Photo of top of Apple HomePod showing Siri activated.

This Feels Familiar

Back in the ’80s, I was lucky to work with the original Macintoshes as an Apple Repair Technician at MicroAge Computer store in Indianapolis, at the Allisonville Road store. It was tremendously exciting to watch the personal computer / desktop publishing revolution from the front seat. Then the Internet (we used to capitalize it, back then, it was such a big deal, and — turns out — we weren’t wrong) dropped and I was again fortunate to ride that stallion fresh out of the gate.

Missed the whole social media thing, though, due to having been in a stasis, of sorts.

They should call me Gordon Freeman — I have been in the right place at the wrong time before — and this is not my first rodeo.

Here is a taste of what’s next. I can feel it in my bones. It’s happening, again.

I’d make an analogy to my arthritis acting up to presage the coming storm, but I like to be optimistic about these things. I like to think of myself as someone who will greet death with a smile. Or at least a look of complete surprise.

With even the free version of ChatGPT, this Talk-to-ChatGPT Chrome Extension (only seems to work on Chrome itself, not Brave, on macOS Ventura at least) lets you talk, back and forth, with ChatGPT using nothing more than a web browser and your OpenAI account. The application and window has to be open, but it can be in the background, even in the dock. It still shows the text in the window as it comes in.

It works a little bit more slowly than I’d like, but this is a perfectly acceptable Minimum Viable Product. This, or something like it, is eventually going to to hooked up to Cortana and Siri. All the pieces are there. Right now.

The choices of voices don’t thrill me. I feel like Apple has really been slacking on voices. Siri’s fine, but this is another area where Apple has stagnated while the rest of the industry has moved forward. Even Apple itself has moved forward, but the tech isn’t making its way into the rest of the system software. That’s a serious oversight.

This stuff matters to people who rely on voice recognition and text-to-speech for their Accessibility needs. I get that it would be disruptive to have one’s primary interface to the computer change, year-to-year; but that’s really no more disruptive than sighted users deal with. It would be more work, though: ideally, Apple would create onboarding materials for people to help guide them through the process of system upgrades. They should be doing this anyway. Imagine waking up one day and your whole interface just changed on you with no warning, leaving you with no idea how to use it?

Looking forward to patch notes that read, “Siri is now less likely to get into an argument with you over forgetting to dust its enclosure.”

I suppose that’s what’s happening right now with AI. The way we interact with our world is changing. For better or worse, here it comes.

But right now, as the CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman says,

Connie Loizos: Can you talk a little bit more about what you expected the reaction to chat GPT to be and also would you prefer that there wasn’t so much hype? Is that potentially detrimental to the company and to what you’re trying to do?

Sam Altman: Yeah, I would have expected maybe one order of magnitude less of everything. Like one order of magnitude less of hype, one order of magnitude less of users. Yeah, I would have expected sort of one order of magnitude less on everything.

And I think less hype is probably better, just as a general rule. But one of the sort of strange things about these technologies is they are impressive but not robust. And so you use them in a first demo. You kind of have this very impressive, like wow, this is like incredible and ready to go.

You use them 100 times, you see the weaknesses. And so I think people can get a much, sort of a false impression of how good they are.

However, that’s all gonna get better. The critics who point these problems out and say, well, this is why it’s like, all like fake news or whatever, are equally wrong.

And so I think it’s good in the sense that people are updating to this, thinking hard about it and all of that.”

StrictlyVC in conversation with Sam Altman, part two (OpenAI)

Hey, maybe this is all smoke and mirrors. Time will tell. If it is, I wanna see how that plays out, too. Because what a doozie it will end up being.

Meanwhile, you can have a perfectly pleasant with an extremely well-read Large Language Model, in which some incredibly emergent behavior appears to be happening. You can ask it questions. It replies. You can ask follow-up questions. It remembers what you were talking about five minutes ago.

I’ve been using it to, believe it or not, help me in social situations where I’m not sure what the “right thing” is to do. It’s provided me with reasonable advice that I get to choose whether to follow, or not.

Whether we use it for good or ill, is really up to us.

There’s an old-timey divination practice that seems appropriate here. When presented with a choice, flip a coin; and instead of doing what the coin tells you, think about how you feel about whichever option the coin chose. That is divination worth taking into serious consideration.

Do with that what you will.


  1. I used this useful website to remove the background on the image of Apple’s HomePod.