Schrödinger’s Movie

April 24, 2008

Let’s play a game to demonstrate that the future of movies is dead.

First, pick you favourite movie.

I’ll wait… I know it’s a tricky question

OK, Good choice.

Imagine you have it on DVD, and you ripp it to your laptop as a 5 Gigabyte file.

Ok, What’s you second favourite Movie?

Ah! Crafty one.

Imagine you have it on DVD, and you ripp it to your laptop as a 5 Gigabyte file.

Right, third (and final) favourite movie choice.

Heh, ok.. I see what you did there.

Ok, you know the score, Imagine you have it on DVD, and you ripp it to your laptop as a 5 Gigabyte file.

You now have three movie files on your laptop, all 5Gb in size.

We wont mention this to the copyright authorities. It’s between you and me.

The thing is, you only need the one file for all three movies. The data for each movie has been conformed to the same size, it’s the sequence of the data that enables the viewing of the movie – through the player that understands the codec.

You see, any movie that has ever been made also exists within the single 5Gb file.

Still with me?

The data file is just noise, it’s how you tune out the movie you want is the trick.

But the fact that every movie that has ever been made is held within that data file also means that every film that will ever be made is within that file.

[Pause for thought – I know you’re thinking at this point.]

Think of it like radio, you have to tune to the right sequence of the data to get the movie you want or the movie you can imagine you would like to see.

Now, for the technical reader, I know you’re snarling at this – yes – it’s a question of retrieval and we don’t have the technology nor the methodology to tackle this puzzle.

But it does indicate a finite number of movies that can be made. It’s a huge number – but it’s finite.

Look at it from an single image perspective.

If you have a jpg file, 800pixels x 600pixels, the limitation of the dimensions, that is, the number of pixels multiplied by the colour depth is the limitation of the format of the image.

As screen/image performance ‘increases’, the colour depth improves and thus more variation can occur, but there is a limit somewhere. 32bit colour depth is probably what you have your monitor set to. Hi Def Tv blows this away, but the visual plane of us creatures is limited to a spectrum. We can only see so deep.

But back to the movie puzzle.

Schrödinger set a thought puzzle back in 1935,

He proposed a scenario with a cat in a sealed box, where the cat’s life or death was dependent on the state of a subatomic particle. According to Schrödinger, the Copenhagen interpretation implies that the cat remains both alive and dead until the box is opened.

You can read the whole cat debacle on Wikipedia.

If you have a 5Gb of data, the movie you want is in there if you can perceive it.

Now, there’s an alternative view of this puzzle from proposed in 1987 by Hans Moravec and in 1988 by Bruno Marchal. Their experiment essentially involves looking at the Schrödinger’s cat experiment from the point of view of the cat. It’s called the Quantum Suicide.

Which makes me think what will power does a movie that has never been made have, to fight it’s way out of the 5Gb of noise, sitting on your desktop?

What ‘will power’ do characters and scenes of movies that, don’t exist, have?

This question shows how our minds project emotive responses towards fictions, how we project our own sensibilities onto formats of existence. Narratives act as vehicles for our own perceptions, but do they have a magnetism to the needs of conversation between ourselves?

It makes no sense to reference movies that don’t exist because they are not a shared point of understanding – we tend to use the past as a reference, not the future. But as the sum total of all possibilities of movies can be formulated if we understand how language informs communication, then reference points remove any notion of authored time – that is, what will be and what has has no hierarchy – that is, the past is no more informative than the future.

But I digress.

If every movie can exist within 1 file, have a look at Amazon, Blockbusters, netflix and youtube. That’s a lot of duplication, a lot of technology used to propel unit sales where instead we should be looking at the solution of movie automata – growing movies – so that we are freed up, to move on to something else.

If you’re in marketing, especially planning, and tuned into the digital storytelling scene (ahem), you’ll know about Faris’s Transmedia Planning essay. You’ll probably know that it comes from Henry Jenkins notions of Convergence Culture, and you might know that he took it from Nicholas Negroponte, Director of MIT, book called Being Digital, where he talks about Bit Streaming. Bitstreaming is where the point of production which becomes the point of consumption (basically – think about Lifestreaming, User Generated Content and Conversation On-line). Your doing is the act of consumption. To use is to learn.

