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Grimes Wants to Be Less Famous (and Replaced by AI)

Aug 9, 2023 7:00 AM

Grimes Wants to Be Less Famous (and Replaced by AI)

C, better known as Grimes, talks with us on Have a Nice Future about everything from AI-generated music and art to education and politics—and about the idea of “traditional masculinity.”

Photo of Grimes in a black blazer with short blond hair
Photo-illustration: WIRED Staff; Sam Cannon

ON THIS WEEK’S episode of Have a Nice Future, Gideon Lichfield and Lauren Goode are joined by c, or as she is more widely known, Grimes. Earlier this year, she launched Elf.tech, a website where her fans can use AI to build their own Grimes songs based on her vocals and stems. They talk about why c wants to push the boundaries of AI art and why, despite being a techno-optimist at heart, she’s worried about our AI future.

Check out the Big Interviewwith c by Steven Levy in the September issue of WIRED. If you missed our episode with Puja Patel, the editor in chief of Pitchfork, about the new wave of generative AI in music—and AI-generated Drake—you can catch up here. We also have plenty more stories about all things artificial intelligence.

Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Gideon Lichfield is @glichfield. Bling the main hotline at @WIRED.

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Note: This is an automated transcript, which may contain errors.

Gideon: I hate the fact that I start every sentence with “so.” This is so—it's so unimaginative!

Lauren: Hi, I’m Lauren Goode.

Gideon: And I’m Gideon Lichfield. And this is Have a Nice Future, a podcast about how terrifyingly fast everything is changing.

Lauren: Each week we talk to someone with big, audacious, and sometimes unnerving ideas about the future, and we ask them how we can all prepare to live in it.

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Gideon: Our guest this week is the musician c, or as she's better known, Grimes. You'll hear us refer to her as both in this episode. This past spring, she launched Elf.Tech, where her fans could create music with an AI-generated version of her voice and sound.


Grimes (archival audio): I'm interested in being less famous. I am interested in making more complicated art for, like, a smaller audience that is more interested in, sort of like, more philosophically driven, more complicated art that's maybe less, has less pop appeal. Like, I just wanna do things that haven't been done before. More than I wanna, like, have a hit or something.

Lauren: So our superfans might remember that a couple of months ago we were talking to Puja Patel, the editor in chief of Pitchfork, about the new wave of generative AI in music and how everyone was freaking out about AI-generated Drake. Now, behind the scenes, we were also trying to get ahold of c, because we thought that her insights would be really valuable, and we have finally gotten her on the show.

Gideon: We also, by the way, have an interview with her by Steven Levy in the September issue of WIRED, which just went up online on WIRED.com this week.

Lauren: That's right. And we wanted to talk to c on the podcast because she is an artist who is embracing AI rather than running scared from it.

Gideon: Right. So she put her own music and voice online and said to her fans, basically, “Do whatever you want with it.” And if that sounds a little out there, well, that kind of sums up the conversation you're about to hear. We also talked a lot about the practical applications of AI.

Lauren: Yeah, she talks a lot about LLMs, or large language models, which is the foundation of this new era of AI. And she’s generally optimistic, but we also heard a little bit about areas where she's concerned about AI. And I think her perspective is especially interesting here, because she’s more steeped in this tech than some other artists. She’s even spending time at tech companies these days, kind of incubating ideas. And famously, of course, she is raising two kids with Elon Musk.

Gideon: Our conversation, as you might expect, went in a lot of different directions. We talked about art, education, politics, and the nature of masculinity.

Lauren: Yeah, that last one was a real surprise. But before we get to the interview, a little bit of business. We want to hear from you. We really do. We read the reviews. We have an email address. You can email us at nicefuture@WIRED.com, or just leave us some notes on your favorite podcast app. Tell us what you want to hear more of. Tell us what you don't like. We can take it, we're grown-ups here. But just drop us a line. We love hearing from our listeners.

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Gideon: And with that out of the way, our conversation with C is coming up right after this break.


Gideon: OK. Well, c, the artist also known as Grimes, welcome to Have a Nice Future.

Grimes: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Lauren: Are you having a nice future?

Grimes: Uh, I'm actually having a pretty good future. I'm not sure everyone is having a good future, which I feel bad about, but, like, I'm having a good future personally.

Lauren: What do you mean by that?

