Filtered for causes and kissing

10.35, Friday 3 Mar 2023


1815 saw the eruption of Mount Tambora in what is now Indonesia. Global temperatures fell by 0.4-0.7C.

1816 was The Year Without a Summer. There were crop failures in Europe. Snow fell in June in New York.

And so:

  • Lord Byron holidayed at Lake Geneva with some friends, but the weather kept them indoors. To pass the time they told ghost stories. From that trip we get both The Vampyre (the first modern vampire novel and precursor to Dracula) and also Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
  • Driven to move by the collapse in grain prices, the family of Joseph Smith Jr migrated from Vermont to the religious hotbed of New York where he began to receive visions. Later in life he founded a religion, writing his visions as The Book of Mormon.

A consequential volcano!

Both of those articles above by Laura Marriott at Headstuff.

c.f. 2.8 million years ago, a reduction in forest coverage drove early humans down from the trees; climate change triggered by a nearby supernova.


We used to have more fingers.

When the first tetrapods emerged from the water around 400 million years ago their hands and feet looked quite different from the ones seen in modern day species. Instead of the five fingers and toes characteristic for ourselves and most other extant tetrapods, the hands and feet of stem tetrapods such as Ichthyostega and Acanthostega numbered up to seven or eight digits. For millions of years to follow, tetrapods had six digits until this changed to the canonical pentadactyl Bauplan at the end of the Devonian around 350 MYA (a period whose tetrapods remain poorly known due to fragmentation of the fossil record).

(Also – highly recommended – listen to BBC In Our Time about the Fish-Tetrapod Transition. And here it is on Braggoscope if you want to explore related episodes.)


AI can’t draw hands, famously.

Always too many fingers.

What if this isn’t a screw-up in the training data.

Like, Stable Diffusion and DALL-E are trained on practically all the human records there are. Maybe they are picking up on expectations too diffuse to see, individually. Maybe all of us sense like 5-fingers hands are wrong, just faintly, like 0.000001% of a feeling – but added together it rises to the top.

So my theory is that AI finger mistakes are actually representative of the pre-tetrapod transition 7-fingered body map buried deep in the collective unconscious, now unearthed by LLM gestalts.


This is an AMAZING interview with Jim Carrey about his lack of self.

“Wait a second. If I can put Jim Carrey aside for four months, who is Jim Carrey? Who the hell is that?”

I know now he does not really exist. He’s ideas.

If you want to talk scientifically, break it down to a cluster of tetrahedrons that somehow believe they are a thing. But they’re ideas – just ideas. Jim Carrey was an idea my parents gave me. Irish-Scottish-French was an idea I was given. Canadian was an idea that I was given. I had a hockey team and a religion and all of these things that cobble together into this kind of Frankenstein monster, this representation. It’s like an avatar. These are all the things I am. You are not an actor, or a lawyer. No one is a lawyer. There are lawyers, law is practiced, but no one is a lawyer. There is no one, in fact, there.

I find this simultaneously really sad,

and also a reminder that I habitually misunderstand what actors do. It’s not “pretending” (to have motivations that they don’t, or feelings they don’t), it’s more akin to being possessed, with some kind of negotiated partial control, and the key skill is openness to being possessed, a hazardous handing over of the will and a trust that self will return.

Which must give you a bundle of insights right? One’s self as a psychic Frankenstein of ideas, some invited in, some not. Wow. It upends our arguments about AI sentience doesn’t it. There are so many ways to be.


Remote kissing device:

the ‘kissing device,’ is an invention of a university in Changzhou, China. The contraption comes equipped with ‘silicone lips,’ pressure sensors and actuators, and can replicate the pressure, movement, and temperature of a user’s lips.

You use an app. The device itself looks… alarming. Fleshy rubber frog lips, robotically actuated.

Video here.

Also transmitted: the sound the user makes.

I am into this (auto-generated?) summary which is brutally straightforward: Couples can start a video conference and email each other copies of their kisses.

And it points out that kisses now needn’t be synchronous. Async kisses could, I suppose, be recorded, replayed, traded, added to the permanent collection of the museum of kisses of famous smoochers (perhaps), pirated!, kept for lending in a nationwide state-run kissing library, etc.

Deepfake kisses would enable kissing inaccessible celebrities (ick) or people from long ago or fictional people.

Or what if the AI boffins at DeepMind got their hands on this. AlphaGo, AlphaProteinFolding, AlphaSnogs. The Kasparov/Deep Blue moment. 2024 will be the final year that humans are better than computers at kissing, what then.

Maybe Frankenstein would have one of these kissing devices in the middle of his face. Maybe Frankenstein’s monster would too.

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