Sunday, January 29, 2023

Inside the Black Box: Thoughts on Judgement, Intuition, Synthesis & Artificial Intelligence

Your Inner "Wisdom Filter" & Decision-Making

[Note: This article was inspired by a comment from a Facebook friend, one of the smartest people I know, after I posted a link to a news article about the potential for AI systems to attain singularity with humanity very soon. She said, "... as a writer and artist, I am not convinced that the divine spirit that informs great writers and artists can be replicated by computers." This comment poked at me for days, irritating and causing me to abandon the half-written article I had been working on. There is an old saying that sometimes writers write to figure out what they are actually thinking. Below is my response to my friend's comment, in which I have begun to figure out what I think about AI's place in our world. - MG]

Why You Can "Trust Your Gut" 

A few years back, when I was teaching project management (PM) for new project managers, I encouraged them to overcome their decision-making doubts and "analysis paralysis" by showing them a graphical depiction of why their so-called "gut decisions" or intuitions were actually grounded in their many valuable life experiences. (See diagram above.) I later captured the matching narrative in a podcast then an essay which became the chapter Why You Should Trust Your Judgement (Your "Inner Wisdom" Filter) in my book Worth Sharing: Essays & Tools to Help Project Managers & Their Teams.  

Here's a quick summary: 

"... Your intuitions, “gut feelings,” and hunches are derived from, and ultimately grounded in, your unique life experiences, both good and bad. And because of this, they have behind them the solid proof of your reality. To illustrate how all these experiences come together to generate solid, trustworthy judgments, I present to you the analogy of the common kitchen strainer... Your inner voice (i.e., your judgment) operates pretty much like that kitchen strainer! Let’s say you have to make a difficult decision and don’t have time to think about it. All sorts of possibilities and pertinent facts and constraints and outcomes rattle around in your brain. Your “internal strainer” is activated to deal with this. The wires in your strainer are made up of a vast set of unique experiences that you’ve acquired over your lifetime. Successes, failures, joys, miseries, and all sorts of life events combine to form this internal screening mechanism.... when all the possible solutions and issues related to a problem are dumped into that strainer, the good stuff — a unique and powerful judgment — emerges. It’s a judgment that’s automatically informed by all of your life experiences. And, as such, it’s powerful and trustworthy!" -  from Why You Should Trust Your Judgement (Your "Inner Wisdom" Filter)


Literary, Artistic and Intellectual Inspiration: Your Wisdom Filter as Synthesizer

If you add to your personal history the experiences of engaging (i.e., being exposed to) or trying to create a piece of art or literature or philosophy, you can see how these might be woven into your internal strainer, enabling it to generate a unique and inspired creation. The graphic below illustrates.

Why AI Systems are Legitimate, "Inspired" Creators 

Given what I'm learning about artificial intelligence systems, I don't think AIs differ from humans in the way they synthesize their creations. They pull from human experiences that are well-documented and reside on the web. If anything, they have the potential for super human leaps of "inspiration," given the sheer volume of material available for them to search, sift and synthesize. Compared to the world wide web's near-infinite mass of experiences and memories, an individual human's collection is minuscule! 

Whether the creator is human or AI, the creative output is brought about by mixing together inputs from a variety of sources and then synthesizing something new. And in both cases, the flash point that combines and synthesizes that something new happens inside a "black box" of sorts that neither psychologists nor AI developers can precisely explain. But I'm betting that the divine source energy which we speculate to be sparking the human creation might also find a welcoming environment for combustion within the electronic innards of our AI brothers. 

Both AI and human creations are derived from human experiences that have been collected and exist separately outside the individual human that initially experienced them. Whether the original encoded memories were shared among human brains via stories around a campfire or captured, transmitted and stashed among far-flung electronic network nodes, they are still encoded human memories. In the former they exist in a collection of organic synapses and neurons in a meaty body with an expiration date. In the latter they reside in a collection of somewhat longer lasting microchips and circuit boards. Still, in both cases, their existence outside the human who originally experienced them can be objectively confirmed. 

