…as in 10. Not the other thing.

So, I’ve installed ActivityPub and Friends today, and am hopeful I can actually figure out how they work. If I tag myself — @fgraver — will I see myself? Inquiring minds want to know.

Life seems to keep happening, and I have not had the chance to read and think about what I had hoped to think about. As it happens, life has kept me away from work so far, although I’m going back on Thursday.

Copyright. The right to copy?

There’s been a lot of discussion on the interwebs the last couple of days about copyright and AI, much of it centred around this article, where OpenAI claims they cannot create an innovative tool like ChatGPT without access to copyrighted material (cue sobs and tears).

On the one hand, OpenAI is a well-funded, Silicon Valley company, and I, for one, have so little sympathy for their claim that one would need a pretty powerful electron microscope to see it. They have no qualms about exploiting the creations and labour of others in order to entice you and me, and well-moneyed entities like Microsoft to pay handsomely for the privilege of using the tools they have developed.

My gut feeling is that if they need to use copyrighted material, they can bloody well pay for it. Like everyone else does. And if that means they can’t afford to use as much source material as they would like, that’s just too bad. There are many tiny violins ready to play for them.

But then, on the other hand, I think back to a time around 20 years ago when Napster, Limewire, and the Pirate Bay were the enemies du jour of the copyright industry — in that case, the major record labels who owned and controlled access to music pretty much worldwide. I cheered for the pirates, not because I wanted to destroy the possibilities artists had to make a living off their art, but because the gate keepers were the greater evil, stopping people from accessing music unless they went through the gate keepers.

And I am conflicted today. OpenAI is not the Pirate Bay, a small group of idealistic hackers wanting to undermine a monopolistic, capitalist gatekeeping system that locked artists behind paywalls, but are there similarities? Given the funders behind OpenAI, I am inclined to think not.

But I still need to think about it.

Random thoughts

The so-called big questions in life include things like “Why are we alive?”, “Does life have a purpose?” and similar questions that get discussed when one is ones 20s and gathering with friends late at night after enjoying some, shall we say, mind-expanding substances. But I sometimes find myself pondering such things while out in the woods with my dog.

I am not religious; in fact quite the opposite — I believe in rationality, evidence, and science — but there are times I consider what else there is. What came before me, what comes after.

The other day, I listened to two medical ethicists who were discussing assisted suicide on the radio. It’s illegal in Norway, and neither of them was exactly arguing in favour of legalizing assisted suicide but it struck me when one of them talked about fear of death. In his mind, there is nothing to be afraid of in death, because there is nothing. When you are dead, you cease to exist just the way you didn’t exist before you were born.

I thought about this again last night, when I took the dog out and the sky was pitch black (there is very little light pollution around here) and full of stars — and whenever I am lucky enough to see — and almost feel — the universe around me in this way I feel part of something bigger, something eternal (not quite, I know, but so many billions of years it might as well be from a human perspective).

And I find it quite easy to accommodate both those things: we are finite, we exist for a time but have no existence before or after. And, we are connected, almost intimately so, to something (almost) infinitely larger and (nearly) eternal.

Perhaps sometime this week, I’ll be able to get back to reading about creativity and cognition and writing about what I’m supposed to be writing about!

This is not a blog post

Yeah, not into it today. For…reasons. So here is a photo I took this morning of the winter wonderland that is my back yard.

Not in the photo is the temperature — it was a brisk -22 (Celcius).

A view out my kitchen window. The porch, the yard, and the neigboring houses are all covered in snow. The sun can just be glimpsed on the left and the sky is a brilliant blue.

AI and ethical conundrums

I am one of a group of faculty members who have organised a symposium on «AI and Art» at our university on January 12th. It seemed natural for me; I have always been interested in the ways artists explore new technologies, and push them in ways that perhaps was not intended. This was why I led an initiative that leaned heavily into Virtual and Extended Reality, despite some significant scepsisism from many of the filmmakers who teach at the Norwegian Film School.

New technologies always come with baggage; I don’t believe there is such a thing as a completely neutral technology. There is always a worldview, as set of assumptions and values, and both a cost and a benefit to any technology / tool.

But rarely has this been so evident as in the case of the AI tools that have dominated public discourse in the past 18 or so months. These are tools that can do wonderful things (no link; you can find them easily enough if you haven’t seen them already) but they also come with a significant price attached. We’ve seen the reports of the Kenyan content moderators, exposed to the worst the web has to offer for what amounts to slave wages. We’ve seen the examples of racist and sexist biases build in to the tools.

