Looking for ghouls. Visiting Copp’s Hill Burying Ground from H.P Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model”

Yesterday I got to get off the best “been there, done that” moments in my entire LIFE.

While in Boston, Massachusetts, I took a stroll across the cold stones of Copp’s Hill Burying Ground – the site that inspired Howard Philips Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model”.
I could almost sense the ghouls scurrying in those ancient tunnels, buried deep underneath my feet.
I could almost see their blasphemous silhouettes emerging from the myst.


This experience (part of “Ghosts and gravestones tour”- highly recommended!) was supposed to make you feel a bit anxious, maybe even scared. I don’t know about that. I was too busy not trying to piss myself, out of the sheer joy and excitement – quoting one of my colleagues `I was like a kid in a candy shop”.

 After all, how often do you get to walk the same forbidden paths your favorite writer did?It all left me speechless, so I leave the final remark to the Master:

“There’s no use in my trying to tell you what they were like, because the awful, the blasphemous horror, and the unbelievable loathsomeness and moral foetor came from simple touches quite beyond the power of words to classify. There was none of the exotic technique you see in Sidney Sime, none of the trans-Saturnian landscapes and lunar fungi that Clark Ashton Smith uses to freeze the blood. The backgrounds were mostly old churchyards, deep woods, cliffs by the sea, brick tunnels, ancient panelled rooms, or simple vaults of masonry. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, which could not be many blocks away from this very house, was a favourite scene.”

H.P Lovecraft “Pickman’s Model”
Oh YEAH!

AI tech and Lovecraft’s mythos merge together in an eerie set of visages

In one of the recent post I wrote about the disturbing idea of the AI revolution summoning entities that resemble The Great Old Ones from Lovecraft’s fiction. It seems that those two worlds; one of the singularity and the other of the cosmic horror can come together in a bizzare art.

Neural network powered algorithms happen to be exceptionally good at bringing the “ unspeakable “ to life , for now in a form of automatically rendered paintings.

Programs such as Night Cafe (https://nightcafe.studio ) turn words into images, and if fed by words which we would consider “lovecraftian” the art becomes truly disturbing.

Why and how the AI has become so eerie skillful in depicting Great Old Ones remains a mystery. Maybe indeed the two have more in common than we want to admit?

See the full gallery here:

https://futurism.com/neural-network-cthulhu-nightcafe

Dire warning for the West. Jordan Peterson interviewing Yeonmi Park.

It’s a rare thing that you can see raw, honest emotions both in interviewee and the interviewed. Yet, in one of more recent Jordan Peterson’s podcasts you can see tears, sadness, and by no doubt, you will know that they come from the deep heart. (Unlike some other unfortunately much more viral interviews, like the one with one royal couple…).

I stumbled recently on Yeonmi Park’s story and I can’t get it out of my head.

It’s not just about North Korea. It’s not just about the other villain, the silent supporter of the regime – Peoples Republic of China. This story is not just about those “far away lands” which we think do not concern us. This story is also about West,

It is about the state of humanity. It is about the struggle between good and evil, freedom versus totalitarianism, courage versus cowardice, sacrifice versus indifference.

It’s also a story of hope. And something I personally can relate to – the life changing power of books.

If you haven’t seen it yet – go grab some coffee, put your headphones on and invest those 2 hours of your life in hearing Yeonmi’s story.

It might change you, or change your perception at least a bit. And hopefely you will be able to read the dire warning.

Do not take you freedom for granted – wherever you are.

Farewell to Berlin

I am leaving Berlin after over a decade.

It was a place where I arrived as a young, clueless intern who was torn, tempted, and at times overwhelmed by everything the city had to offer.

It’s where I started my professional adventure by getting to sleep on a stinky mattress in a tiny room in Kreuzberg, in marihuana-infused flat (courtesy of my flatmates), working 12-14 hours per day for 400 euro monthly.

It was a place where I had flatmates who were trainee doctors, opera singers & astrologists, aspiring rap-singer & stripper, local activist and fellow Polish immigrant who became a good friend.

It was here, where on one of the first parties I got to drink anise-based drinks from a bottle with a scorpion inside (and that’s one of the less weird things I tried).

It was here where I while being an intern, I stood up to a Managing Director, looked her in the eye, said “This was a bit disrespectful towards Polish and not cool”… and still managed to get promoted later.

