Escaping the AI Vampire Castle

While I’m not a huge fan of ebooks, I read them out of convenience. I like that I can download free ebooks from the library as well as pick up older books for free online through websites such as and Project Gutenberg. My Kindle displays ads in sleep mode (unless you pay Amazon $20 to remove them), and, lately, these ads are almost exclusively for what I’m nearly certain are AI generated children’s stories. This is just part of  a flood of scammy AI books on Amazon.

The AI children’s books advertised on my Kindle combine titles that have an English-as-a-second-language vibe, vaguely Manga style cover illustrations and author names such as “Leanor Varelade” that either yield no search results or are close to the names of real people (Leonor Varela is a Chilean actress). In short these books are what you would get if you took a statistical average of the entirety of the internet and barfed it out as a book. This is, of course what “artificial intelligence” actually is. We don’t and likely never will understand what human “intelligence” is let alone come up with a model of it. What we call AI is just a enormous statistical modeling game not “intelligence” whatever that is. AI is part of yet another hype cycle out of Silicon Valley giving us things that move fast and suddenly break leaving the world a worse place. We’ve seen this with self driving cars, cryptocurrency, social media, and Elon Musk’s tunnels to nowhere and failed Hyperloop.

There’s certainly useful things we can do with these large statistical models. Writing children’s books, however, is not one of them. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of language, how humans gain experience and how creativity works. I met a translator recently who does English subtitles for Japanese movies and TV shows. Her work is beginning to be replaced with computer based translations. She expressed her frustration that the studio bosses don’t understand that the Japanese language is not in some kind of one to one relationship with English, that it carries cultural associations and subtleties that no computer will ever be able to parse. In short, that translation is interpretation and that human beings need to be involved in that process.

What I got when I asked Google’s AI, Gemini, to create a Thomas Kinkade painting with brutalist buildings.

Part of me admires these AI children’s book hustlers. There’s a long and creative history to be told about the long arc of scammers, from the card sharks of earlier centuries to the crypto bros of the present. If I taught creative writing I’d suggest to my students that you should go ahead and try these tools and see what happens. Maybe there’s a great post-modern novel in this technology, a true “death of the author.” And the early, wonky, days of AI images produced some hilarious results. But I suspect that the real scam is likely selling people on the hustle of  selling AI books, not actually creating and selling the books. I’ve been unable to figure out if these titles are the result of an individual or some kind of foreign scam farm. I suspect the latter since someone has the capital to buy a lot of Kindle ads.

What AI text tools like ChatGPT really excel at is filling out is bureaucratic forms, those documents nobody actually reads. An admission: I once used ChatGPT for this purpose and got complimented for my writing skills. Maybe we can replace the bosses with AI bots who will simultaneously generate and read this textual nonsense leaving us all more time to garden, handcraft chairs and go for long walks. But that’s not, of course, the way things will work out. AI will likely just put already vulnerable people out of work.

As for predictions of an AI apocalypse, what I fear more is a grinding idiocy. I’m really getting fatigued with seeing AI generated images that are just a kind of summary of the most uninteresting “illustration” type artwork. Not surprising as this kind of boring art is likely the majority of the visual content of the internet. I especially hate that moment when you spot it and have to spend precious brain time discerning if its AI or not. AI reminds me of the vampires and daemons joked about by both Marx and St. Paul. As Zizek puts it,

A dead person loses the predicates of a living being, yet he or she remains the same person; an undead, on the contrary, retains all the predicates of a living being without being one — as in the above-quoted Marxian joke, what we get with the vampire is “the ordinary manner of speaking and thinking purely and simply — without the individual.”

Weekend Linkages: Cat in My Chair

LA’s Corporate Class Wants to Reverse Progressive Gains

Mindfulness in a Distracted World with Nate Klemp

Driverless taxi vandalized and set on fire in San Francisco’s Chinatown

Just gonna put this here and see if anyone can explain how it’s possible to jump that far in high heels

Spent a hard day struggling with measurements in the shop and can’t stop thinking about this

Make Your Own Landscape Lighting

There’s two kinds of 12 volt landscape lighting: cheap, ugly and flimsy or expensive and durable. You can find the cheap stuff at the big retailers and the expensive stuff at specialty retailers that cater to professionals. I’ve always been dissatisfied with the cheap stuff but I’m also unhappy with the pro lighting, which tends to have a overly sleek Dwell Magazine type vibe.

We had some unused Moroccan style lamps laying around and I figured out that I could wire them into our existing 12 volt system by implanting them with some G4 light sockets and G4 LED bulbs that I picked up on Amazon. It was a simple project to install the socket and seal up the top of these two lamps with some silicon caulk. I hung the lamps in our pomegranate tree and wired them into the system which is set on a timer to turn on at sunset and go off a few hours later.

I placed these lights to help illuminate the treacherous and irregular 1920s staircase leading up to the house. I also have a few pro style downlights along the stairs and another light hanging over the entrance arbor.

The entrance arbor light was a 12 volt path light that I turned into a hanging light.

In general I like to keep outdoor lighting to a minimum as it’s not good for insects and birds. I use outdoor lights only where necessary, in this case to prevent staircase accidents, and I run them only during the hours they are likely to be needed. We need to embrace the night not try to hold it back.

That said, I’m happy with this DIY effort and plan on making some more lights with some of the metal cutting skills I’ve picked up doing inlay work on a bed project. More on that in a future post when I get that bed done.