👓 Humane Ingenuity 9: GPT-2 and You | Dan Cohen | Buttondown

Read Humane Ingenuity 9: GPT-2 and You by Dan CohenDan Cohen (buttondown.email)
This newsletter has not been written by a GPT-2 text generator, but you can now find a lot of artificially created text that has been.

For those not familiar with GPT-2, it is, according to its creators OpenAI (a socially conscious artificial intelligence lab overseen by a nonprofit entity), “a large-scale unsupervised language model which generates coherent paragraphs of text.” Think of it as a computer that has consumed so much text that it’s very good at figuring out which words are likely to follow other words, and when strung together, these words create fairly coherent sentences and paragraphs that are plausible continuations of any initial (or “seed”) text.

This isn’t a very difficult problem and the underpinnings of it are well laid out by John R. Pierce in *[An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals and Noise](https://amzn.to/32JWDSn)*. In it he has a lot of interesting tidbits about language and structure from an engineering perspective including the reason why crossword puzzles work.
November 13, 2019 at 08:33AM

The most interesting examples have been the weird ones (cf. HI7), where the language model has been trained on narrower, more colorful sets of texts, and then sparked with creative prompts. Archaeologist Shawn Graham, who is working on a book I’d like to preorder right now, An Enchantment of Digital Archaeology: Raising the Dead with Agent Based Models, Archaeogaming, and Artificial Intelligence, fed GPT-2 the works of the English Egyptologist Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) and then resurrected him at the command line for a conversation about his work. Robin Sloan had similar good fun this summer with a focus on fantasy quests, and helpfully documented how he did it.

Circle back around and read this when it comes out.

Similarly, these other references should be an interesting read as well.
November 13, 2019 at 08:36AM

From this perspective, GPT-2 says less about artificial intelligence and more about how human intelligence is constantly looking for, and accepting of, stereotypical narrative genres, and how our mind always wants to make sense of any text it encounters, no matter how odd. Reflecting on that process can be the source of helpful self-awareness—about our past and present views and inclinations—and also, some significant enjoyment as our minds spin stories well beyond the thrown-together words on a page or screen.

And it’s not just happening with text, but it also happens with speech as I’ve written before: Complexity isn’t a Vice: 10 Word Answers and Doubletalk in Election 2016 In fact, in this mentioned case, looking at transcripts actually helps to reveal that the emperor had no clothes because there’s so much missing from the speech that the text doesn’t have enough space to fill in the gaps the way the live speech did.
November 13, 2019 at 08:43AM

👓 The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper | The Atlantic | Dan Cohen

Read The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper by Dan Cohen (The Atlantic)
University libraries around the world are seeing precipitous declines in the use of the books on their shelves.

👓 Obama’s Presidential Library Should Be Digital-First | The Atlantic

Read Obama’s Presidential Library Is Already Digital by Dan Cohen (The Atlantic)
The question now is how to leverage its nature to make it maximally useful and used.
Read When a Presidential Library Is Digital by Dan CohenDan Cohen (dancohen.org)
I’ve got a new piece over at The Atlantic on Barack Obama’s prospective presidential library, which will be digital rather than physical. This has caused some consternation. We need to realize, however, that the Obama library is already largely digital: The vast majority of the record his presid...

I love the perspective given here, and in the article, of how important a digital library might be.

The means and methods of digital preservation also become an interesting test case for this particular presidency because so much of it was born digitally. I’m curious what the overlaps are for those working in the archival research space? In fact, I know that groups like the Reynolds Journalism Institute have been hosting conferences like Dodging the Memory Hole which are working at preserving born digital news and I suspect there’s a huge overlap with what digital libraries like this one are doing. I have to think Dan would make an interesting keynote speaker if there were another Dodging the Memory Hole conference in the near future.

Given my technological background, I’m less reticent than some detractors of digital libraries, but this article reminds me of some of the structural differences in this particular library from an executive and curatorial perspective. Some of these were well laid out in an episode of On the Media which I listened to recently. I’d be curious to hear what Dan thinks of this aspect of the curatorial design, particularly given the differences a primarily digital archive might have. For example, who builds the search interface? Who builds the API for such an archive and how might it be designed to potentially limit access of some portions of the data? Design choices may potentially make it easier for researchers, but given the current and some past administrations, what could happen if curators were less than ideal? What happens with changes in technology? What about digital rot or even link rot? Who chooses formats? Will they be standardized somehow? What prevents pieces from being digitally tampered with? When those who win get to write the history, what prevents those in the future from digitally rewriting the narrative? There’s lots to consider here.

👓 Loveland Public Library to Host Free Beginners WordPress Class Online May 22, 2019 | WP Tavern

Read Loveland Public Library to Host Free Beginners WordPress Class Online May 22, 2019 (WordPress Tavern)
Public libraries are one of the few remaining community centers where people freely pass on valuable skills to neighbors young and old. In addition to offering free access to books, computers, and …

This library looks like it’s essentially hosting a WordPress-sepecific Homebrew Website Club and doing something in the wild that Greg McVerry and I think would be a great public model.

👓 Libraries | Manton Reece

Read a post by Manton ReeceManton Reece (manton.org)
For 30 days between March 19th and April 17th, 2016, I visited a different library in Austin and posted to my microblog about each one. The best libraries can be wonderful, quiet places to work. I always brought my iPad Pro with me to do some writing. Here are the libraries, with the date linked to ...

After reading about Snippets from Manton, I thought this was going to be about coding libraries. Yet again, he’s pulled the rug out from underneath me…

I do love this idea of getting out more, going to different places, and even more particularly going to so many different nearby libraries. This is an awesome idea!

👓 Good evening, I have some thoughts that are kind … | Ruth on glammr.us Mastodon

Read a thread by Ruth Ruth (glammr.us Mastodon)

Good evening, I have some thoughts that are kind of meta to the fediverse and apply into society more broadly. One public toot, then I'll thread
So... I get torn between two principles & I think they're a reason why shared solutions like masto are so important.

Principle 1: own your shit / pay for the shit you use

Principle 2: there should be plenty of low-barrier & "free" spaces for people to congregate in some way.

This is tied to my being a librarian tbh.

Some interesting thoughts that mix some IndieWeb ideas and libraries.

👓 Libraries and publishers | Krissedoff

Read Libraries and publishers by Derek Krissoff (krissedoff)
A recent Chronicle piece on university libraries and what it describes as their pivot away from books has me thinking (with help from some friends on twitter) about the increase in library-reporting university presses. It’s a sensitive topic that doesn’t always, I think, receive a lot of attention or get treated with sufficient nuance.