What's more, while I'm not a programmer, I do know that AI developers are humans who create algorithms that reflect human thought processes and reasoning methodologies such as decision trees and other logical structures. Thus whatever is going on inside that AI black box we can assume it's applying human mental operations, though undoubtedly whizzing along much faster than you or I can! 

Here's the thing: Whether an act of creation starts with an individual human who reaches into his or her own limited collection of memories/experiences or it starts with an AI entity accessing the vastly larger collection on the world wide web, the result is the same: experiences, fragments of knowledge and expressions of art are braided together in a unique way, using human thought structures to create something new.

For all of these reasons, I believe AI generated art or literature is as legitimate as that which is generated by individual humans, since they both have their roots in human experiences and both are generated by mechanisms of human thought.

As to the question of who properly "owns" an AI creation or who should claim credit for it... I'll leave that to the lawyers and copyright nerds. Though, in purely practical terms, it ought to be owned by all of humanity. 


Bonus: Some Examples of AI Working for Me

I'm a newbie when it comes to using AI tools. However, since consumer-grade, user-friendly tools have recently been made available at little or no cost, I've experimented with several. Below are some of the results. (I've included links to the tools so you can play with them yourself. Go ahead! It's fun!)


ToonArt: Cartoon Yourself ("powered by AI technology")

Input: A few ordinary "mug shot" photos of myself which I hoped to convert to cartoon-like like avatars for use with my social media accounts

Best Result:  


Lensa: Photo/Pictures Editor (uses artificial intelligence to render digital portraits) 

Input: A few ordinary "mug shot" photos of myself which I hoped to convert to interesting avatars for use with my social media accounts

Some Questionable (!?) Results:  



Chat GPT (a chatbot that responds conversationally to answer questions, create essays, & more)

Query: "How would Michael Greer, Project Management Minimalist, explain project team requirements for donuts and coffee?"

ChatGPT Reply: "Michael Greer, the author of Project Management Minimalist, advocates for a simple and efficient approach to project management. In regards to team requirements for donuts and coffee, he would likely stress the importance of identifying the specific needs of the team and ensuring that they are met in the most cost-effective and streamlined way possible. He would likely advise against providing unnecessary luxuries, such as gourmet donuts and coffee, unless they are shown to directly improve team productivity and morale. Additionally, he would likely suggest looking for ways to automate or delegate the purchasing and provision of these items to minimize the amount of time and effort required from the team."

Note:  I have never written anything whatsoever about team requirements for donuts and coffee. Chat GPT apparently synthesized the answer above, inferring my likely response from info in one of my books and a couple of other articles I published. And it created this reply in about 3 seconds!


DALL-E  (AI art generator) 

Query: While I don't remember exactly what I asked DALL-E to generate, it went something like this: "smiley face, smart speaker, cartoon." 

Results: I got several results and finally settled on the one below for my article, Stuck waiting? Doing mindless chores? Don't be frustrated or bored: Fire up a podcast & learn or just be entertained..

Thursday, December 22, 2022

In Case You Missed Them: My Best Articles of 2022

Here are five articles that I spent a lot of time researching and writing in 2022. They are all loaded with links that will take you even deeper into the topics presented. I'm proud of these and I hope you find them informative. Happy New Year! 🎉 🎆 😁


Replacing Google Play Music: How I Store & Stream 22 GB of My Own Music (MP3s) for a One-Time Cost of $7.99

[excerpt] "Here are the key components of my Google Play Music replacement:

Using the components above, I am able to do pretty much everything I was able to do with Google Play Music, including casting music to any cast-enabled device...."


Become an armchair expatriate with these 55 video series that'll take you out of the U.S. & around the world!

[excerpt] "Below is a list of 55 fictional series we have seen and recommend, categorized by the part of the world to which they will take you. The majority of these are from two low-cost sources: Acorn TV ($5.99/month) and PBS Passport ($5/month). A few are from Hulu and Netflix. ..." 


