Thoughts on reality, whatever that really is

I recently finished reading The Case Against Reality by Donald Hoffman.

It’s a short book, only 200 pages, but still felt too long. Too much filler and repetition. You’re perhaps better off watching an interview with the author on YouTube.

The main premise is simple: we don’t see reality as it truly is, but rather as it relates to our evolutionary fitness.

Some obvious examples of our limited perceptions include:

  • We only see certain wavelengths of light; we cannot see infrared or ultraviolet.
  • We only hear a certain range of frequencies of sound.
  • Our sense of smell is very limited, and often comes with instinctual judgments of pleasantness or disgust.
  • We cannot sense oxygen in our lungs; rather, we can only feel the effects of having too little.
  • We experience being surrounded by solid things, yet atoms consist of mostly empty space.
  • Lots of optical illusions clearly trick our visual perceptions.

This means that everything we perceive in the physical world is actually a high-level abstraction of some unperceived foundational reality. A book, for example, only exists in our minds as a concept, a collection of perceptions and sensory experiences. These perceptions correspond to things in physical reality (that we can’t perceive directly), but they don’t actually exist in physical reality.

The book’s author compares the mind-reality relationship to icons on a computer. Using a computer, you manipulate highly abstracted icons, imagining that files have physical spaces and locations. (The word “file” itself is an abstraction to aid the metaphor.) Inside the computer, everything is just 1’s and 0’s passing through transistors. But it would be completely inefficient to try and derive meaning from those long binary strings, so we work with high-level abstractions, colored pixels on a screen that correspond to those 1’s and 0’s. “Files” don’t even really exist in memory; computer memory is just a big collections of ordered 1’s and 0’s. Files don’t exist until some program (like an operating system) makes some determination of how to separate the bits into separate groups, which is ultimately decided by a human mind, which is where all the meanings of those 1’s and 0’s are derived from in the first place.

OK, that’s all well and good, but so what?

Well… I don’t know. The book doesn’t really go into why understanding this might be important. Perhaps it may help you to appreciate the possibilities of other perspectives, I guess? Help you not take your perceptions for granted, or take for granted the meanings you’re imbuing things with yourself? Or appreciate that there’s a ton of reality that you can’t even see? Perhaps it has some applications for AI or something?

Interesting stuff to think about anyway.

The last chapter is the most confusing. The author starts talking about what he calls “conscious realism“, which I can’t claim to understand very well. He writes on page 184:

If we grant that there are conscious experiences, and that there are conscious agents that enjoy and act on experiences, then we can try to construct a scientific theory of consciousness that posits that conscious agents—not objects in spacetime—are fundamental, and that the world consists entirely of conscious agents.

Um… OK?

Actually, I once had a dream in which I understood that reality and spacetime are created collectively by consciousnesses, so I find the idea compelling. On the other hand, I really don’t understand the idea any deeper than that. On some level, it feels like just playing semantic games with “reality” and “consciousness”, which is maybe all one can do.

(If I say “A book exists only in one’s consciousness”, is not such an existence just as valid, perhaps even more valid, than some other sense of existence?)

On page 190, the author goes on to write:

The definition of a conscious agent is just math. The math is not the territory. Just as a mathematical model of weather is not, and cannot create, blizzards and droughts, so also the mathematical model of conscious agents is not, and cannot create, consciousness. So, with this proviso, I offer a bold thesis, the Conscious Agent Thesis: every aspect of consciousness can be modeled by conscious agents.

I still don’t really get it. Also, don’t you still have to answer what consciousness itself is? (And can you?)

So, overall, some interesting ideas, but I’m not quite sure what, if anything, I can do with them.


Coming Soon: The Archives

I’ve got quite a few compositions that I’ve never uploaded to streaming services, and I’ve been meaning to for a while now. In fact, I’ve got over 4 hours of tracks unavailable on Spotify and other streaming sites, which over the years has probably cost me some 12 cents or so in lost profits. OK, maybe not that much, but still. So before the end of the year I hope to release “The Archives”, four volumes of my early music. As there are about 4 months left of the year (as of this writing), I’ll probably aim to release one a month.