Grimes: Uh, I think people are very stressed, and not unreasonably so, but I, I am fairly optimistic. Um, yes. I'm more optimistic, actually, than I was a few years ago.

Gideon: Well, we wanted to talk to you because you seem, at least kind of like, the epitome of the techno optimist in the arts. Because when that fake-Drake/The Weeknd song dropped—the AI-generated one—your reaction wasn't to freak out like everybody else, but it was sort of the exact opposite. You said, “I want people to do that to my music.” And you launched the site Elf.Tech, which lets people use your voice and your stems to make their own AI-generated music. So where did that instinct come from to, like, run headlong into the scary new thing?

Grimes: Well, I feel like there's a few things. One of the reasons I didn't feel a crazy amount of concern is that the music industry is jarringly, I would say pathologically, litigious. So I was like, you know, this isn't actually a threat to people, because like the powers that be will not actually let this become that destructive of a force, like this is gonna be—it’s not hard to issue take-downs on stuff like this. I've always hated how litigious the music industry is. It's, it's always been one of the things I hate about it the most, but I, I think it's really good for AI, because I think it's gonna artificially slow down how AI is used—and especially generative stuff—is used in music specifically. It's sort of the perfect industry to run case studies, because we're just gonna have a bit more time than everybody else.

Lauren: You must have been thinking about using AI in music for a while before, you know, the sort of attention that came to the Drake and The Weeknd mashup, right? Like, how long have you been thinking about this for?

Grimes: Oh, we actually tried to do this like in 2019, or something like this. Uh, we, the technology just wasn't available, but we always kind of wanted to opensource Grimes. It just wasn't technically possible before, but that, that's been, that's something we've been actively trying to figure out for a long time, actually.

Lauren: I think that there's this conception that there isn't much artistry involved in creating AI music tracks. Like people think, uh, you know, it's like DALL-E, like you just type in a prompt and there's like some “beep bop bop” robot music happens and then like, bam, you have a fake Grimes song. How does it actually work?

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Grimes: Yeah. So the, one of the big things that I really care about is like, I really think humans, like, we need to work, you know, we need to challenge ourselves. We don't learn if we don't do that. I'm kind of against, like, just pure generative AI. I think maybe there's some utility to it, but I think we need to, like, think about that very carefully. But, uh, the way this works, specifically, it's, it's more like a synthesizer. Like if you have a vocal track, you can change the timbre of it. So it uses, like, the vocal timbre of my voice instead of your voice. So you can take any a capella and have the Grimes vocal. But the way this works is people are still writing and producing, and even singing, these songs. They're just basically switching their voice to my voice.

Lauren: What has surprised you most about what's been made using AI Grimes so far?

Grimes: There's a couple songs that are like, I really, really, really wish I made them. And those are the ones that surprised me the most where I was just like, it's so bizarre. It's, it's like, you know, I've been talking about making like, Viking techno, like ethereal Viking techno, for a long time, and I've personally tried and just failed at that quite a few times.

Gideon: Ethereal Viking techno. I wanna hear this now.


Lauren: Yeah. Is there a category for that on Spotify?

Grimes: Yeah, no, and, but it was just like, it was so crazy 'cause it was like, they made this thing. Like, just like the people who made it, just, they have certain skills both in terms of like techno production and in terms of like, how like, the girl who sang it has sort of like, obviously is trained in some kind of like whatever Celtic-y Viking singing style that I am not trained in. And like, they made something that was, I was like, “Oh my god, I wish I made this so bad.” But then I was like, this is exactly like—the reason this is great is like I would have to go learn and study all this shit in order to make this, and I, I, I don't know, like I—it just really blew me away. Like I was, I was extremely moved by it actually. It was sort of like, it felt like, like if you feel proud of your kid or something, it's like your legacy doing something like, I don't know, like I felt like the crying grandparent as my kid that sort of like takes on the family business or something. Like, it was just interesting to see someone do, like, a better version of thing I've been aiming at.

Gideon: Do you think that Elf.Tech is something that other artists will use, or, you know, something like it, this idea of licensing their voice and, and their, their stems to the public? Or is it more like a one-off stunt that you did because you were the first? Because, I guess the reason I'm asking is it seems like there's gonna be a limited appetite for what's essentially music fan fiction. And I don’t know how many artists are going to feel like it's worth it to them to do it, or how many listeners are gonna feel like they—they want to create and listen to that stuff, but I could be wrong.