BitSteaming is not Transmedia, something has got lost along the way here. We have to stop thinking in terms of making media; production and distributions are side effects of design, they are not a means to an end.

Design, as an act, infers solution. Design is much better at finding problems than having to abuse creativity to produced polished productions for consumption.

Brilliant things are the messes we are fixated upon. Headlines in the press attract attention, not for the morbid cultural events but for the persuit of reason. A mess is a loose space that we can occupy mentally. There is peace in the eye of the storm. Time stands still in this space.

There has been so much written about this area within marketing, and I think Marcus bagged the best review so far, but it all amounts to avoiding the subject that authorship does not matter. It matters not for an audience nor for the producer, authorship is a channel for communication. Communication, does not need a singular writer to produce media. Films may have a director, but there is almost a countless cast of assistants required to design, produce and distribute.

There’s is also the notion of copyright and licence. That was demonstrated in Where are the Joneses?

You may want to look at Roland Barthes ‘Death of an Author’ or Walter Benjamin’s ‘Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.’ Both have indicated the moral and virtues decline in the notions of authorship. It can be argued that authorship maintains our identity as humans. Crosbie and Doc Searles may debate that synthesis of human authorship is almost upon us. Though Andrea may not agree.

Digtal methodologies, as we have seen within all forms of publishing, does not honour the author as a predicate for future productions. From Markov chains to Bayesian search theory, pattern matching of semantics is beginining to be taken seriously as the direction of technology which will author our future. BookLamp is doing something interesting in this area (Thanks to Ben for the link). We will be experiencing the automaton of narrative far beyond the postmodernism of Baudrillard’s Simulations and Simulacra as seen in those Matrix Movies.

This is why Hollywood is dead wood, tinsletown will burn to the ground.

We’ll be left with an ever present of change, a shifting sifting of values that look more like noise than logic.

The Semantic hope of web3.0, where stuff talks to each other, means that we are the participating audience of a story that we all know even though it has not been written, and constantly trying to escape by retuning the aesthetics back to what makes us feel comfortable. It’s going to harder to be feel secure in the thought that you have a fate, destiny or an objective future when the principles of subjectivity are iterations of a systematic upgrade of general consensus – you belong to your peer’s perceptions.

Narrative may well collapse into pace determined by a rhythm of participation. The story and melody could be perceptive instead of prescriptive.

From storytelling to synthesis, we see performance and identity central to the act of engagement. The human centrality is the primary node within a creation plane, which is pure transaction – an act. It’s how you map the individual the execution of transaction that will make the semantic web, not the alignment of meanings within language. An act is a meaning – a word is a symbol. Signs are conduits between the two.

Life will become a pure dress rehersal because the movie will never be made. Maybe this is the constant betaness. Maybe this is how we should never to be afraid of making mistakes. This sense of ‘incomplete’ or ‘disconectivity’ makes us relate more to each other.

Our patience for this consistant change will be subject to invariants. Just as the notion of interestingness is based upon anomalies; configurations, standards and useful protocols that provide moments of clarity, will become the Greek island oasis that defines peace – and maybe peace of mind. While Advertising hates this, marketing loves this. Disruptions in perception are only useful when you want someone to believe that they are in control – isn’t that so tiger?

But I digress, again.

I’ve no idea on how to retrieve the finite collection of movies within the 5Gb of data, but I’ve started using Twine to collate the ideas and references that made me thinking of this problem called Schrödinger’s Movie . If you’re using Twine, do pop by and have a look, help out, or comment.

Either way – the song remains the same. Open up.

Update [27-04-08] There is now a really interesting thread on Yahoo!Groups about this post.

Open up
Now open up
You lied
You faked
You cheated
You changed the stakes
Magnet toss that pie in the sky
Unrehearsed let the bubbles burst
All in all a three-ring circus
Of unity with parody tragedy or comedy
Probably publicity

Open up
Make room for me
Now open up
Make room for me

Lose myself inside your schemes
Go for the money, honey
Not the screen
Be a movie star Blah, blah, blah
Go the whole hog
Be bigger than God

Burn, Hollywood, burn
Taking down Tinsel Town
Burn Hollywood, burn
Burn down into the ground
Burn, Hollywood, burn
Burn, Hollywood, burn

Take down Tinsel Town
Burn down to the ground
Down into the ground

P.s. Ask me sometime how I know Peter Andre is responsible for LeftField’s first 2 albums.

