Grimes: Music, AI, and the Future of Humanity | Lex Fridman Podcast #281

Key Takeaways

  • Music production is often the overlooked answer to song popularity
  • She used to be a solo player, but she realized that working with other people rejuvenated her
  • Art is like a decentralized collective process, a conversation with all the artists that have ever lived before you
  • Grimes constantly forces herself to listen to new music. It’s a great exercise that everyone should do to encourage brain plasticity
  • Since the integration of the iPhone, we are becoming cyborgs; our brains are fundamentally changed 
    • There is a definite lack of adequate education on how technology is fundamentally changing the physical structure of our brains 
    • “If we choose correctly and wisely, consciousness could exist for a very long time and integration with AI could be extremely positive and I don’t think enough people are focusing on this specific situation.”Grimes
  • We need more protopian (protopia – a little bit better than today or yesterday) or utopian art 
    • “If we don’t ideate about futures that could be good, we won’t be able to get them. If everything is Blade Runner then we’re gonna end up with Blade Runner.”Grimes
  • We’re in a diagnosis mode; we’re just diagnosing and trying to kill what we hate 
    • “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”Buckminster Fuller
  • Social media representations disincentivize her from wanting to make art
    • Grimes completely lost control of the narrative, “…and the narrative is some of it is my stupidity but some of it has just been hijacked by forces far beyond my control.”Grimes
  • Memes feel like a beautiful collective human art project, a decentralized comedy thing 
    • “I don’t think people stop and appreciate how sick it is that memes exist.” – Grimes
  • “Consciousness, sentience, self-awareness… I think this might be the single greatest moment in the history of the evolution, and maybe this is the big true beginning of life and we’re just the single-celled organisms of something amazing.”Grimes

Key Books Mentioned

  • Surface Detail by Iain Banks
    • Best future Grimes ever read about in science fiction
    • A lot of different types of AI in the Banksian future
  • I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
    • How AI could manipulate and torture humankind
    • Grimes thinks this is how it must feel when you are a baby coming into consciousness (no muscles, getting inputs from everywhere, can’t communicate, etc.)
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer
    • A super-popping book, according to Grimes
    • There is a ton of small moments in which history can turn
  • Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock
    • What if our consciousness like we experience it right now is the universe waking up? What if this is the universe seeing herself for the first time?

Key Anime Mentioned

  • My Neighbour Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki
    • Universal content that everybody loves and is geared to an emerging consciousness in the first like three years of life
    • Grimes feels like Totoro the highest art baby content
    • There’s almost no talking in it; it’s really simple
    • Grimes still has all her old Totoro merch from when she was a kid
    • Why does the art we have for babies need to suck, be inaccessible to adults, and then just thrown out when they age out of it?”Grimes
    • How do we create more Totoro-esque content?

Intro

  • About Grimes
    • Grimes (@grimezsz) is a musician, artist, singer, songwriter, producer, and director
    • Very inconsistent personality that changes with everyone she talks to
      • From megalomaniac to a shy hermit
    • Her best friends bring out the best in her because they understand her
  • In this episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast
    • Lex & Grimes randomly rant about music production, human flourishing in the AI age, the rise of “Techno-Homo Sapiens”, and the danger of simulated hells and social media representations
  • Host – Lex Fridman (@lexfridman)

Constraints and Limits in Creating Art

  • Moving constraints are good, e.g., music is merging with technology 
    • Making music got a lot cheaper, faster and easier, but the playing field is bigger
    • Grimes doesn’t know “actual” music, only about the computer
  • “Music production is a really underrated art form.”Grimes
    • Production is often the overlooked answer to song popularity
    • People don’t understand what music production is
    • According to Grimes, there is no formal learning path for music production. It’s mostly driven by autodidacts 
    • Everyone she knows who’s good at production didn’t go to music school (they are self-taught)
  • Rick Rubin is one of the first people who made music production as important as the actual lyrics or the notes of the song
    • He produces for other artists whereas Grimes mostly produces for herself
    • Grimes comes from the post-Rick Rubin era, Skrillex school of thought (the 2010s)
    • She is the engineer, producer, and artist, all in one

Is Loneliness the Engine of Creativity?

