Book: “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention- and How to Think Deeply Again”

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention- and How to Think Deeply Again

Johann Hari

Goodreads Choice Award

Nominee for Best Nonfiction (2022)

Our ability to pay attention is collapsing. From the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections comes a groundbreaking examination of why this is happening–and how to get our attention back.

In the United States, teenagers can focus on one task for only sixty-five seconds at a time, and office workers average only three minutes. Like so many of us, Johann Hari was finding that constantly switching from device to device and tab to tab was a diminishing and depressing way to live. He tried all sorts of self-help solutions–even abandoning his phone for three months–but nothing seemed to work. So Hari went on an epic journey across the world to interview the leading experts on human attention–and he discovered that everything we think we know about this crisis is wrong.

We think our inability to focus is a personal failure to exert enough willpower over our devices. The truth is even more disturbing: our focus has been stolen by powerful external forces that have left us uniquely vulnerable to corporations determined to raid our attention for profit. Hari found that there are twelve deep causes of this crisis, from the decline of mind-wandering to rising pollution, all of which have robbed some of our attention. In Stolen Focus, he introduces readers to Silicon Valley dissidents who learned to hack human attention, and veterinarians who diagnose dogs with ADHD. He explores a favela in Rio de Janeiro where everyone lost their attention in a particularly surreal way, and an office in New Zealand that discovered a remarkable technique to restore workers’ productivity.

Crucially, Hari learned how we can reclaim our focus–as individuals, and as a society–if we are determined to fight for it. Stolen Focus will transform the debate about attention and finally show us how to get it back.


Book: “The One: How an Ancient Idea Holds the Future of Physics”

The One: How an Ancient Idea Holds the Future of Physics

Heinrich Päs

A particle physicist makes the scientific case for monism, the ancient idea about the universe that says, all is One   In The One ,   particle physicist Heinrich Päs presents a bold idea: fundamentally, everything in the universe is an aspect of one unified whole. The idea, called monism, has a rich three-thousand-year history: Plato believed that “all is one” before monism was rejected as irrational and suppressed as a heresy by the medieval Church. Nevertheless, monism persisted, inspiring Enlightenment science and Romantic poetry. Päs aims to show how monism could inspire physics today, how it could slice through the intellectual stagnation that has bogged down progress in modern physics and help the field achieve the grand theory of everything it has been chasing for decades.  Blending physics, philosophy, and the history of ideas, The One is an epic, mind-expanding journey through millennia of human thought and into the nature of reality itself.

René Descartes’s Philosophy: A Comprehensive guide

Som Dutt

Som Dutt

Jan 1, 2023 (

Exploring the Mind of a Philosophical Icon

René Descartes’s Philosophy: A Comprehensive guide-by Som Dutt

You’ve likely heard of René Descartes, even if you don’t know his name. He was a French philosopher who lived in the 1600s, and his work has had a lasting impact on the way we think about the world.

In this guide, we’ll explore some of Descartes’s most famous ideas, and we’ll try to answer some of the big questions he posed about the nature of reality. We’ll also take a look at how his work has been interpreted by later philosophers. So, if you’re interested in learning more about one of the most important thinkers in history, keep reading!

Introduction to René Descartes and His Philosophies

René Descartes is a renowned French philosopher who is best known for his philosophical work, “Meditations on First Philosophy”. In this work, Descartes examines the nature of the human mind and the world around us. He raises questions about the existence of God and the possibility of knowledge.

“I think; therefore I am.”
― Rene Descartes

This guide will explore some of Descartes’s most famous philosophies, including his theories on substance dualism and method of doubt. We’ll also take a look at his thoughts on the human mind and how it relates to the body. If you’re new to Descartes’s work, or if you’re looking for a refresher, this guide is for you.

The Method of Doubt and Its Implications

In his second meditation, Descartes outlines the “method of doubt.” This is a technique that he recommends to help us rid ourselves of any false beliefs or assumptions that we might have.

