Science and Technology
Prank calls, long-distance connections, secret messagesJanuary 2023
Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.
Seth Shostak On The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence
I doubt any aliens we might encounter are going to be biological. I think they’re all going to be machines.December 2022
I Feel Sorry For Aliens
Lonely nights I walk to the old / elevator that used to hold Montana / grain: beams rusted, train tracks / ripped out, a patchwork of missing / roof panels framing perfect squares / of starlightDecember 2022
The Enchanted Loom
The brain’s genius is its gift for reflection. . . . It takes many forms: our finding similarities among seemingly unrelated things, wadding up worries into tangled balls of obsession difficult to pierce even with the spike of logic, painting elaborate status or romance fantasies in which we star, picturing ourselves elsewhere and elsewhen.November 2022
Under The Surface
Güven Güzeldere On The Mysteries Of Consciousness And Artificial Intelligence
Cohen: This summer, a Google engineer named Blake Lemoine caused controversy by disclosing a conversation with an AI called LaMDA, or “Language Model for Dialog Applications.” The conversation seemed to suggest this AI system had some awareness of itself, but the idea was dismissed by a number of people who work with such systems.
Güzeldere: It’s interesting that Google fired the guy who published that conversation. . . . People are saying, “Oh, it’s just a hack,” but it’s a very impressive hack. I think it will become a product that will be accepted by consumers.November 2022
These were strange and intoxicating expeditions. At the cliff-lined ends of forest-service roads or the edges of muddy cattle tanks, or in the cricket-loud groves where saguaros gave way to oaks, I would help stretch nets on moonless evenings. Bats fluttered into the thin weave and were trapped, toothy and screaming.August 2022
The Great Decline
Shanna Swan On The Worldwide Drop In Fertility
Frisch: You found about a 1 percent decline in sperm counts per year.
Swan: Yes, which would mean a 50 percent decline over fifty years. We’re actually seeing something a little steeper than that.August 2022
Plastic: A Personal History
How can I find a way to praise / it? Do the early inventors & embracers / churn with regret?August 2022
This morning the receptionist ushers me / into the Magnolia Room, reserved / for those receiving a “different type” / of mammogram, although I can discern / no obvious difference from the Dogwood Room, / where I waited last week for the usual sort, / the one about which my friends and I joke / and pretend we schedule as casually as a teeth-cleaning.January 2022