Monday, 2 October 2023

Don’t close your eyes. Plagiarise. Let nothing evade your eyes.*

Pablo Picasso, leading a gang of thieves, stealing paintings from a museum.
By Bing Image Creator (A.K.A. Dall·E 3)

"Good artists borrow, great artists steal" - Pablo Picasso 1881-1973**

Eki took clips from ‘Abilene Town’’ (I942IPD) and made LMP’s short political video ‘Showdown” starring Donald Trump. In 1980 Ronald Reagan first said, "Let’s make America great again". Trump copped it, dumped the limp ‘let’s’, made millions of MAGA caps and the rest is... But if you breach copyright infringements and get caught there can be hell to pay.

Note: Goldwater beat Reagan to it (The Orlando Sentinel, 1964). But the MAGA slogan was actually coined even earlier, in 1940 by Senator Alexander Wiley (R).

Joe Biden had to ax his first presidential campaign when he mooched phrases and mannerisms from a British statesman. Fareed Zaharia, a journalist for Time, CNN, and a contributor to the Washington Post was suspended after he copied text from the New Yorker. He wrote an abject new culpa ad and is back on the job. But his high-flying rep. is dented.

Now AI is under the gun. George R.R. Martin and a bunch of other writers have sued Open AI for copyright infringements. Chats GPT’s prequel to ‘Game of Thrones’ might have bruised Martin’s ego. I can empathize. AI wrote a couple of posts for LM’s blog. It kinda knocks your socks off when five no-error posts pop out of the machine in about three minutes. Plagiarism might take a new tack If you want to  know what comes next, ask  JANE AUSTEN AI.** *

* Tom Lehrer

** Lifted from “Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal” - Igor Stravinsky 1882-1971

*** Jane Austen AI - Instagram, Facebook, WHATSAPP

Sources: The Economist, New  York Times, internet, Elizabeth Nelson

Next week: MIGRANTS & the RIGHT WING: cause & effect?

Re: LMP post - FREE SPEECH: a small-town newspaper goes to war: The Marion County police chief who organized the raid on the Morton County RECORD has been suspended.

Note: The whole concept of the various artists suing the AI companies is, well, pretty much just bogus. Yes, the models are trained on existing works of art. But so are art students.

The idea behind the lawsuits, I guess, is that the models somehow copy all existing art (be that images or text), and then create a collage of them to come up with novel text or images. But that is not at all how it works. Instead, just like human artists, the models learn about styles, composition, and whatever, and use that knowledge to make new art.

Sure, the user can prompt the AI to make, say...

Game of Thrones in the style of Pablo Picasso (Bing)

...and it will happily comply. But so might an art student. Now, it's likely that the AI does a very good job at it. Perhaps better than a human would. But it is nevertheless new art, not copied from anything.

You can of course ask the AI to create a copy of existing work, and it may do a good job at it. So could the commissioned art student, or you yourself, if you have the skills. But even that is not a violation of copyrights. Publishing that image might be, but that's your fault, not the AI's, not the art student's.

In other words, if AI is used to make and publish work that violates copyright, it is pretty clear that the violator is the person using AI. Not the AI itself, or the company making it, any more than a company that makes canvas, paint, and brushes (or typewriters) is.

Tuesday, 12 September 2023


"In the rink" by Stable Diffusion


"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

 Winston Churchill 1874-1965


Go figure. Trump gets four indictments, and 91 felonies - his poll numbers skyrocket. A judge accuses him of rape - ‘big deal’. He pays off a porn star - ‘what else is new’. 1,000 Jan. 6 rioters are locked up  - ‘elect Trump they’ll get a pardon’.  Ditto for his Proud Boys on steroids who’ve been tried and convicted. USA today.

