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The problem with AI

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Chris MetitationsBy Chris Edwards and  ChatGPT-4

ChatGPT’s latest iteration is an advanced language model developed by OpenAI that employs the GPT-3.5 architecture. This iteration has been trained on a vast amount of data to improve its natural language processing abilities, making it capable of understanding and generating more human-like responses. Additionally, it has been optimized for speed, allowing it to process and respond to queries at an unprecedented rate.

The latest version of ChatGPT incorporates state-of-the-art technologies such as self-supervised learning, meta-learning, and transfer learning. These techniques have enabled the model to learn from vast amounts of unstructured data, resulting in a more accurate and contextually appropriate understanding of natural language. As a result, ChatGPT can answer complex questions, generate human-like responses, and even perform language-related tasks such as summarization and translation with a high degree of accuracy.

So, gentle readers, a bit of disclosure to frame this outing: the above two paragraphs were written by ChatGPT’s latest version. I simply entered the prompt “Give two paragraphs that explain ChatGPT’s latest iteration in 70 words or less,” and off to work it went.

Now this column might come as something a bit removed from my jurisdiction, but I’m writing it anyway. By the way, before I get into my rant, good-n-proper, there’s an irony present that, yes, last week I wrote about how awesome Artificial Intelligence (AI) was because it could make all the presidents have mullets and mirrored motorcycle cop shades, but I digress.

Typically, things of a futurist bent, or anything having to do with technology and/or computerized legerdemain is the purview of our Jim-of-all-trades and occasional op-ed page cohort Jim Powers, and I’m sure he could posit a few thoughts on this subject in an even more compelling and cogent fashion, but here goes.

AI-generated writing is already fairly commonplace with certain types of writing. Many businesses and organizations utilize it to create financial reports and even copy for marketing.

The vast amount of data that the current iteration of ChatGPT uses to create prose from user-supplied prompting draws from all manner of sources – from e-books and Wikipedia to blog entries, yet generates something new. This presents a huge problem in the academic world, as anything from freshman composition essays to graduate-level theses can be generated through AI, and standard plagiarism detection methods are futile.

There are scads of users on Reddit who are reporting having used ChatGPT to get near-perfect grades in college classes, and what would traditionally have taken a student many hours, spread over days, of research, reading, drafting and revising can now take 20 minutes. An AI-generated doctoral thesis that made the rounds in the news cycle even included references, citations and annotations.

AI can write well, to be certain, but it lacks the self-awareness and nuance that comes about through stylistic consistency, building upon strengths and perspective of a human writer. This is especially important in endeavors, such as novel and short-story writing and screeds that fill newspaper op-ed pages.

But what about the casual reader who doesn’t really care about certain craft elements? For those readers who think Dan Brown and Fifty Shades of Gray is good writing, AI-generated writing would likely be good enough to fill their literary needs.

One story I cut from my short fiction collection that was released last year is a piece called “Equanimity.” It is a brief character study about a woman working in corrections and counting the days until she is retired from TDCJ, simply so she can enjoy smoking marijuana.

Lately I’ve been re-writing the story a bit to use in another project, and since a draft was on my desk when I began adventuring in AI writing, I decided to feed the plot into Chat GPT-4 and what it spat out was a nearly 600-word piece that was eerily similar to my original story, and even featured a scene with the character’s retirement party described.

So how long is it before AI writing becomes good enough to completely replace human scribes altogether? Our computing speed continues to accelerate, and I’m told the amount of power available to AI is expected to increase 1,000 times over the course of the next five years.

As someone on the margins of the creative community, I’ll say this here and now: AI is a problem. However, for those of us who do bang words out, whether it’s for a living or our own edification/practice, let’s keep writing and honing our craft. The AI might win someday, but we ain’t going down without a helluva fight.

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Broadband bill to increase infrastructure

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Trent AshbyBy Rep. Trent Ashby
Representing District 9

The early return of warmer temperatures means spring is just around the corner.

Driving back to East Texas each week from Austin, I can’t help but to admire the true natural beauty of our region. From the native flowers that dot the landscape to the dogwood blooms that are putting on a show, it’s a great time to be outdoors.

It’s also county fair season for many of our communities. As a proud supporter of our youth involved in FFA, 4-H and FCCLA, I hope you will make every effort to get out and support these students who will be showcasing their projects in the coming weeks.

