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De-Influencing: The New Trend!

Well, I don’t usually pay too much attention to new trends, but my curiosity was piqued the other day when I heard about something called “de-influencing”. Apparently “influencers”, those people you see pimping products on TikTok and the like, are becoming passé.

De-influencing is becoming a thing, and as of a couple of weeks ago, there were 160 million videos with the hashtag #deinfluencing on Tik Tok alone.

It’s going crazy out there!

If you don’t know what an “influencer” is, your gen is showing. Generation, that is.

Where it used to be Anne Murray promoting the bank or Mickey Mantle pushing smokes (okay, now MY gen is showing), lately it’s been celebrity wannabes looking for fame by creating videos of themselves trying all kinds of things.

But let’s get real. “Influencer” is really just a fancy word for advertiser. Everybody knows that the successful ones get paid very, very well for promoting stuff: trips, make-up, clothes, power tools, you name it.

The difference is that lots of people don’t realize they are being advertised TO. They just think they’ve seen the latest, greatest thing, and they’ve got to have it.

It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! Who remembers that?

And there are plenty of companies and businesses willing to pay the big bucks to have these influencers, well, influence. Money, money, money. And lately, that’s what’s changing the game.

Right now, a lot of people, especially the younger ones, don’t have much money. Inflation has become a nightmare.

So in come the de-influencers. They’ve started creating videos telling you what NOT to waste your money on, what NOT to do. I don’t know, this all sounds really familiar to me…

Wait a minute! Now that I think of it, I am the original de-influencer! I must have told my kids a thousand times what not to do. And I definitely said “No!” to all the things they wanted me to buy them. I can confirm that I have been de-influencing since the 80’s!

I’m honestly thinking this new de-influencing thing might just be a scam. Maybe the de-influencers just want you to start trusting them before they end up selling you stuff just like the influencers do. More like a “don’t buy THAT, buy THIS” sort of thing.

Whatever.

I’ve never had Tik Tok on any of my devices, but whoever still does is asking for trouble. There are national security concerns, ongoing investigations and bans everywhere. You never know who might be able to access your personal information, so I would suggest you just get rid of it.

There, did I de-influence you? Yep. See how good I am?

With AI, Who Needs Creators?

I was a Computer Operator back in 1982 when the Vancouver Public Library decided to automate their entire library system. Some library patrons were quite worried at the time about having their personal information stored somewhere where anybody could see it.

What a difference a few decades makes. Today, just having a Google account means you can literally be followed, and advertised to with “relevant” ads. And who-knows-who can get access to all kinds of information about you.

I don’t have anything against technology, obviously, having been witness to “Gutenberg Two”. That was what the computer was characterized as back then, in the book by David Godfrey. Gutenberg One was the printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg.

The printing press was a revolution in terms of information and the ability to access and spread it to whoever could read. The computer was another evolution in that sequence.

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, appears to be a revolution of another kind. And now it’s getting weird.

One of the latest apps, ChatGPT, is a chatbot that can “converse, create readable text on demand and create novel images and video”. It’s also stirring up trouble.

The creators of ChatGPT basically used material that was already out there to teach the bot how to create its own content.

Kids are have started using it to “write” essays in school. A new level of cheating. Those darn kids.

There’s a children’s book being marketed on Amazon that was created using ChatGPT. Even the illustrations are created by a text-to-image AI tool. It took the “creator” a weekend to put it together and start selling it.

Now my mind is racing. Maybe I won’t have to spend hours and hours on my writing ever again because ChatGPT can do it for me!

But what’s the point? When it comes to art, a text-to-image AI tool could never be a modern day Da Vinci. Or could it? And even worse, what if nobody cares?

Well, artists do.

In fact, there are two lawsuits against an AI company happening right now in the U.K. and in the U.S. Part of the argument in the U.K. suit initiated by Getty Images is that this AI company “illegally scraped” content from their website in order to train the tools to create images.

Lawyers for the artists in the suit say that this is breaking copyright and other laws, and they are suing for billions. They argue that “because the AI system only ingests images from others, nothing it creates can be original.”

