Artists and Technology: Substitution or Co-Evolution | RxC Warsaw 2022
Paula Berman: We can start getting back. This panel is called "Artists and Technology: Substitution or Co-evolution?" And this is really interesting because in conversations about technological disruption, art is not the first thing that comes to mind to us usually. But if we think about where our attentions have been in the past few years, in 2021, we had the NFT wave, which came on the back of empowering creators and artists, and this year we are talking a lot about how text to image AI generators are redefining the relationship between artists and technology and leaving us maybe worried or maybe wondering about where this could go in the future. So this is what this panel is going to be about. We're going to have a conversation about whether art and technology are here to co-evolve. In a more meaningful relationship with humans and how we can do that how we can achieve that.
So, our speakers for today are Sarah Pollock, who is an Oxford educated archeologist working on artificial intelligence. How amazing is that? An archeologist working on artificial intelligence. Okay.
Yeah. Yeah. . Okay. But we need more people in AI like you. And she has worked in startups in London and LA for seven years and after almost 10 years abroad returned back home to Czech Republic to help centralize the innovative and technological environment and boost Czech Republic's economy and society through multidisciplinary scalable adoption of cutting edge technologies. She has a PhD in exploring the evolution of music and the effect of Mozart's compositions on human cognition. And she's writing a book on memes in history, so very excited also to learn about some of Sarah's latest work. And then we have with us Alec Empire, who is an experimental electronic musician, best known as the driving force behind the hugely influential and internationally successful band, Atari Teenage Riot.
He's also prolific and distinguished solo artist, producer, and DJ, and has released over 20 long play albums, contributed to dozens of film soundtracks and remixed over 70 tracks for artists, including Bjo, Rammstein, Slayer, and many more. An outspoken and fiercely independent artists who's widely recognized as one of the icons of digital counterculture in the conscience of electronic music. So they're going to present for us today, and then we'll have the benefit of listening into a conversation between these 2 brilliant minds. Thank you for being here.
Sara Polak: Thank you very much. Apparently the ladies start, so it's always the most difficult kind of, cuz I have to talk about myself like an ego narcissist. But I really want to thank you for being invited here.
It's, the more I've been reading about it, it's just, absolutely fascinating, especially for me as an archeologist and kind of evolutionary anthropologist, because what I see happening is a change in the shift of society. Because if you imagine that we've been living. For 3 million years during which our brains have been adapting and adopting for, to a kind of sense of abstraction. When we first see in the archeological record propensity to create music in the upper paleolithic, vocalize symbolically create kind of symbolic funerals and things like that, you can see that humans and technology have been co-evolving for millions of years. But also for about 99% of our history, we've been living in kind of tribal hunter gatherer societies, and that's what our brains are adapted to. And suddenly we're living in nation states of, 10 50, 200 million people and we're surrounded by institutions that are not evolutionally flexible.
So I had the massive honor of being a part of the NGO of Parallel Polis very recently, for a couple of years, where the kind of parallelity of societies was really interesting to me. So like on one hand you have the nation state, but then you have these new technological forces, and whether that's AI or blockchain, it doesn't actually really matter. There are these things that are pushing evolution forward and enabling a different scaling of society. But what is actually really interesting and what is very fresh for me, is a career direction, as wel,l that I decided, right, enough, I want to make a lot of money, so I'm going to Science. But, I actually started a research group called Chaos which where we want to simulate a Plato's polis and a virtual reality and use it as an kind of ethical simulator for how people behave when challenged with difficult decisions.
So like when your taxes go up, for example, and how people will behave, whether they will split off and start a new society, whether they will conform. And through this, we want to understand the anatomy of civilization, and I want to basically understand people's behavior on blockchain, people's behavior in the digital sphere. And see whether they're basically just replicating the tribal hunter gatherer behaviors of the past 3 million years or not.
And then, of course, what that means for our social cohesion. And of course, like our sense of abstraction as well, how ideas spread and what it also means to be humans. So we're at the very beginning, Like right now, I'm literally just dealing with the admin with the university, trying to set the group up, which is painful.
But I hope that very soon we'll get started into some actual research. I'm really excited and very honored to be here with Alec and being able to talk to all of you so, thank you. Alec Empire: Now it's on, right? You can hear me okay? Yeah. Where should I start now? I've done many things.
