Sunday 31 December 2023

I didn’t write much this year – published less than 2,000 words compared to over 22,000 last year.

One reason: I felt I had said what I wanted to say.

In 2023 I expressed some thoughts about life and death. Despite the fact that the war in Ukraine is still raging, I didn’t add much to what I said last year. There was also not much I could add about my opinion on the China-Taiwan issue. Like most people, I was shocked by what happened in Israel on October 7th and have since followed with horror on social media what is happening in Gaza.

Other news came and went.

Like every year, people predict the end of the world in the new year.

Like every year, they will probably be wrong.

At the other end of the spectrum, some people predict a good year – for some people.

I am agnostic myself. And full of hope.

Perhaps it will turn out to be a good time to bring things together.

Expect the worst, but hope for the best


What do you do if you think there is a strong possibility that the rotten fruit will hit the fan in the next twenty years?

Develop sustainable systems to keep yourself as fit and healthy as possible.

Learn to grow your own food.

Learn new skills and sharpen existing skills. Learn the basic vocabulary and sentence structures of additional languages. Learn skills that will be of value to other people regardless of whether the “fruit” hits the fan, but especially if it does.

If you’re going to rely on assets in the cloud or on paper, invest in good health insurance.

Invest in small items that will have exchange value, such as gold and silver coins and other clusters of gold and silver.

Develop new relationships and keep existing relationships healthy. You have to put your trust in something.


Best to hope the fruit doesn’t hit the fan. Nothing will be easy. Even if you have hundreds of pieces of gold and silver and other jewels to exchange for food and medical care and so on – how long will it take before someone realises that you show up every few weeks with a valuable item, and follows you back home? You have weapons to keep intruders out? How long before people who don’t have guns, and who know what they can get if they can put a gun to someone’s head, rob you of yours? How long before people raid your vegetable garden?

Of course, you need to prepare for more than one future scenario. But don’t think the zombie apocalypse will be a walk in the park because you have a hundred gold coins in your safe, a vegetable garden in your living room, and an AK-47 next to your bed.


Why the truth doesn’t have to be a black pill


Once again, what is life about? It’s a struggle for survival, and for some degree of happiness to make the struggle worth it. And at the end, you hope you don’t die a painful death. And when you are dead, a few people will miss you for a period of time, but the rest of the world will continue as if you were never alive.

These are cold, hard facts.

But one is tempted to wonder if the pill is not a little too black to swallow.

The key is in the degree of luck.

There are also different degrees of survival. If you are optimistic and you believe in the wide range of possibilities available to lead a good life, your survival can be relatively comfortable – from the food you feast on three to five times a day, to the drinks you pour down your throat, to the bedding you sleep under, and the amount of time you spend exploring the world and with your loved ones and friends.

The quality of your survival also contributes to your sense of happiness.

And if you assist other people in their struggle for survival and their efforts to make life worth living, it increases your own awareness of a life worth living.

However, the ending is usually not your choice.

Which makes it that much more important to be happy before the end comes – slow and gruelling, or mercifully quick.


Life and death – a series of thoughts


Two things that are both true:

One does not die so easily.

But just like that, and your life is over.

* * *

You live like you’re not going to die today. And yet you may just die today!

Or you should live as if you were indeed going to die today!

But if you do … you won’t have money to buy food tomorrow.

* * *

Life is nasty. Life is beautiful.

Life is cruel … and full of mercy.

Life is predictable. And the next day you’re gone.

* * *

We who are left behind must go on. Until it’s our turn.

* * *

The living discriminates against the dead.

The departed knows what the living does not.

* * *

Life is lent to us.

And what is loaned is eventually reclaimed.

(Dedicated to a friend)


Artificial Intelligence as an English teacher


Are my days numbered as an English Teacher in these heady days of Artificial Intelligence?

First of all, I am not an English teacher as the term is commonly understood. What I do can more accurately be described as facilitating the acquisition of English conversational skills, and consulting on matters of western culture – and sometimes history.

Of course, both of these roles can be fulfilled by any of the chatbots already available to the public, and in a few months (or weeks, or days) will be even better fulfilled by custom chatbots designed for these specific purposes. I could also potentially design a chatbot to perform the tasks as I would do them, as creating chatbots is not as difficult as one thought a few days or weeks ago.

Nevertheless, apart from the above roles that I fulfil in the classroom, or next to someone’s dining room table, I also provide some degree of amusement to my paying customers. All right, the amusement isn’t necessarily top-notch, but people get enough enjoyment out of it to keep paying me. Can Artificial Intelligence provide amusement? Probably in the near future, but not next month.

The third role I serve is similar to that of the Catholic priest, or the bartender. People are surprisingly honest with me about their doings and what goes on in their families and social circles. Because I don’t move in the same circles as them, and because they rightly trust that I will be discreet, they sometimes share stories with me that they want to get off their chests. And I will correct a word here and there, or explain the correct grammar, just so it still looks like an English class.

Will people tell these stories to an AI chatbot? Maybe one day. Today’s kids who grow up with it probably will. But I imagine that this is another reason why I can earn money in my current profession for at least another year or so.

Of course, I work hard to keep up and stay relevant, seeing how fast things change these days.