I had a solid eight hours of sleep, and set out from Troyes in the late morning. Ingrid, my host in Marigny had put me in touch with her sister France who lives in Montiéramay, so I changed my route slightly to make that one of my two stops between Troyes and Chaumont. France was working until around 5, so at her recommendation I ran first to the nearby Lac d'Orient to swim around during the day. I walked to the edge of Troyes before spending most of the run on a dirt path along the edge of a canal. It was less than 30 Kilometers to the beach, and for some reason when I set out I thought that that meant a short day.
I got to the beach, and rocked my backpack tan in public for the first time. Basically, I look like I am wearing a brown tank top at all times. The white short tan is worse though. I splashed around in the water for a while, cooling off and letting my tired legs float around in the cool water. Afterwards, I sat around on the grass for a while waiting until it was time to start heading towards Montiéramay. I looked to my right and was pretty surprised to see a woman not wearing a shirt. Then I remembered, "oh, I'm on a beach...in France...crazy."
Around 4, I made the short walk towards France's house. When I arrived, I had to double check the number I had written down with what was in front of me. France and her family live in amazing old abbey house that they restored themselves. The kind of place I take a picture of when I run by, thinking "man, it would be sweet to live there."
Well, I did stay there, and France gave me a tour of the house and the surrounding town. She is an architectural engineer, so the tour was pretty awesome. It was pretty interesting speaking with her about architecture through the barrier of language, because we were both keen on drawing things. How do you say "flying buttress" in French?...I don't know, but here is a drawing of one!
After dinner, we spent a long time talking about various things, and eventually got onto the topic of machine learning (because of a project that I made during school this year). In our debate, I suggested that in some hypothetical future world, machines could be capable of creating art and having true personalities...and France was on the side of this being impossible. I don't think there really is a right answer to such a theoretical debate at the moment, but the end of our conversation really stuck with me. It will seem random and out of place, but I don't want to forget it, so I'm writing it here. A short, translated transcript follows:
France: "Think of the world's great artists...the works which they create could never be done by a machine. They are too original, and manifested through ingenuity and an entirely unique human soul."
Me: "OK, agreed, but let's create an imaginary scenario where I have created such an amazing work of art."
France: "Scenario established."
Me: "Now, let's imagine that I didn't create that work of art, but that instead, I wrote a computer program, and a machine generated it."
France: "OK, but then the machine didn't actually create the art, you did."
Me: "Well, now imagine that instead of writing the entire program, I only wrote one word...and you wrote one word...and millions of people and things throughout the world each wrote something. Then who made the art?"
France: [that French shrug expression]
We agreed to disagree.
For me though, the conversation really shed some light on this trip. I like to think that I am such a machine, merely a database of everything that I have seen and experienced in the world. Even the flutter of a "papillon" could influence who I am and who I become. For me, this trip is about finding as many people and things to write a little something into my database, in the hopes that one day the world that I have lived in will inspire me to create works which can, in turn, write a word or two upon the people who have experienced them. So far, I've read a lot of good words on this trip.
26 June 2009