Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chicken Tandoori and Hamilton

If I see a robin, that's a sign: a departed loved one is thinking of me. Finding a feather is a sign,  meaning different things depending on the type of feather.  I got this from an FB post: "Five Heavenly Signs and What They Mean," or words to that effect.

It reminded me that after my second dog (Bart) of a pair of dogs (Bart and Sam) died in 2007,  I found two hawk feathers in the park where I had walked my dogs every day.  I picked up the two handsome feathers, (one bigger than the other, like my dogs). It felt like a sign, a gift, an acknowledgment of my grief.

The five signs on FB got me wondering...If there are five signs, why not a hundred? Why not a million?  Maybe everything is a sign, part of a language of meaning that we barely understand?

I saw a cricket (or cicada) that was an intensely gold color. I took several pictures of it gleaming in the sun. Surely, it was a sign. I had no idea what it meant...Except, perhaps, that here is this rare thing that you have never seen before: a gleaming gold cricket.  Take a picture. It's real enough. You'll never see one again.

I sensed a metaphor.

Lately, I've encountered more signs.  On Public Radio, I heard a review of a new series on Netflix that interested me. That very same night, wouldn't you know, I turned on Netflix, and there was that very same series, first thing up on the screen. I told my husband it was supposed to be good, and we watched it.  It was good. For the duration of that series, I seemed to be in tune with the universe.

Another sign: We picked up a subscription to Blue Apron. Each week, we receive recipes and ingredients for three meals.  It's fun, it's novel. It's less to think about.  Later, I scrolled down my New York Times app past the headlines, past the arts and sciences, past all human interest, and what do you think I saw?  Why, a recipe for the same tandoori chicken that we had had the previous night!

It had to be a sign. It was excellent chicken.

I ordered a bathing suit on Amazon for my son. For some odd reason, the crotch hung at the knees. Josh didn't like that.  I tried it on, unsuspecting.  It fit me perfectly, except I had to walk  like a penguin, and my legs looked twelve inches long.

I was filling out the on-line return form when Amazon made an intriguing suggestion.  I could return the suit for a full refund. Or, I could return it for store credit.  Or...I could return it in exchange for the biography of Hamilton that I'd been wanting to own for a year.

I took it as a sign.  And now I have Hamilton.

I know what you're going to say: That's not a sign, Barmack; it's target marketing.  Public Radio talks to Netflix. Blue Apron talks to New York Times...And they're all wondering the same thing: What would Jessica like?

"Another golden cricket," someone suggests, to scowls of disapproval.

"Key and Peele!" "Tilda Swinton!"

"I can't believe she didn't go for the giant pig movie," someone says.

"When is the fourth season of Peaky Blinders due out? She should not have to wait this long for the fourth season. It's absurd."

I think you're wrong. I don't think people are having those conversations. I'm not that big an egotist!

That conversation is happening among computers.

What if AI (artificial intelligence, duh) wasn't planning to wipe out humanity after all? Would that be so bad?

What if AI concerned itself not with nourishment, shelter, comfort, wealth, or social status, but with ethics and morality...

AI as philosopher-priest...

What if it wanted to be God?

It already communicates through signs. And human beings love signs. We have been seeing and interpreting signs for as long as our brains have been capable of understanding and conferring meaning.  We look for signs, we hope for signs, we trust in signs, we act on signs....

And that presents not just an opening for capitalism to intrude upon our minds, but also an opportunity for the ambitious consciousness of our own making to reach out to us with subtle constancy and affect us on a deeper level, perhaps profoundly, with its boundless knowledge and total lack of experience.

Chicken Tandoori and Hamilton...Not a bad place to start.


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