Monday, March 27, 2023


If there is one thing that seems clear to me at this point in my life, it's that you and I have a love-hate relationship with progress.

Many people might say they enjoy progress.

Progress and the colourful merry-go-round at the town fair have many things in common.

The gentle spin as the ride begins is delightful; we happily anticipate more to come; the slow swirl of the early rotation has us wanting more; a twirl that makes us flick our heads left and right to make sense of the scene beyond the prancing horses makes us tighten our grip on the pole; all too soon, we begin to have had our fill of the ride; any faster and we fear losing our grip... 

My grandfather was a published author. I only recently read some of this books. I can safely say that unless you studied French-Canadian literature at a Quebec university, you have never, ever heard of Oscar Masse.

I never met him, he passed three years before I was born.

The novel I am reading now, published in 1922, begins in his present but quickly shifts to explore what life was in the 17th century, in what was then neither Canada, nor the U.S.

Oscar began his book with his impression of progress. He wrote of the modern wonder of steam and electricity, how cars replaced his father's horse and carriage, cinema replaced theatre, how planes seemed destined to replace cars, and he foretold a crazy future where telephones might become wireless. His narrative then slips back in time, to the early days of the colony and he paints a picture of a very different world.

For many, 1922 has left no trace in our present. Here in Toronto, that past has been mostly erased as the new replaces the old at a crazy pace. The skyline seen from the lake no longer looks like what it did even ten years ago.

The truth is that all technology progresses at an exponential pace, whether it's the industrial revolution, or the digital one.

In large measure progress today is driven by computer chips, either directly, like our 'smart' phones, or indirectly where data networks, container shipping, and air travel result in our global economy. We have shrunk the world. North America, Europe, and Asia were, not that long ago, worlds apart, and now are only hours apart. What happens in Moscow and Beijing, affects the price of our bread and butter within just a few days.

Some of us want off that carousel. To return to a time that made more sense to us, when our neighbours were more like us, spoke like us, ate as we ate. When we didn't need to update our software, when our cars didn't sense their surroundings...

I have to admit that the pace of change once really frightened me, freaked me out, when I was sure that younger, computer-armed generations, would surely obliterate my career because computers and I were strangers.

I survived, unscathed, and even prospered, once I learned to type and made computers my friends. 

Today I gave up my morning bike ride in the sub-basement to share these thoughts with you.

I enjoy writing and sharing. It's something that allows me to express the essence of my self. To be artistic, to share my thoughts, and perhaps to persuade...?

ChatGPT4. What the heck...? What are you doing here?

Hey ChatGPT! Can I call you AI...? Write me an article about how the exponential pace of change is challenging our capacity to adapt, making people long for a return to simpler times.

In recent years, the world has witnessed a rapid and exponential pace of change in various aspects of life. The advancement in technology, globalization, and demographic shifts have accelerated the pace of change, making it challenging for individuals, societies, and even institutions to keep up. The exponential pace of change has been so rapid and unprecedented that it has made people long for a return to simpler times.

The capacity to adapt to change is an essential aspect of human life. However, rapid, complex, and unrelenting changes can overwhelm even the most adaptable humans. The exponential pace of change has been so rapid that people are struggling to adapt to its consequences. This struggle to adapt is evident in many aspects of our lives, including our social, economic, and political lives.

People's longing for a return to simpler times can be attributed to the fears and uncertainties brought about by change. The rapid pace of change has left people feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed by its negative impacts, and uncertain about the future. As technology and globalization continue to shape the world's landscape, people fear that they may be left behind if they do not keep up. For instance, the exponential pace of technological change has created anxiety about job loss, privacy concerns, and social isolation, making people nostalgic for simpler times.

The pace of change is also affecting social values and norms. The traditional social norms and values that have governed human societies for generations are undergoing rapid changes. The internet and social media have fundamentally changed how people communicate, interact, and form relationships. The traditional social norms that helped build communities and social cohesion now face significant challenges. This loss of traditional social norms is generating a longing for a return to simpler times when the community and interpersonal relationships were the backbone of society.

Moreover, the exponential pace of change is driving the demand for quick fixes and immediate gratification. People are used to getting anything they want, whenever they want it. This kind of instantaneous gratification is making people impatient, making them desire simpler times when life was more predictable and manageable.

In conclusion, the exponential pace of change is outpacing our capacity to adapt to it. As a result, people are uneasy about the consequences of change, and they long for a return to simpler times. However, change is inevitable, and we need to come up with strategies to adapt to it without losing the positive elements of our traditional values and norms. Rather than fighting or resisting change, we should embrace it, learn from it, and take steps to mitigate its negative effects.

Oh wow... Let's see... literally as I ate my breakfast, a) I searched on Google on my iPad for "ChatGPT"; b) I downloaded the app from the Apple App store;  c) I posed the question; d) I hit enter;  e) I waited maybe three minutes, maybe less, and BINGO! In all, in well under ten minutes I went from almost no knowledge or experience with AI, to that article.

The app wouldn't let me copy the output, or even my own input. I'm guessing that it "thinks" that it owns the copyright to my input as well as to its output? Let's see, as between one who sows the seeds and reaps the crop, that nature produces, who owns the crop, Mother Nature or MOI? I suppose that, for now, its intelligence is truly artificial.

I should add that it took my tools and my knowledge of computers to do a screenshot of the output, airdrop it to my desktop, feed the screenshot to my text scanner, edit the transcription in my word processor to remove spurious carriage returns, and paste it into blogger.

OK, so now I'm both lawyering AND bragging.

ChatGPT for its part just kept its mouth shut and instantly produced, claiming no credit, as far as I can tell.

So what do you think? Who wrote the better article? Was it me, or my 'buddy' AI? 

I spent hours, thinking, conceiving, writing, editing, preening, re-reading, tweaking, from 7:15 until I published this at 12:17.

AI puked out its text in mere minutes.

So that's now. And in two years, four years, a decade? If computers as we knew them spawned social media that might just be rotting society to its core, what will AI do?

I have no fear for my future. That's because I basically no longer have a future to speak of. I'll be 71 in June.

How does all this make you feel?

I'm curious.

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The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.