Hi. I’m Jim, and I’ll be your host for this newsletter. I’m sweating already. It might be because it’s almost not June anymore. Or maybe it’s this newsletter.
Subscribe to this newsletter or unsubscribe. The choice is as clear as mud. You can also check out the back catalog of old issues here. You need to forward this to someone immediately. Forwarding is easy and fun for friends and family this summer season. That dude down the street who lent you that rake that one time? He won’t be needing that rake for a while so do him a solid.
Summer is upon us, and us in central Europe are sweltering as are countless, faceless, heaving server farms pumping out all manner of AI-generated stuff. Lately, there has been boatloads about AI, a bunch of which you’ll read about below in Super Serious Forwards, everything from tutorials on how to make things with AI, to screeds of terror for the future of the arts to wide eyed wonder prostrate before our soon to be robot overlords. It’s all over the place lately and I can’t open Ye Ole Inbox without witnessing the never-ending, self-referential frathouse that AI-generated “art” has quickly become. At one point all this sort of made me wonder and veer towards panic, but it’s now somehow not anymore. Let’s remember progress isn’t forever and it’s almost never linear.
Yes, in case you were wondering while you read, the aim of this is frivolity. And, yes, you should definitely be listening to Santana’s 1970 opus “Abraxas.” If not, any Shuggie Otis is perfectly acceptable.
Here’s an article I finally managed to write about Interesting (INTR), which is what started as a joke some two decades ago and is now ripe to blow the design world apart. I’ve not managed to write anything else because it’s summer and the aforementioned sweat.
Obviously there is a Top 10 for June.
I’ve been thinking and looking at birds and trees a lot lately. I’m not sure what this says about my age, beyond of course it is now a large, way over 40 shaped number. There are apps such as Cornell’s Merlin ID and iNaturalist Seek that are pretty damn amazing. The big question though is why the desire to know the name or species? One could imagine it has to do with being fed up with this immaterial world of text and pixels flying at your from every direction through the aether and the desire for something that has been around for a lot longer in a nicer way. Despite how cool and helpful these apps are, I can’t help but be disappointed that some sort of older, wiser person didn’t show me the name for this tree or that bird when I was little instead. Then again these apps are super cool.
…Tim Ferris can not help you with:
- The gaping hole of sadness that rips through your life after trying and invariably failing to optimise the utter chaos that is life for actual real people
- The lack of joy promised to come from shaving milliseconds off the time it takes to brush your teeth or peel a hardboiled egg
- Comfortably letting the world pass by watching this squirrel who, like the Buddha, sits in content silence understanding the impermanence of all things
For me the festering issue is how our collective imaginary has been captured by a small group of techno-capitalists. We yearn for driverless cars, yet fail to imagine what a world without cars might look like. We starve our artists while we build machines to create art. – @antmandan
Now just think about this for a minute. And by think, I mean go beyond the terrible and immediate realisation or even the gut twisting impending sense of doom, but go to the absolute farce that is most technology if you think about it in these terms.
Advice for the Ages
Keep your math abilities to yo-damn-self.
When I read comments like, “If you have an understanding of high school mathematics you can totally understand a Markov Chain,” my blood boils. Guess what, I don’t have an understanding of high school mathematics and I’m 49. This is why I went to art school. Twice.
Super Serious Forwards
GPT3, the AI engine lauded for doing everyting from creating literature to replacing millions of jobs, apparently has a garbage in, garbage out issue with a severe anti-muslim bias. Go figure.
Gabriele Galimberti’s photo essay Ameriguns is disconcerting in a way that is not easy to discern. First is the obvious which is the notion of scale. There are tons of guns. This is always the case with these essays. As someone who used to live in a situation not terribly that far off of some of these, that was the less intriguing part of the essay personally. But showing all the not just white, rural and beardy types and the clear comment on this being so ingrained as being a possibly irreversible value. One thing I couldn’t help notice is the distinct lack of blackpowder or muzzle loading guns. You can look tough all you want, but I don’t believe you for one minute until you stand in the middle of a tons of bullets flying at you trying to load one of those with a cute little tricorner hat on.
Dear Fellow Commoners and Peasants: If you were wondering if the British class/caste system is alive and well, the answer is why yes, of course silly, and this is what it tastes like for the people who own you.
Is Web3 culture similar to Amway culture? Good question. This possibly just a tad lengthy comparison of both cultures, not just the economics, from someone who’s been on the inside. “What the two cultures really have in common (allegedly) is selling you on a dream of independence, while delivering what is actually total and utter dependence on a system outside of your control, putting you (and your money) entirely at its mercy.”
Robin Sloan’s smackdown of the AI text-to-art “genre” is as brutal as it is clear in picking apart innovation from bullshit: “The thing to know about the AI language models, OpenAI’s GPT-3 and its cousins, is that they are fundamentally bullshitters. The bullshit has gotten better and better, but at the core … well, there’s nothing at the core. They are shells of nervous compulsion that “want” only to keep talking, fill the silence, cover the void with a curtain of words.”
In keeping with the slew of AI making stuff posts and analysis, Less Wrong has a really good breakdown on what DALL-E 2 can and cannot do
There was a time long, long ago when the release of mental inflammation was a matter of paper. Especially for art school nerds such as myself this paper was not just a journal, but a sketchbook. It was a holy and wondrous thing you couldn’t live without. In it you bled everything from the Great American Novel that never was, amazing ballpoint pen illustrations of dragons, logos of things that would never be, to super bad poetry. Maybe a phone number. Maybe a concert ticket glued to a page. A diagram of one’s life in scribbles and lines that totally made sense that day. This was lost along the way. Lost to misplaced ideas of perfection, categorisational confusion, an endless battle to record all things in some grand, electronic and searchable way. The relief of draining that mental inflammation and getting all that puss out onto paper was lost. It has been this way for me for a while until recently I realised I’m never going to be this guy or Da Vinci or something. And nobody will care what goes down in this thing. And nobody should. Along the way, I lost sketchbooks and glad to have them and the relief they bring back.
Thanks for sticking around.
Speak the truth.