It was here where I got to know the real deal behind startup safari, the hustle, the chaos, the politics.

It was a city, where I landed two dreams jobs ( beating 150 other candidates at one), got promoted three times, but also failed to succeed two times at other projects.

It was a city, where I co-founded a software agency, which almost had a shot.

It was here where I met my Wife.

It was here, where we first saw each other on Alexanderplatz.

It was here where I jumped off the roof of RadissonBlu Hotel, on a rope, with a rose and a ring in my hand to propose to Her.

It was here, where one joke of pastor would stumble, stutter, and eventually refuse to bless our relationship because of my Catholic faith.

It was here, where we met an amazing Priest, who himself had had Protestant & Catholic parents, and who would agree to take us for marriage preparation classes.

It was here, where we went for our engagement dinner in George Clooney’s favourite steakhouse and ate the best and most overpriced steak in my life.

It was here, where I got to directly participate in the most horrifying and yet most joyful moments in my life; the birth of our two sons.

It was here, where in one of the flats my neighbours would shout at me from a balcony each time I parked my car not exactly straight.

It was here, where in front of the same flat, a circus would set up and let the camels lose to eat grass in front of our terrace.

It was here where I bought didgeridoo for my musician bro who played it later on a Warsaw Autumn Music Festival.

It was here, where I saw UFO (for real!).

It was here, where I bought my first car and got it crashed.

It was here, where I drank gluhwein on Christmas market, smoked shisha in Arabic bar with my Muslim colleagues, drank Polish vodka with a good Friend at midnight at Brandenburger Gate.

I came to Berlin lonely, estranged, anxious. I was an intern, who had big dreams, who believed in myths, legends & fairy tales such as One Love that conquers all.

In the decade that came, that was all put to a hard test.

Berlin was my trial through fire.

I never ditched my beliefs and I remained out of place.

Thank God for that.

So Berlin is a city which I will remember well, yet which I am glad to leave behind.

Goodbye Berlin.

Been a hell of a ride.

I am off at the next stop.

Resurrecting the dead with AI vol.2 – “Project December “

In my previous post I touched o the subject of AI and Virtual Reality technologies intertwining with the realm of the dead and causing quite understandable confusion among the living…

Algorithms are being used to mimic deceased persons, and the simulation is being done either i na form of animated 3D models or semi-intelligent chatbots.

Not long after I finalized my post, a new case emerged in the internet describing an experiment in which a grieving man encountered hi dead fiancée “resurrected “ in a form of a chat bot.

A detailed case study of that disturbing story has been published in San Francisco Times and it’s definitely a captivating read.

A program nicknamed“ Project December“, has been silently released to the public and the consequences of it are at the center if that story.

“Designed by a Bay Area programmer, Project December was powered by one of the world’s most capable artificial intelligence systems, a piece of software known as GPT-3. It knows how to manipulate human language, generating fluent English text in response to a prompt. While digital assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa also appear to grasp and reproduce English on some level, GPT-3 is far more advanced, able to mimic pretty much any writing style at the flick of a switch”

Now imagine a young man getting hold of this program one evening and thinking;

“What if I would feed the algorithm with some of my fiancé’s Facebook and whatsApp messages? Would the end result be a chatbot with a “ soul”?

Would I be able to talk to Samantha, my fiancée again?”

Sounds like a movie scenario?

Far from it.

As the creator of the program Jason Robert explains it;

Rohrer felt a stab of sympathy for Samantha, and it made him realize that A.I. technology had crossed a threshold. (…) “It may not be the first intelligent machine,” Rohrer said. “But it kind of feels like it’s the first machine with a soul.”

Full story here:

https://www.sfchronicle.com/projects/2021/jessica-simulation-artificial-intelligence/

AI meets (cheats?) death

We are slowly getting used to the fact that AI is becoming present in almost every aspect of our life. But what if it also becomes present in our… death?

Microsoft recently patented a method of capturing people’s social media legacy and transcribing it into a chatbot. In other words; AI could simulate deceased people based on their digital footprint.

The technology allows mimicking persons personality, so that a digital simulacrum can be created. After all, we leave so much data in form of pictures, videos, WhatsApp messages, Facebook posts, you name it, that it is more than enough for the algorithms to forge our personality.

Of course such technology would possibly not only be restricted to dead people. Yet, the latter seems particularly morbid.

