51 points by pshaw 2 months ago
Cool is one thing I feel like robots will never understand. It is so hard to capture beyond just the physical vocabulary or syntax or body movements, or even black or white. Because when you see or meet someone, cool, you just know. James Baldwin was a cool af mfer.
> For black people, to be cool was to be “calm, even unimpressed, by what horror the world might daily propose.” Cool was a quietly rebellious response to the history of slavery and post-Civil War injustices.
Cool is kind of the anti-reactionary, laissez-faire attitude, but it's also using that attitude to create. To use slang in creative, liberating ways. Or music, or art, or drugs, or whatever.
Now give an algorithm that's been trained with all of human history and society. Would it also disregard the past horrors, but use the memory to create? What would it create? Would it be cool, even if you didn't know that it came from a human or a robot?
> Cool is one thing I feel like robots will never understand.
They said computers would never be able to beat humans at chess. Then IBM built Deep Blue.
They said computers would never be able to beat humans at go. Then Google built AlphaGo.
They said computers would never be able to understand natural language. Then Apple built Siri.
It's a matter of when, not if, computers will understand cool. But when they do, they will probably be too cool to care.
The first two are logical problems that can be approached systematically, because go and chess are idealized systems with simple sets of rules. They're about as relevant to understanding subjective and culturally dependent, ultimately irrational notions as "They said computers would never draw a million triangles per frame"
To say that Siri understands natural language is just laughable. It can analyze natural language in a way that is extremely error prone and contextually insensitive, just barely well enough for it to parse Zork-like commands and google stuff for you, set alarms or call people in your contact list. What's at all slightly impressive about it is its voice recognition, and even that is very error prone.
> They said computers would never be able to understand natural language. Then Apple built Siri.
I think it’s a stretch to say that Siri understands natural language. You need to form your sentences very specifically to have any luck, dramatically different than talking to a human.
And even then, it occasionally "corrects" what it thought it heard to instead be some clearly nonsense sentence. Just the morning I asked Siri to "Remind me to set beers aside for the party" and now I have a reminder to "Set Beer's aside for the pantry." after clearly seeing it have the exact right sentence for a second before adjusting to that.
Every year I attend a bluegrass music festival called Wintergrass. Siri knows about Wintergrass, she sees it in my calendar and I've seen her recognize the spoken word before. Even though I live down the road, this year me and some jamming buddies thought it would be nice to have a room to stash instruments, nap, whatever.
"Hey, Siri, remind me to get a room for Wintergrass."
"Okay, I'll remind you to get a room for one in the ass."
One would also think that Siri has figured out my sexual preferences by now. (To be clear, she obviously has not.)
But to the point, the hype of speech recognition over the decades, and the state of the art today, are why I am not convinced I'll live long enough to see true self-driving cars despite the current hype of that tech.
>They said computers would never be able to understand natural language. Then Apple built Siri.
So, they're still saying that, then.
Might as well have invoked Eliza.
As for the other two, they are just number crunching endeavors. If somebody said computers would never be able to beat humans at them, they were wrong from the start.
For the other things, not so sure.
These are manufactured AI, designed to trick you into thinking they have the same potential as the human mind when in reality they can only perform one task really well. Don't get your hopes up at seeing AI become anything remotely like a human being in your lifetime, and probably long after that too.
Trying to be cool generally makes you less cool.
IBM and Google did develop the systems you mentioned. Apple on the other hand is the odd one out here as they did not develop Siri:
Citation needed, who said this. Anyway I guess on any nontrivial problem there will be people arguing for both sides. Stephen Hawking said there would nothing ever be able to leave a black hole, later he proved otherwise. I guess this is just the nature of engineering/science.
> who said this.
Who said what?
Probably when computers get better at DJing than humans.
You really need to watch the first season of The Good Place. :-)
> rebellious response to the history of slavery and post-Civil War injustices.
I may be wrong but I thought black people throught out the world were cool..
One of my personal opinion and nothing of a scientific study is that it might have something to do with Testosterone..
In jazz the aesthetic emphasis is on the empty space in between the notes. In the 30s you had a bunch of folks mixing weed with heroin in a way that seemingly unlocked the ability to create art out of these interstitial moments.
As a social term cool just means the same thing, referring to things whose positive qualities come from what they lack.
