Fidelity, compression and culture | Seth’s Blog | Augur Tech
The alphabet is a miracle, one that’s compounded by books. And the teachings we study from this cornerstone of recent tradition apply to organizations, conferences, tech, politics and virtually the whole lot we do collectively.
Your copy of To Kill a Mockingbird accommodates each single phrase that Harper Lee had within the version she signed off on. Even when the paper, the web page rely and the typography change, it’s a high-fidelity duplicate of the unique.
She wrote the guide utilizing the identical 26 letters that each creator within the English language makes use of, and whenever you learn it, it can reveal itself in exactly the identical format as she meant.
The constancy is excessive. Each duplicate is similar.
And the work isn’t compressed. It unfolds exactly because the creator meant–26 letters, all out there to every creator.
That is completely different than AM radio or a track copy on a cassette. AM radio is compressed, and by the point it will get to you throughout town, it’s additionally low constancy. MP3s are compressed, however each copy is a high-fidelity duplicate of the primary one. Alternatively, with cassettes, every copy loses one thing. Finally the copies turn out to be nothing like the unique. 800 copies later and you don’t have anything however static.
Lossy compression is without end. Data was deliberately eliminated. What you hear isn’t what the artist heard within the studio, and all of the gear on this planet can’t restore it. Alternatively, math and computer systems can now usually give us reversible compression, however that’s a unique dialogue. We compress info as a result of smaller recordsdata give us an opportunity for increased constancy and cheaper networking.
Excessive constancy signifies that every copy is what we count on.
Lossless compression (or no compression) signifies that we haven’t left something out with a purpose to get the constancy or sharing to work.
Packaged meals firms and makers of low-cost chocolate prize the consistency of excessive constancy (each bar is similar, if awful) over the magic of one thing particular. In order that they mix elements and dumb down the recipes so it’s all the time the identical. This compression isn’t carried out in error, it’s one thing they work arduous on.
A Broadway present is excessive constancy whenever you see it, however that disappears in the event you strive to reserve it. It’s important to be there stay, a reference recording on video isn’t the identical. Telling somebody concerning the present isn’t the identical as seeing it.
And the script isn’t lossy compression. In truth, the script is strictly what the playwright meant, however the director and the actors embellish the script in every manufacturing and efficiency. That’s a part of their job. Form of the alternative of compression.
Gossip is compressed and low constancy information of the group, and each worsen because it spreads.
One of many miracles of e mail and the web was how excessive the constancy is (on the spot excellent copies, without end) and the power for textual content and sure types of different media to be uncompressed as they unfold. In fact an MP3 can’t be turned again into the unique reel to reel grasp recording, and a Wikipedia article modifications over time.
Language translations are lossy and likewise low constancy. Nuance disappears as we swap one language for an additional, which is why a proficient translator is a lot extra worthwhile than a pc doing the identical work.
And conferences? Conferences at work are largely low constancy and finally fairly compressed. In contrast to a memo that may be in and of itself, a gathering is a efficiency, after which it’s summarized, and summarized once more, till it turns into a narrative that’s a shadow of what the one that began the entire thing had in thoughts. Nuance disappears.
Democracy might be greatest served by excessive decision and the non-lossy compression of concepts and arguments. Alas, the web and TV, whereas including pace and influence, most likely decrease the decision and improve compression on the similar time.
As Jeff Jarvis factors out, GPT and different AI chatbots are primarily lossy compression mechanisms for the online. They learn all the net and compress it on demand into just a few paragraphs. Like Cliffs Notes, one of many issues of this comfort is that it may possibly’t be uncompressed. The nuance disappears and is tough to reconstruct.
Our lifetimes have seen this pendulum travel, again and again. From black and white TV to paint (this affords approach much less compression of the unique picture). From movie within the theater to low high quality streaming on a telephone. From a landline telephone dialog to a nasty connection on a cell to some characters in a textual content message. CDs sounded worse than an excellent LP, however SACDs and MQA can sound higher in the best circumstances. Corporations go from handbooks and memos to hallway conversations to Slack checkins.
Lossy compression is without end. Constancy is a strong delight. Tales unfold and resonate, however by their nature compress the reality of what we simply encountered. A novel is the creator’s full telling of the story the best way they selected to inform it, whereas historical past books and journalism all the time compress what truly occurred.
If you wish to change the tradition, or perceive a expertise in media, or do historical past, mess with constancy and search for compression. Robert Caro is a low-compression biographer…
And now, AI redefines constancy altogether, typically embellishing what was there earlier than and presenting one thing that may mistakenly be seen as a excessive constancy unique.
And nonetheless, the alphabet is a miracle. Excessive constancy, low compression, resilient and broadly distributed.
Fidelity, compression and culture | Seth’s Blog