The MC mentioned some of them but I think why I'm here is what I did in the, since the beginning, I was starting the unk scene, but then I ended up somehow in the hacker underground scene in Berlin and started this group of Atari Teenage Riot, and the idea was to only program music on the Atari computer. At the timit was already a computer that was starting to be outdated a little bit, but it became this, yeah, not this dogma, I would say, but we said, Okay, we have to force ourselves to program, like, the music, not because if you look at music, before that, a lot of people included electronic sounds, they would have a band and then they would with real musicians, right? Like playing instruments with physical force, muscle memory and so on. And we said, Okay, this is sort of like a phenomenon of the industrial age, ,probably. So we have to type it, and I dunno if you heard my music. At the time we had this idea: Riot sounds, produce riots that's a poem by William S.
Burroughs. We thought if we simulate a riot digitally, the riot will happen. So it's, that's based on the sort of principleArt changes, often, first, and then the culture changes, and then probably the society. I mean you, you hear this maybe now quite often where people say the ch- the culture should change and then there's gonna be a feedback from the politics and then slowly the whole society changes. Because some people think some bureaucrats create some laws, the whole society would get better or whatever the goal is. And we often see that's not the case, if they're not enforced or nobody cares about the laws, so it's the culture that does the regulation, or is that the right word? Okay.
Yeah. So I did, was part of hacker culture since the early nineties. This record that I programmed on the Atari computer was called Delete Yourself.
And it was a warning about the coming, like, surveillance state. I have to add that I was born in Berlin. I grew up in, in the city with the war. So I had some family members on the east side, the socialist east. Which where people lived really under surveillance in a way, artists were not free. You had to hand in your lyrics to a committee and so on, and then they would tell you what you are allowed to earn.
And if you disagreed with the government they would even arrest you and so on. If you maybe seen the movie "Lives of Others," which I think also won an Oscar, I think it shows quite where, what the atmosphere was. So it wasn't the utopian ideal that defeated fascism. It ended up in a tyrannical nightmare, I think. Okay. Okay. But I was on the West and I think that
kind of shaped my view and I thought, okay, now then the wall fell in '89. And to me that's a key event that we, when we look back now, we could say the industrial age ends or fades out, and the information age starts. And to me, always, the fall of the Berlin Wall and then the collapse of the Soviet Union kind of marked that if we have to tie events to these things. And I think then the culture also started changing that. Now if you see a DJ set or you go to some big festival, people would have a laptop on stage. Often DJs, that's the only tool they use.
It's normal, but you have to understand like when we started, people actually want to physically fight us. They were like, You're killing jobs! You are replacing humans, and so on. So there was always that battle.
But on the other side, the hacker scene always embraced these ideas. And the album "Delete Yourself," was discovered by the band Beastie Boys. I don't know if you remember them. And they had their own record lable and it came out also in America, and it sold a million records. Okay. And at that time, everybody was wondering, Okay, what is going on here? There are these people, there's one Atari computer.
They undercut everyone else with their big productions and there's more energy coming out of this. And it was, And that was that kind of time. Yeah. Where you saw technology, you can use that and disrupt a whole industry. And then with that, of course, techno music and all this stuff started to really take off.
But I think. The feedback I always had from the hacker scene was that no other music really captured the philosophy. Of the, for example, the Hacker Manifesto and stuff like that, because that was so inspirational to us. We want, that was the music we wanted to make. Okay. And then now forward, I don't want
to speak for a half hour about this, but it keeps going on, And the hacker group Anonymous embraced our music. WikiLeaks also, and people from Tor and you know... So 2010.
So this keeps going. It's always a dialogue, in a way, between people who try to create the tools that help you to navigate, probably, through the internet or through life in a more sovereign way. Could we say that? Did you control your data? You have your privacy rights. We always defended property rights in cyberspace, for example, Big discussion. Cause people thought the moment you step into, like, into the virtual world, you lose basically all rights, right? From- Nobody needs to respect you, there are no human rights. There are no, you don't own anything.
It's, you shouldn't control your data and so on. So that battle is an old battle. Okay.
