies and stuff. He’d shown me and Kristen that Professor Higgins movie on the rota the other week; it was pretty good, if weird.

I laughed, which felt good. “So I should just apologize to her or whatever, right?” I said, resigning myself.

“Yeah, you could. Never hurts.”

“How do I keep it from happening again?”

“You don’t, Stevie, Steve-man, Steveorino,” he said helpfully, “but if you remember that she will hear whatever you say as Kristen, not as Steve or Colin would, it’ll help.”

“Like I know how it is to hear stuff as Kristen.”

“Well, yeah, that’s the challenge. Be easy on her, and on yourself. It’s all good.”

And that’s how conversations with Colin tended to end. It’s all good. Just keep on keepin’ on.

Good advice I guess.

Fling Six


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Two

By the side of a high healthy stem that stretched tall into the verdant air, perhaps slightly thicker and more full of life, perhaps even higher and stronger than the other stems that rose from that patch of dark rich ground (or, realistically, perhaps much like them and not especially unusual), lived a small semi-transparent woman named Alissa.

Alissa, like most of her friends and neighbors on the dark rich ground, had four thin graceful legs, and two supple arms ending in agile many-fingered hands. People of varied shapes and sizes, ages and species, would come to the dark ground, offering seeds and fragrant rich earth-daubs and other precious things in exchange for the stories that Alissa and her friends and neighbors would tell them, taken from the vast store of stories that they had received from earlier inhabitants of the ground, who had received them in turn from earlier inhabitants, and so on back into times that were only stories themselves.

The stories that Alissa and her friends and neighbors told were unique and valuable, as different from the ordinary stories that ordinary people told each other in the root-sinks and on the leaf-ways of ordinary commerce, as the dawn is from the twilight, or a stone from a raindrop.

A shiny red leaf-sculptor would come to Alissa’s right-hand neighbor and present an earth-daub scented with jasmine, blue with promise and history. In return, her neighbor would tell the visitor a day-long story about the first blossoming stem, or the way the ancients used rain-water to outwit a tribe of (now thankfully extinct) mammals.

A semi-transparent wanderer, like Alissa and her friends and neighbors but with an extra pair of arms and a few extra eyes, would bring a rare and novel seed from somewhere beyond the running water, and one of Alissa’s friends would give in return a riveting story about the various ways of moving from place to place far above the earth, and how each one was discovered in a far-off forgotten time.

Alissa herself, because of the dear vanished individual from whom most of her stories came, and also because of some virtue or fault somewhere within herself (as she thought, looking at her curved reflection in an especially large dew-drop under the light of a full moon) had primarily stories that were themselves about stories. She could describe how the first story came to be, how stories are passed along from one person to another, how stories correspond to motions within the bodies of the various tellers and hearers. She could weave a memory of two ancients sitting far above the ground, discussing the difference between a story-teller exchanging a story for an acorn, and one generation passing a story along to the next.

“Both are tellings,” she would describe one ancient saying to another, “but one manner of telling comes from the head of the teller, and goes to the head of the hearer; whereas the other comes from the abdomen, and goes to the abdomen of the other, where it takes a different kind of root.”

Alissa knew that her stories were not in the same demand as those of some of her friends and neighbors, but in general she was content enough. Nectar and oils flowed through the stem by which she lived, seeds and root-fibers of the ordinary kinds were exchanged and enjoyed every evening as the twilight deepened, and if she did not acquire and pile up, or otherwise appreciate as many rare and unusual seeds and daubs as some others, she had just as much of the dawn and the twilight, and at least as much of the nectar and raindrop, as anyone else.

Then one day there came to the dark rich ground an ancient twelve-legged person, whose outer layers were all dry and peeling and grey-white, and the person was looking for Alissa.

“Thank you,” he said in a thin and reedy voice when her eastward neighbor brought him to her, “you are very kind, very kind.”

The ancient person, dry and peeling though he was, was also unusually large, and carrying on his back a leaf-roll in which something, or some things, was or were rolled up like a bud. Alissa generously helped him ease the burden from his back (although, small as she was, she was in fact only a small amount of assistance to him), and he immediately slumped down beside it, thin and perhaps worrying sounds coming from his mouths and spiracles.

“Would you like a story while you rest?” Alissa asked him, but he shook his head and topmost arms in a negative way.

“Thank you for offering,” he wheezed, “but I need no more stories; I know too many already.”

Alissa began to ask him why he had come looking for her then, if he did not want one of her stories, but he again made negative motions, and slumped even more heavily to the rich dark ground in a worrying way. So Alissa did not try again to speak, but went into her indentation and fetched a droplet of nectar, which the ancient dry person accepted with a motion of gratitude, applying to his upper mouth, and also around some of the driest and most distressed-looking parts of his carapace, and then appeared to fall into a daze, or even sleep, with soft and irregular sounds coming from his spiracles.