24 Responses to “Schrödinger’s Movie”

  1. Given a fixed storage of 5GB, it should be possible to compress an arbitrary number of movies into the same space (given the compression algorithm should exploit commonality between all movies contained therein). However, as the number of movies increases, the quality of each should be expected to degrade.

    Given a DVD jukebox of every movie ever published on DVD it might be possible (given enough time) to fit all movies on a single HD DVD (at YouTube quality).

    There is of course the old trick that given a 5GB file of noise, all you need to extract any 5GB file from it is the complementary 5GB file of apparent noise obtained from an XOR op on the original.

    This can be improved by making the 5GB file of noise a compressed videographic digest of all movies, and needing only a 1MB file to augment/decompress any given movie.

  2. The quality of movies shouldn’t decrease within the 5Gb space because they are not aware of each other – it’s not a resource dependent process in terms of functions, but of data, I guess.

    It’s not about cryptology but inference. So yeah, I like the idea that you have a seperate file that is the keysmith, itself being an inference of taste.

    Nice one Mr Fitch.

  3. Well, unless you’re getting into wacky realms of quantum computing, or are actually talking about an imaginary 5GB file representing a superimposition of all possible movie states, then I’ll think you’ll have problems implementing your scheme on a typical computer (though you may not be directing your article to those who can’t help but consider implementation details).

    I was just bringing a tadette of pragmatism to bear in pointing out that there are ways of getting close to what you describe even if you don’t invoke Schrödinger.

    If it were about cryptology and indeterminacy of copyright infringement I’d mention my own invocation, i.e. Schrödinger’s Copyright:

  4. Derek Says:

    Long read, but worth it. Made me think… I’m still thinking. Ah, I gotta go. I need to think. Why did you have to go and do this to my brain?

  5. ttcjakarta Says:

    wow,good article,thanks

  6. @Derek – Sorry
    @TTC – you’re welcome

    @Crosbie, you bugger, you got me out of bed to write this. Good points as usual. Loving the Schrödinger’s Copyright article btw.

    If we had a Quantum Computer World, we wouldn’t need the 5Gb of data because the need for storage is outstriped by the ability to ‘know’ what is being asked for. Storage is the bane of retreval, after all. or is it the other way around? 😉

    The Schrödingerness of all this points at (and I didn’t go into this in the post because it’d be too much in one go) the fact that a movie does not ‘contain’ a narrative in that the events that you are watching never happened in the way that the story is being told. It’s only acting after all.

    Now, when it comes to documentaries, the same principle applies because of the author(s) editing and framing a reality which is not inclusive of context, however much it is being portrayed.

    So, with the understanding that perception alone is driving any sense of narrative, a movie is merely a stimulas for the viewer, who is acting out the role of a viewer.

    This leaves us with a foggy vision that movies do not have to be how we understand them today. Look back at pre-talkies or even pre-colour movies and you see that the Quantum Jump between representations indicate that we are moving towards no linear stories within a linear format. Babel is a good example. Maybe Pulp Fiction too. Maybe..

    So, visual and audio stimulation that induces a narrative opens up to a vision of what Schrödinger’s Movie will be like.

    Any thoughts on the sequal?

  7. I think the crucial part is as you say in the comments. If we start thinking of movies in a different context as they are enjoyed traditionally, then it all starts to look a bit closer.

    And why not.

    Brilliant post David!

  8. @Charles – thanks fella. Hit the Digg button 😉

  9. Qaro Says:

    Man, I almost get this. I can see where it’s going but I don’t know where it is.

  10. @qaro Hi, thanks for popping by.

    Where it is? Erm, not sure either. I have this urge to make a prototype…

  11. I’ve now put this on Digg as I’m keen to get as much feedback as possible on this idea/thinking/meddling.

    Here’s the link, you know what to do. Thanks.

  12. About our identity as humans…

    The better is your blog the higher is the possibility that somebody will stop by and say “Hey you are doing a great job!”. Nothing wrong with it if it’s a sincere comment, the problem is that often genuine and positive comments like that can be used as comment spam.

    I’m experiencing the same on my blog so I understand and agree with what Crosbie said about this problems.

