I have seen the enemy and it is…
Words. An odd thought from someone who lives for them and earns a livelihood from them.
But while we’re all still fighting over fake news and free speech and truth and consequences, less than two months ago on November 22nd the San Francisco company Open AI released its latest generation writing bot called Chat GPT. It is to the revolution of thought what wheels were to roads.
Given the initial media response, ChatGPT will either shutter universities, vaporize teachers and homework, and eliminate rational debate, or usher in a new age of enlightenment. But as with many new technologies and bad drugs, the early days ChatGPT is fun and often magic. You ask it a question; it gives you a lengthy, thoughtful, nuanced, and often chummy reply. From 50 words to 5,000. Kul!
I wrote about this last month. But I urge you to try it now – if only to become familiar with a technology that could bring us all closer to “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.” To start, click here.
A new way to see the world. The Davos people have produced a series of maps that make it easy to see the gathering storms facing humankind.
“The horse nobody wanted.” Just as tiny Gander, Newfoundland, became the hero in the Broadway hit, Come From Away, so too could “Dancer”, a musical about the racehorse Northern Dancer, become…well, a kid can dream, right?
Also, no wonder this dog’s called what he is.
How to spend money. Why is there so much advice on how to invest money, and so little on how to spend it? Here’s an instructive place to start, with Morgan Housel. “I think you’ll see that a disproportionate share of those with the biggest homes, the fastest cars, and the shiniest jewelry, grew up “snubbed” in some way. Part of their current spending isn’t about getting value out of flashy material goods; it’s about healing a social wound inflicted when they were younger.”
4.The herd has moved – Part 1.Suddenly, two great social lubricants seem out-of-fashion. The first is alcohol, whose steady decline in North America meets social movements like Dry January and credible medical studies that claim any amount of alcohol can harm you.
Drinking has been declared dead before. But somehow it feels different this time: after all, by 2026 all new cars made in the US must have technology that tests the sobriety of drivers.
5. The herd has moved – Part 2. The second shift is the sudden unfashionability of ultra-high-end restaurants: with news that Noma, the world’s ‘best restaurant’ will close because its business model just isn’t sustainable, combined with movies like “The Menu” with Ralph Fiennes, as the Caligula-like chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Yes, a recession culls bloviated appetites everywhere, but being a foodie seems finally to have a limit.
6. How to surrender to a drone. The Ukrainian Armed Forces has produced a video to show Russian soldiers how to lay down their arms and turn themselves in -- to a drone.
Speaking of surrender, is it really wise to turn our lives over to an app which can manage our schedules, families, money and love lives? Like resolutions, they seem to proliferate in January.
7. The last interview. For 58 years Janet Malcolm interviewed people for The New Yorker. She died in 2021 at age 86. Last year, a collection of her most infamous interviews was published. Last week, Max Abelson wrote an astounding review of them, titled Malcolm on the Stand. As he noted: “"Reading them has the perverse quality of seeing a judge on trial or your analyst in therapy."
Speaking of last things, here’s Jacinda Ardern, announcing she’ll not serve past February 7th as New Zealand’s Prime Minister. Her reason? That oddest and most refreshing of all: “I’m human.”
8. “This House believes wokeness has gone too far.” Hear Russian-British commentator Konstatin Kisin debate the perils of wokeness at the Oxford Union.
9. Some inevitabilities aren’t. It seems China’s population has fallen for the first time in 60 years. Among its many implications, mostly bad, is the fact that later this year India will surpass China as the most populous country on earth.
10. Singing in the shower. One of the world’s most successful choirs began in Toronto and just grows and grows and grows. So if you can carry a tune, you can lift a crowd. Join Choir! Choir!Choir! – and sing like this.
Also, I’m reading Bono’s wonderful memoir, Surrender: 40 songs, one story. I’m listening to it, which is like hearing Anthony Bourdain read Kitchen Confidential. The stories sit up when you can hear their voice.