If You Show Still Frames In Sequence Fast Enough (rwblog S6E10)
Last month I introduced a 500-word cap. I’ll keep the cap and try to make this newsletter biweekly. Let’s go!
Table of Contents
Open Table of Contents
Communities of Practice
Recently I’ve been thinking about communities of practice (somewhat related to scenius. It’s great to try out a hobby or a side project, but we often underrate how important it is to have a community working on the same hobby. I often find myself gravitating towards hobbies my friends share and struggling to maintain hobbies that I’m doing alone.
For instance, I set a goal to try out photography this year. I’ve actually kept up with this goal — specifically, edit 50 photos and put them up on my gallery — but I haven’t been motivated to really focus on it, since I know so few people interested in photography. On the other hand, I swore off music for the year — I once again tried music production for an hour and decided I wanted to spend time elsewhere — but I’m embedded in such a Scott Pilgrim-esque group of music nerds that I’m always tempted to join jam sessions. So perhaps if I want to pick up a hobby (say, illustration — which I actually do) then the first step is to find a community of practice surrounding it.
Movies aren’t actually in motion — they’re a series of still frames, but our visual systems only work at about 24 frames per second, so if you show still frames in sequence fast enough, the brain perceives it as motion.
The visual system is also famous for pareidolia — perceiving Jesus’ face in a piece of toast and the like.
Or consider this line about dogs from Robin Dunbar’s Friends:
It seems that you may only need to think that these other beings talk to you for you to include them in your network. […] Dogs, of course, milk this for all they are worth.
LLMs are presenting a form of pareidolia. We see a jumble of output that happens to look, with high probability, like a reasonable English sentence, and the socially-primed human brain translates it into a conversation partner.1
That should probably make us particularly cautious about attributing any kind of agency or intelligence to an LLM — I’ve heard some folks refer to the “mood” of an LLM and immediately felt suspicious.
Then again, perhaps that isn’t so problematic. After all, I happily talk about Rooibos’ mood all the time…
I recently came back from a two-week trip to Melbourne, so I wrote about some Strange Things About Melbourne that I noticed.
I also started an evergreen list of Small Things To Make Life Better, which I hope to expand over time. You may remember some of the items from my gift list at the beginning of the year (“You Might Not Think You Need A Milk Frother… (rwblog S6E1)”).
I also rewrote my search page, again. I switched to Pagefind, which is a recently-released fast full-text search running entirely on the client side. I like the results, but I need to mess around with the UI, especially in dark mode.