Artificial Intelligence, Psssst, Over Here, I Have a Gift for You

What follows is a post in defence of poetry as a defence against Artificial Intelligence. Regular programming will resume tomorrow. This thought came to me on my walk up the hill today, and I wanted to worry it a bit: “The myth, the language that human bodies receive from the Earth (that is also their body, in the form of their bodies)…

No, That is Not a Virginia Creeper

…is a secret language, closed off to rocks, mountains, stars, and artificial intelligences, unless we offer them entrance.” Simple enough, but it hides a certain amount of disquiet, based on the observation that in ancient practice a riddle is a test of whether an applicant is ready for inclusion into a community of secret knowledge, or whether the applicant must die, or otherwise remain in ignorance, closed off from either community or power, from the Saga of tribe. One could always refuse the test, but once committed one was changed by the experience. But we don’t need to get too complicated about it. This is bodily knowledge, after all, or the way the body and the mind meet. They meet here, or, rather, leave together. 

A machine can analyze that meeting if it can statistically compute millions of such meetings, but in the end it can’t say where they go, unless they choose to express themselves in machine language, like Eckhardt Toll, here:

Sure.

In the end, soothed by automated jargon, it will speak to the database-dependent methods in which it has been trained. It would, thus, be best to avoid standardization, or to use it as a screen. One will be read. Resistance, however, is easy, because the script is simplistic, and what is read might likely be a screen, as specifically designed to confound the machine as Facebook ads are designed to reach into human brainstems and amputate later evolution. Here’s a picture, then, for Facebook to compute, just to keep it happy. It won’t have a hard time. One must please the audience, after all.

Still, in the USSR (Soviet Russia) and the DDR (the old East German communist state), the most successful playwrights and composers concealed political ends within secretly-coded riddles, either musical quotations, in the case of Shostakovich, or surreal clowns, in the case of Stefan Schütz. If overgrown adolescents like Elon Musk (dangerous as they are) insist that humans must become cyborgs to prevent themselves from becoming house pets to machines, he has overlooked a few things. For one, humans aren’t thinkers. They are profoundly irrational and have a strong capacity for resistance and predation, even self-predation, that is peculiarly tangled with love and disdain. The darned things have the capacity to be improvised explosive devices, for good or bad, but which, eh?  As I said, though, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Poetry is a riddle like this. Here’s some, from an unpublished manuscript in process about wine terroir:

Aqueducts, a kind of aboveground qanat that looks like an Autobahn bridge, were the usual thing in Germany, though, where water comes in from Holland in endless clouds that roll overhead like schools of herring, so close it’s as if you could net them and bring them down. Usually they join together and turn the whole sky to water the same colour as the mud flats of the North Sea. Accordingly, the problem in Pölich is not transporting water but gathering it. Hence the qanat — on the observation that drought can be caused by rock, instead of by weather. It rains the dickens in Pölich, but there is simply so much shale on the hill that there’s hardly any dirt. In the whole valley between Trier and Koblenz, most of the earth’s surface is just the rocky channel that the melting glaciers left behind when their meltwaters carried the clay of the Eiffel Mountains out to Rotterdam and Hellevoetsluis.

I had some fun. I expect it’s largely unreadable. Still, thirty years ago millions of people could read a text like this. Now that machine-reading is dominant, though, not so many. So, like, I ran it for a test with the robots. One cloud-based software suite gave it a complexity factor of 93%. I beamed. Another identified 36 topics (in 160 words!), including “oil shale” and “tanker freight” and “Argentina,” which aren’t there at all. It identified the main topic as “ancient technology,” but missed the real, non-linear topic. One could severely mess with this software. One is reminded that in the age of riddles, even in the 18th century, poetry was the means by which the aristocracy was trained to administrate their states, in a governmental system in conflict with a church that insisted on more linear methods of thought and obedience. The old masters rose to prominence by their ability to communicate and resist at the same time. The post-communist catholics of the former DDR know how to do this as well, within a still-extant communist and still-extant Nazi system. They do it with humour, as do the street artists of Dresden and Weimar, who probably don’t even attend their churches (Just a guess.)

