“Thriving on the Fringe of Society.” Carrie Blackmore Smith describes the life that Harlan and Anna Hubbard made at Payne Hollow and the work now being done to restore and preserve their home: “Turcotte is glad the property is being preserved, saying the Hubbards’ way of life can inspire others as it did for her. That less is more, and there is peace in simplicity. ‘If you had asked them, they would have told you they weren’t trying to prove anything to anyone else,’ she says. ‘They never sought attention or accolades. They were just living the way they wanted to, the way that felt true to them. They were partners, bringing out the best in each other. Their love was sweet and productive and harmonious. They valued their life on the river enough to write about it, welcome guests, and paint and sketch it.’”
“Can Farming With Trees Save the Food System?” Lisa Held describes the agroforestry methods that farmers across the country are adopting—and the benefits they are seeing: “With agroforestry, trees are expensive, other costs often arise in setting up the system, and farmers won’t see benefits to their bottom line until the trees mature, which takes a minimum of three years—and usually more like six to eight. ‘But one of the things that’s exciting about agroforestry is that . . . it’s profitable,’ Fargione said.”
“SCOTUS 101: Savin’ the Bacon?” GianCarlo Canaparo and Zach Smith interview Kansas Supreme Court Justice (and longtime Porcher) Caleb Stegall about the winding path that following his vocation has led him. He was inspired by Wheeler Catlett, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy to discern what it looks like to serve his community and state.
“Doomer Optimism: Eric Miller.” Ashley Colby interviews Eric Miller about Christopher Lasch, localism, and Eric’s book project on Wendell Berry.
“After Liberalism: What Does Alasdair MacIntyre Want?” Jennifer Frey takes the occasion of Émile Perreau-Saussine’s intellectual biography of MacIntyre to probe the tensions running through his longstanding effort to chart “an antiliberal philosophy that avoids the pitfalls of either communism or fascism.” Frey concludes, “In the name of tradition, let us not exalt blood and soil, or forget the full measure of the political-theological problem. In the name of valuing the particular, let us not forget the necessity of the universal. For Perreau-Saussine, political progress will come when we better navigate these tensions within the liberal order, not when we seek to resolve them entirely outside it. Whether his eminent case proves his point is worth our careful reflection.”
“Toward a Postliberal Future?” Geoffrey Kurtz reviews Patrick Deneen’s new book and offers a critique inspired by their mutual teacher, Wilson Carey McWilliams: “Deneen tidies the conflict between liberalism’s inadequacy and its appeal by making it an external event, a battle between a communitarian people and a liberal elite. McWilliams taught something more subtle: ‘The conflict between ancient and modern culture in America,’ he wrote, ‘takes place less and less between groups and classes and more and more within the psyche of the individual, schooled in modern individualism but drawn, however confusedly, toward the ideal of political community.’”
“A Purchased Life.” Brian Miller gives some advice to young people looking to get started on a farm.
“AI in a Humane Culture?” Elayne Allen offers a distinction between tools and mechanisms to help weigh the effects of AI: “if we manage to stop AI from racing past our reach to manage it, we should consider whether the skills and knowledge it replaces are worth losing both in our own lives, and on a social scale.”
“In Praise of the Pitch Clock.” Gregory Hillis assesses recent baseball rule changes and considers which ones obscure the rhythms of the game and which ones might preserve them: “some of the recent attempts at reform are profoundly lamentable. The extra-innings zombie runner (or “Manfred Man”) is an abomination, and I regret the universalization of the designated hitter and so the elimination of a key difference between the National and American Leagues. However, the pitch clock brought baseball back to itself in a way that I could never have predicted. For that, I am grateful.”
“Anti-Social Socialism Club.” Dustin Guastella challenges his fellow progressives to be more pro-human: “An antisocial mood has swept across the country, and is especially evident on the political Left. This prevailing antisocial attitude is dangerous. It risks reproducing, or even accelerating, all sorts of social dysfunction. From loneliness to sexlessness, from drug abuse to murder, many on the Left find themselves excusing or ignoring the steady rise of collective antisocial behavior. Some progressives have unwittingly advocated the institutionalization of loneliness through the extreme extension of pandemic policies, and others increasingly view antisocial behavior in public life as in some way virtuous. Still more choose to ignore the worst effects of social alienation—mass drug abuse and murder. This kind of abandonment of the Social Question will only help to harden public demoralization, making the prospects for political renewal especially dim.”
“Nutrition Science’s Most Preposterous Result.” David Merritt Johns examines how scientists downplayed and ignored surprising evidence of ice cream’s health benefits. The result is a story about the human dimensions of scientific investigation: “Many stories can be told about any given scientific inquiry, and choosing one is a messy, value-laden process. A scientist may worry over how their story fits with common sense, and whether they have sufficient evidence to back it up. They may also worry that it poses a threat to public health, or to their credibility. If there’s a lesson to be drawn from the parable of the diet world’s most inconvenient truth, it’s that scientific knowledge is itself a packaged good.”
“Hyper-visitation, the Fate of the National Parks, and Tourism Toxification in a Small Town.” Christopher Ketcham describes the strains that huge numbers of visitors place on the most popular national parks. As many park rangers see “how hyper-visitation degrades their quality of life and that of their friends, as they observe how bewildered and depressed the harried visitors are by the overcrowding, they start to question the status quo.”
I was intrigued initially by Elayne Allen’s piece about AI. We in the corporate communications world are using ChatGPT to compose content for a host of purposes. But in my exploration and initial application of ChatGPT for content, I have found what I believe to be a non-starter for that particular AI. I was hoping Ms. Allen would address it.
Knowing that ChatGPT has limitations based on when it was disconnected from the internet, I was good with that understanding. What I’m not good with and found is that the results from a query into ChatGPT are not always factual or true. But, there’s no indication of what is not factual. It will make things up if it is logical to the query. The answers to queries I made came back totally plausible, but were not factual. To me, this poses a problem because when content from ChatGPT is used, the reader will not know if it is totally accurate or factual or what parts are true and what parts are not. Even if content is labeled as generated from ChatGPT, I’m afraid we’ll consume it as factual and this aggregate in ways that are unanticipated. After several months of employing ChatGPT I think AI for writing is a bad idea. Yes, the half truths coming from both sides of mass media are not much different. But when you can automate communications at machine speed and spew out content digitally that is plausible but not totally factual, we are facing a huge mountain that before long will be insurmountable and our online technology will become useless as reliable information sources.
Jeff, have you heard any other anecdotes such as this? I’d like to know what academia says about AI composition.