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of past centuries.”
― René Descartes

The way it works is by asking ourselves questions such as: “How do I know that this is true?” or “Could there be another explanation for this?”

By exploring the possibilities and applying critical thinking, we can start to see that not everything is as it seems. In fact, much of what we believe might be nothing more than an assumption or construct of our own mind.

This has some pretty significant implications, as it calls into question our ability to trust our own perceptions and judgments. If we’re not sure what’s real and what’s not, how can we claim to know anything for certain? It’s a daunting thought, but it’s also an important one to consider.

The Concept of Cogito and Its Place in Descartes’s Philosophy

Cogito, ergo sum. This is the most famous saying of René Descartes, and it’s also one of the most important concepts in his philosophy. In Latin, cogito means “I think,” and ergo sum means “therefore, I am.” This is Descartes’ philosophical proof of existence.

“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”
― René Descartes

The idea behind cogito is that you can only rely on your own intellect to provide certainty. You can’t be sure of anything else in the world — not your body, not the world around you. But if you can be sure of anything, it’s that you’re thinking. And from there, you can build up a knowledge of the world based on that thought.

This concept is a cornerstone of Descartes’ philosophy, and it’s one that’s still debated and discussed today.

Examining the Different Laws of Nature

Descartes had a unique view of the natural world: he believed that the laws of physics worked on all parts of the universe like clockwork, and he argued that by understanding these laws, humans could find ways to build an inner, spiritual knowledge.

“Conquer yourself rather than the world.”
― René Descartes

Descartes brought a scientific eye to his theories — studying and examining nature’s laws — which were relatively new at the time. He argued that humans had to commit to discovering these universal principles, as they were “the true source of all knowledge”.

Descartes believed that human knowledge was incomplete unless it was based on solid scientific evidence. He saw science as a tool for expanding our knowledge of ourselves and the universe around us.

In addition, he viewed it as an institution for improving society, allowing us the opportunity to “deduce consequences from those [laws] we have already discovered”, leading us towards even greater discoveries.

Exploring the Different Degrees of Reality

When you start to explore René Descartes’s philosophy, it becomes apparent that he has two different degrees of reality: true and formal. The former represents the world of pure intellect, which is seen as unchanging, while the latter describes our physical reality which is seen as constantly changing.

“Doubt is the origin of wisdom”
― Rene Descartes

These two degrees of reality are important because they serve to provide a framework for understanding Descartes’s ideas about knowledge. He believes that true knowledge exists at the level of pure reason and not in the physical world. As a result, he posits that any knowledge gained from physical experiences is ultimately unreliable and uncertain.

At the same time, true knowledge must be intellectually constructed from logical reasoning and principles. This means that while we may not be able to experience truth in our physical world, we can still gain some understanding of what is real by accessing our own intellects.

Ultimately, through this comprehensive guide we can better comprehend René Descartes’s philosophies on knowledge and truth.

The Essence of Truth in Descartes’s Philosophy

What is the essence of truth according to René Descartes’s philosophy? In his mind, truth is not something you merely discover — it must be actively sought out. Descartes believed that if we are to gain knowledge of the true nature of things, we must first accept nothing as true unless it can be proven with absolute certainty.

The best way to do this, he argued, is through logical reasoning and the systematic elimination of any doubts. This process, which he referred to as “methodological doubt,” required one to be constantly on guard against false assumptions and untested hypotheses.

This method was central to Descartes’s entire philosophical endeavor, as it allowed him to find a way forward from a point of absolute skepticism.

Finally, after achieving a level of certainty about some facts and principles, we can come closer to the truth by extrapolating from them until we reach a more comprehensive understanding.

This kind of inquiry — rooted in reason and evidence — represents one of the foundations of modern philosophy and science itself.

Investigating the Nature of Reality in the Cartesian Worldview

When it comes to exploring René Descartes’s philosophies, it is impossible to overlook one of his most important ideas — the nature of reality.

In this philosophy, Descartes argues that real knowledge is based on clear and distinct ideas rather than physical things. In other words, he believed that we can only be sure of our own thoughts and feelings, not what we see or experience in the world around us.