Trump’s gift for graft is gold - money pours in.  His base (approx. 30% of voters)  is rock-solid.  And now he’s got an organization behind the screen to ‘support him’. A scary piece in the Economist tells a cautionary tale about a group formed after the 2020 election. Its mission: administrative takeover -  i.e. plant Trump loyalists in the Justice Department, FBI, HomelandSecurity, CIA. The Economist also zeroed in on the rise of AUTOCRATS.

Donkelephant in the wild by Stable Diffusion

But is America ready to ‘terminate the constitution’ - a Trump threat. Dig out the Deep  State’s civil service. Dump the two-term law. Restrict voters’ rights.  The US  electoral system** gave him a win in 2020. Unless Trump is behind bars, it could happen again. But this time he and trained troops will be ready to take over.  Historian John Meacham said the state of American democracy is in crisis. Will the US jump off the cliff? FAFO.


"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others." ** 

* Voters cast ballots for electors versus a win by popular vote. 

** Unknown source, but attributed to Winston Churchill.

Sources: The Economist, internet

Next week: Don’t close your eyes. Plagiarise. Let nothing evade your eyes.*

*Tom Lehrer

Note: We do live in strange times. As mentioned earlier, the cold breeze of authoritarian populism (read: wannabenazism) can be felt here in Finland too, unfortunately. But instead of that, today my mind wonders to election math, which is interesting in itself, even without talking about the misuse of the system, gerrymandering or otherwise. 

Even when trying to be as honest and fair as possible, dividing a set number of seats can get very tricky. We have seen this in the Finnish elections too - the opposition parties (a.k.a. previous government) actually got more votes than the current government, but due to election math, ended up with fewer seats.




PS: This video is an interesting introduction to the topic, for those with geeky tendencies:

Tuesday, 5 September 2023

FREE SPEECH: a small-town newspaper goes to WAR

"Police raids newspaper" by Midjourney

The RECORD * in Marion, Kansas, (pop. less than 2,000), interviewed the new police chief.  The reporter asked some tough questions about his last job. Miffed, the pissed-off  PC got permits to raid the RECORD’s office and the home of its owner-publisher-editor, Eric Meyer  The day after the ruckus, Meyer’s 96-year-old mother died.  The RECORD headline is “SEIZED  but not SILENCED”. 

The Washington Post,**  New York Times, CNN, and MSNBC flew into the town to get the story - raids on newspapers are rare.  Aid for the paper poured in.  The RECORD’s 4,000 subscriptions jumped to 5,500, incl. mine.  Meyer, a former reporter/editor for Milwaukee’s biggest newspaper, taught Journalism at the  University of Illinois. He came back to Marion to take over the family newspaper. He says the RECOD’s top job is to keep tabs on the people who run the town.

The fact that the action took place in a small town made it easier for us to get a grip on what might happen in the Big World. So let’s give three cheers to Eric Meyer, his team, and the Marion County RECORD for fighting the good fight.  And hope to hell they hang in there and keep on digging up the dirt.

Note: Eric Meyer won this war: laptops, hard drives, and cell phones were returned. 

*Award for best mid-sized newspaper 2020. 2021, 2022

**Washington Post sent three reporters - the story was headline news.

Sources: New York Tims, Washington Post

Next week: TRUMP-SUMP:  VOTERS crave CRAP

"Freedom of press" by Midjourney

Note: Finland has been high on the freedom of the press ratings. I think we're still currently the 5th, but there have been some attempts lately at stifling that freedom. Unsurprisingly, it's the right fringe that tries to erode the trust in media and shut up any critical voices here too. And now that the people of Finland decided it's a good idea to let the right fringe actually run the country (there still are what I'd call "wannabe-nazis" in the cabinet) we're in for some rocky times.

The politicians already have started talking about cutting funding for YLE, the national broadcasting corporation, which has been probably the least biased media outlet we have. I think YLE leans too much to the right, and the right thinks they're commies, so they must be pretty much in the middle ;-)

The rest of the press is largely just chasing headlines, and as commercial entities owned by investors, the outlets also tend to lean to the right side of the aisle. While I do see them as biased, they still largely report the facts as they should, just filtered from their angle.

