Real reality becomes the new unobtainium

When smartphones put a camera into every person’s pocket, the profession of photography did not vanish into the pixelated mist. Rather, these professions evolved and exploded, as did the tools to support these new generative technologies and the potential roles to be filled.

However, when game-changing tech reaches the masses, production is easier and therefore, more people are producing. Hence, the output of mediocre production skyrockets and the medium becomes hyper–saturated with average quality. But the amount of amazing, ground-breaking, awe-inspiring, truly special production is still, and will always be, rare and difficult. That’s what makes it valuable.


As GenAI takes over in 2024, swelling the belly of the bell curve, multiple generations of digital-as-a-first-language natives will be coming into their own as absolute experts in manipulating, interacting and creating in this virtual world. But they will tire quickly of the accelerating deluge of mediocrity as well as the constant drive towards perfection in the media, in fashion, in beauty, in every facet of modern digital society. This perfection fatigue will make them realize they are missing something real, something true, something magical.

As we see with the rebirth of vinyl records, CDs (physical discs containing digital content operated using LASERS) and even cassettes in audiophilia, there is something captivating and irresistible around things that are tangible, tactile, physical and REAL. Things that were made by hands that we can feel with our hands. And this is especially true for people who have not, or have rarely, experienced the profound joy of handling a physical thing. (Just ask Jann Mardenborough of Gran Turismo fame.)

The obsession we see in unboxing videos is symptomatic of this fascination. And we see this in the rise of Maker Culture which has been growing steadily, springboarded by the pandemic over the last decade plus. An interesting thing happens when going back to the basics: The thing and the process by which the thing comes into being are inextricable. The journey of creation is as important, if not moreso, than the creation itself.

This is why a photo of a real, living, breathing, salivating, imperfect, wild cheetah in its natural habitat taken by a real, living, breathing human with a camera, while shivering with fear and excitement in physical and olfactory proximity to this apex predator will always be infinitely more interesting – and therefore more valuable – than an AI-generated image of a cheetah, no matter how indecipherable it is from the real thing. (See NatGeo’s article on spotting the difference.)

People will want REAL, untouched, unedited, unfiltered content along with the true stories to back them up. Raw, imperfect and representative, ugly will become a new standard of beauty, and authenticity will become the premium, luxury good people clamor for. But, beware… deepfakes will be outed. Hoaxes will rise in response and people will feel violated by the brands that commit them. Just ask Milli Vanilli…

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