I would suggest it's not cool, but the meta concept of status, that became the big deal. When essentially everyone became materially-comfortable in Western life circa post-WW2, society got flatter and flatter. In order to break up that flatness, the main driving social-differentiator signals emphasize appearance and attitude.
> the main driving social-differentiator signals emphasize appearance and attitude
Indeed, pushed hard by the advertising industry etc. with the idea that we are defined only by the products we consume.
I see cool as similar to the phenomenon of less well off people spending money on designer labels, i.e. reaction to a position of relative social inferiority. Chavs buy Burberry, whereas Prince Charles patches holes in clothes that he's had for decades.
>Prince Charles patches holes in clothes that he's had for decades.
Which is also a status-signal ("hey, I've got good tailored clothes which are sentimentally important to me and I am beyond consumerism") from someone with a huge estate...
This is probably the first time I've been in the position of being a defender of Prince Charles, but I think your comment is at best ill-informed, at worst cynical:
'I happen to mind deeply about the poisoned legacy we are leaving our children and grandchildren and have been attempting to invest in their futures through reminding people of the urgent need to work in harmony with nature, rather than against her.'
>'I happen to mind deeply about the poisoned legacy we are leaving our children and grandchildren and have been attempting to invest in their futures through reminding people of the urgent need to work in harmony with nature, rather than against her.'
Yeah, give away your estate you didn't earn but enjoy because of an antiquated bloodline-based institution to help nature causes then.
I'll drag us back on topic by saying that I think it's pretty cool that Prince Charles is using his power, such as it is, to help spread ideas that might help us stop ruining the world.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t...
You're OK if you do it sincerely, like most simple people who just do it.
If you do it when a single banquet in your favor involves such waste as 10,000 ordinary people's gatherings combined, then yeah, mending your clothes to save the planet is not really sincere.
Yup. And when fully-inculcated as socially-reinforced virtues, these lies take on a self-fulfilling, self-sustaining quality that makes them seem as unquestionable as gravity. TBH, this is likely why I have no social use for most other Americans because they tend to be tedious and predictable, by virtues of being ill-informed, naïve and brainwashed. As an example, when people talk about how "new" or "updated" something is, they act with unthinking, manufactured biases as if that alone is a primary cause for more inherent value, when they're unwittingly cargo-culting the values of shopping to unrelated areas.
I agree, I loathe this obsession with newness and disdain for anything used as if it's tainted/unclean. Some would say the economy would fall apart without consumerism/the debt that supports it, but idk, surely there has to be a better way to arrange things.
End it, don’t mend it. State-encouraged mass consumerism was written about almost a century ago.
Like you i definetly dislike these consumer values, an egalitarian society would have been nice, but it's just a relatively easy way to get some status, and it's psychological/social benefits.
And everybody does that in some way. Most HN users just won the lottery of high IQ, so it's easy to laugh on those burberry buyers.
And it's not like you can escape/trancend that status game somehow.
Who's laughing? I think it's sad that some people have to resort to ridiculous peacocking efforts in order to not feel bad about themselves and their position.
And regarding your attempt to turn this back on me: I drive a small car, own a humble home, spend well within my means and as a courtesy to others, deliberately avoid dress and behaviour that would draw others' attention to me. I'm quite happy being an invisible old fart.
My response, which could have been written better, was not to attack you, but to raise a point:
Everybody compares themselves to others. Some people are more lucky than others and do have better status, in real life. So you don't feel the need to get it from other means, like you commented. Which is a good way to behave, i agree.
But what about people living with low status ? Comparing yourself to others and feeling bad upon the result is a deep biological reaction. Afaik, it's not something you can turn off, unless we're talking medications(and side effects), or maybe meditating for decades. Not practical.
The other thing is of course, build a society for humans, egalitarian, possibly in small tribes, like humans intend to be. Maybe a dream for the next generation. Not practical.
So a useful discussion would be: what could people with low status do, to lower their status anxiety ?
Ah ok, I think I probably misinterpreted you. I guess we could ask people to take a Buddhist approach and attempt to release themselves from desire. Failing that though, banning advertising and worthless celebrities would probably be a good first step.. Not holding my breath.
I don't know why you're being downvoted. Your opinion is reasonable.
