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Old image of Mordor
Barad-dur, Mordor

Tolkien’s for Sale

Commercializing the beloved epic fantasy comes at a cost

What happens when a beloved fantasy world, once respected and celebrated because it soared above the surrounding fray of decadent literature and art, becomes mainstream? What if the very work that was intended to transcend consumerism becomes the object of mass consumption? Harley J. Sims, writing for MercatorNet, believes Amazon has diluted the characteristic beauty and depth of The Lord of the Rings for the sake of mass consumption and appeal. I’ve shared my own thoughts on the new Rings of Power show in two separate pieces (here and here) for Mind Matters already, but just to recap: the show is interesting and entertaining enough to keep watching, but it’s missing something—a moral and imaginative ingredient Tolkien articulated beautifully in…

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Scene clapperboard in front of two actors

2: AI Can Write Novels and Screenplays Better than the Pros!

AI help, not hype: Software can automatically generate word sequences based on material fed in from existing scripts. But with what result?

“AI rites reel gud!” Seriously, the idea is not new. Back in the 1940s, George Orwell (1903–1950) thought that a machine could write popular novels so long as no creative thinking was involved. Thus, in his 1984 police state world, one of the central characters has a job minding a machine that mass produces them. In the 1960s, some film experiments were done along these lines, using Westerns (cowboy stories). At the time, there were masses of formula-based film material to work with in this popular genre. But what does the product look and sound like? In 2016, Ars Technica was proud to sponsor “the first AI-written sci-fi script:” As explained in The Guardian, a recurrent neural network “was fed the…