He remained there unmoving as the day slowly progressed. A much more ordinary traveler came, with a fine if ordinary seed, and Alissa went aside with her, to another indentation up her stem where they would not disturb the dazed or sleeping being, and gave her in return a long story about the first time stories were exchanged for seeds.

Her story finished and the visitor bade farewell, Alissa went again into her indentation, trying to move especially softly, and stored away her new seed. It was brown and symmetrical, matte and intact, and she enjoyed the feeling of possessing it. Outside, beside her stem, the large ancient stranger still lay, and beside him on the brown earth was his burden, lying half-unrolled. A few odd curling things showed within it, and Alissa moved her upper body and eyes back and forth, but could discern nothing familiar or certain about them. Not wanting to disturb the exhausted visitor, she slipped off among the stems.

Twilight began to deepen, and Alissa took a couple of ordinary root-fiber lengths that she had found that day, and went to the center of the dark ground where people had begun to gather. It was an especially fair night, and Alissa contributed her fibers to the pile and later satisfied her body’s hunger with a thick half-seed that someone else had brought, and sang songs and told jokes with the others, and reflected upon the ways that the sounds in the air took part in her experience, and how her experience molded the sounds that she contributed to the air, the way that her root fibers had contributed to the pile.

Her particular sounds, Alissa thought, were unusually valuable to the experience of the whole, and that more than balanced the possibility that her root fibers were slightly less valuable than average.

When Alissa came back to her stem and her indentation from the slowly-dispersing twilight gathering, the large peeling ancient was gone. His bundle, now even more unrolled, still lay on the rich dark earth, but aside from a shallow dip pressed into that earth by his slumped body, there was no sign of the enigmatic visitor. Alissa waved an antenna over the dip, and then circled around the area and nearby paths between the stems in search, but came upon no scent trails, intentional or even accidental, that might mark the way that he had gone.

Alissa moved her arms and legs in a puzzled and frustrated pattern, then moved the awkward bundle into her indentation, and curled in the inner corner for the night.

When the next dawn was in its second brightness, she uncurled herself and then carefully unrolled the bundle, using her arms and her two front legs, and spread the contents out on the dark soil at the base of her towering stem. The wrapping of the bundle was some extremely tough but pliable leaf, treated she thought in some mysterious way so as to keep its flexibility over time, as it seemed both old and new. She put it carefully to one side, and considered the few things that had been wrapped up in it.

There were only four things within the wrapping, when Alissa had the bundle entirely spread out: two flat curved fragments of leaf, or what seemed to be fragments of leaf although they were quite odd, one remarkable-looking seed, and a small hard stone.

The oddness about the two curved maybe-fragments of maybe-leaf came from the patterns upon them. Different kinds of leaves have different patterns, but they all have in common that they come from the need to channel nectar from the stem out to every tiny chamber of the leaf, to attract or repel leaf-eaters, and to combine with the colors and patterns of other sibling leaves to make a harmonious pattern for the totality of the plant. But these patterns seemed to Alissa to do none of these things. They had differences where there was no need for difference, and repetitions where repetitions made no sense. There were small delicate patterns, disconnected from each other and turning back on themselves, in some parts of the fragments, and in other parts were lines and curves of difference that also led nowhere. She could just make out a more normal pattern of nectar-tunnels, indistinct under the very bold darknesses of these patterns, but it was as though the normal patterns were hidden behind a layer of spider silk or the thinnest wax.

Alissa looked in stillness and puzzlement at the odd dark patterns until her head began to itch, and then she put them to the side, under the supple wrapping-leaf, up against her familiar green stem.

The seed was more ordinary, but not ordinary at all. It was brown, but brown with an iridescence like a beetle’s outer wing. It was plump and round, but also light, and it smelled less like a seed than like nothing at all. Alissa had not seen a seed like it before, and although it was not uncommon for new kinds of seeds to arrive at the rich dark earth with travelers from afar, this one struck her in some way as more different than most, and she put it also to the side.

Lastly, the stone, which was technically a pebble, seemed reassuringly unremarkable. It was relatively smooth, and ordinarily small, not in a particularly disturbing way. It was perhaps unusually round and flat, but pebbles came in all kinds of shapes, and Alissa had never paid much attention to them; not many of her stories involved pebbles. She squinted a bit at the pattern of light and dark on the flat surface of the pebble, but having had enough of patterns for the morning, she put it with the seed and the leaf-fragments, wrapped them roughly up again in the pliable leaf, and pushed the bundle into the farthest corner of her indentation, happy not to bother herself with them any further.

Fling Three


Another November!

Which means another National (really Universal) Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo 2022. I vaguely recall that only people signed into the site can see this, but in any case I am (naturally) ceoln over there.

And, as some people may have noticed already, I’ve started writing!

The plan this year is to write a number (roughly two dozen) of individual Flings, where each fling is in some way related to all the others, more or less tightly or loosely, and each Fling is also inspired by or otherwise associated with an image from Midjourney or the like, produced by whatever process. I will initially post each Fling separately in the weblog here, but I may later, or sometime, combine them into… a single document of some time? TBD.

