The week of last Thanksgiving, Michael Larkin, a business owner in Hamilton, Ohio, picked up his phone and answered a call. It was the local police, and they wanted footage from Larkin’s front door camera.
Larkin had a Ring video doorbell, one of the more than 10 million Americans with the Amazon-owned product installed at their front doors. His doorbell was among 21 Ring cameras in and around his home and business, picking up footage of Larkin, neighbors, customers and anyone else near his house.
The police said they were conducting a drug-related investigation on a neighbor, and they wanted videos of “suspicious activity” between 5 and 7 p.m. one night in October. Larkin cooperated, and sent clips of a car that drove by his Ring camera more than 12 times in that time frame.
He thought that was all the police would need. Instead, it was just the beginning.
They asked for more footage, now from the entire day’s worth of records. And a week later, Larkin received a notice from Ring itself: The company had received a warrant, signed by a local judge. The notice informed him it was obligated to send footage from more than 20 cameras — whether or not Larkin was willing to share it himself.
Read the rest of this article at: Politico
I was never into house plants until I bought one on a whim—a prayer plant, it was called, a lush, leafy thing with painterly green spots and ribs of bright red veins. The night I brought it home I heard a rustling in my room. Had something scurried? A mouse? Three jumpy nights passed before I realized what was happening: The plant was moving. During the day, its leaves would splay flat, sunbathing, but at night they’d clamber over one another to stand at attention, their stems steadily rising as the leaves turned vertical, like hands in prayer.
“Who knew plants do stuff?” I marveled. Suddenly plants seemed more interesting. When the pandemic hit, I brought more of them home, just to add some life to the place, and then there were more, and more still, until the ratio of plants to household surfaces bordered on deranged. Bushwhacking through my apartment, I worried whether the plants were getting enough water, or too much water, or the right kind of light—or, in the case of a giant carnivorous pitcher plant hanging from the ceiling, whether I was leaving enough fish food in its traps. But what never occurred to me, not even once, was to wonder what the plants were thinking.
I was, according to Paco Calvo, guilty of “plant blindness.” Calvo, who runs the Minimal Intelligence Lab at the University of Murcia in Spain where he studies plant behavior, says that to be plant blind is to fail to see plants for what they really are: cognitive organisms endowed with memories, perceptions, and feelings, capable of learning from the past and anticipating the future, able to sense and experience the world.
It’s easy to dismiss such claims because they fly in the face of our leading theory of cognitive science. That theory goes by names like “cognitivism,” “computationalism,” or “representational theory of mind.” It says, in short, the mind is in the head. Cognition boils down to the firings of neurons in our brains.
And plants don’t have brains.
“When I open up a plant, where could intelligence reside?” Calvo says. “That’s framing the problem from the wrong perspective. Maybe that’s not how our intelligence works, either. Maybe it’s not in our heads. If the stuff that plants do deserves the label ‘cognitive,’ then so be it. Let’s rethink our whole theoretical framework.”
Calvo wasn’t into plants, either. Not at first. As a philosopher, he was busy trying to understand human minds. When he began studying cognitive science in the 1990s, the dominant view was the brain was a kind of computer. Just as computers represent data in transistors, which can be in “on” or “off” states corresponding to 0s and 1s, brains were thought to represent data in the states of their neurons, which could be “on” or “off” depending on whether they fire. Computers manipulate their representations according to logical rules, or algorithms, and brains, by analogy, were believed to do the same.1
But Calvo wasn’t convinced. Computers are good at logic, at carrying out long, precise calculations—not exactly humanity’s shining skill. Humans are good at something else: noticing patterns, intuiting, functioning in the face of ambiguity, error, and noise. While a computer’s reasoning is only as good as the data you feed it, a human can intuit a lot from just a few vague hints—a skill that surely helped on the savannah when we had to recognize a tiger hiding in the bushes from just a few broken stripes. “My hunch was that there was something really wrong, something deeply distorted about the very idea that cognition had to do with manipulating symbols or following rules,” Calvo says.
Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus
ChatGPT, the internet-famous AI text generator, has taken on a new form. Once a website you could visit, it is now a service that you can integrate into software of all kinds, from spreadsheet programs to delivery apps to magazine websites such as this one. Snapchat added ChatGPT to its chat service (it suggested that users might type “Can you write me a haiku about my cheese-obsessed friend Lukas?”), and Instacart plans to add a recipe robot. Many more will follow.
They will be weirder than you might think. Instead of one big AI chat app that delivers knowledge or cheese poetry, the ChatGPT service (and others like it) will become an AI confetti bomb that sticks to everything. AI text in your grocery app. AI text in your workplace-compliance courseware. AI text in your HVAC how-to guide. AI text everywhere—even later in this article—thanks to an API.
API is one of those three-letter acronyms that computer people throw around. It stands for “application programming interface”: It allows software applications to talk to one another. That’s useful because software often needs to make use of the functionality from other software. An API is like a delivery service that ferries messages between one computer and another.
Arnold Schwarzenegger nearly killed me.
I had joined him one morning as he rushed through his daily routine. Schwarzenegger gets up by six. He makes coffee, putters around, feeds Whiskey (his miniature horse) and Lulu (his miniature donkey), shovels their overnight manure into a barrel, drinks his coffee, checks his email, and maybe plays a quick game of chess online. At 7:40, he puts a bike on the back of a Suburban and heads from his Brentwood, California, mansion to the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. From there he sets out on the three-mile bike ride to Gold’s Gym, where he has been lifting on and off since the late ’60s. The bike ride is his favorite part of the morning. It is also, I learned while following behind him on that foggy day in October, a terrifying expedition.