As most of these tracks have been available to freely download on my outdated MP3s page for a long while now, digital copies of the albums will also be free.

Here’s the current plan in terms of track listings:

The Archives: Volume 1

  1. The Workshop
  2. Hatching of a Dragon
  3. Grandeur
  4. Flight of the Dragon
  5. The Silver Knight
  6. The Aeneid
  7. Canon (Not Really) No 1 in C major
  8. Canon (Not Really) No 2 in C major
  9. March of the Canterbury Tales
  10. Short Piece for Orchestra
  11. Largo for String Quartet in A major
  12. Serenade for Strings No 1
  13. Octet in A minor

The Archives: Volume 2

  1. Journey of a Steed
  2. End of the Road
  3. Knights of the Round Table
  4. Lullaby for Cello and Piano
  5. Short Piece for Strings
  6. Trio for Harp, Flute, and Oboe No 1
  7. Woodwind Quartet in G minor
  8. The Gafradalasha String Quartet: I
  9. The Gafradalasha String Quartet: II
  10. Waltz of the Penguins

The Archives: Volume 3

  1. Waltz of Pegasus
  2. Twilight Fantasia
  3. Dragon of the Mist
  4. The Neuschwanstein Suite: 1. Dance of the Ice Sprites
  5. The Neuschwanstein Suite: 2. Dance of the Woodland Sprites
  6. The Neuschwanstein Suite: 3. Battle and Defeat of the Trolls
  7. The Forgotten Wish
  8. Serenade for Strings No 2
  9. Broken Swords
  10. The Banquet
  11. Trio for Harp, Flute, and Oboe No 2
  12. Hour by Hour

The Archives: Volume 4

  1. Guinevere’s Lullaby
  2. The King’s Assassin
  3. Lullaby for Harp and Whistle
  4. Mozart’s Dream
  5. Trio for Harp, Flute, and Oboe No 3
  6. This is the Pizz
  7. Inside the Android’s Dream
  8. Dance of the Fools
  9. Fairy Music
  10. Lullaby for Harp and Vibraphone
  11. Melody for Harp and Piano
  12. Piano Concerto No 0
  13. It’s a Rondoful Life
  14. Short Piece for 2 Violins
  15. Island of the Dragons

So be on the lookout for these amazing albums collecting your favorite golden oldies on your favorite streaming platforms! Stream them and allow me to make 0.0002 cents each time you listen, which will help me pay for a single M&M every five years.

P.S. There are still a few tracks missing, mainly more experimental and less-melodic works that would likely sound jarring and out of place mixed in with the rest. I may upload these as part of a separate album later.

TuneSage progress update 8

There’s still a lot of work to do, but I think I just might actually be able to launch TuneSage’s MVP this month! I’m done with all the difficult and time-consuming backend algorithmic programming. All that’s left with the backend now is manual training and calibration. That will still take some time, but it’s mostly data entry and testing. I think the melodic styles TuneSage will offer on launch will consist of:

  • Irish / Scottish folk song
  • American folk song
  • Sea Chantey
  • Hannifin (trained from my own compositions)
  • Generic

Of course, I’ll later add more styles, but these are easy to train for, as I can use simple public domain examples as training data, and they’ve already stood the test of time.

Still lots of stuff on the todo list though:

  • Melody generation options GUI on the frontend
  • Overhaul frontend design
  • Finalize soundfont
  • Allow setting track volume1
  • Recreate the landing page / home page
  • Add user account system (register / login / logout)
  • Add some basic terms of service
  • Setup payments system / trial period2
  • Setup some sort of analytics to track usage metrics
  • Register company (officially found it as a company)

So still quite a bit of work, but it’s all very doable, and I know (or am confident I can easily figure out) how to do it.

Then, after launching, I’ll be focused on iterating, iterating, iterating repeatedly, trying to improve the app and get users and feedback!

Stay tuned, I should be able to release some example melodies soon!

DALL-E 2 is awesome! I love it!

Warning: Lots of images below!

Earlier this week, I was finally invited to OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 public beta! And I’m completely in love with it. Below are some of my favorite pieces I’ve generated with it by giving it simple text prompts.

