(014) Copy Carefully
The future is unscalable, HOT GRAPHICS, Jerry Lorenzo finally explains community, replacing ads with art, female truckers, being present
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The Personalisation Wave
I just read this excellent piece by Scott Belsky (the big guns over at Adobe if you’re not familiar with him) on the “surge of wildly human-intensive, non-scalable experiences”. It’s an uplifting romp through what the future could look like when we collaborate with AI instead of assuming that it will just replace everyone and everything, as well as redirecting a special attention back to the physical and small scale.
On privacy and the AI moat:
I predict that we've hit peak openness on the web, and we're going to see a retrenchment into more private data over the next few years as people realize how much of their public work can be easily co-opted by transformer-based models […] Suffice to say, the differentiator in the future will be less about who had the largest public dataset or who spent the most on compute, it will be who built and made innovative use of proprietary sources of data.
Life after the religion of work:
So, the question that keeps me up at night is, what are us humans gonna do with all of our newfound time? Which brings me back to Japan, and this quaint Kyoto restaurant I found myself sitting in one evening. There were 10 seats, one chef/owner and one apprentice, and the most incredibly crafted experience. It wasn’t expensive, but everything was intentional. I found myself admiring this sensational and remarkably unscalable experience.
The chef seems to make a good living, loves meeting interesting people, and gets to be wildly creative (the selection of glassware, the decor, the care and craft applied to every dish). Japan is full of these experiences, where art, curiosity, and craftsmanship yield tiny scattered wonders like “owl cafes,” micro arcades, plastic food shops, cotton candy shops, and the list goes one.
I found myself wondering, why aren’t there 1000x more of these experiences in all societies? Why must the purpose of business be to scale, grow bigger, become franchises, squeeze in more seats, and compromise quality for automation and reach? Could a fundamental change in society, like mass automation and AI, spur both the growth and demand of human-intensive highly crafted unscalable experiences?
A note on Japan: I’ve been here for over a month now and loved it so much that I extended for another. It is astounding how much more personal and elevated the average experience of almost anything is here; it is undoubtedly a culture of care and intentionality with an unwaveringly good eye. What’s especially interesting is that even though Tokyo is a Tier 1 “global” city, the internal culture is distinct and unshakeable, continuing to resist being infiltrated by “global” (or Western) culture, yet inspires it. It is proof that a macro organism can hold its own at scale while maintaining intimacy and individuality.
Related reading: Small Applications, Growing Protocols by Packy McCormick
Album art by FISK for KAYTRAMINÉ
If you don’t know about the visual wonderland that is FISK, you totally should. They literally never miss. I love this super summery album art they did recently — it reminds me of the Barbie branding as well as a lot of hot pink and blue work popping up right now, like this featured in the last edition of Surfista.
FEAR OF GOD
Historically, I have not been a FEAR OF GOD (or god-fearing?) woman, but Jerry Lorenzo’s show at the Hollywood Bowl prompted some digging. The show’s aesthetics may look familiar — reminiscent of Yeezy — and Lorenzo has indeed worked with Kanye, who scouted one of his early tees. An adjacent brand, Entire Studios (whose founders also worked on developing Yeezy) carries a similar aesthetic. They also have a 70% sale on right now and I’m incidentally wearing a head to toe ES look in my Substack picture :))
Now to the good stuff which surfaced in this 032c interview…
My approach to seeding products was the same as to how I threw the parties. I didn’t want to call you and beg you to come to the party, I just wanted to throw the best one possible. My focus — whether it’s a fashion show, the parties I used to throw, or a product that we make — is on the product and letting the product make room for conversation.
On gaps in the market:
There’s always a gap in the market for anyone who wants to tell an authentic story. We’re attempting to tell a real human story, in an elegant and sophisticated way that’s easy to digest. I think that is the magic that makes room for your story to be heard.
And finally, a cogent answer to what the fuck the “community” buzzword is:
I think community is a product of who you are. We put our beliefs into our products, and that creates the community. We don’t intentionally gather our community to strengthen our relationship. It’s our core values that keep us together. It’s like this anniversary card I got my wife with two people on it. It explains that relationships don’t last based on us staring into each other’s eyes, but they last based on us sitting next to each other, staring at the future in the same way. And I think the connection is much easier when you see things the same way. When you’re looking the same way at the future and not constantly trying to have community for the sake of having community. I would rather speak clearly when I have something to say. And hopefully, the message of the Hollywood Bowl is clearer than speaking for the sake of speaking two or three times a year through a collection. If my clothes aren’t ready and my pieces aren’t ready and my story is not ready, I’d rather be silent.
