I know there is little that can be done to stop the tide. It is an unbeatable force we must confront, a force powered by a strong technoculture that began when man discovered fire. It seems haughty to call the discovery of fire the reason for the Sterile World which technologists are working to realize, but it is.
Man’s discovery of fire launched an incremental and exponential series of cultural and intellectual evolutionary steps that have placed us firmly in the 2013 grip of a binary world that seeks to erase magic and creativity behind the wall of statistics and computer-generated instincts.
The latest leap toward a world awash in data fetishists occurred in the past 20 years with the advent of the accelerating world of digital pipelines and computing power. The growth is exponential. The amount of time required to “obsolete-ize” a previous unit of time has been rendered a thinner fraction than ever before. With the accessibility and affordability of computational reach, everyday man is becoming a creature bound in figures and probabilities and constants and standard deviations and medians. With such powerful statistical tools at hand, and furthermore, backed by the artificial power of silicon calculations to back them up, it’s no surprise Man subsequently found a way to maneuver such knowledge toward almighty profit.
It’s the Moneyball syndrome. The usurpation of good old-fashioned human instinct and intelligence by the steady and consistent measuring eyes of technology. Modern computer technology is a siren, it hypnotizes us with its cool but dependable impersonal assurance that everything will be alright because mistakes in judgement will not happen! The computational allure is that nothing will go wrong because machines are incapable of human foibles. We worship the unflappable aloofness of machines. Somewhere along the way we concluded that computational perfection did so well at designing bridges and roads and buildings and was so lightning-quick at calculating minute adjustments for load and weight and balance, and which could design an integrated blueprint for a car which would provide maximal performance that would sate the archetypal consumer’s desires; because of this, we realized that human nature was not too special, and in fact, capable of being formulated and quantified rather predictably if the computing power was great enough and the quants clever enough to manipulate input in just the right gradients.
Our collective mentality has shifted. We now accept that people are no match for the power of statistics wielded ruthlessly behind the algorithm of an astounding multi-layered processor with unfathomable potential for turning the mundane into the predictable. We now expect many of our decisions to be dictated by the great binary machine that turns our ongoing impetuous decisions into life choices and life courses. Each leap of technology has been one more human relinquishment/substitution to a stronger force. Now we relinquish matters of personality and character to the great binary machine.
Now we let quants like Vinny Bruzzese (and he IS a quant data fetishist) determine mystical formulas bolstered by escalating computing power into testable equations that can be sieved through the structure of most screenplays in order to determine if they have what it takes to be successful, and if not, what it will take to make them so. Success, of course, is measured in terms of box office revenue. You see, the data fetishists accomplish nothing without the one (P) constant against which they can manipulate all variables. That is their only utility. They manipulate variables. This is how they sell themselves. They manipulate variables in order to maximize (P) constant which is something everyone wants. So Bruzzese’s variable is laced with profit (P). Which scripts have the best promise of succeeding at the box office? No one has come up with an equation that determines the depth and provocative nature of a script. You can’t assign values to that, and besides, it doesn’t sell. There is no provocative (Pr) constant. Not in America, for sure.
A chain-smoking former statistics professor named Vinny Bruzzese — “the reigning mad scientist of Hollywood,” in the words of one studio customer — has started to aggressively pitch a service he calls script evaluation. For as much as $20,000 per script, Mr. Bruzzese and a team of analysts compare the story structure and genre of a draft script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success. His company, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, also digs into an extensive database of focus group results for similar films and surveys 1,500 potential moviegoers. What do you like? What should be changed?
“Demons in horror movies can target people or be summoned,” Mr. Bruzzese said in a gravelly voice, by way of example. “If it’s a targeting demon, you are likely to have much higher opening-weekend sales than if it’s summoned. So get rid of that Ouija Board scene.”
Bowling scenes tend to pop up in films that fizzle, Mr. Bruzzese, 39, continued. Therefore it is statistically unwise to include one in your script. “A cursed superhero never sells as well as a guardian superhero,” one like Superman who acts as a protector, he added.
His recommendations, delivered in a 20- to 30-page report, might range from minor tightening to substantial rewrites: more people would relate to this character if she had a sympathetic sidekick, for instance.
We live in a world that reliably entertains the notion that a script can be deconstructed into identifiable constituent parts, much like human DNA, which will shed light into its guts and turn it into a profitable endeavor. We’ve come a long way.
I can’t stop the wave.
I just watch, and complain.
I work in entertainment and I’ve witnessed personally the slow implosion of the industry as a new breed of quants have invaded and attempted to transform an industry historically resistant to such pragmatic meddling into a gooey, featureless, bland machine that spits out mass-produced (but profitable) garbage with alarming regularity. And furthermore, which abhors nuance and individuality, because this is the stuff that crashes computer programs.
The entertainment industry has finally succumbed to the depths of human intervention.