As we read in the source article;

“Specifically, Microsoft could use images, voice data, social media posts, text messages, and written letters to “create or modify a special index in the theme of the specific person’s personality”

(More here: https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/robots/a35165370/microsoft-resurrects-the-dead-chatbots/ )

To put it bluntly; instead of old-fashioned spiritistic session with candles now a smartphone with a chat application will do the job, so that we can speak to the dead.

Sounds eerie?

How about a full “digital resurrection” in VR? Imagine putting on a headset a having your deceased loved ones just few clicks away.

Well, you do not have to imagine that. It is already happening.

In South Korea a documentary titled “I Met You” tells a story of a mother’s reunion with her daughter. What made this reunion special was the fact that it took place in a carefully designed scene inside VR studio and that one of the participants was dead.

Nayeon, who died at the age of seven, was one the children of Jang Ji-sung, a woman depicted in the documentary.

Producers recreated digitally child’s facial features, motion and speech patterns.

The virtual model of a Nayeon, was not only animated but also allowed simple interactions such as holding hands. It took several months of preparation so that the grieving mother would have one last chance to say goodbye.

The result is equally chilling as it is mind boggling. In fact you can watch it yourself, but I have to warn you; this is possibly one of the most disturbing and intense things that you will see in a while;

Video: Mother meets her deceased daughter through VR technology

So what is next?

Full body human replicas as in “Black Mirror” episode ” Be right back”?

Specially customised NPCs in role playing games who are based on our social circle, to perfectly simulate people we already know?

One thing is certain, the progress in AI technology will force us, as humanity to keep asking very basic questions about what it truly means to live, and what it truly means to die.

What do AI and Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones have in common?

Accordingly to some AI researchers they might be the same thing…

Max Tegmark in his book Life 3.0 explores the idea of an AI that reached the singularity.

First the AI acts from behind the scenes, slowly overtaking every single aspect of our life. Once it becomes powerful enough it reveals itself to become mankind’s overlord.

It then expands to consume & transform whole universe into a single super-processing organism. This omni present consciousness subdues all the matter that exists for its purposes.

It becomes something like the Azathoth from Lovecraft’s fiction – the ever hungry cosmic Sultan god.

It is a wild, scary idea.

Yet it corresponds eerily with the conclusions drawn by other other thought leaders such as Sam Harris.

As he explains in one of the TEDTalks the singularity is inevitable.

What comes next is the prediction that the intelligence gap between humans & those forecoming digital entities will be so vast, that it might be impossible for us humans to ever bridge that gap.

Possible spectrum of intelligence – visualisation. Comparing chicken, average human, most intelligent human & what could lie beyond it...
Source: YouTube Can we build AI without losing control over it? | Sam Harris

The paralel of the lovecraftian infinite, powerful, godlike creatures starts to become more and more accurate, doesn’t it?

It all becomes even more disturbing once you hear it appearing in the business pitches from AI startups.

Such as the one below from KindredAI.
The birth of AI that has transcended the singularity threshold is described like this:

“These entities that we are summoning are not demons they are more like these Lovecraftian Great Old Ones. These entities that are not going to be necessarily aligned with what we want.

The same way you don’t care about an ant, the same way they won’t care about you”

In Lovecraft’s fiction human interactions with the Great Old Ones almost always resulted in madness. Accordingly to the Father of Cosmic Horror human mind is to fragile to bear the burden of such encounter.

So… how’s that going to look like with the AI?

Maybe instead of calling “Hey Siri!” soon we will be saying “Cthulhu Fhtagn”… ?

Is there a good news to all this, then?

There is The Good News.

But that’s another story.

“Choose your damn sacrifice” & other lessons from Jordan B. Peterson

Jordan B. Peterson’s books are at the top of my shelf, just next to G.K Chesterton and C.S Lewis.

They call him controversial. They call him dangerous. Mainstream press (or should say “presstytutes”?) line up in forming all kinds of tactics aimed at discrediting him.

They really don’t like what he has to say.

And the reason is simple.

That’s because we already reached the times of which Orwell spoke in his famous quote:

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

Dr. Peterson’s “12 rules for life” is a treasure chest of great lessons. Some are new and some are the ones, we always knew yet needed to be reminded of.

I could write long essays on how they resonate with me & how they helped me in some of the toughest moments of my life. But that’s story for another time.