He argued that everything outside of ourselves could be an illusion created by an external force or “evil demon”.

He challenged traditional Aristotelian ontology by proposing his own concept known as “substance dualism” — a theory which argues that reality consists of two substances: thought and extension (i.e. physical matter). This implies that the mind and body are two different entities that can exist independently from each other.

Descartes’s ideas have had lasting effects on our understanding of science and philosophy today.

A Summary of the Morality and Ethics of René Descartes

We’ve finally arrived at the reveal of René Descartes’s attitude towards morality and ethics. To put it simply, for Descartes, morality and ethics were about striving to be the best version of yourself possible.

It was Descartes’s mission to find a universal moral code — one that everyone could abide by. To him, the idea of a good life should be achievable by everyone.

He believed that the ultimate aim of life should be to pursue knowledge and wisdom, since these were things that no one could take away from you. So if knowledge was the goal, only moral behavior could grant one access to these insights.

All in all, Descartes seemed to think that ethical behavior should always be your priority as it fosters understanding and encourages personal growth — and thus is more beneficial than any other form of action.

Ultimately, it was up to each individual to decide how they wanted their life to look like; but if they strived towards a virtuous life, they would find themselves in pursuit of knowledge and wisdom — and closer to true happiness.

Taking a Look at God and Descartes’s Ontological Argument

Now, let’s take a look at the role of God in Descartes’s philosophy. He thought that a supreme being or “God” was the only certain thing. He argued that if you can conceive of something that is greater than all else, then it must actually exist — this is his ontological argument.

Descartes asserted that imperfection is evidence of existence, because it suggests that the thing must have been created by an all-perfect God.

Therefore, from his point of view, the proof of God’s existence lies in the fact that imperfection exists in the world. His conclusion was that God must be an infinite being for there to be infinite perfection in the universe.

Interestingly, Descartes also suggested that human beings are born with many innate ideas, which could be seen as evidence of divine creation — that since we have these ideas without having acquired them through experience or education, they must have been planted by a higher power.

Understanding Descartes’s Dualism and Its Influence on Later Philosophy

His dualism theory, which views the mind and body as two separate entities, has profoundly impacted modern thought. Descartes believed that the mind was a spiritual entity that was distinct from the physical body and could not be subject to mechanical laws.

His dualism has had a lasting influence on later philosophers such as John Locke, who wrote extensively on the idea of mind-body dualism.

Similarly, Immanuel Kant continued to develop and expand upon Descartes’s ideas, further exploring the relationship between the mind and the physical body.

Descartes’s dualism has also been applied to psychology, with some theorists proposing that the mind and body work together in a dialectical manner. Ultimately, Descartes’s dualism has had a profound influence on later philosophers and has served as the foundation for much of modern thought.


In short, Descartes’s philosophies have withstood the test of time, and are still influential and relevant today.

If you’re looking to explore more of his work, or just want to better understand his philosophical thought process, this guide is a great place to start.

A Mistranslation Changed Christianity’s View of God

Eric Sentell

Eric Sentell

Feb 2, 2023 (

“All-Powerful” or “All-Holding”?

Photo by Samuel McGarrigle on Unsplash

Most Christians regard God as all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful. God knows everything and can do anything. Yet our own sacred scriptures depict a God who is not all-powerful.

But the Bible describes God as “almighty!” How can anyone claim that the Bible does not affirm God’s omnipotence?

“Almighty” in our English translations comes from a Latin translation of a Greek word that does not mean omnipotent. The Greek word translated a Hebrew word that also does not mean omnipotent.

According to Biblical scholar Thomas Jay Oord:

The authors of the Septuagint translate shaddai and sabaoth with the Greek word pantokrater (παντοκράτωρ). The prefix panto means “all;” the root krater or krateo has various meanings, including “hold,” “seize,” or “attain.”

A better translation of pantokrater, says Oord, would be “all-holding” or “all-sustaining.” That’s quite a different idea of God, isn’t it?