I'm afraid we're heading to the same direction as media in the US, and by my standards, that is unfortunate. No raids - yet - though.




Wednesday, 9 August 2023

HELL on EARTH: summer 2023

Sunglasses on Fire, by Midjourney AI
The cool and the dead.*
It may begin in the cracked throat, lips that stay dry no matter how many times they are licked. As the heat overwhelms the body, the heart throbs and vision gets blurry, before the world turns black.** 

The ‘Haves’ stay cool in air-conditioned comfort. ‘Have-nots’ are up shit-creek.

Whopping heatwaves hit the three top carbon dumpers, China (33%), America (14%), and India (7%). Per capita, the US gets the Booby prize.*** 

I spent a month in the US (CO, AZ, TX). A lot of it in cars. Public transport, except in the biggest cities, is sketchy. Approx 92% of Americans have cars, and 22% have three or more. EVs are making a dent, but gas-guzzlers rule. Air conditioning is a given, except for the poorest (for ex. migrant farm workers). Friends in Texas have been in AC - house, car, destination, for over a month. No end in sight.

Bad climate news plies in. Two Denmark university scientists warn that without action the Atlantic will be beyond repair by the end of the century - off the Florida coast the water registered 103 F. The New York Post reports the Gulfstream could collapse by 2025. Much of the Northern Hemisphere has been hit by heat. Even the ‘Haves’ have to hope electric grids won’t crap out. Owning a generator in the is a LA mode. It's not too far-fetched to think gas and electricity will be rationed, and pollutants banned. We've been warned... Will there be a crackdown? Or……Stick around and find out.

* Economist
** The Heat Will Kill You by Jeff Goodell, climate journalist

*** US: 134 .5°F / 56°C (Death Valley CA ), China: 125,5°F / 52.5°C, India: 124.8°F / 51°C

Sources: Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, New York Post, Internet, personal experience

Nest week. BARBIEmania 

Polar Bear In Sahara, by Midjourney AI

Note: On Monday, this summer's heat record for Finland was broken, around 92,5°F / 33,6°C. Nothing compared to the above numbers, but completely unbearable for a Finn. We do not really do AC here, except for cars and larger grocery stores, malls, etc. Most households just grin and bear it. It was a few degrees less and windy in Helsinki where I live, so outside was not too bad. But at home, top floor of a non-AC apartment building, well, hell on earth. I think the fact that our heat is not dry, but often moist and stale makes it harder to sustain.

This heat wave was not unexpected. Neither is the likely outcome that this year will set a new global temperature record. We know that the global temperature keeps rising at an alarming rate, and we also know that much of the yearly fluctuation comes from the La Nina / El Nino cycle. Very much simplified, when La Nina conditions prevail, the heat gets stored more in the ocean than usual, and the air gets (relatively) cooler. After a few years, the opposite happens with El Nino: the excess heat that was stored in the ocean gets released. The air temperatures get (relatively) hotter.

Last proper El Nino year was 2015 - obviously a record-hot year at the time. Since then, La Nina conditions have (relatively) cooled the atmosphere, masking most of the underlying warming. Even then, we've had global yearly temperature records - previously unimaginable in a La Nina year. 

This year is again an El Nino year. When this was forecasted in the spring, to me, it was a given that we will see nasty heat waves, and now that the prediction for the rest of the year is that El Nino will continue, 2023 breaking the hottest year record with a large margin is more or less certain. Global Warming pushes on unabated.

So, while this summer feels hot, don't worry, apart from some La Nina years within the next decade or so, this will be the coolest summer of the rest of our lives.

Oh, that is unless the warming breaks the Gulf Stream, the conveyor belt that brings heat to (northern) Europe. In that case, we will freeze here in Finland, and the rest of the world will heat up even more.

