Davos: Too little content
Here’s a thought: should we consider writing and reading as a frozen accident? Something than we can un-learn in the near future, to liberate our built-in oral and storytelling capacities?
The one interesting thing I’ve heard so far at Davos this year is that the world doesn’t have too much content. It has too little. So says Philip Parker of INSAED, who is doing fascinating work with automatic creation of content. He’s not doing it for evil purposes: content farms and spam. He is doing it to fill in knowledge that is missing in the world, especially in smaller cultures and languages.
Parker’s system has written tens of thousands of books and is even creating fully automated radio shows in many languages, some of which have never been used for weather reports (they don’t have words for “degree” or “celsius”). He used his software to create a directory of tropical plants that didn’t exist. And he has radio beaming out to farmers in poor third-world nations.
I’m fascinated by what Parker’s project says about our attitudes toward content: that we in the West think there’s too much of it (we’re overloaded); that content is that which content creators create; that content has to be owned; that it has to be inefficient and expensive to be good and useful.
Parker looks for content that is formulaic. That’s what his technology can replace. He studied TV news and found that 70% of its content is formulaic. No surprise. Most of it could be replaced with a machine.
That’s not just my joke and insult. The more efficient we make the creation of content, the less we will waste on repetitive tasks with commodified results, and the more we can concentrate our valuable and scarce resources on necessity and quality. Certain people will likely screech that such thinking and technology further deprofessionalizes the alleged art of creating content. So be it.