New developments in technology are accelerating while nature moves at its natural pace.
The Oscar-winning film’s title, Everything Everywhere All at Once, encapsulates what I think is happening with artificial intelligence right now. In 2021, Open AI introduced DALL-E, followed by DALL-E 2 in September 2022, which generates images from text descriptions. Two months later, in November, it released ChatGPT, based on GPT-3.5 – which was surpassed on March 14, 2023 by GPT-4, Open AI’s latest AI language model. A week later, on March 21, Google launched its artificial intelligence chatbot Bard.
As reported by ABC News, Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI, believes that “GPT-4 is just a step toward Open AI’s goal of eventually building artificial general intelligence when AI crosses a powerful threshold known as AI systems.” are usually smarter than people. While celebrating the success of his product, Altman acknowledged the potentially dangerous implementations of AI that are keeping him up at night.”
Luckily, while Altman has sleepless nights over what appear to be “Fisty bargains,” nature moves at its natural pace, attracting more and more people to wake up to their wonders. The proliferation of books, articles and media programs on the importance of preserving and, where appropriate, restoring the natural environment is a testament to the keen interest in the subject.
Many countries have committed to large-scale environmental protection and conservation projects. In addition, efforts are spreading worldwide to give nature a special legal status, referred to as “nature’s rights”.
But interest is also growing on another level – the interest of private individuals in cultivating their own property and garden in a more ecologically sensible manner. In our courtyards and gardens we immerse ourselves in a small, wild world. We no longer need to be scientists or specialists to understand it. Ordinary, conscientious people like you and me are offered countless opportunities to learn how it works. All it takes is the curiosity of an explorer. In 2022, Ed Yong sparked a lot of curiosity with his book An Immense World. How animal senses reveal the hidden realms around us.
Yong isn’t the only one opening our eyes. In recent years, Doug Tallamy, a biologist at the University of Delaware, has revealed a world many of us have never seen or have (unwisely) ignored. His writings focus on the United States, but his arguments are universally applicable.
Insects have become Tallamy’s favorite subject. He follows biologist EO Wilson in his claim that without insects (“the little things that make the world go round,” Wilson said) humans would be doomed. The way to ensure our survival is to ensure the survival – not the annihilation – of failure. Instead of tending a lawn (ecologically speaking, a lawn is no better than a parking lot) and adorning our garden with non-native plants that do not fit into our insects’ food chain, we should avoid reducing our lawn area as much as possible, avoiding monocultures and biodiversity with native ones strive for plants. The beetles that feed on native plants will, in turn, feed on other wildlife.
Tallamy firmly believes in the benefits of caterpillars. He noticed that these insects were absent from non-native plants, exotic ones that eventually became invasive. Caterpillars are one of the most important foods for birds when raising their young. Tallamy uses the example of the tit. Before their nestlings fledge, tits have fed them 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars. One caterpillar can be as nutritious as 200 aphids. They are soft insects that are easy to stuff down a nestling’s throat, are easily digested, and contain carotenoids that provide the pigments for their feathers.
I know from personal experience that the sight of caterpillars chewing on the leaves of a tree can evoke strong negative emotions. But from now on, I’m going to deal with it by following Tallamy’s ten-step program: “Take ten steps back from the trunk and all your insect problems will go away.”
You might be wondering what AI and bugs have to do with Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise. Well, the rabbit was very fast and was sure that he could outrun the turtle. It was so confident that it napped during the race. The turtle trotted on without stopping and won the race. The rabbit was brought down by hubris. The humble turtle moved slowly and steadily forward.
Sabine Eiche is a local author and art historian with a PhD from Princeton University. She is passionate about preserving the environment and protecting nature. Her columns cover a wide range of topics and often include the history (etymology) of words to shed additional light on the subject