The biases and prejudices built into the tools are one thing. The other side is it became apparent early on that the companies that have created the AI tools have asserted a right of fair use to copyrighted creations on the web, and copyright holders — including writers, artists, musicians, and more — have launched lawsuits asserting their intellectual property (oh, how I loathe that term) has been stolen.

This means every time, or another artist, uses a generative AI tool like ChatGPT or Midjourney, we are, in fact, using works we do not have to right to in order to create our own.

But is it that simple?

I neither know nor understand all the legal implications of this, but I do know that in the art form I work in — filmmaking — artists have been «stealing» from artists they admire almost for as long as there has been a film industry. Would we have a Kurosawa ouevre to admire if he had not stolen from John Ford? Would we have a Star Wars franchise (that never seems to end) if George Lucas had not stolen from Kurosawa (and many others)?

I know there is a difference between artists taking inspiration from others they admire and a corporation almost mindlessly harvesting artistic works in order to make their machine as slick as possible. But it still gives me pause for thought.

5 books by 10 authors

There’s a thing that’s been going around Bluesky the first days of January: posting a list of 10 authors where you have read at least 5 of their books. I’m not sure who started that, but I’m certainly willing to throw my hat in the ring, as it were.

Here goes (in pretty random order):

  • Tanith Lee
  • Elizabeth A. Lynn
  • Claire North
  • Becky Chambers
  • Jo Walton
  • N.K. Jemsin
  • Connie Willis
  • Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Nancy Kress
  • Sherri S. Tepper

(*Phew*. Got through it without having to admit how many books I’ve read by Marion Zimmer Bradley…)

Are those all science fiction and fantasy authors? Why yes. Why, yes they are.

Are those all women? Also, yes (and I could have listed more than 10). There are an equal (at least!) number of male authors I could have listed, but I remember noticing sometime in the early 90s my SFF shelves were dominated by men, and I made a concerted effort to change that. I don’t exclusively buy novels by women, but when I buy new books, women invitably outnumber men about 2-1 — I consider it my (very small) contribution to make up for many decades of male domination in the field.

And I don’t regret it for a moment — writers like Claire North, Jo Walton, Becky Chambers, and N.K. Jemsin are second to none in contemporary SFF.

What does you list look like?

And now for something (a little) different

I came across this on Mastodon today (you can find the blog entry here) and immediately thought, «this is a game I can play»! So I’ve marked all the Hugo-award winners I’ve read in red.

I was aware I hadn’t read as much Neal Stephenson and Neil Gaiman as people tell me I should, but am surprised to see Vernor Vinge feature here. He’s not a writer I ever really considered, but apparently there at least a couple of titles I should consider.

2023 Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
2022 A Desolation Called Peaceby Arkady Martine
2021 Network Effect by Martha Wells
2020 A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

2019 The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
2018 The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
2017 The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
2016 The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
2015 The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (trans. Ken Liu)
2014 Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie

2013 Redshirts by John Scalzi
2012 Among Others by Jo Walton
2011 Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
2010 (tie) The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
2010 (tie) The City & the City by China Miéville

2009 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
2008 The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
2007 Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge
2006 Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
2005 Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
2004 Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
2003 Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer

2002 American Gods by Neil Gaiman
2001 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
2000 A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge

1999 To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
1998 Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
1997 Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

1996 The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
1995 Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
1994 Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1993 (tie) A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
1993 (tie) Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
1992 Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
1991 The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
1990 Hyperion by Dan Simmons

1989 Cyteen by C. J. Cherryh
1988 The Uplift War by David Brin
1987 Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
1986 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
1985 Neuromancer by William Gibson
1984 Startide Rising by David Brin
1983 Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov

1982 Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh
1981 The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
1980 The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke

1979 Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre
1978 Gateway by Frederik Pohl
1977 Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
1976 The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
1975 The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
1974 Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
1973 The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
1972 To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer
1971 Ringworld by Larry Niven
1970 The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

1969 Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
1968 Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
1967 The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
1966 (tie) Dune by Frank Herbert
1966 (tie) …And Call Me Conrad (aka: This Immortal) by Roger Zelazny
1965 The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber

1964 Here Gather the Stars (aka: Way Station) by Clifford D. Simak
1963 The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
1962 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
1961 A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

1960 Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

1959 A Case of Conscience by James Blish
1958 The Big Time by Fritz Leiber
1956 Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
1955 They’d Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley
1953 The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester


Some of the ideas I’ll be exploring in the months — my research semester starts in 18 months — to come.

