Emily in Paris” and the Rise of Ambient TV:

“Ambient” denotes something that you don’t have to pay attention to in order to enjoy but which is still seductive enough to be compelling if you choose to do so momentarily. Like gentle New Age soundscapes, “Emily in Paris” is soothing, slow, and relatively monotonous, the dramatic moments too predetermined to really be dramatic. […] The shows are functionally screen savers, never demanding your attention; they do draw it, but only as much as a tabletop bouquet of flowers.

[…] TikTok’s For You tab serves an endless stream of short videos that algorithmically adapt to your interests, sorting the content most likely to engage you. Using it feels like having your mind read, because all you do is watch or skip, focus or ignore, a decision made too fast to be fully conscious. Individual videos or accounts matter less than categories or memes; at the moment, my feed is mostly clips of skateboarding, cooking, and carpentry, not unlike the mundanity of the Netflix shows but also accelerated into media gavage. TikTok is an app for ambience.

The Instrumentalist | Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books. On Tar’s interesting lens on generational differences & evolving cultural semantics:

[…] if you grew up online, the negative attributes of individual humans are immediately disqualifying. The very phrase ad hominem has been rendered obsolete, almost incomprehensible. An argument that is directed against a person, rather than the position they are maintaining? Online a person is the position they’re maintaining and vice versa. Opinions are identities and identities are opinions. Unfollow!

Every generation makes new rules. Every generation comes up against the persistent ethical failures of the human animal. But though there may be no permanent transformations in our emotional lives, there can be genuine reframings and new language and laws created to name and/or penalize the ways we tend to hurt each other, and this is a service each generation can perform for the one before.

ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web:

When an image program is displaying a photo and has to reconstruct a pixel that was lost during the compression process, it looks at the nearby pixels and calculates the average. This is what ChatGPT does when it’s prompted to describe, say, losing a sock in the dryer using the style of the Declaration of Independence: it is taking two points in “lexical space” and generating the text that would occupy the location between them […] [Users have] discovered a “blur” tool for paragraphs instead of photos, and are having a blast playing with it.

In human students, rote memorization isn’t an indicator of genuine learning, so ChatGPT’s inability to produce exact quotes from Web pages is precisely what makes us think that it has learned something. When we’re dealing with sequences of words, lossy compression looks smarter than lossless compression. […] The more that text generated by large language models gets published on the Web, the more the Web becomes a blurrier version of itself.