Things within my normal routine got a little bit out of rhythm. For several days I turned off my alarm clock and just slept until either something woke me up or the day started off naturally. It has been a long time since that type of start to the day had even been considered. Even after returning to a normal sleeping schedule it took a couple of days to get back into the mode of starting the day with a little bit of writing. Yesterday it snowed at the end of the day which was surprising. The snow did not help me get back into the habit of daily writing, but it apparently did not hurt that pattern of effort either.
This month has been truly bonkers in terms of language models being released by major players in the AI space. Things have been so active that I’m actually considering changing up my writing plan for the next few weeks to provide a bit of coverage. That change up probably won’t be something that happens, but it is interesting to consider. I may add some of these topics to the very end of my backlog to reflect on in a few months. Providing immediate reaction coverage is not really what I need to do with my time. One of the things that I find the most challenging about our news feed based communication system is that it values recency over accuracy. We have access to a steady and perpetual stream of news, but few things really get covered over a long period of time.
It is entirely possible that these new models being introduced right now will be impactful enough within the day to day lives of people working, making things, and otherwise engaging digitally that it has to become a part of things. Even Bill Gates jumped into the argument and noted that this current wave of technology is the most important change in decades. It is a lot to consider and my writing session here is drawing to a close. It’s about time for me to jump back into the curation of my topic background and give the road forward a deep bit of consideration. I will note here that it would just take an hour or so for ChatGPT to produce the content for my entire 2023 writing backlog. I like to think that my efforts would be superious and that ChatGPT could not match the depth of my reasoning and consideration, but some of the content being produced is passable. It reminds me not to produce middling prose and to really value the creation of deeper works of content.
Maybe it would be a good time to shift my writing focus into a pure deep dive of polling methods, civic engagement, civility, civil society, and the social fabric of things that bring us together. I’m looking at my backlog and thinking that I should probably just go deep on some topics and blow out my backlog topics toward the end of the year. It would be pretty easy to just refocus a bit away from purely writing about AI and begging to evaluate AI and something else within the focus related to society in general. That effort will be easy enough to implement and we will see what happens here this weekend. I’m about 80% done with a couple posts that need to be finished up and recorded. Working those projects to a conclusion will let me set up the next phases of this writing experiment.
Things got off to a better start today. My energy level was higher at the start of the day. Rocky dog did kick off that day a few minutes before my alarm clock should have gone off. Apparently, the dog based alarm clock was running a little bit early. It’s entirely possible that next week will usher in a golden window of writing adventures. We will see how that one goes. I should have some really good blocks of time to engage in some active writing. That does not always equate to a higher degree of productivity. It just opens the window to it. That opportunity has to be realized to materialize anything. One of the things I want to spend some time working on next week is deeply considering my 5 year writing plan to evaluate where things are and what things should be changed up.
Throughout this month I have been pretty consistent about sitting down and producing some blog related content. Maybe a bit more of an ongoing narrative would be helpful. Perhaps at the crux of this problem is that each one of these missives is the opening part of getting started. Functionally it is a similar thing that happens every day as the process of going from being awake to being ready to be productive starts. That is what I’m attempting to rationalize anyway. An ongoing narrative would be related to the things that I’m interacting with and an explanation of things that are happening along the way. Probably the only way to really do that would be to make sure that a bunch of starter ideas are seeded in Google Keep throughout the day. At the start of the day instead of writing without a prompt. I really just open a blank page and begin to make my way into the writing process. Things would instead start out by grabbing the previous day’s seeds and beginning to work bringing form to those ideas.
That method of seeding would certainly produce an ongoing narrative that was essentially about my interactions with things. It would push this from being a more functional journal and into a more reactionary journal. For better or worse that might be a more interesting thing to consider for a couple of weeks. I pretty much did that during the million word challenge where I had a backlog and used that to help focus my writing efforts every morning. During the course of trying to produce 3,000 or more words per day for a blog that is going to be required.
Those two shots of espresso that I just made have not yet done their magic. Things are still a bit cloudy at the moment. Oddly enough my Oura ring has reported the highest rating I have ever received for last night’s sleep at 94 out of 100. This is the 5th day I have had the Oura ring based on what I see in the data at a quick glance. The battery is down to 30% and they suggest that you charge it before it gets to zero. So far my Oura ring has worked out well enough the only thing I did not consider about it was how it was going to factor into my guitar playing. So far I have left it on during the course of playing guitar, but I think going forward it may be better to remove it and set it on my desk during my guitar playing extravaganzas. The edge of the frets will probably scratch it over time and that seems problematic.
