Dad Band Futures Fest: Broadcast from LaterDad Band Futures Fest: Broadcast from Later
Dad Band Futures Fest: Broadcast from Later

Broadcast from Later 46: Dad Band Futures, exploring ways by which creativity can be reinvigorated as we work to ignite a creative renaissance. The creation of a scene, pre-festival, when things unexpectedly start to happen.

Contributed By: Julian Bleecker

Published On: Tuesday, October 3, 2023 at 16:19:33 PDT

Updated On: Sunday, May 26, 2024 at 16:19:33 PDT

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Dad Band Futures Fest w- Julian Bleecker | Broadcast From Later 46 |

Music: Exercise foresight, poor eyesight, couldn’t fist fight, had to overcompensate, learn to be clairvoyant, see around corners, read signals and warnings, interpret omens, respond to coordinates. Alright,

From Later: broadcast from later. We’re exchanging weak signals of change and trying to understand their significance. A weak signal of change is something we notice, it’s an event, an idea, an issue that we don’t fully understand yet, but we suspect it might be meaningful in shaping the futures of our lives and society.

And from later, we’re steady soaking up and trying to make sense of what’s changing. And on these broadcasts, we’re just giving a glimpse of what it looks like when you’re trying to understand something you don’t know anything about. Basically, it’s structured like show and tell. A few of us each bringing a signal.

The rest of us do not know what that item is in advance. Collectively, we’re trying to make sense of it. Speculate on where it might lead. If you’re listening and you feel lost and you don’t understand what we’re talking about, it’s no problem. Neither do we. It’s literally the newest stuff we know about.

If you’re listening and you like it and you think this is a good idea to practice this practice, I encourage you to formalize something like it for yourself or informalize. Also, let us know. Like, subscribe, comment, get at me however you might. I don’t know anything. Everybody’s just trying to figure it out as we go.

Today on the Vroom call, we have myself, Robert Bolton, our producer, Jeremy Glenn. Returning to broadcast is J. R. LaFontaine, who we’ve been working with lately on top secret stuff at Lodic AI. Welcome, J. R. Welcome back. Thanks, Robert. Good to be here. Valdez is here, and Julian Bleecker, an artist, an engineer, a strategist, and a living legend, a future Hall of Famer in this field of Speculative futures.

Is that okay to say?

Julian Bleecker: Yeah. Yeah. I’ll, I’ll accept that with, with grace and humility. It’s important. I think I wanted to give

From Later: you your flowers

Julian Bleecker: and I appreciate that. It’s very generous of you. You’ve

From Later: done much for, for the discipline and literally wrote the manual. So it’s true that from later would not exist the way it does.

If it weren’t for groundwork laid by yourself and your future laboratory.

Julian Bleecker: Thank you.

From Later: We’ve had the chance to. to chat a couple of times, um, just recently. Uh, and in general, I really like how you move professionally that you very earnestly are trying to build community around not just the discipline, the design fiction TM discipline, or, you know, but all of these sort of futures work that various people are doing in a way that’s very, yeah, no nonsense, open, non competitive, and, you know, I want to die.

So what, like, what are you trying to do? What’s the project all about at the moment?

Julian Bleecker: There is a project going on. I’m really feeling it. And for, for a number of years, you know, in and around near future laboratory, I don’t think I was sure exactly what was going on. And I was rolling very much with a sense of slightly Panicked, uh, instinct.

And so my, but the way I look at what’s going on, it’s sort of referred to it as the third evolution of the near future laboratory kind of started out originally as, as my blog, this is back in 2005, 2006, when I was teaching at USC and I was teaching film students, interactive media, no one says interactive media anymore, but it was a thing.

And so it was a blog. It was just like a platform, a way to articulate ideas and sort of share my Projects and, you know, very humble little, it was a blog and then there was the second evolution of near future laboratory, which I think of as like the, the dad band phase, where it was, uh, you know, four or five of us who, you know, every so often got together in my garage, we put the garage door up.

Sometimes we actually played instruments. Sometimes we just sat around the sofa and drank beers. Metaphorically, you know, sometimes we do a project, sometimes not. And every once in again, it was usually me who would be like, Hey, we can play at a Joe’s pub for the Wednesday afternoon lunch crowd. You guys want to do that?

And we go down there and we play metaphorically do a little, you know, a thing, a project or that kind of thing. And that went on for, I don’t know, for like a long time. And to be honest, it’s like, I never really felt like that was where I wanted it. To be by that. I mean, I felt like, as you would be, if you were like, enthusiastic about your dad band, like we should be playing like giant stadium.

We should be playing Madison square garden kind of thing. And it’s kind of a little bit of cartoon image of the typical earnest band. Uh, there’s usually one person who’s, who’s super charismatic about what the band’s doing. And the rest of the band is maybe, you know, the complexity of beautiful complexities of life.

It’s like, uh, you know, the drummer starting a family and you’re kind of like, well, okay, how’s that going to. Fold into the project to actually get to Madison Square Garden or, you know, or play Glastonbury or whatever. And, you know, these kind of, I wouldn’t even call it tension, but just like differences of purpose and where we want to get to happen.

And then, you know, the front man manages to, you know, someone says like, Hey, you know, I think it’s you. I think you should. That out on your own and either start your own, you know, you’re a different band or a different project or that kind of thing. And I feel like that was the, it wasn’t, there was no tension.

It was just like a graceful transition to like, actually that’s where the energy is. Right. And, and, and not saying that there’s not energy amongst the other members of the band, but. You know, the drummer is going to start a family and the, uh, the, the guy who plays the jazz flute is going to, you know, do something entirely different.

And maybe there is a little bit of a tension between the jazz flute guy and the, and the front man who wants to play hardcore, but, and so they just go their different ways. Can you look at these histories? And so that’s like the third evolution and the way that, uh, so I’m the front man in that story with humility and the way, the way I want, or, you know, the one who just has a, I, you know, I’ve got bigger ideas and I need The, the way to kind of enact those, otherwise I’ll just be sad and, and feel like at some point, like I could have, I should have.

Actually taken that gig and played Glastonbury, even though maybe I didn’t have a full set list. We’ll figure it out. It’s gonna be beautiful. Something great will happen. And then you go to Glastonbury and it’s like, there’s another musician there who’s, you know, who you admire, who’s like, I’ll play drums for you.

Hell yeah, let’s do this thing. And then there’s another person who like plays sax. It’s like, Hey, can I fit into this? I think we can pull something together and something happens in that moment. And that’s, I started getting those feelings like when during the pandemic, when there wasn’t a lot of time and you know, people couldn’t, it was just crazy.

Right. And so I just started doing things. I started playing more. So I started a podcast. I decided to like, try, you know, try a new instrumentation. So start general seminar, right. I decided to, you know, say, uh, you know, I wonder what it would be like if we, if we hooked up this Marshall lamp to this, uh, you know, this reverb system, and then that becomes like the discord.

And I just started feeling a lot of this energy and the response from people was like, there was enthusiasm. Like, yeah, I’ve been looking for, you know, this kind of. I feel I resonates with me. And so the community starts thriving and starts building and growing. And that, that is to continue the music metaphor.

It kind of stretches a little bit far, but I tell people it’s like, I’m building an empire for the defense of the creative consciousness. And we need a festival, big scale. We need Coachella scale vibes around this. Right. Because it feels like it’s something that is, is meant to be epic. And I think the idea of, or kind of framing it around, how can we reinvigorate the potential that all humans have, imagine expansively and to bring creativity into the mix in a way that I feel like it hasn’t been Sometime and use that as a basis for evolving and developing, you know, what we’re referring to as like the practice, whatever it is, design, fix, inspective design or whatever.

I think those are just kind of like markers within that. They’re almost like music genres, right? But we’re going to do a festival. Right. There’s going to be lots of music genres there. Right. There’s going to be the, uh, the side stage where it’s going to be, maybe it’s a little bit more experimental or maybe it’s like Rihanna jamming with someone else you wouldn’t expect to be there.

Right. Like, just because they’re like, we’re here to create a vibe and the, and we’re not going to single ourselves out as like the cornerstone of that, where if this isn’t about, you know, Trying to allow someone who’s exceptionally prideful to show off. This is all of us together. And I, and I felt that kind of vibe was something that was difficult to do when you just, you know, dad band playing in a garage and, uh, you know, just cracking beers and cracking jokes.

From Later: Well, I think it’s difficult period. So that’s what’s so impressive. I think about what you’re doing in the energy around the right now is that and I think none of us involved that those of us who are involved at all should take lightly is that you clearly have a lot of energy for it and you and are putting a lot of effort into it.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of effort into this thing. And as much as you have this like sense of humility about all of it, but like the actual efforts that are going into organizing these things, it’s significant. Yeah.

Julian Bleecker: It’s it’s it’s a load. And, and, and part of that is, is why I think, you know, trying to draw people into it and find, find that, you know, there’s that first tier of people who were like, I love this, I love the feeling that I’m getting from, you know, whatever this thing is, I guess, you know, there’s me and then there are people who are kind of like, Whatever you need and they just have that, you know, an equal amount of energy and enthusiasm and they, they might not be at the tip of the spear, but they’re part of the Vanguard in a way.