PS: That 2025 Gulf Stream figure is the theoretical worst of the worst cases scenario. The more likely date is sometime mid-century, and the collapse will probably be just partial. But that of course doesn't make nearly as cool headlines ;-)



Wednesday, 28 June 2023


Too hot, too crowded in France, Italy, Spain? Head north to Finland. The airport is a  perfect entree'. The new terminal, designed by ALA Architects* is a site for sore eyes and travel-weary bodies.  Beautiful, squeaky clean, easy to navigate. All the usual amenities, plus a super, supermarket to stock up before you head to your destination. Lots of transport to take you. Most Finns speak English.

Finland’s average summer temperature is around 20 - 25c. With approx. 6,000 islands and lake and sea-side cities, boats are the scenic way to get around. Ports along the way to stock up on provisions have a sauna and some land-life. Helsinki is a summer town. A walkable city center crammed with cultural sites, good restaurants, hotels, upscale shops, and world-class buildings designed by famous Finnish architects: for ex., Lars Sonck, Alar Aalto, Eliel Saarinen. Three distinct styles, Empire, National Romantic, and Modern make Helsinki a pilgrimage for architects from around the world.

But for a true taste of Finnish summer life, you have to go to the countryside. Islands are at the top of the list. Högsåra* is a perfect destination. Reached by ferry (with or without a car), or private boat. The Russian tsars knew a good thing: they made regular visits to Högsåra in their yachts. During the winter about 42 people live here. But in summer it buzzes. After finding a place to bed down (hotel, private house, Airbnb, a boat) the rest is easy. The whole island is walkable. A cafe’ serves lunch. Rumpanbar, on the Örnell family’s dock, has drinks, food, and music. You can reserve a sauna to have before you begin to party. The season officially begins with a celebration on the longest day of the year: Midsummer. And starts to shut down in August when Finns go back to work and the days get shorter and shorter, and……

*ALA  Architects designed Helsinki City Library, OODI, chosen “Library of the Year 2019” by the World Library congress.

**Eki and I made a doc on Högsåra: “El Gaucho de Hogsara” about a young guy from Argentina who lived with the Örnell family, fit right in, and learned how to sail.

Littlemargiedoc blog is on vacation till August

Note: Yea, Finland is a pretty neat place to be. In the summer. Right now, even down here in Helsinki, the sun barely sets. It never gets properly dark, we literally go straight from dusk to dawn.

Me, I like it. It's a reward for surviving those winter months when the sun barely rises.

But about the heat: hot summers are the new norm here too. There's a saying "The Finnish summer is short, but luckily there's not that much snow". It really has not aged well - climate change is inescapable. Right now, at 7.30 PM, it's still about +25°C outside. Dunno how many giraffes that is for those using the American scale instead of metric, but it's still too warm for my taste. I'm not going to even start with the shooting day we had today at a factory hall with a black roof.

Because we're up here in the "cold" north, air conditioning is not a given. Sure, the shopping centers are kept cool and inviting, but regular homes (and factories) often rely on just opening the windows.

Our home is no exception. I have a new beefy computer that does a great job at number crunching, as well as turning many hundreds of watts of computing power into heat. Usually one can add up to 10 degrees to the outside temperature here where I sit.


PS: Happy holidays folks, see you on the other side.


Monday, 22 May 2023


"God-like AI" by Midjourney

AI is beginning to scare the bejeezus out of US. Elon Musk and other “luminaries’ urged companies to slow down “God-like” AI. Approx. 300m, mostly white-collar jobs will be taken over by AI. Teachers, telemarketers, and traders are at the top of the hit list. ChatbotGPT4, the must-have AI app speaks 5,000 languages (LLMs), but hallucinates and spouts fake info.

"DABUS" by Midjourney

A St. Lois Mo inventor, Stephen Thaler named his creation DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Botsstrappping of Unified Sentience). He thinks it thinks and feels. Thaler loves DABUS. When he shuts up shop and goes home he worries it’s lonesome. Is he nuts?