Last night it snowed a bit here in Denver, Colorado. It’s March so I was hoping that would slow down a bit as we start to approach summer at some point. We have not reached the point in the program where all the snow in the front yard has even melted away yet for the season. It’s like we have a couple of yard contained icebergs at this point. Last night I had meant to spend the evening working on a bit of content and research, but I faded quickly and ended up not getting much of anything done.
It’s about time for me to take a good look at my five year writing plan by putting it up on my whiteboard. Some of the things that are on it are pretty specific and other things are concepts or areas of interest. Sometimes giving that trajectory a good review can help me identify other items that could be included. It is also important as a reflective practitioner to acknowledge that sometimes it is easier to engage in that planning and review than other times. We put on different hats and work on different levels of things from time to time. Really being ready to review something complex and forward looking requires the right focus and energy. It is something that is worth investing the best possible effort into as it drives things over such a long period of time.
We are now at the start of the 4th paragraph of writing for the day and I can now finally confirm that I’m all the way awake. It took about 20 minutes to get to this point of direct confrontation with the keyboard and the screen. I’m ready to go and nothing is going to slow me down for the next hour as I work on the things that most need attention. Getting to that point of being able to push things forward toward that perfect possible future is not trivial. That is essentially the point of this whole writing routine and exercise. I remember getting put out on a balcony during a vacation at one point to focus on finishing my dissertation. At that time, I was not able to get myself into an effective writing posture. It was forced and it made the writing process much harder to achieve.
Getting things done is really about managing the things that most need attention. That is where my daily writing routine kicks off during the week and my academic interests come into focus on the weekend. As of right now that writing pattern is holding true and I’m 113 consecutive weeks of content creation into that overall effort. Churning out a chapter of content a week is something that apparently can be sustained. It may be harder to achieve this year than last year based on other commitments that might eat up my time. Nothing really should stop me from being able to put in the time at the keyboard to make it happen. Based on my current writing routine it is about waking up early and getting to work during a block of time where no distractions occur.
Yesterday I was writing about how writing for a prolonged period of time can be like a form of meditation. That focus that comes from being really dialed into the moment cannot be discounted. Finding your voice during the course of prolonged writing can be an interesting element of the equation. Over the last couple of decades my writing style has shifted a bit and hopefully it is a little more refined. My ability to sit down and write with very few grammatical concerns has certainly improved. That is one of the more interesting parts of my stream of consciousness style writing these days. While it is certainly not perfect flowing prose it for the most part requires very little touch up. I very rarely get to the point where I’m producing content at such a pace that words get left out or things are missing from sentences. It has been a long time since I had so many ideas that just needed to get out where that type of racing through the writing process occurs.
We are quickly approaching summer here as March is starting. The little weather icon on my smartphone is indicating that it might snow today at some point. I guess that could very well happen here in Colorado. All different types of weather show up here for sure. We have a true 100 degree weather cycle from cold to hot. It appears my thoughts have drifted here a little bit from the start of this missive to where we are right now. Sometimes these morning writing sessions get a little too literal and I end up focusing on the process of writing each and every time. Maybe it just feels like that, but the fact that the writing category on the blog is very full of content suggests it might be a deeper pattern. I don’t work from a backlog during the course of clearing my thoughts at the start of the day.
My writing plan generally includes a very specific multi-year backlog. Working on items like that is not really something that I can do at the start of the day. My thoughts are not yet focused and my energy cannot exactly be focused that quickly to creating a work product. On the weekends the first part of the day is generally spent researching the writing item in question. I don’t generally jump in and start producing content that could be published at the very start of the day. That is not a skill that generally can be demonstrated within my writing practices. More or less I have found that sitting down and working on the production of words and typing a whole bunch of things on the screen opens the door to more of that. Writing generally begets more writing. Maybe refining my note taking process a little bit could create a bit of a cheat sheet for topics to consider during these morning writing sessions to give them a little bit more of a focus here as we approach summer.
