Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books. I always feel apprehensive about watching adaptations of my favorite works, but not because somehow they will be “ruined.” When I watch a movie, I want to enjoy it completely — I don’t want to be thinking of what got left out or what was executed differently.
There’s no such thing as a bad adaptation, but it is very easy to make an ineffective one. Anna Karenina is such a sprawling, conceptual novel that I worry any adaptation will fall into this trap.
Every episode of Full House reviewed. “That kid Derek is so motherfucking gay that while I was watching him perform ‘Yankee Doodle,’ Harvey Fierstein burst through my wall like the Kool-Aid man and jerked off all over my keyboard, and I wasn’t even surprised.”
This article is the refutation of the idea that a super-intelligent human-built AI would decide the best thing for humans is to put them in pleasure-comas forever.
It allows for interesting symbolism in fiction, but the author argues this hurts our cultural consciousness in the long run.
If a computer were designed in such a way that:
(a) It had the motivation “maximize human pleasure”, but
(b) It thought that this phrase could conceivably mean something as simplistic as “put all humans on an intravenous dopamine drip”, then
(c) This computer would NOT be capable of developing into a creature that was “all-powerful”.
The two features <all-powerful superintelligence> and <cannot handle subtle concepts like “human pleasure”> are radically incompatible.
With that kind of reasoning going on inside it, the AI would never make it up to the level of intelligence at which the average human would find it threatening. If the poor machine could not understand the difference between “maximize human pleasure” and “put all humans on an intravenous dopamine drip” then it would also not understand most of the other subtle aspects of the universe, including but not limited to facts/questions like:
“If I put a million amps of current through my logic circuits, I will fry myself to a crisp”,
“Which end of this Kill-O-Zap Definit-Destruct Megablaster is the end that I’m supposed to point at the other guy?”.
Dumb AIs, in other words, are not an existential threat.
I knew Ken Jennings was funny, but I didn’t realize he was actually funny and not just nerd-funny. It’s really encouraging for me to see, since my latest project is trying to make the leap from nerd-funny to real funny.
(My origin story: I was on a Quizbowl team in high school.)
When something really bad is going on in a culture, the average guy doesn’t see it. He can’t. He’s average. And is surrounded by and immersed in the cant and discourse of the status quo. The average person in the U.S., in, say, 1820, assumed white superiority, and, if he happened to be against slavery, was for a gradual solution, which probably involved sending all the slaves back to Africa, notwithstanding the fact that most of them had never been there and were Americans in every respect. And this would be the nice, moderate, urbane, educated person of that time, who fancied himself “progressive.” Likewise, even Klemperer, a Jew who would end up losing everything to the Nazis, didn’t seem to see it coming. He would note things about Hitler and the Nazis very peripherally in his diary, but his main focus was on the minutiae of his life—his wife was being difficult, he’d hit the fence with the car, he was having panic attacks, etc. etc. (Whenever his colleagues or his neighbors took something away from him because he was a Jew, they would always explain it to him à la “Those dopes in Berlin are making us do this,” and he would accept this gracefully—“I know, I know it’s not you, it’s Berlin.”) Also, interestingly, he was a professor who wrote about French literature, often from the perspective of “the French personality.” So even the idea that there was some sort of Jewish personality—i.e., an innate national or ethnic personality—seemed O.K. to him. I’m guessing that when the Nazis started talking about “Jewish tendencies” he objected to the mischaracterization of those “tendencies” but not necessarily to the idea that a “race” had “tendencies.”
Anyway—it’s interesting when you realize that, whatever your (our) culture is doing that will have future generations laughing at you, or hating you, you are, by definition, blind to it at the moment. Or most of us are. I’m guessing I am, for example.
So that was who I imagined the narrator to be: a loving, kind guy, who is just like us (me) in his concerns and his basic values and his love for his family—except he’s got this one blind spot, which I might have, too, if I were living in his world.
I also really enjoyed this quote from the interview:
One thing I always feel in the midst of trying to talk coherently about a story I’ve finished is that, you know, ninety per cent of it was intuitive, done at-speed, for reasons I can’t quite articulate, except in the “A felt better than B” way. All these choices add up, and make the surface of the story, and, of course, the thematics and all that—but I’m not usually thinking about any of that too much, or too overtly. It’s more feeling than thinking—or a combination of the two, with feeling being in charge, and thinking sort of running around behind, making overly literal suggestions, and those feelings being sounded out and exercised and manifested via heavy editing and rewriting (as opposed to, say, planning and deciding). The important part of the writing process, for me, is trying to make choices that push the story in the most interesting direction, by which I mean the direction that causes the story to give off the most light. The story’s goal is to be fascinating and stimulating and irreducible; the writer’s job is to micromanage the text to make this happen.
It’s a really good description of “the creative process,” which is really just listening to what your brain’s trying to non-verbally scream at you.
“Its purpose is to make consciousness safe for the upper middle class. The salient characteristic of that class, as a moral entity, is a kind of Victorian engorgement with its own virtue. Its need is for an art that will disturb its self-delight.” - William Deresiewicz