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Memories of the 28th Century


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I was writing a note about text randomizers to a friend who wasn't acquainted with them, and that reminded me of the ability to recognize ambiguity, cognitive dissonance, and related skills. That reminded me of something that happened a few decades ago, and from there I decided to see how those stacked up, and the whole time, I was thinking about trust, and knowing people, and tolerance for ambiguity.

It all started in the mid-1950's, when after an afternoon of hard playing in the woods, my older sister and I went home, in the hope that supper would be available soon. We were a little early, but my sister was hungry, so I suggested that she go in and find out how long it would be and what we would be having. Our maternal unit hated being bothered about what was for supper, and that was why I suggested that my sister ask.

She went inside and asked, and a minute later she came outwith a strange look on her face. So I asked, “What's for supper?”
“Flies,” she replied. The she went in more detail and said, “Flies and vinegar.”
I knew my mother pretty well, and I knew she wouldn't serve flies and vinegar. She may not have been a great cook, but there were limits. So I said, “I'll go in and find out about it.”
I'm not sure whether that was the Summer when I was four or five, but that was before I had started school.
I did go in, and I went into the kitchen and played at being a little kid: “Momma, I've never had flies and vinegar. How do you make it?”
My maternal unit had a slightly amused look, and she said, “I would never serve flies to my family. I was kidding. We will be eating in a little while. Now, go out and wait.”
As I turned to leave, I said, “That's what I thought.”
Outside, I said to my sister, “We going to have something else, but she wouldn't say what.”

That little back and forth showed several things, including cognitive dissonance, tolerance for ambiguity, fundamental knowledge of people, and a few other social skills. The ability to understand people implies the ability to detect meaning or meaninglessness in their speech, and that applies to the output of text randomizers, also. Another nonsensical sort of writing that is interesting, and even tantalizing, is the 'cut-up' method, in which a written work is cut into little strips and pasted together in a different order, When I was young and foolish, I read a couple of novels by William S Burroughs that were processed that way. The text randomizers are just a computerized way to cut up and paste, but the cut-up method has clauses and sentences that are grammatical and make sense, while the computerized versions may be technically grammatical, but they do not have complete sentences. The cut up method seems like it makes sense, but it is only one sentence at a time, while the text randomizers simply do not make sense, even though they have all the right words. Both produce cognitive dissonance.

With my sister, my mother, and myself, there was cognitive dissonance, but we handled it differently. My mother and I understood the dissonance, and we had adequate tolerance for ambiguity. So we resolved the ambiguity, while my sister didn't understand, and she did not resolve the ambiguity.

Text randomizers do not provide much useful information in and of themselves, but people tell a great deal about themselves through their reactions to text randomizers. When I posted a bit from the the New Age Bull**** Generator, there were several people who wondered if I was becoming a guru, or what, but I had been pressed for time, so I hadn't posted the origin of the “wisdom”. When I got a chance, I apologized and added the origin. The best satire is almost indistinguishable from reports about the matter involved, and**** is that good.

The Postmodern Generator is roughly the equal of the New Age generator. The Postmodern Generator had its origin in an attempt to mock postmodernism and its expression. The one who created the generator used it to create a paper for presentation at a conference, and the paper was accepted. At the conference, the creator had a number of friends who were aware of the ruse. When the creator was about to start presenting the paper, the friends started laughing.

Using such generators is like a Turing test, just as unravelling meaning in natural speech is an intelligence test. There are other facets and other applications for these text randomizers, but a thorough treatment would require a small book, or more.

Updated 02-07-2021 at 10:58 PM by PeterL