Schwarzenegger can be selective in his observance of traffic signals. He zipped through intersections with cars screeching behind him. I braked hard and, being neither an action hero nor a stunt double, barely stayed upright. Drivers honked and yelled at the speeding cyclist in the lead until they realized who he was. “Heyyyy, Mister Arnold!” the double-taking driver of a landscaping van shouted out his window.
Schwarzenegger does not wear a helmet and seems to enjoy being recognized, startling commuters with drive-by cameos. He describes his ride as a kind of vigorous nostalgia trip, a time when the former Mr. Universe, Terminator, Barbarian, Governor of California, etc.—one of the strangest and most potent alloys of American celebrity ever forged—can reconnect with something in the neighborhood of a pedestrian existence. “It’s like a Norman Rockwell,” Schwarzenegger told me. “We talk to the bus driver. We do the garbage man, the construction worker. Everyone’s got their beautiful, beautiful jobs and professions.” These days, Schwarzenegger’s own beautiful profession is to essentially be an emeritus version of himself.
We made it intact to Gold’s Gym in Venice, the birthplace of bodybuilding in the ’60s and ’70s, and a cathedral to the sport ever since. Schwarzenegger will always be synonymous with the place, and with the spectacle of specimens at nearby Muscle Beach. The Venice Gold’s is a tourist attraction but also a serious gym—loud with the usual clanking and grunting, and redolent with the pickled scent of sweat.
“Say hi to Heide,” Schwarzenegger told me, pointing to 82-year-old Heide Sutter, who was working out in a skintight tracksuit. “She is a landmark,” he said. “She’s actually the girl who is sitting on my shoulder in the Pumping Iron book. She was topless in the shot.” Perhaps I recognized her? Not immediately, no. I didn’t even realize that Pumping Iron was a book. I knew it only as a movie, the 1977 documentary about the fanatical culture of bodybuilding. “Everybody wants to live forever,” went the opening refrain of the title song. Schwarzenegger, then 28, was the star of the film and a testament to the idea that humans could mold themselves into gods—bulging comic-book gods, but gods nonetheless.
“The most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump,” he says in the movie. “It’s as satisfying to me as coming is, as in having sex with a woman and coming … So can you believe how much I am in heaven?”
On a recent, gray, nothing sort of day, I met Jonathan Nunn, a tall, bearded man in a charcoal-gray cape-like overcoat outside a snooker hall in Edmonton, a suburb of North London that was previously known to me for its reservoirs, its fast roads out of town, and a serviceable branch of IKEA. Facing us, across the street, was the Yayla Food Centre, a grocer and halal butcher, offering “Turkish, Polish, Bulgarian, Eastern Europe, African and Etc. Products.” Nunn, who is thirty-three, is the founding editor of Vittles, an influential three-year-old newsletter of British food writing, which he started publishing during the pandemic. Until recently, he was also the star contributor at Eater London, an outlet of the Vox Media-owned family of Web sites. Nunn’s specialty there was mapping zones four, five, and six—the most distant rings of the city’s transport network—London’s equivalent of the outer boroughs. “People think I have a Sherlock Holmes-style mental map of every restaurant in London,” Nunn told the Guardian last year. “Which I do, to some extent.”
Nunn is becoming to London what Jonathan Gold was to Los Angeles or Robert Sietsema and Jim Leff have been to New York—an urgent and exuberant champion of the best and most far-flung places to get Gujarati egg snacks or vegan Rastafari pasta. For reasons to do with race, class, and the structure of the British newspaper industry, it is arguable that no one has ever really done this before—and certainly not with such impact or in such a short period of time. “He is a phenomenon,” Adam Coghlan, Nunn’s former editor at Eater London, told me. Not everyone likes Nunn. He acknowledges the size of his ego, which can make him dismissive, especially of mainstream restaurant critics. But no one doubts his knowledge or his stamina for walking and eating his way through the city’s under-explored culinary neighborhoods. Nunn told me that people who come out and eat with him for the first time are often disappointed. “This is the thing of the job,” he said, about an hour into our traipse through Edmonton, Ponders End, and Enfield Wash. “The amount of mediocre food I eat is immense.”
Our first stop was Lincoln’s Patisserie, a Caribbean bakery on the ground floor of a low-rise housing project not far from the North Circular, an expressway that often features, to somewhat melancholic effect, in Nunn’s writing. (He grew up in Bounds Green, another North London suburb, about five miles to the west, which he describes as “slightly nowhere.”) Lincoln’s is an Edmonton institution. It has been around for more than thirty years and specializes in sweets and cakes and bright turmeric-colored, crumbly Jamaican patties. Nunn ordered a beef and a salt-fish patty and some carrot cake to go. I did not tell him I had made the mistake of eating breakfast. As an eating companion, Nunn was solicitous but firm. “We’ll swap in a bit,” he said in the street, handing me the beef patty and warning me not to bite into it immediately. “Sometimes it microwaves in your throat.”
Nunn published the first entry on Vittles on March 22, 2020—the day before Britain entered lockdown—for reasons that included “concern, boredom, and spite,” he said. Restaurants, and the tea shop where he worked, were closed. “I want to platform a new type of food writing in the U.K.,” he wrote. As a critic, Nunn has focussed overwhelmingly on the cooking of diaspora communities—he has a special love for Cantonese food—normally in the suburbs. “The reason London is a great food city, in my opinion, has nothing to do with what’s going on in central London,” Nunn told me. “Well, it’s a part of it. But it’s not what I value.” Nunn also kicks against what he sees as the insular, calcified world of British newspaper restaurant writing. At Vittles, he has made a point of commissioning new and diverse writers. “I feel like, as food has become a bigger and bigger cultural thing, the media has kind of shrunk,” he said, once our patties had cooled.
Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker