I had a brief conversation with Alexa recently. You do know Alexa, right? The voice of Echo Dot, Amazon's ear into your private spaces:
"Alexa", says I, "play gentle piano music."
Alexa, "I don't know any gentle piano music."
"Alexa, you used to play gentle piano music."
"OK. Here's gentle piano music."
Just imagine if Alexa were the translator between two warring nations, or a couple in trouble, or a teen and their parents.
The issue here is communication. How do I know if you see what I see, or hear what I hear? Some 50 years ago NASA brought back black and white images from a moon spaceshot. Scientists at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California), colored the images. I found myself wondering whether scientists see color the same way artists do. In an atmosphere of no gravity, does color manifest itself differently from a rooted planet like ours?
I tried another A.I. experiment. When I was composing music using A.I., it was clear to me that the few algorithms available were all based on western music. I wondered if that was true of lyrics as well, so I used an A.I. algorithm to create some lyrics. It rapidly showed itself to be based on hip hop language, and written with a patriarchal mindset. Here's what occurred:
"I got the focus got the heart
I like to hang out with scorpio and lollapalooza
But when left alone,
My mind turns straight to kinks.
We don't realize we all under a microscope
Two lip rings looked like fangs to me
Dying of thirst yet willing to die thirsty
I drop jewels like my nuts dropped out of my briefs
Never eat it you'll see that Eve was deceived
Now I know it's official."
Of course, these days official language makes little sense also.
I remember that my kids had a private language called Potato Language. It allowed them to say things to each other without myself or their father having a clue.
I make up words all the time, like snifferdoodle and cardalicakes. My newest favorite, Krepildockerschpe, will soon be published as a book and is currently the title of an A.I.-composed song.(1) Inevitably it makes people burst out laughing - they start making up their own words, or remembering word games they played in childhood.
So let's make up some new words together. I did some research and unearthed an extinct language that seems to have disappeared into the dustbin of history. It included some words that might taste strange to a 21st century tongue but I think we can resurrect them. After all. everything you are reading, doing, seeing right now is based on an alphabet of only 2 characters - a zero and a one. English itself needs a structure of 26 letters. As a consummate double-crostics fan I figured I had the skills to solve a word problem.
Three nascent words first appeared: ethics, kindness, and dignity. Maybe we can pass them on, fling them from the rooftops. Maybe they will be contagious. Maybe others will catch them.
I can only hope.
c. Corinne Whitaker 2019
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