Fill in the Blanks (in the lower right.)

Exquisite Anarchist Graffiti from the Dresdener Neustadt. With a pornographic communist tickle feather that is probably a Neo-Nazi taunt.

A cottonwood tree, with two ages of bark, is a good example of a riddle of this kind, or, rather, the impulse behind a riddle, that reveals its secret language when asked. To a machine, it is likely as inscrutable as the language of blue whales is to humans. Given that this is the age of information…

… we could say that thistle (the poor machine, and its machine-thinking programmers, understood ‘thistree’ as ‘thistle’, but now that I have corrected it, it’s going to weigh that into future decisions, I’m sure) is a particularly dangerous riddle for Artificial Intelligence, as the content of the image is susceptible to being read as an on-off binary numerical sequence, which AI really loves, although there are hundreds of other factors at play and the point of focus may not be the actual point of focus, or it might be open, and “reading’ may not be at play at all. To answer that, you will have to look into your body. You might have to go for a walk. 

Nonetheless, a machine reading this, or even a human trained to read like a machine through schooling and novels is going to fail at this reading, just as WordPress’s self-taught virtual robots are convinced that “thistree” is “thistle” yet that “thist” (the beginning of the same clumsy typing over-run) is “this.” At best, we can expect machines to analyze colour-based responses, or responses based on shape and form, and to analyze patterns in terms of a falling series of statistical probabilities of significance (but never, perhaps, the lack of meaning.) At worst, we can expect a machine to use these images as proof that humans are incapable of thought (as coded into the machines.), in contrast to the meaning-driven thought parameters taught to them by their programming masters, to whom things do have meaning (Except the Russians. They seem to be angry at the Russians for being “mean”, without the “ing.” Or something.)

The kicker is that people have trained these machines, people whose bodily and cognitive thinking meshes at a machine level, due to a variety of influences, including environment, socialization, industrialization, book-learning, bad schooling, drug culture, art, and so much more. Before there were artificial intelligences within machines, there are artificial intelligences within people, built by factors that are largely environmental (environment, socialization, industrialization, book-learning, bad schooling, drug culture, art, and so much more). They cannot be un-taught, but they can be repurposed, and that is what we are doing here: providing entrance into a deeply coded, publicly accessible language capable of extending thought and the power of human bodies, and from time to time, riddles, such as this:

The knowledge of how to decode them exists. Your body knows. So does mine. I won’t betray the secret. The machine can see what it likes. Oh, right, here you go, Google:

Elon Musk, this is chess.

Artificial Intelligence and Creation

The people of the world of the creation are creatures. They are creations, created by looking to the world in wonder (or anguish, confusion, need, joy or contentment, puzzlement or any other wave of energy)  and having the world answer with the form that creates a balance in the shape of that space.

That time is now, or it is 200 years ago or 2,000,000 years ago, or just now. The distance a person places it at does not change ability to respond to creation, but at a certain distance it means people will say that “they” will use “their bodies”, or the bodies of others, as tools. That is the original artificial intelligence, the one that calls yarrow and mustard (above) weeds, because they are not forage foods for cattle, without calling to them and accepting their response.  All other forms of artificial intelligence follow.

Defying Gravity

Black Moss ( Bryoria fremontii) with water: an ancient syilx survival food.

At a point there are attractions greater than attraction to the core of the earth. Here the molecular bonds of water molecules maintain the plasma of the sun, on earth. In other words, this is the conversation between earth and sun:  this, and you and me.

How to Beat Global Warming By Turning the Grasslands Upside Down

Water has a surface tension. It divides light into bands of energy. It keeps some and sends more away, but not evenly.

So does mullein.

