Whenever you hear a person wishing for ice and snow, don’t you have to suspect that their entire income comes from driving an ambulance?


In 1934. a story by Grace V. Curl about Nicholas, Perkins and Blunderdown was published in a children’s anthology “The Great Idea and Other Stories.” The three little boys are taken to a house in the woods by their fairy godmother, who tells them to watch out for the witch, who flies about. In a wall, they discover a hole that can answer questions, much like Google does today. While they are out, the witch makes off with the hole, and reading this story in 1942 was probably my introduction to philosophy. What does a wall look like when a hole has been torn out and carried away? And what will an evil witch do with a device possessing artificial intelligence?

You can quickly see why this story I read 80 years ago came to mind when I read of the risks inherent in the new artificial intelligence machine, Chat GPT.

Please understand that I don’t even know how to answer my own cellphone. But I have seen illustrations for horror movies about a machine takeover of the planet. So people have been thinking about this for quite some time. And I believe the people who are constantly improving the Chat GPT machine when they tell me that no one fully understands how this new technology works.

Although the world passed me by when a Mercedes started to look like a VW, I can’t help but ask if the requirements one needs for a high school degree should now be changed. An undergraduate degree? A Ph.D.?


Would it take a professor to teach a college class in Rousseau if a machine could speak in front of a class and have what was being said also illustrated with charts and photographs on a huge screen?

What would it profit a woman to learn to be a professor who taught classes about Rousseau or Adam Smith if a machine could do it? And cut the cost of an education by tens of thousands of dollars in the process. Students could strap their mentors to a belt and carry them around.

And, more to my point, why would anyone need to take a formal class in Rousseau when anyone who wanted to know anything about Rousseau would only have to ask their watch – or an articulate hole in the wall?

I don’t know about this, but I’ve heard that the pocket calculator has taken the place of the slide rule. (And here, to illustrate my point, I didn’t speak into my computer, although you know how to do that, but I typed in: “Has the pocket calculator made the slide rule obsolete?” And I got back: “Around 1974, the handheld electronic scientific calculator made slide rules largely obsolete.”)

At college in Gorham, Mr. Whitten introduced us to “The Saber-Toothed Curriculum.”

“Readers learn that in the Paleolithic curriculum, children were taught how to grab fish, club woolly horses, and scare saber-toothed tigers.” We also learned that this was still taught even after there were no saber-toothed tigers left – just because that was considered the foundation of a classical education.


What is going to change now that any child can ask the television phone in their knapsacks for any fact or get a comprehensive lecture on quantum mechanics from a hole in the wall?

One of my Walter Mitty daydreams has me sitting in my one-room school in 1942 doing my “numbers” with a solar-powered hand calculator. Back then, even after reading about it, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a hole that would answer questions.

What would you want your children to learn at school? Would you want them to get an education, which might be superfluous in today’s society, or learn a trade?

We understand that there will soon come a day when you’ll meet a brilliant conversationalist at a party and have no idea that you’re talking with an implanted computer chip. Now we are told that it is difficult to control the behavior of Chat GPT, and whatever is following rapidly on its heels. Will the machine become a wicked witch and use Chat GPT for ends inimical to humans?

“Hey, Google. How are you able to solve my problems so quickly?”

“I use an abacus.”

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at: www.thehumblefarmer.com/

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