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You Can't Automate Authenticity
On Everything Everywhere All At Once & GPT-4. Also: Junkspace Cinema, Kowloon Walled City, and NFT Performance Art.
Part of the joy of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” (EEAAO) winning all the awards, is that the entire crew (from directors to actors to prop masters) exude authenticity and sincerity. You can tell that they had a story to tell and they wanted to bring the world along with them. It’s a joy to cheer for it all. Its success is also its meta story: of the comebacks, of the collective, of representation, of recognition, and uncompromising vision. A sci-fi comedy drama that contains butt-plugs, bagels, and racoons-as-chefs is now the most awarded film in history.
Which leads to me to GPT-4 + MidJourney v5 that dropped this week and the continued rise of AI art and animation.
When the cost to create goes down, the ‘why it exists’ matters more and more.
Amid our current multiverse of the online, we are already inundated with abundance of choice. We are not just entertained by the media itself, but also about what we can share with others through it. Consuming media these days comes alongside the conversations at parties, the reading of reddit/twitter, and the exploration of wikipedia afterwards. We want to enjoy things that we can also talk about. We say things like:
“I’m going to watch Ant-Man this week so I can chat to my friend about it this weekend.” (me, this week)
“What movie did you watch on the flight?” (my mother whenever I fly somewhere)
“This trailer looks amazing? Thoughts?” (me, talking to my brother)
This hug when EEAAO won Best Picture was poignant. Ke Huy Quan’s first role was alongside Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones. The story becomes more than just the film. It’s: “Did you watch the film AND did you see the when Ke Huy Quan hugged Harrison Ford?!”
A media’s meta-story is important and it all starts with why it exists. Why must I care? It all begins with one person asking another person to look at it and say: “I made this, want to see?”
Now, when you read a poetic response from GPT-4 that’s really beautiful on the surface, it feels devoid of intention and authenticity, unless you know more about its context. When it is easy to LARP great style, to generate a beautiful haiku, and to produce wonderful art through AI tools, it’s not enough to just exist.
This can be demoralizing for some creators as it means that above and beyond creating the “thing”, you have to also explain why it matters. There’s an exasperated sigh I can hear from musicians and authors whose record labels and publishers have all asked them to get on TikTok and make some content. To sell the thing, you have to also sell your story.
While this is already true and will continue with AI works, one thing that stands out from EEAAO’s success is that you can’t automate authenticity and sincerity. The thing you made can and will sell itself more if it comes from a position of authenticity and sincerity: when you can tell the world why it exists and why they should care.
One other example of this that came through my feed this week was when Maggie Rogers played her song, Alaska, to Pharrell. He had no notes to give as feedback because he could hear that she was authentic.
“I have zero, zero, zero notes for that. It's because you do your own thing, it's singlular!”
You can’t shortcut that. It will become more important in time as AI tools allow more people to create. Even if you use AI tools, it matters why.
It’s also why it’s important to acknowledge the interdependence of the creative act. The first people who will care about what you’ve made are the people who built it with you. Simulating and emulating quality on your own will struggle against a team.
From Daniel Kwan, accepting Best Director:
“The world is opening up to the fact that genius does not stem from individuals like us on stage, but rather genius emerges from the collective. We are all products of our context. We are all descendants of something and someone and I want to acknowledge my context.”
“And lastly, I just want to go back to my original point. There is greatness in every single person. It doesn’t matter who they are. You have a genius that is waiting to erupt. You just need to find the right people to unlock that. Thank you so much to everyone who has unlocked my genius.”
We unlock genius through others. Stay authentic. Stay sincere. Let’s create: together!
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Junkspace Cinema & Physical Space in Film
This article by Sachin delves into the changing nature of how space + time is depicted in films. One striking point he makes is that with the modern web, films depicting distant parts of the world dissipated.
