I spend an extraordinary amount of time on Twitter. It's where I get my news, where I commiserate with the rest of the sane world while watching political debates on television, where at least once a week, I fangirl out about something great Seth Meyers did on his show. I have made so many friends on Twitter that it's basically like a Cheers that exists only in the digital realm (and has no booze). Twitter is its own universe, full of troll accounts, celebrity accounts, and bots, which are accounts programmed to do their own thing without a human being, which is basically what they told us the future would be like. Humans hanging out with bots, living in perfect harmony.
Some bots are funny, like the "Florida Man" bot that tweets out all the bizarre news that comes from America's wang; some are weird, like the bot that tweets out every color (with a swatch); and some are unintentionally existential, like the beloved Horse_ebooks.
A few weeks ago, though, I discovered a bot called the Ephemerides, which tweets out raw images from outer space taken by probes like the Voyager, accompanied by a computer-generated poem. The text of the poem is culled randomly from books on astrology and the deep ocean. The resulting tweet is almost always a beautiful and real depiction of what it's like to be a human being living in this vast unknown universe. Like, for example:
I soon found the woman responsible for my latest cyber obsession was Allison Parrish, a teacher in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU Tisch (the program's tagline is "A Center for the Recently Possible," which sounds like something out of a Charlie Kaufman movie). The Ephemerides is one of several bots she's made — other favorites include Modernart_exe, which tweets the names of made-up works of art, and BrainTendencies, which tweets out "common and pernicious randomly generated cognitive biases that prevent YOU from making rational decisions." She also created a cool board game called Rewordable, where you make words out of syllables instead of letters, for when you're ready to take your Scrabble obsession to the next level. Talking on the phone with Allison opened my mind to a whole other world of art and a new mode of thinking about language and technology and the future.