Are You Afraid of AI?

At the end of March, Elon Musk and other industry luminaries signed an open letter stating, “We call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.”

In many respects, the questions asked about advanced AI in this letter mirror the discussion from as early as 1955 asking, “Should we fear automation?”

  • Automation, boon or bane? [Bloomberg News; 10/8 1955]
  • Automation Brings Fear of Joblessness; Production Lines Speeding Up [NY Times; 7/17/1961]
  • Will Automation Cause Mass Unemployment? [The Atlantic Magazine; December 1961]
  • Robots May Take Over Most Jobs in 30 Years, Experts Say [Washington Post Business; 6/10/1984]

If you substitute AI for Robots and Automation, you could have a headline in today’s news. Indeed the warnings given in Pause Gian AI Experiments: An Open Letter are legitimate. The major questions asked in the letter are:

  • Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? 
  • Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? 
  • Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? 
  • Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?

These are all important questions that must be answered as AI moves forward. All areas of technical development that impact the lives of humans should be questioned. Here are some other areas of development that could dramatically impact society.

  • Genetics – gene splicing and sequencing
  • Biotechnology – custom viruses to infect or cure
  • Nanotechnology – building machines at the molecular level that can work inside cells

I am confident you have heard about these in the news. What you may not have heard is that each of these technologies, including robotics and AI can be used for the good of society or for the control of society; for good or evil. You may know the arguments for and against nuclear energy. Frankly, fire can be used for good or evil.

So let me cut to the chase and keep this short. IMHO it’s not the technology that should be feared; it’s not even the people who invent and develop the technology; it’s the people to decide how to use the technology that need to be watched.

I grew up as a geek. I was (and still am) interested in every area of science and technology available. I programmed computers before they had screens and keyboards. I am fascinated by technology. So just the other day, I had my first chat with an AI.

I needed ideas on how to carefully and precisely cut soft plastic, such as on a plastic garbage can. I interacted with ChatGPT, an AI language program developed by OpenAI. My interaction was with version 3 and version 4 has just been released. The open letter references GPT-4 and requests that nothing more powerful be worked on for a while.

A sea otter in the style of “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, an image generated by DALL-E (all images courtesy OpenAI)

Perhaps you have seen AI draw detailed pictures like the one above. ChatGPT doesn’t do that. Without going into detail about different types of AI, think of ChatGPT as an app that understands what you type and can converse with you. In addition, it has access to the internet to find information and therewith answer your questions.

All of the bullet points above came from ChatGPT-3. You can read the full conversation here. For me, this type of AI is wonderful. I would describe it as a conversational search engine without the advertising. What could possibly be better?

So please, don’t fear technology. Embrace the good that could come from it. Encourage productive use of it. And keep your eye on the people who want to exploit it for their evil gains.

WordPress Update

WordPress Logo

Those of you who have been following me for some time know that the look and feel of the site has changed over time. If your recently joined the adventure that is, you may have had to see my lollipop eating, hat holding, smiling face. That will change; my face won’t change but the landing page will change.

WordPress is a powerful platform that allows inexperienced users to get an online presence fairly easily. The problem I have with WordPress is my zero experience start with and lack of desire to invest time into leaning the WordPress platform. I will just list a few of the challenges (not problems) I have encountered.

  • I am paying for basic service. This limits my options and the Themes (templates) I can choose from. I must clarify to WordPress’s defense that the options provided for embedding content is vast. I have only scratched the surface.
  • You can preview Themes and even test run them with existing content, but you can’t play with all your content in a sandbox. For you non-programmers, a sandbox is a place where you can test software, or web pages, as though they are really being published. Again to WordPress’s defense, I have not tried all my options to see what is possible.
  • WordPress provides a ton of teaching videos but the ones I have seen have focused on marketing and online selling. This is the way most websites are used and I don’t blame anyone for this. But finding a video that shows the type of blog I am attempting to provide has not surfaced
  • I use Categories to sort my posts among the different Menu selections. This is working fine except for the Daily Life page. I am using Daily Life as the place ALL posts go when the are, well, posted. When a post goes live it goes on the Daily Life page AND any other Category page I assigned to that post.
    • So what? If I remove the Daily Life category from a post, or don’t select it at all, the post still goes there. Well duh, that’s what it’s supposed to do. Agreed, but they stay there for a VERY long time. I would like to keep maybe 10-15 posts at the most. But there seems to be a time limit that lets them disappear.
  • Back to my lollipop eating, … , smiling face. That is currently designated the Landing Page. When you surf to you end up on the Landing Page.
  • The three dots on the next line is an example of what I call a work around. In order to get the image next to my text about the acoustic modem, I needed to break the list into two. I suspect I could have added a new list and moved the items below to that new list, but I chose to take the same amount of time to vent my frustration.