The first Fling there is sort of a mind-dump about books and writing and language and truth and the nature of reality and all, but more importantly it is roughly 2054 words long, so we’re doing nicely on wordcount.

I have chosen the image for the second Flirt (or at least it’s around here somewhere in one of these Discord tabs), but haven’t thought about the words for it yet. But in any case, we’re off!

There are summaries of my prior NaNoWriMo history here and here (and there’s this page that I don’t know why I never update), but let’s also summarize all of the years where I actually did something notable, just for fun here also.

  • 2001: Straight On To The Exit, a relatively straightforward real-world story with (oh, I’d forgotten that!) a set of questions at the end of many of the chapters, and with a cute gimmick that let me basically write whatever words I wanted when I ran out of ideas.
  • 2002: In Dark, a science fiction story set on and within the body of a giant comatose lizard floating in interstellar space. Perhaps my favorite setting so far. :)
  • 2004: Take Good Care Of Yourself And Others, a more (um) realistic near-future science fiction story basically about the world just before the Singularity, in which I used excerpts from actual spam that I received as decorators and wordcount.
  • 2005: Diveritmenti, an epistolary novel with an unreliable narrator, which might be a vampire story or something.
  • 2007: Another Door, about a house that’s larger (well, much larger) on the inside than on the outside. This one had very little (that I can recall) in terms of gimmicks for wordcount, and an impressive ending; this is one of my favorites (well, they all are).
  • 2008: Strangers (aka Shore Leave), another relatively straightforward contemporary science fiction story, about the impact on all concerned of the arrival of the first interstellar visitors to Earth, in the form of a crazy chaotic world-ship containing hundreds of different species (probably).
  • 2009: Silence. Silence. Silence. Silence, which is more of a long poem or chant or experimental song lyric or something, and might well be considered cheating given the amount of repetition in the text.
  • 2011: Started but did not finish Murder in the Castle of Wizards. A little humbling failure is good, sob.
  • 2013: Did NaPoWriMo instead.
  • 2014: Did NaNoGenMo instead.
  • 2016: The Mercy of Fate, in which I explicitly rolled the dice to determine the direction of the story in various places; I will have to re-read this sometime to see how it worked out. I don’t remember having been very satisfied with it.
  • 2019: Pillsbury Baccalaureate, basically science fiction, which starts when a person discovers he has memories that aren’t his, and leads into adventures with machines for exploring (something like) alternate universes.
  • 2020: All Reality, inspired by playing so much with GPT-style AI text generators, in which the characters mostly deal in various ways with the fact that reality is infinitely malleable.
  • 2021: Snack Bar Only, a novel based on an ancient story idea of mine, about an unnamed protagonist who travels between golf course restaurants (and snack bars) in his red pickup truck.

And now here we are in 2022, and I’m over 2000 words into what will be in some sense my dozenth NaNoWriMo novel (assuming I finish it), and probably going to go over to Midjourney to see if I can make an appealing cover. :)

What fun!


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling One

There are books everywhere; this makes me happy. There is dusty sunlight coming in through the window; this also makes me happy.

Are there books there? Are they yet to be invented, or rare and precious, or ubiquitous, or left behind and forgotten?

To make a book, we take fibers of various kinds and cause them to tangle and weave together in and around and among themselves and each other, flatten them flat, cut them to size, and bind them together, usually protected at the start and at the end and the bound edge by a thicker layer of fiber sheet, or something even stronger. The fibers must be such that, or must be treated so that, the resulting flat faces are relatively uniform in reflectivity and light diffusion, at least for certain wavelengths of light. Usually.

I imagine fibers dissolved in water, or dissolved in oil or alcohol or nectar, allowed to flow and dance and tangle, overlapping and joining, hooking together with smaller fibers that protrude microscopically from their trunks, joining and separating, and as the water or oil or alcohol or nectar is slowly removed and flows away, forming into elegant flat sheets, shining in the dusty sunlight, and then becoming calm and dry and perfect, matte and uniform.

On the sheets of fiber, we create patterns of differential reflectivity by carefully applying chemicals that adhere well to the fiber matrix, and that also absorb and scatter light of those same wavelengths differently than do the flattened and cut fibers. When one of these patterned sheets is exposed to the right wavelength of light, the patterns can be discerned by analyzing the reflections that occur.

And then because the discerning of the patterns is the important thing, time passes and a book can be anything that creates the appropriate discernible patterns in more or less the same way.

A book is a single long word, a book is an extended pattern of darkness in light, of opaque in clear, of shine in matte. There are no books, there are only words, there are no words there are only sounds, ideas, the Universal Wave Function.