    David, both you and Crosbie are doing a great work on your blogs and I hope that I passed the turing test to join the conversation 😉


  13. Hi Andrea, welcome back and thanks!

    I was writing this post when I saw that Crosbie had been talking to Doc Searls about your comments and it seemed natural to include the details here again.

    Hope all’s well.

  14. John Says:

    But does it have a happy ending?

  15. @john One man’s tragedy is another man’s comedy.

  16. exador23 Says:

    A pleasant read. I like like having my brain tickled.

    “If you have a 5Gb of data, the movie you want is in there if you can perceive it.”

    The ~possibility~ of all movies of a certain type (aspect ratio, colors, etc) is contained in the ~form~. But NOT in the data.

    The data represents decisions that limit the possibilities for each bit in the 5GB. It is freedom of choice manifest. The value is contained in the decisions, not the form.

    It’s akin to saying as soon as the IRS creates the 1040 form, all income data exists and it’s just a matter of perceiving. Good luck with the auditor.

    There might be some utility for exploring this line of thought, but ultimately it goes nowhere because the value is in the data, not the form.

    But don’t completely give up the line of thought. Explore all you can about fractals, and reformulate.

  17. @exador23 Hi, thanks.

    You’ve got a good point here, I spent most of yesterday chewing it over – and I really like the comment about the tax form – it is a system that has a huge affordance for capturing variations, though within the instests of the adminsistration.

    What such systems don’t see is the detail of why finances are in such a form. like a frame of a movie, there are always details that are surplus to the narrative. yes, they are there as ‘atmosphere’ but when considering the 5Gb motif, do we consider every bit or byte to of value to the the movie’s form?

    From the forum thread in the yahoo group Gig-Hard (, there’s a reference to Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter, who Fractal ‘Butterfly’ theorum (Hofstadter’s butterfly) indicates a recursive system in 2 planes (ala the screen/movies) which opens us up to seeing finite executions within a dataset and a form.

    But your are bang on the money with the value being in the data not the form – we have only just begun to see the possibilities of movie narratives in the past 100 years.

  18. dana Says:

    While reading this for some reason I was reminded of something Karen Finley said back the late 80’s–

    “Doesn’t anyone have a memory anymore? I don’t document every emotional event in my life because then I couldn’t lie about it later. Videotape documentation destroys legends, thereby destroying myth.”

    Like i said, I’ve no idea why that popped up, but it did.

    Hope you are well, D!

  19. […] Excellent, mind-bending essay on Schrodinger’s puzzle and the ever-changing digital sphere (Zero Influence) […]

  20. […] was written by a friend and co-worker, zeroinfluence – read the full thing here. Posted by bobak Filed in […]

  21. Daniel Edlen Says:

    “But the fact that every movie that has ever been made is held within that data file also means that every film that will ever be made is within that file.”

    Ok. This whole post seems to hinge on that statement. It’s wrong.

    The Uncertainty Principle is about not knowing how to characterize matter, as particles or waves. The position of energy as a particle can be known, but not its movement as well. Or, the movement of energy as a wave can be known, but not its position. Hence the cat’s dilemma.

    DVDs and ripped DVDs are digital. Solely particles. When analog audio and video are “ripped” from reality and modelled as data, it’s not the actual creation anymore. So your analogy fails. And with it the idea that because past creations can be modelled by a finite number of bits either 0 or 1 that all future creations also are “in there” too. You can’t generate reality with a model of reality.

    So, to say the number of possible movies is limited is false in this argument.

    As long as we live in the actual universe, not a model created by humans (the digital universe), there are infinite, as yet unknown, possibilities.

    (Hey, if all humans (the same form/data/whatever) can be modelled as an avatar online, are there a finite number of humans possible?)

    Daniel Edlen

  22. […] Zero influence — Schrödinger’s Movie “What ‘will power’ do characters and scenes of movies that, don’t exist, have?” — Transmeddling! DavidBausola computing quantum transmedia PD storygraph narrativeactivism narrativeenvironments narrativeobjects narrative compression data […]

  23. K.Boley Says:

    “P.s. Ask me sometime how I know Peter Andre is responsible for LeftField’s first 2 albums.”

    You trying to depress me!?

    Or is it that they heard his first one? 🙂

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