For centuries people have been documenting thoughts and conveying them through a medium. First it was depictions of objects carved deep into stone. Then came more structured pictures forming the first recorded thoughts. As time went on we turned from stones to papyrus, and from papyrus to scrolls, and from scrolls to books. Our written language went from the pictorial to sound based. Then came the “modern” era and with it the ability to convey ANY physical object and sound through a medium. Indeed the television was a revolution in media. A leap of ten thousand years. Yet even this great feat pales in compassion to where we are today. If you are reading this anytime before a decade of publication you are most likely reading it on your phone. The internet and the digital herald a breakthrough in communicating virtually (pun intended) any form of media you can fathom. Video, audio, texts in the short and long, and the list goes on. Inside of a hundred years humans went from text based thought transmission to the entire spectrum of human emotion, story telling, and vernacular being used as a paid job. Granted, the theater has been around for quite some time (over 3000 years!). However, what makes television stand apart is that it is recorded. With a play you have a written script. It may be the same lines but each actor that will ever use that play will be different. Television and more specifically the video camera allowed for such moments to be recorded with all the exact emotions that the director wanted. That exact feeling that was acted out over and over again to get right will live on for centuries, well past the normal human lifespan. For all of its greatness though television and its older predecessor the theater have nothing on the sheer quantity of content the internet has provided. TV was eclipsed as a breakthrough in under a century. With advancements advancing faster than ever in digital media, what comes next? What technological marvels may be just around the corner? Here are some of my predictions for digital media and what may come of it and after it.
Number 6: Decentralized Entertainment
For my first prediction (albeit biased) I predict media will decentralize. While the internet has certainly removed a lot of the centralization of the film industry (Youtube for example), it failed in a few key aspects. The largest of these is corporations that provided the best service at the time became empowered much like legacy media was. They became gatekeepers. Websites you could not reasonably use the internet without a platform on. Consider that many people that make original content are forced to use Youtube to distribute their media. Not because the platform is the BEST, but rather because it is the most ESTABLISHED. It has the most viewers, most advertisers, most support, and most scalability. Creators put their content on such platforms because of this even sometimes at their own expense. This is just how capitalism works. However, new decentralized alternatives are being built that have the potential to change this. One such example is PeerTube. PeerTube is a decentralized, federated alternative to Youtube that allows anyone to buy a server, set up an instance, and upload their videos. While this project runs into many scaling and user issues, it is a remarkable project that may one day rest the crown from the ruling centralized oligarch.
Number 5: DeFlim and Web3
This is the final part of this essay that is based in actual, bleeding edge development and technology. The concept of DeFlim is simple: remove trust for both parties in anything as often as possible while still achieving the goal of a media form. Take PeerTube from our last example. While it has a lot of benefits of Youtube, it still fails in two aspects: user base and trusted hosting. If you host a PeerTube instance, anyone who signs up for an account with your instance and uploads has to trust that you are going to continue providing the service to them. If you quit maintaining the site, or simply shut it down one day there would be nothing they could do about it. If you deleted their content for violating your rules there’s nothing they can do. Your users are hostages in a cage, with no safety nets like traditional centralized platforms can assure (Youtube is not going to just disappear). Sure, you could just host your own instance, but then you just created the same problem you were in for someone else. DeFilm aims to change that but utilizing blockchain technology. Instead of one user hosting one instance, a DeFilm organization is comprised of thousands of netizens in a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) running the instance together. Everyone in the DAO votes on everything and anything relating to the new platform. The blockchain ensures fairness and that the vote cannot be tampered with or altered. The DAO is mostly code for voting where money goes, so there is no need for a trusted middle man such as modern banks. All the members vote on the content created, the platform management, etc. which provides the stability of centralized companies with all the benefits of decentralized platforms.