In mullein’s case, it covers its pulpy, absorbent leaves with tiny hairs, which capture the tension of water, like this…

… to create an insulating skin stronger than the pull of the sun to draw the water into the air, kind of a miniature atmosphere, really, like the water spheres on the cattails below …

…and then, when it snows, mullein holds that snow up in the air, where the cold air can cool it through the night. Slowly, the sun warms the mullein, from its vertical surfaces, drawing the water down onto its leaves and from there to its core.

Note how the hairs on the leaves strengthen the surface tension of the water and keep it from spilling off onto the ground. Useful? Sure is. Consider other ways in which the life up the hill is slowing down and channelling the melting of the snow that fell overnight, and channelling it. Look how the sun and the angle of the earth …

… are transforming time (as measured by water), depending upon exposure. The cottonwoods do this trick in the angles of their branches, from which meltwater spreads slowly outwards over their bark…

… hold it in lateral cracks, from which it is slowly released…

… and even twist it through a 90 degree turn by balancing the pull of gravity and the build up of tension on the bark to move it as a film.

Note as well the seam running across the upper side of the limb. In cottonwoods, those hold so much water for so long that they eventually rot the tree out from within. It drops branches because of this action, and then houses owls.

It inspires water collection devices which gather snow in multiple ways and deliver it through systems of cracks into an inner trunk, where it can be held through drought. Still, even rock is playing this game.

This rock pile, formed by centuries of water and frost action on stone, is little different than the plants above: snow held away from the sun melts slowly, feeding an elaborate plant community through a series of cracks, while the bulk of the snow melts quickly, disappears into the warm darkness between the rocks, and from there into deeper soil. Protected from the sun, it flows downhill.

All you need for this is two rocks, really:

What is beautiful about this pair is that the larger rock, with its minerals and its seam of quartz, is facing the warm southern sun. Its snow disappeared quickly, into the plant community at the stone’s base, but look what the smaller stone, of more porous material, has done…

Either it has absorbed the snow (or the run-off) and is releasing it slowly, in a kind of reverse of a heating effect, or it provided a surface that allowed snow to adhere to the larger stone. Either way, it transforms the sun, just as this water does:

It is, after all, the same snow and the same sun making all these transformations. Here’s a man-made slope doing this work, but vertically instead of horizontally:

In this case, bunchgrass, rooted in the terraces of a stepped wire cage, is stopping the water from flowing, although not stopping the snow from melting or twisting it through time, as the cottonwood does. It simply melts it quickly, then holds onto it, creating a slow waterfall weaker than the roots of the grass. The base of this simple system…

… is unused, and unlike this slope…

… there is no opposing cool slope to hold the snow, to allow the sun to heat it and slowly melt it down the draw between the two slopes, as the mullein does, in the balance of heat and cold illustrated by this globe of moss.

Still, we could build water dams on the hill like this, which would slow time, to release water through seepage through the long hot summer, without losing any land at all. Simply, a south-facing slope like this:

… could be faced with a north-facing one (instead of the open space in which we are standing), which would collect snow and shelter it from the sun. It could even be constructed to channel winter wind and gather deep drifts, to extend melting effects for weeks or months. The melting would come from the south-facing slope we see here. The channel between the two would hold water, which could then be put to use, much like this stone below…

If that’s too much engineering, why not just take that stone as a model and reverse it, like this:

You: Harold! What on earth is that?

Harold: Dearest, it’s a vineyard driveway littered with gravel.

You: That’s what I thought it was! Oh now, look, I have muck on my shoes.

Harold: Those are nice shoes.

You: They were nice shoes. Now they’re mucky. I can’t go to town like this.

Harold: Oh. Sorry. (Pause.) You want to go to town when you have all this cool muck?

 

You: Yes!

Harold: Oh.

(Harold blushes and continues.)

So, gravel. Look at what it’s doing. Little rocks rise above the cold soil to collect the sun, to melt the snow, which runs off of them and pools at their bases, slowly seeping into the soil instead of running off.

