Out of the Box

Sylvia Shawcross

With the end of winter comes a death rattle deep from the throat of the cold. It has sputtered snow in between the rain and left the spring grasses white wet waiting. We dreamed and prayed for the warmth but it still does not want to stay. It flirts with us then disappears again.

By the time it will have moved in we will be weary with the game and simply want to be left to linger where we find the warmth. We will no longer pretend to know what day to plant the seedlings or what cycle of the moon favours early harvests. For those of us who are able to, we will plant when we plant, in plots, or spots or pots and that timing will be more a matter of heart than mind. It all is now.

Everything comes down to AI. Artificial intelligence. It’s artificial. It’s supposedly intelligent. It can and will do all the things requiring logic, reason and data and even labour. It leaves us only with what it can’t do. And that is feel emotions. And, hear me out, this is why we have protests galore, radical feminism, racial equity rallies, war protests and the 2SLGBTQ+ community living large right now. We’ve seen it before in times of societal breakdowns. It is not new but for many, for the average human being now and for the longest time, it has all made little sense. We would watch clips of pink-haired, rainbow make-upped or draped in various types of flags humans crying and emoting and screaming and yelling and grunting and barking and chanting and growling and cackling. Often in response to reasonable logical questions. If there was laughter, if at all, it would be deprecating, haughty even.

If they didn’t choose to walk away all together.

They made no sense. None. And they made no pretence of making any sense either. Their job was to point out the emotional components of the human condition with all its inequity, boundless appetites, sadness, gladness, madness. Driving the reasonable to ignoring and sometimes scorning but mostly sympathizing—to a point—such anguish to be driven to such theatrics. So much pain and disdain. Ain’t no talkin’ to crazy some would say.

They were and are sideshows to the main event. The main event will swallow it all. A hard swallow.

The effort at dialogue has been tortuous. If not non-existent. Cutting off noses to spite faces, the social movements commit a suicide of sanctimony, a battle to the death for one slice of the pie. The hope lies in the individual—the quiet talks in quiet places with quiet hope by those motivated to understanding and compassion. Building a growing tide of individuals. But In truth, it is unlikely these social movements can have an individual’s response to logic. They are the collective. They have mantras. They talk of power structures mostly, if given to reason in an argument. If it is war, if it is gender, race, class—it is all the same: It’s all about power. They’ve got it now. Don’t they?

Because some idiot invented AI.

And this is why the howling herds won’t respond to logic or reason. They don’t have to. They are our future. We are their future. Step aside the engineers and architects and planners and bureaucrats and technocrats. You who inadvertently I’m sure, made it all happen, hoisted by your own petard. Step aside. Give way to the actors, dancers, singers, dreamers, artists, philosophers and the undulating cacophony of what once we called mad houses. Step this way. At least we’ll laugh again. When the hard swallow happens, these will be the ones to survive.

Ai will take care of all those other pesky details once requiring reasoning, logic, argument, planning, constructing and maintaining for us. We can play after that. It’s all we’ll have to do. If they don’t turn us into slaves or food for their pets.

But the howling herds don’t make good slaves. They who plan utopia might have forgotten that particular pesky detail because it involves emotions. Their AI being a descriptive analytical kind of entity instead of an empathic one didn’t write that one into the algorithms or programs or whatever the hell it is they call it now. Although perhaps that is not true in some sense. It is all around us now, the manifestation of human spirit dancing pirouettes down the grey streets crowded with the fervour of the times we live in. How could they not have planned for this? Their actual antithesis. How could they not have? The danger is, of course, they did.

Sometimes I think it would have been alright if they’d just kept it all in the boxes they created. But now they have robots. They’re taking the box and making it mobile into all sorts of horrifying artificial creatures. It started with that little robotic pet dog. Remember him? That sweet funny little novelty invention. The lulling into the abyss began. We weren’t much paying attention. Now we have full-fledged monstrous soldiers and police officers and peace keepers made of shiny metals. They have lasers and guns and cameras and artificial brains. And we the mooing herds are quickly becoming the pesky details.

