The infinite future of film

Today I began reading two entertaining books, Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity by David Foster Wallace and The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Quite coincidentally, the books share the thematic point that there is a great deal of value in what is unpredictable, or as DFW puts it, “our only real justification for the Principle of Induction is the Principle of Induction, which seems shaky and question-begging in the extreme.”

In film, a technology that in its “old fashioned” celluloid form is only a little over a century old, the future is unpredictable— but it is fairly certain that the future is significantly different than it is now. There is no reason to believe the medium (celluloid) will survive, no reason to believe there will be a tangible product associated with motion picture, no reason to believe running times will continue to hover in the 74-130 minutes range. That a business once existed for something is not a reason it will continue. If there is a demand, there will be ways to meet it. If the barriers are low and there are benefits for the producers, films will be made and disseminated regardless of business models.

Most importantly, we can’t predict how people will find ways to make things that are very good and not end up on welfare- unless welfare turns out to be very comfortable. But I would put my money (if I had any) on quality continuing to be something that will be supported somehow in whatever improbable future we may encounter.

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