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Grimes: I think it's really hard to say. I think like, uh, I feel like if—I wish Drake/The Weeknd did it, because I think if a really big artist did it—it sort of like makes more sense to do it with a bigger artist than me, because then if someone did write a legitimate hit it, it sort of like, I don't know, it just has more, kind of like legs inherently. I'm curious to see. We haven't actually done any promotion of the fan stuff yet, and we're just kind of like organizing it and sorting it. So I'm curious what happens when we actually do go through the promotional process with it, 'cause some of it is, like, very good.

Lauren: Does that feel at all threatening to you? Or why doesn't it feel threatening that someone is making art using your voice that you—you haven't made yet?

Grimes: I don't know if I super wanna continue with music a ton. I don’t know if you've followed the whole Grimes cycle, but like—

Lauren: Mm-hmm.


Grimes: I am like a very controversial figure on the internet, and I would actually rather be, like, probably less famous? Like I wanna get more into sort of, like, performance art stuff like this and like the tech side of things. And, you know, Grimes was always sort of more about performance art and, and more about how, like, interfacing with technology than just like fun songs anyway. It's always sort of been like about whatever the limit of technology is and like what I can do with that. My like identity isn't necessarily super tied to like Grimes as a musical artist. I think my identity is more tied to, like, whatever Grimes is in a performance art way. And I'm sort of like—

Lauren: It sounds like you're in a reinvention stage.

Grimes: Yeah, like I, I, I, I, I'm interested in being less famous. I, I am interested in making more complicated art for like a smaller audience that is more interested in sort of, like, more philosophically driven, more complicated art that is maybe less—has less pop appeal. Like, I just wanna do things that haven't been done before more than I wanna, like, have a hit.

Gideon: Let's talk a bit more about, then, the kind—the broader role of AI in art. So, um, when you spoke to our colleague, Steven Levy, who interviewed you for the magazine, he's—one of the things you said to him was, “What's exciting to me about AI is that it's truly fucking with what an artist is and what creativity is and what music is. Art seems fundamental to the human experience to me.” But, at the same time, you also said that you wanted to be, I think—what was the word?—a self-replicating artist replicated by AI, and that you think AI could replace human artists. So where, where do you come down—where, what is the relationship between the AI and the human creator?

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Grimes: I, I think a lot of people think it's like on or off; yes or no; AI replaces all the artists, or it doesn't. Part of what I'm doing, it's not necessarily, like—it's approaching it very amorally and it's approaching it more as an experiment. Where is this destructive? Where is it positive? I, I think one of the biggest dangers of AI right now is—I'm less concerned about, like, an AI, super-intelligence taking over the world than I am about LLMs basically completely disincentivizing anyone from ever learning how to write again, and, like, our relationship with language being fundamentally damaged forever.

Gideon: Yeah. I think that's what we worry about more as well.

Grimes: Yeah. Like, like and um, you know, the way people, like, would jailbreak the early LLMs and sort of, like, push them to do bad or dangerous things so that we could figure out where the stops and the safeties need to be—

Lauren: Mm-hmm.

Grimes: Like, I kind of want to do dangerous art things and see where it's actually damaging.

Gideon: Like, what—what would be an example of a dangerous art thing?

Grimes: I think it's possible that generative music—fully generative music—could be really bad. It could be really good too though. But, like, I want to, like, take a generation before we just, like, release all this generative art stuff. Like if you have a thing where you can press a button, it's like Midjourney, and you can just be like, “I want this kind of song.” And it's trained on all the music ever made and it just churns out the best music you've ever heard. At what point are we just totally cucking ourselves as a species? Like I feel like, you know, it's like AI is gonna solve parts of science and medicine that like, would just take us forever or we might not even be able to solve, or, you know, it's just sheer amounts of like data processing that like, like would take people years and years to do if we could even do it. Like that makes sense to me. Fundamentally just replacing artists? That seems like something where it's just like, why?

Lauren: Hmm.

Grimes: I think it's valuable to search for the limits of creativity. You know, I'm not saying we shouldn't build these tools, but I'm saying, maybe these tools should be in museums, or maybe these tools should only output, like, really low quality music so that we still need to know how to make music. We still need to have agency in the process. Like we can generate something and get—get cool ideas, but like, you still have to go back and, like, recreate it if you wanna professionally release it.

