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January 13, 2023

We've turned a corner with technology. And it's not a good one.

People in general are becoming more and more intellectually lazy. That combined with the enormous proliferation AI, increased reliance on externally-developed autonomous systems whenever and wherever possible, the average person being totally okay with connecting every little gizmo and gadget to their home network without a second thought... too many people have access to incredible technology without the ability to utilize it responsibly.

But then even the people who think they know what they're doing might not know what they're doing. We already have an AI lawyer booting up to defend not one but TWO cases in court. Companies have produced some mind-boggling abilities via AI photo generation and editing, which of course has led to a massive increase in people trying to pass off fake photos as genuine. And don't get me started on the whole deep fake stuff, because outside of legitimate artistic use (such as in de-aging characters for TV and movies) or clear comedic applications (see: Full House of Mustaches), there are little other than terrifying implications.

Government, for the most part, has its hands tied. And where they don't, they're going to either ignore the problem completely OR they're going to make stupid decisions about it, because legislative government is made up entirely of people who don't understand technology AT ALL.

We are at a point that is precariously close to no longer being able to determine what's real and what isn't if we didn't experience those things with our own senses. How long until we see the first AI-generated political attack ad showing the opponent on video doing something that never happened? How long until faked voice recordings are argued as genuine? How long until someone absolutely guilty is TRULY ACTUALLY captured on video doing something horrible provides a plausible defense of "that's a fake video?"

The separate part of this equation is inadvertent danger. 50 years from now, plug a then-modern AI into a team of 1000 robots and task them with helping to reduce climate change. Result: they start killing humans. It's a simplistic scenario, yes, but not entirely unrealistic when expanded out over various intellectual puzzles.

Via the internet, technology essentially has access to the sum of human knowledge. Now we're creating intelligence to act on that knowledge. And just like humans, there will end up being benign intellect and there will be malicious intellect - with people who still don't even know how to live alongside their own caught in the middle. I have zero confidence the majority will operate with benevolent intent, because reality has already shown otherwise.

TL;DR: We're screwed.

(06:44)

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June 11, 2021

One of my hobbies since I was very, very young, has been doing genealogy research for my own family. I've posted a few bits of info here and there, but as often happens during genealogy research, I had long been stymied by the inability to go back any further in my family history than I had reached many years ago. On my mom's side it was understandable; much of the way in records in Germany was destroyed during WWII so even when I physically hauled myself to Germany to do research there, I came up with absolutely nothing new. (It didn't help that it almost felt like that side of my family WANTED to stay hidden, never finding so much as a single entry in the Stuttgart public phone books of the time.)

On my dad's side it was a bit different. There was a lot more information available, and I had been able to trace a bit farther back in my family line. Because my last name is Curzio, I had always wanted to dig backward through history to find its origins and to uncover the stories of the people who did what they did, inevitably resulting in me flopping into this ridiculous existence.

One of my favorite stories while researching my Italian side was when I went to the Municipio (public records hall) in Afragola Italy. After struggling politely for a few minutes with shared smiles and chuckles with the woman behind the counter, us both trying to work through an impenetrable two-way language barrier, I improvised. I mimed for a piece of paper and a pencil which she provided, and then I wrote my name. I then drew a line upward and wrote my father's name. I drew another line upward from his name to my grandfather's name, then to his father's name, then drawing one final line from there to a question mark. I handed her the paper, pointed to the bottom name on the paper while simultaneously pointing to myself, and her face lit up. "OH!"

She started chattering in beautiful, incomprehensible Italian to her co-workers behind the window, and 3 people immediately started excitedly swarming behind her, pulling books off shelves and flipping through file cabinets. Several books were brought to the counter where I was standing, with the top one flipped open to a birth record for my great-grandfather Antonio. From that birth record I was able to get a corrected birth date, a more specific place of birth (Melito), as well as his father's name: Giovanni.

Unfortunately I had arrived at the Municipio at around 4pm on a Friday. They closed at 5, were closed over the weekend, and I was heading back to the states that Monday. Bad timing. I expressed my sincerest thanks to all of them as best I could (which they understood), and came back to the US with a small but still valuable amount of additional information. I was one step further back in my family line, which I hoped would let me continue the research.

The good news is, that information DID finally lead me to the very origins of the name Curzio within my family. The bad news is, I have reached what will very likely be a permanent brick wall preventing me - or anyone else - from ever being able to research any farther back.

Picture it: March 1, 1856. Napoli. It's around 11pm outside of the Real Casa Santa dell’Annunziata (the Royal House of the Holy Annunciation in Annunziata, Naples). A woman quietly approaches the outside of the building, and gently leaves a wrapped bundle inside of its foundling wheel. She turns the cylinder a half-turn, rings the bell, and disappears into the night. Hearing the bell, caretakers inside of the building rush over to the wheel and find only a wrapped newborn baby. Once it became clear that no one would (or could) return to claim and care for the child, the governor of the orphanage named him: Giovanni Curzio.

At the time, children abandoned at orphanages were often left with either a religious item or some kind of identifiable article of clothing which would allow the parents to return at a later time to prove a child was theirs and reclaim them. Since Giovanni was abandoned cold and had been left with absolutely nothing at all, circumstances of the period indicate that his mother was an unwed victim of extreme poverty. Because the governor of the orphanage was the one responsible for giving Giovanni his full name, he represents the very beginning of the Curzio line within my family. When his mother disappeared, she took with her any real possibility of discovering her identity and her - my - family's earlier history.

I certainly don't blame or resent her for it; obviously there were reasons and circumstances that forced her into such an awful position. It's just really disappointing to be thrown a mystery that can never be solved. At the very least, I do hope she somehow ended up living a decent life.

As for Giovanni, at 22 years old he married his wife Maria - a woman he very likely grew up with at the orphanage, since the governor was the one that gave the consent for her to marry. He lived with Maria in Afragola his whole life, the two of them eventually having five children.

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