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  • Last modified 32 days ago (Feb. 21, 2019)

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And now, a word from our computer

Before you rush to your social media accounts to condemn us for anti-environmental thinking, take a minute to read the little essay below and don’t stop at the end. The most important part is right after the essay.

“Recycling is NOT good for the world. It is bad for the environment, it is bad for our health, and it is bad for our economy.

“I’m not kidding. Recycling is not good for the environment. It is destructive to the earth and it is a major contributor to global warming.

“Recycling is not good for our health. It contributes to obesity and diseases like heart disease and cancer.

“Recycling is bad for our economy. It increases the cost of a product, and in turn, the price of everything that is made with that product.

“Recycling is not good for our nation. We pay a tremendous price for the privilege of having the world’s most advanced and efficient recycling system. Recycling is a huge, colossal waste of time, energy, money, and resources.

“And THAT is why we need to get back to basics and get back to basics in our recycling efforts.

“One of the best ways to start is to look at the process of creating a paper product. When you make a paper product, it is basically a long chain of materials. Everything from the raw materials (wood, cardboard, paper, etc.), to the reagents (dyes, solvents, etc.) to the printing equipment (chemicals, glue, paper, ink, etc.), to the packaging process (mercury, chemicals, etc.) to the processing equipment (heating, cooling, etc.), to the packaging materials that are shipped overseas and to the packaging materials that are used in the United States.

“Each step along the way creates tons of waste that we constantly have to clean up. The process of making a paper product is a very wasteful one. But the end result is something that all of us need to consume. And if we want to keep the recycling process running efficiently, then we really need to think about each and every step that goes into making a paper product.”

OK, if you haven’t yet grabbed some environmentally friendly green tar (made without fossil fuels) and feathers (not from endangered species), consider this key fact: We didn’t write the little essay. In fact, no human did. It was written entirely by computer.

A new project, called OpenAI, has created a program so sophisticated that it was able to write the above essay, on its own, with the only instructions being: “Recycling is good for the world. No, you could not be more wrong!”

Scientists originally saw all sorts of good — as in, the ability to lay off actual writers — coming from this project. However, upon seeing what the computer can do, they have decided not to share the code with the world so as to prevent it from falling into the hands of politicians and others who will use it to spread fake news all over social media — as if that’s going to stop the Russians or whomever else.

It’s kind of like all those spam messages people are getting asking them to look at what’s supposed to be an attached invoice or warning them that if they don’t pay up, some hacker will release photos of them visiting porn sites.

The computer age has advanced to the point that we’ve trained computers to mimic humans only too well. We now have automated con men pitching all manner of half-truths and deceptions at us through social media.

Truth is, the techno-geniuses who came up with this may accidentally be killing the goose that laid the golden eggs that gave them enough money to play around with this stuff in the first place.

Social media can be good for keeping up with friends, but it’s rapidly getting to the point at which most of the stuff you see on social media cannot be believed.

Remember CB radios? They were great for a while — until they became overrun by misinformation and inappropriate behavior, just as social media is beginning to be today.

Whether you read us in print or, as half of our readers do, online, you may not like what we have to report each week. News isn’t always good. But when you read it here, it’s not fake. And it’s certainly not some propaganda whipped up by artificial intelligence.

We occasionally make mistakes. Humans do. But we never intentionally skew stories the way people and machines on social media do.

We are proud that last week we won, for the third year in a row, the state press association’s award for best overall news and writing excellence among mid-size non-dailies. We also won, for the second year in a row, its sweepstakes award for best advertising in our circulation class and in the class one step up. Even these editorials, for the second year in a row, were rated best in the state.

We can’t guarantee you’ll always like what we have to say. But we’re not social media. When you see something here, you know where it comes from.

Like half the products on supermarket shelves these days, we’ll guarantee that our news stories, ads, and editorials are gluten-free. They’re also computer-free, spin-free, and not some pablum spewed out by corporate interests.

Although we use computers in our process, every word you read is written by a human being, born, bred, or currently living in Marion County and trying his or her best to serve you as an impartial observer of news both good and bad.

That’s what our brand stands for.

To any artificially intelligent writers out there, we have just three words for you, and they’re in Unix, so you can understand them: shutdown –h now

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Feb. 21, 2019

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