Seeking ethical clarity Related The following is excerpted from the new novel “The Resisters” by Gish Jen ’77, RI ’02. Jen will discuss the book with Professor Martha Minow at Harvard Law School, and later at Harvard Bookstore, on Tuesday, Feb. 4.As her parents, Eleanor and I should have known earlier. But Gwen was a preemie, to begin with. That meant oxygen at first and, after that, special checkups. And her early months were bumpy. She had jaundice; she had roseola; she had colic. She had a heart murmur. Things that I can now see distracted us — especially with the One Chance Policy, we were focused on her health to the exclusion of all else. For the Netted, it was different, of course, but for us Surplus, the limit was one pregnancy per couple, and Eleanor was just out of jail. Outside the house, she had a DroneMinder tracking her every move; the message was clear. She was not getting away with anything.And in any case, we loved Gwen and would never have wanted to replace her, worried though we were that she was delicate — that she might never consume the way she needed to, the way we all needed to. Not that charges of underconsumption couldn’t be fought in the courts. This was AutoAmerica, after all. For all the changes wrought by AI and Automation — now rolled up with the internet into the iBurrito we called Aunt Nettie — we did still have a Constitution. And if anyone could defend what was left of our rights, it was our own fierce Eleanor, of whom even the platoons of Canada geese who patrolled our neighborhood — the pit bulls, one might say, of the waddling world — were afraid. But as Eleanor’s incarceration brought home, these battles had a price, and in the meanwhile, even worrying and weighing the options distracted us from realizing other things — things we might have noticed a bit earlier, had Gwen had a sibling. It is so hard for a new parent to imagine a child any different from the one he or she has — children do so have their own gravity. They are their own normal.And so it is only now that we can see there were signs. All children take what’s in their crib and throw it, for example. It is universal. But Gwen threw her stuffed animals straight through her bedroom doorway. They shot out, never so much as grazing the door frame, and they always hit the wall of the staircase across from her bedroom at a certain spot, with the precise force they needed to bounce forward and drop clean down to the bottom of the stairwell. Was she maybe two when she did this? Not even, although she was already a southpaw. And already she seemed to have unusually long arms and long fingers — or so I remember remarking one day, not that Eleanor and I had so many babies on which to base our comparison. Ours was just an impression. But it was a strong impression. Her fingers were long. I remember, too, having to round up a veritable menagerie on the landing before I could start up the stairs. The stuffed hippo, the stuffed tiger, the three or four stuffed dogs, the stuffed orca and toucan and platypus and turtle — I gathered them all into my arms like the storybook zookeeper of some peaceable kingdom. It was as if I, too, ought by rights to have been made of plush. Of course, our house was automated — as all Surplus houses were required to be, by law — and the animals could easily have been clear-floated. All I had to do was say the word and the HouseBots would emerge from their closets, their green appendages poised to help. Clearfloat now? Aren’t those animals in your way? And, We can roll’n’clear if you’d prefer. You have a choice. You always have a choice — the choice business being a new feature of the program. A bit of cyber-ingratiation, you might say, to balance its more habitual cyber-intimidation. If you trip, it will be your own fault, for example. And, Do note that your choice is on the record. Nothing is being hidden from you. Your choice is on the record. Meaning that I was losing Living Points every time — Living Points being something like what we used to call brownie points when I was growing up, except that these were more critical than money for everything from getting a loan to getting a plane ticket to getting Gwen into Net U one day, should we dream of doing that — a goal that people said involved tens of thousands, or maybe even hundreds of thousands, of points. “As for the resulting reality, was it not disconcertingly like the sea level rise and heat and wind we knew, long ago, would come with climate change but have since come to call normal?” Researchers propose a new field of study to explore how intelligent machines behave as independent agents The science of the artificial The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news. What artificial intelligence will look like in 2030 Tokyo studio hosts Sandel, students for debate free of easy answers But I picked the animals up myself anyway — as did Eleanor, when it was she who came upon them, her silver hair and black eyes shining — and all because we wanted to dump the animals into Gwen’s crib ourselves and hear her quick cresting laughter as she immediately set about hurling them again. Everything was a game to her, a most wonderful, loving, endless game. Her spy-eyes lit up with mischief; her tea-brown cheeks flushed the hot orange pink you see on the underside of clouds at sunset. Often she laughed so hard, she fell as she threw — plopping down on her soft bottom but grabbing the crib rails so hard as she scrambled back up that the whole crib shook. Was this the delicate newborn we had once so anxiously tended? Now breathtakingly robust — indestructible, it seemed — she wore an old-time soft yellow blanket sleeper with attached feet and bunny ears, a hand-knit, extra-warm version of a suit Eleanor remembered from her own childhood. None of this baby-zone heating