Funky Word Web & other notes

Nathan Allen
4 min readJan 21, 2019


In the last A.I. Research note, I quoted myself: “Get good data. Organize and label it well. You’ll need it in a few years when the methods you’re using today are garbage and replaced by better methods.”

What great advice.[1]

So I ran False Spirits & Jacobin Jackals through a tag generator. I’m not naming the company because what follows is embarrassing, but tag generation is fairly simple. (This company calls the process “sentiment analysis,” which is fancy tag generation. In theory, it goes a baby step beyond tags to discover more general topics and possibly even tone, etc.) I should note that this company holds multiple patents in this field.

So here are the tags generated, weighted high/low:

I don’t want to brag, but I’ve read the article. This list is (1) baffling; (2) unhelpful; and (3) baffling. In fact, it strikes me as anti-helpful. Read the article and compare it to the above list … yeah, that’s some funky word web you’ve got there. In theory, the tag list should kinda outline an abstract a human would have written for the article.

For reference, here’s their list of terms with related terms and their frequencies from the article.

“Nation” appears relevant, but the word is so general that it’s not really useful; really, the essay was about institutions — no fancy word web required … that term actually appeared many times. They nailed (“nailed”) “thermodynamics,” but, again, the term is so general as to not be helpful. Plus, the discussion was really about entropy and its inevitability — oh, another term actually used many times. And Palestinians, Zionists, National Socialists and Lugals? Dude, your A.I. needs a therapist. And don’t get me started on Michael Velli 9. I knew him back when he was Michael Velli 4 and … eh, I have no idea what that means.

Speaking of entropy (exemplified by the encroaching chaos of the previous paragraph), here’s a list of some terms I (a human) would suggest as relevant:

There are other relevant terms, but it’s interesting that the terms I think are germane (1) do occur with obvious frequency and (2) aren’t on the A.I.-generated list. Their word web actually took them away from producing a relevant tag list to producing “Michael Velli 9.”

While this is a “their A.I. sucks” problem, it’s also a domain issue. Any domain/content that is a consistent and straight-forward (e.g. very basic) delivery of facts/info is properly approachable by A.I. — nearly anything more complex will result in a Mao Peking disaster. More on domains some other time….

In Gatesian Utopia I touched on causation/correlation conflation. Here’s a nice illustrative analog to the buffoonery occurring at the Gates Foundation:

If the Gates Foundation discovers this clear causal relationship, they’ll create a Big Bet to prevent Nick Cage from appearing in movies.

So, yeah, someone forward this to them.

(The Gatesian well is deep. More buffoonery will be mined. Also, figurative speech shall be mangled.)

In uncorrelated news, I finished with the patent on which I was working and had time to make the aforementioned kitten wearing a cape on a unicycle (juggling chainsaws).

“What about the cape?” you ask. Fret not, kitten has many manifestations.

[1] Reminds me of the time I cautioned Mallu Iqbal against relying too heavily on war elephants. (That’s when Tamerlane used the ol’ flaming camel offense to capture Delhi.)

About Nathan Allen

Formerly of Xio Research, an A.I. appliance company. Previously a strategy and development leader at IBM Watson Education. His views do not necessarily reflect anyone’s, including his own. (What.). Nathan’s academic training is in intellectual history; his next book, Weapon of Choice, examines the creation of American identity and modern Western power. Don’t get too excited, Weapon of Choice isn’t about wars but rather more about the seeming ex nihilo development of individual agency … which doesn’t really seem sexy until you consider that individual agency covers everything from voting rights to the cash in your wallet to the reason mass communication even makes sense….