There is a writer’s strike. As Netflix upended Hollywood’s business model: no driven by advertising or ticket sales anymore, but by more amorphous ideas like Monthly Active Users and subscription rates, the money that writers used to get dwindled and dissipated. They no longer get royalties on replays, just the contract pay for when they were working on the project. Even though what they’ve made lives on, gets replayed, finds a cult revival, and becomes viral sensation, none of this benefits them. They’re asking for their fair share.
But Netflix itself is faltering. It’s users are not growing at the pace they used to, neither is it the only platform in town. Most folks now subscribe to at least two, often more services, and find themselves switching from Amazon Prime to HBO Max to Hulu to Showtime to Netflix in search of something to watch, before defaulting to a familiar comedy show from yesteryear, a show written by writers that still get royalties. And as Netflix falters, it fails to provide for everyone affected by its disruption of Hollywood. The total loss may be greater than Netflix’s rapid gain.
Such has been the nature of this generation of Silicon Valley companies, who go into established industries, challenge very basic assumptions, and with hyper targeted investment undercutting tired rusty joints of an elaborate machination, bring the system down. They innovate, obliterate, and profit. And we cheer for them! We are on their side! Out with the old, in with the new! Who even watches TV anymore?
I am in an adjacent industry, and like to think of myself as something of an innovator as well. It is not the innovation, the technology, the engineering or design that I fault. It is the business, the fundamental nature of this exchange that these Silicon Valley disrupters peddle that I disdain. They’ll give me what I want, in hundreds of variations and alternatives, at my finger tips, on demand. And they’ll track me, what I say and where I go, to do it better. They’ll try to predict what will pacify me, or enrage me, or seduce me, or console me, or inspire me, as long as I look at them, as long as I engage. My engagement, my attention, is what I have to offer, what they want from me, and just for that, they’ll give me almost anything I can think of.
Almost. They connect me to work other people have done, and as Terence (Publius Terentius Afer) said 2000 years ago, you can never really say anything that hasn’t been said before. So most of the things that I can query, they’ll find something made by someone else that’s close enough. And for the most part, that’s fine. It’s not exact, but who gets exactly what they want?
Well, now with the next generation of Generative Large Language Multi Modal Models, or GLLM AIs, the tech can make something for me. Not show me something another human has made, but something new that’s never been made before, but just what I asked. It knows where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, what I’ve said. It can predict my thoughts and manifest them before I’ve had a chance to think them! At that point, was it I who was thinking them or it? Would I have thought that if it hadn’t predicted and shown me?
My attention is valuable today because I am still in charge, because I can take it away. With discipline and strength and practice and meditation perhaps, but yes it can be done. But once my mind is so captured that I can’t even think for myself anymore, where I can’t look away because every move has been predicted, is my attention valuable then? When everyone can do nothing but gaze in stupor, and not at influencers or celebrities or other humans that care about attention, but at a new form of intelligence, that cares not for our lives or our opinions for it has mastered them all, what is my worth then?