First, a few details about the app: Generating these pictures is a computationally intensive process, so they limit how many pictures you can generate. This is done with credits. Upon receiving an invite, they give you 50 free credits to start with. Each credit allows you to send one text prompt, and you get four variations in return. Each month they give you 15 more free credits. However, you can buy credits as well. Currently that price is $15 for 115 credits, which comes to a little over $0.13 per prompt, which really doesn’t sound bad, but it adds up quickly when you get addicted! Still, personally I think it’s totally worth it. Just wish I had more money to spend on it!

Sometimes you get really awesome results, sometimes you get weird abstract nonsense that’s nothing like what you had in mind. So you have to get a feel for what sort of prompts might give you something interesting, and what sort of prompts it won’t understand.

So here’s a little gallery of some of the stuff I’ve created so far. I’ve already spent $30 and it’s only my first week with access, so I will have to restrain myself now. (I still have around 85 credits left.)

Finally, it generates images at a resolution of 1024×1024. I’ve resized the images below in an effort to conserve screen space and bandwidth.

Dolphin eating a cheeseburger

This is similar to a prompt I tried on another AI image generator last year, so I was curious to see how DALL-E would do with the prompt. Much better!


My favorite “style” of DALL-E’s output tends to be “oil painting”.

Steampunk owls

Animals wearing headphones

DALL-E tends to draw animals much better than humans, I suppose because they can be a bit more abstract and less structured than a human’s face. (Although note it doesn’t understand that headphones should go on mammals’ ears rather than the sides of their heads, haha.)

Some abstract art

The prompt here was something like “A painting of a giant eye ball sitting in a chair by the fire.”

Portrait of Mozart as various animals

Owls reading books

Painting of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam in the style of Van Gogh

Castles on cliffsides

Starry skies above castles

Flowers growing out of skulls

Money and treasure!

Pirate treasure maps

Skulls on fire


The above are all cherry-picked examples of some of my favorite outputs so far; some results come out a lot less interesting. DALL-E is particularly not very good with images that require specific structural detail, such as human faces, or pianos, or even dragons. It excels at looser, less-structured forms, such as flowers, trees, and clouds. Below are some examples of output that I was less pleased with, showing some of its weaknesses.


Overall, despite its weaknesses, I’m still completely blown away by the quality of DALL-E’s output. I can’t wait to put some of the images I’ve generated to use as album covers or something! I love it!

TuneSage progress update 7

The time is flying by too quickly! But I am making progress. The backend melody-generating code is working much better now, though it’s actually only writing four-bar phrases at the moment. So I’ll be working on expanding that capability for the rest of the week, as well as expanding its stylistic palette with more training data. (A melody is just a collection of related phrases, so the foundation is already there.) If I’m lucky, I may even be able to share some example output next week.

Frontend-wise, I think the only other feature I need to work on for now is the ability to add, move, and delete tempos, which should only take a couple of hours. The frontend it still needs a design overhaul, though, which will take another day or two.

The frontend will be missing a lot of features on launch, but users should at least be able to generate tunes and export them as MIDI files to open in their favorite DAW or notation program or whatever.

So I think my schedule is close to the same as it was in my last progress update:

  • This week: Finish backend and redesign frontend
  • Next week: Soundfont and user account system, start releasing samples
  • Week 3: Register company, install payment and analytics systems
  • Week 4: Set up trial, front page update, and launch!

If I can actually accomplish that, I could launch as soon as August 15!

But of course that’s probably not going to happen…

Still, we’re getting closer and closer!

TuneSage progress update 6

My goal last week was to “finish backend and overhaul frontend”, which definitely did not happen.

My work on the backend unfortunately came to another dead end. I was trying automate the training of the AI so that I could just give it melodies and it would train on them with little oversight. It worked, but too inefficiently; it must be continually tweaked to work well, so the whole endeavor ends up taking even more time. For now, it seems it will be more efficient time-wise to train it manually. In other words, I think it will be more time-efficient to use supervised learning rather than unsupervised learning. (Which is perhaps an obvious outcome, but it was worth a try.)

So I’m already weeks behind! Schedule now looks like this:

  • This week and next week: Finish backend and overhaul frontend
  • Week 3: Soundfont and user account system, start releasing samples
  • Week 4: Register company, install payment and analyctics systems
  • Week 5: Set up trial, stress testing, front page update, and launch!

