Letter to the opera singer I met last night

Dear opera singer,

I wish I asked your name after meeting you in the cafe des artistes of Luxembourg yesterday night. Instead, all I’m left with is the feeling that you are a great guy and that being an opera singer is a fabulous “job”. You tried to convince me that it’s a job like any other; you mentioned a lot of plausible explanations, such as the fact that when you have to perform the same piece hundreds of time for the crowd, it loses its magic. You said that coming to sing popular songs with normal people in that cafe feels liberatory, citing its lack of musical formality and its improvisational quality.

Yet whatever you said ended up convincing me even more that an opera singer must have a fulfilling, emotionally rich life. I instinctively liked you for the 10 minutes of our interaction, even as you mentioned your impatience at all those Luxemburgish shops that do not greet in Luxemburgish. And as you said all of that, I couldn’t shake out of my head that song from Cake.

You asked me what’s my trade. I did my best explaining that I work with people and computers, and noticed a change in your mood. When I told you that I’m learning the ropes of this thing called “machine learning”, I saw your good-tempered, gleeful expression suddenly turning serious and a bit preoccupied. You told me to be careful with that stuff – and while you were saying that, a number of things passed through my head. I was amused at how you said that, referring to “you” as if “us” were a compact, unified group of humans dedicated to the awakening of a mysterious, almost alien entity. I could sense that part of your unease was the result of so many incendiary statements by people like Elon Musk or Stephen Hawking.

Yet, I also understand your cautionary assessment. In the pursuit of defining Human Intelligence, nothing should guide us more than the finest specimens of our species who don’t have a say in that process. After hearing hundreds of times about machines and emotions, yesterday night I realized that whether or not emotions are an emerging byproduct of raw intelligence, whether or not emotions will arise as we discover more complex ways to understand and interact with the world, it doesn’t hurt to tread lightly and listen to our very own feelings on the matter. After all, it’s these very spontaneous emotions that evolved to help us surviving up to this day.

So once again I raise my glass to you, my opera singer friend. It was a pleasure meeting you and be reminded of the importance of an emotionally rich life.

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