The Bible Shows an “All-Holding” God

The translation “God all-holding” or “God all-sustaining” better represents the meaning of the ancient Hebrew that the ancient Greek tried to capture, but it also better fits the Biblical portrayal of God.

  • God doesn’t control Pharoah’s mind.
  • He doesn’t force Moses to become His representative.
  • He relies on the Angel of Death, occassional earthquakes, Judges, and prophets.
  • He doesn’t strike Goliath dead but uses David.
  • He doesn’t mind-control the Israelites or the kings of the various empires that smack Israel around.
  • He gets consent from Mary before conceiving Jesus.
  • Jesus performs miracles within the constraints of creation, healing people but not removing germs from nature.
  • Jesus preaches but does not control or coerce people to follow him.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The God of the Bible does not demonstrate omnipotence but instead works through people, angels, and nature. He does not control people, but He influences and persuades. At minimum, it’s clear that God contends with wills that He doesn’t override.

So, the Hebrew scriptures portray a God who is present throughout and sustaining creation. A mistranslation gave us the idea of an omnipotent God who can do anything and everything … only He’s rather … selective about using His power.

The idea of an omnipotent God causes the problem of evil. And that idea comes largely from a translation error.

Jerome’s Latin Translation Got It Wrong

In the 300s A.D., Saint Jerome translated the Greek Septuagint into Latin. His translation would become known as the Latin Vulgate, and it would become the basis for modern translations.

Jerome translated the Greek pantokraker as the Latin word omnipotens. While Jerome consulted Hebrew speakers and used some manuscripts written in Hebrew, he relied soley on the Greek when coming up with omnipotens.

Oord states the implications:

Had Jerome followed the original texts, he probably would not have used omnipotens, and Christians thereafter would not call God “omnipotent.”

The Impact of Jerome’s Error

Jerome’s mistranslation influenced his Latin translation, which then influenced the writers of Christian creeds (the Nicean Creed, or Apostle’s Creed, says “God Almighty”), most Medieval and modern translations of the Bible, and virtually all of Christendom today.

Viewing God as omnipotent creates the problem of evil. An all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God should be able to prevent genuine evil.

For many people, an omnipotent God is difficult — even traumatic — to believe in. Why does God Almighty allow genocides, natural disasters, and devastating illnesses? Where is God Almighty during assaults, abuse, murders, cancer?

A Better Alternative

Thomas Jay Oord offers a better alternative. God is not all-powerful. God can do all that can be done, but even God can’t do some things.

God is love. Love is inherently uncontrolling. God, therefore, cannot control. He influences, guides, and persuades, but he cannot control humans, nature, or even atoms. To control would violate His very nature and essence. God controlling is as impossible as God forsaking us.

We have free will that God cannot override, even when we use it for evil. Nature operates according to the laws and logic God already created. Atoms have some degree of spontaneity in their movements, from forming certain molecules but not others to quantum entanglement.

To prevent evil, God needs our cooperation and partnership. To perform miracles, God needs the conditions of creation to be conducive to His work. He wants to heal everyone, but some sicknesses are too far along, some viruses too stubborn, some bodies too broken.

Oord’s view, summed up as Open and Relational Theology, makes much better sense of our lived experience and the majority of the Biblical account — even with the mistranslations.

How AI like ChatGPT could change the future of work, education and our minds

Artificial intelligence can rob students of the ability to learn and think well.
Daymond Gascon/Chronicle photo illustration; Getty Images


March 30, 2023 (

The current boom in generative artificial intelligence driven by tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which can seemingly produce organic text, images and more, represents a leap forward both in what the technology can do and its potential to influence everything from the internet itself to the minds of the people who use it.

The technology is having a moment, with the potential to overhaul millions of jobs while some experts are urging that it is accelerating too rapidly, although it has been in development in some form since World War II and the early days of the Cold War.