They’re doing it anyway. And they’re just kind of in some way, maybe subtly wait, we’re waiting for someone to come along and say, Hey, over here. This is where we’re going to set up camp, right? And look, can you see that? Like, this is where we’re going to, this is where the stage is going to go. And they’re like, okay, cool.

Yeah. Let’s do this. And then they start building the stage,

From Later: right?

Julian Bleecker: Whatever the metaphor is starting to fall, fall apart.

From Later: Yeah. I think it holds up well. And I, I mean, I think the, The part that, uh, you went over quickly is just the creation of a scene and that’s what I think there’s like this moment that’s maybe pre festival that is like, yeah, the development of a scene when these things just happen and it’s with any genre of music in a given city.

You know the feeling when you’re in one and whether you’re playing it like. In a band or whatever it is, it’s like, okay, it’s something’s called us and the energy feels real. People seem to care. Everybody’s supporting one another and showing up to each other’s events. And there’s so much timing and stuff that, uh, has to go into those things.

And again, so much. So much effort. Um, I love the band. Uh, I mean, I’ve also played in bands as, as, as JR and I’m, and we’ve all been around that stuff. And I love that metaphor because it also, if you’ve done it, if you’ve logged around gear and, you know, I also was a vocalist, so I was just helping out with the gear or carrying the guitar to look cool at the time.

But, um, Yeah. Yeah. It’s uh, it’s, it’s, but it’s, it’s work that goes into those things and time that’s showing up for the sound check and at four in the afternoon and that’s right. I’m so one in the morning before you go on.

Julian Bleecker: My brother played in a, in a touring band. Um, I mean, he still does. And so there was some times when I went on tour and then we, you know, way back in the day, I helped manage his band, you know, which basically meant I kept a fistful of quarters in my pocket and would go to pay phone and call up venues and say like, Hey, you know, that kind of thing.

The other thing I related to is like is showing up to each other’s gigs. That was something that would always go on and you knew the people who were committed to helping each other grow because they showed up at each other’s gigs. Right. Religiously, you know, like, like, and, and it was, you know, it was all good vibes and it didn’t matter whether or not, you know, I don’t know if there was any inkling in your minds like, well, I don’t really like the music these guys play.

It didn’t matter. You showed up anyway. Right. You didn’t, you didn’t allow like quibbling kind of like to, you know, interfere, although of course it does because it’s such a, it’s a creative practice, but in, in, in the best of worlds you want. So, you know, my keywords nowadays are amplify, coordinate and collaborate.

And as, as a way of thinking about like making decisions about what you’re going to do, are you going to share what you’re going to shout out about? And I find it a little bit bewildering. I understand it, but I don’t agree with it. I find it bewildering why that doesn’t happen. Uh, more zealously, like let’s get our shit together.

Like we’re all trying to do the, do something to help people imagine more thoroughly, you know, what humans can do as a creative. Species, right? And so anything, you know, it feels like you just be like, and I’m just gonna shout this out. Why wouldn’t I?

From Later: Yeah.

Julian Bleecker: And especially because it’s so easy nowadays, you know,

From Later: and that one is so important.

It also depends, I think, on that sweet spot of something feeling like a scene having that energy. It’s a little different. You’re talking to three Canadians here. So we have a slightly like different view around it. But, uh, when you’re in that scene that, that feels like it’s coalescing, when it feels like it’s in its state of becoming, there is more pride in promotion, uh, self promotion and the promotion of, of others doesn’t feel so cringe as it sometimes can.

And that’s where I’m like, Oh, maybe this is just a Canadian thing, but

Julian Bleecker: can you clarify what’s the Canadian thing?

From Later: Just not wanting to self promote.

Julian Bleecker: Okay.

From Later: So don’t worry about that part. Let’s stick to just going to,

Julian Bleecker: I just know, I think it’s important to nudge into it. Cause I think there’s a way of, um, I get, so I get it.

And I think that is a symptom of kind of beautiful state of mind, which is, I don’t want to be seen as kind of commercial. Or, you know, like I’m, I’m, the advertising is bad, all those kinds of things. So maybe, then we’ve lost. Yeah. If you can’t, uh, move beyond that and say like, but this is a beautiful thing.

This is an individual. This isn’t Procter and Gamble. This is, this is an individual who’s done something which is truly remarkable. They’ve translated something that they felt in their heart or, you know, imagined and they’re representing it to the world. Whether it’s, you know, music, for example. Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. Why would, why? So, so I get why, you know, I get that cringe, you know, I don’t want to seem to be like self promoting, but it’s like, you made something like, if you can’t be proud of it to the degree where you can be like, I just want to let you know that I did something. I am sure there’s a boundary, but I think probably because we’re allergic to doing it, if that’s probably a signal, it’s like, we’re very well adjusted.

We are not. Being self promotional in the kind of cringe influencer kind of way. So that to me, that’s like, okay, we’ll stop it. Get over it. Like, no, no, no, this is cool. It’s good. Yeah,

From Later: no, I agree with you, but I have to remind myself constantly of these types of things. Uh, I agree that it’s the right thing to do.

There’s a great clip of. Tyler the creator talking about just artists who make a song and it goes on streaming platforms and they post it once on their Instagram and never show it again. And he’s like, if that’s your art, that’s your thing. You need to be like putting that, like posting that again, every day, every day, every like, and so, you know, keep shouting about it.

Keep telling everybody to, to listen to your song. This is

Julian Bleecker: the, this is the ample, you know, Coordinate collaborate the amplify part. It’s like that’s it goes first and I guess it’s important to keep saying, you know, not posting something particular, but keep saying this is how we’re going to, you know, achieve the kind of level of.

Beautiful greatness that we hope for is we need to amplify and amplify each other as well. You know what I mean? Like it’s trying to, you know, trying to create a mechanism and I really don’t want to get political, but there are other people who do it really, really well. And that’s why it might feel like they’re winning message, discipline, message, discipline,

From Later: the message has been imagined harder.

Where did that one come from?

Julian Bleecker: It was a podcast that I did, and I think it was around extinction rebellion. I was, I was looking at Extinction Rebellion and they were doing their kind of very kinetic interventions, the throwing, throwing a wrench in the works, you know, stopping, I think it was like the tube in London was a big one.

And there was. A panel of some sort that metal label organized and some representative from extinction rebellion was going to present at this and In this panel they were doing their thing They were just saying like we need to go after all the industries that are causing environmental collapse, etc You get you get the thing and I felt them.

I felt I get it. Yes, and you feel that kind of level of desperate commitment That you do want to throw a wrench in the works and I felt like, you know, coming from a kind of speculative design, design fiction kind of sensibility, it’s my, my mind immediately went to what’s it, what’s it like the day after if you guys, what’s the plan, you know, like if you’re going to blow up the bridge or whatever.

Now, what, what have you done and what are you going to do the day after when people are like, I need to get to the other side of that bridge or wait. So after we’ve averted climate catastrophe, what’s for breakfast the next morning after the event or the moment. Right. And so just sort of thinking like you got to imagine hard, right.

You got to think through this stuff. And I, and, and so that energy that goes into that idea of like, we need to change and fix things. I love it. And I think it needs to be just pushed a little bit further. So can I have coffee the next morning? Oh, I can’t. Let’s go. What’s up with that? Well, we’re not, we’re not air freighting beans from Honduras to London.

Okay. Well, let’s, let’s talk about that. Like, let’s actually have a plan. And, and so that was, That was a way of kind of representing that, and in the introduction of a book by a historian named Frederick Jameson, the book was called, uh, Seeds of Time, and it’s basically a collection of lectures that he’d given, and in the introduction he said, um, it seems easier to imagine the end of life.

The world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. So that was a phrase. And that’s been kind of worked around in various ways as a, um, PO potentially it’s like a kind of thing that can be activating and be like, Oh yeah, you’re right. Like, I can’t, I don’t know what’s on the other side of this kind of political economic system that we live in.

I, it’s hard for me to imagine what it is. And so it’s almost like the way he phrases it in the, in the introduction, it’s kind of like, yeah, you’re right. You’re right. And there’s not a direct response, right? There’s, you know, 120 pages of wonderful, you know, um, lecture, you know, not, not lecture in a kind of like, you know, finger wagging way, but just like beautiful kind of like exposition and thinking through and reflecting and that kind of stuff.

It means is a wonderful. Uh, historian. I think he’s still alive. I’m not sure. Might have passed. Um, and then that was taken also, up also by, uh, a, um, philosopher named, uh, Mark Fisher, who essentially, you know, wrote an entire book, uh, built around this theme. Uh, and then Slavoj Zizek also is, it’s a recurring theme in his work.

And there’s competing kind of arguments as to who said it first and why they said it doesn’t matter. Right. And the, the, the thing that does matter, it’s like, well, we’ve got this existentially thing. Right. Potentially unique capability because we’ve got this remarkable vascularized piece of meat in our heads that allows us to imagine the world otherwise.

