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News 13.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 13.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@pino3bravo
News 13.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@bittersweetcolours
News 13.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@bittersweetcolours

No one prepared me for the heartbreak of losing my first language. It doesn’t feel like the sudden, sharp pain of losing someone you love, but rather a dull ache that builds slowly until it becomes a part of you. My first language, Cantonese, is the only one I share with my parents, and, as it slips from my memory, I also lose my ability to communicate with them. When I tell people this, their eyes tend to grow wide with disbelief, as if it’s so absurd that I must be joking. “They can’t speak English?” they ask. “So how do you talk to your parents?” I never have a good answer. The truth is, I rely on translation apps and online dictionaries for most of our conversations.

It’s strange when I hear myself say that I have trouble talking to my parents, because I still don’t quite believe it myself. We speak on the phone once a week and the script is the same: “Have you eaten yet?” my father asks in Cantonese. Long pause. “No, not yet. You?” I reply. “Why not? It’s so late,” my mother cuts in. Long pause. “Remember to drink more water and wear a mask outside,” she continues. “O.K. You too.” Longest pause. “We’ll stop bothering you, then.” The conversation is shallow but familiar. Deviating from it puts us (or, if I’m being honest, just me) at risk of discomfort, which I try to avoid at all costs.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 13.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Since its inception in 2015, the research laboratory OpenAI – an Elon Musk-backed initiative that seeks to build human-friendly artificial intelligence – has developed a series of powerful ‘language models’, the latest being GPT-3 (third-generation Generative Pre-trained Transformer). A language model is a computer program that simulates human language. Like other simulations, it hovers between the reductive (reality is messier and more unpredictable) and the visionary (to model is to create a parallel world that can sometimes make accurate predictions about the real world). Such language models lie behind the predictive suggestions for emails and text messages. Gmail’s Smart Compose can complete ‘I hope this …’ with ‘… email finds you well’. Instances of automated journalism (sports news and financial reports, for example) are on the rise, while explanations of the benefits from insurance companies and marketing copy likewise rely on machine-writing technology. We can imagine a near future where machines play an even larger part in highly conventional kinds of writing, but also a more creative role in imaginative genres (novels, poems, plays), even computer code itself.

Today’s language models are given enormous amounts of existing writing to digest and learn from. GPT-3 was trained on about 500 billion words. These models use AI to learn what words tend to follow a given set of words, and, along the way, pick up information about meaning and syntax. They estimate likelihoods (the probability of a word appearing after a prior passage of words) for every word in their vocabulary, which is why they’re sometimes also called probabilistic language models. Given the prompt ‘The soup was …’ the language model knows that ‘… delicious’, ‘… brought out’ or ‘… the best thing on the menu’ are all more likely to ensue than ‘… moody’ or ‘… a blouse’.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

One Saturday afternoon in late May, a few days before the end of his junior year, Harvey Ellington plopped onto his queen-size bed, held up his phone and searched for a signal. The 17-year-old lived in a three-bedroom trailer on an acre lot surrounded by oak trees, too far into the country for broadband, but eventually his cell found the hot spot his high school had lent him for the year. He opened his email and began to type.

“Good evening! Hope all is well! Congratulations on being the new superintendent for the Holmes County Consolidated School District.”

A week and a half earlier, the school board chose Debra Powell, a former high school principal and mayor of East St. Louis, Ill., to lead the rural school district that Ellington attended in the Mississippi Delta. Powell worked as an administrator at Ellington’s school before the pandemic, and she ran track with Jackie Joyner-Kersee when she was a teenager. Maybe, Ellington thought, Powell had what it took to turn the district around.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 13.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 13.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

There was an aphorism in the movement: “Bad roads make good communes.” And the road we’re on today is bad. Several miles inland from California’s foggy coastline, we’re driving down a single lane hemmed in by 50-foot fir trees and then turn onto a rocky dirt path, joggling our rented SUV. Photographer Michael Schmelling and I are in Mendocino County, about a three-hour drive north of San Francisco, looking for what remains of perhaps the most famous of the hundreds of rural communes established across Northern California in the late ’60s and ’70s: Table Mountain Ranch.

The entire expanse—which once was a kind of American Arcadia, home to scores of hippies who’d fled San Francisco to live a new, idealistic kind of life—now looks deserted. We pass tree stumps, logging equipment, and mounds of dirt. The only sound is the chirping of birds. Eventually, in the middle of an open field, we come upon a peeling wood building where a lone man is perched up a ladder. Ascetically thin, with long red hair and a patchy beard, he tells us that he’s one of Table Mountain Ranch’s last remaining members. Now in his mid-70s, he’s wary of supplying his name, wary of being somehow “on the map” after so much time off the grid, so I tell him that I’ll refer to him as Jack Berg. Attempting to set the foundation for a second-story balcony, he struggles to balance on the ladder while positioning a two-by-four, an unlit roach in his fingers. As we look on, he brusquely puts us to work, chastising Michael for snapping a picture instead of immediately helping with the load.

Berg is restoring the Whale Schoolhouse, a progressive academy founded in 1971 that became the pride of communards across the Albion region of Northern California. Fifty kids, from elementary to high school age, were enrolled here, but it’s sat unused for decades—and now Berg is moving in. “Nobody cared about this building,” he says. “It was disintegrating.” He takes us inside. It’s a single room, the size of half a tennis court, with old class pictures on a corkboard. A circular window overlooks an empty field that had long ago been a playground.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

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News 13.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Like apparitions, California’s Channel Islands sometimes vanish in the morning fog. Even on mist-free days, when their golden cliffs can be glimpsed from the mainland, few people seem to take much note of them. Despite their proximity, the islands are seldom visited by Californians, who mostly know them for the way their silhouettes interrupt the horizon of a Santa Barbara sunset.

Last August, I traveled to one of the largest of the Channel Islands, Santa Rosa. I joined an expedition led by the archaeologist Todd Braje, who has spent 15 of his 45 years doing fieldwork in the islands, during which he has acquired a feel for their primeval landscapes. On our first morning hike, in Arlington Canyon, an Ice Age watershed on the island’s northwestern edge, Braje walked the canyon’s lip, looking for the gentlest slope before bounding downhill. I followed close behind, wading through pale-turquoise sage and Day-Glo-yellow poppies, dodging cacti that looked like spiked Ping-Pong paddles.

When we reached the canyon’s lower terrace, Braje stopped and pointed to a length of twine strung vertically against a cliffside. Another length of twine was strung horizontally a few feet away. Stepping back, I could see others. All were remnants of a grid that archaeologists had pressed into the cliff’s sedimentary layers, so that anything lodged within them could be dated. Braje asked me not to reveal the grid’s precise location. All I’ll say is that we were close enough to the coast to smell the sea, but too far away to hear the waves.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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