Lauren: It sounds like you do actually have moral concerns about it, though. Like you say you're—you're not approaching it morally, you're approaching it experimentally. You used the word stressed a few times at the start of this podcast, it really jumped out at me. That's not saying you're stressed, but that people are stressed about technology and its implications and—and you feel pretty strongly that if we just had totally AI-generated music, that would be a bad thing. Or if kids were not learning how to write because LLMs were doing all the work, that that would be bad. I mean, that is assigning a moral value to this technology, right? And that seems to be actually quite a consideration for you as you're exploring it.

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Grimes: So, OK. So here's the complicated thing. I think it's also wrong to not experiment and see, but yeah, like what I'm saying is like I—I think the technology should exist, but I think it should maybe be something you can't just have at home. You know what I mean? I just think there should be limits to how it's used. Like I don't know if LLMs should be something that kids have access to. Or maybe we have LLMs, but I'm not sure we should be making LLMs that are like Shakespeare. Like, a big debate I keep having, because I have a friend who's working on making like the greatest writer ever, and I'm like, why do you wanna make the greatest writer ever? Like, why do we wanna—

Lauren: The greatest writer LLM, you mean? Like a model?

Grimes: Yeah, yeah. Like, like why, why do we wanna make—why do we wanna make 10X Shakespeare? Like why do we wanna take that away from humans? Especially because I feel like language specifically is like—we've co-evolved with it. Language is a very different thing from solving science. Language is a part of us. We need it to survive. The metaphor I always use is it's like our mitochondria. Like mitochondria isn't part of us. It doesn't share our DNA, but it's a—we have a symbiotic relationship with it. It lives in our bodies and we need it to survive. And language is, is sort of similar and I just feel like before we fundamentally change our relationship with the thing that actually makes us human, we should do more research, we should do tests. We should think very, very, very, very carefully about that.

Lauren: I wanna get back to something that happened shortly after you launched Elf.Tech. You originally had put no limits on what people could make with your stems, but pretty soon afterwards you had to put out a disclaimer saying you didn't want toxic lyrics. I mean, you were basically making a plea for decency on the internet. You know, no Nazi anthems. You did remark—unless it's somehow in jest—you were really asking people not to be assholes. I mean, what responsibility, one, do you think that you have to try to stop them as a person who created a platform, and where do you think that line should actually be drawn, you know, around people who are using—or potentially abusing—something like a music generation platform?

Grimes: I think it's more about the experiment. Like, I actually think deepfakes should potentially be illegal. Like, I actually think we might just not need them. There might actually not be a utility in sort of, like, using the Grimes voice. I just don't see a massively huge upside, but I see quite a bit of downside with deepfakes across the board—visual, audio, whatever. It can cause a lot of unrest—political unrest.

Lauren: So you're taking a really hard line. You're saying deepfakes should just not be legal. They should not be allowed.

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Grimes: I’m not entirely sure. I just think it's—it's worth considering. Or, like, the other thing is that it just should be really consent oriented. What I do like is—you know, potentially making, for example, an LLM that is trained on everything Aristotle ever wrote and like, you know, I don't know, if I was 18 and I could just go sit and ask Aristotle questions for hours, that might be a really good thing. I don't know if you would quite call that a deepfake at that point, but if you had like an LLM that's trained on like all the greatest thinkers of all time and, like, it's a personalized professor that you have at home, and instead of doing the regular school system, you do, like, online school and your teacher is, you know, Leibnitz and Nietzsche and frickin’, like, I don't know, just like all the great minds of all time.

Gideon: We're taking note of which philosophers you were mentioning, you know, just—


Grimes: I feel like there's something—there's also potential for, like, massive upside. Like imagine, every child could have access to the greatest teacher ever. And, um, you know, I, I think there's a lot of sort of AI education, uh, potential that's like really, really, really cool.

Lauren: In an ideal world, like what would that school look like? What's the focus?

