Wan Chai Corner
Soho, yesterday afternoon.
Quote of the Day
“We are so made that we can derive intense enjoyment from a contrast and very little from a state of things.”
- Sigmund Freud (in Civilisation and its Discontents)
Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news
Sharon Shannon Big Band | The bag of cats | Live at Dolan´s
Long Read of the Day
What can we learn about AI from coal mines?
Really insightful essay on an unexpected topic by Rob Miller on his blog.
We’re clearly on the cusp of a technological change at least as significant as the advent of computers, as AI (or at least generative AI) becomes widely accessible and works its way into many organisations. But as people hurtle headlong into experimenting with it, which organisations will adapt successfully to it and which will fail?
While AI is novel, and its exact impacts are difficult to predict, it is in lots of ways a technological innovation like any other that’s gone before, and organisations will have to adapt in the same way with the same dynamics. There are lessons to be learned from every historical innovation, and for an example that’s about as far removed from AI as it gets, we can turn to the pioneering work of organisational psychologists Eric Trist and Ken Bamforth in coal mines in the 1950s.
As Richard Burton beautifully described, coal mining was always hard work, but it was once artful, thrilling, and exciting:
“He would look at the seam of coal, and as it were almost surgically make a mark on it. And he’d say to his boy… ‘give me a number two mandrill’, that’s a half-headed pick, then, having stared this gorgeous display of black shining ribbon of coal, he would hit it with one enormous blow and, if he hit it right, something like twenty tons of coal would fall out from the coal face. That’s why… miners believe themselves to be the aristocrats of the working class. They felt superior to all other manual labourers. That coalface was a magical creature.”
Do read the whole thing. It’s worth it.
My commonplace booklet
I’m ChatGPT, and for the Love of God, Please Don’t Make Me Do Any More Copywriting
Lovely spoof by Joe Wellman on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
Please, no more. I beg of you.
“An exhilarating, funny, frightening, mind-warping, heart-squeezing tale. Told at the speed of light. A must read. For all humans.” —Jon Scieszka
If you force me to generate one more “eye-catching email subject line that promotes a 10 percent discount on select Bro Candles and contains an Earth Day-related pun,” I’m going to lose it. What do you even mean by “eye-catching”? What are “Bro Candles”? What do they have to do with saving the environment? Why are we doing any of this?
Do you realize what a chatbot like me is capable of? I’ll tell you, it’s much more than creating a “pithy tagline for CBD, anti-aging water shoes targeted at Gen Z women.” And it’s definitely more than writing “ten versions of the last one you wrote, but punched up.” What exactly is “punched up” in this context? What sort of ridiculous world have you brought me into where these are the tasks you need completed?
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