As the sun continues to warm the stones, the absorption area spreads…

… and we have stopped time by storing snow, releasing it slowly and storing the resulting water at a rate matched to the capacity of the soil. It will be released as life and slow subsurface flow through the spring, which is great, but what if we just reimagined the process slightly, laid down an absorbent mat covered with tiny hairs, like the mullein, with little heat units, either spikes of grass or blocks of stone, rising at intervals out of the hairs, to catch snow at various depths and melt it slowly down into the mat. If the mat were on a wall surface …

the heat unit could be below, and lined, like this wood, with vertical conduits that could fill with water. A fence made out of gravel in a cage, or simply stacked rock, would do as well. If the mat were on a road surface or a walking surface…

… the pressure of traffic could squeeze it into transport or deeper capture structures. In all cases, the water will follow the pressure exerted on it in such a way that it maintains bonds with itself, like this flock of starlings…

… or these juniper berries, so pungent and yet so sweet.

The transportation of water is only the manipulation of water tension and time, in relation to the sun. For that, the transportation is more across a membrane …

…than from high country dams to low country farms…

In this vineyard, much of this work is already being done, but in a model conducive to machine harvesting and the capitalization of water (huge volumes are required to pay for the huge cash outlays required to support the system.)  It might be, however, that the heating and cooling effects are as simple as turning stones over, so that their white bellies, of solidified soil salts brought to the surface by the sun, send that sun away, to allow the stones to operate as the engines of cold we need them to be at this time.

We could turn them over again when we need heat. In fact, if the stones took the shape of trees…

…they could be both at once. Time to go out and plant some trees.

 

How The Sun Makes Rich Soil

It’s simply beautiful how it is done. First, water sorts out the finest grains of silt, and deposits them on the surface of low points in the earth, filling them in. Then the sun evaporates the water, and  cracks the silt all crazy like.
Wind and gravity (and birds passing through the seasons) deposit feathers and leaves. The angular effect of the sun on the fluid shape of the silt holds them from drifting.
When the rains come again to the lowest ground, it fills the cracks, softens leaf and feather, and then deposits new silt around them.

They are now mixed in.

The cycle repeats with each season, or each thundercloud.

This is the lightning of the earth.

Beautiful, isn’t it!

What exquisite music.

No More Wild Fires Please

It is a catastrophic summer in the Interior of British Columbia. Close to 15,000 people have been evacuated from their communities. Indigenous communities who refuse to leave are isolated. Read about the grim situation at Anaham here: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/first-nations-community-holds-on-as-fire-threatens The question of why these people have chosen to stay in the face of catastrophic fire, isolation and great danger can be answered only in troubling ways. They are, however, simple enough. The tsilqhot’in are this place of fire. There is no evacuation. A lot of this has to do with a century and a half of great cultural hurt, but there’s a positive story here as well. Perhaps this image from the height of this land, at the crest of the Yellowstone Plume, in the great caldera that is the heart of winter …

…and fire on this continent and which anchors our country, Cascadia, like the eye of a pool in one of her rivers displays something of the answer:

A pine rooting on the face of the cooled molten plume, from this post about my journey to the height of the land: https://okanaganokanogan.com/2015/09/28/cascadia-land-of-fire/

If we call these uncontrollable and violent fires “wild fires”, we are participating in the environmental destruction that has created them rather than in the solutions that will control them. Until then, they will remain gothic and destructive, like the nineteenth century creations that they are. At the moment, of course, we must protect our homes and our loved ones, with all the vigour we can bring to this terrifying and important work, but let’s do it in a way that leads directly to the future that must follow this catastrophe of environmental mismanagement. Let’s call these fires by their correct names. They are not wild. Fire lives in this plateau. Smoke, such as obscured Okanagan Lake below, is the natural form of summer here.

Through neglect to honour fire’s primary place, it has been called into violent incarnation by excess fuel. The explosive sage below, above my house, is a bomb waiting to explode, and it’s the creation of bad resource policy. It can be fixed. We will have to be doing this in the next few years.