But there are still far more questions than answers about what the rapidly evolving technology will mean for the lives of everyday people as it is already becoming ubiquitous in search tools and other applications. So we asked two experts in the field — Rob Reich, associate director of the Stanford Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence institute, and Matt White, an AI researcher and UC Berkeley faculty member — about how the use of AI could play out for society, what it means for generations that will grow up with it, and much more. 

AI has been called “the most powerful foundational technology” ever to have existed. Accurate?

“I would restrict that to maybe ‘the most powerful technology of the next decade,’ as opposed to the century or some other extended period of time,” White said. “Because, honestly, the internet was pretty powerful. The web was pretty powerful. And it changed a lot around the way we work and the way we live. So I would see AI being on the same level as those technologies.”

“I would not necessarily agree with (former Google Chairman) Eric Schmidt’s characterization that it’s the most powerful or most important technology.” Reich said. “But if you agree, or even if you’re a few degrees shy of agreeing, if it’s that significant, then democratizing access to it should sound like something to be worried about rather than something to celebrate. … AI tools and technologies, they’re relatively cheap. They’re often available in open access, open source modes, and (if you agree with Schmidt) it would be, to my mind, it’s akin to saying at the beginning of the nuclear age, what would it be like if everyone could play with plutonium and uranium?”

How will generative AI change education and how we learn to read and write?

“I think the consequence of this is that if people rely on machines to do their writing for them, then we face a generation that never learns how to write clearly or think clearly in the first place,” Reich said. “If you’ve already learned how to write, it might be a help, but for an eighth-grader, it’s a cheating machine that robs you of the ability to learn how to think and write well.”

An example is White himself, who is working on a book about generative AI and uses the software as an aid. “I use ChatGPT to ideate or even to summarize my text, like, ‘Rewrite this for me in a different way,’ ” White said.

But the technology has the potential to change how future generations use the internet, White said. “I call this search to chat, which is like you move off of Google and just looking and sorting through answers and spending so much time trying to find the answers you’re looking for,” as opposed to using generative AI “to be able to ask a question and get a very deliberate answer.”

There are limits and complexities to that change, though.

“Right now, these large language models don’t have citations, which is a big problem,” White said. “They should be able to tell you where they’ve got that information from because of the way they’re trained and the way they learn. They can’t do that. And so that’s something that has to change, and that can be built into systems as these systems get perfected.”

Generative AI models are also prone to “hallucinate” by presenting inaccurate information as fact, another significant issue that needs to be worked out before the search to chat changeover can take place, White said.

What are the best- and worst-case scenarios for generative AI’s integration in everyday life?

“The most optimistic scenarios are that AI is like the equivalent of the Industrial Revolution,” Reich said, creating “exponential increases in productivity in the economy. It accelerates scientific breakthroughs, medical breakthroughs. It frees up human beings from having to do drudgery work, liberates people from unpleasant tasks and massively increases the size of the economy.”

White mostly agreed: “The best scenario is one where we can enjoy life more and then not have to worry as much about work, create a more equal, balanced working life,” while allowing the technology to “help us learn better, help us enrich our experiences, that sort of thing.”

While the technology’s role is unlikely to result in either of the most extreme situations both experts outlined, the worst-case scenario is unsettling.

“A pessimistic scenario is, inversely, this is an existential threat to humanity and that runaway AI that hasn’t been harnessed to support human interests will turn out to subordinate humans to the machines’ own interests, the artificial machine intelligence. And it’s nothing short of an existential threat to the existence of humans,” Reich said.

“Say you have an unconstrained machine that decides … to make decisions about trading in the marketplace. It could create unbelievably adverse conditions for the market where no human being, as it were, could reel it back in because it was immunized from any human control if it was a genuinely autonomous decision-making machine, an autonomous system.”

White said the most significant misuse of the technology could come from the possibility that humans will not be able to discern what is a genuine image or video and what is AI generated, what he refers to as “synthetics.” One example is a photo-realistic picture of Pope Francis that recently circulated online and turned out to be created by an AI program.

For example, that technology “can be weaponized by Russia to create synthetic media that pushes their agenda,” White said, adding, “if nation-states have the tools to be able to create full synthetic video, now what happens is there’s no truth in digital media.” 

