top of page

So This Guy Says to the Elephant...

Cartoon sketch of a robot with one eye standing on a stage n front of an audience that is roaring with laughter. Sketch by Earle Levenstein.

Beginning, couple of middles, punch line; safe at home.

1) Wasn't too many years ago…catch a disease—you were toast. The usual defense then was isolation. Close the doors, shut the windows, maybe just pack up and get out of town.

Friends look great one day; next day half of them don't show up in school.

As a kid I had them all: measles, chicken pox, flu; the works. Here and gone. Shared with my brothers; big time. According to my mother, I was the one who brought everything into the house. Nailed everyone. She loved to regale friends, neighbors, anyone she ran into anywhere.

My son: first in the family with chickenpox; spread it to all of us. Isn't he something? An accusation wrapped in a joke, but I'm not joking. Sarcasm. Know what I mean?

He ran out to catch chickenpox and ran home fast as his little legs could carry him to share it. Hahaha.

Although it wasn't yesterday, I remember her words clearly: her tone of her voice, with its hint of ridicule. The clarity, the specificity, the nuance; it was impressive.

Gone and forgotten. Sort of.

Fact is, I did catch pretty much everything floating around; invariably it was a very mild case for me, but for my brothers, high fevers, every possible symptom: fever, coughs, itching, nausea; the works. A week, ten days; in and out of bed.

Why? Go figure.

2) My mother called me—another special title—The Peacemaker; because I was the only one who could deal with my explosive father; cajoling, soothing, calming, rationalizing, smiling, nodding, slowing him down, stopping the mayhem and returning us to our definition of peace.

I had no plan, no special power; I was intuitive, capable of transformation, of calm; I was confident: the Lone Ranger.

Another why? Why me?

Here's another image—connected?—my Army dog tags: name, number, years of service, blood type.

I can see it; LEVENSTEIN EARLE H; US 51086538; S51-52; ABPOS.

ABPOS; my blood type.

In case I got shot—which I didn't—medics would know what blood they'd need to replace what was leaking out.

Know what AB POS means? Universal Recipient. I can use anybody's blood.

How's that for a Whaddyaknow?

I mean, sounds like a clue for someone with a lot of time to try to relate every feeling, thought, image in my life to all the rest of the debris floating around in my head.

3) Another thought: AI. Artificial Intelligence. Related to the other stuff? Must be, but who knows? I think about it a good deal. Fascinating. Robotic creations talking, playing and winning chess, answering complex questions, building automobiles, driving cars.

Total miracle.

Disease? Hahaha. Piece of cake.

Two-second diagnosis; one-second prescription.

Science, engineering, technology, medicine—every fact-based, intellectually structured, rationally oriented pursuit—becoming the domain of incredible devices that never make mistakes.

I mean, I can see an AI wizard zipping through every medical textbook ever published in about ten minutes and then delivering a non-stop encyclopedic analysis, in perfect scientific language, without a single factual or grammatical error, the chemical, organic nature of each and every childhood disease known, origins, action, impact, duration.

Science. Medicine. Engineering. Electricity. Hydraulics.

The works. The whole deal.

AI knows everything about everything.

Facts, facts, facts.

4) Then I see a comic walking out onto the stage and he starts talking, improvising, imagining, sharing his life, and the audience just breaks up with howls of laughter.

No facts. No statistics. No structure.

Creating a story, an improvisation from imagination, from life, filled with images.

Or a cartoon: a dream last night, an image of joy, of sadness; you know, feelings.


AI's world? Knowing, not being.

AI with a soul?


We're safe. For now.

But if tomorrow some AI robot stepped out on a stage and went off into a hysterically funny spontaneous dialogue with a couple in the front row of the audience, we could always make for the exit, grab a taxi, and take off for another planet.

Not as advanced as ours.

Maybe still cooking over a fire.

Family. Kids. Couple of dogs, or whatever they have there.

Better than a robot telling jokes.



5) Stay in touch.

bottom of page