Grimes: I think, mostly about community building. And, creating a social network for our kids that's, like, really positive with families that think differently. I was having such a hard time until I started finding other families with parents who are more like me. I feel like the first year of having a kid was like one of the most difficult, fucked years of my life. And then as I started, you know, really bonding and, like, making better friends—like finally finding parents that I can actually relate to and stuff—it just became so clear that it's like, it's supposed to be a communal, tribal thing. I think something really interesting happened with the boomers where, like, in many ways they had a necessary break from the culture before—you know, and like the sexual revolution and all the stuff that happened—and there's a lot of stuff about the past where, like, a lot of people were like, yeah, like, the way society has always been, like, we need to change it. We need to change the way things are about race. We need to change the way things are about gender. Like, we need to just change a lot of fundamentals. But in many ways I think we lost a lot of, like, culture that everyone can agree on. And a lot of ways the culture used to be didn't make room for everyone, and so people understandably had issue with them, but I think one of the most important things we can do right now is decide to rebuild culture. Now that we've sort of, like, exploded everything and, like, pulled everything apart and, and we're sort of like reevaluating almost every aspect of the way we approach morals and education and literally everything—we can't align AI until we align ourselves and we are super not aligned. Humans are super not aligned right now.

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Gideon: I hear you navigating a kind of, I guess, a broad political space. I hear you talking like someone who is part of both left and right political groupings. You know, you obviously—a lot of the people that you hang out with in Silicon Valley, or around Elon, are libertarians or conservatives, and then there's a lot of progressives as well, and from the backgrounds that you habitually hang out in, I'm guessing. So am I right that I see youth trying to thread together different political viewpoints and think about how they can be integrated?

Grimes: Yes. I really think one of our biggest issues right now is the polarization. Like, I refuse to be left or right. Like, you know, like, I'm—I'm scared about what we're doing to young men and the discourse around men right now.

Lauren: What part scares you?

Grimes: There are a lot of issues with like male toxicity, but like—like we're seriously, like we're just telling men they're evil for, like, things that they can't—like testosterone is like a crazy war drug. Like why can't there be a political platform that, like, makes space and room for—and honors—masculinity, like traditional masculinity, and like encourages it to be better in a constructive way, rather than, like, tearing it apart, that’s still is like into women's rights and access to abortion and trans rights. It’s like, why are these things dichotomous? Like—like why are they fighting each other? Like—

Lauren: What do you think is an effective way to do that though?

Grimes: I—I think for me, it's always about, like, the carrot and not the stick. What I would love to see is sort of, um, celebration of the good parts of masculinity. Like, how do you create a discourse that, like, encourages men to, like, push themselves and, like, be chivalrous? And like—like how do you romanticize, uh, a type of masculinity that is really respectful of women and supportive of discipline and like, I don't know, like all the shit everyone makes fun of, but like—

Gideon: I think I understand what you're trying to say again. I mean, it feels like you're saying, simply, the default way to criticize toxic masculinity is to try to take apart masculinity itself. And instead—

Grimes: I think that, I think that's, I think that's what happens with—what's happening too much, is like in our attempts to get rid of the things that have been so, so destructive, I think we're tearing apart masculinity as a whole.

Lauren: Should we do a rapid-fire round?

Gideon: Sure, I'll start off. What keeps you up at night?

Grimes: We have an education crisis across the board, like kind of globally.

Gideon Mm-hmm.

Grimes: Almost everything to do with how we raise kids.

Gideon: What makes you optimistic?

Grimes: Young people, kids. I see a lot of Gen Z stuff that's like scary and bad and traumatizing, but like every Gen Z person that I personally know, I'm just like, “Wow, fuck yeah. You are so sick. Oh my God. And like, so enlightened.” I mean, my kids, it's like, you realize humans are actually born really great. We just fuck ourselves up, but like we start out awesome. Like we start out like enlightened, and, like, you know, I—I think that gives me a lot of faith, that like the natural state of the human is, like, a—a pretty wonderful one.

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Lauren: Well, c, Grimes, this has been a really wide-ranging and fun conversation. Thank you.

Gideon: Thank you so much for joining us.

Grimes: Yeah. Thank you guys so much for making the time. Much appreciated.


Gideon: Lauren, I found talking to Grimes kind of a trip, I have to say. I don't know what exactly I was expecting, but I think I was expecting this kind of running headlong into the future, let's just embrace AI in all its forms sort of thing, and what struck me that came out of that was a really rather nuanced set of thoughts around what we should and should not be using AI for.

