Glenn Loury Is Having a Terrible Thought
A Weird News Project animation
One of the reasons I love my job—I’m a “creative director” at The Glenn Show—is it gives me plenty of freedom in coming up with ideas and forces me to experiment when trying to implement them. This animation is a case in point.
Back in February—before the war, I’m compelled to add—I sent Glenn a link to Psychopolitica’s China issue and asked to read out loud a couple of news items from it.
We then chatted about the news for another 20 minutes or so.
I edited the audio and made a minimalistic animation to go with it.
(Glenn’s face—the show’s logo—is animated in Adobe Character Animator. The body animation loop is made in EbSynth, with a few seconds from Glenn’s appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher as the source material. The captions are made in Descript.)
I encourage you to listen to the end, because the last 4 minutes make up one of my favorite Glenn Loury Rants™ to date.
Talking about an imagined futuristic society tied together and managed by an all-encompassing AI system, Glenn says:
Well, I'm having a terrible thought.
And my terrible thought is that it may be very much more effective at mobilizing a large number of people on behalf of things that are very effective and productive.
It may mean that they are better educated and more able to acquire intellectual development.
It may mean that they are more effective in economic competition and more able to produce at a lower cost.
You know, it may work.
And one could turn the clock forward 50 years, 75, 150 years, and see there being very different ways of life that are inexorably in competition with one another; where this individualism — I mean, the idea of the individual, maybe it becomes…
Maybe the idea of the individual person,
"everything to save one life,"
the infinite value of the individual voice
becomes almost laughable,
something from another time, when people actually believed in freedom.
Don't they realize that the web of connected and carefully managed and efficiently coordinated human ant colony
is more powerful,
is more robust,
is more resilient,
is more effective,
is more competitive,
is more dynamic?
I mean, it might be like an 18th century idea where you ride on a horse somewhere into an open frontier, or you invent something in your little cottage laboratory, and everybody has their own freedom...
You know, it may be a very old idea.
Maybe the effectiveness of, for example, enduring a pandemic... when the next one might be five times worse, and the difference between countries in their ability to manage the consequences of it, instead of it being measured in hundreds of thousands of lives, could be measured in tens of millions of lives...
And what about war?
I mean, I shudder to even think about.
But again, it requires sacrifice.
It requires coordination.
It requires mobilization.
It requires putting down dissent.
It requires single-mindedness of national focus.
It requires enduring sacrifice,
getting pointed all in the same direction.
Suppose you're not good at that, your society.
Suppose you've grown into some false sense of security and superiority in your freedom, when in fact unfreedom is the thing that's going to govern the world in the 22nd century.
Maybe that's the future that we face.
Finally realized the total potential of humanity.
After all, we can reproduce embryos [in artificial wombs and use an AI system to manage their development] — can't you imagine the real consequence?
They'll be doing calculus at 10 years old!
If they manage the development of the human embryo to the precise extent...
Those people will be superhuman.
This was recorded before the war in Ukraine. Since it began, I’m finding it hard to follow any news that could make it into the next issue of the Weird News Project—the creepy developments in AI, the wild fish getting addicted to meth, the beer commercials projected into people’s dreams, and all that. The war is just too good at making everything else seem irrelevant.
I do have some thoughts on how I might meet this creative challenge.