Field Mice, Lovecraftian Plants, ChatGPT

Dear field mouse who keeps building a lair in my car’s air-filter:

I appreciate the need to have a sanctuary. My town contains a veritable bestiary of threats to mouse-kind, so I am not unsympathetic. Between snakes and birds and whatever is howling in the woods at 3 a.m., life is hard.

But my car is not the answer. As far as you’re concerned, it’s an exotic alien machine. If I encountered a colossal metal thing built by an advanced species, I WOULD NOT BUILD A HOME INSIDE IT. This is a lesson I wish the spiders would heed when it comes to my lawnmower, too.

The garage offers alternative real estate for you. The air-filter is not a place to store food, leaves, and fur. I grow weary of my mechanic showing me your latest attempts at deconstructed architecture, forcing me to continually replace my filter. And speaking of that, doesn’t it bother you that the home you keep building VANISHES every couple of months??? Why is that terrifying fact not enough to convince you to build elsewhere???

Thank you for your attention in this matter.


With the advent of spring, I’ve become more convinced than ever that Donna secretly worships a Lovecraftian deity.

A few days ago, she introduced me to her latest plant, called Mother of Thousands. Then we went to a cactus/succulent show where the specimens on display surely came from another world. Twisted, spiky tendrils like some hybrid of Medusa and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Bizarre shapes that look like Little Shop of Horrors went through the telepod in The Fly. And tell me some of these photos don’t look like Triffids.

No one will ever convince me that this thing doesn’t eat human flesh.


Fungi from Yuggoth


These look like they were harvested from beneath the ice of Europa.


In discussions of AI-created art, there’s a certain straw man I’ve been seeing over and over.

It goes something like this: “Do you use a paintbrush? A typewriter? A camera? These are only tools; ergo, AI is just another tool.”

The flaw in the argument is that paintbrushes and typewriters and cameras don’t create on their own. There’s a human behind these things. The concern for the creative community is, in part, that people are using AI to “create”, and then claiming the results as their own creation. Which it isn’t. If you hire someone to ghostwrite a story, then put your name on it and promote it as your own, well… you’re a liar. That would be true whether we’re talking about stories or paintings or chairs or swords. If you have a machine write a story for you or paint a picture or make a movie, the only artist you are is preceded by the word con.

But there are longer-term considerations that aren’t being discussed. If we’re okay with removing humans from art, what about politics?

After all, AIs would process info and legislative proposals faster than us. Human politicians can be corrupt and fallible, right? AIs are more efficient. Let’s hand over the governance of our lives, the Forum of ideas and democracy, to a machine. Who needs “we the people” when a collection of microchips can decide the legal fabric of our lives? Bring on the cold calculus of social credit scores and the removal of those who count as “disruptive outliers”? It’s all about efficiency, yes?

How about our social circles? Friends and acquaintances can be argumentative, after all. It takes time–sometimes an entire minute–to send someone a “hello” or “happy birthday”. Let’s have AI do that, too.

In fact, does anyone doubt that there are those who would prefer a circle of NPCs to real flesh-and-blood people? Each calibrated to never challenge us, never offer a new perspective, never get our blood pressure up, never break our Stepford-like sedation. Long live efficiency!

It’s also a bother to walk the dog and feed the cat. Tamagotchis and aibos don’t make a real mess, don’t chew the furniture, don’t whine (and if they do, we can mute them). Ten thousand years to efficiency!

And teachers aren’t always the best. Bring on AI teachers who will grade our AI-written tests so we can be free to watch movies no one made starring people who don’t exist with our friends who never were.

I mean, the one thing we definitely need more of is further social detachment, depersonalization, and greater retreat from messy and imperfect human interaction. Having AI paint our pictures, argue our politics, and act as substitutes for those pesky social needs is just so much more efficient.

The truth is that creativity and democracy and social life are not a simplistic optimization problem. Tools are great. Tools can make things easier. But when tools replace humanity in all things, that’s extinguishment. And sorry, but that’s not okay.

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