  • Dewey’s pragmatism, as laid out in Democracy and Education, How We Think, and Art as Experience.
  • Experiential learning, as laid out by David Kolb and critiqued / refined by several others since.
  • Donald Schön’s observations and theories on reflection in action / praxis, with special attention to Lisa Candy’s The Reflective Creative Practitioner.
  • Vygotsky, of course. The zone of proximal learning and scaffolding are key concepts in any educational programme geared towards developing both technical and artistic skills.
  • Seymour Papert’s constructionism. In filmmaking programmes, the students learn best when actually making films, both for purely internal critique but also for public distribution through festivals and the like.
  • Situated learning and «legitimate peripheral participation» as analysed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger.
  • And, as I’ve already mentioned, 4E cognition, with special emphasis on how it relates to creativity and craft.

* I’m lousy at titles. I might end up using some variation of the number of the post for 2024. Or not.

2 of 366?

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but am motivated to get into a writing habit. Yesterday, I was part of a discussion about it on Mastodon, started by Kate Bowles where I jumped in and suddenly realized — inspired by yesterday’s post — that I want to write. I want to be one of the people who find writing a necessity and something one must do in order to think properly. We’ll see if it actually becomes a daily habit, but for now, I will try.

But why?

Much of it has to do with my field — pedagogy for fine arts filmmaking — and some very interesting things I’ve been reading lately about “4E cognition”1 and especially how it relates to creativity. Also, I’ve been reading a lot about the various so-called AI tools that have appeared in the public eye over the past 18 or so months.

The confluence of these things is an interesting thing to muse about. It also necessitates, I think, a concerted effort to, well, think. Writing, as many people have pointed out, most recently (for me), Sarah Honeychurch, writing is thinking and is the one thing we cannot — must not — outsource to a machine.

Thinking, creativity; these are part of what makes us human, what makes us conscious. And while AI
can help us in many ways2, and become a tool that enables forms of creation we perhaps did not have access to previously, it cannot replace human creativity (at least, not yet!).



So. It’s 2024

Everyone needs to start somewhere, or sometime. On occasion, one might need to start several times before the thing becomes a habit.

Every time I’ve tried blogging, it’s fizzled out pretty quickly, often due to the pressure I put on myself to do it well. The weight of unrealistic expectations, or something like that.

Well. Fuck pressure. Fuck expectations.

I’m going to try just writing. Writing about whatever comes to mind, writing just for the simple reason that I want to get into the habit of writing. That means some of these posts are going to be god-awful, and I’ll have to train myself to live with that — and maybe, just maybe, as time goes on, some of them might be good. We’ll see.

There will be a mix. Sometimes politics, sometimes culture, sometimes philosophy, sometimes pedagogy. And sometimes just a random rant.

And there will be things to write about, as time goes on. I am, and have always been, one who pays attention to what is going on in the world.

I’m concerned about hypocrisy, such as the abject cowardice and hypocrisy shown by the Western world when our governments and thought leaders condemn Russia for their invasion of Ukraina but fail to do the same when Israel invades Gaza and slaughters Palestinian civilians by the thousands.

I am concerned by the rise of the militant and populistic far right in many countries, and often think about the roots of this rise, and how it’s connected to the technocratic centre which arose through the 80s and replaced the democratic control have over their lives with an increasingly regulated market economy where the rules are inflexible for individuals and are rigged to ensure global capital can operate freely. This comes to the fore in the phenomenon of “enshittification” as first identified by Cory Doctorow — a phenomenon I believe applies to many areas of the economy and not just online platforms. Here in Norway, a recent example is the privatization of the railroads, which leads to a worse experience for travellers, a massive increase in high-salaried directors of the many companies and subcompanies that now operate in a field where there previously was just one, state-owned company.

I’m concerned about the fragmentation of and in-fighting between the various groups that make up the left. I consider myself a socialist, albeit one with strong leanings towards the anarchist philosophies of Emma Goldman and Murray Bookchin. As such, I believe that social change and social justice must come as a result of collective organisation and action, and liberalistic philosophies that focus on the individual can become far too self-centred and thus antithetical to a struggle for emancipation and justice. Far too many fights in the so-called “culture wars” seem to be between those who favour collective solidarity and those who favour individual emancipation.

I’ll also be exploring pedagogical philosophies this year. I’m reading theories of creativity and seeing them in relation to the emergence of 4E cognition. I’ll be attempting to incorporate these into my research on fine arts pedagogy and seeing how all this relates to teaching and artistic research in a collective art form like film. It all begins with Dewey…

I think that’s enough for now. I’m sure other, random distractions will pop up (like sports, on occasion) and perhaps I’ll sometimes just jot down something about my dog.