And we were when we look back now, we we're documenting, almost, this evolution and culture because that was the only thing we did. It wasn't like, Okay, we make some music and here's one song. So every track, every piece of music is only about these topics, and that's why I think also I was invited here and of course I'm embracing Ethereum and NFTs and all that stuff.
Okay. So I don't know. But we can talk about it more like . Sara Polak: Yeah, definitely. We were just talking over a coffee and we really hit on a lot of interesting points. Again, like from the, from History's perspective, what I loved when you were saying that the industrial age was ending and the information age was starting you, you have these periods in human history where technology has been used both by the institutions to create this illusion of cohesion to keep a large group of people together. And music was always instrumental to that. I mean, National Anthem is a prime example.
And basically the institutions hacking the evolutionary algorithm and the brains of humans to basically exert control. Beacuse we can't help it. Like, even there was a really interesting article and of course I can't remember who, who wrote it, but my old professor who studied the evolution of music, basically spoke about the way that public places have been designed and that they're actually very purposefully designed with a very particular echo in mind that often echoes the kind of caves that we grew up in, like during the Paleolithic. And that because we are so tuned to the fact that hearing echo actually gives us a sense of a higher power and that we associate that.
Plus when you imagine that a lot of the times in churches, in the kind of smoking thing, you'd have a combination of opium and mariajuana, various hallucinogens. You, you are really hacking the algorithm when you've got like an echo and like this magic smoke coming out and you're really going to have a good time. And so the institutions have started using technology to combine with these evolutionary principles.
But what is weird and what is happening right now and it's actually a very exciting time for an archeologist to be alive, is that the democratization and the spreading of technology also have the bottom up approach where the technology is starting to be used in reverse, to push back. And unfortunately, the way that like history is often taught in history books, we think that this is like the first time it's happening. But what I absolutely love was studying Mozart, actually, and like, when Mozart started writing.
Did any of you, okay, I'm a massive nerd, but any of you saw the opera "Don Giovanni?" Yes. Okay. Don Giovanni's, like the best opera out there. Okay. I'm really fun at parties, by the way. Alec Empire: Hey. Easy.
Sara Polak: Oh, sorry. Sorry, . It's a good op-, It's an okay opera. No. But basically Mozart was a massive madlad and he was sponsored first by the Bishop of Salzburg. And then he was sponsored by the Austrian Emperor himself.
And there's an aria in the opera where first, like a bride gets spanked on stage, which for like 18th centuries pretty, you know. And then they sing an aria all together where they put their fists up and they start screaming liberty into the stage. And you've got the, Imagine you've got the Austrian emperor sitting.
And you've got this dude who's 33 years old who suddenly wrote a kind of semi erotic, extremely long opera about liberty and basically emancipated from the institutions. That's pretty hardcore, but when you learn about Mozart and history books, you always learn about his wig and you have to memorize what date he wrote The Marriage of Figuro. And that's it. So what I'm really interested in how these kind of forms of art have been used both from the top down, but also bottom up.
And here's my question to you, which I'm, I loved what we were talking about earlier. We're now getting to the stage where the kind of hacker culture, which I wasn't growing up in and know very little, compared to you, was a pretty elite group of people. Not elite in the sense of like money, but elite in the sense of the access to information and the approaches. But now as blockchain and cryptocurrencies become more mainstream.
You've got the mainstream who weren't there at the beginning, suddenly adopting these same principles. Is it, do you feel it's watering it down or is this the revolution that we want? Cuz there's a bit of a schizophrenia, I think, in the narrative sometimes. Alec Empire: Yeah I don't, I think it's a change that needs to happen. And, of course, when you mention NFTs, most people, I think at this point now, would think of stupid stuff, right? Or scams or bad actors in the space. But this is about I always say it's a global private rules based property right system.
And this is what it's about. And if some idiot uses it, To something, for something that I disagree with, I don't really care. I'm for freedom of speech also. And I think that same goes for art and creativity.
I don't have to sit, let's say in the cinema and go, Oh, this scene, Why isn't this done like that? And we see this, right? And the public debate. Why isn't this actor this guy or this woman or, and so on, And I'm like, Okay, make your own, and now is the time, the door open, yeah. It might not be a big blockbuster, for example, or you wouldn't be the big star, maybe, if you're a musician, but nobody's stopping you because once you own the rights and you can control them, this empowers you. And I've seen this myself many times, because I've, Since I started, it was always, okay, we have to control, We have to own our works. We have to also start our own labor.
