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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service
Op-Ed

Please laugh

April 25, 2022

If I tell a joke, I'd really appreciate it if you laughed. Also. blue states should ban stuff too.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

I try to be witty. Really, I do. But I have an embarrassing confession to make: my cleverness is not for your benefit. It’s entirely selfish. My ego demands acknowledgement!

If you’re not laughing — or at least groaning — I have failed. My life’s meaning has diminished — and it’s your fault for not understanding me.

I told you this would be embarrassing.

I bring this up for two reasons. The first is that I wrote a perfectly good joke — or possibly a mediocre Dad joke — in a text exchange with a traveling friend who was having cellphone problems the other day. Here it is:

ME: “It seem to be texting fine — unless I’m writing to a bot impersonating you.”

FRIEND: “No it’s me all right. But then a bot would say that wouldn’t it.”

ME: “Question: have you been Turing or touring this week?”

FRIEND: “Not this week. But tried it in in Texas last month and will again in Kauai next month. That is, if we’re talking about cars.”

Sigh.

Totally missed a perfectly good joke. I was very sad. My only hope was that I was conversing with an artificial intelligence, but it did turn out to be the friend (or perhaps former friend).

The second reason is that shortly after this exchange, I came across a New York Times Magazine article with the headline: “A.I. Is Mastering Language. Should We Trust What It Says?" There was a human-sounding byline, but you never know these days.

It turns that, among other things, a computer program “can already generate sophisticated legal documents, like licensing agreements or leases.”

Legal professionals — your jobs are in jeopardy. And the legal computers you’re competing with will know what a Turing test is and probably be able to pass it.

They may, however, not be able to do your jobs better than you. Language-learning programs, according to the Times piece, “can deploy openly racist language, they can spew conspiratorial misinformation; when asked for basic health or safety information they can offer up life-threatening advice.”

So all that programming and expensive computer power is essentially just creating entities who are the same as people but more instantaneous.

I’m betting there will be people and computers who don’t understand their jokes either.

Cancellation. So what books should blue states ban? What insidious schoolhouse practices need to be banned?

One of the few fun things about living in a deeply-divided nation is that you get to play tit for tat. If Texas can put a bounty on abortions, California can put a bounty on guns. It’s only fair.

So if Florida and Texas can outlaw imaginary teaching and left-wing math, California and New York need to come up with their own ways to protect children from right-wing indoctrination.

Feel free to engage in this exercise and come up with your own bogeymen.

I’d start with P.E. It needs to be banned or confined to yoga and meditation. Do we want our children inculcated with the aggressive, violent values inherent in dodgeball? I don’t think so.

And then there’s Uncritical Race Theory. We need to protect our children from being indoctrinated with the idea that nothing bad ever happened, there is no racism, and life is fair for all.

This is no way to prepare children for life.

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