Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Future is Now

There's a fascinating article in this week's New Yorker magazine about Artificial Intelligence.  The same scientists who are bringing us the self-driving car are meeting to ponder the ultimate question:
Will we develop A.I. to the point where it will be capable of engineering us out of human existence?
Some consider this the prime threat while others concede that humanity may occupy a temporary spot on an ever-evolving continuum.

 The A.I. people think of themselves as futurists;  but I say there's really little to wait for. In our puny state of non-artificial intelligence, we are capable of extinction right now. The atomic bomb scientists were unable to resist the urge to solve the power puzzle no matter the result.  We watch as the polar bear swims to his death. The shooter's dream is to turn the gun upon himself.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Lost and Found

My friend Bonnie's review of a play about a heist at the Art Institute reminds me of a story I love to tell.  Many years ago, I was friendly with a man who owned a warehouse on the near south side.  The business specialized in small storage for short periods of time.

One day a man came in with a package, left it for storage, took his claim ticket and left.  Over time, since no one picked it up, and since the package was sturdy and flat, someone put it next to the coffee machine.  It was a convenient surface for cups and sugar.

A few months later, the FBI arrived: "We need to search the warehouse."  They found what they were looking for:  the Cezanne painting stolen from the Art Institute.  It was undamaged except for a few coffee stains on the packaging.