We do it all the time. Whether it’s a kind of naturally occurring dreaming or just daydreaming or our mind wandering. I wonder what for, for the most pedestrian kinds of things to take your psychoactive of choice that allows you to kind of like look outside of yourself and wonder how things might be rearranged in the world.

And then of course we’ve got science fiction, which is essentially it’s remit is to imagine the world otherwise and reflect back, you know, present state in a slightly, uh, adjacent context. And in your literature generally, like fiction itself is matching the world otherwise. So we have this ability to do that.

And we exercise it in a variety of ways that it just sort of described. I think it’s time that we, we remind ourselves that we do have this capability.

From Later: Well, I’m glad I asked that about Imagine Harder. That was a greater explanation than I, than I would have assumed, actually. I, I like it because of the pith.

It kind of, it just hits. Well,

Julian Bleecker: that, that’s also That’s that’s also, it works. I mean, I think it’s got the,

From Later: like the think different apple or like got milk both with like the sort of off grammar, concise sort of path and yeah, it, it, it lands, it hits and I appreciate that. So yeah, let’s, let’s get into that.

Let’s imagine harder about this. What’s your weakest signal? You know how, like in the nineties, cars from Korea were like, considered not that great. And then eventually in the two thousands. The manufacturing processes, they figured it out and they moved up the value chain. And now like a key is like one of the best, like low cost cars you can get.

Et cetera, et cetera, North Korea kind of did this with hacking in the last like 10, 15 years, where when they started out, they were kind of scrappy and, and whatever, using basic, simple, like social engineering hacks and stuff like that. And they kind of climbed up the value chain of hacking as far as I understand.

And now in the last five years, they struck gold, which was basically, they started figuring out that crypto is like the perfect target. And according to like a U. S. state report, half of their ballistic missile program is funded through stolen crypto. And in the last five years, they’ve taken 3 billion worth of crypto into the military program of North Korea, which takes up like a quarter of their GDP.

It’s like massive. And I guess from a weak signal perspective, I mean, we can chat if we want about crypto. I’m not that interested in that side, although, although we could chat about it, but the idea of like a pirate state that kind of actually has territorial borders and is stuck in one location. It just seems kind of strange to me because typically pirate states or pirate communities or pirate organizations tend to be on the move.

They’re known to be on the move. You can’t kind of locate them. They’re more. They retreat into the mountains or they retreat into dense brush or they retreat into the marshes where they’re inaccessible, but this is kind of strange. It’s kind of this weird order territory that fully has to be defended with the military.

That is also like a pirate state. Pulling money in from around the world. So yeah, that’s my, I don’t know if it’s a weak signal or what it is, but I found it interesting. Yeah. I mean, if the first thing I’m like, okay, yeah, there’s like books. Like I think there’s a book, the misfit economy, you know, it’s well documented that it’s sort of like outsiders, misfits, pirates tend to be where.

A lot of the harder imagination is happening. A lot of the ingenuity kind of happens. It’s like there’s the desperation for resources like find a way. It is an interesting one because I wouldn’t have bet that this was going to happen. I wouldn’t have expected it or that they would land on this goldmine as you put it right now.

Yeah. What are those first impressions? I find it interesting that some of these states that are making big bets on crypto, like the one that jumps to mind for me would be like El Salvador, like I know who Kelly has made massive investments into Bitcoin and other crypto currencies, which I don’t know exactly how that has panned out for him, at least in the short term.

I think he was making major investments just before the crypto winter. So that may be a little bit on on hold for El Salvador. But there were plans for sort of a city powered by geothermal energy and all kinds of, I guess, moonshot efforts. And, uh, if I rewound the clock 10 years, I probably wouldn’t have been able to anticipate that it was, it was in places like El Salvador or North Korea, where where some of the, uh, the early adopters of, I guess, crypto on a, on a mass scale would, that you would find them.

Although there is this kind of like libertarian bent as well to the, to some of these enterprises. And I, you know, obviously the, the seasteading folks and the charter city folks are also very enamored of, of cryptocurrency as an exit from the mainstream or from fiat currency or from the state. So maybe it all hangs together in a fun way.

I do know that there are lots of charter city initiatives, uh, and places where you might not expect them. So Do we know Well, there’s how North Korea stumbled upon this target or the techniques that they’re using, or do we know, or like, how is, how this was reported on? How, how do we even know that this is what happened?

Are they bragging about it at this point that they stole 3 billion worth of crypto or? Well, of course not. Although I am curious. So there was, there was like a hack last night. I think it was one of these NFT things, digital pets, something like that. And then, and they took 600 million out of people’s ether and they did it through a kind of social engineering thing slash scripts that they ran on somebody’s computer.

They like messaged somebody over LinkedIn with a job offer, sent him like a description of the job. That description had a little script in it, gave them access to. Part of the computer. And then they were able to like, whatever, gain access to all of the, uh, accounts that were hosted on this NFT, um, place.

And, uh, I’m curious. So they got 600 million. I wonder what the, uh, celebrations were like that night that that happened. Cause like on the scale of things, like when else. It’s so much money been located in like one location, like, like, you know, when you, when you had to like steal gold in the past, I mean, gold is very heavy, right?

Like very difficult to move. This was not Bitcoin. So this is different, but Bitcoin is literally just an address, you know, like how many keys long, like that’s all it is. Uh, and it can contain, I mean, there’s no limit to what it can contain, right?

Julian Bleecker: Yeah.

From Later: Maybe paradoxically it’s, it’s so centralized, you know, in a different sense of what the term centralized means.

So I, I think it’s just cause it’s like stored, like, it’s just, uh, my God, like how is that not the perfect target? You asked what the celebrations at night would, would have been like, I suspect that they involved flying Dennis Rodman in on a private jet at the very least. Yeah. At the very least. The, the techniques then are still pretty primitive, right?

In terms of it’ll be an implied, like of. No, no, it’s like moved up like this gets recorded on through different state agencies because like, I don’t know, like states and hackers are very actually close together. So you learn about it through what they say is happening and, you know, make your own decisions around what you, how much you believe it or not.

But they’re saying it’s quite. And there’s like stuff that’s never been tried before. There was like a, I think called like a supply chain cascade attack, which had never happened before, which was like basically took like three or four steps of like different companies, software being, um, infected updates going out.

And then those updates being used on the next person, next person, next person, next person, until eventually they could get access to like different clients. So a kind of cascade attack, which people were saying had never been seen before. So it’s like significant in this way that like this represents.

North Korea is now like a presence that’s capable in terms of a state that can hack and participate in cyber warfare and a different level than no one ever previously took them that seriously. Yeah, yeah. And so, where does that lead, do you think? I don’t have the background to comment on North Korea, like I really don’t, I really have no idea what it means for North Korea.

I

Julian Bleecker: suppose you’re writing a little short piece of fiction. What happens next? What does the world look like on the other side of

From Later: I mean, the idea of like defecting and breaking off from the state that trained you doesn’t seem that far off the point of plausibility. And so in the same way that like these different, I don’t know, you’ve seen the rise of different mercenary armies in the last like 20, 30 years.

Possibly also the reversal of that, but who knows? I mean, I can picture something like that happening.

Julian Bleecker: Like stateless actor army that has to be reckoned with.

From Later: Yeah. Or lone North Korean hackers for hire. Yeah, I wonder, I don’t, I have no idea if they, uh, are they going to train other states that they’re allied with, like, I don’t even know how many alliances they have, I assume it’s not very many.

They certainly have some people that they’re close to. Are they going to do, like, knowledge transfer, you know, stuff like that? Yeah, I was gonna say like my sort of unlikely sounding future would be a situation where the U. S. as a client engages North Korea for white hat hacking to identify different cyber vulnerabilities and systems.

I find myself curious about how these individuals are trained, like what that looks like within North Korea. And it also, I think there’s an interesting asymmetry, right? Because if you have these sort of elite hackers who are part of the vanguard of, you know, novel attacks and finding new attack surfaces and all this kind of stuff, and they are acting on behalf of a state that itself, maybe, and I’m making some assumptions about North Korea, doesn’t have as many digital attack surfaces within its own infrastructure.

Right, so relative to the states in which it might be engaging in cyber warfare, it has a more primitive infrastructure, wrong word there, but that kind of creates an interesting dynamic between North Korea and its adversaries.

Julian Bleecker: Because, um, you know, no one has a PC in Korea. Yeah. Yeah.

From Later: So what’s the tit for tat, right?

Like, how, how, how would you combat that? There was that book that was a science fiction novel, like written by some war studies type person or war consultant or whatever. I don’t, I don’t really know what their title is to the U S military, which was like, I think it was in 2010 ghost fleet. And the premise was that because the attack surfaces are inevitable in any digital system that actually military equipment would revert in the future back to analog systems, because there was just no possible way.

It’s just by nature, you cannot. Plug up the vulnerabilities. And that must be happening. Like that must be seriously being talked about. I’m trying to think if there’s any like historical analogs to something like this. You might know about it. When a nation surprisingly gained some sort of capability, technological capability.

