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  • Writer's pictureChris Russell

Season 3 Episode 9 - AI and the Dead...

Outro S3 E9

Hello my survivor friends, Happy holidays! There is ice on the pond, snow on the ground and my furnace is working hard to keep this old bag of bones warm.

We are almost there! One episode away from our 50th in the narrative that will mark the halfway point of the After the Apocalypse journey. For those of you time traveling that puts us at the ides of December 2022.

Our story is cooking right along. Hope you’re enjoying it. My goal is to make it evergreen so that, even at the end of season 5, there will be a nice 100 episode stack for people to enjoy as they come upon it.

We get about 4-500 downloads a week, that’s where it stabilized. Downloads are not listens, but it’s really the only thing that Acast can track. We spiked up last spring to over 20,000 downloads a month but then it dropped a little as I took some time off over the summer.

I do get Ad revenue for this, but not enough to cover my cost and no where enough to cover my time! That’s where the love comes in. The love fills the gap.

My wife would say, “Just get each of those 20,000 people to pay you.” Which seems simple enough, but, of course it doesn’t work that way. Which is a long way around of saying, if you can sign up for one of the subscription options on Patreon or Acast I will appreciate it and send you an After the Apocalypse patch for your favorite ugly sweater.

So, sit back and get comfy, because today I’m going to talk about art and the concept of generating art.

You may have seen the recent buzz around “Generative AI”.

There’s a bunch of Apps out that use new AI engines to generate content. The way this generation of AI works is that it is ‘Machine Learning’ based. That means you start with a general capability to learn targeted to some space, like painting or writing, then you feed that engine as many examples of what you are trying to generate. The machine learns form these examples and can then generate it’s own content based on what it has been trained in.

So you feed the algorithms all of Picasso’s works and it can turn around and create a Picasso-like rendition of your selfie. It’s pretty cool. There’s an iPhone app called LensaAI that will do this and is making waves right now.

Or, in the case of writing, you feed it all of Hemingway and then you ask it to write a 500-word essay in the style of Hemingway about dogs. It will produce that essay and it will be a pretty good approximation of Hemingway’s style. And there is an open AI program called ChatGPT that is doing just that.

Theoretically you could load the episodes of After the Apocalypse into it and it could write the rest of the season for me.

If they can generate text and visual art, they can also generate music and video.

Artificial intelligence isn’t a new concept. It has been on our minds since the dawn of science fiction. I our world as apocalyptic fiction geeks we’ve been running from evil sentient computers for decades.

Just last week we talked about the Harlan Ellison apocalyptic novella “A Boy and His Dog”. Another great Harlan Ellison story is “I have no mouth but I must scream” about a sentient cold war super computer that spends it time torturing the handful of survivors of the war. It’s chilling. I listened to it on some podcast that I can’t remember, but you can listen to it on YouTube.

I remember reading one story in an anthology many years ago that always struck me. In this story they created a computer that would manage the world. No one would go hungry, there wouldn’t be any chaos or economic turmoil. The computer was programmed to manage everything to an even keel.

But, in the story, for some reason they kept having problems. There would be a shortage or some other anomaly despite the logic of the computer. The protagonist was on a mission to figure it out. What he discovered was the computer was working fine but since humans were still involved, they still found a way to screw things up.

That’s just a sampling. There are thousands of these types of stories that go way back to Greek mythology. In some way this ‘artificial human’ taps some dark fear in our psyche. It’s like we know we’re smart enough to create our own replacement and we also know there is nothing we can do to stop ourselves.

Like the scorpion, we can’t help ourselves, it’s in our nature.

This new wave of automation is an existential threat to creatives. Because, hey, it’s ok to automate those manual blue-collar jobs, but now you’re coming for the Bourgeois!

The biggest defense of humans against the machines was our ability to imagine new things – to create.

Now that we’ve taught our machines how to create, what is our value?

These early versions of generative AI are only doing what they’ve been programmed to do. In the background there is some mathematical definition of Hemingway’s style. Maybe it’s the short sentences and tight prose. Maybe it’s the vocabulary.

If we were to program our After the apocalypse into the machine learning, what would it find? Maybe it would weight the use of dark imagery and complex vocabulary? Perhaps an introspection of the characters?

I don’t know.

I think the current independent author model of generating piles of content to keep sales up is probably ripe for disintermediation. AI could generate most of the mediocre content. Which is 80% of the content that exists.

There’s a business model there. I foresee a future where content must be labeled as human or robot generated.

Send this is the point in this essay where it gets weird…

I was listening to outtakes from a Jerry Garcia interview…Hold on, what? Who’s Jerry Garcia?

Well, children, Jerry was the lead guitarists for the Grateful Dead. I’m currently listening my way through the Grateful Dead podcast and it’s really, well, interesting.

One of the hallmarks of the Dead was that they never played the same show. Over 30 years of touring and 2300+ shows you never got the same show.

One of the segments in these concerts was called ‘Space’ where they just went sideways into weird audio effects and jams for long periods. I always though they called it ‘space’ because they were a bunch of heads spacing out.

But in the interview what Jerry said was that they were trying to create a physical space. An N-dimensional space through the music. Create that space beyond the music with the music as the vehicle or the key to the vehicle.

And that my friends, is why we still need humans. The AI can mimic in their creations but they aren’t actually creating new space.

Can the AI realize that I’m trying to construct an episode that contrasts the brightness and normalcy of the Distribution Center with the darkness and chaos of the apocalypse?

We’ll see.

Sorry for the long strange trip this turned into today. Most of the things I talk about here have hyperlinks to the source material and I am posting these on the newish website

I count 13 hyperlinks in this article. That means if you hear something you want to know more about just go to the website, find the post and follow the link.

You can also ask us on the FaceBook group – (which will be the 14th Website I’ve hyperlinked to in this article)

Have a great week, I’m working on Episode 10. I may take a couple weeks off over the holidays.

But, since you’re listening to this from an evil-AI controlled future – you probably won’t care.

Don’t worry too much about the looming apocalypse, smile … and keep surviving.

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