by Larry Jordan
I’ve been thinking about ethics and technology recently. Michael Hiltzik ran a column in today’s Los Angeles Times (5/12/2019) about Tristan Harris, former Google exec and founder of the Center for Humane Technology, about how technology today is actively involved in “human downgrading.”
“Harris’ key insight,” Hiltzik writes, “is that it’s a mistake to treat the drawbacks of mobile technologies and social media as separate and unrelated. In fact, ‘they’re all connected to an extractive attention economy,’ Harris told an audience at the Milken conference [this spring]. “‘When your business model is extracting data and attention out of people,’ Harris said, the result is a ‘race to the bottom of the brain stem’ in which social media platforms feed users more and more of whatever content will keep them onsite. In practice, that means more radical and extreme content that feeds on human weaknesses.”
Turning these thoughts to the world of media, on last week’s Digital Production Buzz, Mark Raudonis, Senior VP at Bunim/Murray, struck a chord as he described dealing with the ever-larger shooting ratios and ever-decreasing deadlines inherent in reality programs today. The solution, for Mark, is automating clip review and, perhaps, automating color grading. These tools make sense when you are trying to find a one-hour story out of four thousand hours of footage. But, the technology won’t stop there – as Terry Curren, founder of Alpha Dogs post production, said on the same show, “the more technology improves, the more likely the ‘middle-class of post’ will get squeezed out.”
“Historically,” Terry said, “throughout all of written history, if you wanted to entertain people, you were a starving artist. You travelled from town to town and you hoped to make enough doing a play, or whatever, to get some meals and maybe get a night’s sleep. Then this weird thing happened where we came along with a film camera and you could record somebody’s performance once and then play it back a ton of times and charge for it and, suddenly, it became a way of making a lot of money as an artist. However, this was a limited world. It cost so much money to make the films and distribute them; which kept it a tight group. This created this artificial community of people making a lot of money as artists.
What I see now is, we’ve taken away those strangleholds; so now, anybody can make content and get it out there and I just see us going back to a kind of ‘starving artists’ land again.” While I’m not as pessimistic about the future as Terry, I’m still concerned.
Read more of Larry’s thoughts, including how technology seems to be more about making itself smarter, rather than empowering people, at LarryJordan.com.