After The Rains: Fungi

I was walking around the block yesterday and noticed all of the mushroom and fungi popping up on people’s lawns. We’ve had a ton of rain, so this is not all that surprising, but it is pretty cool how many different looking fungi there are, depending on soil and plant life.

Peace (and Observation),
Kevin

AI Analogy: Wedding Bands and Disc Jockeys

Drums
Drums flickr photo by JP Carrascal shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

My father, before he retired, was an accountant by day, drummer by night. When I was growing up, he was always busy with music. His Fridays, Saturdays and sometimes Sundays were spent keeping the beat in a variety of different wedding and dance bands, and he traveled all over, playing with different combinations of musicians every gig. (He also gave private drum lessons during the week, but that’s not really part of this story.)

And then, quite suddenly, the gigs began to dry up. It was the start of the DJ Revolution, where one person or two with a mixing board could replace an entire band of live musicians. For wedding and party planners, the cost differential of hiring a single DJ versus an entire band was huge, and for many, the finances was the decision factor. Understandable, but regrettable.

What was lost was not just my father’s regular gigs, which petered out over a stretch of time, but also the element of live music at these events, which I contend is a huge loss for making a wedding or party something special. Oh, I know DJs can do a fine job of finding the right songs and making the right mix to get our hands in the air and all that (one of my sons is now a part-time party DJ, ironically), but I’ll always argue that being in the presence of a good live band is a transformative experience. You feel the music being created, and the connection between audience and musician in the same room is an energy you can’t quite replicate with machine. Watching a human performance is a visceral experience, tying an event to memories in ways that digital tracks cannot.

Anyway, my father’s gigs dried up as DJs became more prominent, and I was thinking of this shift recently as the ethics of the data sets of Artificial Intelligence, and the ease of use to create art with Generative AI, comes more into focus. If AI can write a script, or make a piece of art, or compose a piece of music, or produce a video, or whatever, and the cost differential is the bottom line for companies that would have otherwise hired real people to make real art, then the world will shift.

Like it did for my father and his generation of musicians.

We see this same issue now playing out in the strikes in Hollywood with writers and now actors, who, among other things, worry about if their creative talents will be replaced by AI in the future as cost-cutting measures. It’s a legitimate concern, I think.

What will be lost when my father’s generation of live musicians faded into the shadows of the machine is similar, too: the authenticity of interactive experience, of being in the immediate presence of a piece of art that was conceived by the human mind and brought into being through the creative process for an audience of one (you, when you experience the art, in whatever form that art has become).

I’m not sure how I feel about this cultural transformation, or if it can be slowed or altered at this point in time. Probably not. But I already mourn the loss as a member of the audience and as a maker of art, you know?

Even as I play around with Generative AI platforms and use AI to figure out its potential (and maybe new art forms, which is potentially exciting), I know I’ll hang on to the pen scratches on paper, to the power of a musician’s solo that is different in every performance, to the synergy and energy of actors in a scene, and to much more, but will the generations after us even care whether the art is live or if it synthetic?

I hope so.

Peace (Pondering It),
Kevin

Write Across America: Ghost Story of Northern Virginia

The latest stop on the virtual summer writing tour of various sites of the National Writing Project — known as Write Across America – was in Northern Virginia and the theme of exploration was ghost stories.

I missed the Zoom session but I used some of the resources to explore some interesting stories, including that of the “Female Stranger” of Alexandria, which features a headstone in a graveyard and only hints at her story. This one informed my poem.

Here some of my other poems from my other stops –

Nebraska

Georgia

Hawaii

We/US

Peace (In Explorations),
Kevin

 

Google’s New AI Duet Workspace: Hummingbird Haiku

I saw an invite to my Google Account to pilot Google’s integration of AI into its various apps called, I think, Duet AI. They are rolling out a bit of it at a time, and after some hemming and hawing, I decided to give it a go (I might still opt out at some point but given all the inquiry and experimenting I have been doing already, it seemed like another step). Google has an explanatory page about Duet here.