At the very start of the day Rocky dog was making dog-like arguments that the alarm clock going off was not a necessary element of starting the day. Rocky dog is tall enough to be snout to face while I’m sleeping during the course of making these arguments. It seemed like a good idea to go ahead and start the day by letting the dogs out. The natural start of the day would have been just a few moments ago when my smartphone alarm went off by vibrating on my desk. It was easily dismissed and I’m already fully awake at the moment. Two shots of espresso have been consumed and a page of prose has been created. Granted it is a writing about those writing related thoughts without much else being included. At this point in the program I have a solid hour right now to shift my now ready to go focus and attention to something in my backlog of things that need solving.
As it stands right now week 113 of The Lindahl Letter is going to be a long post. Recording it is going to take a good bit of time. That process will probably take about 30 minutes. It should be interesting, which will be a good thing. Right now in the evenings I’m using some of my time that is normally reserved for winding down to work on pushing ahead to build back up that 5 week backlog of content. Generally speaking, a longer editing and review process should produce better content. I’m sure sometimes a good single session post works out well enough, but in the aggregate a little bit of editing and review will improve things.
Like most people I cannot fully edit something that I just wrote. Some time has to pass between the initial bit of writing and the editing pass. Sure some people can switch back and forth with ease, but I miss things. My grammarian tendencies are stronger with gaps between writing and editing for sure. Right at the start of the day when nothing else is happening and no distractions are present I have some golden time that can be spent writing. For the most part this is about an hour to an hour and half of time that includes no disruptions whatsoever. Nobody else in the house is awake and no other disruptions are going to come into focus. It’s just a question of how that golden time is going to be used.
For the most part I use the first little bit of that time to engage in some stream of consciousness style writing. A blank word processing document gets opened up and I start to type. Sometimes this yields a page or so of prose that could go in any real direction. Whatever is top of mind bubbles up and gets my focus and attention until a shift occurs. At some point, it always happens where I stop being in the moment and focusing on just writing and begin to work on some other targeted project. Rarely I will be so consumed by an effort that the moment I wake up I’ll start working on that project and won’t spend the time to clear and focus my thoughts beforehand.
Some people believe in meditation to get to a relaxed state of calm and focus. Based on my needs I can get to that moment of zerospace based on just letting my mind wonder until the stream of thoughts slows down. Part of that is being in the practice of having a daily writing routine. I imagine that sitting down only every once in a while would take a long time to get all the lines of thought down and to reach that point of calmness and reflection. That is one of the reasons that protecting my golden time for writing is so important. It sets up the day and puts me in the right position to work on the hardest things first at the start of the day. That is what works best for me and is a tried and true pattern of habit that I ruthlessly support.
At the start of my writing routine the very first thing that happens is that I put the date at the top of the document. That happens within most mediums that I have used to produce content. Probably the part of that routine that still creates the most reflection on my part is the tick of the year at the start of that YYYY-MM-DD to be used explicitly as YYYYMMDD. Other date formats exist, but are never going to work for me as well as that cherished time based identifier. Within that routine the first little bit is the part that really gets to me during the start of the writing process. I have reached the point in my lifecycle where I look at the year and think how we got so far from 1999 on the timeline. For some reason the anchor point in how I put a context to the timeline is squarely placed on 1999 and the change over to the year 2000. Apparently, that is how I start to unpack the context of how I relate to bringing my experience inline with the now.
All of that consideration in the last paragraph showed up today as I pondered if it really was 2023 and how we managed to get all the way to that point in the timeline. Without question the simple act of sitting down and typing on this keyboard does not require any particular year or date. In general, I could complete that action without knowing the current date. The two things don’t have to be related in any way shape or form. It would be pretty hard within modern society to give up using the calendar. Even if I was devoted to dropping that construct from my routine it would show back up pretty quickly throughout the day as people made plans and shared upcoming events. I’m not planning to even try to give up on grounding my days in the context of what day it happens to be. I am still thinking about how 2023 showed up and it’s here.
This will be the third day in a row of posting some content to the blog. I’m sure WordPress will send me a note about being on a streak of some sort. My writing pattern used to be really consistent within the pattern of creating a stream of consciousness based pose during the week and really spending my weekend time working on more academic style writing. That type of writing pattern was really about focusing my thoughts via the act of writing for a block of time and trying to really bring my attention and focus into the thing that needed the most support in terms of time and energy. Part of that is about recognizing that we only have so much time and energy to spend and I want to focus it on the right things.