At the time, it was the right move. Then we were licensing the stuff out to other laborers that where we were like, Okay, we can keep controlling the work. We don't have to compromise because somebody, who doesn't even understand it, tries to make it maybe more commercial or whatever. And that worked, in the long run, way better for us than some artists I've seen who signed some deal with a big company and they become, just, some sort of puppet almost. I don't want to belittle that, but they thought, okay, if they enter this big machine that would help them faster. And very often this was very shortsighted, because they probably had bigger promotion budgets and stuff, but the creativity wasn't even, the ideas weren't even there.
So you can spend, I think everybody who was involved in a creative project knows... yes, you need a sort of budget and you understand where you put the money and how you invest it in a way, because that's what you're doing. But the amount, that doesn't help you if you have bad ideas. Yeah. And I think that goes almost for a whole society at this point. If you have, we had this during the lockdowns, the Covid years.
RIght? In Germany, many artists were like, Okay, the government needs to fix this. They need to give us this money because we can't tour or whatever. And I think that's wrong thinking, in a way, because these people, if you have to ask somebody for money who has not produced anything and doesn't even understand what you're doing, that, to me, that's a problem. And in the old world, yeah, you had to sometimes go about this this way. But now I think there are alternatives.
Yeah. Okay. And so this is why crypto is is the solution in my opinion. Yeah. In all kinds of ways, you know? If..
Sara Polak: Okay. Yeah I completely agree. And I love the aspect you mentioned about the creativity and not the process necessarily, because having worked in artificial intelligence. People love working hard, but not because like they actually love working hard, but because they feel it gives their end product more legitimacy.
So if you like slave away on a painting like for 10 hours and someone else generates it through Midjourney, then you know they haven't done as good a job because they haven't sweated the blood that you have. And it's really interesting, for example, when Impressionism came in and, during the Industrial Revolution the paints and the brushes started to be more commercially made, all of the, kind of, artists from like the old school and the old Dutch painting school were like, What? I have this screwing up Monet guy just sitting there and painting, like, bits of greenery, like that's not art, and they were actually, they were threatened by the fact that some generation suddenly had it easier. And what's really interesting is now you see that in the kind of AI world where I hear a lot of ridiculous discussions about, oh, game over. AI replaced humanity. They're generative algorithms. They have no, no consciousness, there is no creativity.
It's statistics on steroids where it's, you basically have a text to imaging coder and you say, paint a picture of two beautiful people discussing important things and it'll just paint the two of us right here in this setting. But you have to give it the idea, like it's got nothing of its own. Rather than focusing on the process, and again, I saw this when I was working in the various startups. I used to work in Industry _4.0_, because everything has to have a buzzword.
And I remember once I went into this great automotive and they were like, starting to digitalize and I was like, Okay, so what do you wanna do? And. We would like to buy one AI please. I was like, Oh crap, okay. There's a severe misunderstanding here. And I was like, Okay, but why do you want to buy this _one_ AI? And they were like, Oh, Because the innovation manager read an article and he said that it's good cuz he saw it on Twitter.
It's like, where do you have your data? And he pointed towards this cupboard with a lot of paper in it. I was like, What are we meant to do with this? You need Excel, not AI. Forget about AI. If you don't even have data, what do you want us to do with it? And so people keep obsessing about these new technologies, attributing to them human qualities that they don't have. And then the kind of discussion about art when AI does something human, like music or art or poetry, we have this, like, ego of that it's infringing on the work and on our legitimacy when it's actually about the spark in the idea. That's the real kind of wonder behind it.
Alec Empire: Yeah. Yeah. , no, I, Because it is, we, I think when you're creative you move forward.
So you, there of course there is something where you combine maybe elements of the past, but there's much more information if you want to call it, influencing that, or we can't really figure this out yet because that's why the human brain would use so much energy, right? When you're creative. I think, yeah. Isn't it the case? This is what I keep hearing and sometimes I think it, That's why it's also ridiculous.
