Not Sure These People Know What They’re Saying About AI
On Monday, Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo told Collider that in two years an AI will be able to make feature-length movies. The comments came during a panel at a film festival in Scotland with Russo and Donald Mustard, the chief creative officer at Epic Games, the publisher behind Fortnite.
Here’s the bulk of Russo’s quote about the future of AI filmmaking:
You could walk into your house and save the AI on your streaming platform. “Hey, I want a movie starring my photoreal avatar and Marilyn Monroe's photoreal avatar. I want it to be a rom-com because I've had a rough day,” and it renders a very competent story with dialogue that mimics your voice. It mimics your voice, and suddenly now you have a rom-com starring you that's 90 minutes long. So you can curate your story specifically to you.
Russo is not the first rich white guy to talk about this idea. In fact, it seems to be the only real use case for generative-AI that anyone can come up with. For instance, the NBA released an app in February that lets you deepfake yourself onto the bodies of basketball players. But even if it’s derivative, let’s walk through Russo’s theory because I’m not totally clear that he understands what he’s saying. Or, maybe he does and he’s literally fantasizing about the end of Hollywood as an industry.
So, yes, at this point, you can kinda-sorta generate photorealistic avatars with AI right now. They aren’t great, but the technology is there and it’s reasonable to assume that it’s going to get better and better, faster and faster. But the idea that two years from now you could use a prompt-based interface to generate a passably coherent two-hour feature film is, frankly, ludicrous. If you haven’t seen an AI-generated video yet, here’s Will Smith eating spaghetti. Enjoy the nightmares!
And, just for shits, I asked GPT-3.5 to “write me a short scene from a romantic comedy starring me a Marilyn Monroe.” And it was not good! I also forgot to tell it what my name was, so it named me John:
As they finish their coffee, John musters up the courage to ask Marilyn out.
JOHN: Marilyn, I know we just met, but would you like to go out with me sometime?
Marilyn grins and nods.
MARILYN: I would love to, John.
John can't help but feel elated as he walks out of the coffee shop, feeling like he just met the woman of his dreams. Marilyn watches him go, a happy smile on her face.
MARILYN: (to herself) Maybe love really can be as simple as a cup of coffee.
The future of cinema is here, baby. Good thing I didn’t ask it to feature a scene of us eating pasta.
Now, do I think that we will start seeing AI-generated video content that, at least, in theory, competes with human-produced films and TV shows for attention? Yes, it’s already happening. I watched an entire YouTube video the other day and didn’t know until the end that the human voiceover I was listening to was actually an AI model of the YouTuber’s voice reading a script. (I’m still reeling from the experience). But this idea that AI will simply spit out movies that feature custom avatars of our faces — and that they would be romantic comedies and not insane porn — is very wrong. But I think we’re going to see more and more established artists and creators coming forward with similarly short-sighted pro-AI takes to signal that they’re cool and with it because they’re scared and because there’s money to be made. Which, as I recently wrote, while looking at Grimes’ offer to embrace AI and split the royalties for songs that feature an AI model of her voice, feels like someone “trying to surf a tsunami.” I’d put Russo’s idea into the same category.
The day a generative-AI can one-prompt generate even a single scene from a movie, filmmaking ceases to be a real profession that anyone can make money from. It will immediately devolve into something akin to a TikTok filter. Which is perhaps why Russo’s comments made a such big splash after getting written up by trades like Variety. It should also be noted that it is not the first pro-AI and sneakily anti-human writer piece that Variety has published in the last few months, as Hollywood braces a possible WGA strike. Which, to me, is the real story here.
Those in power right now, the folks at the top of their respective heaps, believe that AI will reduce human made art and creation — and human labor — into a simple automated product that can be deployed. It will spit out perfect facsimiles of existing art that are all owned and maintained by a corporation and also totally worthless and interchangeable on an individual level. A factory of personalized widgets that you don’t have to pay assembly workers to run. But the silver lining here is that we can already look around and see that that’s not how AI content is evolving. It’s weirder and stranger than traditional media and, at least right now, individual creators are moving faster than big companies. And, because, once again, at least right now, solely AI creations cannot be copyrighted, for the foreseeable future, bootleggers, shitposters, pirates, and remixers will continue to be the winners of the AI arms race.
Or, who knows, maybe Russo is wrong and maybe I am too and this guy’s dumb NFT idea is actually the future.