My social media strategy for the blog happens to be allowing WordPress to post a link to each missive directly on Twitter as a single Tweet. Yesterday it seemed like a good idea to post the nearly 4,000 characters of that post into a tweet right after that post. A total of 3 out of 24 viewers of the tweet expanded it to look at the longer post. For the most part I have tried to post a couple of longer tweets using that feature and the engagement has never been better due to having thousands of characters. Testing out new features is always a fun thing to do and I’m hopeful that Twtitter comes up with a bunch of them in the next few months.
Right now at the start of my day I sat down to write another page or prose and to deeply consider the nature of what is being produced. My Substack efforts are essentially being packaged up as a manuscript at the end of the year. For better or worse that writing effort is essentially a weekly way to turn out a focused chapter of content. We are in the third year of that effort and it has worked out well enough. Right now 104 weeks of content were packed up on the topic of machine learning. This year the topics under consideration have broadened from machine learning to artificial intelligence (AI) in general. Next year at this time the manuscript that will go out will have a distinct AI focus with a few other topics mixed into that series.
Some weeks will have topics that are adjacent to central topics in the AI series. A few things need to be flushed out to really dig deeper into what can be done with AI and how it will intersect with modernity. It’s that interaction of AI and modernity that deeply concerns me enough that I feel compelled to try to write about it on a regular basis. This might very well be the year that I complete my writing effort on producing a book about the intersection of technology and modernity. Getting that writing project produced and on the shelf next to me would be a true achievement of something on my writing plan.
Overall you can tell that today is a bit about dialing in some focus on that writing plan and making sure that things are going down the right path. Getting to the point where each day of writing builds toward something and is a part of that writing plan is an important piece of the puzzle. I think the idea that with a little prompt engineering this post could be compiled within seconds where it took me dozens of minutes does give me pause. Today marks the second day in a row of producing a good amount of prose at the start of the day that was not really tied to anything special. I just sat down and tried to collect my thoughts. To that end this writing session was successful and posted. Fun times.
Today I sat down to spend some time deeply focused on my 5 year writing plan. I’m about to enter year two of this plan and I was trying to decide if now would be the best time to revise and extend my previous plan. A year has passed and now instead of covering 5 years the plan only covers the next 4 years. I have been taking a pretty good and lengthy look at what has been identified as part of my year 2 ambitions. Based on where things sit right now I’m not sure I need to revise the writing plan. Things are set in motion for year 2 of the writing plan and adding something to the end of the plan won’t really do anything to or for my current writing efforts. It might just be the right time to take no action on that one. Probably at the end of 2023 the writing plan will need to be revised and a new commitment will need to be made to complete that work.
My weblog posts have started to receive longer titles. That new trend is probably a consequence of wanting to keep creating original ones. We are quickly approaching the end of the year and I’m looking at the next 25 weeks of my detailed writing backlog. Instead of working on that backlog I have elected at the moment to dance with the blank screen and write down a few observations in weblog form. Right now the weblog is currently split between public and private posts. I’m not sure why I have so many of the older posts in private mode. At one point, I had considered enforcing a sunset on posts where after 3 years or so all that old content will just fade into private status. The way the internet works to preserve things that effort is probably not a solid strategy to actually retire content, but it seemed to make sense to me at the time.
That lines up with my once doomed effort to put all my weblog content into manuscript form to keep it for posterity. Even the thought of going back and editing more than a decade of my weblog published thoughts does not seem compelling enough to stir action. I’m probably not going to go and do that at any point along the way. My energy and attention are focused on the creation of new content. The older content will have to just remain the way it is and I’m sure that will be fine.
Without question the last 24 hours have included a burst of productivity. A lot of that was set up by building out quality drafts in revision and review mixed with following a good process and workflow. Within my Substack posting creation process I work on 5 weeks of posts in planning and review. That allows me to intellectually jump around from one piece of content to another. Having that little bit of writing freedom to focus on one thing and then another is the key element of increasing productivity. If for some reason my writing output slows down on one topic, then I can quickly shift gears to something that is better aligned with my mood or interests at that moment. Learning to shift gears and not try to overly focus on any one thing is a key element of increasing writing productivity.