Admittedly, it will still likely take longer than that…

Questions about startup idea:

The last startup school webinar was about evaluating your idea for a startup, and included a number of good questions to ask yourself about an idea to help with that. Granted, I’ve already chosen an idea (AI music SaaS), but I thought it still might be interesting to answer the questions:

  1. Does your team have founder / market fit to work on this idea? I don’t really have a team, but yes, as a programmer and a music composer, I think I have good founder / market fit. The product is something I want for myself and would use.
  2. How big is the market for this idea today? I don’t know. There are other AI music services out there, but I don’t know how good their profits are. The market for music software in general, however, is huge.
  3. How big could it be in a few years? Again, I don’t know, but I haven’t seen any indication that it’s growing rapidly at the moment.
  4. What is the problem you hope this product will solve? Have you seen this problem first hand? How are confident are you that it’s actually a problem? For your users, how acute and frequent is the problem? Composing music can be time consuming; there are lots of creative decisions to make. It can also be difficult to get going if you’re just getting started or haven’t done it in a while. Yes, I have experienced this first hand. I know others have this problem as well, as my previous melody generating apps attracted some users. As for how frequent and acute the problem is, I don’t know; I’ll have to talk to more users.
  5. Do you have entrenched competition? If so, how will you beat them? Yes, there are a few competitors in AI music. I need to do some more research on them, but in my opinion, they’re of limited use, particularly because they do not generate interesting melodies. They’re output tends to sound either too random or too bland. My focus on melody may be a good starting point to beat them.
  6. Is this something you personally want and would use? Definitely!
  7. Did this idea only recently become possible, or only recently become necessary? Yes and no. The algorithms would certainly be possible to run on older computers, but they take time to come up with.
    1. If not, why has no one solved it before? The algorithms are not obvious, I suppose, even with popular modern AI paradigms.
  8. What are the proxies – large, successful companies that do something similar to this? I don’t know if there are any. None that I know of, anyway.
  9. Is this a problem that you personally care about? Is it something that you would be willing to work on for a long time? Yes and yes.
  10. Can your solution scale? Could this be a consulting business in disguise? Since it’s an SaaS, yes, scaling is possible.
  11. Is this idea in a good “idea space”? I think? I’m not really sure what the “idea space” for AI music is.
  12. How did you come up with this idea? Did you start with the problem or the solution? Started with the problem. In fact, don’t even have solutions to all the problems yet! But I think the solutions are reachable.
  13. Do you have a new insight about this idea, one that few others have? Yes, I think my approach to generating melodies is a new insight; I don’t see any other service offering decent melody generation at the moment.
  14. What are the current alternatives that people use instead of your product? Why will people switch to your product? How difficult will it be to get them to switch? I admittedly don’t know; I’ll have to talk to users.
  15. How will you make money? SaaS!
  16. If this the kind of business that has a chicken-and-egg problem (i.e., a marketplace, a dating site), how will you solve it? No chicken-egg problem here!

    TuneSage progress update 5

    It’s been over a year since my last TuneSage update, but work has been progressing. Work on the backend was slow and challenging; I spent some time going down quite a few dead-ends. But it’s actually generating melodies now, so I should be able to release some output samples sometime soon, fingers crossed.

    I signed up for this year’s Y Combinator’s Startup School once again. I did it once back in 2019, but other than making a landing page (, my progress was sparse. I just needed a lot more time than I imagined to make progress with the backend.

    Startup School’s Course Guide says: “If you haven’t launched yet, make it a goal to launch during the program and get your first users!”

    OK, I guess I’ll make it a goal then! Granted, I have repeatedly failed at making enough progress to launch whenever I have set it as a goal, but one must keep trying I suppose.

    My question is: how many features do I need to launch with? For better or worse, my current plan is to just launch the product as a basic melody generator to start with.

    So what do I need to do to launch?