Over the last two decades, space has fallen out of favor as a medium to express style and mood. The internet and cheaper air travel reduced space to a commodity that can be consumed and reproduced endlessly in the form of social media posts and youtube videos. The heavily stylized frames of Michael Mann are competing with an iPhone. The Pacific-inspired scene mentioned earlier has probably been recreated on Instagram thousands of times. This steady decline in space as a medium to express style may also portent the decline of the James Bond brand. In a mid-20th century globalizing world, a spy who effortlessly moved between exotic locations epitomized style and created desire but does not strike the same chord when those spaces can be accessed by the average western tourist.
In turn, films try to depict spaces that are hard to experience otherwise:
When space becomes important in a movie these days, it is usually a fantastical world that the audience would not get to inhabit otherwise - from the fighter plane cockpits in Top Gun to the alien planet Pandora in Avatar.
In my mind, I think in part, it describes the success of science-fiction and fantasy in recent years. Unlike an influencer posting their beach selfie from Ko Tao, Thailand, there are no influencers posting about their lives in Coruscant or Middle Earth. We can only truly experience these spaces, through film.
Consider The Arcologies
Remember these out there constructions in Sim City? Back in April 2020, Alexandra Marraccini wrote some great speculative fiction about life in them.
There are no lawns on the Darco. There is no grass. To those truly born in the black, the flesh is ideally translucent to the point of near transparency, so as to highlight the functional web of veins and capillaries, the thoracic and other glorious cavities. The citizens of the Darco take great stock in dreams, and hire oracles and augurs in abundance. The augurs, instead of tracking the flights of birds before important battles, or casting lots, instead look into the venting and infinitesimal crossings of hallways as portents.
Hours Art + NFT Performance Art
I think one of the blockchains most useful mediums for creative expression is playing with its native ability to catalogue provenance through time. If you also natively store the art onchain, you get a wonderful playground for NFT performance art.
The Hours Art by Lawrence Rogers is a great piece of protocol art that allows people to bid on changes to the current piece every hour, allowing them to mint it if they win.
Here you can see how it’s changed every hour, with each hour being collectible. The options available to modify it is randomized. Eventually, an option to “close it out” (a finishing touch) will become increasingly available, eventually ending the project if its chosen.
A joy to watch to watch it unfold.
U.S. Zoning, Explained
Nothing more but a great video from City Beautiful explaining how U.S Zoning laws work.
In the wake of SVB’s troubles, the Fed announced a new facility called the Bank Term Funding Program. In short, it allows banks to get loans from the Fed by putting up certain treasuries and securities as collateral. Importantly, the value of the loans will not be the market value of them, but the par value.
It’s definitely a really interesting way to provide short-term liquidity while the bond yield curve is inverted (allowing banks, at cost, to stay afloat when depositors want their money).
Where I tend to disagree is that it’s not like old-school QE. The Fed didn’t just ““print”” trillions of dollars and buy back treasuries from bank books. These are still costly loans for banks to take even if they are able to cover their underwater treasuries in the short-term. Also, will depositors flee to money market funds? Yes, but not as en-masse as is expected. I feel like people who want markets to be “efficient” always seem to neglect the opportunity cost of arbitration. People are lazy (like me). Before the BTFP when people were opening up new bank accounts at top 4 banks to spread the risk, it took time. Now that deposits are guaranteed (for now), people can go back to doing whatever else they were doing with their life.
Regardless, the BTFP will have an impact, for sure, but, certainly not enough to bet that 1 Bitcoin will be worth $1m in 90 days. 😂
Kowloon Walled City
Probably one of the most interesting urban areas in recent history: Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong. Adolfo’s famous cross-section is 10 years old and he goes through this thread on how this was made (along with interesting facts about this once crazy neighbourhood in Hong Kong).
Ant-Man Quantumania Theme.
The song for this week is the theme from the recent Ant-Man film. I thought the film wasn’t nearly as bad as the reviews made it seem. Definitely better than a lot of the phase 4 MCU films. But, then again, I’m easily elated when there’s buildings that are alive, fighting in a war in the quantum realm. The theme is top notch composing from Christophe Beck.
Stay weird, friends!
Enjoy the sunset! See you next week! :)