I turned 37 earlier this week. 37 is a curious age. I’m older than Alexander the Great was when he died, but not yet at the acme of my life (~40); no longer young, but also not old. I’m just an indeterminate middling age. Old enough for my beard to be starting to turn white, but young enough that a student mistook me for being a decade younger than I am. In his defense, I am the youngest person in my department. Nor was 37 an age that I imagined when I was younger. There were things I more or less expected by the ages of 25, 30, 32, 35, 50, but I skipped right past 37. Not that I correctly foretold much past the graduation of college, anyway. I could complain about plenty at this age and I both have made plenty of mistakes along the way and have plenty of developing left to do, but I also largely like the person I have become this decade. Now if only I can persuade him to get more sleep.
This week’s varia:
- ChatGPT Roundup:
- Rachel Elliot Rigolino says that AI tools mean that writing instruction should focus on students as editors. I agree in principle with the argument, though I could say the same thing about teaching them to edit their own writing. Likewise, you can only be a good editor if you have a good working knowledge of the skill.
- Ben Crowell, a physics professor, writes about AI writing very similarly to what I’ve been saying: that substantive responses to student writing will push past the superficial fluency of the AI.
- Google seems to be testing a new homepage that uses a chat AI interface. If it is anything like ChatGPT, this change is going to annoy me to no end.
- Washington Post has a story about the historical chat AI. The article is a little “both sides,” giving the creator of the app the last word, but it does profile historians’ critiques.
- A good piece in Slate about the college is going to respond to ChatGPT, even as the company that produces it is not thinking about college at all. I particularly like this line: “This assertion, that A.I. might “free up human workers to focus on more thoughtful—and ideally profitable—work,” is wrongheaded at the outset. When it comes to writing (and everything that can be done with it), it’s all grunt work. Having an idea, composing it into language, and checking to see whether that language matches our original idea is a metacognitive process that changes us. It puts us in dialogue with ourselves and often with others as well. To outsource idea generation to an A.I. machine is to miss the constant revision that reflection causes in our thinking.”
- Teen Boys Beat Shit Out Of ChatGPT Servers After It Only Gets Them ‘C’ On Assignment
- Ron DeSantis’ political appointees to the board of The New College in Florida fired the president Patricia Okker, replacing her with a DeSantis ally. Among other changes that they are aiming for, they want to place all hiring decisions in the hands of the President, alongside firing all faculty and subjecting them to selective rehiring. Setting aside the nebulous concept of academic freedom that applies on a sliding scale to professors, this is a ruthless assault on the fabric of higher education as an institution designed to impose a narrow definition of acceptable education, and a vision that DeSantis’ allies aim to expand to all public schools in Florida. John Warner has a good piece about the consequences of these changes, with an emphasis on how this is a political attack that will be a material detriment for students in small, meaningful ways like having someone to serve as a reference, despite DeSantis’ rhetoric.
- Axios has a roundup of some evidence that the Humanities might be making a comeback, in terms of majors and how young people are trying to make sense of the world. A notable point is that some students are starting to see that a STEM degree does not guarantee a better job.
- Teen Vogue continues its run of substantive articles with a good discussion of Reconstruction and how it is, or isn’t, taught in schools.
- There are reports from Ohio of a home school ring that is using explicitly Nazi educational materials in their “schooling.” The group’s leader told a podcast that she was having trouble finding “Nazi approved school material for my home-schooled children.”
- New Mexico’s legislature introduced a bill that would require schools to overhaul their ventilation systems. I know that I would feel much more comfortable teaching in a classroom with no windows open if I knew that the classroom had a state of the art filtration.
- At Vice, Roshan Abraham reports on allegations that Avian flu was used as cover by major egg producers to raise prices dramatically beyond what was necessary. Eggs are one of a number of items I have noticed in the grocery store that have been going up in prince well beyond the rate of inflation, which makes this argument of particular note.
- Colossal Biosciences, a start-up company trying to revive extinct species, has completed its Series B funding that injected another $150 million dollars. This story reminds me of the time that I explained to my closest friends (whose wedding I was officiating) on the RSVP that my doctor had me on an “extinct birds” diet, so all of my meals had to be acquired from a specific purveyor who had cloned extinct birds specifically so that people on this diet could eat them. It was not a short explanation. (I did, in fact, choose one of their options at the end, I’m not entirely without manners.)
- The United States has concluded a deal with the Philippines for the use of four new bases, expanding at least the potential for a US military presence in the South China Sea.
- The Pentagon announced that there is a Chinese surveillance balloon over Montana. I have no particular insight into what this means in terms of the slow-boiling conflict between the United States and China, but I wanted to include it in this list because it reminds me of the fascinating story from World War 2 about Fu Go, a Japanese program that dropped bombs on the continental United States.
- One of my persistent complaints about public discourse in the United States is that it is entirely lacking in nuance or an awareness of context. This is how you get the story about the diner in Connecticut that the proprietor, a Mexican woman, named “Woke,” because it serves breakfast and coffee, you see, that has become a target of outrage and support because people assumed she was making a political statement. At least this misunderstanding runs both directions and Woke is receiving good business from people pushing back against that outrage.
- The Netflix reality show Squidgame, a less fatal version of the hit show, stands accused of creating conditions that were much more challenging than contestants signed up for. On the one hand, most of these people were not paid for appearing on the show unless they won, which I do think is a problem, but, on the other hand, there is a deep irony that people eagerly signed up without considering this at least a possible outcome.
- Recep Tayyip Erdogan is opening a museum…to himself.
Album of the Week: Amanda Shires, Take It Like A Man (seriously, listen to Amanda Shires)
Currently Reading: Fonda Lee, Jade War, Matthew Canepa, The Iranian Expanse