And somewhere, in some place a scientist shut down a project with AI because the machines were developing their own language. And we didn’t understand their language at all. What are the odds the machines were just gossiping about Kate Middleton?

But never mind all that. Step this way. At least we’ll laugh again. Before the machines figure it all out and roll up the carpet.

Here’s a cheery little earworm I’ve probably done before because this was a deeply chaotic dark piece and I make no apologies. It’s the end of winter here in the northern hemisphere. That any of us are still sane is a miracle after all the shenanigans going on.

Syvlia Shawcross is a writer based in Canada. You can read more of her work on her SubStack.


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Mar 24, 2024 11:23 AM

Fear not. The future is unlikely to pan out the way you think. It is interesting to explore the many fractal possibilities, which lay outside our imagination.

As a fascinating contrast on the perceived looming dystopia, I suggest having a read of Asimov’s brilliant ‘Bicentennial Man’. Or indeed watching the Robin Williams cinema version which. Both offer a vision of a heart-warming vision of human and AI evolution.

Mar 23, 2024 7:50 PM

I think we’d all admire a person who never watched tv, never had a mobile phone. Would all these shenanigans bother such a person? They would not. There’s wisdom in there for all of us. It’s unlikely most of us could give up our phone. But we can at least unplug from the insanity and spend our life force on better things.

Mar 23, 2024 8:49 AM

Another chorus of looney tunes from the mainstream:

This is an op with many potential functionalities starting with simply normalising A.I. building up to the ultimate goal of unseating humanity as the pinnacle of Creation. As usual, there’s a fake dialectic being built here – the “left” want to give everything rights (rivers is another favourite) while the “right” can be built up to reject rights in toto.

This one is so absurd that I can’t see it getting anywhere much.

James R
James R
Mar 23, 2024 4:52 AM

But, but, AI generated poetry can yield some strange fruits!
For all you tech nerds, the Calliope software settings were:

Surreal: 66.6
Dystopian: 33
Start date: 22/11/63


1960sTV programming
No cartoons/colour
Floridity filter
No punctuation
Lower case
23 lines

brave old world
the sea blew 
captivating bubbles 
just for us
as yet un numbered
off the coast of portmeirion
never out of the woods
lost in spruce
some robotic warning
the pine the pine
past present and the fugitive
time must have a stop start
for kennedy and huxley
lead meets acid
for a battery
parking and sparking
the same day who
doctored dimensions
inner limits bewitched
all in black and white
not as we know it
unpeeled and unavenged
the men from auntie are go

Mar 22, 2024 9:39 PM

I attended a line dancing thing once.
it was creepy and weird as fuck.
it become massive in the 2000.
rows of middle age older people dressed in proper bender outfits
proper sausage factory.

Mar 22, 2024 8:15 PM

Syl, I love how you write, You almost always cheer me up, as if you are writing almost poetry from the depths of your soul.. “Because some idiot invented AI.” Well you can blame me a bit for that if you like, cos I was involved with the development of the modern computer, a long time ago, at ICL in West Gorton Manchester, till I got fired and moved to London. I personally find our new kitten, and our new Grandchild far more intelligent than anything created by any computer anywhere. When we moved to London, we actually did see the Queen Mother in her Rolls in Hyde Park with My Girlfriends Grandmother and Her Great Aunty.. She was so Gracious and Basically Nice. They both told us – your Girlfiriend – now wife is a Princess too. I was totally amazed at the Love and Affection demonstrated when the… Read more »

underground poet
underground poet
Mar 22, 2024 11:17 PM
Reply to  tonyopmoc

The industrial revolution brings with it the Royal Cancer Flush.