Here is the Universal Wave Function. All that there is, in the universe of the Universal Wave Function, is an infinite manifold, an infinitely-divisible expanse of places, where for each place one can in principle write down some numbers or other symbols, that are unique to that place, and that behave in certain well-defined ways, so that there is some well-defined distance between two places and so on.

And then at each place there are some more numbers and groups of numbers, that we might give whimsical names like Electric Charge or Gravitational Force or Charm or Spin or Color or Flavor or Niceness or Bliss.

Then there is time. Time is an illusion: this present moment is all that exists.

(“Wait,” I might say, “but I remember reading that very sentence just now, and that was in the past,” but that is only me relating, at this present moment, a memory that I have, at this present moment. All moments but this present moment are just memories, or expectations or dreams or fears or whimsies, that exist at this present moment. I could say that this is true, and that this has always been true.)

But in the illusion of time, the various numbers present at the various places in the Universal Wave Function change.

(Change is also an illusion.)

They change in law-like ways, meaning that if we know what the numbers are at a particular time and place and at all the nearby places also, we can say what the numbers will be at that place at some other time. Or we can’t do that, but we can say that there are various ways that the numbers might be at some other time, and the probability of each one being the actual numbers at that time.

Here in the dusty sunbeams, we call this Physics.

In this pile of books (sorry about all of the piles of books; there aren’t enough shelves, there are never enough shelves!) there are two books about Physics. They are both books made by carefully impressing certain chemicals onto flat sheets of intertwined fibers in precise patterns, to change the way that light of certain wavelengths reflects from them.

What does it mean for a book, for this bound-together collection of flat fibrous bundles with patterns of differential reflectivity, to be about Physics? That is a deep question. The chain of links between differential reflectivity and aboutness is long and complicated.

I imagine light coming from the sun (and there is so much to know about the Sun!) coming through the window and through the dust (so much to know about windows, about dust; how does light “come through” a window?) light hitting an open book, light reflecting differentially, some of the reflected light entering certain organic structures, impacting certain sensitive membranes one photon at a time (so much to know about photons, about particles, about the fascinating and deadly realms of the organic, about membranes), and then onward into a vast swamp, forest, continent of words and language and thought, and eventually aeons later into intersubjectivity and aboutness.

This present moment is all that there is, but it contains an unimaginable complexity, and inexhaustible feast of the knowable but unknown, of the imaginable but unimagined. One page of a book, one of the faces of one of those flat sheets of exuberant fiber, bears, in the potential patterns that we might carefully imbue into it with effective chemicals, so much potential that one could never go hungry.

A book is a river, a book is a shadow, a delicious grilled-cheese sandwich, a steak dish at a fine-dining concern, with sauce and garnish (so much to know about sauce and garnish!), a book is another book and another, a book is a collection, a library, a world.

(But there are no books, there are only words, only fibers and chemicals, only elementary particles, only the Universal Wave Function. Or only thoughts and stories.)

This is what I struggle with, sitting near the dusty sunbeams with my books. (So much to know about just sitting! About joints, and about angles of repose!) The present moment is all that exists, and it is only Mind, only Experience. But when Mind partakes in Experience, it weaves stories that give primacy to mass, to energy, to Charge and Spin and Niceness, to the Universal Wave Function. Which is it?

But, I write as I struggle, to ask which it is, is to imagine or imply (so much to know about imagining, about implication!) that there is some answer to that question, an answer which would perforce be in terms of some truth below the level of Mind and Experience, and below Charge and Spin and Niceness, below in the sense of being more primitive or basic, or able in some meaningful way to support or provide answers to questions about both Mind and Experience and the Universal Wave Function.

And what truth would that be?

It is miraculous that one can sigh happily at the sight of the books and the dusty sunbeam, that one can select a book from a shelf or a pile (there are never enough shelves), and take it, and open it, and sit oneself on the window seat or in a comfortable chair (not pictured), and read that book, and have thoughts taken from the content of that book, despite the incomprehensible complexity of the chains of relation involved, between Mind and Spin, between Charge and Thought, even merely between chemicals and diffuse reflectivity.

All books are fiction, because language cannot express Truth. Truth is, always and everywhere, more complex than anything that language can encompass. Nothing that I have written here is true, in some sense of Truth that involves fully reflecting everything relevant about this present moment (which is all that exists). Do not seek for Truth in language (although we may, sitting in the window seat, seek for Truth through language).

Language is pattern, language is a link from sound to thought (so much to know about sound, about thought), a link from differential reflectivity to Mind, from Mind even to Mind, perhaps.

I can tell a story, in which properties of my mind (my Mind), my thoughts, cause through a long and fascinating chain certain sounds or certain differential reflectivities, and that through an equally long and fascinating (so much to learn about fascination!) chain to another mind (another Mind?) where changes might occur (although change, perhaps, is an illusion; what is an illusion?).

So in this story, language allows a property (so much to know about properties) of one mind, to cause or lead to (or come before, ex ante, at least, if we don’t understand causation, and no one understands causation), changes in another mind, perhaps changes involving the same (so much to know about identity!) or at least corresponding properties of that second mind.

