i'm already nostalgic for ai-generated seinfeld

It’s been a wild year for artificial intelligence and machine learning, and Nothing Forever is easily one of my favorite things to come out of it.

Larry performing a favorite joke in one of Nothing Forever's recurring stand-up segments

If you haven’t seen it yet, the premise is “AI-generated Seinfeld,” streaming 24/7 on Twitch.

The dialogue is written by GPT-3, and according to the creator, nearly everything else about the show is generative, including the speech, camera cuts, shot length, scene length, character blocking and movement, and music.

On its own, Nothing Forever is pretty amusing and charming. But with Twitch chat streaming alongside it, it’s hilarious, chaotic, and gives me this weird feeling of anticipatory nostalgia.

I don’t know what the future of AI will be, but I am confident that it will continue to evolve rapidly in the near future. (For what it’s worth, I am bullish on AI.)

The current state of AI and ML – and weird projects like Nothing Forever – reminds me a lot of the early consumer internet. I’m talking dial-up AOL, Netscape browser, Geocities, Hamster Dance, Flash animations: that internet.

Both now and then: it’s so exciting and everything is changing so fast. Even though things are rough around the edges, that’s part of its charm. The possibilities feel totally vast and totally underexplored.

One thing that feels particularly prominent this time around is self-awareness around how janky things are, and that’s really the thing that I love about Nothing Forever.

Larry clips through a table while discussing Fred's plan to steal cookies from the local library

The dialogue is bad, and Twitch chat is a chorus of laughter and celebration when the AI produces “an actual joke!”.

The characters’ speech is stilted and awkward, and chat revels in mocking Larry, Fred, Yvonne, and Kakler’s weird intonations and emphases.

Characters walk through furniture, fuse into one another, forget who said what, and randomly go silent – and it’s all great fun.

For a certain type of person who likes technology and absurd humor, it’s an awesome cultural moment – one I’m happy to have witnessed. And if it’s not obvious enough, this is a ringing endorsement to check it out.

At the very least, it will go down as a great meme – but it might just foreshadow something about the future of media, too.

posted 05 feb 2023