0312 - Cool and chill. - 2023.09.25



When I wrote the script for this strip, "AI art" and such were moderately big news. Now, as I'm writing this comment file, algorithmically-generated content is ridiculously big news. All of Hollywood is currently on strike, in large part, because people with money want to buy technology instead of paying humans.

The Luddites get a bad rap, but, like the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, they weren't afraid of new technology, they were justifiably angry about people with money buying technology instead of paying humans. Regardless of this historical truth, though, the term "luddite" is now used to mean someone who does not understand technology and is afraid of change. This is because the history books - and the dictionaries that accompany them - are written by the winners, and the Luddites lost.

You can still weave your own fabric, sure. You can find people on Instagram and Etsy and Facebook Marketplace right now who are selling their bespoke hand-woven fabric. These people are monetizing their hobbies, but they're still hobbies. You probably aren't wearing hand-woven underwear as you read this, because the cost and quality of human labour simply can't compete with machine-generated cotton-poly-spandex blend.

Yes, AI is "soulless". Yes, it can't count fingers, it mangles basic facts, it doesn't know where to put rim-lit hair, it can't handle a three-act story structure, it can't tell a decent joke.


As always, Forward is not concerned with the present, it's concerned with the projected future, and anyone who's lived through the past decade or two can guess that the current limitations of algo-genned .jpgs and .txts are inevitably going to improve, and it's only a matter of time until humans simply can't compete. There'll still be hobbyists, of course, and there will be those who support them out of tradition or a desire for bespoke content or a dream of a sharing community. I do think that in the long-long-long-run, though, we are looking at an impending decimation of the human art market, in much the same way that we're looking at an impending decimation of human taxi drivers and fruit-pickers and plumbers.

John Henry is the hero of the story, but he still dies at the end, and (if America ever decides to invest in mass transit again) future rails will be laid by a machine. Machines might not be better, but they are cheaper and they don't talk back. It's just math. Nothing personal.

Nothing personal at all.


0312 – 2167/07/07/09:10 - sidewalk
CP: So what… what w-would you l-like to eat, Lee? I can… I’m…. I’ll buying.
CP: Buy. I’ll buy it for you.
LC: Oh, I um… okay, uh… what’s nearby?
LC [data connection]: Seriously, Zoa, did I make some sort of anti-human-labour declaration just now? I didn’t mean to do that!
Zoa: Within a two block radius, at nine-ten in the morning? We’ve got a breakfast pizza place, we’ve got Kenyan, we’ve got Chilean, we’ve got another Martian restaurant that does blendies...
Zoa: …alternately, you could just order literally anything portable, then hold out your hand and wait five minutes, but if you were gonna do that, we didn’t need to leave your apartment.
Zoa [data connection]: It’s fine, Lee. Lots of people think insisting on human work is stupid. That’s not really a thing we have to worry about any more.
CP: I know you…. like Martian… uh… Martian things, Lee. Do you… do you like blendies?
Zoa [data connection]: Also, speaking as your emotional support aid, I can tell you that Caleb doesn’t seem to have noticed or cared about your anti-Luddite stance, and I don’t think anyone else was listening in, so your brief foray into political extremism is as inconsequential as your position is uncontroversial. You can chill.
CP: ...Lee?
LC: I can chill!
LC: I mean, I… uh… I can chill with some… blendies, yeah. I’m cool and chill with blendies for breakfast.
Zoa [data connection]: Once again, Lee: masterfully done.
CP: Oh, okay, I can… we’ll go w-with that.
Zoa: Blendies it is, then! If you’ll just follow me...
LC [data connection]: I AM NOT, IN FACT, COOL AND CHILL, ZOA.
Zoa [data connection]: Golly, y’don’t say...