Number 4: Metaversal Entertainment
Another challenger to all forms of media is what many like to call the Metaverse. Sparing you my intellectual reader the jargon of old here’s the basic meaning: a digital world where people can do basically everything they can in real life, but cooler. Definition aside, the metaverse is another concept I do believe will dramatically change the future of media. Paired with augmentation of reality, VR and AR devices will allow for more immersive experiences with the visual and audible. People will be able to communicate as if in person but instead can be in any world a developer can design. Eventually you could work in the Metaverse at a digital office building with coworkers, all while being safely situated at your home.
Number 3: AI + Blockchain Dynamic Films
For almost a decade now we have had neural networks that can build stories. They take variables the player assigns, then uses AI to world craft a dynamic story. For an example of this check out AI Dungeon. Sooner rather than later AI will be able to take the same inputs to make entire feature length films. They will be given the inputs of what the story is about and how it ends, and the AI will craft a movie story line that could rival any of the greatest human scripts. Now instead of one person giving the AI these variables, let’s democratize that process using blockchain.
Consider the following scenario: You decide to go out with your friends to the movies. You go and purchase a ticket on the theatre website, which is then sent to your crypto wallet as an NFT. You use that NFT to check in at the location and walk into the screening simply called “Western”. After the usual advertisements pass instead of telling everyone to put their phones away, the announcer on screen tells everyone to pull them out. You do so, and pull up the theatre app and go to the showing your NFT permits you to access. The movie starts. The character is on screen, and after some startup the first pivotal point of the movie emerges. Should the character go confront the bad guy, or instead gather a posse? You and everyone else’s phones now show a poll for the question. You vote using your NFT. The AI generating the entire movie uses the choice you made to alter the movie algorithm accordingly. You do this all throughout the movie, everyone having a voice, recording their choice on the blockchain, and changing the movie to suit them. Once the movie ends you receive a new NFT that is essentially a custom ticket recording every choice you and the audience made for that unique showing. Only the members of that audience will ever share that exact experience and you now have a way to remember that.
This combination of Blockchain and AI as you can see turns a flat, forever experience, into a highly interactive and virtually infinite set of possibilities for a story. This is one of the final forms video based recorded media will take. While static videos will forever continue to exist, going to the theatre for a static video will be seen as boring. Static videos will only be used to archive these experiences and will fall out of favor for most media consumption (though will still be used in various forms for daily life). For a good early example of this check out this.
Number 2: Deepfakes
Similar to the last prediction, this one relies on AI also. The only difference is that instead of the AI writing a movie with provided choices, the AI will be rewriting the movie based on choices. Everyone has a favorite media actor. Some people have an entire favorite cast. This invention allows for you to watch your movies with that exact cast. As the movie starts at your home or on your phone you will select who you want to play each role of a movie. Then you’ll select a classic (such as Back To The Future). Finally, sit back and enjoy a classic movie with your favorite modern actors! This technology is already being used to fill the shoes of actors, but one day it could replace them entirely. If you want an acting career in the movie industry you will be asked to have your face, body, and voice recorded at a studio, then will simply leave as your digital doppelganger is used on your behalf. Some actors already are using this tech to beat aging on camera, but eventually their acting career will continue on past their own deaths.
Number 1: Brain Machine Interfaces
This technology will usher in a media based singularity. The current BMIs we have can already allow people to have a sixth sense, send Tweets, and even give a voice to those with none. All these use cases only scratch the surface of what is truly possible as this tech comes to fruition. For now technology is limited to reading brain signals and using them to provide a computer input. In the future this will be reversed allowing for the interface to implant concepts directly into your brain as input. Once the machine is turned on you’ll be transported to any fictional world you can fathom, being able to feel, taste, smell, hear, and see everything the exact same way as you do outside it. In essence, while you’ll know you are in a computer generated world, everything will be so real you may never want to leave it. This particular technology I do plan on covering more in depth in the future as the consequences of such a device could potentially be dystopian in their level of impact.
That is my personal set of predictions for media in the not to remote future. I always find it interesting how predictions from the past usually represent the privative version of what exists in the future, and in this case I believe there is much more possible with even our current technology then I have laid out above. However those are topics for another day.