Oh, they all do. And they all use it in piracy. Like Britain did it against the Spanish fleet. They let Francis Drake, who was a pirate, they gave him blessing actually, where they kind of were just like, we’re going to turn our blind eye, like go attack the Spanish gold coming back from Brazil and South America and whatever, you know, take it like it’s, it just helps us.

Uh, and then he eventually, I think became a, Part of the fleet, like officially at some point, but he was a pirate for decades. And the U. S. stole all its IP from Britain in the like late 1800s before it was able to develop internally all of its capacities and stuff like that. IP books. Britain would complain all the time about IP being violated.

Julian Bleecker: I’m just reading a history of the U. S. space program and it goes way back. So it’s not even like, It starts with Kennedy’s boyhood, you know, it’s like one of the, so it’s good. It’s cool. It’s like gives you a sense of where I guess to a certain degree. His motivation and energy comes from in order to be the the charismatic front man for the space program to be like This is what we’re going to do.

But in that history we it’s it’s it’s pretty well known but it’s like that’s the the u. s and the russians were racing to get to the uh, The facilities where the V2s were being, you know, built. And, uh, according to this history, like Von Braun and his cronies, they were like, no, no, no, we want to go with the, we want to make sure that we get captured by the Americans.

So he dispatched one of his colleagues to go make contact with the, with the Americans who were approaching. So Cinemath is like, Hey, we’re over here. We got as much as we can. Please don’t let us go to the Russians, which of course we’re more scared of them than we are of you. And so that formed the, the core of the, uh, the U S space program and as well as ICBM.

So it’s not just the space program, matter of fact, it probably stayed. So, yeah, in the history, it’s like. No, no, no. They just wanted to be able to build missiles. And Van Braun, his vision, his dream was space exploration, more generally. He was willing to, you know, sacrifice, I guess, I don’t know, for him it probably wasn’t a sacrifice, but it’s like, if it means I gotta build missiles in order to get there, I’ll get there.

He had his eye on the prize, according to this history.

From Later: And using, like, horrifying slave labor and stuff to get there. 10, 000

Julian Bleecker: people, they say, died, you know, with doing all these very dangerous chemicals and all this kind of stuff. Terrible.

From Later: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. No, it’s just, it’s a note to end on. And the second one, it’s just the horrors of the mid 20th century.

I mean. So signal the noise on this one there. It has to be signal again, just because as Valdis observed earlier, you know, the world is an increasingly interconnected set of attack surfaces for these types of interventions, these types of packs. And That, to me, seems like a, a state seizing on some kind of an advantage, like we were just sort of talking about, some kind of an advantage that might become their strategy moving forward.

I mean, I think being a nuclear state is obviously meaningful, deeply meaningful, but, um, The butt of the world’s joke, a little bit, you know, there’s always this sort of like ramping up of, of hostilities and rhetoric and we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that. And then, you know, maybe they win a couple of concessions or a couple of hands get, get shaken and then it all kind of goes away.

And all it really does is, is perpetuate the Kim regime. It gives, it gives them a bit more gusto. It gives them a bit more, uh, wind in their sails. But it sounds like this is a viable path forward for a state that finds itself in the situation that they do to, I don’t know, be cash positive? Right. So, I have to say Signal.

Yeah. I mean, 3 billion is, uh, that’s, uh, not a joke. Uh, Julian is signal or noise.

Julian Bleecker: I think it’s definitely signal. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, just because it’s, uh, there’s, there’s a lot to evolve and develop. I it’s signal because I think it’s evocative to, or it’s possible to tell a story about how that signal gets amplified in some ways and becomes a condition.

And, You have to imagine if not because of the scale, like 3 billion, you know, they say in billions, three stacks, like they just kind of like, you know, whatever it sounds like a lot to us to some analyst, you know, at some state agency. It’s probably, like, it’s not the money, it’s that they were able to do it.

Right. You know, like we, we’re the U. S. government, we lose three billion dollars every, you know, every four minutes. Don’t even know where it went. Don’t even know. So it’s not that, it’s more like, oh, yeah, this is a problem. You can see someone writing, someone at RAND or whatever the equivalent of nowadays, like, writing up the report, like, and hoping, hoping it gets the right eyes on it.

From Later: I, uh. I felt the same way with the 3 billion number, and I just Googled it for curiosity. North Korea’s like total GDP is 18. So that that’s a way higher ratio than I would have anticipated. What I was thinking is that like the loss of 3 billion might not be the big deal, but the gain of 3 billion might be significant for North Korea in terms of what they can do.

Yeah, that’s, that’s just GDP. That’s not like their exports or whatever, which would be what they like money flowing in their net inflows. Which is probably a lot smaller. Yeah, I think, I mean, Signal, I’m curious where it goes in sort of the worlds we’re in. Is it like the next strategic innovation case study book at the airport bookstore?

Is the North Korean hacker manual or something? I don’t know. There was a great article in Toronto Life of all places a few years ago. There was this like guy in Toronto who was a big, Importer exporter of, um, narcotics. And, uh, I guess he was interviewed for it. He might’ve been in prison and stuff, but he was like, Oh man, it’s all about supply chain, innovation, and customer experience fully.

He just had all the lingo of he read the book. Yeah. How do you, I interviewed freeway Ricky Ross. Uh, once who was, yeah, famously peddling drugs for the CIA in the midst of the Iran Contra scandal. And yeah, he was talking that way as well. So it wasn’t for Toronto Live. Anyway, um, Julian, what’s your weakest signal?

Julian Bleecker: Yeah, so I’m going to say there’s a signal that I felt came in on my receiver. It’s been coming in for a few years. I debated whether I should offer this as my signal, but I think it’s an important one. And the signal was, uh, it just came, it was, it was one node. So it was me. So it wasn’t like a wide broadcast thing, but it was the pandemic and there wasn’t a lot of contact with other people.

But so when people. You know, basically asked to let be led into the near future laboratory discord. It’s open, but you know, you need a invite link and I made it so that people had to basically they just had to get up the courage and nerve or whatever it is to basically send me a note or whatever, which isn’t a big deal.

Me and one of the easier to find Julian Bleecker’s on the internet because people would send a note and i’d be like yeah great here’s a link um the only thing i ask is that you introduce yourself in the introduce yourself channel and then that way i’ll you know adjust my roles so we’re making sure that you’re not a robot and that kind of thing and when you do that i’m going to send you another link for us to grab a coffee a virtual coffee so everyone who joins i I end up having a, you know, I say it says 20 minutes in the invite, but it ends up going for like 45 an hour and there was a common theme to the conversations and it was something that I, if it wasn’t expressed directly, I felt, and that feeling was a sense of, but they’re mostly, mostly because you’d say generally like highly creative individuals in the broadest sense, you know, technologists, designers, you know, engineers, uh, they make things, they’re, they’re people who, who like to, like to have an idea and try to figure out how do they articulate that idea?

How do they make it? And the common thing that I felt was a sense of like, like, I don’t know, it was like, almost like ennui or angst. And I don’t think it was just the pandemic. I know it wasn’t just the pandemic. It was a sense of, that they had imagined, You know, when they were a kid that they wanted to do something responsible and creative and they thought that that is a way to contribute to making the world a little bit more beautiful, making the world a little bit more fun, making the world a little bit brighter, making the world a little bit more playful, like those kind of feelings.

And there was a signal I was getting. It’s like I thought I was going to be doing something. Different from what I’m doing or what I’m doing. Doesn’t feel like it’s doing it. And I, you know, I sort of categorize this into the, into the realm of, I guess, you know, without like indicting any industry, it’s like, I thought tech was going to make the world a better place and I’m in tech now, and it’s, I don’t think it’s doing that.

I’m being told that it’s not doing it. And I’m feeling that it’s not doing it. You know, this was an era where it was even before the pandemic was kind of like, I don’t know if this, this is really working, we had visions of. You know, if we connect everyone, the world’s going to be a better place. And if we connect them in a beautiful way, things will become more habitable.

It’ll be like everyone’s a neighbor. It’ll be great. And that wasn’t happening. And so the signal that I was feeling was, was this sense of like, of confusion and almost like my vision for how my life was going to be is now not quite right. I’m not sure what to do.

From Later: Yeah, I love this as a signal. I love signals that come from feelings that are and I think that also just comes from I love the way that you carry out a metaphor until it falls apart.

I think there’s always lots to be learned from doing that with language. Yeah, there’s many ways to think about this. The first thing that came up for me was just like to rephrase maybe it’s like creative work is not all that’s cracked up to be creative work is not doing what it promises. And it made me think of the many industrial designers turned People who do what we do, like, turn foresight strategist and I feel like I come across those a lot because they get into I.

D. thinking they’re going to get to design snowboards or like. Brown products or Apple products or whatever PlayStation controllers or, you know, whatever it might be and. So it ends up being like, can you pretty much rip off this hairdryer that we are?

