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Thursday, February 29, 2024
HomeCommunityThe Long Way Home

The Long Way Home

It’s been years since I’ve been inside a mov­ie theater. The Toms, Hanks and Cruise, are firmly in my consciousness. Pacino and Drey­fus are there too. But any of the under 60 ac­tors today are blank spaces in my open, but nearly vacant mind.

As for music, Dylan, Waylon, Taylor, the Beatles and Jimmy Buffet are on my Pandora. They are far from the current scene. I’m bliss­fully ignorant of most current Grammy win­ners. Radio, which introduced so much music to me in the last century, is now for talk only.

Working the cash register at the local Holi­day station allows me to see how out of touch I am with the younger generation, and how out of touch they are with mine.

The other day I was chatting with a regular customer, something I probably do more than I should. Let’s say he was Generation Z. Late 20s to early 30s for those of you, like me, who don’t know what Generation Z is.

Anyway, I started talking a bit too fast and my tongue got wrapped around my eye teeth and I couldn’t see what I was saying. It all came out a bit garbled, reminding me of how the late Foster Brooks sounded on the late Dean Martin’s show.

So I asked my Gen Z customer if he remem­bered Foster Brooks. The blank look on his face answered that question. “You know who Dean Martin was, right?” Same blank look.

Although I have little interest in knowing the latest generation of entertainers, I do have an interest in technology and how it will impact our lives.

The latest buzz in tech is Artificial Intelli­gence (AI). Not to be confused with phony intelligence, which is limited to politicians, pompous media types, and corporate manage­ment.

AI seems to have real world applications. Like the internet itself, which had little rele­vance 25 years ago, AI will have an ever great­er impact on our lives as we move resolutely to the future.

Those of us who put written words into pag­es and screens today spend our time thinking about what words to write, writing them, and editing them for clarity and accuracy. Thanks to AI, we may become, like the once ubiqui­tous Blackberry phone, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Foster Brooks, just forgotten fossils buried in the sands of time.

A friend recommended I use Bard, Google’s experimental, conversational, AI chat service, whatever that is. It competes in the market with Chat GPT, a natural language processing tool driven by AI technology. He used Bard to compose text messages to me that explain what Bard can do. In essence, Bard will assist with (or takeover) tasks, such as composing emails, essays, and code.

I don’t write code, but I know what it is.

I do write newspaper stories, columns, and even an occasional essay. I’ve written emails and letters for decades. Sometimes the writing goes quickly, sometimes it can take forever. Sometimes it’s painful.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote (or said), “There is nothing to write. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Since they’re artificial, Bard and Chat GPT don’t sit down to type and bleed. They are writing for newspapers, magazines, and web­sites that we look to each day for news and information. They won’t miss deadlines, and they’ll work 24/7.

And it will be hard for readers to know if software or a human being wrote the news they’re reading. Caveat Emptor. (Translated to Reader Be­ware by the artificial intelligence of this writ­er.)

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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