  • Daniel Ek (CEO of Spotify) said most artists have about 10 good years of creativity
    • Grimes feels like she is nearing the end of her 10 years
    • Nowadays, she is in the process of becoming somebody else
  • She used to be a solo player, but she realized that working with other people rejuvenates her
    • “I think another human brain is one of the best tools you can possibly find.”Grimes
  • When we talk about movies, we talk about the actor and the actresses but we also talk about the director; we don’t talk like that with the music
    • George Martin (the Beatles music producer) was among the first people who introduced crazy sound design into pop music
  • The desire for authenticity 
    • Grimes used to get mad when people wouldn’t write or produce their music
    • Art is like a decentralized collective process, a conversation with all the artists that have ever lived before you
    • No one is starting from scratch, the process is about taking thousands of years of art, and making your interpretation of it
    • “There’s all this stuff that seems more important than art because it helps us to function and survive, but when all this is gone, the only thing that’s gonna be left is the art. The technology will be obsolete.”Grimes

Force Yourself to Listen to New Music

  • Ask yourself: “Why do people like it?”
    • Forcing yourself to engage with new music is great for neuroplasticity
    • Part of the reason music is marketed at young people is that young people are very neuroplastic 
  • Grimes constantly forces herself to listen to new music. It’s a great exercise that everyone should do to encourage brain plasticity
    • “Most of the streaming on Spotify is classic rock and new music makes up a very small chunk, and I think this is not a good sign for us as a species.” Grimes

The Rise of “Techno Homo Sapiens”

  • Surface Detail by Iain Banks
    • Best future Grimes ever read about in science fiction
    • A lot of different types of AI in the Banksian future
    • All the ships are superintelligent but they still want to preserve a rich fulfilling experience for the humans
    • Memory is uploaded, and people can choose new bodies instead of dying
    • Superintelligence and biological beings exist fairly in harmony
    • There’s less war, more equality
    • When people commit crimes they get sent to an artificial hell 
    • War simulations instead of bloodshed
  • Simulated hells (punishing people in digital space) are one of the ways how technology could go wrong 
    • All of the evolution has been survival of the fittest up until now 
    • We’re getting to a point where we can choose intelligent design
  • Since the integration of the iPhone, we are becoming cyborgs; our brains are fundamentally changed 
    • Everyone who grew up with electronics is fundamentally different from previous generations 
    • Grimes calls us techno homo sapiens
    • The computers accelerate the degree to which all the other technologies can also be accelerated
    • Computers are what make us techno homo sapiens, it’s a brain augmentation and it allows for actual evolution
  • “I think the idea that this is a time to choose intelligent design should be taken very seriously; now is the moment to reprogram the human-computer.”Grimes
    • We can choose our evolution and change the way our brains work, and that is a huge responsibility
    • There is a definite lack of adequate education on how technology is fundamentally changing the physical structure of our brains 
    • “If we choose correctly and wisely, consciousness could exist for a very long time and integration with AI could be extremely positive and I don’t think enough people are focusing on this specific situation.”Grimes

Balancing Profitability and Social Good

  • When Silicon Valley started it was all just for-profit 
    • Now we see lab-grown meat, biodegradable single-use cutlery, or meditation apps 
    • Grimes believes there is not enough education about how technology is actually changing
  • Can we change the idea of profit to include social good?
    • Things that help reprogram the human-computer in a good way or things that help us intelligently design our new brains
    • “There’s no reason why within the framework of capitalism the word profit or the idea of profit can’t also incorporate the well-being of a human being.”Grimes
  • For example, producing great humans (motherhood) should be seen as profit under capitalism
    • How to compensate for motherhood?
    • Under capitalism, motherhood is just a job that you’re supposed to do for free