Always remember that investing in our youth is investing in our community’s success. I hope to see you at the fair.

With that, here’s an update from your State Capitol.

This past week, the Speaker unveiled a number of bills that will be a priority for the Texas House this session. Among the recent list of priorities is a bill I filed, House Bill 9, which would make a historic investment in the expansion and development of broadband infrastructure throughout the State of Texas.

This bill will be paired with a Joint Resolution, HJR 125, which establishes the Broadband Infrastructure Fund as a fund outside the state treasury for the sole purpose of increasing connectivity in Texas.

Together, HB 9 and HJR 125 would distinguish the State of Texas with a bold and ambitious investment in broadband infrastructure funding to increase access and affordability, support critical programs like 911 services and school safety initiatives, eliminate costly fees on customers, and foster greater economic prosperity through a more connected Texas.

Another House priority this session will be on improving our state’s water infrastructure. The legislation, House Bill 10, would create the Texas Water Fund to provide greater financial assistance for rural and underserved communities to enhance water infrastructure.

Similar to HB 9, HB 10 will be paired with a Joint Resolution, HJR 130, to establish the fund.

I applaud the Speaker for making water infrastructure a priority, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to make strides toward enhancing our water infrastructure throughout the state.

Another priority, House Bill 15 would establish the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas. Under HB 15, the state would dedicate funding to improving brain health research, preventative care, and treatment centers to address our state’s mental health needs.

The bill is paired with HJR 135, which establishes the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas.

The mobile office is on the road again and we look forward to seeing you on the following dates, in the following locations: March 15 at the Houston County Courthouse Annex in Crockett from 9-11 a.m., or at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton from 1:30-3:30 p.m.; April 5 at the San Augustine County Courthouse from 9-11 a.m.; April 12 at the Polk County Commissioner’s Court Room in Livingston from 9-11 a.m., or at the Tyler County Courthouse in Woodville from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

Trent Ashby represents District 9, which includes Trinity County, in the Texas Legislature.

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United through a party in the back

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Chris MetitationsThere is a lot of hoopla coming from various places, spaces and faces proclaiming “this country’s more divided than it’s ever been.” It’s a strange statement when one considers what occurred between 1861 and 1865, but nonetheless, division is prevalent – and profitable – in the mass media sphere.

One of the major political parties seems to want to tax and spend the country into oblivion while the other seems to equate policy with holy war.

At the end of the day, those differences are only concerning policy/opinions, and all of the cats making laws and/or issuing commentaries on the cats making the laws put their britches on one leg at a time. They also, well most of them, anyway, spend time styling their hair some sort of way.

To that unifying end, a comedian and web content creator, Cam Harless, combined a certain beloved hairstyle with politics and the end result is nothing short of awe inspiring.

Harless used an AI-based art generator to create renderings of all 46 of our presidents, reimagined with that mack daddy of all timeless hairstyles, yes, you guessed it: the mullet.

Harless’s Twitter dispatches with the presidents, all bedecked in their tonsorial reimaginations, has gone viral, and rightfully so. In an interview with CNN, Harless spoke about the unifying power of the hairstyle synonymous with “business in the front, party in the back.”

“All it takes is a few mullets and a few pair of sunglasses and we’re more united than we’ve ever been,” he said

Short on top and long on the sides, the mullet has been famously sported by icons of music from David Bowie to Billy Ray Cyrus, to athletes, such as Steelers running back James Conner. Superman even sported a mullet in the early ‘90s.

Etymologically, the term “mullet” can be traced to those right-to-party fighters the Beastie Boys, who described the hairstyle in their 1994 song “Mullet Head.” The hairstyle, itself, has been depicted on figurines dating back to the first century AD.

If you’ve ever wondered what our founding fathers might have looked like with mullets – and nifty mirrored liquor store shades – then hop over to Harless’s Twitter, @hamcarless, and prepare to be amazed. The thread goes from present day all the way back to George Washington.

To start off with, Joe Biden looks, with his long blonde mullet, like a slightly less grizzled clone of Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Donald Trump with a mullet looks like he could tour as a frontman in a Molly Hatchet tribute band, while George W. Bush’s feathered mullet gives him a bit of a Chevy Chase-esque appearance.