It's almost like an employee mindset when somebody says, Oh, I worked 10 hours on this painting now it's worth_ this_. Yeah. It's because, and I know this myself, sometimes you do something in 10 minutes and it makes more money , if that's a measurement and if I think it needs to be, And price signals, I think, are important. A lot of artists always hate me for saying this by saying, Look, in a world where the feedback that you get online is corrupt, deeply corrupted, right? Views are fake. Likes are fake.
Follower amounts are fake. So this is the, you want to base this, your decisions that are very important for your life and your career, on flawed, corrupted data? And I think we've seen this also with politicians, right? I think they all do it, right? And I think it was Obama, also Trump, they had their Twitter followers cut in half or something at some point, and it's like, Yeah you... It's fraud, right? And I think what we witness very soon, in my opinion, is this House of cards will fall down. Because a lot of people believed a lot of lies for over a decade now, Web 2, right? And the numbers need to make sense. And often when people actually pay for something, there's a cost and they think about it and it's, there's value, and if you're an artist and you want to be creative, you can't think like in terms of hours or something because the market in the end of the day will give it the right price.
And sometimes that's why NFTs are so good. I think if you can include the sort of royalty or like a percentage in the smart contract, when when it gets resold, let's say for a higher price, the artist still gets something. I think that's very important because people don't understand why that's important. You know how frustrating this is. If somebody makes something and maybe sells it, let's say a painting, and then you are, you get discovered later and, but you never get the rewards for it, and why is this important? I've always asked people, what kind of artist do you wanna see? Is it, do you wanna see this sort of, like- the starving, struggling artist who is, by the way, most of the time, more corrupt.
People think, oh, he's, the artists are sacrificing himself, or whatever, for the, the greater good or something that's mostly marketing. And behind the scenes, these are often the worst people. That's my experience. Might be... but, and then... or do you want somebody who kind of reinvests and knows, Okay.
That's great. They have this sort of healthy relationship with the fans or with whoever likes the stuff. And I wanna see that person also because they can criticize stuff. I think Web 2 has led to this, I think, really toxic pop culture where people like, Oh my God, if I lose followers, they are scared and I don't want to have some scared animal as an artist, I want somebody who inspires me. And not like somebody to go, Oh, if I say something wrong to Alec, oh my God. I'm gonna, give them always the same stuff.
It's wrong. But I think my experience has been also with people in tech that they often, it's almost, they have no culture. You know what I mean? Sara Polak: Yeah. Yeah.
Alec Empire: There is a culture, but they don't have, If you ask them, Have you ever listened to Mozart? They look at you. What are you talking about? You know? Sara Polak: I've been there. Yeah. But it's, yeah, it's the kind of homogenity of, because that's actually when people say, Oh, what is artificial intelligence? What's terrifying about it? It's not Terminator, cuz that doesn't exist. But it's about like on the web 2 space creating these bubbles of what is rewarded as good behavior. Because things like recommendation algorithms that recommend content to you, art to you, films, to on Netflix or whatever, like on one hand, like they, because there's like a virtue in things being free.
You think that you're using your Facebook and your WhatsApp and everything for free or not, like you're leaving behind up to like 50,000 different data attributes behind you that all feed the algorithm. That then gives you things to like, and if you want to fit into the algorithm and if you want to get. Okay, so I have this historical tech thing on Instagram and I had to start paying for it because I get like between five and 15 likes usually. And then I always see like the videos, rate my ass out of 10 and it's 5,000 views I think.
Okay, No one's interested in the history of the steam engine, you know, fine. Crying . But what I, the reason- Alec Empire: This might be wrong, They might be interested. Don't you think? Sara Polak: That's true. Everyone's interested Alec Empire: No, but how can you actually tell on those platforms? Sara Polak: You're absolutely, cuz the people don't get access to it.
And I think this is the, like Alec Empire: I've never seen it, so why the smart algorithm? . Sara Polak: It's not a smart algorithm. Alec Empire: Yeah, but that's what I mean, right? In theory, it should recommend this stuff and not like bikini girls or whatever. Instagram. It's, this is so depressing. Like for me as an experience, I'm like, okay, here's. I'm in Warsaw now.