Lauren: I mean, I think that when you interview—let's call her a celebrity, because she is a celebrity—there's a little bit of a danger, and perhaps it's the same when you interview a top tech executive, in treating them like an oracle. Like anything they say must be the future of AI. And I think what this conversation underscored for me is that she's figuring it out as she goes along just like the rest of us. Like it's somewhat encouraging that the person who has been at the forefront of this “if you can't beat 'em, join 'em” movement for AI music is also a little bit confused about where it might go. She's still an optimist, but she has real concerns, although it also seemed like her concerns are less about music, because she's kind of reinventing herself outside of music, and she's more worried about education in the broader sense and in the classroom sense.

Gideon: The tie that I saw between these two things is that she was warning of the risk that large language models could just make us stupid, because whether they're generating music from scratch or whether they're shortcutting the writing process, it's too easy to rely on them—to lean on them to do jobs that we needed previously to learn skills for. And so in education, she was saying, I want my child to be able to read and write and learn to use language in that very deep way that we've all, up to this point, had to learn to use it, because otherwise we're just not well equipped to navigate the world.

Lauren: It's interesting, though, because I thought that when she was talking about the future of education, that's when she started to contradict herself a little bit. And, to be fair, this is really complex stuff that a lot of us are trying to figure out. But just as an example, she asked, “Why do we want to make a Shakespeare AI? Why would we want to make a large language model that is the world's best writer?” But then, in another part of the conversation, she mentioned having a Nietzsche AI or a Newton AI available in classrooms to teach kids.

Gideon: I actually didn't see a contradiction there, because I thought she was saying we don't want to create a Shakespeare AI that generates perfect works of drama and poetry because then we're really just taking away all human creativity. But the idea of an AI that you can interact with as a teaching tool is actually very different, and I love the idea of having something that is well-trained enough to engage in Socratic dialog with you and force you, as a young person, to examine your assumptions, asks you questions about the things you've said, it does that kind of practice that, in fact, teachers mostly don't have time to do with kids because of classroom sizes. That is a very, very different thing from asking something to write better works than Shakespeare or better songs than Bob Dylan.

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Lauren: I think what some of this brings up in my mind is—I'm looking forward to this inevitable next stage of us talking about AI, where we're no longer talking about LLMs endlessly, because then the LLMs are just the foundational tech—it's a part of AI—and we're talking about these topics like art, like education, like copyright, that I think are just more important conversations to be having right now.

Gideon: I think that c is drawing interesting distinctions between uses of LLMs, rather than saying LLMs good or LLMs bad, but it sounds like she's also struggling to figure out what the rules should be. I don't—I don't know the answer to that either. I'm not sure if we can create rules. That's part of the difficulty here.

Lauren: Right. And that applies to content moderation too, because, you know, in some ways her platform, Elf.Tech, solves provenance, right? Which is this idea of, like, understanding where the material is coming from when it's being used in AI-generated art. But the idea that someone could then take those tracks and use her voice to make a Nazi anthem, and then the question around who ultimately is responsible for moderating that, is still an unanswered question.

Gideon: And she didn’t really answer that question when you tried to ask her that.

Lauren: No. And my instinct says that she is somewhat responsible for that. But then if someone shares that track to YouTube, then does it become YouTube's problem? And is her platform just the tool where it was created? And can you really assign responsibility to the tool? It's a really sticky question. And yeah, she didn't really seem to have an answer, you know. And so I do—I do see her struggle a little bit with like, it—it seems like both her own identity of who she wants to be on the internet and if she even wants to be as present on the internet, but also as she's putting art out to the world, what the boundaries are around that art.

Gideon: She also said, “I actually think deepfakes should potentially be illegal.” And then she seemed to backtrack on that. It seems a very, very fuzzy question here. What do you think—should deepfakes be illegal?

Lauren: That did kind of open up this portal into my brain of like, oh yeah, why do we want deepfakes in society? Like every technology, there are ways in which it could be used as a tool for good, but, like, generally, when I think about something like the Nancy Pelosi slurring speech video—which wasn't even a deepfake, it was just using technology to slow her speech and make her sound intoxicated. We’re entering a really, really charged political era at this moment, and, and deepfakes are absolutely going to be abused. So when she said that, I was like, oh yeah. Should we be taking a harder line on deepfakes?

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Gideon: Well, I don't think we should. It's precisely this problem that, as with so many of these technologies, once you try to ban either a technology itself or a use of a technology such as deepfakes, you run into endless edge cases where banning it for a particular purpose seems unnecessarily censorious. So I'm not sure that you can draw any clear lines around what is and isn't allowed—either as far as a technology goes, or even a specific application of that technology.