Yes, that's me on actual ink and paper... -Eki

Eki tracked AI’s speed-of-light catapult into the mainstream for Aamulehti. Journalist, Markus Määttänen referred to Kierkegaard to give a 19th C perspective on the 4th Industrial Revolution. In the Economist, historian/philosopher Yuval Noah Harari writes that AI has hacked the operating system of human civilization: “Unless we regulate AI it will destroy democracy”.  Geoffrey Hinton, AI's godfather who worked with the technology for 50 years tells us “There’s danger ahead”. Hold on to your seats folks, it's gonna be a wild ride.

* The Aamulehti AI article (translated)

Note: six AI illustrations for Gen Z LUDDITES  took approx. five minutes. Eki said pre-AI, if he could draw, they would have taken about two weeks.

Sources: Aanulehti, Economist, Financial Times, Washington Post, New York Times

Next week: FINLAND: the next RIVIERA?

Note: I guess the main fear is the fear of the unknown. We've never seen something like this as a species before (unless the Neanderthals were smarter than us). But here we are, and the unknown is hitting us with the speed of, well, something really fast.

When it comes to sentience, I still maintain the same stance as I did in my 15 minutes of Aamulehti fame: it's a matter of definition. Is AI sentient in the exact same way as we humans are? Of course not. Is it able to monitor its environment, make observations, use logic, and act accordingly... sure it is. Or, something to that order. 

There are AI-enabled robots that can pretty much do the whole enchilada, but things like ChatGPT are more limited for now. This said ChatGPT has gained the new ability to surf the internet, and there are plugins for other stuff too: for example, ChatGPT itself is unreliable at math, but it can now tap into Wolfram Alpha math engine, and suddenly it outperforms more or less every human at math. 

It's also getting more and more reliable. This can actually be a bad thing, because constantly hallucinating AI keeps the users on their toes, reminding us that the information may not be accurate. But what about the near future, when AI indeed is completely correct something like 99.9% of the time? That 0.01% error rate doesn't sound like much, but it can really cause big problems if everything the AI outputs is taken at face value when we're used to it "always" providing the perfect answer.


Thursday, 20 April 2023



"GenZ Luddites" by Midjourney AI

A bunch of kids got smart. Led by a teenage girl at a Brooklyn school,  they formed a club that switched from smartphones to flip phones. Every week they meet in a park to talk, draw,  paint, or just hang out. They don’t want your links or likes, they want to have fun. And maybe learn something. They were clever to cop the name, Luddites. It comes from the early 19th C weavers who smashed weaving machines in protest against the Industrial Revolution. The idea is hopping to other schools. They got a long article in the New York Times.

Teenage mental health crisis has been linked to social media - suicide is the second cause of death. These GenZ Luddites got the message: there are no upsides and a slew of downsides to being in touch 24/7. They want a time-out.  Their non-Luddite pals and their parents will have to get used to these kids roaming free for a while.

Eki and I have gone toe to toe about smartphones. He went on Google Science and found out there’s a health risk with over-use. Last time I checked girls text around 100X, boys 60X a day.  A while back we made a rap video: “Gotta Get in Touch”. When the two GenZ girls in the video heard it they said, “that’s us”. AI’s giant tech leap will make it easier to access social media. GenZ Luddites have taken a stand.  Let’s hope they started a peaceful revolution.

*GenZ (1997-2012), approx. 32% of the world’s population

Sources: New York Times, interest, Roberta Nelson

Next week: AI & US 

"Gluttony" by Midjourney AI


Nah, I don't remember claiming there is a health risk for overuse of phones, but rather quite the opposite, I think?

Anyway, humans tend to be an addictive species, we get hooked on anything that provides the endorphin rush. To some, it's SoMe. To others, apparently, it's getting rid of SoMe. The general rule of gluttony works here too: anything is bad when used in excess, but most things are beneficial, or at least benign when used in moderation.

Luddites tend to always just get the short end of the stick.