A general rule of thumb that has helped me maintain perspective is that, given enough time, you are either proven to be an idiot or a genius. A corollary to that law is that you will eventually reveal your true self on social media. 

This brutal reality applies to aging bloggers, Twitter gurus, and influencers. It doesn’t matter who you are, how many degrees you have accumulated, or how many books you have written. And this is even true for the seemingly invincible of them all — the billionaire. Even the richest man in the world isn’t immune from echoing his limitations. You will almost always reveal your limitations and eventually lose that special sheen. 

For eternity, we have seen success, and financial security as a shorthand for visionary and expert. Nothing echoes smarts louder than the number of zeros in a person’s net worth. Just as people wanted opinions of the kings and the royals in the past, industrialists and newly minted billionaires are viewed as folks with all the answers. 

Of course, in the past, this idealized perception could be maintained through the carefully choreographed manipulation of the media. The British Royal family has done this by carefully engaging with “royal correspondents” in newspapers and television networks. Today’s royals — let’s face it, it is mostly tech billionaires — however, are different: they need to expound on everything, everywhere, all the time, or else they are forgotten. 

Attention — rather need for attention is an addiction. 

In the technology industry, if you don’t have attention, you are not relevant. And there is nothing scarier than irrelevance in Silicon Valley. It is like a Hollywood star losing their good looks. Ignoring someone in tech is essentially triggering their worst fears. Hence, the need to be in the spotlight and get attention. And control the narrative. 

And nothing helps with this more than social media. This is the ultimate version of sources going direct. Over a decade ago, I pointed out, “there is a blurring of the line between what is news and what is a tweet, photo or a blog post. In other words, it is a kind of mosh pit of data and information.” Now we are living in a metastasized version of that observation. 

Thanks to Twitter punditry, it doesn’t take very long to find out who is or who isn’t a genius. Abraham Lincoln, a long time ago, said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.” 

I don’t know if the human body can change as fast as the changes being brought on by meta-sizing of everything. As someone who loves the possibilities of technology, it is inevitable we will need computers to augment our internal capabilities to deal with these changes. For now, even the best efforts are not good enough and we have a ways to go.

From my own blog in 2019, Why we need to slowdown time

For the past few weeks, I have immersed myself in various generative AI tools. It has been a while since I have woken up and been excited about what every new day will bring. There are so many tools and apps to try. And new things to learn. We may have a long way to go — ChatGPT is spectacularly wrong about my bio — but still, this feeling of something new is afoot is like a jolt of energy after taking a sip of an ultra-strong coffee. Again, don’t get me wrong — this phase of “AI” comes with all sorts of risks. However, there is no need to avoid it or not understand it. 

Wayne Shorter & Herbie Hancock, in an open letter to the next generation of artists, extoll them to think differently and think anew

The world needs new pathways. Don’t allow yourself to be hijacked by common rhetoric, or false beliefs and illusions about how life should be lived. It’s up to you to be the pioneers. Whether through the exploration of new sounds, rhythms, and harmonies or unexpected collaborations, processes and experiences, we encourage you to dispel repetition in all of its negative forms and consequences. Strive to create new actions both musically and with the pathway of your life. Never conform.

As we accumulate years, parts of our imagination tend to dull. Whether from sadness, prolonged struggle, or social conditioning, somewhere along the way people forget how to tap into the inherent magic that exists within our minds. Don’t let that part of your imagination fade away. All that exists is a product of someone’s imagination; treasure and nurture yours and you’ll always find yourself on the precipice of discovery.

The reactions to these tools are either of amazement, and wonder. Or those of fear and doom. It is hard not to appreciate both points of view — after all, we must confront the idea of something so new that we might be forced to adapt and reinvent ourselves or be left behind. As someone who lives at the end of technology and creative arts, I can’t help but feel excited at the prospect of trying to reinvent myself for this new future. As an older person, I find these new tools are challenging my brain and sending synapses in a different part of my brain, making me wonder — what I can do with this.

As a photographer, I can’t help but see something like Stable Diffusion, Dalle 2, Microsoft Designer, or MidJourney as spiritual descendants to Thomas and John Knoll’s 1987 experiment that eventually became the media manipulation and creative tool behemoth that it is today, Photoshop. 

My early experience with these new tools (for the lack of a better description) has me convinced that they will help foster new art forms, more digital, for a future where we consume media and information through a mixed reality layer. And even today’s tools will benefit from this group of technologies we have labeled “ai.”

Originally published as part of issue#3 of my twice-a-month newsletter, A Letter from Om.