I experimented with Duet in Google Docs after deciding to do some poem collaboration with the AI (which I assume is powered by Bard). I began with a haiku about hummingbirds, and then asked the Duet AI to write one, too. It did, and there are some options for tweaking the text, if wanted. You can Recreate (I didn’t find this worked all that well but maybe that is because the haiku poems were short) or Refine (with a few different parameters).

Then, I kept going, back and forth (another game of AI Chat Tennis), and I even tried to get it to turn the Document of poems into a Presentation (which I saw happen in a demo but it told me that feature had not yet rolled out).  The BOLD poems are mine and the ITALICS poems are via Duet.

Google AI 1

I even asked it to generate a list of possible titles for our collection. I had to recreate this a few times. Most were drab. One ended up OK.

Google AI 2

I later added the collection of poems to Giphy and added my own animated birds in motion, because … well, hummingbirds, right?

My initial reaction — I could see Duet being helpful as a thinking partner. The tool didn’t feel too intrusive (it sits off to the side with a little icon) and when I opened it up, it gave me some possible ideas for use with my writing. I haven’t looked at my email platform yet nor the presentation platform, but I will.

I do wonder about how and when and if Duet will be integrated into Google’s school platforms, and what that might look like. (I think Google has said they are NOT pushing Duet and AI into school Google networks … yet)

Anyone else given Duet a go?

Peace (Experimenting),
Kevin

Observations On A ChatGPT Collaboration

one path, diverged

AI Image by Dall-E

Sometimes, you just need to play to figure out something new.

Yesterday, a few friends joined me in exploring a collaboration feature within ChatGPT that allows you to share out a query/response, and another person can then build on it, and then share it back out.

It works OK, but there is no overview map of where the strands get taken, and by whom. It’s easy to be using a link that someone else has already used and advanced, and you’re still in the past. Things can get confusing, quickly. It would make more sense to do this with a single partner, sharing information and queries and responses back and forth (this could be a classroom activity between two students, perhaps?)

There were about a half dozen friends working at various times, sharing back links here at the blog or on Twitter, and two strands emerged at the end, with a slight diversion. I brought both to a “close” this morning by asking ChatGPT to write a poem in the style of either Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman.

Strand One: https://chat.openai.com/share/c70b7769-729e-4e8e-83da-f1ee1974e53a

Strand Two: https://chat.openai.com/share/09319ab7-363b-4f64-b297-2a1a0b59fbbf

You can still play around with the strands, if you want, as this game of ChatGPT Tennis, as Wendy calls it, is everlasting (I think). Just share the link to your extension somewhere and we’ll play on.

Peace (and Play),
Kevin

Feature: Chat Collaboration (or ChatGPT Tennis)

chat collab screenshot
My CLMOOC friends, Sarah and Wendy, were doing some riffing off a ChatGPT response the other day to a DS106 Daily Create when I noticed they were using a feature I had not seen before, allowing you to “share” out a ChatGPT query and response via a link.

This feature allows other people to then access and use the original query/response for further prompting — essentially giving an opportunity for what Wendy delightfully called “ChatGPT Tennis” (as in, return the volley to someone else, and build on an idea, then send it back).

I am curious about the ways this might be used by partners or teams of people, to work an idea into either variations or perhaps to further hone in on a kernel of an idea together. Wendy and her thinking partner do a nice job going over some possibilities in her Elevate Postcard video.

I did ask ChatGPT to create a 25 word story (about thunderstorms) and it generated the link for sharing, so if you want to play along and see how it works, here is the link to the original response. You will need to share the links of any iterations, however, as the original owners don’t get any notifications (which is too bad). You could do that here, in the comments, or on Twitter or Mastodon. Or you can decide not to share back out. It’s up to you.

Peace (Volley For Serve),
Kevin