over Gwen’s crib, in other words. She hardly seemed to need zone-heat in any case, having learned so early to blow on her hands if they were cold and to cuddle with us, if she needed to, for warmth. Indeed, we were all given to cuddling, and we all wore sweaters, too, to avoid turning on the zone-heat, for which we were constantly house-scolded. Don’t you find it a bit chilly? Why not choose to turn on the zone-heat? You’ll be more comfortable — Eleanor, especially. Don’t you find it a bit chilly?But we ignored it. For this was how the AutoHouse started, wasn’t it, with thermostats that sent to Aunt Nettie first data, then videos? Then came DroneDeliverers and FridgeStockers, KidTrackers and RoboSitters, ElderHelpers and YardBots, all of which reported to Aunt Nettie as dutifully as any spy network — recording our steps, our pictures, our relationships, and (back when we soon-to-be-Surplus still had them) our careers. And she, in turn, took what she knew and applied it — even proffering, along the way, solace and advice. Indeed, in the early days of Automation, I myself brought up AskAuntNettie more often than I care to recall and can still remember her consoling voice as she volunteered I’m here and insisted I want to hear everything and reassured me Of course you feel that way, Grant, how could you not? You’re only human.I did laugh at that You’re only human.Still I found not only that part of me responded to the words, but that it responded deeply, that it listened gratefully as Aunt Nettie advanced some surprisingly useful advice on a range of subjects, including the many — I hadn’t realized how many — for which noble Eleanor had no time. Would someone like me, whose mother had had him with WhoNeedsThemMen, have trouble knowing how to be a father, for example? The answer to which was that, given what men could be, I might in fact be better off without a role model anyway. Or how about: Did someone like me really need to own both black and brown shoes now that I was no longer teaching? The answer to which was yes, if I cared about social acceptance, which yes, my data showed that I did, underneath, and which, really, was just as well — correlated as such concern was with mental health, especially among Unretrainables such as, yes, she had heard I now was.Today Aunt Nettie would no doubt use the term “Surplus” — “Unretrainables” having been aggregated with “Unemployables” such as the elderly for the purposes of administering our Basic Incomes. But Unretrainables were in fact different. Unretrainables were people like me, with discontinued professions. Factory workers, drivers, and customer service representatives, in the beginning — joined, as Aunt Nettie evolved from tool to aide to master by assorted doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants. Professors. Programmers. Brokers. And, as Aunt Nettie assumed an ever greater role in government: Staffers. Poll workers. Selectmen. Auditors. Ombudsmen. Judges. Of course, some people were Retrained. And it goes without saying that not all the Unretrainables were coppertoned, like me. A great many were angelfair. But it was hard not to notice that the Unretrainables did somehow include everyone coppertoned, as well as everyone spy-eyed, like Eleanor, and everyone odd-bodied, too, not to say the odd-godded — Muslims, for example. It was, one had to say, quite a coincidence that the underclass looked as it did; groups like AutoAmericans Against Apartheid called it the New Segregation.Gish Jen is the author of “The Resisters.” Photo by © Basso CannarsaAnd what about meditation? I asked Aunt Nettie once. Would that help me tame certain mannerisms I had developed since my work was discontinued? The answer to which was, again, yes, and here was a link to get me started, although she thought I might also just try sitting on my hands.Like others, I had allowed Aunt Nettie to keep my calendar back in the days when, as the young head of an English as a second language program, I still had immigrants to teach and obligations to juggle. This was some time ago, now — before Ship’EmBack. But back then, I had also allowed Aunt Nettie to email people on my behalf, checking the “mimic your voice” option and marveling at just how perfectly she could replicate my tics of phrasing. She had even captured a certain formality I had picked up from my mother — a holdover from her days as a Caribbean schoolmarm — because I had, in my youthful diligence, sent so many thousands of emails. Indeed, Aunt Nettie had so much data on me that not even Eleanor could tell it was not I who had composed the messages she received from my account. What’s more, I had taken advantage of the EZ tools offered to me and trained Aunt Nettie to write my lessons and my syllabi — even to generate sample sentences and punny jokes. Indeed, I trained her so well that I had more than once observed that an avatar could now run the class, especially since she had my voiceprint and so could not only make my jokes but make them in my voice.As for why I did these things — I generally did them, I see now, because I appreciated some associated convenience, which was to say because I could be, as my mother liked to say, lazy as a rock at the bottom of a hill. And as for the resulting reality, was it not disconcertingly like the sea level rise and heat and wind we knew, long ago, would come with climate change but have since come to call normal? No one would have willfully chosen the stranding of whole office parks and schools and neighborhoods by the flooding we saw now. No one would have willfully chosen the generating of the places we called marooned places, just as no one would have chosen the extinction of frogs and of polar bears, or the decimation of our pine forests by the explosion in bark beetles. And yet it was something we