Copying the great artists has been going on for centuries, but this takes it to a whole new level.

So, should writers be worried about chatbots?

Some writers may be concerned about the potential for chatbots to replace human writers in certain roles, such as news or content generation. However, it is also possible that chatbots could be used to enhance the work of human writers, by providing assistance with research, editing, or other tasks.

Well, that’s what ChatGPT told me anyway. Yes, that last paragraph was bot-generated after I posed the question on the ChatGPT website.

So I decided to ask the bot the age old question.

Was it “what is the meaning of life?” No.

Instead I asked “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

There was a long pause. Did ChatGPT recognize a tongue-twister?

Then came the answer: “According to a study by wildlife biologist Richard Thomas, a woodchuck, also known as a groundhog, would chuck approximately 700 pounds of wood if a woodchuck could chuck wood. However, in reality, woodchucks do not chuck wood as they primarily burrow in soil and do not have the physical ability to chuck wood.”

Smart a$$.

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It’s Like Riding A Bike

Remember all of the fuss people made when bike lanes started showing up all over the city, taking over car lanes, or at least impeding upon them? I have to admit, I wasn’t all the pleased to see them myself. And my husband was especially unhappy.

Suddenly you had to pay attention to things like new cycle-only lights and rules about right turns. Not only that, but lots of regular parking spots disappeared. For those of us who’ve been behind the wheel for a long time, it was like driving in a foreign country.

Judging by the comments in local media and online, we were not alone. A lot of people were miffed. And, according to most angry types, including my husband, it was all Mayor Lisa Helps’ fault.

Imagine my surprise then, when my newly retired, anti-bike lane partner pulled out his dusty, rusty old bicycle one day and started pumping up the tires. And, even more surprising, he got right on it and started hobbling down the street. I thought he was nuts.

But he insisted that he wanted to see if he could still do it and I had to admit that I admired his tenacity. He decided he might even like to try an e-bike one day and wondered if I might like to try one too.

Me? On a bike? I wasn’t so sure.

And then something interesting happened. My good friends and I were planning a wine tasting tour in Oliver, and one of the tours was supposed to be on e-bikes. I’d never heard of that before.

So now I felt obligated to pull out my own steed of rusted steel to see if I could manage it.

Holy expletive.

I was pretty shaky at first. It felt familiar, but not familiar enough. Not only that but my once 18-speed bicycle now had only one working gear. Thank goodness the brakes still worked.

For my first ride, I went about 5 blocks and then came right back. The legs were definitely feeling it, and I knew I was going to have to get more comfortable with cycling again before our trip. And after a few short practice rides and only one near spill, I was feeling a little better. A little.

The e-bike was a whole different experience. For those of you who haven’t tried one, I won’t go into all of the technical details. The bikes we rode were German-made CUBEs, and had the usual mechanical gears and then 4 e-gears, going from “eco” to “turbo”.

You can also ride the bike without the e-support, but I’m pretty sure I had it on “eco” for most of our 27 kilometer tour. When the e-gear kicked in, it just felt lighter and smoother. On long stretches uphill, I’d use the “turbo” setting and that helped considerably.

And the wine helped too.

When we got back from our trip, my husband was excited to hear all about it. I have to admit that by then, I was also convinced to get an e-bike of my own.

As it turns out, we found two used ones of the same make, CUBE, on Facebook Marketplace. I guess it was meant to be.

Now it was my husband’s turn to get used to the e-bike, but it didn’t take long. Little by little we ventured further, warming up to the idea of cycling in the city instead of driving.

One day, we went from our house in the Oaklands area all the way to Willows Beach. And on another, we pointed ourselves south and made it through Beacon Hill Park to Dallas Road.

Suddenly we were very grateful for those cycle lanes and signal crosswalks, and the CRD cycle maps. It has become another very different way of experiencing and exploring beautiful Victoria.

We are e-sold. And we’re old enough that we should have learned the old “don’t knock it before you’ve tried it” adage by now.

Apologies, Lisa.