I might write down the words “language allows one mind to communicate a thought to another”; but what is communication? What is thought?

This is why it is difficult to construct language about language, nicht wahr? I can use language, and these books can use language, to speak about, to be about, anything whatever, on the assumption that language works for speaking about things. But if I am going to speak about language? What can I use, if I have not yet satisfied myself (satisfied the potential reader) that language works?

This shelf contains a number of books on whose pages are brightly-colored and detailed illustrations of delicious food. Illustrations, images, of delicious food rather circumvent the need for language. The body (and yes, so much to know about the body!) reacts immediately, without the intervention or action of Mind.

(But what is the body, if not a hypothesis of Mind? Body laughs at that question, laughs at all questions beyond how that food smells, how that leaf tastes, how this desire and passion feels, how this sleep soothes, how this abyss tempts. Body claims mind for itself, as nothing but a servant, a clever assistant that calculates how to open the box, how to evade the bull and get the chicken, how to satisfy the desire, how to achieve the passion; and all of Mind’s little side-trips and theories and elaborations are pointless except as they serve those ends, and are tolerated if they do serve those ends, even indirectly, but are not taken seriously. Mind says that body is only a hypothesis of Mind; but the body says we are hungry, we are sleepy. And eventually the body always wins out.)

Where was I? The illustrations of food! They are photographs, and we have not talked specifically about how photographs find their way into books. They are also alterations in the reflectivity of the fiber sheets, but they are generally subtler, providing for gradations in reflectivity, not just the dark-or-light that we implied or suggested or were thinking of before, and for different gradations and different changes for different wavelengths of light, resulting in “color” photographs for instance. And in depicting (what is it, to depict?) this delicious grilled-cheese sandwich, using color is advantageous, is useful, reduces the amount of skill required compared to producing an acceptable grayscale or sepia tone image of a delicious grilled-cheese sandwich.

Despite all of this, one can easily (as I’ve mentioned) take a book, containing in a straightforward way either text or photos or drawings or any combination of these, and sit in a chair in or near the dusty sunbeam, or on the window seat, and read that book, and enjoy the place and the activity. And all of this can be done without understanding everything, or really by various measures without understanding very much at all, about what those words mean, and how those activities and properties hang together and come to be, or about how (if at all!) language succeeds in communicating anything (what?) from mind to mind.

That is, perhaps, the message of the dusty sunbeam and the room full of books (there are never enough shelves) for today: it is entirely possible, indeed it is likely inevitable, to act and experience without full understanding.

Fling Two


Klara by Dale Innis & Karima Hoisan

Well, this is just too much fun. :) Very good Second Life friend and collaborator liked the little Klara piece so much that she voiced it and set it to the perfect music and made it into a rather wonderful YouTube! Definitely more accessible :) and more of an experience this way than the 327MB pdf file. Wooot!

Digital Rabbit Hole

Very excited to share with you all, this off-beat, pretty long (almost 10 minutes) surreal video collaboration with Dale Innis
Those of you who read me regularly, know that Dale Innis is a scripter friend who has collaborated with me and also with Natascha & I for the last 10 years and lately has been dabbling in all sorts of AI Art, especially MidJourney, which is a veritable game-changer in this blossoming field.
He showed me a pdf file of slides and a story-line, that he had made and I fell in love…fell obsessed, is a better word, to try to bring this to a way more people could see it.
This is how the project was born. I found, what we both agree, is the perfect music   Meditative Music and I made a voice-over and edited the slides into what you’ll see below.
This is a very slow-…

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More Visions of Yeni Cavan

I first found Yeni Cavan as a story and art venue, based on a bunch of words used as prompts in the pre-Stable Diffusion NightCafe, way back in February. Since then I’ve tried to find it in various other engines and things, casually and without much luck. But after playing with the engine flows and prompts and things some, here are some images from MidJourney that I rather like; sufficiently Yeni Cavanish, I’d say, although so far I miss the little random patches of bright purple neon and such. (Maybe I’ll try some of the other venues as well eventually.)

Yeni Cavan; interior room (image started in the –hd engine)
Yeni Cavan; room interior (love the comfy couch with the … circuit board? sitting on it)
Yeni Cavan; room interior (I’d like to be there yes)
Yeni Cavan; room interior (pure v3 I think)
Yeni Cavan; room interior (pure –hd I think; intricate!)
Yeni Cavan; detailed surrealism (whee!)
Yeni Cavan; adorable surreal bots
Yeni Cavan; more detailed surrealism!
Yeni Cavan; upstanding citizen
Yeni Cavan; City Waterfront

AI Dreams in Art is Here!!

I mentioned that a generous friend had offered to curate some of my MidJourney productions: well, here’s the official announcement! I’m all non-ironically delighted. Not only did Karima organize and create venues for some of my vast messy piles of images, she also created entire immersive experiences around some of the genres. Woot!