How will the technology affect jobs and the job market?

One example is the software-programming industry itself.

“We have to ask ourselves in software development, ‘Does it even make sense that we’re writing all of this code?’ ” White said. “Why can’t we just interact with machines and natural language?”

He envisioned a future in which a person can dictate to an AI model what they want their website to look like, “and then you just sort of sit there and customize things.”

“At least in the short term, it’s very complex to be able to go in and create an entire … website and all of the nice features of the website and all of these things just by generating code through text,” White said.

But more remedial coding work could be supplanted by the technology.

“That means elite programmers will be in high demand. But I don’t have to go and offshore a bunch of this development, because I can just do it here and automate a lot of the remedial type of development,” White said.

On a larger scale, that kind of job displacement could have unintended consequences, according to Reich.

“I think the very idea that companies that create AI technologies and that sell them in ways that are meant to automate labor or replace labor are not taking account of a wider dynamic that takes place when human beings are fundamentally insecure about their economic stability or well-being,” he said.

“That’s a surefire recipe for political instability and populist revolts on the left and the right (and threats) to the stability of democratic institutions,” Reich said. “So it’s not merely a question of displacing labor. It’s a shock to the political system how rapidly these technologies are changing the very nature of employment. And the same is true for education.” 

Reach Chase DiFeliciantonio:; Twitter: @ChaseDiFelice

Written By Chase DiFeliciantonio

Chase DiFeliciantonio is a reporter at The San Francisco Chronicle on the Transformation team, where he covers tech culture, workplace safety and labor issues in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and beyond. Prior to joining The Chronicle, he covered immigration for the Daily Journal, a legal affairs newspaper, and a variety of beats at the North Bay Business Journal in Santa Rosa. Chase has degrees in journalism and history from Loyola University Chicago.VIEW COMMENTS

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April Fools’ Day

An April fool in Denmark, regarding Copenhagen’s new subway. It looks as if one of its cars had an accident, and had broken through and surfaced on the square in front of the town hall. In reality, it was a retired car from the subway of Stockholm cut obliquely, with the front end placed onto the tiling and loose tiles scattered around it. Note the sign “Gevalia” (a coffee company) and the accident site tape with the words “Uventede gæster?” (unexpected guests?). Gevalia’s advertising featured various vehicles popping up with unexpected guests.

Public domainI, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.
In some countries this may not be legally possible; if so:
I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

April Fools’ Day—occurring on April 1 each year—has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, though its exact origins remain a mystery. April Fools’ Day traditions include playing hoaxes or practical jokes on others, often yelling “April Fools!” at the end to clue in the subject of the April Fools’ Day prank. While its exact history is shrouded in mystery, the embrace of April Fools’ Day jokes by the media and major brands has ensured the unofficial holiday’s long life.

Origins of April Fools’ Day

Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. In the Julian Calendar, as in the Hindu calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox around April 1. 

People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April fools.” These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.

Hilaria in Ancient Rome

Historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to festivals such as Hilaria (Latin for joyful), which was celebrated in ancient Rome at the end of March by followers of the cult of Cybele. It involved people dressing up in disguises and mocking fellow citizens and even magistrates and was said to be inspired by the Egyptian legend of Isis, Osiris and Seth.

Vernal Equinox and April Fools’

There’s also speculation that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.

History of April Fools’ Day

April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.

April Fools’ Day Pranks

In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and websites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences.

In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees. In 1985, Sports Illustrated writer George Plimpton tricked many readers when he ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.

In 1992, National Public Radio ran a spot with former President Richard Nixon saying he was running for president again… only it was an actor, not Nixon, and the segment was all an April Fools’ Day prank that caught the country by surprise.

In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich. Google notoriously hosts an annual April Fools’ Day prank that has included everything from “telepathic search” to the ability to play Pac Man on Google Maps.

For the average trickster, there is always the classic April Fools’ Day prank of covering the toilet with plastic wrap or swapping the contents of sugar and salt containers.


