Three-Bullets – Newsletter from Norman Schultz

In this newsletter-series I report three thoughts, ideas, stories or events that have happened in the recent 2 weeks. I will talk about my philosophy, my writing, my teaching and my photography. I want to keep my friends updated on what is going on in my life and hope that some people will help me and give me more insights and expand my thoughts.

1. Pictures

For weeks now, we wanted to start a Weibo-Account (chinesisches Twitter). Since I am, however, a sloth, we only got more and more models but nothing else going.

At least, I posted some of these pictures on one of my Instagram channels. I learned that I have to focus on objects and storytelling.

https://www.instagram.com/norman_schultz/

2. Learning

Three elements that I taught in my linguistics classes:

2.1 Storytelling

Story-telling is a central part of the English language and a human expression. One of the most impressive examples of an effective story comes from Hemingway:

“For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never worn”

Six-word-stories became on own art (http://www.sixwordstories.net) and so I asked my students to produce stories themselves. One student found this very simple one:


Strangers, Friends, Best Friends, Lovers, Strangers.

Simple, but a good story. Yet, is it plagarized? The story can be found multiple times on the internet. Nevertheless, the question will be what we will consider as plagiarism in the future when AI will mass-produce all kinds of high quality texts.

2.2 GPT-3 – A New AI that Revolutionizes Text Production

In our class, we discussed GPT-3, a new astonishing program that can produce human-like articles. For linguistic majors, it is important to deal with such future technologies, especially since the quality of GPT-3 will question our core-abilities regarding language-use. Unfortunately for most average students, the AI writes better essays than them.

For our class, students had therefore to evaluate the quality of an AI-generated text without knowing that it was written by GPT-3. Here you can find the text examples:

Students evaluated the quality of the stories and essays as excellent. Given the current quality of AI-generated texts and considering the fact that AI will not develop backwards, it is clear that the internet will soon be flooded with marketing texts that will have a very high and entertaining level. Students will have to define their linguistic qualifications with regard to these inventions.

2.3. Sales Language

AI will support sales tasks in the future. In order to prepare students for such tasks, I used clips from Jordan Belfort. We watched the famous “sell-me-this-pen” scene from Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wallstreet”:

We also used an interview, in which Belfort explains how you actually sell a pen:

I then copied ridiculous products from the internet that students had to sell to me. Here are some examples.

As their “customer” I noticed how much customer-focused approaches impacted me. Many students attempted to sell their product by emphasizing further and further qualities, which I was quite uninterested in. Students who, however, attempted to sell their product to me while inquiring me were particular successful. I learned that customer orientation might be most important.

3. Three Ideas

In this section, I would like to present three ideas that crossed my mind and which are worth to be thought out on a deeper level at some point. Maybe someone wants to pick them up and develop them further.

3.1 Copyright Issues and Knowledge

Medlife-Crisis introduces the platform Sci-Hub, which is a great way to break through the paywall for non-academics and to gain free knowledge that would be reserved otherwise to members of top-universities. Of course, this platform is illegal. Thus, it is impressive that the founder of this platform sustains all attempts of suing her out of the market and is even willing to give interviews. She is, indeed, an impressive woman to whom knowledge is more important than money.

In general, the channel Medlife Crisis gives interesting ironic insights into the daily life of a sarcastic, dry-humored cardiologist.

3.2 Learning as Meditation

  • In current societies, learning has become a measure of success and we are exposed to a constant pressure of extensive self-transformation. The new economy focuses on our creative resources and thus it increased in exploiting our humanity. But not only as a “creative”, but also as a costumer, the self is mined for its attention and its transformability. Foucault called us therefore docile bodies, while the produced soul becomes the prison of the body.
  • As a consequence, learning serves these external purposes of transforming us into costumers and creatives. Learning does not help to develop into who we are, but into who we have to be in terms of an attention economy.
  • We got trapped in a self-improvement mill.
  • Yet, If everybody stands on his toes nobody sees more. We do not cooperate, we compete. Learning and intelligence have become means in order to oppress less gifted and less diligent individuals.

3.3 Focusing on Intrinsic Motivation

  • The current society pushes us to learn for for societal success, an external factor. We should not learn for external purposes since learning is our nature. There are some studies from Westpoint on internal and external motivation (One type of motivation may be key to success) that prove this point. 1300 young men and women enter the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, while only about 1000 of them graduate. Candidates who had an internal focus, succeeded 20% more likely. Nevertheless, also mixed motivations had a lesser chance for success.

Adam Grant concludes

The study “reveals that intrinsic motivation is powerful, but it is also fragile,” says Adam Grant, a psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Even when West Point cadets found their work interesting and meaningful, if they were also strongly motivated by extrinsic rewards,” such as a good salary or the respect of their peers, “they were less likely to complete their studies, continue their service, and get promoted early.” This creates a paradox for ambitious people. If achieving a goal strikes you as having many benefits beyond the goal itself, but you care too much about those added benefits, you are more likely to fail.

The studies above indicate learning should not be outcome-oriented but seen as a positive way of living. Maybe, in this way learning is about experiences and the skill to become somebody in relation to others. It is about experience something as an external truth to blind other outer influences and to solely concentrate on one aspect. It might reduce might-wandering and make us thus happier. Learning should be like a meditation:

An interesting recommendation on this aspect is Waitzkin: The Art of Learning. In the following, you can find a good summary of his book.

Three Questions for Summary

  1. What can learning be in a time it has been utilized economically, and has become the constant pressure for individuals to change themselves?
  2. How to adress the future of writing with GPT-3 at the horizon?
  3. How to effectively develop my photography and social media accounts?

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