Further back on the past presidential timeline is where some of the real treats emerge.

For some of them, it’s not hard to see how feasible it could have been for their heads to be mullet-ed, like Jimmy Carter, for instance, who doesn’t look too different. On others, however, it’s a near-totally different light. Richard Nixon comes off like a sleazy ‘70s-era record producer, while Lyndon B. Johnson looks like someone who’d play second-fiddle to Harry Dean Stanton in some cocaine-and-whiskey-fueled road-trip film about a couple of hitmen.

With Dwight D. Eisenhower’s bald pate, it was likely difficult for the AI apparatus Harless used to do anything, so he wound up with a sort of mohawk-ish ‘do.

As you might imagine, Teddy Roosevelt looks incredibly bad-ace with a mullet. His rendering might bring you mind of your cousin, who cuts the sleeves off all his shirts, has a Hemi under his hood and comes to your rescue with a tow chain when you’re stuck in the mud.

Then there’s Abe Lincoln. Honest Abe, with his tall, rawboned figure, stands out among all our past presidents, to start with, but Harless’s take has the sixteenth Oval Office-holder looking something like the late Cars leader Ric Ocasek – if Ocasek had been GQ cover material.

If Harless’s Twitter showcase I’ve described wasn’t enough, there’s also merch to buy. That’s right, Harless has printed up T-shirts with some of the mullet-ed presidents’ faces and familiar sayings, such as Biden’s “Listen here, Jack” and Trump’s slightly altered mantra of “Make beer cold again.” You can even get a shirt with Teddy Roosevelt shown, as I described above, with the phrase “Big Stick Energy” underneath the photo.

Those are available through his Etsy storefront, along with a poster depicting all of the reinvented presidents as the “Hell Yeah Edition,” for sixteen bucks.

God Bless Cam Harless for his awesome vision, and for reminding me to not forget to use my Rogaine.

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House pushes armed officer at all schools

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GaryBordersUnder legislation prioritized by House Speaker Dade Phelan, every Texas school would have an armed police officer, and aspiring teachers would receive extra support.

The Dallas Morning News reported the bill would also provide $15,000 in annual funding for safety measures for each school in the state. Another bill would increase the annual allotment per student for safety measures from $10 to $100.

Another House measure is aimed at improving teacher retention and recruitment, The Morning News reported. The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, would create a new grant to help prospective teachers pursing special education or bilingual certification, and would increase funding for educator mentoring. Special education and bilingual teacher positions are especially hard to fill in Texas.

Texas Senate passes first bill of session

The Texas Senate last week passed a bill that would close a loophole in state law that allowed gun sales to people between the ages of 16 and 18 who have been involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness. The Texas Tribune reported it was the first bill passed by the Senate this session.

Courts are supposed to report all involuntary mental health hospitalizations to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which then sends them to the FBI’s national background check system. However, problems with how existing state law was written led to those hospitalizations not being reported by courts.

The measure comes after an 18-year-old shooter in Uvalde with a history of mental health problems killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary last year. However, since that shooter was never hospitalized, closing the loophole would not have prevented him from legally buying two assault rifles.

Women sue state over abortion ban

Five women are suing the state, saying its near-total abortion ban resulted in them being denied abortions despite complications in their pregnancies that put their lives and fetuses at risk. The Austin American-Statesman reported the Center for Reproductive Rights filed the suit, which asks the courts to clarify what qualifies as a “medical emergency” exception in the law.

“Politicians in Texas are prohibiting health care that they don’t understand; they could do something but they’re not, and it’s killing us,” Lauren Miller, one of the plaintiffs, said. “It shouldn’t be controversial for an individual to make health care decisions for themselves in consultation with their doctor. But you can’t get that in Texas anymore.”

The Statesman reported that Miller was pregnant with twins when doctors told her one of the babies had a severe genetic condition and was not going to survive, which threatened her life and the life of the other baby. She ended up traveling to Colorado to have an abortion and is scheduled to give birth to the healthy remaining twin this month.

Rising car insurance rates causing sticker shock

Average statewide auto insurance rates are up nearly 24 percent over last year, according to a report by the Texas Standard. That is the highest increase in at least 20 years, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. That comes on top of increased costs for vehicles both new and used, and higher fuel costs.