Okay. Goodbye. I need to log off immediately because everything that's getting suggested to me is Sara Polak: Just boring. Alec Empire: Yeah. Not even there. I think it's worse than block , Sara Polak: But I actually think that this is the biggest added value of blockchain.
So if we take the scams to one side and all of that, it's actually like a deeply anthropological tool that enables us to move evolutionarily forward. Because, for example, things like reciprocity that's, existed between people for what, hundreds of thousands of years. Marcel Mauss wrote a fantastic essay on it called "Le Don," which is basically the idea of pay to pay, give to giving and reciprocity in society. It's not just about the financial capital, which is, I think, what dominated the web 2 space. It's about social capital, cultural capital, and being able to put that forward as collateral. So I think that's one aspect and the other aspect is, And I love that you mentioned that the kind of virtue in being this tormented romantic like, Shelly and his poems in the 19th century, this kind of, like, dying of tuberculosis, like artists and that's when you know that you've done well and what that actually leads to.
I've seen the same in science, when you are almost like not allowed to ask for money and I was like setting up the research group. I said one of the things that I wanna make sure that we do is make sure the students are paid well. And the people from the university were like no, they, they do it for free.
And like there, there's an honor in that. That's bullshit, there's honor in that. You need to pay rent. What do you get for this exposure? Fantastic. That's not gonna feed me.
And it's not sexy to die in a ditch. I dunno. I would like to be paid well for it.
So we're exploring this method, which I actually think has, is closer to art than people realize at first sight. But like the decentralized science model where you can patent your idea or like basically lock down your ideas very quickly so that they don't get stolen. Because the scientific community is also like a massive thief fest where you think of something, you mention it in the corridor, and before you know it, because of the publish or perish culture, someone from across the corridor has published something on it and has stolen your idea.
Your idea. And especially in like difficult, tangible things like software and artificial intelligence, this happens all the time, like when people just nick each other's idea, like within Facebook, Google, like all the time. And so I really wanna move towards a model where intellectual properties respected that you are not afraid to save for money for it because like you thought it up. But at the same time when it's like accessible and decentralized. And I think that's like a wonderful thing. And one of the byproducts or main things that I hope that it'll lead to, which again is a great thing you said.
Is that the stuff will actually be cool because I can't speak for art as much, but like for science, it's boring shit that's happening now. Pardon my French. Because the way that grants work is if you go for like a surefire method and what you end up is basically like grade-two projects of using machine learning to predict earthquakes. That's not interesting, but you are guaranteed to get like European Union funding for it because like it's a sure bet and it's a sure thing and you're using well known methods, but you're already just incrementally increasing what's already there.
You're not coming up with anything new, you're just making it more precise. So the good old days when you would, be a scientist to discover Jupiter or like to find out why the hell we're pulled towards the ground. We're not asking these questions anymore.
We're asking boring questions that we know will get us funding and that will get people off our backs and that nature we'll accept to write an article about. And that's not science in my opinion Yeah. Alec Empire: Yeah. No and I think. , it has to do a lot with creative thinking, right? For example, one thing that I love sometimes when I do film scores, right? Usually people who do film scores, they, they complain, ah, then the director, he wants me to do this again and have to put more work in. And I always loved that moment.
When, because you have to make the scene work. So you can't just do anything you want, so you have to support the story or whatever the goal is. You have to like work for the film, it's as a different hierarchy, in the way, and what I love is like when you, because that the scene doesn't change and you have to find different creative solutions. And I often learn more from that or in that process because the first step might not be the first idea, might be the most obvious. For outsiders, they always go like, Agh I don't get how you come up with stuff but still you go maybe let me do three, like, approaches and it might be totally different.
And I think when you have this sort of funding structure, people adapt to that and come up with ideas that they hope will get accepted. And you already narrow, like you never explore these other ways. And even if the director would say, Ah, now that's, now we got it. That's great. Okay. I wouldn't never go Okay, the other two, let's say I did three different versions or the other two things, they were a waste of my time.
No, because I made the trip. Like I, I'd went down that path. and my mind hopefully can access it at a later point or build on that, so yeah. So I think that structure funding, because we see it in culture too, what people need to understand ,I think, in culture, the state cannot produce. Okay.
