Who's Changing: Me, My Culture, or the World?
Also: The State of Gaming, Palworld and Copyright, and The Dark Forest Hypothesis
Sometimes when I think about what one experiences as one grows older, it feels like I’m simply retreading the desire path of life that the people before me has tread. You eventually live into the aphorisms of old. As I change what I value, I often wonder whether my change in attitude is a product of: 1) just me, 2) my broader culture and generation, and/or 3) a broader overall trend in society.
My 30s have been marked by a desire to slow down, buffeted by a wind that blew me away from travelling the world and speaking everywhere, away from a hectic start-up, and away from an existential anxiety to *do stuff*. It has blown me towards walking (and running), writing, and spending time nurturing existing relationships over making new ones. My desire for touch grass can be informed by merely being in my 30s or that the world has materially changed. It makes sense to want to prime for a slower, local life when we went from a peak online pandemic, a fracturing and enshittification of online/digital life, and a general aversion to peak algorithm. But, growing older also comes with facing the many small and bigger griefs of life and realising that certain things are more important to me now.
As I have gained more years, however, I realized that I do not even need to argue any of this. Regardless of whether our lives as a whole are finite or infinite, every single beautiful thing in our lives is finite. Friendships that you thought are forever turn out to slowly fade away into the mists of time. Your personality can completely change in 10 years. Cities can transform completely, for better or sometimes for worse. You may move to a new city yourself, and restart the process of getting acquainted with your physical environment from scratch. Political ideologies are finite: you may build up an entire identity around your views on top marginal tax rates and public health care, and ten years later feel completely lost once people seem to completely stop caring about those topics and switch over to spending their whole time talking about "wokeness", the "Bronze Age mindset" and "e/acc".
Things change. Like Vitalik, my thoughts on the world has softened/mellowed: that my vigour and joy from designing crypto-economic systems have paved way to a belief that shit’s just complicated. It’s a slow, unfolding process of complexity turtles all the way down. There’s many lenses to view the world from and it’s entirely subjectively dependent on where you are in it. It also means that if you can change your lens, you can see so much more of the world. It all comes from a question of: “Hey, please tell me what you see?”
I’m currently back in South Africa, at the tail-end of seeing friends and family, being mostly offline and deeply enjoying it over a life I led a few years ago: that of the wanderer of the world that was wonderfully lost in new people. Coming home for anyone that’s left it can sometimes be filled with many emotions. But these days, the lens I have on is again, one of: shit’s just complicated and thus I can be more kind to myself in general. I don’t have to make up my mind about how I feel. I can merely be present. I don’t have to have an answer. I’m driving around my old feelings that’s still hanging around the places I’ve been and I’m just merely enjoying feeling it all again.
And in that, I hope to keep myself open. Vitalik concludes:
Every beautiful thing in the social world - a community, an ideology, a "scene", or a country, or at the very small scale a company, a family or a relationship - was created by people. Even in those few cases where you could write a plausible story about how it existed since the dawn of human civilization and the Eighteen Tribes, someone at some point in the past had to actually write that story. These things are finite - both the thing in itself, as a part of the world, and the thing as you experience it, an amalgamation of the underlying reality and your own ways of conceiving and interpreting it. And as communities, places, scenes, companies and families fade away, new ones have to be created to replace them.
I don’t know whether the changes in what I value is me growing older or the world just changing around me. Perhaps it’s both, but maybe it doesn’t really matter, because as Vitalik writes: it ultimately *is* both.
I'm so, so conscious of sounding like an old woman yelling at the clouds. From digital embroidery machines and cameras to samplers and drum machines, our creative arts have thrived and grown from new technology. And yet, increasingly, there is something missing for me.
It's a weird time to be a musician. It's a weird time to be a technologist. It's a weird time to be a human.
As so much changes around us and technology permeates yet more of our lives in novel, exciting, and terrifying ways, let's not forget the humble & simple paths to happiness.
That, ultimately, will always be true. Regardless of whether we are changing, the world is changing, or whether we are confused as to which one it is, we’ll always have access to a simple joy that comes from living a slightly slower, more present life.
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The State of Gaming
Damn. Matthew Ball wrote a huge bumper post on the state of gaming. With all the recent layoffs there’s also something else happening. Gaming revenue has declined in the past 2 years.
Again, it asks the question: is this a pandemic hangover, a change in broader media consumption, inflation, or something else?
TikTok + UMG
Big news this week in music licensing world is that UMG pulled all of its music from TikTok after a deal couldn’t be reached. UMG accounts for about 32% of the recording industry (the largest label).
Here’s some takes.
I don’t quite understand how the AI/royalty pool works as it seems vague?
On Tuesday, a day before its licensing contract with TikTok was set to expire, Universal — the largest of the three major record companies — published a fiery open letter accusing TikTok of offering unsatisfactory payment for music, and of allowing its platform to be “flooded with A.I.-generated recordings” that diluted the royalty pool for real, human musicians.
Anyway, even though the revenue is small for UMG, it absolutely is an important avenue for music discovery. A deal will come, for sure, just not sure who is going to strong arm whom here. At least for now, hopefully some indies get ahead here while UMG doesn’t exist on TikTok.
Palworld and Copyright
Palworld, otherwise known as “Pokemon with Guns”, made a big splash for what a lot of fans feel Niantic should’ve made a long time ago.
For example: in *no* Pokemon games has it been possible to simply throw out a Pokemon from a pokeball in real time and call it back as is the case in the shows. Something so simple, yet, such a canonical action just has never existed in any of the games.
Andres (aka TechnoLlama) wrote a great article on the copyright conundrums of what they did. Does it actually infringe copyright?
It depends. Yes, I know this is a lawyerly cop-out, but in this case it may quite fitting. There are quite a few things to remember here. The first is that when it comes to computer games, there’s quite a lot of copying of concepts already, you can find games that are pretty much clones of others, and the amount of cross-pollination in some genres is considerable.
The second consideration is the gameplay itself, which in this case is very different, so Nintendo wouldn’t have a claim on that side, I can’t see the capture element being subject to protection alone (too much idea), and anyway Pokémon did not invent that concept, that honour goes to the 80s game Megami Tensei. And even some of the Pokémon are inspired by Japanese myths and culture, as well as having borrowed heavily from character design from games such as Dragon Quest. However, it is the character design of the Pals where Pokémon could have a stronger copyright infringement claim. The legal question will rest on just how similar are the designs, and if they cross the line into substantial similarity, it’s not only necessary that there is a resemblance between two characters, but that similarity has to be substantial.
It should be interesting to see if anything comes from this.
Dark Forest Hypothesis
I’m super hyped for the Three Body Problem adaptation hitting Netflix soon. Yes, I’m giving the Game of Thrones showrunners a second chance.
A core part of the trilogy is the concept of the cosmic Dark Forest.wrote a great rundown on why he thinks it’s actually absurd and impractical. Note, SUPER SPOILERS if you haven’t read the books yet.
I disagree somewhat for one core reason: cooperation is harder over massive distances, which I thought was a core reason why the Dark Forest theory exists on a cosmic scale vs the biological scale of human and animal pro-social life.
The Pineapple Thief - Simple As That
I sometimes miss songs like this. Just a solid rock track with a sweeping chorus.
Pleeeaaase, let’s waste no moooore time.
Have a good one friends. Hope you get to enjoy a sunset.
See you next week!