Michael Schnurman, a business columnist with The Morning News, was interviewed on the Standard and had this to say, in part:

“There are several elements that play into it. One…is the higher values of cars and used cars in particular – they really shot up during the pandemic,” he said. “But the claims are also up a lot…When driving resumed, the number of accidents and the severity of accidents has really been a lot higher. If you look at fatalities, I think they were up 18 percent.”

Schnurman suggested consumers shop around for auto insurance and look for discounts for bundling it with homeowners’ insurance or multiple vehicles on the same account.

PUC recommends hefty fine against power company

The Public Utility Commission has recommended that the Texas-New Mexico Power Co. pay a $1.74 million fine for inaccurate estimates of its customers’ electric usage.

In a report released last week, The PUC said the power company failed to correct a violation of an order to install new meters that can be read remotely in a timely manner.

The commission said “TNMP’s new meter rollout was significantly delayed,” resulting in the utility “estimating thousands of meters for months on end.”

The investigation found that TNMP was given three-years’ notice that the “communication backbone” of its metering system was going to be discontinued by its third-party provider but failed to produce a plan until halfway through that timeframe. It also failed to have a backup plan in case its vendor could not provide the 170,000 new meters on schedule, according to the PUC.

Drought map spreads in parts of state

Drought conditions by the end of February covered 62 percent of the state, up nine percentage points from a month earlier, according to Dr. Mark Wentzel, hydrologist with the Texas Water Development Board. Drought-free areas include all of East Texas up to Dallas County to the west and Jefferson County to the south. The most severe drought conditions are in the far northern edge of the Panhandle, the counties surrounding San Antonio, and nearly all of South Texas.

“The latest seasonal drought outlook from the National Weather Service is optimistic for East and North Central Texas,” Wentzel wrote. “Through the end of May, that part of the state is expected to remain drought-free. Unfortunately, drought is expected to expand in the rest of the state.”

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, and Cedar Park. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Misinformation not owned, nor changed

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The extended daylight granted on Sunday has given all of us the opportunity to see the state of things, and in particular, at least for me, the state of my “brethren” in the national media.

Recently, it’s been coming to light (see what I did there?) that all of the measures taken during the COVID crisis, which were perpetuated by our Clown Criers in the mainstream media, were in reality ineffective.

Also, more and more doctors are fessing up to the fact that vaccinations are not the panacea they were touted to be, masks, particularly designer and fashion masks made of cloth, did less than nothing, and the government mandates, which were largely responsible for the national economic meltdown.

Along those same lines, the “inflation” bill, the $3 trillion boondoggle which was supposed to right the economic ship and instead caused it to founder even more, was gushed over by anchors and pundits and not, as any good journalist should, researched well and written with quotes from both sides of the debate.

Let’s not forget the hyper-ridiculous special committee seeking the “full and unadulterated” truth about what happened in the Jan. 6 “insurrection to end all insurrections” at the nation’s capitol and the subsequent referral of President Donald Trump for criminal prosecutions.

Those referrals, by the way, were made even though the “select” committee did not watch the video evidence. Didn’t stop them, nor their willing cohorts in the press, from lighting torches and grabbing pitchforks.

Speaking of prosecutions, more and more there are stories touting the blatant partisanship of the U.S. Justice Department and its armed investigative group the FBI. We heard countless tales of the evil pastor who “assaulted” a woman outside of an abortion clinic, but not really a peep about Hunter Biden and his Laptop of Destiny being actually real and actually full of information, some of which could be prosecutable.

We’re not really hearing this from the Alphabet networks, the CNN-MSNBC cabal or the New York Times or Washington Post. Nor are we hearing anything remotely as ownership of the terrible reporting and propaganda cheerleading that was done.

Water under the bridge of truth, I guess.

It’s because of these kinds of things that I never wanted to rise up the ladder of journalism, opting for the sense and enjoyment given by local, community-driven journalism. Taking pride in the accomplishments of people who you have known for generations, watching as the latest crop of students become amazing adults, and seeing into the future through the eyes of the people elected to keep the faith for small towns and counties.

All of the newspapers in the Polk County Publishing family follow this same premise — local news, local facts, and no slant or bias around. And if you feel something like this exists, let us know, and we’ll fix it.

And that, of course, is the truth.

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