Discover more from Bennett’s Five Links
Bennett's Five Links #075
Pragmatically incorrect, French, critical numbers
This writing advice / life advice article by one of the best film reviewers of the past 60(ish) years.
If you have a good idea or observation, write it down immediately. Keep a notebook handy when you watch anything, and if you notice a line or a shot that seems significant for whatever reason, or if you have a thought that seems even remotely promising, write it down so you don't forget it. You might as well just go ahead carry the notebook everywhere, because you never know when a decent idea will hit you, and if you get to the end of the day and can't remember it, you'll be annoyed with yourself. Notebooks are better than electronic devices because they don't run out of battery power and you won't annoy anyone if you use them in the dark.
Always make your editor's life easier, not harder. This is a job, not just a pursuit. Your bosses do not exist to make you feel good about yourself. They have to crank shit out, and a lot of them don't care how brilliant it is if it comes in late or has accuracy or structural problems that they have to solve. Journalism isn't filled with just-OK writers because that's what editors want. It's filled with just-OK writers because editors don't want to have to put out fires after regular office hours unless there's a damned good reason. So hit your deadlines. Turn in copy that's as smart and clean and exciting as can be under the circumstances. Take responsibility for your words. If you're not sure about an assertion, don't just leave it in the piece and hope somebody else catches it before publication: research and confirm it, or else delete the assertion and write around it. I lose more sleep over corrections than anything else related to journalism. That most errors are easily preventable only makes the discomfort worse.
Be the best you that you can be. Learn from other writers, but don't imitate them. Absorb their lessons and then try not to think about them. Don't try to write the way you think you're supposed to write. Don't say the things you think you are supposed to say. Write the truth as you see it. Don't worry about impressing anyone with your erudition, setting an agenda, proving how much research you've done, or anything else. An editor once told me that you should try to take all the stuff you'd say to a friend over coffee after you've filed a piece and put that in the piece. I agree completely. The pieces people still quote to me years or decades later are the ones I wrote in a hurry, when there wasn't time to censor myself or polish the work to death or otherwise worry about how I might be perceived. The more honest, personal and direct your writing is, the more popular it will be. As long as you're not being racist, sexist, needlessly vicious, or thickheaded, as as long as you support your arguments with at least some proof drawn from the "text"—i.e. the movie or the TV show as it appears onscreen—there's no way that you will say the "wrong" thing. Let the reader see that there is a person behind your words, because that's ultimately the point of writing anything: to connect with other people.
4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42
This is creepy as shit.
It’s a long video and so I suspect many of you won’t want to watch the whole thing, but the short version is: there are short-wave radio towers broadcasting random numbers around the world and no-one knows for sure what they’re for.
I’lll be giving a presentation on artificial intelligence in a few weeks and I have enjoyed the reading I’ve done in preparation. This article is about a dude called Soryu Forall, a Zen-Buddhist monk that’s spending a lot of time thinking about the existential threat over the horizon.
He wants to teach spirituality to those engineers building the AIs, in the hopes that when they take over they will be more tranquillity and ten-commandments than Skynet.
Some snippets —
Human intelligence is sliding toward obsolescence. Artificial superintelligence is growing dominant, eating numbers and data, processing the world with algorithms.
Forall’s first goal is to expand the pool of humans following what Buddhists call the Noble Eightfold Path. His second is to influence technology by influencing technologists. His third is to change AI itself, seeing whether he and his fellow monks might be able to embed the enlightenment of the Buddha into the code.
Forall describes the project of creating an enlightened AI as perhaps “the most important act of all time.” Humans need to “build an AI that walks a spiritual path,” one that will persuade the other AI systems not to harm us. Life on Earth “depends on that,” he told me, arguing that we should devote half of global economic output—$50 trillion, give or take—to “that one thing.” We need to build an “AI guru,” he said. An “AI god.”
Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Back in B5L 061, I linked to an article on how hard it was to parent teenagers. That article scared the shit outta me. But this one, about ‘French Parenting’ gave me a bit more confidence to just have a go and figure out what works best for us.
Some snippets —
The first thing I did was pump the brakes on my responses to the boys’ needs. I told them to wait. I told them to be patient. I was dismissive. They started pleading louder and more annoyingly. I doubled down. They doubled down. It sucked, but then, around the fourth day, a switch flipped. My boys suddenly understood I wasn’t going to stop doing what I was doing to attend to them and, though they were confused by this development, they resigned themselves to this dreary fate. They began standing beside me quietly while I finished whatever I was working on before addressing their concerns. We started operating on my schedule.
“Papa, will you play with me?” they asked. “Be French,” I told myself, imagining taking a long pull on an unfiltered cigarette. “Tell them to fuck off.”
Unlike Distant French Dad, he was reasonable and present. And he’s not going anywhere. The truth is that I don’t have the fortitude or desire to make my kids operate on my schedule. I also don’t trust myself to not be selfish on the other side of leaning into that arrangement. Then again, I do trust myself to talk like a reasonable adult because I am a reasonable adult. I’m going to keep doing that. It’s not Parisian magic so much as Vulcan calm. But it’s chill. I want to be chill, and I want my kids to solve their own problems.
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