Current Events: 2023

The TL;DR of This Year’s Best ChatGPT Explainer

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Technology leaders have had a banner year explaining generative AI to their companies’ leaders. Stephen Wolfram gave the world a wonderful (and, admittedly, not romantic) Valentine’s Day gift this year with his lucid essay, “What Is ChatGPT Doing … and Why Does It Work?”, whose only downside was its length. Visit the link and check out the size of your scrollbar to see what I mean. It’s turned into a bestselling book, to boot.

This is simply the best explainer of ChatGPT written to date. I’ve loaded this essay into my browser and displayed parts of it on large screens in the past 10 months more times that I can count. What it helped me understand is that ChatGPT is nothing more than an ingenious application of statistics, and if you can help others absorb this, it opens minds to what it’s actually doing…its limitations…and some good reasons why we shouldn’t be freaking out about it.

I’ve found that the following eight simple portions of Dr. Wolfram’s essay distill the essence of what he’s teaching us:

1) Start by looking at a small sample of text and count the number of times the letters occur:

2) Look what happens if we do the same with a larger sample of text:

3) Start using these probabilities to generate strings of letters, and throw in some spaces:

4) Compare the probabilities for letters to occur on their own…

5) …with the probabilities of them occurring in combination:

6) Then see what happens if we understand the probabilities of them occurring in longer sequences (2/3/4/5 letters at a time)…Wow! Just with this sort of application of statistics, we start getting words!

7) What happens if we do the same with combinations of words, rather than just letters? ChatGPT!

8) Best of all…what this shows us is how utterly formulaic and predictable most of our writing is!

That last part is truly important, and I don’t think enough of this year’s discourse has amplified that point. This is the principal reason that I asserted back in April that ChatGPT Challenges Us to Focus on Better Things. Are We Up for It?

I hope that this TL;DR version of Stephen’s generous essay can help you explain how ChatGPT works to others. Do yourself a favor, though, and give it a full read if you can. It’s well-written and worth your while.

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Current Events: 2023 Technology of the Year

Technology of the Year – 2023 Edition

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I published the 2022 edition of Technology of the Year on December 12, 2022, which was less than two weeks after the public release of this year’s winner, ChatGPT. What a year it has been.

ChatGPT ticks all the boxes of a successful technology:

Beyond that, there isn’t much I can add that I haven’t already shared in my April post, ChatGPT Challenges Us to Focus on Better Things. Are We Up for It?

ChatGPT is the Progressive CIO Technology of the Year for 2023.

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Love Willingness


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As an introvert — and a CIO — interacting with thousands of holiday shoppers over the course of a couple of days is not within my normal activity range.

But at this time of year, when I do my part as a greeter in Palmer’s Direct To You Market, my extroversion skills get a Schwarzenegger-style workout. Our market is a 174-year old tradition in Rochester, and I am thankful for every person who visits. Our clients deserve — and expect — a great experience when they walk through the door.

I am reminded of the following six things when I take this exercise on. What occurs to me today is that these behaviors support us in all aspects of life:

  • Through your voice and face, project a greeting with authority — mean it.
  • Give a genuine and lasting smile when you are doing it.
  • Do everything within your power to bring out the smile in others.
  • Do everything within your power to make them laugh, too.
  • Unless cultural norms declare otherwise, make eye contact, and keep it every chance you get.
  • Always care about other people’s children.

It was wonderful seeing so many familiar faces walk through our doors, from neighbors to long-time business associates.

A goal of mine for 2024 is to remember the six lessons of this week. A very happy holiday to you and yours! Cheers!

Yours truly on the left, with my colleague, Dan Walsh.

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Albums of the Year Current Events: 2023

Albums of the Year, 2023 Edition

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This year was saw a vast improvement in the music landscape. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that we are done with people’s “lockdown” albums, and people are writing and performing music together more often, bringing music back to pre-pandemic levels, for which I am grateful. There are a few things in this list that I noticed didn’t make any of this year’s more popular “best of” lists, which pleases me, and I hope you find joy discovering them here. Beyond that, this year saw me appreciating new music from performers who arguably peaked in the past.

1. Gord Downie & Bob Rock – Lustre Parfait

I live a few hours away from Kingston, ON, where Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip were formed and worshiped in a way that, were they a U.S. act, would have seen them become world-famous. To hear something this fresh-sounding, 6 years after Gord’s death was, to me, the musical event of 2023. If you are not familiar with The Hip’s work, consider this to be an entry point to the past, where, I promise, you will find much to love.

2. Peter Gabriel – i/o

I’m unabashedly a Genesis fan, and, separately, a Peter Gabriel fan. Here, we have a 73-year-old artist releasing an album that is as good as anything he released in his past, which is an accomplishment even the Rolling Stones couldn’t quite achieve this year. What a gift, and a delight.

3. Nation of Language – Strange Discipline

A youthful act with an appreciation for the past that brought many smiles to my ears this year. If Mozart was a student of Haydn, then Nation of Language ares students of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark in precisely the same way. We are lucky to have a fresh take on this music from the past. A simple joy of 2023.

4. Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

Young Fathers take hip-hop and make it a true ensemble act, with an interplay, passion, and musicality that I wish more U.S. hip-hop acts would attempt. This is wonderful, daring music, full of texture, creativity, passion, and message. I’ve loved every one of their albums, and this one is no exception.

5. Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

Here we have another band on this list that’s been around for 40 years, but this time, arguably at the very top of their game. Brilliantly performed and recorded, this is grand, creative, and as current-sounding as any young act today. On top of that, I don’t think anybody can make a Telecaster (undoubtedly my favorite guitar) sound the way that Ira Kaplan can.

6. Low Cut Connie – Art Dealers

This is, possibly, the most under-noticed and under-rated album of the year. A great piece in the Low Cut Connie canon, this album got more play time in my earbuds and stereo in the last three weeks of this year than I expected. While I like to let an album settle for a few months to appreciate its impact and perspective, I am sure this belongs with the others on this list. Great stuff, and a great sound to bridge us to what is, hopefully, a grand year of music in 2024.

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