Julian Bleecker: Yeah. Yeah. Could you make our toothbrush look like it’s a little bit faster?

Yeah, exactly.

From Later: Yeah. And they find it really inspired. And so it’s like the design, what they know about design ends up getting applied to a more cognitive. Type of task and they’re going strategy, but that maybe that type of work doesn’t live up to it either or take the same kind of dissatisfaction takes over.

I’m not sure. Are there differences in where people are located or the industries that they’re part of or anything like that?

Julian Bleecker: I would have to assume that there is, and there is a, you know, so I didn’t, it wasn’t 10, 000 people. I think I’ve done like, maybe like 5 or 600 of these calls over the last few years.

And oftentimes just because of the where new future laboratory, or I guess, you know, like where my attention gets situated to kind of that people kind of naturally get drawn in, it ends up being like kind of big tech in one form or another, or also, also people who are studying, uh, currently, you know, they haven’t got their degree yet and they’re trying to, you know, they’re trying to figure things out.

So, yeah, they’re sort of generally well educated. thoughtful enough to be able to articulate what they’re feeling and reflective enough. And then also, you know, the other barriers, like, I mean, what is near future laboratory? It’s just like, it’s not the biggest organization in the world that you kind of reach out to.

So there’s, there’s a little bit of self selection in that sense. But it is like kind of more technology oriented or at least technology adjacent, like people who are HCI, you know, human computer interaction kinds of folks or UX folks or our technology sorts of folks.

From Later: Maybe it was a leading question because I was like, Oh, I wonder if it’s like a change in what was kind of clunkily called the California ideology, which I don’t think is like a perfect term because I just think there’s more.

Variation and what people were inspired by from the seventies onward. But I wondered if it was like, if that’s what part of what the signal was getting at, or if it was just a broader kind of malaise, you know, like COVID induced reflecting on, you know, what the purpose of what we’re doing is stuff like that, because, uh, yeah, lots of industries went through.

Hell during covid.

Julian Bleecker: Yeah, I think

From Later: it’s okay. Like healthcare.

Julian Bleecker: I think that’s probably a part of it. I mean, I like the way you’re kind of framing it. I think there was, there was a component that if there was a useful side of the pandemic, it was, yeah, we were all in a sensory deprivation chamber for a couple of years and forced to reflect.

Um, and if your psyche is well regulated, I guess, yeah. You use that with a sense of purpose, like, okay, I’m just going to really assess what’s important to me. And if you’re dysregulated, I guess you kind of screamed and yelled at people or something, got angry because someone wasn’t wearing a mask.

From Later: I agree with Rob.

I think there’s so many ways to think about this. And Julian, I would echo what you’re saying in a lot of the conversations I had, especially with. Or have had with people who are, you know, maybe trying to, they’re starting out, they’re trying to find a foothold in a, in a creative industry. You know, they, uh, at least here in Canada, and to some extent also in the U S there’s just a life is becoming very unaffordable and people really feel as though they’re either either treading water or slipping below it.

And. So there’s, there’s some of that. I also think that there’s just such an enormous gap between the expectations that we have for ourselves and in this world where we’re, you know, encouraged to, I don’t know, follow our dreams and there’s this sense of self regard and That, uh, that the real world doesn’t match some of those expectations and, and sometimes, you know, what we’re called on to do is very, seems very prosaic and, and so on.

So I, I wonder if, uh, it’s just the, you know, the, the widening gap between expectations and reality, you know, I, I grew up in the nineties, which I, I kind of feel like that was almost like a, At least as a young person in Canada, it felt like a break from history. Like we, there was just this kind of, it was, uh, breakfast cereals and Saturday morning cartoons, uh, intramural, like afterschool sports.

Hell yeah. Yeah. I know what you’re talking about. Yep. You know, all that kind of stuff. And it just felt like, uh, yeah, there was a, there was a, The, the life was just this sort of expansive fun and, you know, ease and, you know, maybe that’s just a common or not universal, but a common experience of childhood.

But I think especially for, you know, this sort of, let’s say cohort of roughly millennials and perhaps, you know, Gen Z as well, there’s just, it’s a jarring transition from, you Adolescence and young adulthood into this morass of, you know, platform capitalism, where we all get on zoom calls with 30 other people and do, do daily standups where nothing really happens.

And, you know, you’re a, you know, assistant producer, uh, or you, uh, you know, you’re a background artist and you specialize in rock textures or something like that. It just, there’s a precipitous gap between. Where you, you thought you’d be and where you end up at least initially.

Julian Bleecker: I think there’s also the, the historical context is, is useful to consider.

And it’s just a sketch of a thing. And there’s a lot of potentially holes in it. It also felt like, I talked to a lot of friends who, and colleagues who we can, we kind of came up in an era, came up, you know, professionally in an era. Where there was that sense of expansive possibility and it was all around the time when it was kind of like, Oh, where’d you got a DSL line, you know, it was like, so things were just starting to happen, you know, and what did you do this week?

And I worked on my homepage. Wait, what’s that? What’s a homepage? You know, like when you started feeling like there was, it was full of potential and then my cartoon sketch of it’s like, well, then someone figured out how to put a credit card in it. And then, and then, then there was still that interesting potential because it’s like, okay, you know, cool.

And then it kind of reified in this way that. It became difficult, but there were, there were all these beautiful things at that moment. And some of those beautiful things were like, I was reflecting with some friends, uh, O’Reilly had a conference called E Tech. It stood for emerging technology. And it was just a context in which a lot of the, they called them like some of the alpha geeks would get together.

And present stuff that we’re working on. I mean, it’s like, you know, pretty well produced event. Um, and then, you know, beautiful things would happen in the hallways, as you would expect in things like this, where it’s like ideas are hatched, people just sitting on the floor, kind of like sketching things out and building and creating, you know, I don’t know how much of it was like, I’m going to be, I’m going to, I’m building a unicorn as wouldn’t it be cool if we wired this to this.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we tried to find the way to, you know, do these interconnects and like amazing companies came out of it. Like Flickr, you know, before it got by, by Yahoo and stuff was that it came out of that. Uh, the precursors to Slack came out of that, but it was just like this sense of possibility.

It was one of the first things I did internet related was start a cyber cafe in Fort Grant, Brooklyn. But you could do that and it wasn’t like, I don’t know, you know, you could just shoestring it.

From Later: So this, this, this, you could, this idea like that you could do that. I think there’s like a pace where things move really quickly, but just hearing about all that right now, something I’ve been following is just, there’s this booming like homebrew computer club style scene movement happening on Instagram and Tik TOK that have people just making really creative hardware, kind of doing what you’re saying.

Like, what if we connect this to this? And it’s like, it’s. Amazing stuff. It’s very, to me, it should be very inspiring, but I think like a lot of those things, when you have so much access to so many people doing so much clever, cool DIY stuff, there is this weird tension with that and kind of chilling effect that happens where you actually leave looking through, you know, a hundred squares of awesome computer stuff and you’re just like, well, why would I even bother?

What there’s nothing left to contribute because it’s all every person doing it is there there’s no mystery of like it’s somebody else in the next town doing this is somebody else on the other side of, like, it’s a little too rapid that you get that you get in that kind of thing can be very, actually, it can be It can have this sort of surprisingly uninspiring effect on people.

I’m, I can’t remember the name of the book at this moment, but, uh, it’s about this idea of a generalized peer that social media has created this, this sense that there’s not other people, but like this sort of, or generalized personage who is, we are always measuring ourselves against. And when we, when we feel like I’m not doing enough or I’m not productive enough, it’s We’re typically not measuring ourselves against an individual, although sometimes we might do that and say, Oh, this person in particular is a, um, you know, a model for how I want it to be more whatever.

But what we’re more often doing is just taking the aggregate of all the things that we see people doing on our social media feeds and wherever in media, and Not realizing that, you know, the person who’s doing that incredible thing on TikTok, or who’s doing this, this amazing thing, or writing this incredible sub stack, is also probably just vegging out that evening.

And has like, you know, had a, had a meal where they just completely turfed out and And didn’t follow a diet and like, we don’t see any of that, obviously what we see is what they’re willing to ship. And so it just feels like everybody’s shipping all the time. And then if, you know, if, if you feel like, well, I haven’t really done anything and however long, I mean, that’s, I can see how it would have this effect where you’re like, well, why would I bother?

I mean, I’m, I, I just don’t have the same gusto, the same commitment. I must just lack the commitment that other people have.

Julian Bleecker: Yeah. The human psyche is a funny thing, isn’t it? That you could go from seeing this beautiful stuff that energizes you in a way to, you know, pulling a cork on a bottle of rosé and saying like, well, forget it.

From Later: So, and with the few hundred people you’ve been talking to, and we have this general sense, do you feel like since then, most of them are remaining in this sort of listless state and are feeling this way? Or, uh, do you feel like many of them actually have pretty, they’re just aware of this, but they overall have pretty healthy creative mindsets and have a compulsion to create and they’re going to regardless?

What does it feel like is happening with those people?