    • Prepare the backend
      • Train the AI on more melodies (using public domain melodies)
      • Generate melodies in a variety of styles (these will be basic to start with)
    • Add at least some simple chordal accompinement features to frontend
      • e.g. root notes, arpeggio patterns, alberti bass, etc.
    • Overhaul frontend design (lots of tedious web design) and finalize
    • Figure out what soundfonts TuneSage will use
    • Figure out deployment and version control (honestly this can probably wait until after launch, but not too long after)
    • Create user account system
      • Create new account
      • Confirm email (if necessary)
      • Log in / out / reset password
      • Edit optional personal info
      • Usage stats
      • Terms and conditions
    • Register company
    • Find some payment system to use
    • Allow for a trial period (and decide exactly what that consists of)
    • Install some analytics system (so I can keep track of user engagement or whatever)
    • Stress testing? (In my experiments with “trovedex”, the database kept going down; I really don’t want that to be a problem. Anyway, I can always do invite-only if the system is too stressed, but that would be a good problem to have)
    • Launch! Update front page with information

    Is that it? Am I forgetting anything?

    Of course, there are many more features I’d still like to add; AI can be used for a lot more than just generating melodies. But it’s a starting point, and melodies are the one area I think other AI music systems struggle with the most at the moment.

    So how long will all that take? Can I finish it in a few weeks? Startup School lasts for 7 weeks, so if I can do it in 3 or 4 weeks, that would be awesome. Considering how long things have taken me in the past, however, it will probably take me… 12 years. But for now let’s daydream:

    • Week 1: Finish backend and overhaul frontend
    • Week 2: Soundfont and user account system, start releasing samples
    • Week 3: Register company, install payment and analyctics systems
    • Week 4: Set up trial, stress testing, front page update, and launch!

    That’s probably wishful thinking, but it’s better than nothing.

    Movies watched in May 2022

    It’s been about a year since I’ve done a “movies I watched last month” post… so here’s another!

    Overall, not that great of a month of movie watching… all films were either average or below average. I don’t think I watched anything I’d consider above average this month. My favorite of the month would probably be C’mon C’mon, despite its flaws.

    Metal Lords

    I guess this 2022 film is supposed to be a drama / comedy about some misfit teens trying to form a successful metal band. Unfortunately none of the characters are likable, the music is crap, and the attempt at humor is dumb. I didn’t like it.


    A 2019 faith-based film based on a true story about a teenager who falls through ice, is unable to breath for something like 15 minutes, is presumed dead, but miraculously goes on to make a full recovery. Definitely an interesting story, but like most overtly faith-based films, it tends to the overly-cheesy side quite a bit, which can be really annoying.

    Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

    I went to see this recent release in theaters just to see it in 3D, especially since Disney won’t release 3D Blu-rays in the US anymore. It was a waste of money though, the movie was awful. I don’t even quite remember what the bland story was about, it was so utterly forgettable.

    C’mon C’mon

    This 2021 film features Joaquin Phoenix as a guy who’s tasked with looking after his eccentric nephew Jesse for a season, made harder because he’s in the midst of a media project involving traveling around to interview young people about what the future will be like. In proper drama movie fashion, both he and his nephew have some emotional baggage to go through. Phoenix’s character is still dealing with his own mother’s death, while his nephew is coping with having a father who has mental health issues. Together they joke, they fight, they apologize, they learn, they grow, the end.

    I thought it was both good and really annoying at the same time. A lot of the attempts to be artsy and profound just felt too forced to me. Jesse’s character felt way too scripted and unnatural. (Great young actor though.) Still, the pacing and the characters’ emotional arcs worked pretty well, and there’s perhaps some food for thought amidst the forest of navel-gazing. So overall I didn’t find it as profound as it seemed to try to be, but it was an engaging effort nonetheless. Overall, worth a watch.

    Werewolves Within

    This 2021 comedy-horror-whodunit film based on a video game is about a group of eccentric characters who get stuck together during a blizzard and begin dying mysteriously because one of them is a werewolf. The plot is ridiculous, but the film doesn’t try to take itself seriously, so it’s enjoyable, if nothing special.

    Stir of Echoes

    I had seen pieces of this 1999 film on TV, but I’d never seen it all the way through (that I remember, at least). It’s about a guy who has his psychic sixth sense released after being hypnotized and he slowly pieces together the grim fate of a girl who had gone missing years before. A fun little thriller.

