Hang Outs and One Lanes Out
Also: Pool Caves, AI/IP News Round-Up, and Generative GTA 6
I was walking to Georgetown to pick up a race bib, feeling a bit frustrated with writing this newsletter. I was trying thread three topics together that indeed had a commonality to them: lamenting the loss of hanging out, the anxiety from using AI creatively and losing one's uniqueness, and how Barcelona was rapidly turning their streets into spaces for people and not cars. The commonality was a desire for control of my time. To reclaim control, I had to not give it so much power.
But key to reclaiming the hang, she argues, is reclaiming our relationship with time, with time-thieves including the blurring of boundaries between work and leisure (the pinging Slack app on your phone) and the pursuit of productivity (the urge to fill your free time with newsletter writing). When you carve out time to hang out, she writes, you assert your right to be non-productive.
I was trying to be productive about writing about non-productivity.
I laughed at the stupidity of it. Instead, on the way back with the winter sun beaming on the day in which it would earliest sunset of the year, I put on the new Fokofpolisiekar album, taking me back to being a young student in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
“Ek is oorgestimuleer” - “I am overstimulated”
They first started making music when I was a teenager and with the new album’s first guitar lick, I felt like I was suddenly not across the ocean in the USA, but back in my home town, drinking cheap wine and hanging out with my friends and trying to figure what it meant to be a young, liberal Afrikaner after the fall of Apartheid. They gave voice to that and back then it felt good to re-negotiate with a heritage and culture that felt like it only left behind bigotry and alienation. Now, 20 years later and they still make music, a sound that felt like it matured. They’ve become comfortable with who they are and welcome playfulness with their sound. They still sing about where our generation finds ourselves and it was great to reconnect with my younger self, feeling that freedom of youth. I miss hanging out with my friends listening to them.
People often talk about your university years being the best time in their life and to me it really comes down to the fact that it's very communal and not very car focused at a time when you have freedom to explore yourself. Hanging out, the aimless meandering sociality was ever present.
Now, I'm living elsewhere away from my old friends and family and thus hanging out needs to be engineered and intentional. American cities (besides basically New York) isn't really designed for hanging out in (South African cities too, fwiw) and thus it makes it all the more difficult.
I wish it was more like Barcelona. I mean, just look at how they are doing it. It's brilliant!
The superblock is such a no-brainer for any city. You essentially reduce car traffic into a neighbourhood by creating one-way lanes that send them back out without crossing an intersection.
It means that you free up one half of the road AND all the intersections for public space. They’re even expanding it, essentially connecting superblocks into extensive green spaces throughout the city.
You could do this for most 3x3 blocks, drastically reducing car traffic to only local access + creating more public and green space.
Feels like an utter no-brainer that brings the community out into their neighbourhoods. It does fill me with dread that this won’t ever really happen in the US on the scale of Barcelona. Nearby where I live there’s petitions to stop bike lanes because it’s apparently more dangerous AND someone needs to think about the parking!!!
Anyway. There was a different newsletter here that I threw out, one more so focused on how, creatively, I want to be more unreasonable. Creatively, I don't want the most likely outcome, but the most singular one: the story that only I could tell. Using AI can be amazing and there’s so many weird things coming down the line, but sometimes it feels that I’m not ceding my creativity away, but rather my time when using it. There’s an irony here, because although it saves you time, I’m losing control over it, because what I end up doing is creating something that’s more of an approximation of everything else that exists. And so, I compete against all that’s been created before and thus wake up with more existential angst that I should be creating more and more. Instead, I should hang out more with my creativity, not plan for it.
In these three topics, lamenting the loss of hanging out, the zeitgeist of AI and creativity, and Barcelona’s urbanism, there’s an answer here somewhere. But, I think that’s sometimes the paradox of this meta desire around productivity (or in my case, unproductivity). The more power you give it, the more it controls you. And so, I’ll let the answer stay unanswered.
For this week, I wanted to hang out a bit more with myself and not end with a specific conclusion of how I plan to be more productive at being non-productive. As the Afrikaans punk rock tunes play and the winter sun wanes, I’m resting in a dog park where I can smell someone burning a cozy wood fire nearby. I’m somewhere between South Africa and the USA and it’s nice.
Scenes with Simon is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Swimming Pool Bar + Caves
Generative AI + Games
GTA 6 is costing a few billion dollars to develop and there’s been chatter that with generative AI, games on that scale will be much cheaper to develop. Maybe, maybe not.
I’ve spoken about this frequently on this newsletter and so I’ll reiterate it in the context of gaming.
Because LLM’s are agentic, you can’t realistically constrain them. Game design is also about deliberate constraint (as with a story, for that matter). We won’t see a marginally different GTA with LLMs in it (or other on-the-fly generative components). It changes the experience entirely. It’s as big a difference as going from watching a film to playing a game. They’re fundamentally different kinds of experiences. It might reduce the production cost to create components and elements, but any on-the-fly generation in a game will mean that’s it not comparatively the same experience. Rather, we’ll see an entirely new genre of interactive media. World simulators. They’ll probably still be called games, but it’s not going compete with what GTA is trying to do and create. AI is good at long tail interactive experiences: like endless fan-fic or world simulators. It’s not going to be used as much in deliberately designed and constrained media experiences. It’s a fundamentally different kind of experience.
That’s my prediction. :)
TechnoLlama IP Round-Up
One of my favourite commentators on IP, AI, and technology has a host of new articles out. I feel like I sometimes just want to syndicate his work into this newsletter. 😂
I also think that the protection of basic musical elements is extremely problematic, this is close to protecting an idea and not the expression of the idea, and it is as close to creating a copyright monopoly as I’ve ever seen before, that’s not what copyright is for.
The Rise and Fall Of Podcasting
I’ve never deeply delved into the business economics side of podcasting. Seems it’s tough to play in this industry today if you aren’t bringing a big audience with you to the show.
Fokofpolisiekar - Breindrein
I know I’ve already linked a Fokofpolisiekar song in this newsletter. Have another one. I enjoy how pop-punk this album is. Has Wavves energy to it.
Enjoy a sunset! And remember, as Vonnegut said, to fart around.
See you next week!