Saturday, August 5, 2023

What’s all this about artificial intelligence?


Ahead of his time on hairstyles
Written by Jim Heffernan for the Duluth NewsTribune/8-5-23   

The following screed blew into my lap while sitting in a park one day in the merry-merry month of May. Or it might have been in June by the light of the silvery moon. Then again, maybe it was a night in July, beneath the starlit sky.

 Whatever. I looked the blown-in-by-the-wind mini-manifesto over and decided to share it.


It begins: “What’s all this talk about artificial intelligence? I’m one of the smartest people I know, and it’s the real McCoy, Buster.  Not artificial.


“Describing it they just use the initials A.I. thinking everybody knows what it means. Well, there ain’t nuttin' artificial about my intelligence. Everybody whom knows me knows that. I don’t believe in it. My great uncle once removed (from the hoosegow) had a wooden leg that we all admired. Took it off every night to sleep. That’s artificial leg intelligence on display right there at home.


“At first I thought A.I. stood for Albert Instine (ain’t sure I spelt it rite), the smartest man on Earth when he was alive. He came up with the theory of relativity which led to people understanding about their relatives, like how they were related to their third cousin. We were a little confused about my great uncle with the wooden leg until Albert Instine cleared it all up with his theory of relativity.


“I don’t see no need for artificial intelligence when we — I’m talkin’ men like me who think deep alot — can figure everything out all by ourselves without using no computers. Can’t help it; we just know stuff. How? I learnt my education out behind the barn. That’s all you need. Put your jeans on before your boots. Hello?


“But back to A.I. (Albert Instine). He liked to look up at the stars at night when it wasn’t too cloudy. You could tell he was really smart by the way he wore his hair. He was decades ahead of his time on men’s hairstyle, which involved strict avoidance of barbers. That was one of his greatest accomplishments. Saves money too. He was so admired I read where a farmer named one of his chickens after him.


“But enough about Albert Instine.


“So now we hear that the writers and actors in Hollywood are on strike because they fear they could be replaced by artificial intelligence. If you ask me, it’s about time. I don’t see TV much (the wife likes “Price is Right”) but every time I turn it on, I doze off. I say they need artificial intelligence.


“Then I read somewheres that AI might someday surpass human intelligence. Well, they better not try to surpass me, that’s for sure. When I was in school the teacher told my parents I might be the smartest kid in the class if I ever showed up. This was before I quit school after eighth grade to get started on my chosen field, to become a circus clown (don’t laugh, it’s a serious business), but that never worked out when the circuses sold the elephants, leaving the clowns with nothing to shovel.


“In the meantime I traveled around the county alot stopping here and there at one of our lakes to fish. I got damn good at it too, pulling them in head over tail until some game warden came along claiming you needed a license from the state to fish. What? The state owns the fish? All the walleyes? All the bass? Both small mouth and big mouth?


“That was when I decided to enter politics, and you know where that can lead. I never went to jail, though. Politics is a pretty good deal.


“I better cut it off right here. Just give me three squares a day, a nice recliner for watchin’ the Twins on the tube, a six pack of brew, a friendly mutt and a loyal wifey to bring home the bacon and take care of the domicile (fancy word — told you I was smarter than most) and I’ll get along just fine. 


“No artificial intelligence needed, nohow. I got the real thing.


“Finis. (Yup, I know my Latin too. Then there’s Sempis Fideler. Go tell THAT to the Marines!)”


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at

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