humans did finally choose. After all, it was not the earth that chose it, or any other creature. It was we who made our world what it was. It was we who were responsible.And who else was to blame that we Surplus were now required by law to have AutoHouses, which were for the most part AutoHouseboats, collected into Flotsam Towns? Happily, house video surveillance did end. We did at least now have — thanks to the herculean efforts of Eleanor and her legal team — an A/V data shutoff to which you could resort. It wasn’t the default. To get at it you had to remove a wall panel with a special screwdriver for which you had to send away, and which was always on backorder; I do think they made about a dozen a year. Then you had to rewire the thing yourself, and it goes without saying that absolutely nothing was labeled. But still, the shutoff was there.As for the price of victory — well, let us just say that it was only after some years that we beheld Gwen and finally had the bandwidth to think what we should have thought all along. Namely: How extraordinary.I had bought Gwen a pink Spalding ball at an underground yard sale and seen how she laughed as she threw it at my nose. I had seen how she laughed, too, when I found her a tiny baseball glove, at another underground sale. I had seen her put it on her head like a hat. I had seen her talk to the glove and sleep with it under her pillow. And as she grew older, I had seen how she could throw an apple smack into the mouth of a Halloween scarecrow from clear across a field. She threw a kid’s handphone back to him through the window of a moving AutoLyft. She hammered a nail into a pole by throwing a rock at it from across the street.Was it not uncanny? We called it her gift. And sometimes, when Eleanor and I were talking, just the two of us, we reached back into old-time thinking and parlance and asked, Is this what people meant when they said something was God-given? Not that we were religious — hardly. And every child is humbling in a way that was hard even for old-time people to express — hard, that is, even for people who had not been brought up to seek truth in big data and algorithms but in things like books. Indeed, Gwen, too, was much more than her gift. She, too, was an embodiment of that tornado that is girlhood — that glorious whirlwind of silliness and sophistication that seems to dance and spin and touch down just exactly where it likes.Yet Gwen’s gift awed us in a special way. Was there not something miraculous about it — this ability? This talent? This knack? This utterly useless aptitude? Where did it come from? What was its purpose? We were, as I said, in awe. And maybe that was why we used that phrase, “God-given”— a phrase whose meaning we did not quite know, but that meant, we understood, beyond us. Beyond our ken. Beyond our grasp. Beyond human understanding, and beyond inhuman understanding, too. Beyond Aunt Nettie. And as a father, all I wanted was to see my daughter, in all her giftedness and idiosyncratic humanity, bloom.Excerpted from “The Resisters” by Gish Jen. Copyright © 2020 by Gish Jen. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. New report examines how AI might affect urban life
Police arrested a Florida Keys man on Monday after he kicked a chicken during an argument with his girlfriend.Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Adam Linhardt said Sgt. Joel Slough responded to a domestic dispute call on March 22nd. Upon arriving, 43-year-old Nicholas Chew and his girlfriend were in a dispute because Chew kicked a chicken, according to officials.“Chew admitted to kicking the chicken out of the way, further admitting his annoyance by the noise the birds cause,” Linhardt said. “A separate witness stated he saw Chew kick the chicken in the way a football player would kick a field goal.”The chicken was taken to a nearby veterinarian where doctors said the chicken had four broken ribs.The owner of the chicken pressed charges which led to the arrest of Chew. Chew faces a charge of animal cruelty.
Nottinghamshire completed a victory march in the women’s English Counties Championship when they won their fifth and final match by 8-1 today at Frilford Heath in OxfordshireYesterday, they secured the title when their fourth win put them out of reach of the other five regional finalists. Today, they celebrated their successful return to County Finals after an absence of 15 years.“We really did want to finish with a win, the whole team wanted it,” said Nottinghamshire captain Kathryn Horberry. “It’s absolutely fantastic.”Their final opponents were Essex and they conceded just one foursomes match to the pairing of English U14 champion Lily Humphreys and Emily Irons. The Notts points were scored by the partnerships of Emma Howie and Carol Houghton and by Lauren Spray with Esme Hamilton.The singles were a clean sweep for the champions, represented this afternoon by Rachel Boulton, Emily Lyle, Laura Morris, Emma Howie, Emma Newlove and Lauren SprayTheir win underlined their strength in depth as a team – and completed a superb week for Lauren Spray who had a 100 per cent winning record, with a perfect nine out of nine.Meanwhile, Sussex won the battle for second place with a late charge in the week. The team – who were playing at County Finals for the first time since 2011 – won their first match but then suffered two defeats. However, they climbed the leaderboard with great determination over the last two days, beating Essex yesterday and then defeating Buckinghamshire 6-3 today.They had an anxious wait to find out if they’d done enough, but when Lancashire and Gloucestershire halved today, they were confirmed as runners-up.“We were really gunning for second place,” said Sussex captain Sue Todd. “The whole team were really motivated and very determined.