About me

Get new posts by email.

About me

Weeknotes 2022.24

A few things I’ve been thinking about this week. The twenty-fourth post of a series.

For at least 800 years, there has been a tradition of fairs being held on Newcastle’s Town Moor. For most of the last 140 years, The Hoppings has been an annual event, in recent years usually lasting nine days in early summer. Several hundred travelling attractions gather, creating Europe’s largest travelling funfair and attracting a million or more visitors. This year’s event opened this week, and Wendy and I went for our annual walk and gawp.

For the first time in years, I had a full day of face-to-face meetings outside the office this week. It made me feel oddly nervous: I’ve forgotten how to be out of the office, how to be unplugged from email, how to work without being constantly immediately available. I used to have days like this most weeks, and yet I’ve fallen out of practice.

Tech journalists have been falling over themselves to praise DALL-E, the impressive tool which uses artificial intelligence to generate images in response to prompts. TNW’s Neural newsletter transformed my view on this by pointing out that while these models triumph with complex imagery where many outputs are reasonable (such as “the sea at night”) they completely fail with simple, specific prompts (“two squares that are different colours”).

Of course, the models aren’t designed for the latter. Yet, as a casual observer, I suppose I unconsciously assumed that they’d work for it because—from a human linguistic perspective and from a “drawing” perspective—they seem far simpler.

On reflection, my built-in assumptions were obviously inapplicable to an absurd degree. The experience taught me that it’s easy to overestimate artificial intelligence by falsely ascribing methods to its work. It reminded me of examples I read about in New Dark Age.

I’ve been working on my annual revalidation appraisal paperwork lately, and it’s made me realise how poor my perception of time is these days. There are events that seemed to happen last week but actually were months ago. There are projects which feel like I worked on them years ago, but which I actually did in the last twelve months. There’s one bit of work which I was certain I did in November or December last year, and was frustrated by my inability to find some of the documents… I actually completed it in October 2019.

I think this is attributable to the formlessness of the last couple of years, the tedium of constant COVID, constant overwork and constant exhaustion. Dare I say that things are—hopefully—starting to look up?

I’ve mentioned Charlotte Ivers’s Sunday Times column before, but this week’s is especially brilliant.

All the normal rules of politics say he must go. All the experts say he must go. All the rules of the land, our traditions, our unwritten constitution, say he must go. Dammit, the rules of gravity say he must go. And Johnson will look at all these rules and think: what if I just … don’t?

And so he doesn’t. And nobody calls his bluff. Just as they haven’t, time and time again: over the wallpaper, the parties, the — oh, I don’t know, I’ve forgotten half the things we were furious about a few months ago, which I suppose means he has won. Again. Anyway, Johnson just does not go. And there aren’t any structures in place to remove him, because the structures were not built for people like Boris Johnson: people who simply ignore them.

I don’t use my car very much, which means I don’t often buy petrol. While I’m vaguely cognisant of fuel price rises, I was surprised to be charged the better part of £60 to fill up my small car.

This post was filed under: Weeknotes.

Recently published posts

‘The Legacy’ by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir / 26 February 2024

Fiddling while Barcelona burns / 25 February 2024

The Venerable Bede / 24 February 2024

The luxury of time / 23 February 2024

Pinging news / 22 February 2024

‘The Iron Claw’ / 21 February 2024

Random posts from the archive

The content of this site is copyright protected by a Creative Commons License, with some rights reserved. All trademarks, images and logos remain the property of their respective owners. The accuracy of information on this site is in no way guaranteed. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author. No responsibility can be accepted for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information provided by this site. Information about cookies and the handling of emails submitted for the 'new posts by email' service can be found in the privacy policy. This site uses affiliate links: if you buy something via a link on this site, I might get a small percentage in commission. Here's hoping.