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Long walks. Long Talks. And AI.

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

There has been and is much said about the benefits of long walks. Great for physical and mental health.

I miss doing them lately, but I recall fondly our week-long walk in Patagonia's wonderful Tierra del Fuego. Carrying all our food, water and supplies. My husband carrying way more weight than he should have, just to spare me the extra burden (he only told me that years later). The ancient forests, the mighty windy peaks of Mount Fitz Roy. The smell of moss, the smell of rain. The forgotten paths, the not encountering a human for days.

The taste of cold empanadas as a mid-day snack. The mashed potatoes with chunks of butter, and salt and pepper from the little restaurant give-aways, cooked in a rush, on a fast-speed gas-cooker, while my legs' muscles tremble in pain after a 10h walk, under a makeshift rain cover.

How I get stronger every day, as the weight of our backpacks lightens, as we eat the food and drink the water. How my blisters heal and my legs stop hurting. How my body transforms as I become leaner and leaner. How my mind sharpens as I put my work worries behind and settle into a pace of patience and acceptance that "civilization" is just not reachable for the next 10 days.

There's something to be said about being alone with your thoughts. Sometimes, I don't like what I discover. Pain, frustration, regret, anxiety, fear - just as that time I tried glacier climbing in Fitz Roy and succumbed to my own physical and mental limitations, which I then regretted, a vicious cycle of guilt and regret, but somehow I manage to push forward.

(Un)fortunately, I can't quite get rid of myself. I've no TV or Instagram to distract myself with. Not even a book.

I'm just walking. My mind and me. Hurting, physically and mentally. But keep walking.
Glacier climbing in Fitz Roy

Slowly, surreally, something almost magical happens. As we get into the cadence of pain, the blisters, the sore muscles, the pain, the wind, the occasional hunger. I lean into the pain, I lean into the acceptance that I will simply not feel comfort for 10 days (I do actually, because of the high quality tent and the magic of merino wool socks and awesome water boilers and other good stuff that a high-paying tech job gets you in 2016, but more on that another time). On the 3rd day, we meet a few elderly jogging the trail. I'm almost 33, I can only hope to make it to 65. If I hadn't died of cancer as many of the people I lost as a kid. If the iodine pills did their job in sucking out the Chernobyl radiation my body felt as a 2 year-old.

If I take care of my health. If I don't over-stress (hah!). If I do everything right. If I'm lucky. If if if.

Another step, and a wonderful scenery opens in front of my eyes. I forget all my sorrows and stare in owe at it.

Glacier in Fitz Roy mountains Patagonia

10 days in wonderful Patagonia

Hiking in Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego

... or 4h in Killarney National Park in Ireland

Killarney National Park Ireland

Away from the phone, practice delayed gratification, practice holding on to an idea before putting in down, munching it round and round in your head.

Reflecting. Making plans.

When in two, it's even better.

They say the success of a relationship can, up to a point, be predicted by the amount of time the couple spends talking about sort-of mundane non-dramatic topics, such as house chores planning, home or garden work, or how technology might look like in 5-10 years.

We talk about all. And I feel blessed. Because I am blessed.

Imagine how a 5 year-old kid might interact soon with an AI such as ChatGPT, using a strong NLP (Natural Language Processing) model and a powerful text-to-speech and viceversa engine. Or how it would be like to plug ChatGPT into Unreal Engine 5 Metahuman. And as the kid grows up, she will have a buddy in this AI, a buddy that always answers, never gets tired, never gets bored, and gets smarter and smarter as the kid grows up.

AIs would be tools to help humans make better decisions faster. If we do it right.

Imagine getting to Mars on Starship. Maybe put 3 or 5 people on it. Not an even number, so to avoid the weird dynamics and decision making that may create in case of conflict. Not 3, too little for critical mass in case somebody gets injured. 5 is a good number. Prime and odd. How much memory and compute would you fit on Starship? A few hundred Terabytes? Maybe a Peta or a few? I'd put on it a full AI with the whole of Wikipedia's knowledge base and the strongest NLP we'd have. Maybe a counseling expert module. I'd let the humans run the ship, at least in the beginning (it's too complicated), and keep the 2 systems separate.

In time, AIs would get better and better. Not far off from the Minds, if we're lucky, if we do this right, as humanity. The Culture, how I idealize about it, how I hope humanity goes that way, and not other ways. We're so easy to go so many other ways.

Going back to the 5 year-old kid. I totally get people worrying about AIs. Who's to tell me that the nice friendly AI who patiently answers our kid's never-ending questions for hours-on-end doesn't suddenly turn more Lore than Data, and suddenly goes dark advising her to kill her parents in their sleep? I get it. I worry about it too. But I also worry about the cat being out of that bag and the baddies having no moral qualms about using AI for nefarious purposes.

If nothing else, dear Elon, we should speed this up, or others will. And they will build a Lore. Better speed ourselves up to building Data, before humanity is doomed.

And then I think how the Glacier which almost broke me physically and mentally looks a heck lot like a giant marshmallow! Yum! Why haven't I thought about that sooner?

Not all who wander are lost.

Glaciar walk in Mount Fitz Roy

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