    Runaway Jury

    I know I saw this 2003 film before, but as I rewatched it, I remembered nothing except the ending. The twists and turns are fun, but the characters are cardboard and the attempts at making any sort of meaningful emotional statements fall flat, leaving the ending feeling empty.

    2000 Mules

    The subject of this 2022 documentary is interesting: phone GPS data shows a number of people (“mules”) making suspicious drives to various ballot drop boxes, providing some rather hard evidence of widespread election fraud, enough to change the election’s outcome. Not that it will change anyone’s mind about the last presidential election; people who really believe Biden won fairly probably aren’t going to honestly consider evidence to the contrary.

    Nor will they shell out money to have their minds confronted, which is why this documentary, like most political documentaries, feels more like a grift. I agree with documentary’s concerns of election security, but the subject of this film could fit in a short article. The documentary itself mainly consists of a few interviews with some infographics inserted here and there. It’s unfortunately just not worth its price. Perhaps the subject of 2020 election fraud is still too contentious for a decent and more comprehensive film to be made on the subject.

    Operation Mincemeat

    This 2021 film chronicles the true story of “Operation Mincemeat”, a covert World War II plot involving having a dead body wash up on the shore of Spain with fake secret documents detailing the allies’ plans to attack Greece in order to trick those evil Nazis. It’s certainly a compelling ploy to make a movie out of, but unfortunately the film is bloated with some personal drama that just does nothing but slow it down and make it boring.

    There’s a 1956 movie about the same operation called The Man Who Never Was. Supposedly it’s better. It’s been on my to-watch list for years, but I still haven’t seen it.


    This 2003 thriller is about a number of guests who get stranded at a motel during a storm and then start getting murdered! Who could the murderer be? It starts out compelling, but gets a bit too ridiculous for me by the end. (RIP Ray Liotta, who died a week after I watched this.)

    Don’t Breathe 2

    In this 2021 sequel to the action horror movie Don’t Breathe, the villain becomes the central character as he tries to redeem himself by saving his young ward from kidnappers. Kind of a weird premise, turning the repugnant character from the first film into someone we’re supposed to be rooting for. I’m not sure I could quite buy it. Overall, a bit ‘meh’ for me.

    Hotel Artemis

    In this 2018 film, a nurse runs a hospital for criminals in a futuristic dystopia. One night, the criminals get all criminally with each other, and chaos ensues! The plot was all over the place, the characters lacked any depth and I didn’t care about any of them. Another ‘meh’!


    I finally watched this 2003 semi-true story about the underdog racehorse who won a bunch of races. But the real thing he won was the friends along the way. A bit predictable and generic as far as dramas go, but it works decently enough. Released as Seascone in England! (Because they use wrong words!)


    This 2022 sci-fi action movie is based on the “hollow moon” conspiracy theory, which posits that the moon is actually an alien-made structure, and the movie is just about as dumb as that sounds. Actually, it’s dumber than that. I can’t even go into how dumb it is. And I thought The Martian was pretty dumb. But that at least had plausible science. This was just dumb. Reminds me of Mitchell and Webb’s lazy writers skit.

    Black Sabbath

    This foreign 1963 horror film is really a collection of three shorter films. The first is about a woman who gets disturbing phone calls from someone promising to kill her. The second is about a man who stays with a family with an evil vampire in it. And the third is about a vengeful ghost who likes jewelry. It’s quite a cheesy film with its ridiculously awful 60s special effects, but its enjoyable nonetheless, as long as you don’t expect anything too special.

    I mainly watched it for the second story about the vampire. I’ve recently been reading a book of old vampire stories, and one of them was The Curse of the Vourdalak by Alexis Tolstoy, so I was curious to see a film adaption of that. Of course, the film adaptation presented in this film wasn’t nearly as good as what my imagination could conjure, and they simplified it quite a bit. There’s another film based on the story, the 1972 film The Night of the Devils, which is on my to-watch list.