(“Dale Innis” is of course my secret Second Life avatar name, but don’t tell anyone!)

Digital Rabbit Hole

On August 1st, it all started with one prim, a texture and an idea for my 21st world On Kitely – Virtual Worlds, completely inspired by the enormous quantity of AI Art,
Dale Innis was producing.

Dale had been dabbling with AI Art programs for months and the results were interesting, at times creepy and unsettling… but this new program, *MidJourney, was absolutely amazing!! (more about the program at the end)
I was moved to create spaces and divide up his art into genres that could be enjoyed in immersive appropriate places. I am so happy he loved the idea and very much got into even building a few galleries, himself.
All paths lead to somewhere..Pick one and see where it takes you:)

Maybe hang out at a Hippie Campsite, see somePsychedelic Artand listen
to The Youngbloods.

*Disclaimer, an AI has never had a psychedelic experience….and its art…

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Yes, works made with an AI can be copyrighted.

In fact in most cases works made with an AI, just like works made with a typewriter or a paintbrush or Photoshop, are copyrighted by the human who created them, the moment that they are “fixed” (to use the wording of the Berne convention). I’m writing this page mostly to address the many statements to the contrary that are all over the web, and that people keep posting on the MidJourney Discord and so on, so that I can like link to this page whether than typing it in yet again every time someone says it.

But I read that a series of rulings found otherwise!

Yes, sadly, I’m sure you did. Here are just a few samples of this misinformation (one is especially disappointed in Smithsonian Magazine, ffs). But if one reads beyond the misleading headlines, these are all about two decisions by the U.S. Copyright Office in the case of Thaler, and (tl;dr) all those decisions do is reject the theory that an AI can create something as a “work for hire”, and the person using the AI thereby get the copyright to it as the “employer”. Since in US law only persons or “individuals”, not including software or computers, can be “creators in fact” of a creative work, they reject that theory.

The decisions in the Thaler case most definitely do not say that a person who uses an AI program in the ordinary way, just like a person who uses a paintbrush in the ordinary way, doesn’t come to own the copyright to that thing automatically, in the ordinary way (as nicely explained here). And in various other countries, the copyright laws explicitly account for things generated by or with an AI, and acknowledge that copyright applies to them (see for instance this short survey).

(If you’re here just because someone posted you this link when you said that images made using AI can’t be copyrighted, that’s all you need to know, but feel free to read on etc!)

But when a person uses an AI, all the creativity is in the AI, so the person shouldn’t get a copyright!

No court case that I know of, in any country, has ever ruled this way. One might as well argue (and people did, when the technology was new) that there is no creativity in a photograph, since all you do is point the camera and push a button. And yet it’s (now) uncontroversial that people get copyright in the photographs that they take.

It’s easy to take a picture, but a good photographer picks a camera and lenses, decides where to point it and in what light to press the button, and then decides which images to keep. It’s easy to use an AI to make a picture, but a good user of an AI image tool picks an engine and settings, decides what prompt(s) to give it and with what switches to invoke it, and then decides which images to keep. I think those are very analogous; you may disagree. The courts have not yet weighed in as of this writing, but it seems to me that denying copyright because a particular kind of software was involved in a certain way would be a mess that courts would not want to wade into.

If there hasn’t been a positive ruling in the US, though, it could turn out…

I agree, since the law doesn’t explicitly say that a person using an AI to make an image has the copyright in the image, and because the “all the creativity is in the AI” argument does exist, it’s not impossible that some US court could find that way. So one might not want to risk anything really important on that not happening.

What’s up with Thaler, anyway?

Thaler is, well, an interesting character, it seems. He believes that some AI programs he has created have had “near death experiences”, and he has attempted to obtain patents with an AI program as the inventor, as well as the attempts to cast them as work-for-hire employees for copyright purposes, as mentioned above. An individual before his time, perhaps. Perhaps.

Update: What if the ToS of a service says…

As a couple of people asked / pointed out after I posted this, sometimes the Terms of Service on a site where you can create stuff, says or implies that you do not own the copyright to the stuff, but they do, and they grant you some sort of license.

The MidJourney ToS, in fact, currently says that “you own all Assets you create with the Services” with a few exceptions including ‘If you are not a Paid Member, Midjourney grants you a license to the Assets under the Creative Commons Noncommercial 4.0 Attribution International License (the “Asset License”).’ This is a bit terse and ambiguous, but the obvious interpretation is that in that case MidJourney owns the Assets, and grants the user a certain CC license.

As far as I know, it isn’t well-established in IP law whether a ToS can unilaterally change who owns what like this; if anyone knows more, I’d be interested! But in any case, this sort of thing still says or implies that someone owns the rights, so it doesn’t directly impact the overall subject here.

Update 2: Show me an actual AI artwork that is registered with the US Copyright office!