Julian Bleecker: Well, my, my hope is that many of them have, have found like a little bit, you know, like a, It’s a second home of sorts within the kind of slightly larger, it’s not huge, slightly larger near future laboratory community, you know, just kind of like, okay.

And when they, one of the things that I’ll say to people in these calls, I was like, I just want to let you know that everyone else in here, it’s a discord right now. Everyone else in here is exactly like you. You know, they’re wondering the same things. They’re feeling the same things. And so I think people have a sense of, okay, well, I found like a little bit of a home.

This is cool. It’s a little clubhouse, you know, I’ll, uh, I’ll, I’ll come here when I can and kind of luxuriate in the, the sense of community and the sense of, you know, some kind of sense of family, uh, in, in, in some, some way. So that’s, that’s gratifying if they feel, if they feel that. And, um, yeah. Yeah, to a certain degree, I think if you can get that kind of feeling, then it’s a win, you know, like I’m not alone.

I’m not alone in feeling this. You know, feeling this sense, because oftentimes what, you know, the other ways of articulating or representing or translating that feeling can be, um, not so good. You know, you just, you’re angry at work, you’re frustrated at work. You want to quit without really understanding why you want to do it.

I went through all these things, by the way, you know, over, over, you know, over, over Many years as a, as a professional and I didn’t know what was going on and so hopefully it gives them a sense of like hope and also maybe purpose that, okay, well, you know, maybe things can change or at least this was helpful to just understand that, you know, I’m not the only one.

I’m not feeling the same thing. Um, and then they, then there are people who they find incredible, I guess, you know, relief or opportunity when they say to me, it’s like, how do I get to do more of what you do? Like they’re asking that in a very practical, pragmatic sense. They’re saying. I actually want to do this for a job.

How can I figure out how to do this? This stuff, you know, what you guys do as well as a job. I feel like I can contribute more value and it will be more satisfying to me if I can, you know, integrate some of these approaches, practices, mindsets, just vibe of. This kind of future stuff in my work because I see it’s totally relevant.

I’m not trying to say like, I’m going to get a job, you know, as a designer of some description or an engineer of some description within a company and then say like, Hey, you know what? I actually, I want you guys to pay me to play pickleball. It’s not that they really feel like this is going to help what we do and it’s going to contribute and contribute value to the bottom line.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that in, from the perspective of. I’m not anti capitalist. It’s like, I believe you can do something of value, add value to, to something and make it into something that’s a little bit better, a little bit more beautiful. And then, you know, get some of that value back in the form of like, Oh, here’s a paycheck at the end of the week.

Cool.

From Later: Right. Yeah. There’s a funny loop that happens too, where it’s like, you do all these projects, the passion projects to get a job, you build the portfolio, you do that to get a job, then you get the job and you do the job. To do those passion projects on the side again,

Julian Bleecker: that’s a really good point because there’s a project that we’re just now finishing up all the, all the projects right now in your future laboratory and maybe this entire year have been 100 percent like organic by that.

I mean, the, no one commissioned the work, right? Just, we’re just doing it. And one of them, uh, it’s a project called, uh, great green pages is the kind of internal code name or whatever. It’s, what does the future look like of. Let’s just say Hollywood, if we represented it in the form of kind of trade magazine, like variety magazine, we did a, well, if you went to the future and you picked up a copy of variety magazine, what would it say in it?

You know, what would be the feature article? What would be the story about what film was made and production and all that kind of stuff? So that project had been kind of sitting around for a while. And then one guy in the discord name, named Thomas was like, Hey, I’d love to, That’s a run this project, like, let’s get this thing done.

And I mean, he told me there were a couple of things going on for him. One was, I love the idea of doing a magazine for the future. That’s just cool. Like who wouldn’t want to do that? And the other thing, and I can’t remember if I offered this to him as something to think about or if he just kind of thought he’s like, this is going to be the best portfolio piece.

He’s a graduate student right now, way better than any project I did, you know, where I paid the university. For the, for the, for the, you know, to be able to be enrolled here to get a degree, he’s like this, because it’s not going to be like a PDF, it’s gonna be like an actual, I mean, we’re going to manufacture the magazine.

And I think he’s absolutely right. And I think that was. That was the right way to go about it, you know, for him and his position and what he’s doing, it’s like, I’m going to, you know, his, his goal is, um, the last time I talked to him about it is like, he wants to be an independent creative, so he wants to start a studio, which I think is amazing.

And I think you’d be excellent at that. And he’s going to, you know, it’s going to be, it’ll be a tough go as it is for everyone, but it’ll be worth it.

From Later: You think that there are forces at work, some of the ones that we’ve talked about that will make this. feeling that you’re sensing from young people persist or get worse?

Julian Bleecker: I think it’s gonna get better. I think, I think for, for a variety of reasons. Um, I think one is that when people like you and me talk more about it, I think then it becomes like, oh, okay, this is a thing. Um, you know, again, the thing of like, I’m not alone. And then when we do things like, uh, offer just a, you know, a perspective or even a story about how it could be otherwise in the context of, you know, kind of work, let’s just talk about work or how do you make your, the pursuit that may be where you commit the most amount of time and energy for your life, you know, whatever you call that, let’s call it work, a job.

Um, when people see that it can be otherwise. I, I think that offers more hope because you start to see like, Oh, okay, I’m here. I’m talking to other people who managed to find a way through this. And I think if you do, the more we do that, the more the sense of hope and possibilities persist. And then I think there are other things that are, that are a little bit, that can kind of operate on people is reminding that, that they’re, they’re, they’re these cycles.

I don’t know. Like, you know, so I, I mentioned the, you know, the early internet days, you know, so like the, the nineties and you know, the, the mid and late nineties. Um, and then there’s a period where, you know, really cool things happen. Like, Oh my God, this is, do you hear about this company named Google? Like they’re doing really cool stuff and it’s fun and exciting.

It’s like, they give you 20 percent time to work on your own independent project, you know, that kind of and, and then. That energy kind of goes away because structure gets introduced into the equation. It’s not just fun and wacky, but it’s like, now there’s an employee manual. Now there’s a procurement department.

Now there’s HR. And now actually the founders are kind of like, they’re off doing something else. So that, that, that beautiful energy that started the whole thing is now called McKinsey. Not to, but it’s just imposition of these structures that, that then evacuate that. And then you also kind of like, Again, not, not to disparage like the, the, the creative energy that, um, that I know still exists within big organizations, but at some point it, it’s less present, you know, it’s more distributed.

It’s like, it, it kind of, because of the nature of it, it’s like now you got, you’re, it’s 160,000 people. How many of them really like, kind of fun and cool and wacky? No, no, no, no. It’s gonna, it’s now the lawyers are there. But then you have no idea how

From Later: we all went through this together at an innovation firm that was acquired by a 200, 000 person, uh, IT company.

Julian Bleecker: Yeah, I just, a good friend of mine, his company, like early on, you know, well, no, Google was pretty huge at the time, but it was, it was years ago, bright, innovative, creative guy. Uh, his company got bought by Google and he had basically had to sit in prison for a couple of years. Until that, you know, that, that lockout period and they did it to, to essentially crush the competition literally.

And I was, you know, I was talking to him about it a week or so ago and I told him, I said, I remember when I came by and I was like, I mean, this would be totally exciting. We’re going to go and you were going to have company and we’re going to, and you, you must be like running things and like cool things are happening.

It’s like, how are we going to do the next cool thing? And I got there and he said, okay, this is how it’s going to work. And I thought it was going to be like, okay, we’re going to, first we’re going to meet the VP of creative and then we’re going to meet the editor and he’s like. First, we’re going to go over here and we’re going to get sushi.

So the thing is, we worked it out. It’s like he figured out how to optimize the best food and when to, when to go there, but he was just basically, and then when he left, he made these t shirts and said, Google is the crusher of dreams. And that kind of, that kind of spelled it out in a way. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

So what I’m saying basically is like, okay, well, you know, let’s, let’s start that cycle again. Let’s imagine harder and think about the ways in which we can create conditions for a new creative renaissance, a new evolution of where we can position and direct and guide and shepherd Our this this capability we have to imagine the world.

Otherwise, what do we want to do next? Like let’s not lament Let’s rebuild and it might have nothing to do with what we understand is like big tech. We’re not going after this because we want to, we want to, you know, we want to become a billionaire. We’re going after this because we feel like we have a responsibility.

Our creativity has a responsibility and now it’s being exploited and extracted. And we’re living in someone else’s dream about what success looks like. You know, we’re like, we’re bowing at the feet of like Elon or Sundar or whoever is the tech leader. Because we’re like, well, that’s. That’s an accomplishment.

That’s achievement. And I think we can get to a point where we say like, no, it isn’t we’re, we’re, we’re punk now. We’re punk rock. Yeah. We’re just starting to think because we feel it and we’re making noise because we feel it. And people might be like, oh, it doesn’t make any sense. Why would you waste your time doing that?

It’s like, you just wait. Yeah. You’re going to see Dylan plugging in going electric at the, at a folk festival, you know, like fucking hell man. Yeah. Change things.