A Dial-up Phone and 300 Baud (30 Character per Second) Acoustic Modem
  • What I had before, and will return to, is having the Home Page and the Landing Page the same.
  • Adding to all my frustration is my history of writing HTML code (AKA web page code) from scratch in a word processor. Back in the early days of the internet, in the days of dial up and acoustic modems, I wrote my first web page code. Back then, having a picture on the page meant slow downloads. And forget video! So it was quite easy to write a web page. I advanced to where I could put pictures on the page, I was a photographer trying to promote my work at the time, but I was very careful to keep everything small and compact.
    • Because I had that skill, I know what should be possible. I am absolutely convinced that I could eventually create the look and feel I want with WordPress Premium and an investment of time.

Those of you who are still reading, I applaud your persistence and curiosity. I appreciate you allowing me to vent a bit. While my dog listens intently and appears to care, I believe y’all really do.


Next chapter of Mirror Mirror is coming up. Watch for new navigation buttons that will allow newcomers to easily find the first chapter and will help you go back a chapter if you desire.

They’re Listening

I suspect you can relate to this experience I have had. I’m talking with a friend about something he is using, let’s say it’s a set of special headphones. I comment that I like them and will have to look into buying a pair. Before I can log onto Amazon, an ad pops up containing the exact headphones we talked about.

Another example: We don’t have an ice maker in the house. We do it the old fashioned way by putting ice cube trays in the freezer. I was commenting to my wife that I saw counter top ice makers for only $100. I even said, “Not that we need to buy one.” The next day, my wife comes to me with her phone and shows me a Facebook ad for counter top ice makers. Only $0.99. A bad purchase by the retailer, allegedly, and the picture shows the inside of the retailer’s store with the price marked on a skid of ice maker boxes.

While I realize the $0.99 ice makers was a scam of some sort to get personal information, the real question is, “Who told them what we were talking about?” This has happened to us and to friends too often for it to be a coincidence.

Here’s my theory and I have NO data to back it up. I believe “they” are listening through our phones. OK… please don’t stop reading. I have heard the conspiracy theories about “them” listening through our TV sets. As a techie guy, I have reasons to not believe that one. But, who hasn’t talked into their phones to get Siri or Google or Alexa to help them?

“But you have to start the app to get the search engines to help you,” you say. That is true. And for the voice recognition to work, the audio is set to a server farm so the AI help software can process your request. Surely you have been out of cell and WiFi coverage at some point when you asked for help. “We’re sorry, you must be connected for a response,” the local app says.

But my theory is that the search engine you normally use IS listening all the time and whenever possible is uploading and processing what you say. When the AI software recognizes interest in a product, that information is forwarded to the affiliate vendor. You are then put into the queue to receive an ad by whatever service you use next or most often.

It’s the old adage, “Follow the money.” I believe this is the next generation of targeted advertising. My suggestion is a hard one to follow: stop clicking on ads, completely. Put another way, boycott ads. Keep shopping where you are comfortable shopping, I certainly will. But if you find ads as annoying as I do now, don’t take the bait.

Final words: I’m curious to see if I am somehow targeted for this exercise of free speech. I’ll keep you informed.

To Do

How long is your To Do list?

How long have items been on your To Do list?

Ouch! Did I just hit a sore spot? My To Do list is on a whiteboard along the busiest hallway in the house. I have one item on the list: sort papers.

Initially, I put the item up there to remind my wife and me to sort finance papers that were cluttering her desk. That task got done to her credit, without my help. But the task is still on the whiteboard. I keep it there because I have my own papers to sort.

Here’s the routine. I work at a corner desk with my desktop in the corner and the working screens to the right. That’s where the magic happens for these posts. (Not always so magical? Sorry, I try.)

When I have receipts, study notes, and the like that are part of my home finance, writing, etc., they are on the desk in front of me by the monitors. When that pile becomes unmanageable, the pile goes to the desk on my left. This desk is supposed to be for open-book study. That hasn’t happened for quite some time, I confess.

