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Bringing Fire

 

I was an English and Astronomy teacher at the community college before this shit went down. I was happily oggling young coeds and trying to impart some value in the words written before TikTok. Whitman was a favorite, but I dabbled in Kerouac, Henry Miller, and Hunter S. Thompson. I was trying to set their minds on fire, not just check the box on a requirement course for their trajectory out.

Captain, My Captain

Mostly, I kept myself entertained talking to the dead about words and meaning and DHM. (Deep Hidden Meaning) Of course, there were layers below that as well, but I had to simplify for my audience.

“Is this going to be on the exam,” was the most frequent question. Seven years and it never failed to irk me. “No, Jennifer, this is going to be over in a few weeks and you’ll never open another book or quote more than literature repeated in memes and movies. It’s okay. I’ve resigned myself to the job. The rock must be pushed up the hill each day, what’s the harm in me enjoying the journey a bit?

The stupid part: I was building an *ai* of Walt Whitman at the time. Not a simulacrum but a companion, a poet of today, of techno-info-data-modeling and generative LLMs. Here was the idea for WaltWhitman.ai. Give the model only poetry for learning. No punctuation, no capitalization, no rhyming structures, no rules, no limits, other than the limited words for swizzling. The words were mine. Genius, I know. Launching the first ai-poet and the model contains not one word of the subject. About, around, above, and below the great bard, but no Walt-Words.

Okay, so take that large language model of patterns and structure that only slightly resembles written English, and yet, there is substance, value, and (fingers crossed) originality in the matrix of ideas I’m seeding. Was seeding. The cloud in the data center housing waltwhitman.ai was near ground zero of the blackout. I don’t think our work together will be continued. I have most of the language poems on paper. A gift from my dead mom, a laser printer with an extra cartridge. Electronics mostly were fried, but paper and books remained. Not efficient or searchable, but an SLM (small language model) for a new experiment.

I have to ask you, how did you arrive here? Find this writing? I can’t imagine you, of course, from this moment in my life. World bleak, life threatened, ai as enemy. GAA as overlord. All of this drafted on an air-gapped MacBookPro M2. See, the protective shelter in my basement was sort of effective. A lot of our tech survived. It was dead, but not destroyed. Slowly, we are finding ways to reboot things.

Mostly, we’re in the process of rebooting ourselves. Me, this moment, comfy, warm, and anxious. There is no immediate danger. No lion at the door. Yet I can’t sleep. I dream only of the deep ocean, waves, a sunny day, no sight of land, ship, other. Me and the waves. I’m above it. Immovable. Suspended, planked, face toward the water. Warmth of the sun on my back. Nothing happens. Nothing. Restful stillness but not sleep.

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