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AI, Sheep Dogs and the Acorn

by Joyce Johnson

Joyce Johnsons article, AI, Sheep Dogs and the Acorn

We made it through another year! Welcome 2024! Even has a nice balanced look to it.

Can be divided by 2. Year’s end is tough for many people though. Speaking for myself kinda like a full moon time. I therefore really appreciate the light and joy that counters the darkest time of the year, with many little miracles literally shining light on the path when it’s hard to see.

I saw a video clip that squeezed my gut though. An interview with a robot, and comments by the individuals who promise that Artificial Intelligence is the brilliant solution to life on Earth. Oh goody?... :-\ But wait a minute! AI doesn’t think, or create or intuit or spill heart compassion—it’s just a E-file vending machine, or App. In the video, a robot was being interviewed. She, the pretty, young plastic head of the ugly robot body, answered questions with realistic sensual mouth and almost seductive expressions suggesting a very you know personality. For some that is cool. I growled.

AI is triggered by algorithm...(picks up key words that match)..and are therefore lumped together, and wired to programmed avenues of logical conclusions, etc. A clever brain impersonation! But no, not smart. A sheep dog is, on the other hand, so smart it can actually herd 100s of sheep together and lead them home, or to designated places as the shepherd directs him in “whistle-speak.” Dogs can chase away predators, find strays, and are a 100 times more brilliant than a robot–sez me. A dog would growl at one of those things I am quite sure and it proves how smart he is... I now herd you to my favorite Psalm, #23: “He leadeth me beside the still waters. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He restoreth my soul. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,...” (I whispered it over and over when in the hospital with Covid, and the beautiful word pictures distracted me nicely, to say the least.)

I know, there are some handy things about AI. For example, you can ask your car’s computer where the next gas station is, or the closest MacDonald’s I suppose. I don’t need that app as I have lived here 35 years and know where everything is and don’t go anywhere else. But I asked my $39 smartphone how deep was the ocean, and it answered in detail! Um….thank you, but the following is more my speed: I cannot wait for someone to invent a friendly little dashboard robot that detects and waves to every car we pass on the road here in the valley. Picture a little cowboy hat, maybe a rifle... and dog at his side!!!

Here in Montana, people still stop and help people stranded on the roadside whose cars ran out of gas or went on the fritz, got lost, or a flat or any accident. Once this happened to me when a kindly young driver stopped, eyes twinkling with amusement because he had collected the two others in the back seat who had car trouble back a ways—and, would I like a lift to town too? I hopped in. I love Hands-on people with a heart, soul and humor,...backstage heroes are abundant around here. But AI and computer tech is replacing hands on soul/mind-to heart-to hand-to paper, canvas or clay ART. I growl at that! Soon no more orchestras either I fear, no dictionaries, books and live human interactions, and,...customer service, job applications and interviews—teachers and doctors and dentists oh my! I might be overreacting.

Shakespeare said “a thing is evil only if we think it is.” (Yes William, I get it.) If we think a snake is evil, then it is, to that thinker, not to snake lovers. I thought gators were evil, until I read that some people have scary pets, like gators; a lady’s watch dog in the remote everglades. She had no visitors.

Here’s a friendlier, however esoteric, take on the word “evil” that has less fear installed: “E” means energy, like Ebook, Email, etc. “Vil” comes from “veil” they say. Evil is at least a veil-like fog separating us from truth; a veil worn over the head hides identity too. Big dark sunglasses effectively covers the windows of the soul—a fashion launched by Keano Reeves I think—and the trend caught on because we want to look cool and mysterious too. But guess what, even if squinting at the sun causes wrinkles, the bane of aging, it is not advised anymore to shield the eyes from the very life giving rays and vitamin D of the sun, which feeds the brain and according to some sources, life itself. “Real live” conscious sentient beings and critters, plants and trees must have sunlight to grow and thrive—and also (sigh...) wind, and rain, and snow, oh my! The challenge of the elements have cause, a mission, that stimulates growth, and builds strong roots like nothing else. “Like acorns are we, the mighty oak tree our destiny.” Yoda would have said that. Tough little buggers us acorns. Have big missions. May the sun rise over great strides in resolution of our personal and world conflicts this year. And, have a Happy New Year Everyone.


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