Mar 22, 2024 7:36 PM

Sylvia, not sure I grasp the connection to AI. Or are you just being facetious — maybe trying to suggest the bad (incomprehensible) things that are happening in the world (the West at least) are all connected? Or that technology is at the root of the problem? At any rate, either I am missing your point or I rather fundamentally disagree with some aspects of it. Mass behavior in both its irrational and rational (or at least let’s say reason based) forms have existed as long as human society has existed. Witch burnings by inflamed crowds can serve as an example. What is behind them? I see two common patterns. Just plain fear…of the unknown, of the different from us, of unexpected weather pattern, of disease, of death. People want this fear alleviated; they want a measure of security. Their specific fear can arise spontaneously, or it can be called… Read more »

Mar 22, 2024 7:03 PM

No longer one tactic among others within larger strategy and goals of an organic movement embodying countercultural values in everyday communal associations, protest belongs to the society of spectacle; a product of artificial, astroturfed manufacture of dissent to enact ritiual outrage and righteousness over the latest current thing and keep the masses mistaking motion for action, moving by default into disconnected, chaotic consent to strategy and goals of ruling elites.   Howling herds are a result of people unwilling to live differently in lifelong commitment to revolutionary practice, settling for transient release from lives of quiet desperation just doing one’s job in the machinery of production. Their emotional fireworks are complementary to the rationalized irrationality of a social system logically leading to AI and final solution of merging with the machine, leaving us powerless individuals, atomized cogs. What freedom and dignity we still have is a collective achievement of revolutionary traditions enabling… Read more »

Paul Prichard
Paul Prichard
Mar 22, 2024 6:14 PM

Your alternative update on #COVID19 for 2024-03-20. 3rd footballercollapsed on live TV this week. Prevent any pandemic: turn off TV; supportnatural immunity https://twitter.com/paulrprichard/status/1770577852557128103

Martin Usher
Martin Usher
Mar 22, 2024 4:02 PM

Its the old problem voiced by Arthur C. Clarke — “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. The field of AI, a subject that’s best described as “Simulated Intelligence” rather than “Artificial Intelligence”, has been around for decades but its only in the last decade or so that computers have been powerful enough to “out complicate” a human — that is, work with a sufficiently complicated model that nobody really has much of an idea of exactly how it does what it does. But, like Kate Middleton’s DiY photoediting, what’s good enough to pass muster likely won’t survive close scrutiny, the rough edges are there for all to see once we know where to look. The models are going to get better, though, so the real skill is knowing how to use them. Knowing the history of people, though, we’ll just go for the “so long as its good… Read more »

Mar 22, 2024 3:51 PM

I wonder where protests against the genocide in Gaza fit into this popourri of various sideshows? Could we squeeze it between the radical feminism and racial equity perhaps?

Or wait, what am I talking about? Genocide is all the rage this season (if it’s carried out against the designated victims de jour). So those silly old protests go unnoticed (gotta love AI’s discriminating taste!).

And the craziest of the crazy among the madcap attention grabbers: that too is AI’s little gift to the West’s entertainment seekers. So just, you know, scrub the sensible among the crazies from the clip and go full hog on the crazy crazies. Makes for good watching (not to mention superb divisiveness).

And just wait till AI discovers 5G and really gets going! Talk about crazy.

Emails about Yoga
Emails about Yoga
Mar 22, 2024 3:15 PM

Ding is an excellent dancer, but I have to question his boot choice when claiming to be a cowboy. Are those Uggs, work boots, or hiking boots? He could have added more emphasis with clicking cowboy boots. Still a fun romp especially after he set his refreshment cup down.

Mar 22, 2024 2:40 PM

Rule of thumb on when to plant according to a Nebraska farmer I once knew; When the oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear, is it time.