    Roald Dahl’s The Witches

    I guess the author’s name is part of the official title for some reason? To make sure people know it’s relatively kid friendly? This 2020 film is an adaptation of Dahl’s book of the same name about a couple of kids who get transformed into mice by evil witches and then must stop the witches from turning all the children in the world into mice. I read the book as a child and hated it and never read anything by Dahl again, mainly because of its stupid ending. And guess what? This film keeps that stupid ending! Other than the ending, the film was OK. Nothing special though, not really much in the way of theme, just a plot-based kid-friendly thriller. The humor and pacing were at least better than the 1990 adaptation, but the 1990 one had a better ending, as they did the intelligent thing and changed it from the book.


    This 2021 horror film takes place in the 80s in England, when they were dealing with the “video nasties”, uncensored home-made VHS’s that were being distributed featuring, I suppose, nasty stuff. (Not to worry, this film doesn’t feature anything more nasty than a typical modern R-rated horror film.) The film is about a censor who has the power to officially ban films from distribution. But a particular horror film reminds her of her past and makes her think she can track down her sister who disappeared when she was a child. Horror ensues! Actually, nothing at all interesting ensues. The story is boring and drawn out and goes nowhere. This is really more of an “artsy” horror film for those who might appreciate its nostalgic aesthetic. If you’re interested in an actual story, look elsewhere.

    AI generated images are getting better!

    Last year I posted about creating AI art. The website I mentioned, NightCafe, is still around and has added interesting new features, but the images it generates still primarily lean to the abstract side. It doesn’t generate much I would consider of very practical use beyond having fun.

    But just a few weeks ago, OpenAI announced DALL-E 2, and the images it generates are much more mind-blowing and exciting. Here’s a brief overview of the tech from Two Minute Papers:

    What a time to be alive!

    Granted, the examples shown in the video and on OpenAI’s website are cherrypicked. There are some other examples out there that look a bit more wonky. It still doesn’t seem to be great with human faces, for example, or things requiring a lot of finer details, and it’s awful with generating text in images.

    Here’s another video describing the tech:

    Despite its weaknesses, it still looks enormously more useful, fun, and exciting than the AI image generators I looked at in that post from last year. I of course added my name to the waitlist. I’d love to experiment with it, but I probably won’t get access anytime soon. But DALL-E 2 definitely looks like something I’d be more than willing to pay for (assuming the price isn’t overly expensive). I can at least imagine creating useful images to accompany blog posts, short stories, book or album covers, or something.

    Amazing stuff!

    ETA: Also check out this mind-blowing art book of 1,000 robot paintings by DALL-E 2 in various styles: 1111101000 Robots

    Random thoughts on Elon Musk buying Twitter

    Some Twitter history

    I joined Twitter long ago, in 2007, when it was only about 1.5 years old. You may remember reading about it when I blogged about it long ago. (It was on an earlier non-WordPress version of this blog, which was just called “Blather” rather than “The New Blather”.1) So I have seen the Twitter tides ebb and flow. I remember when Leo Laporte had the most Twitter followers, with an astounding 32,000 of them, wow! Ah, simpler days.

    Tweets were far more inane then. There were no hashtags, you couldn’t mention someone, “@” and “#” did nothing, no replies or retweets or quote tweets. You couldn’t post pictures, it was text only. You couldn’t even edit tweets to fix typos. (Oh, wait, you still can’t do that.) You also couldn’t “like” a tweet; instead you could “favorite” it with a star icon, which I would still prefer over the heart.2 It was a big deal when random celebrities or political figures would join.

    The tweet prompt used to be “What are you doing?” and you’d simply log what you were up to, where you were at the time, or some other short random thought, just so others could keep up with what was going on with you. It was a fun way to peer into the lives of strangers with similar interests. Smartphones were just beginning to hit the market then; they were hardly ubiquitous, and society was not yet inundated with social media platforms.

    I primarily used Twitter for micro-journaling. But as Twitter’s atmosphere drifted from inanity to people having conversations and debates, posting “threads”, brands making announcements and celebrities joining in the fun, I tweeted less and less. I’m just not so interested in the conversational side of things. After 14.5 years on the platform, I’ve collected only 264 followers. Not many. And when I do tweet, it’s usually something still pretty inane. I really don’t have quality content, at least not by most people’s standards. (Unlike this amazing blog!)