1,100 Tech Bigwigs Urge We ‘Immediately Pause’ AI Research For Six Months, Fearing It’s Getting Too Powerful


A coalition of founders, CEOs and professors (Elon Musk among them) says artificial intelligence companies should “immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems,” though some may just want to sideline the competition so they can launch their own AI products.

Some may argue that the current state of AI language bots etc. has been oversold and overhyped. I’ve always found the ChatGPT-generated text and cartoonish avatar selfies to be “industrial strength nothing” (in the words of author Summer Brennan), and there’s also the problem that AI bots still have no idea when they get things completely wrong.

But the landscape may have changed in the last ten days or so. The release of the new Chat GPT-4 is being seen as a potential goldmine for scammers and fraudulent actors, and some fake pictures of the Pope in a puffy jacket did legitimately fool a ton of people. So there is now renewed discussion among the tech cognoscenti of whether the current risks of AI outweigh the benefits.

That’s why on Wednesday, TechCrunch reported that 1,100 founder types, CEOs, tech executives and professors published an open letter saying, “we call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.”

The letter states that “Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders.”

One of the top signatories of the letter is Elon Musk, and that right there is an immediate red flag. (The other big, big names are Apple  co-founder Steve Wozniak and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang). Musk himself backed out of being an early investor in Chat GPT parent company OpenAI, and he’s been notably snarky toward them on social media ever sense. (As co-founder Sam Altman said of Elon to Kara Swisher last week, “I mean, he’s a jerk, whatever else you want to say about him. But I think he does really care, and he is feeling very stressed about what the future’s going to look like.”) The odds of Musk’s motivation to kneecap OpenAI out of pure sour grapes are also likely around 100%.

And looking at the other people who signed the letter, it’s full of executives and higher-ups from Google and Microsoft, both of whom are trying to develop competing products with OpenAI, with at-best middling success. You can easily see how they would prefer to put the freeze on OpenAI’s far more successful advances, hoping that their crappy shit products can catch up during a six-month pause. Similarly, several other currently less-successful AI company CEOs also signed the letter.

(Notably, the letter is also signed by Getty Images CEO Craig Peters, who has a lawsuit going against AI companies for using their work without permission.)

And let’s pick apart this quote from the letter: “Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones?” Hmmm…. The “fulfilling” ones? Are we suddenly drawing a distinction between working-class blue-collar jobs being automated, and rich-people white-collar jobs being automated? It’s difficult to read that sentence any other way, and many of these signatories have been at the forefront of automating non-executive jobs.

Many of the people who signed this letter do indeed have skin in the game with the AI racket, and as such, seem to be overhyping its capabilities. There may be an ulterior motive to drive investment into their own efforts. Yes, they say that “nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us,” but this is the same industry that swore we’d have flying taxicabs by the year 2020, so these folks are prone to a little exaggeration and overconfidence here and there.

Some people are also making hay of the fact that the letter was posted to something called the Future of Life Institute, which sounds like Esalen or the Human Awareness Institute, just without the nudity or sex. They’re actually a very wealthy ideology group promoting a controversial platform of “longtermism,” of which disgraced crypto guy Sam Bankman-Fried was a big proponent.

There are selfish reasons for San Francisco to root for the AI industry. SF is the center of this industry, and it could be our best hope to revitalize a struggling downtown.

But remember, the goal of the tech industry is not to create quality products — the goal of the tech industry is to inflate employee stock options and to enrich investors. Quality is an afterthought, if even. That’s not a new risk, even if AI involves new risks. Whether these new risks come with a slew of unintended consequences, even with a so-called six-month pause, a pause which these 1,100 founders, CEOs and professors have absolutely no way to enforce.

Related: John Oliver Goes After SF-Based OpenAI and Its ChatGPT Product: ‘The George Santos of Technology’ [SFist]

Image: Prisma-AI

Tarot Card for March 31: The Nine of Cups

The Nine of Cups

This is a lovely card, known as Lord of Happiness. It talks about a sense of inner fulfilment and bliss, which radiates outward to touch everybody with whom you come into contact.

