We’ve been talking about AI and chatbots a lot lately. It might be a good time to mention I’m addicted to Quora.
Quora is a site designed for humans to ask one another questions, and various other humans claiming to be experts in various fields — or having had suitable life experiences — to step up and answer them.
I’ve only asked one question on Quora and got blazingly zero response to it. Not one answer. Not one comment. So I’ve retreated into the habit of posing as an expert of various sorts: writer, mathematician, former homeless guy, resident of Seattle, things like that.
The questions asked have long been bad, but lately they took a deep nose-dive because Quora’s management decided it would be cool to have questions asked by a bot. The Quora bot is, by the way, the stupidest bot ever.
Here are a few gems: “What time zone is the Moon in?” “What’s the largest even prime number?” “Why is Seattle in Washington State?” “Which is the biggest Canadian city, Toronto or Seattle?” “How many billions of Californians eat at McDonald’s?”
OK, I made up a couple of those myself. I’m just trying to give the idea. This bot is really stupid.
This weekend we switched back to Daylight Savings Time, and nothing triggers the stupid Quora bot more than time zones and talk about time zones.
“Could I go back in time by flying east to west fast enough? Could I go back to when there were dinosaurs?” It’s like the bot learned science out of Superman comics or from Star Trek movies.
“Why isn’t time set according to when the sun is highest in the sky? That should be noon, right?” Yeah, tell that to the railroads. (Hint: railroads lobbied for time zones because they got tired of resetting their clocks at every new piddling station down the line.)
Because of the time change this weekend, we’re seeing all sorts of news stories about efforts to either make standard time permanent or make Daylight Savings Time permanent. For reasons I can’t understand, most people favor making Daylight Savings time permanent. That one has the best shot at happening. I don’t get it. I don’t like getting out of work in January in the dark.
As for increasing daylight time in the summer, you don’t have to, because the tilt of the Earth already does that for you.
“There’s an Eastern Time Zone; why isn’t there a Western Time Zone?” Or, the other way around: “There’s a Pacific Time Zone, why isn’t there an Atlantic Time Zone?” There is. Look it up.
“What will be the time zones on Mars?” Answer: Wait until people move there and have homes there, and let them decide for themselves. What’s the rush? We don’t even know yet if they’ll still want to keep hours.
“Why doesn’t the Gregorian calendar have leap hours? If there were 24 leap hours every four years, we wouldn’t need leap days.” Sometimes the stupidity is inspired.
“I was born on February 29, 2000. Now I’m 5 years old, right? So why do they let me buy whiskey at bars?”
“If humans evolved from single-cell organisms, why are there still single-cell organisms?” Answer: Gosh, I don’t know, I just live in Seattle. I’m not an evolutionary biologist. I’ve heard of single-cell organisms, but I’m not friends with any. I still wear a mask in public. Also, I’ve heard single-cell organisms prefer warmer climate, but I’m avoiding Florida.
“Nietzche said ‘God is dead.’ How did he know that? Is it because he was a writer? Or something else? Was he from Florida? Was he biased in favor of single-cell organisms? How many cells does God have, anyway? This question really needs to be answered NOW. Why do we have multi-celled gods running around here?”
Getting back to time: I’m for it. I’m all for time. I’m for time zones. I know it’s fashionable in progressive circles, which I inhabit, to say that time is just a social construct. Or just a philosophical construct. Or just a scientific construct. Yada, yada. But I like time. I’ve grown accustomed to it in my old age. I want it to continue until I’m dead.
I just wish I knew what it would take to teach bots what time is. They need metabolisms, I’m guessing.
Dr. Wes is the Real Change Circulation Specialist, but, in addition to his skills with a spreadsheet, he writes this weekly column about whatever recent going-ons caught his attention. Dr. Wes has contributed to the paper since 1994. Curious about his process or have a response to one of his columns? Connect with him at [email protected].
Read more of the Mar. 15-21, 2023 issue.