Re “Put Erin O’Toole on list of best prime ministers we never had” (April 5): Given that Erin O‘Toole “pivoted” on major policy issues such as climate change (didn’t that used to be called “flip-flopping” back in the day?), and what I found to be his uninspired leadership skills and inability to hold a caucus together for common short-term goals, I think it quite a premature and nostalgic stretch to use the phrase “best prime minister Canada never had” to describe his short leadership tenure.
Toby Zanin Toronto
Give and take
Re “Vancouver has some real issues. It needs real leadership to solve them” (Opinion, April 1): Our issues in this natural paradise are not unique to global cities consistently ranked as top places to live. For me, it is all about balance.
In order to live here, I know I need to spend more of my fixed income on life’s necessities. However, what I have at my doorstep far exceeds that burden.
Not only is it beautiful and one of the warmest cities in the country, we also have access to world-class entertainment and shopping; an extensive transportation network; research hospitals, universities and libraries; an international airport; a laid-back culture; proximity to the U.S. border; wonderfully unique neighbourhoods within its boundaries.
I feel safe in this city, even though I have been subjected to two random assaults during the past 40 years.
Debra Dolan Vancouver
Re “The peril and promise of artificial intelligence” (Report on Business, April 1): There is a concern that we may equate what ChatGPT performs very intelligently – retrieve, summarize and find patterns in vast amounts of data – with all types of intelligence. Reporter Ian Brown points out several limitations and threats. Especially worrisome is the dependency on existing data, even if ethically tainted by racism, sexism etc.
Its honesty in this respect is admirable. When asked if it can be creative, ChatGPT replied that “while ChatGPT can generate responses that appear creative, it is important to understand that its creativity is limited to the patterns and relationships found within its training data.”
Our age seems to lack a coherent and hopeful belief system. Democracy, progress, religion, human reasonability and goodness: So many traditional touchstones co-exist with, and even foster, intolerance, racism, oppression, violence and inequalities.
Does this messy complexity make us especially vulnerable to the promise of machines promising simple, definitive answers?
Chester Fedoruk Toronto
The evaluation of intelligence can be viewed from a learning perspective: How does the machine learn versus the human?
The human does not need many false positives, if any (e.g. a hot stove), to learn to avoid a dangerous event. The machine can compute using feedback from the system to avoid the event over time, but it cannot cognate or recognize that the event itself is dangerous.
How about: “I feel therefore I learn.”
Deitra Sawh PhD, Toronto
Thanks for giving us reporter Ian Brown on artificial intelligence. Next time, can we have AI on Mr. Brown?
Katherine Govier Toronto
Re “The fool’s gold of art forgery is a problem of the art world’s own making” (Opinion, April 1): Great art is collected by individuals who are willing stewards and public institutions for appreciation of all and forever.
With the dearth of catalogue raisonnés about our artists, buyers are generally reliant on “connoisseurship.” I recall some years ago, art writer Souren Melikian wrote: “Experts such as these combine the knowledge of the serious art historian and the unmatched visual experience of those who have been buying all their lives, risking money each time they make a judgment – nothing is quite as effective in helping to focus the mind.” To preserve the integrity of greatness, thank heavens there are people who do know.
To think there would be scholarly resources or spectroscopic techniques to discern the authenticity, for instance, of sketches by A.J. Casson would also be naive. Labels can be simulated and ”provenance” often anecdotal.
Art collectors are advised to defer to expertise where “the eyes have it.”
Alan Klinkhoff Alan Klinkhoff Gallery; Toronto and Montreal
When we talk about art and creativity and its importance to the human condition, we discuss the emotional sensations and intellectual provocations elicited by imagery, narrative, meaning, colour, composition and form. None of this seems to figure in the discussion of the Norval Morrisseau forgeries.
They appear to be, besides lacking in originality, actually not too bad as paintings. The discussion, then, is really about the value of authenticity and the status that accompanies ownership.
I hope that the forgeries obtain enough levels of sensationalism so that they, too, obtain significant value, so that the “victims” of the trademark hoax can get some of their money back – and enjoy their artworks.
Nigel Smith Toronto
End of an era
Re “Canadian distributor Thomas Allen & Son ceases operations after more than 100 years” (April 1): I am saddened by the loss of Thomas Allen & Son.
This wonderful publisher launched my father’s book Herbie, about the Second World War cartoon character, with two printings in 1946 and a third edition in 1959. There were 25,000 copies sold across Canada.
In September, 2000, I launched the biography of my father’s 50 years in the newspaper business, including his time as city editor of The Globe and Mail from 1946 to 1948. Canada’s Newspaper Legend: The Story of J. Douglas MacFarlane only happened when Jack David of Toronto’s ECW Press took a chance on me. None of the big publishers did.
Thanks to Thomas Allen and ECW Press. We need to support publishing’s “middle ground.”
Richard MacFarlane Toronto
Re “Is it just me, or is society becoming ruder and meaner?” (Opinion, April 1): I laughed at the anecdote about writing thank-you notes.
I made my kids do it. Thirty years ago would have been when they started a rite that continues until adulthood. They are both polite and considerate.
Must have been the thank-you notes.
Jane McCall Delta, B.C.
Re “The word ‘woke’ is dead. We hardly knew her” (Opinion, April 1): Thank you for bringing the word “snollygoster” – “a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician” – to my attention.
I shouldn’t have any trouble finding opportunities to employ it.
Hugh Molesworth Orangeville, Ont.
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