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Verbolotry, AI, and Authority

The Book of Kells and Machine Learning

The Book of Kells, a stunningly beautiful illuminated manuscript from the early middle ages, has long fascinated scholars and art lovers alike. Its intricate designs, vibrant colors and complex symbolism have captivated viewers for centuries. But what if we could learn even more about this masterpiece of Celtic art with the help of modern technology?

Enter machine learning. With its ability to analyze vast amounts of data and recognize patterns, it seemed like the perfect tool to help us unlock the secrets of the Book of Kells. And so a team of researchers set out to use this cutting-edge technology to delve deeper into the manuscript than ever before.

At first, progress was slow. The team had to digitize each individual page of the Book of Kells, carefully capturing every detail so it could be analyzed by the machine learning algorithms. Then, they had to teach the algorithms to recognize the various symbols and patterns found throughout the manuscript, a task that required thousands of hours of painstaking work.

But finally, they began to see results. The machine learning algorithms were able to identify previously unnoticed patterns in the artwork, shedding new light on the techniques and tools used by the original artists. They were even able to identify subtle variations in the handwriting of different scribes, helping to piece together the history of the manuscript’s creation.

As the researchers continued to refine their methods, they discovered even more fascinating insights into the Book of Kells. They were able to identify the pigments used in the artwork, and even determine the source of the ink used for the text. They were able to trace the evolution of certain patterns and symbols over time, shedding new light on the cultural and historical context in which the manuscript was created.

In the end, the intersection of the Book of Kells and machine learning proved to be a fruitful one. By combining cutting-edge technology with ancient art, we were able to learn more about this remarkable manuscript than ever before. And who knows what other insights we might uncover in the future, as we continue to explore the intersection of art and science.

That was Notion, a productivity app's writing. This is mine.

My step-son graduated from Saint Andrews in June and I decided to stop in Dublin en route to the celebration. I had never seen the Book of Kells, despite having spent quite a few months in Ireland late last century. I took a tour of Trinity College, where the book resides under glass with a seemingly endless stream of visitors. Owen, a charming student led my tour of the campus; he both praised and poked fun at the esteemed college’s traditions. He gracefully walked the line between irreverence and courtesy. He was thoughtful about what was appropriate. I laughed with him when he pointed out the statue of the man who said that women would be allowed into Trinity “over my dead body.” Sure enough, women were admitted into the the institution and many take a selfie in front of his statue.

Toward the end of the same trip, a friend suggested that I listen to a podcast called The Witch Trials of JK Rowling. We had been discussing our discomfort with both the term “woke” and the seemingly untenable divisions we face as a society. A long paragraph should follow here, but words are not flowing from my fingertips. Speaking of which, I’m developing a new website called Verbolotry. Defined as “the worship of words,” the word points to the discomfort I have about how we, as compassionate individuals, can turn into mobs of misanthropes. 

All those algorithms that feed the beast—troll farms and social apps (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (the only one I still use), and TikTok—are deeply and firmly telling us how to behave. The formulae become words and the words become thoughts. Worshipping words is as dangerous as any other idolatry, if not more so. 

 …This is a stretch, but I think that algorithms have already driven the wedge too deep. People demonize one another rather than debate ideas. I think a poem could express my thoughts and fears more succinctly. “Rust never sleeps” is akin to “algorithms never sleep.”