“We are really pleased because this is the highest we have ever been placed. We changed our whole coaching system and it’s been a year’s work to get here – that’s what it takes. We’ve got fantastic team spirit and our team manager Hannah Ralph has made an enormous input.”Sussex claimed two of the three foursomes and four singles, turning a series of tight games into wins – and giving a fine send-off to team member Paula Carver who announced her retirement from county golf after 21 years.However the final placings all hinged on the last match on the course between Lancashire and Gloucestershire. A win for either team would have pushed Sussex down the order but the match was halved, leaving Lancashire in third place and Gloucestershire in fourth.The South West champions made all the early running when they won 2½ points from the three morning foursomes. But in the afternoon it was Lancashire who called the shots with wins from Beth Garton, Eloise Healey, Georgia Coughlin and Nicola Rawlinson.Final placings:1 Nottinghamshire 10pts2 Sussex 6pts3 Lancashire 5 (23 games won)4 Gloucestershire 5 (20.5 games won)5 Buckinghamshire 2 (17.5 games won)6 Essex 2 (15 games won)Captions: The Nottinghamshire team with the trophy. Image © Leaderboard Photography. 18 Sep 2015 Victory march for Nottinghamshire
By John BurtonCounty, state and federal agencies are seeking public input for their study on future renovations and/or possible replacement for the Oceanic Bridge.County officials, in cooperation with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration are conducting a public survey as part of the local concept development study phase for the future work for the bridge.The project is intended to improve the safety and maintain the current crossing for the aging bridge, Monmouth County Bridge S-31, spanning the Navesink River, connecting Middletown’s Locust section and Rumson.This study phase involves data collection, community outreach and drafting a reasonable number conceptual alternatives for the project.The survey can be found at: https://co.monmouth.nj.us/page.aspx?Id=3992.
CALGARY – Affordable housing advocates are hopeful a potential Calgary 2026 Olympic bid could help put a dent in the city’s shortfall.A draft hosting plan unveiled earlier this month by the bid corporation, Calgary 2026, envisions converting some 2,800 units of temporary Olympic accommodations for athletes, officials and media into long-term housing. Only 20 per cent of that would go for market rates, with the rest set aside for people in need.Of the plan’s $5.2-billion price tag, $583 million would be for housing.The co-chair of the Community Housing Affordability Collective, an umbrella organization of private and not-for-profit players in the sector, said the city has a 15,000-unit affordable housing gap.“If I do a projection 10 years from now, that number may well be 20,000, depending on the economic situation and the number of Calgarians in need,” said Martina Jileckova, who is also CEO of the non-profit Horizon Housing Society.So while the Olympic infusion wouldn’t solve the problem, a few thousand more units would help, she said. But that’s only as long as it’s on top of, not instead of, other sources of funding, like the National Housing Strategy.“We want to make sure that we continue to invest into affordable housing through other streams.”She adds that she hopes the not-for-profit sector can contribute ideas to this aspect of the plan, since it has in-depth knowledge of what people will need.The bid corporation’s plan mentions converting Olympic housing into a 200-unit seniors complex, urban Indigenous housing and student housing. So a cookie-cutter approach to building won’t work, Jileckova said.The executive director of Vibrant Communities Calgary, a poverty reduction group, says the national average of housing that’s affordable is six per cent, whereas in Calgary it’s only 3.6 per cent.So anything to help close the gap, including the Olympics, would be welcome, said Franco Savoia.“It’s one more step. Is it the solution? No. But it’s part of the solution,” Savoia said. “We’d be very, very supportive of more affordable housing coming on stream, whatever the mechanism.”The CEO of a Calgary building industry group said increasing the supply of market housing would also help those in need.“The best thing that can happen is that there is not only choice, but affordability for market housing, which reduces pressure on affordable housing, or in-need housing,” said Guy Huntingford, of Building Industry Land Development.Housing affordability is also a major issue in Canmore, the idyllic Rocky Mountain town an hour west of Calgary that would host some events.“If you’ve been in Canmore for a long time and got in the market 20 years ago, you’re probably doing all right,” said town Chief Administrative Officer Lisa de Soto. “But the average cost of a single family home is nearing $1 million, so it’s clearly out of reach of most people.”The bid corporation’s plan calls for 240 affordable housing units in Canmore to be managed by the city’s housing corporation.“That’s very meaningful for us, even though it’s potentially seven or eight years away.”But professor Stacy Lorenz says no one should bank on the Olympics being much of a help on the affordable housing front, citing the troubled Vancouver 2010 Olympic Village as a cautionary tale.“They ended up losing a lot of money on it while not even coming close to delivering on the promises they had made, or on the projections they had suggested for the number of units for social housing that would be built,” said Lorenz, whose research at the University of Alberta focuses on the sociological and historical aspects of sports.“If you need housing, provide housing. You don’t need to incur all the bills of the Olympics in order to do that.”