That's, And I know people go, Yeah, what does it mean? This is what I'm describing, European culture, in a way. Okay. But you have to understand, the state cannot produce, okay, so people get depressed, like filmmakers applying for the projects and stuff, and they, it's always, we are missing the real potential here, right? Cuz that's what it's about.
It's about we need to unlock this potential. And especially in Europe. When you talk about Mozart, isn't it depressing that Europe has become this, a place of stagnation, right? There's this rich culture like history, but it's like frozen and we can't do anything about it, it seems, right? We, people try to do things on the side and try to bypass the system that in Europe, it's so powerful that I don't, for example, who said that classic concert, music concerts. I always hated that when they recorded them it's it's always this, Let's take a step back, put the mics up and it's, it should sound like in the concert hall. Why don't we approach classical music in the mixing. Like we would approach electronic music, for example, to make it more exciting.
Why has the balance of the instruments always. Why does it have to be like that? Why can't I have totally different experiences with that composition? And these are all these things. It drives me crazy, and Europe is missing a huge opportunity if we don't change tha., Sara Polak: You're absolutely right. There was there's actually like a maybe AI parallel that we can use that until roughly like the nineties. The kind of dominant approach in artificial intelligence was like expert systems.
What basically means like you write down every single rule that you know. Of course, every rule that you forget or don't know that exists, like you completely screw up the algorithm and then the algorithm just follows, like all the possible rules. It's like a massive decision tree. But, and that's what I feel like, for example, the EU is doing right now with its approach to technology and society. You make a very careful list of either things that people have complained about or that haven't worked out or have worked. And you do this comprehensive checklist of what you deem to be, and this always terrifies me when someone uses this, objectively moral or like objectively right.
Like during the first World War, it was objectively moral to send your son heroin and cocaine when he was like in the trenches because like drugs were completely like differently accepted than they are now. Now you send them chocolates, then you'd send him heroin. Good luck fighting.
And so and you have this like set and it's for AI regulations. So for example, AI, like now we use the high risk. And high risk is biometric data. But that also means that you can't really implement digital change in our healthcare system. So what are you gonna do? You're gonna have like systems from like the Soviet era that are running our healthcare system because it's very high risk to do anything with the evil AI in healthcare.
And it's just absolutely nonsense. And I feel it's the same about the creative process, that you have to be very careful, like not to upset anyone. And I don't mean being purposefully rude or inflammatory, just to look sexy.
But to actually do what is true and then people either accept it or don't, but like to censor yourself and to sense your thoughts before you even start so that you're not even answering any like core simple question. You're just answering what society has listed down for the time being, which changes all the time in history. What is correct, and you just try to fit into it. A very quick example, like when you fill in scientific grants, it's maybe 40 pages, and you have to fill in exactly what you do, how it's gonna be used for the greater good, et cetera, et cetera. What that means is Europe is lagging economically behind, Asia, behind America.
Technologically we're stagnating. Culturally we're stagnating. And it's like, for what? For roads that are not even that good. It's, yeah, it's a tricky prison. Alec Empire: What is the greater good? I never understood this. You know what I mean? Yeah. It's like people come up with
the stuff in every decade, out of Hitler for the greater good, and to me, when people talk like that immediately, I'm like, Okay, thank you. No . It's because if you don't define what that is, and I think Europe really needs to do a lot of explaining or make clear what are the values now.
Do you feel like that too? It's, I felt like this, so for example, doing the whole Brexit thing, what was the debate in the end about? Like, why couldn't Europe convince people in the UK to stay? Because there it was almost like empty, bureaucratic machine, right? Yeah. And I think that's sad. But, Okay, I seem to be in the minority, like even if people are pro Europe, they can still can't tell me what it's about at this point. Yeah, there's no vision really, and I think it's reflected also on the culture in a way, because the culture always reflects this kind of stuff.
I think, you know? Sara Polak: You said a super point, which is that the culture reflects it. And it's really interesting. For example, just before the Second World War, during the Second World War, a huge amount of money was actually given into archeology because it often, culture and like the shared history is like very falsely associated with the greater good, what we should aspire to do. And so many archeological digs were fake. Like for example, Mr. Salini, like he tried to reinvigorate the Roman Empire, so like he spent a ludicrous amount of money on like building these fake Roman monuments and things like that.