Music to Get Lost In: A Brief Introduction to Jam Bands

[excerpt] "I like all kinds of music: blues, rock, psychedelic, R&B, jazz and occasionally even folk/bluegrass and their offshoots. And I especially like long, well-developed performances that I can get lost in -- the kind of music that musicians love playing as they engage a melody and soar side by side like the Blue Angels in tight formation and then diverge into solo musical loops and barrel rolls, eventually converging back at the melody where they started. This kind of musical aerobatics is the domain of the jam band..."  NOTE: Article includes links to 9 full-length pieces of music from my favorite jam bands. 

[Read the full article here.] 


Secure, Fast & Customizable: Why I Ditched My Windows PC for a Hot Rod Chromebook

[excerpt] "[In this comprehensive article] can skim through the stuff in bold to find the big ideas. Or you can just scroll down to one of these main sections:
  • After 30 years, enough with Windows, already!
  • Chromebooks dominate in education because they're powerful & easy to use.
  • Chromebooks are REALLY secure.
  • Chromebooks are fast! (Thanks to the ChromeOS.)
  • Chromebooks are customizable.
  • Buyer beware! It may be cheap, but when does that low-cost Chromebook expire?
  • My Chromebook: Part of a Powerful Ecosystem of Google Tools
  • Final Thoughts: How 40 Years of Personal Computing Has Led Me to a Chromebook
  • Bonus Tip: Don't throw away that old Windows PC or Mac. You might be able to make it a Chromebook!
[FYI: This article contains over 60 links to references for further research. Enjoy!]"

 [Read the full article here.] 


Stuck waiting? Doing mindless chores? Don't be frustrated or bored: Fire up a podcast & learn or just be entertained.

[excerpt] "... Podcasts are the answer to dealing with mental "downtime." They give you your own custom-tailored content stream which you can access at your own pace and on your own schedule. Specifically: 
  • You can pause them when you need to switch your attention to your otherwise boring chore and then pick them up later. 
  • If you miss something because your chore needs you for a few minutes, you can easily "rewind" the podcast and go back and repeat what you missed.
  • You can listen to them at high speed, without chipmunk voices, but with the pauses and spaces squeezed out. (See the settings in your podcast player or this on Google Podcasts' "Podcast Controls" from PC Mag, for details.)
  • You can save them for later and even binge listen to a whole series you may have missed.  
  • With today's smart speakers (Google Home, Amazon Echo, etc.) you can do all of the above completely hands free while you move around your house. 
  • Using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay you can start or continue listening to your Google Podcasts (and most other podcast apps) while you drive. 

How to Get Started 

Are you new to podcasts? Here's an easy way to get started... "

 [Read the full article here.] 


See also:

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Why It's Pointless to Argue about Politics or Religion

"My experience tells me... You're wrong!"

I used to argue a lot, especially in The Before Times.. before Trump... before Covid... before the January 6th Insurrection. I'm ashamed to say I disrupted many a dinner or visit with extended family and friends by holding forth with my rants and my "well thought out" positions on the political issues of the day. And worse, sometimes these drifted into my noisily defending my half-baked religious philosophy. 

Predictably, this left a trail of broken, or at least slightly dented, relationships. After a while I realized that I came away from these confrontations not feeling better but worse, having stubbornly held my ground and made my points come hell or high water. When the dust settled, I felt a little sad and sometimes ashamed that I was leaving behind post-brawl wounds that might never fully heal. 

Like most writers, I sometimes write to figure out what I'm really thinking. That was the case when I created the rather lengthy essay "Why Its Pointless To Argue About Politics Or Religion."  I decided to revive it from the archives at this time when we are so very fractured as a nation. And I'm also sharing this just in time for the holidays. Maybe it can help you avoid inflicting scars on relationships that are important to you. 

Related Articles: