Joe Transhumanist

Accelerating technological change is affecting every aspect of your life. You're going to live longer. You're going to see amazing technologies. Things you took for granted for decades are shifting under your feet. It's impossible to chart these changes out past a couple years. Eventually, it'll be down to months. So how does a regular joe, a non-scientist, embrace this while living a so-called "normal" life? Is it even possible? Herein is my approach.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Blockbuster Bubble

As a Transhumanist, I tend to spend much of my time pondering high-tech gadgetry, the implications of vastly expanded life expectancy, mind-machine interfaces, and the like.  But in my travels through the intertubes, I occasionally come across subjects that, although not quite as cerebral, do fire my imagination enough to pen a short missive.

Today’s trigger was the performance of Battleship, which had a disastrous (if $30 million dollars is a disaster) opening weekend.
Apparently, “Battleship” (which The Accessible Transhumanist has not seen and does not intend to see until it reaches a smaller screen) has taken a few torpedoes.  Financially, over the long haul, it may repair the damage.  But for now, it appears, like John Carter before it, to be a flop.

Which begs the question:  How long will Hollywood (and the investors who sink hundreds of millions into big-budget blockbusters) continue taking these gambles?  In a world where a smart dude with a high-end GPU can create effects that stand on par with the best Pixar and Lucasfilm have to offer, aren’t we just about ready for the conventional Hollywood blockbuster bubble to pop?

When rendering software can create artificial actors as realistic as, well, the real ones (see Jeff Bridges’ 25-year age reduction in Tron: Legacy), when you can create a setpiece battle scene with rendering software, when you can blue-screen any environment, when a camera that fits in your hand can shoot at resolutions as high or higher than any Panavision rig - and when those cameras interface directly to software that can clean up the mistakes... why do companies continue to spend $100+ million on film production?  

We’re already seeing private companies like Hulu and Netflix create their own content.  We see independent videos hit YouTube with quality approaching multi-million dollar studio productions.  Anyone with a camera, a flair for design, and an ability to render and edit can create visual entertainment that would hold up to anything short of Avatar

My point is that sometimes you don’t need to look very far for the next disruption.  While everyone argues over whether the Education bubble is about to pop, we have a huge disruption looming in the way we get our entertainment.  The fragmented state of content acquisition and delivery are just a piece of this.  The actual creation of the content itself is about to change.  

Now sure, I’m not talking about Academy-Award-Winning acting talent being generated by basement talent agencies.  I’m not saying that thoughtful, low- and mid-range budget films will be displaced by the programmers and renderers out there.  At least not yet.  I mean, there is no real point in rendering “The Hangover” on a PC or Mac.  At least not yet.  I’m talking about the big movies, the ones that blow most of their coin on FX and bank on selling a lot of popcorn.  As far as I’m concerned, these flicks are an endangered species, and no amount of 3D magic and surround sound will save them.

If The Accessible Transhumanist was a studio executive, he would be looking to cash in, while the investors are still lining up to fund the next mega-trilogy or Marvel franchise.

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