Motherhood Is a Precursor to Creation

  • How did becoming a mother change Grimes?
    • Our culture devalues motherhood; she feels guilty for caring about her kids more than she cares about her work
    • “It’s just so trippy watching consciousness emerge, it’s the craziest science fiction novel you could ever read.”Grimes
    • Motherhood also forces you to value your time much more
    • She became more of an optimist, she feels a responsibility to make more optimistic things
  • Life truly does imitate art
    • We need more protopian (protopia – a little bit better than today or yesterday) or utopian art 
    • “If we don’t ideate about futures that could be good, we won’t be able to get them. If everything is Blade Runner then we’re gonna end up with Blade Runner.”Grimes
  • Thinking about protopia or utopia can be seen as a dismissal of the problems that we currently 
    • Grimes thinks that is an incorrect mindset
    • Having kids makes her want to imagine amazing futures that, if she fails to build, her kids can build if they want to
    • “Cynicism is often confused for insight which is sad to see and optimism is confused for naivete.”Lex Fridman

Grimes Randomly Ranting

  • Grimes’ favorite quote of all time is from Star Wars: Episode VIII
    • “Don’t kill what you hate, save what you love.”
  • We’re in a diagnosis mode; we’re just diagnosing and trying to kill what we hate 
    • “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”Buckminster Fuller
    • Maybe we don’t need to destroy the oil industry, maybe we just need to create an alternative that will make it economically unreasonable to rely on fossil fuels
    • E.g. a great new battery technology and sustainable transport
  • Revolutionize education via DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) and make it free
    • What is the problem, what are some ideas, share your excitement, and don’t tear each other down
  • Social Media Hygiene
    • “When somebody says something negative, I immediately think positive thoughts about them, forget they exist and just move on.”Lex Fridman
    • Vicious cycle- if we return negative energy they’re going to get excited negatively right back
    • Social media is like a gun, people should take a course before they can use it
    • Schools should teach about how social media optimizes us, raises our cortisol levels, and makes us angry and crazy and stressed 
    • We should learn how to have hygiene in how we use social media

The Torment of Social Media Representations

  • Lex thinks that playing with identities is one of the cool things about the Internet
    • Even on Twitter, you get a chance to be somebody for prolonged periods
  • Grimes doesn’t agree
    • “I feel very tormented by social media representations. I feel like the public perception of me has gotten so distorted that it’s disturbing.”Grimes
    • Social media representations disincentivize her from wanting to make art
    • She completely lost control of the narrative, “…and the narrative is some of it is my stupidity but some of it has just been hijacked by forces far beyond my control.”Grimes
  • Grimes thinks Doja Cat might be the greatest living comedian; she’s really funny on the Internet and is great at handling social media 
    • Memes are not new but they are still this emergent art form that is completely egoless and anonymous 
    • We don’t know who made any of it and it’s like the forefront of comedy 
    • Memes feel like a beautiful collective human art project, a decentralized comedy thing 
    • “I don’t think people stop and appreciate how sick it is that memes exist.” Grimes

Advice for Young Adults

  • We don’t spend enough time teaching creativity 
    • Grimes believes creativity is a muscle like other things 
    • Growing the creative muscle takes a lot of failure and humiliation and that’s easier to develop when you’re young
  • Developing a tolerance for failure is good
    • Grimes makes all kinds of mistakes in public (and gets canceled), but she became very resilient because of it
    • “Tolerance to failure is just a super essential thing that should be taught before other things.”Grimes
  • Meaning of life – the universe awakens
    • Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock
      • What if our consciousness like we experience it right now is the universe waking up? What if this is the universe seeing herself for the first time?
  • “Consciousness, sentience, self-awareness… I think this might be the single greatest moment in the history of the evolution, and maybe this is the big true beginning of life and we’re just the single-celled organisms of something amazing.”Grimes
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