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The Future Will Be Hyper-Local
My monthly writer’s workshop consists of writers along a wide spectrum of writing skill. This is by design, we’re all here to learn and grow and improve. Also, we share early drafts with each other, meaning these words are unpolished and sometimes still janky in parts.
The thematic range is “whatever the other people want to write about, as long as it’s SFF,” so there’s some works that I am distinctly not the target audience for. They are works that, if I picked it up in a book store, I would read a chapter and decide “Eh, seen it before, not for me” and put it back. I’ve read many of hundreds of books over the years, my tastes are starting to get Weinersmith-y.
AND YET. I always look forward to getting the next installment or latest story from the members of my writers workshop. I greatly enjoy the things they create, specifically because they created them. I can see details of their personal history leaking into some of the plot. I can hear their voices as I read the text, I know when a certain sentence is written with a tone of exasperation or teasing or wonder, because I know how the writer would say those words in that context. I feel closer to the people who wrote this work, because I already know them and get to share air with them and look at them on a regular basis.
Likewise, I’m excited to share my work with these people, because I know they will read it in the coming weeks, they will talk to me directly and in person about that specific work. I will Be Seen. Even if it’s not great, it is a communion.
This extends to all art. eg - when I go to live shows, my enjoyment is vastly magnified if the people on stage are people I know. Even if the music isn’t my preferred style. Those are my friends up there. They are making this wonderful thing for us. It may not be perfect, but it is theirs.
Art Will Soon Be Post-Scarcity
In the near future, AI will be able to create stories as good as what any human can create. They’ll be able able to do this in seconds. They will tailor them specifically to your tastes, with your relationship styles represented, your emotional needs fulfilled, your preferred ratio of action-to-dialog-to-sex-to-comedy-to-gore-to-philosophy. Every single story you consume can be perfect for you.
The AIs will be able to do this for movies, music, art, whatever you want.
I think it won’t be too long after this is perfected that people just lose interest in most forms of pop media. At least in the current environment, when you find a great song or novel, you can share it with a friend, and both of you consume the same content. You share an experience and can talk about that experience. When everything is perfectly crafted to each individual user, why listen to something made to appeal to someone else when there’s designer-stuff already waiting for you? It’s not like you’ll then be able to discuss the song made for your friend with a third party.
But the song that my friend made to express herself… that is something I’m actually interested in. I want to see the person inside the music. People who don’t know her won’t be interested in the song, but that’s fine, because they have friends of their own that are writing music.
This is driving engine behind GlowFic, and why its creators are so prodigiously productive. Making things for people in your life is much more rewarding, and the quicker the consuming/appreciating/feedback cycle happens, the more rewarding it is.
Hyper-local art is that created by someone you know personally, that invariably is consumed in the context of your relationship with that person.
At Some Point, Almost Everything Will Be Post-Scarcity
I have a pair of knit fingerless gloves. They were made for me by a friend who knew that my fingers always get extremely cold when I do a lot of typing. She spent time making a thing that she could have bought, but didn’t, to show me that I was on her mind when she was making these, that she remembered a thing about my body & life that isn’t public knowledge.
Soon I will be able to simply tell an AI “My fingers always get cold when I type a long time, is there some way to fix that?” and maybe the AI will print out a perfect pair of exactly-contoured fingerless gloves. Everyone in the world can have an unlimited amount of these fingerless gloves, and their lives will be better for it, and that will be good!
But I will still prefer the gloves that were knit by my friend. If they start to get worn out and old, I will put effort into preserving them, and maybe wear them less so I don’t lose them entirely. Maybe in time she’d notice and knit me another pair. These gloves, despite being less perfect, are more valuable to me because of how they came to be.
You cannot buy the feelings that prompt a friend to make you a pair of custom gloves, or write a song for you, or give you a personal tour. The most prized possessions people will have will be the ones that aren’t perfect AI products. They’ll be the flawed ones that your friends pour hours of their lives into, thinking that you’d like them, and every time you see that object or hear that song, you’ll remember your friend.
A hyper-local object is one whose value is in the relationship that caused it to be made.
Not too long from now, the most prized objects will be hyper-local. And almost all art/entertainment will be hyper-local. In the future, while most stuff will be produced by AI and will do a great job at whatever it should do, the things that are most valued will be the hyper-local objects. Likely the majority of value-in-things will be concentrated in those hyper-local objects, despite them being a small minority of the objects that are owned, and it’ll be great.