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Replace your ads with art
KUNSTSURFER is a “browser-based art space”. Download the Chrome extension that recognises ads and replaces them with digital exhibitions. This is a very cool concept imo & infiltrates a very under-utilised space… the browser. As KUNSTSURFER itself declares:
KUNSTSURFER brings art into your daily browsing. It plays with the ways online advertisements look and work. It takes over commercial space to host experimental, digital site-specific curatorial and artistic projects.
Who’s still signaling? Follow them.
If you are trying to level up, the best approach is to borrow the strategies of those a little ahead of you — people who are still signaling. Beware of imitating those who are so far ahead that they can afford to counter-signal.
If you are relatively early on your path, it is natural to seek advice from those who have achieved astounding success in your area of interest. You’d be better off, though, asking people who are on a similar trajectory as yourself, but a little further ahead. If you’re a white belt and want to level up, don’t ask the black belt (or red belt) what to do. Ask the purple belt.
This is Rob Henderson’s advice, who coined the term “luxury beliefs” (the idea that Americans signal status through their beliefs, yet this often ends up harming the lower classes), in his piece “Be Wary of Imitating High-Status People Who Can Afford to Countersignal”.
Interestingly, the advice in Peter Thiel’s Religion (a piece of writing that burned itself into my memory) suggests somewhat the opposite. It prescribes: Don’t copy your neighbours — thus, the people right in front of you, the people who are still signalling. Instead, “Copy a transcendent goal or figure.” Copy the people who don’t copy people. Say it with me: “If you compete to be the best, you imitate. If you compete to be unique, you innovate”.
I think there’s a sweet spot between the two approaches: identifying the things that only you can see that lead to larger insights, and studying the people just ahead of you so that you can make progress today and stack it up. Life is very much about accumulation. We see a lot of copying these days, but what we see less of is the thing you’re supposed to steal — the thinking behind something. Copying only becomes powerful when you apply it in your own way.
Virgil Abloh was a fan. Check out LORENZ.OG’s catalogue with his signature patented colour schemes for Arc’teryx.
From “I Don’t Believe in Authenticity on the Internet” with Maya Man:
There’s this obsession with realness online. When I was working on Trust Exercise, and watching all these Beauty Secrets videos, I would see all these comments like, “She’s so real”. Which was funny to me, because it’s a Vogue video. It’s the most edited thing in the world. But we’re obsessed with wanting to feel this sense of realness online.
People will say things like, oh I just post for myself. No one just posts for themselves. You’re always posting for an audience. And I think it’s important to be open about the fact that that’s not bad. That’s just what we’re doing, all the time, in any social situation. It doesn’t mean you’re being fake, in a negative way. It means that you’re constructing the persona that the context calls for.
It reminds me of what Andrew Niccol, the screenwriter of the Truman Show said: When you know there is a camera, there is no reality.
Related and highly recommended reading: American Idle by icon Eugene Wei on TikTok and the network effects of creativity.
America’s Female Truckers by Anne-Marie Michel
Some intriguing work I discovered by photographer Anne-Marie Michel. It also reminds me of this photo series featured in Surfista 002 and this in 011 as well as this project Ukrainian Railroad Ladies (with a fabulously designed website).
Presence, for me, is synonymous with many things. Attention, for example. Vitality. Gratitude. Awareness. Presence is the simultaneous act of intention and surrender: I am committing myself to being here, to looking you in the eyes, to really hearing what you are saying separate from any notion of myself. Presence is a lack of imposition. And at the same time, I allow myself to give in: to the whirr of the highway, the cold in the air, how even though I know everything ends and that this will too when we draw the curtains in the morning… I, we, are here. This is when I find presence most stark and most comforting, when I feel my whole life reduced to a singular moment.
It remains my challenge then that when I live through these moments, I place them in constellations rather than retrospective timelines. I try to believe that I will keep finding my way back to them, that even permanent things can be undone and that new formations will always arise. I try mostly to believe that I won’t always feel like I’m the only one.
— from an old newsletter during a sentimental time in São Paulo
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