Funny you should ask! :)

Update Infinity: Lots more stuff has been happening since this was originally posted!

See the Copyright tag on the weblog here.

This is boring, post a picture!

A strange surreal owl-thing or something

Sunday in August

Brilliant title, eh? :) Various things have occurred! I will mention some of them.

There is now a full draft of my graphic novel(ette); it’s 40 pages, and about 50MB, so don’t expect your phone to pop it up very quickly. And also don’t expect it to be that good :) as I’ve never really written in this medium before, and it’s tough. In the most recent draft I removed considerable exposition which felt out of place, replacing it with images and short statements. Now I’m afraid the result is basically incomprehensible :) at least to anyone not already familiar with the SF tropes I’m touching on.

It was really fun to do, though! As I’ve mentioned, all of the art was done using MidJourney, and the compositing and most of the text was done in the GIMP. I got a few nice pieces of display text from; if I’d thought about it a little harder, I would have used something more interesting than Sans-Serif Bold (and sometimes Italic) from the GIMP font collection. (There’s a little Verdana, just on the copyright page at the end I think.)

This was the most fun when I was putting together the images that I’d already created that inspired the story in the first place. It was more frustrating when I needed a particular image and was trying to create it in MidJourney; it is sometimes a challenge to generate a specific thing! The water droplet at the very end, for instance, came after many, many attempts to make a crystal / water sphere that wasn’t sitting on a surface of some kind.

Other things! In order to get even more meta than this, we entered “Here is a short description of an image that has some interesting visual elements:” into NovelAI. It responded:

A man wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans sits in his chair, staring at the television. His eyes are closed as he watches a show about two women discussing the weather. The screen reads ‘NBC News’ with a picture of a woman.

and I typed that into MidJourney, and got this:

Four rather fuzzy pictures containing a person and some TV screens

So that’s in some sense entirely AI-generated, using a human-designed procedure. It’s also really boring!

Let’s try again; this time NovelAI says:

A woman in a white dress, standing on a rocky beach. The ocean is behind her and the setting sun makes for a bright glare to one side of her face as she looks out into the water.

and MidJourney responds with (after a considerable delay because I am in relax mode, which is basically “nice -n 19”:

Four nice slightly impressionistic images of a woman standing on rocks by the water with the sun low.

which is quite nice (although again not exactly what the prompt says).

So there you are: the first two (or eight) images produced by a particular meta-algorithm using Modern AI Technology! :)

Other things are to a great extent prevented from occurring by the fact that it is Very Humid outside, and there are Pandemics and so on still. I went out to get bagels this morning, and I was like “yow, what is this very large humid windy room here?”. There’s a chance I’ll get into Manhattan next week; that will be quite a shock!

I have not been playing Video Games to speak of, because all of these AI stuff has been more interesting. There is all sorts of stuff to say about legal issues (Yes, content generated using an AI can be copyrighted by the human creator!) and societal issues (impact of AI on artists and art perhaps similar to impacts of photography on same?) and all like that there. But it is more fun to make cool pictures!

So in closing here is the one I used on the copyright page of the Graphic Novel(ette). Be well!

A surreal image of maybe a sheep standing in shallow water looking at maybe like a blimp made of sticks or something.

Trying to be fair to web3

I have, obviously, said a number of skeptical (or sceptical, what’s up with that?) things about NFTs and blockchains and The Metaverse, and cryptocurrency and “web3” in general. Including pointing out with some evil glee the extent to which web3 is going just great.

Recently Daniel Ritchie, who is apparently a friend of Grady Booch, wrote a piece decrying how negative people have been about web3, and basically imploring such people to give it a chance: Web3 has an Identity Problem. It’s short; I urge you to read it and reflect upon what it says.

I replied to the Twitter post that announced it, and this led to a little tree of discussion with the author, in which I expressed a desire for examples of web3 things that are actually good / interesting / exciting, and the author urged me to look at the ones listed in their piece (and not be so negative about them).

I also wrote a brief answer to my own question (of whether anything in the web3 space is new or useful), viz:

Just wanted to get that down, so as not to seem like a total old grump. :)

I thought it might be interesting to go through the dozen or so things that are listed in the article; as the underlying claim is that critics of web3 are ignoring things like those on this list, consciously not ignoring them can only make our ideas about web3 more accurate. But as I started to do that, it became apparent that talking about all dozen of them would make a long and likely tedious post.

So I’ll urge you again to look at them all yourself, but for now I’ll talk about just one that specifically caught my eye: “proof of humanity”, which is a link to I looked it over and found the idea both unworkable, and terrifyingly dystopian. The idea is that there would be a distributed blockchain-based system that would maintain a list of (blockchain addresses associated with) actual living humans, with mechanisms for people to challenge each other’s humanity or livingness, ways to prove that you are (still) human/alive, and so on.