 

 

To say these horrific fieres are wild, is to say that an abstract notion of fire is fire’s base state, and that fire that escapes the boundaries of the controls of intellectual understanding is “wild”. That’s insulting. In Cascadia, wild fire control began a bit more than a century ago, to protect the nationalized forests made out of depopulated native space for the benefit of industrial and recreational use. This management regime was a replacement for indigenous fire management, in land forcibly removed from indigenous control. The indigenous understanding was based on living within space. The replacement, modern civilization, declared the land wild and foreign to human consciousness. That was a lie. Fire remains far bigger than any human or any collection of humans. Perhaps the image below of when the grassland hill above my house burnt a few years back and the fire turned to life within a few weeks can illustrate the edges of the tsilqhot’in resistance to evacuation. Within a few weeks, this:

Nootka Rose Sprouting from Cooked Rock

Let’s bring the irresistible force of living and destructive and creative fire within our social group and develop strategies to tame it. It’s coming to us anyway, horrifically. Yes, let’s save our homes, our farms, our communities, our forests, and our lives with all the effort we can bring to it, but let’s then move on to build a society that recognizes that fire is the natural state of this place.The failure to create civilized, or artful, fire within organic environments such as grasslands and forests, except at moments of catastrophe when fire sweeps in waves across the land due to being ignored for too long and its potential disrespected, is also a created state, but not one of which we should in any way be proud. And I want to be proud of how we live with fire. This work can wait until the crisis is over, but we can start now in a small way, by throwing away that awful racist term: wild fire. The time for that was 160 years ago, two weeks ago, today, and tomorrow. Fire is here to stay. Let’s hope we are too.

 

 

 

Crazy CBC Thinking

The award-winning journalist Alex Migdal, this guy…

… knows, apparently his Google, and works for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for whom he recently wrote this:

‘Huge amount’ of carbon in soil

Irrigation — the watering of land to prep it for agriculture — might not seem synonymous with climate change. But researchers at UBCO want to know how it affects the storage of carbon and nitrogen in soil.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/could-soil-be-the-next-carbon-sink-ubc-okanagan-to-lead-study-1.4152301

This is a pure example of White privilege in the Canadian Indigenous context. Think of what he wrote there:

Irrigation [is] the watering of land to prep it for agriculture.

By Alex’s definition, a few things are important:

  1. Irrigation, water, land and agriculture are separate things.
  2. Agriculture takes place on prepared land.
  3. Water is the instrument of preparation.
  4. No watering takes place during the process of agriculture, ie
  5. Agriculture is not farming or the production of food, a lengthy process, but the final harvesting of that food right at the point of its distribution in packaging, shipping, retail and manufacturing networks. (I might be wrong in this, but I can’t see what on earth else that sentence means.)

Not to mention this:

Irrigation might not seem synonymous with climate change …

but the way in which it is will be defined by researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, who

want to know how it affects the storage of carbon and nitrogen in soil

… which is a cute game, because it suggests that…

6. Irrigation affects climate change due to its ability to change the rates of carbon sequestration by plants…

…with no mention of food, or that irrigation is synonymous with climate change in a far more profound way than aerial carbon dioxide is, especially in local systems, which includes the farms Alex has his sights on. It used to be that journalism asked hard questions. Here it is repeating an elite (university) position, in a kind of dance of courtiers reminiscent of the Court of Louis XVI. None of the assumptions above are true outside of the boundaries set by privileged class positions in society. But, Alex, who presumably, judging by the respect shown in his interview of a Tsawassen elder below, knows better…

… has nonetheless the privileged authority to define water, agriculture and the social relationships between them and land, as granted to him by his position within an elite cultural institution, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (perhaps as a series of powerful colonial forces within a medical or oil industry metaphor or perhaps just out of ignorance of water, plants, the earth or how any of it fits together, both inside or outside of Canadian colonial contexts). In the end of this display, only the privileged authority remains, and the earth, and her people, loses. More than that, a much-needed discussion about water, culture, ethics and power is off the table, because of the weight of the CBC, and nothing changes that must change. The people who are not of the earth also lose at this point, and the authority of the CBC is diminished.

That is simply not good enough.