Saturday, April 27, 2024

About horses

The recent incident that saw horses from the Household Cavalry running loose in the streets of central London is surely open to all sorts of interpretations: musing on the place of such ceremony in a modern army; questions of the relationship between humans and animals; hints towards the Book of Revelation.

But Simon Duke of Chronicle Live wasn’t going to follow the herd, was he? Faced with these weird, almost dreamlike images, at once beautiful and terrifying, surreal in the true sense of the world, Simon knew instinctively that what his readers would want to know was how Ben Shephard and his colleagues were covering the story on ITV’s This Morning. No analysis, no context, no insight, none of that poncey stuff. Just the fact that Cat Deeley said “Wow”.

Inevitably we can paint this in Baudrillardian terms, where the reality (terrified, blood-streaked horses weaving between bemused Londoners) is eradicated by the image (Vanessa Feltz’s reaction); or just see it as the death of useful journalism, where one set of media hacks cannibalise the responses of another set, the whole circus consuming itself like a massive digital ouroboros. And, to be honest, I’m just catching scraps from the table as well, aren’t I?

PS: Another urban tale that surely symbolises something even if we can’t agree what: the sails fall off the Moulin Rouge.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

About Yoko Ono

 And Ms Ono also appears, in a roundabout way, to have invented the simulacrum before Baudrillard did.

(Both images stolen from Andy Miller on BlueSky)

Sunday, April 07, 2024

About pretension

When my Radiohead book was published, there were a few rumbles that bringing the likes of Baudrillard into the conversation were a bit – perish the thought – pretentious. I’ve never been particularly stung by such a label (standing proudly alongside Ian Penman on the subject) but I was amused when I recently revisited my old copy of Will Pop Eat Itself? by Jeremy J. Beadle (no, not that one) and noticed that by the second page he was comparing This is the Day... This is the Hour... This is This! by grebo titans PWEI to The Waste Land. And now I wonder whether the modest sales of my book were down to it not being pretentious enough.

Monday, April 01, 2024

About AI

In the New York Times, the neuroscientist Eric Hoel argues that the increased use of artificial intelligence is forcing any notion of intellectual or aesthetic quality into a death spiral, prompted as much as anything by human laziness. For example he refers to researchers at a conference on AI using AI to conduct peer reviews on AI-related papers, taking any human critical intervention out of the equation. Which is a problem, because one thing AI is very bad at detecting is bullshit, which is ultimately what peer review is for.

Of course, most of us don’t hang around at AI conferences, but Hoel suggests that the process is far more prevalent than that, eroding the fabric of culture itself, to the detriment even of people who reach for their weapons when they hear the word:

Isn’t it possible that human culture contains within it cognitive micronutrients — things like cohesive sentences, narrations and character continuity — that developing brains need? 
In other words, the processes by which people engage with all the gubbins of society is as significant as the content itself, and that’s what AI is stripping away. But it’s not as if the purveyors of AI are doing this deliberately, is it? They’re not consciously proposing policies that will make humanity that bit more stupid are they oh wait hang on...

PS: And even if you’re not that bothered about AI destroying the canon of Western literature, you might want to know what it’s doing to your fridge

PPS: And, following on from Musk’s tweet, I think this is supposed to be an April Fool’s gag but these days, who knows?