So, Westworld. Finally got around to watching the first two episodes last night. I like it. I’m not sure it’s a great show yet, but it has some great actors, looks fantastic, and it’s highly thought-provoking — far more so than most content out there.
Part Jurassic Park, part Truman Show, part Groundhog Day, part Deadwood, part A.I., part Ex Machina, part The Andromeda Strain, part several other things. A fascinating combination of parts that together raise a range of ethical questions. Questions which seem particularly timely given the rise of artificial intelligence discussions in our culture.
Speaking of The Andromeda Strain, showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy (who are married — and yes, Jonathan is Christopher Nolan’s brother and frequent collaborator), have done an excellent job modernizing what was a 1970s film Michael Crichton both wrote and directed (and, as a result, we continue to see what a loss his death in 2008 was to the world).
Again, not sure it’s a great show yet, but it’s clearly a must-watch. (It also gets bonus points for the use of modern music — “Black Hole Sun”?! — via western auto-playing piano.)
Speaking of Westworld, unsurprisingly, it has a great, bizarre, provocative opening title sequence. This is becoming almost table stakes these days — particularly amongst HBO shows. Kyle Stock dives into the trend a bit:
If the 1960s were the golden age of film noir and the 1990s were peak sitcom, we are living in the time of the television title sequence. They are becoming more intricate, expensive, and important than ever. Directors, producers, and showrunners are now handling the title sequence, once the throwaway garnish of the television entrée, with the care formerly reserved for lighting, editing, and casting.
One crazy tidbit about our current golden age of television content:
Meanwhile, Americans, on average, watch about 2.8 hours of television every day. At that rate, they can digest about one in six of the scripted shows being produced, and that’s assuming the viewer skips sports, news, reality programming, and all the Anthony Bourdain. To stay current on scripted television series alone, a person would have to watch television 24 hours a day for about 240 days a year.
Marc Andreessen spoke with Timothy B. Lee on where things are headed with AI in our society. On the topic of the machines taking all our jobs:
I think the job of a doctor shifts and becomes a higher-level, more important job that pays better as the doctor becomes augmented by smarter computers.
That’s why I’m so optimistic about the economy. That’s why I think the Luddites and the slow-growth people are wrong. We can have tremendous amounts of job creation and have huge productivity improvements. They’re not actually in conflict, despite what everyone thinks right now.
Westworld-like fears aside, the notion of the destruction of jobs feels overblown, as it always is with new technology. Unlike matter, jobs tend to be created. Like matter, jobs (as a whole) tend not to be destroyed, they merely shift into other forms… Often for the better…
George Dvorsky citing some new numbers set to be published in the Astrophysical Journal:
The observable universe — that is, the part of the universe that’s visible to us on Earth — contains 10 to 20 times as many galaxies than previous estimates. That raises the total to somewhere between one and two trillion galaxies, which is up from the previous best estimate of 100 billion galaxies. Consequently, this means we also have to update the number of stars in the observable universe, which now numbers around 700 sextillion (that’s a 7 with 23 zeros behind it, or 700 thousand billion billion).
Two trillion galaxies. 700 sextillion stars. And that’s just the observable universe.
If you haven’t watched this Trevor Noah clip yet in which he eviscerates both Donald Trump and the notion of “locker room talk,” you really should.
(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)