From Later: I feel that. Uh, J. R. Take another noise. I mean, I guess I would say if, if, you know, from the perspective of one of these presumably like, you know, younger people, I want to say that given that the, the things are cyclical and you know, you might, we might be in this moment where there’s been consolidation and the stifling of creativity, but there are always pockets of interesting things happening.

There’s always people off doing their own things. And so to subsume yourself in that feeling of enemy or. Feeling stuck, I think, I think that’s noise. So from that perspective, I would say it’s noise. Having had conversations with people just like Julian, I would say, you know, you just can’t take that for the way that the world is.

You want to, you want to, yeah, the, that feeling and being, yeah, the feeling is a matter of expectations and things like that. I mean, part of me is just like, I know the feeling and the antidote is keep going and that’s it. And it just changed follows. What do you think? Well, we’ve always discussed how the signal noise thing doesn’t make sense.

So I’ll say, I’ll say signal because, uh, I think you can turn it into one just, you know, um, depending on what you’re, you know, What do you want to do with it? Right. A signal is, is kind of what you, it’s a pragmatic question of what you want to try to leverage this to do. And, uh, being the dad historian on, on this podcast, um, I was reminded of like, you know, Detroit in the late 19th century, early 20th century.

And it was a place that had this like very deep rooted. uh, Midwestern producerist ideology, like own your own company, tinker with stuff, make things in your backyard, build it up. And it gave rise to the car industry. Like it was, it was a huge thing. Detroit then got eviscerated in the sixties and seventies and just gutted through forces that were outside the control of like any individual producerist operator.

Right. And stuff got outsourced and stuff got shipped overseas and stuff got automated and all that stuff. And companies just got so big that they had to kind of, you know, uh, economies of scale that made it like competition impossible, like they’re basically weren’t very many new company car companies after the thirties, if I’m remembering correctly, except like boutique stuff.

And, uh, that parallel makes me think of whether or not there’s like a signal today around, like around something like that, like, Oh, are we kind of shifting A phase of, well, we already were in a phase of consolidation and corporatization and stuff like that in the IT industry, but is it a kind of, are people going to trickle out into other places?

Do we have to find like the new California or whatever, if it’s going to be geographically located, like somewhere else, you know, and San Francisco is going to be what Detroit was, you know, 40, 50 years ago. Anyways, that’s, that’s one speculation, which is like, in some ways a dark one, but I always find the distinction dark and light kind of like, doesn’t make sense.

Cause it’s like, you want to understand the conditions behind why things are happening. Right. And so if the, if the lesson here is like. Yeah. Okay, we can’t recreate the producer’s thing the same way that it happened in the 90s. You know, we got to go somewhere else and try to figure out how to do it. And, um, yeah, do it collectively, do it collaboratively, et cetera, et cetera.

Yeah, the, I think it’s a signal and it’s funny. I did the historical. analog as well, though mine just goes back to sort of, like, post recession. And if there was also this, like, feeling of not being able to get a career started in that moment, what was sort of also, um, being born at that time was what I would just call from here, like, The age of 20 percent time, which I characterize as like TED talks, fast company design thinking, there was like a sort of actually commercial creativity movement sort of happening there that had a distinct flavor.

And that was very inspiring at the time. And I think things like TED talks feel very diluted by now and watered down and don’t do the thing they did when I first became aware of this vast resource of talks at age 20. Three or four or whatever it was. And I think that a lot of people agree that that brand along was like the fast company brand and like these things have faded and you kind of characterize what happened to 20 percent time Julian, but, uh, yeah, maybe we are at a moment and like you said about those, like maybe it’s, it’s going to happen in some other place in some other flavor.

So I can see that coming. So signal, uh, Jr.

I have a bit of an evergreen topic, uh, something that I’m sure that you’ve talked about on this podcast and that it, it comes up routinely. I want to shout out real quickly. Like you mentioned wired and how that, that brand is sort of feeling a little bit gray. So this is something I picked up in an outlet called rest of the world.

The super interesting tech stories. Mostly from outside the North American context, but this this story does kind of come out of the The Silicon Valley set. So, um, it was specifically about how Silicon Valley, like training data companies like scale AI are hiring, uh, humanities PhDs. So people with backgrounds in literature or degrees in, in, in, in poetry or philosophy to create Custom text, or they’re commissioning stories, they’re commissioning poetry, they’re commissioning creative pieces of work to feed as training data to their clients, right?

So, Scale. ai is commissioning this work and then they’re giving it to, they’re selling it to Open. ai to improve. Their algorithms, creative output. So I’m sure we’ve all, you know, tried to get chat GPT to write a piece of poetry and it’s fucking awful, right? I mean, it’s the most insipid trash you can imagine.

So there’s this gap in the, the, the creative powers of these large language models that these data training companies are now trying to fill by hiring armies of, of humanities, humanities grads. I think that immediately is an interesting inversion because maybe we’re just in the stage of the development of this technology where we are its tutors and that it becomes our tutor like some way way down the road, right?

Like you’ll be telling your grandkids, I taught this algorithm how to do this and now it’s teaching you to do the same thing. So that I thought was quite interesting and it’s linked to this, you know, whole set of signals that are all. I think around the, like, specifically writing, creative writing output of large language models, like, we’re just now starting to consolidate some of the implications of having had access to this technology for, what is it, like, maybe a year, who knows how time passes anymore.

But Amazon just put a cap on how many books that an author can self publish in a given day. You can only publish three books a day on Amazon. Only three. Seems very limiting. And the reason for that is that people have been obviously using large language models to generate vast amounts of text and, and popping out books.

And then the specifics of the deal haven’t been disclosed yet, I don’t think, but the Writers Guild of America did come to Some kind of an agreement, uh, over the past 24 hours with the studios. And I think that the hangup was specifically about the language or the commitment that the studios would make to the use or to avoid the use of large language models for certain types of applications and to avoid attributions, uh, to give, to give writing credits to non human entities, let’s say.

So only a person can be considered a writer. There are these very interesting kind of like precepts that are making their way into these bargains, which feel a little bit like they’re from a Frank Herbert book. So again, there’s, there’s like a lot of things kind of happening here. I know this is a, an evergreen topic and it’s also coming in a moment where again, we’ve, we’re trying to consolidate all of the implications of this, this first wave of commercial large language models.

And then it also seems like this very short AI winter that we had where people We’re kind of done or had, had explored chat GPT as much as they felt like they were getting value out of it and mid journey. And then, you know, now it looks like we’re about to take another step into the evolution of these technologies.

Cause yesterday, and I have, I don’t think it’s live yet, but now chat GPT has. Uh, image recognition and audio parsing capabilities. So you can upload an image of your bike and say like, my bike’s not working. What’s wrong with it? And then it’ll like, take a look at it and say, Oh, well it’s, there’s an issue with your chain or whatever.

So who knows what any of that means and who it’s important for, we’ll do this podcast again in a year and see where that all goes. But just wanted to highlight some of the things that have been happening recently in this creative writing and. AI space in particular. Did you use Chachapiti to write your spiel just now?

I used good old copy and paste that did the old fashioned way. Are the people that they’re hiring, the humanities students, are they, I’m guessing North American or are they so called untapped? Yeah, there is an effort underway to recruit people who have expert knowledge or native speakers in other languages and hiring poets and writers with humanities backgrounds, including in Hindi and Japanese, because as bad as you think it, the poetry that large language models render in English, when they have access to, you know, The Gutenberg project and these other large databases of public domain writing.

I mean, imagine how bad it could be in writing, uh, in Japanese or Hindi. So they are actively trying to close these gaps and it’s, I mean, it seems, or it sounds as though it’s, it. That it’s not terribly paid work either. I mean, there are these very menial jobs that go on in, in training, which are, uh, you know, just kind of tagging certain elements that the, that the, that the model outputs and so on.

But, um, I think it says that, that these positions pay somewhere around 50 bucks an hour. If you’re producing poetry for the model to gobble up. So I do wonder whether at least in the short term, this is going to be a little bit of a cottage industry of people doing this on the side. So interesting. I wonder if any, one of these poems written for the model ever become like anthologist.

That’s a good question. And what does it feel like to write to, it’s a commissioned piece of work, but nobody’s ever going to read it, I guess. Yeah, it’s weird. And it’s a weird assignment even to just be like, what we’re trying to do is just an exemplary good poem, you know, like, yeah, I wonder what the brief is too, you know, like chat GPT would, would like to know more about Coen’s so, you know, produce 50 of them.

I would love to see the brief. I would 100 percent read this book. Like it should be a book. I know they’re going to be. The zoo or whatever it’s like, it’s, it’s just not going to be possible to take a book with it, but I would totally read the poetry training data specifically made only for, you know, these bards eyes only or whatever, you know, I think it’s also, it’s an attempt to route around.

this issue of authors finding that when they prompt large language models to describe their work that it can do it fluently, right? So I can’t remember who it was who asked about a very minor character in a novel that he himself wrote, and he put the prompt into chat. And it was able to do a bunch of expositions on this very minor character that hadn’t been discussed in any press or anything like that.