Previously, anybody who has been around the weblog over the years will know that I often just engage in the act of pure stream of consciousness writing. I sit down with no agenda and simply write to fill up the blank page. That as a process is an effort that can be repeated forever as every blank page provides an opportunity to write. The Substack or academic writing is a very different type of thing. That is writing to a schedule based on a defined backlog of content that needs to be created. In my case, I literally had a word processing document with 104 items that needed to be created to sprint toward my two year writing goal. My 2022 writing goal was written like this: “Finish writing a collected series of ML/AI essays on Substack and combine them into a manuscript, ‘The Lindahl Letter: On Machine Learning Year Two.’ This manuscript should include both years one and two.” As of right now after that 24 burst of productivity, I’m currently at 101 items complete on a plan of 104 for the year.
Even right now I have drafts completed for the content that will be included in posts 102, 103, and 104. It would be possible to record those drafts and call it a day for the year, but that would be problematic as the content could be so much better with a bit more tinkering, review, and editing to take it to the next level. My big plans for 2023 include a lot more docs on producing academic papers and focusing my Substack and other writing efforts to chronicling that journey. At some point in the next couple of weeks, I need to sit down and revise my 5 year writing plan as well given that it is currently only spanned out 4 years into the future. A year of writing has passed and it is now time to reconsider the path forward.
This weekend should include a few time slots to produce some epic prose. I’m still working to round out my 104 week writing project into machine learning. As that project comes to a close the next big journey will start. My five year writing plan and research trajectory will make a jump to the right and the plan will keep on moving along. One of the things that I had become very concerned about was sticking to the plan and producing a large enough degree of output. For example, just today I started to wonder if I should write a quick book called, “Your bot, my bot, our bot: A chat about platforms and bots.” Something about the latest large language models and the very real threat of content flooding has gripped my attention. Good writing comes from the depths of passion around a subject and maybe I should just give in and spend a couple of days focused on that bot project.
Central to that intellectual question is what happens when we are not able to reasonably tell if our interactions are occurring with a bot compared to a person. We may very well be able to set up a friend bot and text with it all day shortly and it will be hard to tell if it’s not your college friend or long lost work associate. People are already trying to use a collection of video responses to generate virtual versions of a person. Enough video of me exists online that I’ll probably end up being a video bot one day. Maybe my current focus is about what will happen with that next persona and my concerns if it will end up being accurately polite and sardonic. Most of the bigger bots that have been created over the years and launched by even large companies have taken a turn to very mean rhetoric.
We all know that a lot of internet forums and other online exchanges are not the best places to find civility. Training anything from that type of content is going to be a mirror to it and not as much a leap forward toward a vision of a civil society where a shining city on a hill remains delightfully just in reach. My corpus of writing based on previous GPT models ends up producing thoughts about writing, the process of writing, and complaining about both writing and the process of writing. While I tend to write about those things on this weblog and that is why that content exists in the corpus, my discussions with actual people during live dialogues generally don’t go that direction. People don’t really want to hear about the troubles and tribulations of the writing experience. That type of nonsense is best left for the written page where it can be ignored online or pursued if necessary.
Within those central questions you can probably sense that my focus on a storm of modernity and bots could very well be a chapter in a book about the intersection of technology and modernity. My guess at the moment is that it could also be a stand alone manuscript and might be interesting. Either way it is probably an area of focus that will end up on my updated writing plan pending the completion of my current machine learning book. It feels oddly cliche to have collected enough content to publish a book on machine learning. A lot of those types of books have come into being in the last couple of years. I don’t think any of them are written in the same style or cover the breadth of content that I have evaluated, but that does not negate the sheer volume of machine learning content that has sprung up into being recently.
This very weblog contains the two parts of my five year writing plan. First, it includes a reasonable list of upcoming research which describes the backlog of planned things. Second, a page on the weblog is devoted to my research trajectory. That collection of thoughts has been pulled together to help describe the general content areas that are pulling my attention from time to time and end up informing future publications. Together those two things are what fuel a five year writing plan which is really a way of measuring my writing output against both the possible and the rate of my actual production. Overall this is an important way to hold myself accountable to the possible creation of content. It also creates a process where I’m managing my time and screening out things that should not receive my time and attention as they don’t contribute to building something meaningful. You are probably well aware that my goal is to work just beyond the edge of what is possible. It’s just on the other side of that edge of possibility that the remarkable awaits.