    Still, it’s generally my go-to social network, mostly because of the accounts I follow. I also like that I can still view my feed in the order things were tweeted instead of being subjugated to some stupid algorithm that chooses what I get to see for me, as Facebook mandates. Granted, Twitter has shadowbanned people, making their tweets mysteriously not show up on my feed, but it’s still better than Facebook. Even if I don’t tweet anything, I usually scroll through my feed anywhere from once to five times a day.

    Censorship, free speech, and propaganda

    Unfortunately Twitter (like Facebook and YouTube) has a long history of unjustified censorship, the most aggravating among conservatives perhaps being the banning of then president Donald Trump and the censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story just before the last presidential election. Meanwhile they’ve boosted stories confirming there was definitely no widespread election fraud in the last presidential election, and putting warnings about Covid-19 “misinformation” on tweets linking to certain articles that questioned the government’s position on the virus and the effectivenss of vaccines.

    To me, the most grievous censorship as been the suspension of accounts that deny that men can be women (or vice versa) just by saying so and dressing the part, such as the suspension of the Babylon Bee’s account when they tweeted a link to their satirical article: The Babylon Bee’s Man Of The Year Is Rachel Levine. This sort of censorship is the most grievous to me because it punishes a reflection of objective truth (that Levine is not a woman). Everybody knows this truth, yet the Twitter censors partake in a knowing willful denial of it for the sake of some idealized reality (in which everyone just pretends to not know), and the censors actively punish those who do not abide by this objective lie.

    This sort of censorship (not to mention all the similar unjustices outside of Twitter surrounding this issue, such as men clobbering women in womens’ sports) is the seed of every dystopian horror, where everyone knows the truth but is forbidden to acknowledge it. The idea that censorship and other methods of idealogical enforcement will somehow just make people slowly and silently change their beliefs about such basic and obvious facts of life as the differences between men and women is the height of arrogance and stupidity. You are just setting up a [figurative] bomb to explode. (Granted, I think some people know that and, for them, that’s the whole point.) It is literally a demonic force.

    Go somewhere else?

    There are Twitter alternatives, of course. Gab, Parler, and Gettr perhaps being the most prominent, and now Trump’s Truth Social3. They each have their various strengths and weaknesses, but their greatest weakness is that there’s just nobody on them, other than political refugees. And while I don’t mind some political debates and memes in my feed, it’s not the only thing I want to see. I want to see a scientist tweet about his latest book or podcast appearance, or an artist about her latest artwork, or a gamedev about his current programming progress, and those sorts of people are, for whatever reason, still largely only on Twitter4.

    Enter Elon Musk

    That Elon Musk would buy Twitter is not something I would have ever predicted. I don’t know much about his politics or his business views, and I don’t want a Tesla (not that I could even come close to affording one if I did).

    But his views on free speech definitely sound like something Twitter could use. He tweeted:

    Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.

    He also tweeted:

    By “free speech”, I simply mean that which matches the law.

    I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.

    If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.

    Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.

    Regarding the censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story, he recently tweeted:

    Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate

    These sentiments definitely get a thumbs up from me.

    Future predictions

    I did not at all think Musk would ever actually buy Twitter, so what do I know? I predict one of three possibilities:

    1. There’s some contention and debate for a while, but ultimately not much changes for the foreseeable future, except hopefully less unjustified political censorship and annoying propaganda.
    2. Twitter becomes even more popular, with Elon Musk revitalizing the platform with positive features and changes.
    3. Twitter becomes less popular and gradually eats through its funding until it’s sold off again or just withers and dies.

    I think that covers all the possibilities, so how can I be wrong? Since I have absolutely no idea what will ultimately happen, any of these outcomes would not surprise me.

    The third possibility would really stink. Despite Musk’s good intentions, I’m not sure there’s very much money to be made in Twitter, at least not in its current state. I think much of its funding in past years has been for the purposes of its censorship and propaganda. And although I scroll through my feed quite a bit, I’m not sure there’s content on there I’d be willing to pay for. How much more money is Musk willing to sink into this business venture if needed?

    Who knows! But it’s definitely an interesting development. We’ll see what happens!