And so the Implication was that somehow or other his book would have become grist for the mill without his knowing or consent and so on. So I think in order to avoid those types of implications and to steer away from the legalities of that, it makes sense for these training data companies to just, again, commission piles of original work from people that they can get relatively on the cheap, right, from, uh, in the grand scheme of things to avoid those issues.

And here’s a call back to the pirating thing because didn’t wasn’t there like some kind of a lawsuit that was based on like one of the models using library genesis which is this huge pirated pdf collection to train itself because that’s like I mean there couldn’t be a better selection mechanism for high quality work than library genesis which is this bizarre distributed bunch of academics you know putting up their their Everything that they want to read.

I mean, it’s so much better than reddit for which is old ways getting material.

Julian Bleecker: Yeah, you use net even before that. No one is doing the informal training, you know, like the people who are training robots to distinguish between, you know, this or that bottle. You know, this was something that I know X was working on with their everyday robots thing.

Just training robots to do menial tasks, help someone on and off the toilet, you know, and there were, there were low paid workers who were the ones who were sitting there pouring in a bunch of bolts into a, into a trough. That the robot then had to try to figure out how to sort that was training, right? I guess what’s the difference between that and training it with pro poetry?

I know there’s a difference. This is more it’s more provocation. What am I trying to say? I’m trying to say like we’re fetishizing the poet versus the other task We kind of like I don’t who cares about bolts, but someone is training the robots to distinguish bolts And they’re being paid, you know, whatever 50 bucks an hour to do that by X You Or Google or Alphabet or whoever’s back.

Well, it’s easy. It’s easy to imagine. I don’t know if they did it where it’s like, Hey, let’s just get a bunch of poems. Like, Hey, you know, can anyone here minor in English when they were in engineering school, can you write us up a couple of poems, just see how the thing does. Or give us your assessment. Is that a good poem or not?

I can’t, I can’t tell. It rhymes.

Signal. I

From Later: mean, to me, this connects right back to Julian’s signal too. And the question is just what is happening to the feeling of gratification that comes with, Hey, I made an object that exists in the world. And are we losing that? Is that, is that feeling becoming obsolete? Like we can still make an object, but any expectation you might have had or the sense of that feeling, even when you write an article that nobody was going to read, or you finish your thesis, or you, you know, whatever cultural object thing you make, there always used to be this feeling of having made something and with it.

Yeah. You would really have to manage expectations to have the job of writing 50 poems for training this large language model and feel like, fuck yeah, I wrote 50 poems today. I did a good job and anything in the world, I, I, you would really have to retrain your, your, your own, your own model and, uh, and expectations of what that feels like and what that’s supposed to feel.

That’s what the model you’re like, are you training a model for like those weird like chatbots that pop up that annoy you on like every other site in 2010, you know, like, is that what you’re training or are you training like a tool for, I don’t know, some kind of creative explorative version? Like, like when I hear somebody saying, Oh, we’re going to train it to make poetry.

I’m just like, well, you don’t know what poetry is. Like, that doesn’t, that doesn’t make sense. It’s not a product. It’s a, it’s a process. It’s like a way of. Engaging with the limits of language at any given moment, you know, like, it’s, it’s not a product. It’s not like, I mean, you could train it to do whatever, like different, like types of writing schemes and stuff like that.

That’s easy, but that’s not, that’s not what poetry is. I might even really enjoy making 50 poems for a bot if it’s like a kind of interesting more experimental I don’t really know what I’m picturing but no, I mean fair a lot of the dissatisfied artists that I know It has everything to do with what their expectations are of how it’s gonna feel or what’s gonna happen when they’re done And the ones that are more satisfied are simply satisfied by the fact that they get to do it Imagine the pleasure you get out of moving the machine, you know, like moving the machine and getting it to feel in some way,

Julian Bleecker: which is what we do anyway for an artist.

It’s like, I just want to make someone feel something, feel what I’m feeling, you know, if I didn’t want

From Later: to get that model to shiver. Yeah. Yeah. Well, there’s the, yeah, there’s the answer to, to how you make that feel good. Right. Is that the, you need to be working with the. A large language model that has an empathy chip or whatever it is that makes you shiver when you hear a good line of poetry.

Julian Bleecker: Thanks, Dave. That was beautiful.

From Later: I do think Valdez, there’s something really, you kind of said that poetry is not a product. Yeah. There’s something really interesting there because, you know, if I, if I write a prompt and I hit send and then it, you know, it generates this like, you know, seemingly wonderful piece.

In the style of like Byron or something like that, like, because the only reason for that poem’s being was I asked this thing right to a machine and it gave it to me at an inhuman rate out of what is Yudkowsky always say about large language models are just like floating points so that nobody really understands and it just kind of coalesces like That’s not how poetry comes to be.

Maybe that’s a tendentious thing to say at the neural level, but it does seem to reduce it to a, a bit of a parlor trick, maybe in a way where everything, you know, the output, no matter what the input is, the output Lacks that dimension to it. I don’t know. There’s a good book, I forget what the title is.

It’s, or who the author is, unfortunately. I think they work at Concordia right now. Um, but the claim that they made was that hardly because there’s, there’s a very strong engineering culture obviously inside of the tech world. Um, and that frames problems in a particular way, and when you’re dealing with like creative processes.

Sorry, I don’t want to dissect like engineers and creators apart, like I think there’s a lot of creative activity that goes on in engineering, but if you, if you, if you accept this frame for a few, few seconds, the idea is that, um, you frame it as a kind of like, oh, we want to get a creative outcome. We just want to get a creative product.

And then this person I’m going to look up once I get a second away from speaking, um, says that actually it’s like, it is much more process based what you want in a creative interaction, whether that’s with like a bot or an image generating algorithm is not that the bot can, when you click it, make the thing you’re thinking of.

It’s that it kind of leads you into some direction. It leads you somewhere on your process of creating something. And that’s what you want it to do. You don’t want it to just make a product for you. Like that’s not the goal. You want it to be a muse. Yeah. Yeah. You can call it a muse. Yeah. Julian, you said signal already.

Yeah. All this signal and noise. Julian doesn’t get a chance. I had the sense that Julian was matter of factly, it’s clearly a signal. Uh, but did you want to explain what it signals for you?

Julian Bleecker: Well, I think, I think I preceded by my declaring it a signal with a, what I was sensing around it. I think, uh, it feels like there’s going to be industries of various sorts that will be the, uh, not quite collaborators, but creative force of one description, another that, um, evolves and develops whatever these, whatever the AIs are.

Kind of doing to us just felt like, um, yeah, of course that

From Later: gave me time. It was, uh, Sophie on Audrey. And the book has a foreword by, uh, Yoshua Bengio, which is interesting, one of the big AI dudes. What, do I think it’s a signal? I mean, yeah, I mean, signal, yeah, you can take it in so many directions. I think the idea of, like, making language only for machine Eyes or models, whatever the non anthropomorphize term is, is, is going to be is like very interesting.

Like, I actually find it exciting. Like, I, I do want to, I want to make language only for a model. If I knew that’s what I was doing, there’s something pleasant about, uh, escaping from the bounds of your sort of human centeredness or something like that, you know, when you’re trying to feel. The machine and how it works and figure it out.

I think it’s kind of, it’s interesting. Of course, like, yeah, there’ll be a lot of horrible jobs with it, but. That’s for different reasons. It’s not the technology in itself. There is something sublime about it. You’re right. It reminds me of like, you ever see those videos of people who are like playing music for cows in a pasture and like, you’re just standing at the edge of the fence and you’re like playing saxophone and the cows kind of wander over and they’re very curious and they become fixated on you.

It’s just the sort of like communication across species boundaries that’s happening or something. Yeah. It’s interesting when you, when you. Say that about this, like I started thinking of like how you could triangulate and wait, is there a spider graph like that? You could imagine where it’s like, I’m gonna write one poem.

That’s just sonically really interesting. And another palm. That’s where the images are really potent. And, you know, uh, and kind of keep playing with these different. poems that satisfy just, just one criteria. And could that kind of triangulate a brilliant poem or something like that for such a machine? I mean, typically you need a lot of training material.

That’s why I don’t fully understand how much this works. I guess it’s like fine tuning the end or whatever, but I could picture you, you being given briefs and, you know, part of the task is now, how do you coordinate the, The collective production of poetry among 500 people, you know, in an office for a day, like, which sounds actually kind of like an interesting task.

Yeah. Well, it’s like the briefs too. It’s like, there’s not different than people who do like commercial, uh, music writing for soundtrack and stuff. And like the brief comes in and it’s like, we need Taylor. Like it needs to sound like this Taylor Swift song or this Bruno Mars song. And it’s very specific.

And it’s like, you just have to make it sound different enough, but the same, but they only have to do, you know, three for their client to pick through, as opposed to 50 to train the machine to do it, to do their job. Yeah. 30, 000 by the end of the week. Yeah, signal broadcast from later.

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