At a spiritual level, we’re talking about inner harmony, contentment and tranquillity – an appreciation of the High Powers, feeling at one with the Universe. This feeling leads to feeling that we are blessed by life.

On an everyday level, the card will often come up to mark periods of high achievement, and the resulting sense of pleasure and satisfaction. It will also come up to acknowledge joy and happiness in an emotional relationship.

When this card appears in your reading, it’s important to make the time to simply enjoy your own feelings, to revel in your sense of calmness and joy.

The Nine of Cups

(via and Alan Blackman)

Weekly Invitational Translation Group

Translation is a 5-step process of “straight thinking in the abstract.” The first step is an ontological statement of being beginning with the syllogism: “Truth is that which is so. That which is not truth is not so. Therefore Truth is all there is.” The second step is the sense testimony (what the senses tell us about anything). The third step is the argument between the absolute abstract nature of truth from the first step and the relative specific truth of experience from the second step. The fourth step is filtering out the conclusions you have arrived at in the third step. The fifth step is your overall conclusion.

The claims in a Translation may seem outrageous, but they are always (or should always) be based on self-evident syllogistic reasoning. Here is one Translation from this week.

1)    Truth is that which is so.  That which is not truth is not so.  Therefore Truth is all that is.  Truth being all is therefore total, therefore complete, therefore whole, therefore sound, therefore perfect.  I think therefore I am.  Since I am and since Truth is all that is, therefore I am Truth.  Since I, being, am Truth, therefore I, being, am total, complete, whole, sound perfect.  I, being Mind, and I, being Truth, therefore Truth is Mind.

2)    My gallbladder meridian is blocked.

gallbladder:  provides bile for digestion
bile:  bitterness, irritability, resentment for perceived wrong
meridian:  flow of energy
energy:  work, organ, orgy, function, behave, act, to effect
block:  obstruct, to build up against

3)    Truth being one, there can e nothing or no one to build up against the sole being of Truth, therefore there is no blockage in Truth.  Truth being all there is, there can be no cause other than Truth, therefore Truth is the only Cause. Since Truth is the only Cause, therefore Truth is the only reason, the only explanation, the only understanding, the only knowing.  Therefore Knowing is the only Cause.  Since Truth is all that is, there can be no Maker or no Making other than Truth, therefore Truth is the only Maker and the only Making.  Truth being all that is, therefore Right is all that is, therefore Justness/Justice is all that is.  Since Justness is all that is, to be bitter about a perceived wrong can only be a misperception, Therefore bitterness is a misperception about the underlying perception of Justness and Right.

4)     There is no blockage in Truth.
Truth is the only Cause
Truth is the only reason, the only explanation, the only understanding, the only knowing.
Knowing is the only Cause.
Truth is the only Maker and the only Making. 
Right is all that is, therefore Justness/Justice is all that is.
Bitterness is a misperception about the underlying perception of Justness and Right

5)   Knowing is the unblockable perception of Justness and Right.

The Weekly Invitational Translation Group invites your participation as well.  If you would like to submit a Translation on any subject, feel free to send your weekly Translation to and we will anonymously post it on the Bathtub Bulletin on Friday.

For information about Translation or other Prosperos classes go to:

Adrian Bliss | Biblical Compilation

Adrian Bliss • Mar 31, 2023 I’ve been posting lots of sketches on YouTube Shorts and have decided to start grouping them together by theme to make it easier for you to enjoy them all in one sitting. This compilation features a selection of Biblical sketches. 0:00 Eve has had enough 0:30 Moses parts the Red Sea 0:53 Sacrificial Lamb 1:34 The other guests at the inn 2:17 Mary and Joseph move into the stable 3:01 The queue for baby Jesus 3:40 Mary one year later 4:17 Jesus turns water into wine 4:58 John the Baptist washes sins away 5:36 Jesus heals the sick 6:26 Feeding the 5000 7:14 Jesus steals the winter solstice