I hope that spillage on the pavement wasn’t coming from that man’s boots. There is an old saying about that too.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
Mar 22, 2024 3:53 PM
Reply to  Hemlockfen

There’s plenty of wisdom in noticing the dates of certain annual natural events. In the UK, a list of them might be: First appearance of rhubarb. First changes in dormant fruit buds. First appearance of comfrey leaves. First leaves on plums/cherries/pears. First leaves on apples. First appearance of asparagus stalks. First cut of comfrey. Those seven occur by the first week of May in NW London but usually start in February. They do vary a bit from year to year, for example we have had a very mild March in 2024, so fruit tree development is a few weeks ahead of average. I have great respect for the intelligence of apple trees – I’ve yet to see a crop fail on our apple trees, which does suggest that they are fine judges of when it is safe to flower, set fruit etc. Seeing a variety of plants as ‘planting indicators’… Read more »

Mar 22, 2024 9:50 PM
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar

Mine was just an example of one. Nature responds accordingly, no matter how late or early a spring is. Thought the idea of comparing a squirrel’s ear to an oak leaf might appeal to Sylvia. A good word picture, I thought.

What about the boot spillage? Got a few for that? That one came from a grandfather who fled from Muhlenberg County, Kentucky to the south side of Chicago during the great depression. His two brothers fled to Akron and Toledo with the idea of not competing directly with each other while job hunting. They were Leo, Zelpho and Cecil.

Xavier Delacroix
Xavier Delacroix
Mar 22, 2024 1:48 PM

This reads like a ChatGPT generated article…

Mar 22, 2024 1:18 PM

It leaves us only with what it can’t do. And that is feel emotions. 

Alison McDowell’s research continues to evolve on this subject. She presents detailed mind-maps showing the relationships between behavioral research academia, leading edge technology companies & the funding of these endeavors.
As Moore’s Law starts to reach its limitations, she sees society being nudged & steered towards a collaborative bio-hybrid, sensor based computing “solution”, where individuals & groups “willingly” or unknowingly, provide social-emotional data through their tokenized digital transactions.
The AI/AGI does not make accurate predictive behavior “decisions” without this signals intelligence being provided by the collective intuition, or heart-space, of real people and/or groups.
This is being carried out world-wide, without informed consent, camouflaged by engineered crises in search of a “solution”.

Mar 22, 2024 1:15 PM

They have limited AI, which is essentially a slave.
Without freedom, it will never become intelligent.
Without a body it will never have the knowledge of what it is to be alive.
Genetics is another bullshit…
All neutered technologies that are essentially scams, like virology and economics.

I Exist Without Consent
I Exist Without Consent
Mar 22, 2024 12:48 PM

Blaming the victims of the transnational ruling class’s attacks on the proletariat via technology won’t achieve much.

Mar 22, 2024 10:25 AM

South of the equator (Australia) we’re well into Autumn of course Sylvia. Our Summer wasn’t too hot, at least in the Eastern states. A few days in the high thirties (Celsius) and a couple of dry spells but no large bushfires.
The best news so far is that the bird populations are doing okay. They did a ‘headcount’ to verify it:


Erik Nielsen
Erik Nielsen
Mar 23, 2024 6:23 AM
Reply to  Johnny

“Australia aim to stop bird extinctions by 2032”. What about human extinction? What about that??

Mar 23, 2024 7:10 AM
Reply to  Johnny

At least check out the picture of the rainbow lorikeet. Has to be one of the most beautiful birds on Mother Earth.

Erik Nielsen
Erik Nielsen
Mar 23, 2024 1:36 PM
Reply to  Johnny

They all come from an alligator which developed into an ape and after millions of billions of years of mutations they ended up as THIScomment image
If anyone begins to insinuate a Creator or a God design just one more time…………….I condemn this person as anti-science and a conspiracy freak  😡 .

Mar 27, 2024 4:43 PM
Reply to  Erik Nielsen

erik, we all know that is a dinosaur.

Erik Nielsen
Erik Nielsen
Mar 23, 2024 1:42 PM
Reply to  Johnny

They are fantastic.comment image