Artificial Intelligence

Monteverde Travel Blog

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Pinata scramble. Laura's birthday at the home of the family I stayed with while learning enough Spanish to get me through Central America

I read somewhere that they are designing a computer programmed to write books.  You fill in a few key words and it comes up with a narrative.  Fascinating....


"Did you say William Gibson? You mean cyber punk? Your doing a PhD thesis on cyber punk?"  he's practically slavering.  I've been sitting beside this guy for three hours now.  On our way up the Monteverde switchbacks.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I've been wondering, as the bus lurches precariously on perfectly absent shocks, if we will finally just tip over on one of the hair pin corners and find our way down into a gorge.  Abandon this course for another... more poetic.  Become part of a new scene


 a rusting, twisted hunk of metal with trace signs of decaying organic cells

   hardening bones the only evidence of what was once a life

      our remains fused to this green fecundity,

                    overrun by vines and trailers

               a perch for birds

                  a dwelling place for snakes


           eventually we'd be nothing but a memory


I knew as soon as I said it, that I shouldn't have told this guy about my chapter on Gibson's science fiction.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve
  Guess I was forced into some semblance of sympathy; his head had been so studiously angled to the pages of  Mona Lisa Overdrive, & he seemed so genuinely pale with the effort of concentrating on not  watching the way the driver of the bus was negotiating the road, that I let my guard slip.  Now I'd have to talk the rest of the journey.  What's worse, I'd have to talk SF.  & if his lank banged hair and too big steel rimmed glasses are anything to go by,  he's the worst kinda Science Fiction groupy.  An outta style computer hack on holiday. I wondered for a moment if he hadn't been transported by aliens to this jungle setting.  Couldn't imagine him choosing to be here.


Intelligence is artificial when it has been transposed. When one thing shifts context.  Like Douglas Adams' robot in Derk Gently's Wholistic Detective Agency. The mechanical monk designed to be the believer  in a faithless world.  Of course, machines themselves don't always cause moral angst. A calculator is a tool of convenience, not a life form.  When a computer sashays thru equations we ho-hum the routine; when it starts to combine and process information from two distinctly different areas, proceeds to create a new formula, & then tells us its new formula is more moral than ours, we may begin to get uncomfortable. The act of thinking is intimately connected with creativity.  Adam started with the ability to name.  Back at York University I teach my students that the act of naming is an act of power.  Who's to say where intelligence comes naturally and where it is artificial?  In the naming? In the recognition?  In the choosing?


              cogito ergo sum least i think that's what i think...


Perhaps the only way to define thot is thru choices.  & choices are always told thru memory.  A past tense.  A tense past.  A tension between what was offered and what was accepted.  & justification is nothing more than an attempt to disguise the power. The naming.  The choices. The arrangement.


        artificial intelligence isn't really so different from the reel


"Shanghaied."  My SF loving companion says by way of an explanation for his being on this particular bus in this particular country at this particular moment.  "My girlfriend is an eco enthusiast.  She got sick as soon as we landed in San Jose;  flew back within a week.  I decided to stay since my ticket was booked for twenty one days. Came here on charter. [pause]  Gibson, you said?  ...I can't believe they'd let you work on Gibson.  Jacking into the net & all that.  Dontcha just love the stuff about sim stim and ice?"


            western filters


Last time I looked out the window on the left, the rainforest was buzzing by like green fuzz.  Squinting at the branches I crane my neck, sure I'd just seen a sloth or maybe a jaguar.


    fuck if only this guy'd slow down a bit

           we're missing all the details

    was that a parrot? or a computer simulation?


"Maybe God's a giant hard drive & we're just  bytes of memory." I offer. My part in this conversation.  Glib.


Relatively speaking, as a product of a post-McLuhen Canada, I learned the fundamental necessity of electric chip-and-byte data bases rather late in life.  Most of my colleagues had lost their computer-less virginity long before I finally submitted. What is more, I sit about as uncomfortably with computers now, as I do with men and sex.  Both inevitable & both confusing.  Never able to escape the way they infiltrate the language of my speaking...


& sometimes the hardest thing about this travel shtick is escaping what you thought you left behind.  I admit I miss my computer from time to time.  My long hand is rusty. But even when I'm back in the familiar environs of Canada, I've always been more at home canoeing and camping the shield lakes than sitting in Toronto at my desk of an evening, trying to figure out why my screen just went blank, & whether or not I'd be able to retrieve the last twelve pages.


& I draw the line at talking cyberbabble while this bus careens supremely on the way to one of the only cloud forest preserves in the world. 


"Mmnn," I mumble noncommittally when Computer-Buff-in-Costa-Rica asks whether or not I actually believe spirits can inhabit an intercontinental network of electronically coded  information.  But when my shoulder slams into the glass of the window as we turn the next bend, I begin to sense his perspective: the longing for control; the need for a buffer zone; the software cushioning of a pre-programmed agenda is understandable given the kamikaze driver at the helm of this particular journey.


More than five hours after leaving San Jose we step down onto the uneven ruts of  Moteverde's main drag--both of us bent over, just short of an impulse to kiss the ground. Monteverde.  A Quaker settlement turned nature preserve. 


    the green mountain


I search thru the hump of backpacks and shoulder mine aboard, test out stiff joints with a few deep knee bends, mumble a "Have fun" and a "See ya later," then make my way up the gravel and dirt road in hope of a cheap establishment.  The air is surprisingly cool & it lingers on the tongue--like the anticipation of spicy herbal tea.  Tomorrow I will enter the cloud forest in search of long green feathers.  Dreams of quetzals circumnavigating the globe I thot I knew.  The once familiar now a virtual reality of back-home lovers and print-culture  investigations.  Pulp & paper puppets.

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Pinata scramble. Lauras birthday …
Pinata scramble. Laura's birthday…
Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve
Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve
photo by: smhirsch