• Doom - First really big 1rst person shooter. 3d gaming. Before the 2000th Sequel with in-game item monetization.
  • Meg Ryan - making Sleepless in Seattle. Before 100 studio driven copy cats
  • Nine Inch Nails- Downwards Spiral - defined industrial. A decade before scoring Zuckerberg’s Hollywood soundtrack, running Apple Music, selling out
  • Magic the Gathering: Black Lotus. Archetypal. Before endless copies, booster packs, and the era of hyper commercialized collectibles / monetized online games
  • Warhammer - niche and cool, constant meet ups - 2 decades before “God Emperor Trump”.
  • Harvard Tuition + board: .6x a year of median income. Before it spiraled to 1.2x and social mobility died
  • ZZT. First big programmable immersive world - running on a laptop. By Tim Sweeney. Before 100 rehashes, billions raised, suing Apple
  • Stephenson - Snow Crash fresh off the presses. Before 20 years of formulaic sci fi copies of dystopia that felt increasingly like our everyday

1993 was the last year where - due to the fluke of Grunge Music and the luxury of America being the sole superpower post the USSR - things weren’t commercial. Rockstars hated the establishment and would burn the sponsors advertisements in front of the crowd.

“Better be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not”, said Kurt Cobain. People wore Nirvana shirts because they agreed - not because they were branded and sold in H&M.

I remember walking around outside and saying, “This is fresh. Truly fresh.” Even though I was a child and had virtually no context, I understood it was a unique moment in time.

When you saw all the things that were coming out - you got the sense that society was innovating on full cylinders. In music. In technology. A lot of things were really original.

You got the sense that things were on the up. That you could do well if you worked hard. The Soviets had failed - because incentives. Fukuyama said it was the End of History and we could go about focusing on our lives instead of endless wars.

You didn’t really know what was going to happen next.

What happened afterwards - for the next 20 years felt like a “copy of a copy of a copy”

Culturally it was all sequels with predictable revenue streams. No more grunge artists who insult the sponsors. Financially it was all money printing and various ponzis.

By 1998 and 1999 - it was “You’ve Got Mail” - casting a burned out Meg Ryan in another Tom Hanks Romcom. It was “The Fragile” - a formulaic NIN album that sounded like the band covering itself.

The internet bubble happened in the midst of Boy Bands. Mass commercialized culture.

1993-1994- when tech kicked off the first time, was really the last time things weren’t “cringe” - as the new generation puts it.

The developments in AI are the first time things feel like 1993 because we don’t know what the Sequel is. And even better, we have some sort of sense that the sequel can’t really resemble what came before. GPT6 we know isn’t going to look like GPT4.

It almost, mathematically, cannot and won’t be a “copy of a copy of a copy”.

Can go on all day about various problems. But as recently as 2022 it was extremely unclear how those problems would get solved, because everyone had the same ideas. And it was all deflating because the Fed was cutting off the oxygen.

1993 was coming up with a new recipe excited to try it out for the first time. 2022 was having baked that recipe for 30 years straight and having a putrid glob of rotten leftovers in the fridge after coming home from a long involuntary work trip (covid).

AI is important because it reintroduces uncertainty into things.

Hopelessness and certainty is a really bad mix.

In 2023, AI finally staked the vampire of nostalgia. We cleaned out the fridge.

So we are in a different spot now. No idea how it will turn out. But we’re breaking out of the formula. Trying new recipes. Because the memory of cleaning out the fridge makes us a bit physically ill, come to think of it.

But it’s best not to think of it.

Now - when I walk around - I have the same feeling as I had as a young kid. “This is fresh. Truly fresh.”

For the first time in 30 years, the sequels we’re looking forward to will actually be interesting. So this is a nostalgic post - in a way, but in a celebratory way.

Because we don’t need to be nostalgic anymore.

It’s not that “the future is now” - the cliche phrase used implicitly or explicitly in every tech bubble pitch deck. It’s that we can no longer map what the future looks like.

Not 1999. Closer to 1993. But so completely different it’s almost not worth mentioning. But because the knee jerk at the end of every party is to think about the mess that’s coming, I think I’ll mention it.

Perhaps this is a long way of saying I don’t think it’s another situation where we have to call the Hazmat team to clean up the exploded financial mess in the fridge.

But I think the thing that we’re putting to rest isn’t a catastrophe, but nostalgia itself.

For the first time in 30 years. It’s different now. You don’t need to doubt the irrelevance of the analogues. You have day to day proof of their irrelevance whenever you use a chatbot.

Things are fresh. Truly fresh. And will continue to be.