Fire and music go well together. Sixties rocker Arthur Brown – a long-time resident of the liberal enclave of Lewes, home of your correspondent, Podnosticator Knowles – made an entire career out of his 1968 cult classic, Fire
Indeed, I even played roadie to him and had the honour of putting him out when he caught fire during the first chorus of Fire in a Sussex gig back in 2007, my pimple on the backside of rock ‘n’ roll history. And the first time Arthur had gone up in flames since the 1971 Windsor Jazz Festival.
The least successful rockstar of all time, John Otway, was given a 50th birthday present to remember when his fans “rigged” the charts in a totally legal way and bought him a second, top-ten hit in a 5,000-plus gig career, and that catchy ditty Bunsen Burner stormed the charts.
Its chorus features the line “Burn, baby, burn”, a lyrical echo through the ages, from The Tramps to (appropriately enough) Ash.
And “burn baby burn” is exactly what it appears the planet will be doing – even quicker than the entire combined scientific consensus has unequivocally determined it will do, thanks to our crack-like addiction to fossil fuels – if we don’t shake our very recent, very deep love of generative AI.
Sam starts episode 72 of the Small Data Forum podcast with a look at the latest developments in this new technology, whose poster boy is ChatGPT and one of whose early funders was Elon Musk. But more of the Musky one, anon.
Recorded just a week after Facebook’s rebranding announcement, this latest episode of the SmallDataForum podcast is less about “Greeks bearing gifts”, and more about the Greek and other connotations of Meta, the new company brand bringing together all of Facebook’s apps and technologies for the leap into the metaverse – although this wouldn’t be the first time Facebook’s commercial strategy is being likened to a Trojan Horse.
In keeping with the Classic Greek theme, and the various meanings of meta – some of which appeared to have been overlooked by the rebranding strategists, such as the word meaning death in Hebrew – I share my thoughts on Facebook’s After/Underworld cast, with Mark Zuckerberg as Hades, Nick Clegg as Cerberus, and Sheryl Sandberg – well I’m undecided between Hecate and Persephone. Much to the amusement of classicist Sam, whose knowledge of the Odyssey and the Book of the Dead is a lot more profound, than mine.
For Sam, this is less about mythology, and more about good old crookery: a classic misdirection strategy by “pound shop table magician” Mark Zuckerberg to make Facebook’s manifold legacy problems disappear down the magician’s hat. Kevin Roose at the New York Times calls it Mark Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch, to rebrand himself as “above-it-all-futurist … a visionary technologist rather than a destroyer of democracy.”
As for Prime Minister Johnson, a recent Unherd profile depicts him as Janus, the god of time, transitions, beginnings and endings.
Our classicist-in-residence, Sam, will have particularly enjoyed the perspective of how young Boris got framed and primed in the “rhetorical world view”, laying the foundations of the fine specimen that all media social and traditional relay continuously: “He assumes a natural agility in changing orientations. He hits the street already street-wise. From birth, almost, he has dwelt not in a single value structure but in several. He is thus committed to no single construction of the world; much rather, to prevailing in the game at hand.”