My workspace

Eventually, I feel overwhelmed by that pile and it moves to a table behind me. Somewhere under this pile of mess is a historical record of my paper life. (BTW, does anyone want to buy two Pyrex bread baking tubes? It’s on my list of e-bay items to sell.)

Anyway, the pressing question is, “Why don’t I sort and file (or toss) the papers right away?” The sad truth is, I don’t want to. It is emotionally too hard and takes precious time away.

My filing system… NOT!

The solution is obvious. Bite the bullet (that must be dangerous), pull up your man pants (sorry ladies), put your nose to the grindstone (ouch, that’s gotta hurt), and just do it.

Sorry, I don’t have anything more to say. Procrastination is arguably a weakness. At least I have identified my weakness and own it. That is the first step to solving a problem, isn’t it… admit you have a problem?

Much of life consists of hard work. I’m not going to try and tell you how to do the hard work. Your way is most likely different than my way. But the truth is, we ALL gotta do the hard work… eventually. There I go, back to procrastination.

Let’s leave it here for now, on my pile. As always, press the like button or feel free to comment. If you hit like, I will assume you share in the same pain.

Root Ball – Redux

Great ideas often take time to show results. And as I mentioned recently, surprises can interfere with our plans and progress.

Root Ball on Pear Tree

None of that has to do with my root ball experiment. To remind you, I had ordered some plastic balls that hinged open. The concept was to put these around a branch of a tree with wet sphagnum peat moss inside and the tree branch would form roots. I did this months ago and you can read the original article under Trivia and Odd Stuff. It is entitled, Wascals and Woot Balls.

So, I was surfing YouTube about a week ago and found a video entitled, CLONE Your Favorite Plants & Trees | AIR LAYERING | Simple Propagation Techniques | BEFORE & AFTER. After watching this 30-minute video, I realized I was on the right track, but not the right train.

Bark Removed

As you will see the ball and the peat moss were right. But this gentleman also used a rooting hormone power AND applied it to the branch after completely removing a one-inch tall layer of bark. I had just scratched the surface. Instead of the purchased balls, he used a small water bottle (a large one could be cut down) and covered it with aluminum foil to keep it dark inside. This would also help reduce the internal temperature from sunlight.

Small Water Bottle

So, I am going to get some additional supplies and try again. I am so grateful for the technology of YouTube, and all the other communication tools available now. But I am 10 times more grateful for the people who share their experiences, taking the time to produce a 30-minute video. I’ve played with making videos and am far from putting one on YouTube. For their sake, please hit the Like button.

Wet Peat Moss Inside

If you search for “clone plants” or “rooting plants” you will find many similar videos. One interesting video is 8 POWERFUL HOMEMADE ROOTING HORMONES| Natural Rooting Stimulants for Gardening. The images below are from the first video.

Please share with us any cloning / rooting experiences you have had.

Wrapped in Aluminum Foil

Quick Words

Greetings blogees. I would like to share a couple of quick thoughts.

Learning new software can be a pain in the ______. I leave this blank for you to fill in because your pain point may be different than my pain point. But I ran into a problem with WordPress in the past few days. I thought the religion article on the Bahai faith had been published but found a few days later that it wasn’t. I also had issues configuring the post the way I wanted. That has been corrected.

Being an old dog, (67 years old) I have had to learn that modern software design expects the user to “just press the button and see what happens”. That’s not in my learning experience so finding tools may take me a while.

A second technology issue. I just watched a YouTube video that may get censored and pulled off the site. If you are a computer geek, you will find it interesting. If you are an “end-user”, this video contains some compelling information about where big business is taking our lives. The presenter is certainly passionate. You can watch it here: An update video that clarifies some issues is here:

Stay tuned for more backyard gardening updates, some words on the writer’s conference I just attended, and the next world religion post. I would also like to know if anyone is interested in a newsletter. Frankly, I’m not terribly thrilled about e-mail newsletters, but if that is a way you prefer to get your information, please let me know. I will figure out how to add a subscribe to newsletter button.

As always I welcome your feedback. Comments have been sparse but I appreciate the Likes as well. If you want to comment anonymously, please use my e-mail at <>

Happy reading.

Wascals and Woot Balls

Being a writer has its frustrations. One of my greatest frustrations is life. Perhaps I should clarify with a few examples.

