Remix Culture

Mar 24, 2023
Creativity and innovation always build on the past. – Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig was at the heart of the digital copyright issues in the early 2000s: he co-founded the Creative Commons License, fought in court against Digital Rights Management (DRM), and advocated for net neutrality, open access to scholarly research, and open source.

Remix culture has been around forever but first accelerated in the digital age. Then, the marginal cost of distribution went to zero. Music was resampled, remixed, and mashed up into new genres and songs. Photos were photoshopped and distributed in the form of memes and digital artwork. Videos were cut, spliced, edited, and uploaded to YouTube. Even more recently, videos stitched or dueted on TikTok.

But the marginal cost of generated content is quickly approaching zero. Remix culture is accelerating even faster.

  • Large language models dream up content in the style of well-known figures. What would George Washington have said about the current state of politics? A podcast between Joe Rogan and Steve Jobs?
  • The process of remixing images is more accessible than ever – change the style, the setting, the color scheme, or generate one from scratch.
  • End-user software is more customizable than ever with the ever-growing corpus of open-source software. Programming is getting easier (in theory). There are more developers than ever before.
  • The content of the internet is being synthesized into answers. Search for anything and get generative answers.
  • Use generative models to generate training data for other models (arbitrage)

Just as the remix culture of the 2000s gave us everything from Napster to LimeWire to WhatCD, we're in the early innings of seeing what this remix culture gives us.