35 Comments

I caught the parody the moment I noted that Hadden had liked your post (I had just read his post). If one were to just skim the first few lines one might easily think that you are trying to make a serious argument - this piece made a perfect case for reading articles to the end! It also raises serious concerns about the ease with which ChatGPT will be able to sway peoples perceptions and opinions....

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Nov 25, 2023Liked by Mike Hind

I was initially suspicious of the photo, I was thinking it was a photoshop fake. Whilst reading the article I kept thinking I must in investigate this to see if it is real or if you'd made it up.

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Sokal and Bricmont had a great discussion on these points in "Fashionable Nonsense". I suspect the obscurity of scholarly language emerges as the result of an arms race between scholars in their fields. As you point out, it conveniently creates a barrier to entry for outsiders afterwards.

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This was brilliant Mike, and had me laughing - a lot. And you are right about when the joke was realised - it was the reference to the Isle of Man. This made me chuckle and reminded me of the dry, blunt British humour that I love so much. The Bristol Aiport Abomination may represent all that I despise about my home country - but then I remember we have mastered dry humour and that compensates a little.

I love your point as well about convoluted language puts up a barrier between the "common man" and "the elite". I wonder if in a debate only simple language could be used whether the common man would be found to be more witty, sharp and intelligent than the expert elite.

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Nov 25, 2023Liked by Mike Hind

Ok, well my first thought was "but it does look like a bus stop". I thought you were being conciliatory or trying to offer the pov of "the clever people" - trying to say what they would say. I did notice the destination list and that just made me think that you were poking fun at hideous public architecture after all. My last thought was pedantic: but strictly speaking it's not even a building as it doesn't have a proper door.

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Dec 6, 2023Liked by Mike Hind

Damn. Either ChatGPT is really smart or I am really stupid.

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Nov 25, 2023Liked by Mike Hind

Photo was immediately suspicious, "As an expert..." had me scrolling to where you confessed to using LLM to generate text. 😅

On the Sokol hoax, I would not trust Sokol's own account, personally. The incident was a red flag about peer review, though, one still ignored and far more serious than mere magniloquent prose or concept-dense essays.

Thanks for the diversion!

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Nov 27, 2023Liked by Mike Hind

Excellent piece. I found the Bristol Airport destinations humorous as I was reading, but still thought this was your genuine view (one I disagreed with but everyone is entitled to their view); until the reveal this was a parody. At which point I laughed out loud. But seriously it does show the power of ChatGPT to come up with what looks a rational and reasoned point of view. I wonder that it would come up with if its brief was to write something that is a humorous parody ?

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Nov 25, 2023·edited Nov 25, 2023Liked by Mike Hind

Oh, you'd taken me in on this until about a quarter of the way through the defense of the building, when I thought "Is this just fucking with me? Since when does Mike Hind write deliberately embellished drek like Wes Yang?"

I'll take a moment to say that I think ChatGPT's defense is not entirely crap. The structure certainly is simple and *could be* functional (though I have my doubts; does water leak under those seemingly-open spaces at the bottom? are there actual affordances for "faith rituals" like prayer kneeling benches or somesuch inside?). Its lack of anything overtly religious or spiritual supports a non-denominational idea. It got me thinking about the rhetoric of structures: that as much as the structure may be clean, simple, and functional, there is a reason for embellishment: structures make people feel things, and this one does totally feel like a bus stop. In my personal opinion, not an ugly one, but it did not "say" anything about faith or spirituality to me.

It's surprising how naturally this led into the other areas you went to, about obscure language. I remember some of the anthropology texts my girlfriend showed me back in college: they were nigh-impenetrable. You had to read each sentence multiple times, and then summarize it for yourself in plain English. It certainly could have been written in plain English, so why wasn't it?

Part of the embellishments of both buildings and text have to do with their rhetorical situation. In many cases, one can boil this down to a sense of belonging. Does this thing (writing, structure) belong to what it wants to belong to? That anthropologist who wrote so much stuff that's impossible to parse easily (but not terribly hard to understand once translated) did so for a reason. That reason is the state of his field: if he hadn't written it that way, it wouldn't have been taken seriously in his field. Similarly, a structure that has a religious purpose without seeming to have any embellishments of the spiritual doesn't "read" correctly, doesn't belong to this set of structures that include structures for spiritual purpose. For a similar reason, churches in the US that just look like normal houses (or worse, like a commercial space) strike me as...in some sense gauche or bad (though they aren't). In some cases, there may be religious groups that deliberately choose a non-church-ish structure because of some elements of their faith, but in that case, that's still choosing embellishments for a rhetorical purpose.

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Your title puts me in mind of the servant Affery Flintwich in Little Dorritt.....her frequent references to "them clever ones".

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I don’t see being against the public participation and facility facilitated dogma as a bad thing.

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Nov 26, 2023·edited Nov 27, 2023

Something for readers to remember: by mere dint of you being the kind of person who reads Substack, we can infer that you are probably among the most intellectual people in your social circle.

It's true that if you tried to debate a leftoid Harvard professor, you might get your ass handed to you. But in reality you never have to do that. You're more likely to "debate" your 25 year old niece who's fresh out of university and enthusiastically spouting the Current Thing. And you're gonna win that one.

So what we all need to do is have some balls, and in our own small little local social life, make it clear that the Progressive Narrative is both stoooopid and big-E Evil. Stay calm, stay kind, stay gentle - but never back down and never apologize.

Don't expect to convert your friends & family in these discussions. That's not the goal. The point is to create an ambient mood - a vibe as the Zoomers say - where lies are refuted and the moral inversion rejected.

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This is a very shallow take. There are other interesting angles that you could have taken on this apparently insignificant little story.

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I laughed out loud when I first saw the photograph of the ridiculous "multi-faith area".

Then I started reading and wondered, "Hmm. Should I reconsider my initial reaction?"

Around, "But, no. It's apparently funny because it looks like a bus stop..." I began to wonder if you were making fun.

Read to the end.

These days, I love it when I question my own 'certainties' (which is why - despite your doubts in your last post, about the title of your Substack, I love "Rarely Certain"). The only title I like as much is The Great Humbling.

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I usually find that when someone is trying really hard to sound clever, they are actually really dumb. Proper terminology matters but excessive jargon serves no practical purpose.

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Cheers to GPT, it really threaded the needle between earnestness and parody, which was I kept reading instead of unsubscribing.

Just as people don’t want to see you smoking because it reminds them of their own mortality, people don’t want to see you praying at the airport because they fear their is good cause. Hence the wee privvy.

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