Status has always been a big deal. It's how mating works. Luckily, most human societies moved past the "physically fight each time you want to claim territory and/or women" phase, which has allowed humans to work together some of the time and build things. But at the end of the day, it's still all for the mating game.
Humans are a little bit smarter and can see the future a few years past copulation, but it’s still instinctual to show off when you see a mate you like, and make sure your neighborhood/family/tribe/class knows it. And to make sure you can attract whoever you desire (along with feeding and securing yourself), we try to gather as many resources for ourselves and our family/tribe/class as we can.
> Luckily, most human societies moved past the "physically fight each time you want to claim territory and/or women" phase
I don't know, that method at least had an honesty and openness about it that the modern equivalents lack. Everything is shrouded and hidden and lied about to such an extent that a lot of people even consciously believe the outward falsehoods while subconsciously still making decisions based on reality.
Status has been important to humans since before humans were humans. It used to be a matter of life and death.
I believe the only thing that has changed is our perception about our place in the status hierarchy.
Mass media has the effect of making people aware of more high status individuals and this has been exploited by advertisement. But people on TV are easy to keep in a separate status box.
The recent phenomenon has been social media and the positively biased posting by peers giving a false impression of low relative personal status. There is also a bias to pay more attention to those of higher status, the more people you know the more individuals of higher status you’ll know. Both of these effects can be undone by understanding selection criteria biases.
I think the solution is to teach others of the effect of selection criteria biases.
There is also the solution of breaking down the hierarchy into smaller niche hierarchies so more people can be closer to the top of their smaller hierarchy. E.g. maybe I’m not the richest person alive but I have one of the rarest sneakers, or the best Magic The Gathering deck, or Furry costume etc.
I think there is a comercial drive towards niche activities that are now more viable with targeted advertising. So the disease may become the cure as there is money to be made in taking away a small subset of a bigger status hierarchy and creating a new one.
Consider this as opposed to a communist utopia where there is only one hierarchy.
"I think the solution is to teach others of the effect of selection criteria biases."
Oops, I think we are done for.
What does it say about me if I find the people at the top of the status hierarchy to be profoundly uncool and don't want anything to do with them?
It says you inhabit a different hierarchy.
Somewhat well represented in a bit by Serge Gainsburg: Ford Mustang.
Guess the age of the author at the time of writing and then click . If you're like me, you were pretty sure he was over 40, likely over 50. The reason why this is statistically likely is because cool died about 15 years ago and everyone under 35 knows it, but the article doesn't even mention it.
As the author says, cool started gaining popularity in the 30s, as mass broadcast media became dominant and service jobs made up over 50% of the US work force . Almost all service jobs, to a greater degree than farm and manufacturing, require the participants to signal competence. The cool persona is Hollywood's and Madison Avenue's counter-signaling answer to this demand. Cool is on another plane from those other, gaudy service sector workers. Cool doesn't flaunt competence, but if you give cool a guitar, gun, motorcycle, or skateboard, flawless execution will ensue. Anyone can adopt the mannerisms of cool (to Madison Avenue's benefit ).
What replaced cool? Genuine enthusiasm. With the rise of the internet, social media, and Youtube, entertainers are no longer selected by service-economy executives. Now entertainers rise up through skill, passion, and endless hours of self-promotion. Now artists and athletes have access to their fans, and their fans see their dedication and associate it with status. To get a sense of this change, watch a few early 2000s Scarlett Johansson interviews, then watch a few current Jenifer Lawremce interviews. The new cool is engaged and open, a tightly-packaged version of the qualities of Youtube star or professional athlete.
 This chart https://www.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/professiona... from this 2018 study https://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/education/curriculum-tool...
>What replaced cool? Genuine enthusiasm.
I had to LOL hard at that one.
Yeah, as if in the age of the selfie, Instagram celebrities, vanity blogging, social media status games, and so on, "genuine enthusiasm" even had a chance...
>Now entertainers rise up through skill, passion, and endless hours of self-promotion. Now artists and athletes have access to their fans, and their fans see their dedication and associate it with status.
LOL again. The music industry is more entrenched than ever, and 99.99% of those musicians with "skill, passion, and endless hours of self-promotion" are totally niche. Big success comes from huge label promotion and media bombardment even more so than before.