And it's always very sad when the culture starts reflecting the political desire for the greater good. That always, as you say, like terrifies me as just Orwellian. And yeah the kind of like shared values that, that you are right, it is empty. And when I used to work in a startup, when Brexit was happening, and we weren't like politically involved, but we were doing like the digital infrastructure on both sides of the Brexit campaign, and it was just...
I- I didn't understand the debate. It was just like an empty debate back and forth. One side was using the lottery, like literally a lottery so that people give them their email addresses so that they can then send them mass emails, which is like, Okay, wow! The other side was like accidentally, cuz they couldn't filter through the people that they already have, sending letters and petition to people who have already died because they didn't have it in their database.
It was a complete mess. But at the end of the day, it wasn't about values at all. It was just this argument for the sake of argument to show how virtuous we are, but it was completely philosophically empty. And yeah, again, it's just boring discourse in the public. Alec Empire: There's also a lot of young people, right? Because in Europe you, the narrative was, okay, old racist people are for Brexit.
When we were playing shows in England, around that time, I was surprised everybody, like most, a lot of musicians playing at maybe the same festivals or people working there, they were all for Brexit. And I was like, Why? Okay. Because I, I thought these people would, maybe they want maybe an open market because now for British artists, it's not that easy anymore to tour Europe, and it's, to have that access, probably more important for the British to access west of Europe, because the British never really let many other foreign artists in anyway, apart from America. You know what I mean? So I was always like, Okay, I'm the only guy here. And some, maybe three other people like, you know? No,because it's very protectionist, because maybe it's an island, right? But yeah, so I think people need to also understand this, that there were a lot of young people. Where did this come from suddenly? They didn't know the eighties, seventies, or something.
So, wrong. I, in my opinion, they didn't understand the advantages. We need a global free open market. Especially for culture.
If we don't have that and we see deglobalization right now, in a way, sadly, it's looks like the Cold War time's coming back. So started 89, 88, 89, 90 went in a circle, and I can use my experience from my teenage years again, it seems. No, but it's, people need to understand the environment, I think.
And I think all artists should join the crypto space now because we need this to be global. We can't, if you just thinking national borders, You would have a bad time, I think. Sara Polak: A hundred percent.
And this new kind of cloud civilization that we have is completely Irregardless of nation states. And that's, I think, the marketplace where people can start finding an identity again, because I think that it wasn't about Brexit, it's just people have a vacuum in their lives. They don't have anything to click onto. So you have this artificial tribalism. But I really think that blockchain is a space for like natural tribalism the way that we evolved as humanity.
And I find that really exciting. And I'll shut up now. Sorry, . No Paula Berman: I was going to say that this was a fascinating conversation, so just wanted to ask if you have any final remarks because before we go into our lunch break. Alec Empire: Join us.
Join the dark side. No. But seriously, it's a call. I think people should get involved in the space. There are not enough people.
We need to be more. We need to unlock this potential. Yeah.
I think they have so many people who can, who have huge also creative potential and they're just locked out somehow. And we do find creative solutions for the mess we are in. We can't look towards the past and go Yeah, the seventies we did this. I don't think that will work. Yeah, so that's why creativity is very important right now, I think. Sara Polak: A hundred percent.
Like just be brave because on social media, people often don't speak up about the things that they're interested in because they think that no one else is like them. But for example, for me, when I started blending archeology and artificial intelligence, everyone, like first people were like, Okay, maybe take you to the asylum soon. But then I actually realized that people are interested both in history and tech. And so I do it and, you know, screw 'em! And I'm not saying that discovered anything like, phenomenal so far.
But I hope that I can answer some like fundamental questions and find a people, a group of like-minded people that will join. And I really want for everyone to do the same. And I think now, for the first time in history, we have the technology to do that. So use it. Yeah. Like a stone tool, Like a new stone tool.
Yes. Paula Berman: That was super inspiring. I can say having just been at the Devcon, the conference of the Ethereum Foundation, I'll say that we deeply need more artists and archeologists in this space. And we should all be empowering ourselves and taking ownership of these new technologies. Thank you so much for being here. We'll now go into our lunch break, so that will go until 3:15 PM and we'll be back for our afternoon of sessions.
So I'll see you soon.