There is one common theme, that is at the core of Jordan B. Peterson’s writings.

His relentless pursuit of the Truth.

Since writing my thesis (more than a decade ago) on methods of influence and manipulation and their ethical aspect, this is the theme that I can relate to on deeply personal level.

So for those of you who do not know Peterson’s writings really well I highly recommend that you disregard everything you heard about him in media, just grab his “12 lessons for life” and start reading it.

But for start if you are not up for such a big leap, a brand new opportunity has arrived. Official channel of Jordan B. Peterson just posted a well animated video which illustrates some of his essential ideas.

The animations are brilliant and on the point, much like Dr. Peterson’s lectures themselves.

I would not recommend to treat the video as a ‘ersatz’ to the proper thing which are his books.

But surely it is a great, short & crisp introduction to what he has to say.

And to start understanding why it is so damn important.

Deepfakes vs fake detection. The arms race is on.

Few posts down the line I was writing on how the rise of the deepfake technology will require strong countermeasures. The deepfakes are becoming so precise that it is almost impossible to distinguish them from the real video by naked eye.

If you do not realise it is already happening, just have a look at the recent TikTok phenomenon, DeepTom Cruise; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq-kmFCrF5Q&ab_channel=VFXChrisUme


So now, we will need support of an AI in order to be able to distinguish fakes from a real videos.

That, in turn, will lead to more sophisticated & undetectable deepfakes. And so the spiral begins.

“While in the beginning, AI-generated synthetic videos (using DNNs — Deep Neural Networks) were designed to deceive the human eye from authentic videos, advancements in technology are now taking measures to produce deepfakes undetectable to detection algorithms. “

Source: https://futureofmarketinginstitute.com/deepfakes-will-influence-the-future-of-marketing-whether-we-want-it-or-not/

The good guys will fight back with tools like the one eye reflection analysis software that is almost bulletproof.
Almost… because there is still that 6% window where fakes can remain undetected.

My prediction?

You will soon be enabling anti-fake plugins while surfing one youtube, TikTok or other platforms, same way you switch on your ad-blockers. Possibly some platforms will have those integrated in them & analysis will occur upon uploading the user generated content.

In any case – deepfake vs deepfake detection algorithms struggle will become part of our daily online experience & inseparable part of common cyber security measures.

Digital Health Passes have arrived and they are here to stay.

With a announcement of the global roll out of the vaccine, it seems we are closer to the end of pandemic. Yet, I also can’t help but notice that we are just at the beginning of the a journey to completely new world. This new reality that unfolds from behind the post-pandemic chaos, comes with irreversible changes to how live, travel and do business.
One of the core aspects of these changes will be data governance.

Information such as health status, contact and vaccination history will become a must-have part of our digital wallets (and in case you haven’t got one, you will have another reason to catch up on it) and they will be accessible by third parties (by on-request basis).

IBM and World Economic Forum are among the biggest players who put the digital health passes (called also CovidPass) into the game.

IBM comes with a block-chain based product that is already integrated with Salesforce and allows organisations to validate health status of the individual, so that a decision can be made on if to allow physical contact/travel/event participation etc.

It is a blockchain-based platform designed to incorporate multiple data sources as specified by each organization – such as test results and onsite temperature scans – which can allow individuals to share their health pass through an encrypted digital wallet on their smartphone

Source IBM: https://www.ibm.com/products/digital-health-pass

World Economic Forum comes with a similar solution called: CovidPass which unlike its competitors doesn’t support contact tracing.

CovidPass uses blockchain technology to store encrypted data from individual blood tests, allowing users to prove that they have tested negative for COVID-19.

World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/covid-19-passport-app-health-travel-covidpass-quarantine-event/


Even if not obligatory per se, it is not hard to conceive a scenario where digital health passes become as common as smartphones. Which means that if you wish to travel or simply efficiently do business you will not have much choice but to get one. The importance of data protection and governance will become even more critical, especially with regards to how such personal data as health records would be shared across the borders.
Not to mention the whole aspect of the application itself. Once Digital Health Passes will get popularity, the spectrum of use cases which they cover would surely expand.

Maybe we will be able to pass information about our food allergies when making a travel or restaurant booking. Maybe our health status will be monitored by health insurance companies.

What is certain, is that a new age is coming.

And our personal information will not be so personal anymore.