The ducks have a feeding area contained within a 10×10 chain-link enclosure normally used for dogs. While my wife and I were out of town for the week, I left the door to the enclosure open so they had free access. The only time I close the door is at night to prevent Wascally Waccoons from eating up all the duck feed. There are enough Raccoons that they can eat two 50-pound bags of feed in one week. At 14 dollars a bag, this is not desirable. My feeder will supply the ducks for at least a month. I have seen the Racoons munching away at midnight by using my automatic trail camera.

Knowing I would have to refill the feeder, my wife obtained extra bags of feed yesterday. Today when I filled the feeder, I noticed a new hole in the shade awning that covers the enclosure. So, closing the door would be of no help to keep the glutenous Wascals from eating us out of house and home.

The fix was easy enough in principle. Complete the metal screening over the awning I had started before the trip. About two hours later, I had the new barrier in place. But that was two hours I hadn’t planned on spending that could have been used for writing.

Later in the day, I checked out my pear tree. I wanted to see how much the pears have grown. When I looked, I remembered that I wanted to try using my Woot Balls, I mean Root Balls to try rooting some of the new growth. I purchased these last summer from a Facebook ad. (From that experience I do not recommend purchasing from a Facebook ad.) The concept is that you prepare a branch by cutting away some of the bark. (But not all the way around. That would kill the branch.) Then you surround that part of the branch with wet peat moss. The balls hold the peat moss onto the branch. Sometime later in the year, there are supposed to be new roots in the ball. Cut the branch off and plant a new tree. Honestly, I have my doubts. But, since I spent the $25, I at least have to try. These two pictures below show the process and the result. I hope it works!

Finally, just a bit about myself. I need to write a Bio page; just another thing for the to-do list. My wife and I live on 40 acres of land in mid-state South Carolina. It is a farming community in cotton country. I try to maintain about three of those acres. Due to injury, illness, and corrective surgeries, we lost about three years of maintenance to the property. We moved down from Wisconsin in 2010. We learned quickly that nothing really dies off here during the winter. And you can’t kill something by cutting it off at ground level. The roots will send up new sprouts as soon as possible. A seed becomes a 4-foot tree by the end of the summer. It’s a constant battle. So I am now in the catch-up phase of yard care.

But that’s OK. As I do my stuff around the yard I am always looking for little things to keep me engaged. To the right is one of those little things. I have seen them before and am fascinated to think a spider could be predominantly green. This little guy is less than 1/4 inch long (about 5 mm). It is a magnolia green jumping spider. As I was trying to photograph, it was running around the top of a fence T-post.

Thanks for visiting. I need to get back to writing.

WordPress Adventure

Photo by Markus Winkler on

Do you know what one of these is? It’s called a typewriter and they were everywhere. Think of a laptop without a spell checker. Oh, and the backspace key? Well you could backspace, but deleting what was typed required several steps and a special add-on app.

Correction Tape

The “app” came in several forms. The cleanest was in the form of small, white rectangular tabs that were held behind the black ribbon. When the key was pressed to type over the mistake (with the same mistake letter), the appropriate letter would hammer against the ribbon (which normally puts the ink onto the page) and that impact would carry through to the white correction tab. When struck, it would deposit a white film in the form of the letter onto the paper and (hopefully) cover all the black ink thereby “deleting” the letter.

Correction Ribbon

A messier alternative was found in bottles of white solution that could be painted over the error with a brush attached to the cap. And if your typewriter allowed, you might be privileged to have the “app” built into the typewriter in the form of a special correction ribbon. On these machines, one could load a ribbon with two colors. Often one would see black and red on the ribbon. But if you were like me, it would be more useful to have the white correction tape paired with the black.

So, what does this have to do with WordPress? Absolutely nothing, except to show how blessed we are to have the tools necessary to create the page you are now reading. WordPress is by no means the only tool available to create and edit a website. It may not be the best tool. But WordPress is used on almost 40% of all websites.

It can be downloaded to your computer as an app if you are hosting through a site such as GoDaddy or online at as I am doing. I find learning a new app difficult and WordPress is no exception. So, many thanks to the people who provide tutorials on YouTube. It took a couple tries to find the right one for me. The first videos I found focused on building e-commerce sites. I found this tutorial to be very helpful in learning the basics:

I doubt I have to warn you that videos seldom match the latest version of the app you are trying to learn. Even though this video title mentions 2022, my WordPress menu structure is different. Indeed that may be because the video uses the downloaded app while I am working on Regardless, it is close enough.

I hope my experience will give you the courage to try this yourself. It can be done!

If I can do it, YOU can do it!