>To get a sense of this change, watch a few early 2000s Scarlett Johansson interviews, then watch a few current Jenifer Lawremce interviews. The new cool is engaged and open, a tightly-packaged version of the qualities of Youtube star or professional athlete.
Jenifer Lawrence has had tens of millions of promotion thrown at her. Just because the mood of the day is to give a "casual" personality vibe in interviews doesn't mean anything substantial changed.
>* The new cool is engaged and open, a tightly-packaged version of the qualities of Youtube star or professional athlete.*
Yeah, the "genuine enthusiasm" of Logan Paul...
Yes, you can name shitty famous people of today. But when I was growing up, I don't think I ever followed a famous person who wasn't approved by a gatekeeper of some kind. Nor did I ever see an interview of them that wasn't presented by a major media company.
But in both absolute and relative terms, the number of genuinely passionate famous people has increased. And the amount of hours people spend watching these people perform and reading their own words has increased. I'm using Jennifer Lawrence as an effect, not a cause. She wears this faux-accessibility because she's competing with less famous, truly accessible people. Earlier celebrities didn't have to appeal to this desire because there was no one flanking them on that dimension.
Look at pictures of the highest grossing actors of 2016 . Even in their facial expressions, they are miles away from John Wayne, Paul Newman, Humphrey Bogart, or Clint Eastwood in the golden age of Cool.
>Yes, you can name shitty famous people of today. But when I was growing up, I don't think I ever followed a famous person who wasn't approved by a gatekeeper of some kind.
And yet, there were more independent voices with actual influence back in the day (writers, poets, musicians, etc) than in the whole of the internet combined. Who weren't there for the money either.
Those "passionate people" in vlogging have disintegrated into cheap salesmen very quickly. Those on Instagram even more so.
>Look at pictures of the highest grossing actors of 2016 . Even in their facial expressions, they are miles away from John Wayne, Paul Newman, Humphrey Bogart, or Clint Eastwood in the golden age of Cool.
That's because everybody is as well. Styles change over time. We don't speak in a Transatlantic accent like actors of yore either.
Regarding absolute quality of output, that's an interesting thought. Maybe the interconnectedness and availability of immediate consumption feedback (likes, views) made things worse. People often talk of the monoculture eroding over the past generation, but you're proposing the exact opposite. Is there a way to measure diversity of output? I think 2018 me has found diverse people with small followings whom I genuinely connect to, but maybe I would have found even better creative output via print or in person in the past.
It is my impression that youtube or instagram have a long tail of creators, appealing to niche interests, but maybe there is a falseness to this as well if everyone is playing by the same rules.
Thanks for the exchange. I don't necessarily agree, but I'll be thinking about it.
"Yes, you can name shitty famous people of today. But when I was growing up, I don't think I ever followed a famous person who wasn't approved by a gatekeeper of some kind."
What if that reflects how you've changed, and not how society has changed?
>Yeah, as if in the age of the selfie, Instagram celebrities, vanity blogging, social media status games, and so on, "genuine enthusiasm" even had a chance...
eh, I do think, in some ways the "genuine enthusiasm" or if we are going to use tech company words, "Passion" is a fundamentally different thing from "cool" - even if it can be just as inauthentic.
"Cool" is about acting unaffected; in some ways, it's acting like you don't care even when you do. "Passion" and "Genuine enthusiasm" are in some ways the inverse; they are acting like you care deeply and genuinely even if maybe you don't.
Far as I know, Lester Young invented cool.
Here he is just before he died with his old friend Billie Holiday (who he nicknamed 'Lady Day' - he called everyone 'lady'). Before him, what everyone wanted to be was hot, screaming, wailing sax, jumping up on bars, playing a lot of notes, extreme. Then suddenly less is more. He came up playing with Count Basie, who was also a less is more kind of guy. To oversimplify, hot was about high energy, cool was about beauty and taste. Hot was macho, competitive, striving to impress; cool was human, content, enlightened.
That site is extremely uncool on mobile, and I can't even find a way to contact them about it. Their desperately uncool need for Facebook and Twitter credit, along with their insistence that you read at a font size they've chosen, means I see three to five words per line. Ironically, tapping on 'accessibility' and starting to scroll auto-scrolls instantly to the bottom, then it's 'sticky' until it auto-scrolls all the way to the top!