If this were to be actually used for something that matters, the Black Mirror episode is obvious: in some sort of straits, the protagonist attempts to obtain help, only to find that someone has challenged their humanity, and they have to find a video camera and a recent blockchain hash, so that they can satisfy the network that they are still human and alive. Meanwhile, bad guys have bribed a few registered humans to vouch for the humanity of a few bots, which have vouched for more bots, and the percentage of actual humans in the official list of humans is slowly sinking, and all the big state-level actors can basically put the humanity of any dissenter into perpetual limbo, while running a network of certified-human bots and minions for their own ends.

When I expressed these worries, Daniel Ritchie linked me to an episode of the Green Pill podcast, which is an interview with the person behind Proof of Humanity. (“greenpilling” is another term on his list, referring to this podcast, and it looks like this same podcast person coined at least one more term on the list, “regenerative cryptoeconomics”; small world!)

Despite my personal dislike of podcasts (can’t I get a transcript?), I listened to the episode, and it did not address my dystopian worries at all. It also added a bunch of new worries about the “$UBI token” which is automatically given (one per hour) to everyone currently officially recognized as a human.

It seems obvious to me that a small private group isn’t going to provide the world’s humans with a Universal Basic Income by just minting electronic coins with no backing (talk about “fiat currency”), and sending them out to everyone; indeed the current value of $UBI is about $US0.04, so that’s four cents an hour, which I would imagine is completely dominated by transaction costs in any realistic scenario.

Now of course this is just me being negative again! Giving every human on the planet a regular income is a great idea, and maybe they will figure out a way to in fact make it work! Why should I assume that they won’t? The intent is good, even if the impact is not-yet.

(The “that’s a nice thing to want to do” feeling points to something that shows up a lot in the listed projects: web3 projects that want to do nice things, that have salutary intent, but that so far have not actually produced good results, or in many cases even suggested plausible mechanisms through which good results might eventually be obtained.)

My best answer to that, I think, is that the probability of this working seems really, really low, and the time and effort being put into it could be instead put into things with a higher success chance. Of course, what do I know?

The currency of the United States used to be based on gold, which is pretty and useful and limited in supply, and so in some sense has inherent value; even if people stopped caring about dollars, you could get gold from the government for them, and make gold things. Now it’s based on the US government promising that it has and will continue to have value, paying people in it and accepting only it for tax and other payments, and so on. That is a kind of value that is perhaps less inherent; US persons, at least, will not stop caring about dollars at least a bit, because they will need some to pay their taxes (and get government payments in it, and etc).

What would it take to get $UBI to work as a currency, without its value going to zero in the obvious way? Some institution or billionaire could promise to honor it at some minimum exchange rate with US$ or gold or something, but that’s not very scalable. (This is what “stablecoins” do for say Bitcoin, but that works only due to massive fraud.) What if everyone, for some large value of “everyone”, just liked it, as an idea, and the minter behaved and continued to mint and distribute only an amount per person-hour that roughly reflected the amount of actual value produced per person-hour? Could it continue to be accepted by everyone, just because it’s accepted by everyone?

This sounds like a risky thing to base a universal currency on :) but I should read more advanced theory of currency before I decide that it’s infeasible.

It does bother me that the website and podcast and so on don’t at all address the obvious potential problems of using a big complex distributed system to decide whether people are human, how the system could be abused, and so on. This does not in general give me big faith that they’ve thought through everything else thoroughly.

Arguably the world just needs a balance between “it’s a good idea and maybe it can be made to work somehow” optimists, and “it may be a good idea, but I see no way it can work” skeptics, and Daniel is the former and I am the latter, and that’s fine, all is working as designed. I worry, though, about the number of people who get hooked on the optimistic statements, and end up losing tons of money to bad actors, the amounts of energy that crypto is wasting, etc. If there were no downsides to web3-optimism, I might well not bother being a vocal skeptic. But as it is… well, there are definitely downsides!


Ink on Paper

I am having Various Thoughts about what these mean for the nature of creativity, the relationship between the artist and the viewer, and all like that. Whoosh!

(The US copyright office just ruled that an AI can’t hold copyright in stuff; but we humans probably still can, as long as we don’t make too big a deal about how the AI really did all the work, heh heh.)

An Old Riverboat
Lights Along The River
Thoughts of the Land
Thoughts of the Country
Thoughts of the Past
Reaching High
Deep Earth
The Marketplace (with shopping carts!)
Quiet Valley; Birds Resting

A few bonus smaller ones:

The Cathedral
Stone Pillars
Signs and Omens

And finally a travel poster (not that we want too many tourists!).

Quiet Valley; Travel Poster

There are more, of course. A few more that I’ve already made (found? discovered? elicited?), many more that I will soon, and an unthinkably huge number that exist potentially, just keystrokes and a few minutes away, the vast majority of which no one will ever see. I don’t have a way to relate to this, mentally! How do I imagine, conceptualize, this huge collection, and this tiny subset of it that I have seen, that anyone will ever see?