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The Twitter Blue Hangover Continues
My big dumb fingers swiped the wrong way on Twitter yesterday and I ended up on the For You tab and came across the above post from @fasc1nate. I have not factchecked if it’s actually possible to walk from South Africa to Russia, but I assume everything on the internet is true unless I’m told otherwise.
Beneath the post, however, are the worst, most useless replies imaginable all pushed to the top because they’re almost entirely from Twitter Blue subscribers writing things like, “I love traveling,” “my wife is leaving me,” and “I'm sorry, but I cannot reply to tweets as I am a language model AI and don't have access to social media platforms.”
My main observation is that these read, in aggregate, like any random Facebook thread, but they’re coming from people who are paying to use the site this way. Or as a Reddit user recently wrote:
The service inherently appeals only to people who both a) care extremely deeply about their posts being seen, and b) make posts that inherently are unappealing to other Twitter users (since people with appealing/interesting/funny/not-weird posts would be able to naturally grow an audience on the platform if they want to). So pretty much every single blue check is a hyper-online weirdo who is deeply bad at posting, despite being obsessed with twitter metrics.
And one of the best examples of one of these hyper-online weirdos who are very bad at posting is this Twitter Blue subscriber who started complaining that Steve Albini, literally one of the most famous producers of all time, was running some kind of scam to get good engagement without a paid checkmark.
What Happens When An Incel Stops Being An Incel?
Earlier this week, @komesarj, a well-known moderator for the incels.is message board, stepped down and announced that he was no longer an incel, or “involuntarily celibate,” because he got laid. To be clear, @komesarj is still, based on his tweets, a fully-radicalized extremist and misogynist, but now he has a girlfriend or, at least, isn’t a virgin anymore. And other incels are real mad.
The @komesarj news exposed a fault line that’s been at the heart of the incel community almost since the beginning of the online manosphere. There are men who hate women and can’t get laid, but would if they could. And there are men who hate women and think men should “go their own way.” I, personally, think if you insist on being an incel, you’re actually a volcel (voluntarily celibate), but maybe that’s too in the weeds for these guys.
In case you were curious, @komesarj said that the woman he’s having some kind of relationship with now knows that he used to be a mod on incels.is, which might be the real reason other incels are so mad about this. If a @komesarj can meet a woman who tolerates his presence, what’s their excuse?
Is This Elon Musk’s Weird Horny Alt Account?
It seems highly likely that Elon Musk was using an alt account last winter to roleplay as a horny toddler or, I guess, more of a horny toddler than he usually is. How do we know? Well, Musk tweeted a screenshot of his app to brag about the amount of paying subscribers he now has for “exclusive memes” and the profile pic of the horny toddler account was in the screenshot as a switch user. Also, probably worth noting that a very small percentage of his followers are actually subscribing to him.
What’s even worse — like impossibly worse — is that Musk’s weird alt account appears to be him roleplaying as his two-year-old son X AE A-XII.
Researchers Got Stable Diffusion To Run On A Phone
Here we go. AI researchers at Google were able to get Stable Diffusion, the open source AI generation tool, to run on a smartphone. A Samsung device was able to generate an image in under 15 seconds. Here’s a link to the full paper and here’s a link to a good summary.
There is a lot of talk about the AI arms race happening right now. I referenced it at the top of today’s newsletter! But I would argue this is the most important part of it. Without the ability to easily use these tools on a wide variety of devices quickly, this entire movement dies a pretty quick death.
Chuck Tingle Dropped A Twitter Blue Book
Chuck Tingle, the preeminent artist of our time, probably best known as the author behind all those books about getting banged in the butt, wrote a new erotic novel titled, Not Pounded By Twiddor Checkmarks Because I Blocked Every Person Who Has One, Despite Elon Mork Standing Outside My House In The Middle Of The Night Crying And Begging Me To Join Twiddor. I assume it’s referring to “Twiddor” instead of “Twitter” just to be totally clear of any sort of copyright.
According to the book’s summary on Amazon, “this important tale is 4,200 words of a needy T-Rex billionaire grappling with the fact that he’s a loser and nobody likes him. There is no sex, but there is plenty of satisfying catharsis.” Here’s the Amazon page.
Click here to see the tweet on Twitter because I still can’t embed tweets.
Some Stray Links
“The Amazing Story of How Philly Cheesesteaks Became Huge in Lahore, Pakistan”
P.S. here’s the flour thief.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
I mean you obviously know this because you keep writing and then publishing them but these are reliably enjoyable, and make me smile.
Honestly I would hate to have any kind of movie staring myself even if that ludicrous proposition was true.