Lauren: So we should probably talk about masculinity. Which is something I didn't think I would necessarily say on the Have a Nice Future podcast, but here we are. You asked her a pretty thoughtful question about her politics and the people she hangs out with and how it seems like she's trying to thread a needle here. And then she started talking about masculinity and how she's essentially worried about men. What did you make of her—her response to you?

Gideon: I thought it was interesting that she picked up on masculinity as the issue to illustrate why she doesn't identify with either left or right. And I identify with what she's saying. There was an opinion column in The Washington Post from a few weeks ago that I read, by Christine Emba, where she talks about the fact that there is a sense of young men not having good masculine role models. And as a result, right wingers like Jordan Peterson are stepping into the gap and dominating the discourse around what masculinity is supposed to look like. And that's fueling these extreme debates, these extreme culture wars. And one of the things that occurred to me when I was thinking about that is that, as a gay man, I feel there are actually much better role models for gay men in how to be masculine in ways that are not toxic. And I think that's because in the gay community, there is a sort of more of a tradition of intergenerational mentorship and relationships that give younger people an example of what it is like to be an older man who behaves in a decent way.

Lauren: I thought it was really notable that she brought up male toxicity and men's rights when you asked that question about politics, because choosing that topic in itself is political. It is such a lightning-rod issue. It honestly made me wish I could be a fly on the wall in her conversations about this with, say, Elon Musk.

Gideon: And even though we didn't ask her about her relationship with Elon Musk in this interview, Steven Levy did in the interview that is published on WIRED.com this week, and you can read about it there.

Lauren: So Gideon, do you think that you're going to start listening to more ethereal Viking techno music?

Gideon: I want to know what ethereal Viking techno music is, but it made me think of Sinead O'Connor, and I have been listening to more Sinead O'Connor recently.

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Lauren: How did that make you think of Sinead O'Connor?

Gideon: Because I think it was the ethereal part. There was something about her voice that—that just comes through the mist and makes me think of sad and distant lands. And that's maybe what I—I dunno what ethereal Viking techno music is. Maybe I should do a Spotify search for it.

Lauren: My other podcast cohost, Michael, has recommended Swedish psych-pop to me, which I started listening to this weekend. So I'm not quite into ethereal Viking techno yet, but I'm working my way there. I'm pretty sure the algorithms are going to start recommending it to me soon enough.

Gideon: Alright, well when you find some good stuff, let me know what it is.

Lauren: Well when we find some good stuff, we should probably let c know what it is.

Gideon: Ah, absolutely. That's right. She said she was looking for it.

Lauren: Maybe it'll even be hers.

Gideon: That's our show for today. Thank you for listening. If you want to hear more from c, or Grimes, you can check out her interview with Steven Levy online at WIRED.com.

Lauren:Have a Nice Future is hosted by me, Lauren Goode.

Gideon: And me, Gideon Lichfield. If you like the show, you should tell us, leave us a rating and a review wherever you get your podcasts, and don't forget to subscribe so you can get new episodes each week.

Lauren: You can also email us at nicefuture@WIRED.com.

Gideon:Have a Nice Future is a production of Condé Nast Entertainment. Danielle Hewitt from Prologue Projects produces the show. Our assistant producer is Arlene Arevelo.

Lauren: We'll be back here next Wednesday, and until then, have a nice future.

Movement direction: Quenton Stuckey; AI backgrounds: Sam Cannon; lighting design: Frank Rios; lighting assist: Jack Duffy; digital tech: Logan Bingham; PA: Bobbin Singh; production design: Wesley Goodrich; styling: Turner/The Wall Group; styling assist: Joey Sigala; hair: Preston Wada/Rare Creatives; hair assist: Amy Ruiz; SFX MUA: Malina Stearns; SFX MUA assist: Sasha Glasser; MUA: Alexandra French/Forward Artists; MUA assist: Kayli Rachelle Davis; nails: Stephanie Stone/Forward Artists; XR Studios; SN37.*

Grimes: top and pants by Sami Miro Vintage.

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Gideon Lichfield is the editor in chief of all editions of WIRED. He left the UK in 1998, citing an aversion to beer, Marmite, and football soccer, and lived in Mexico City, Moscow, and Jerusalem before moving to the US. He was previously editor in chief of MIT Technology Review,… Read more
Global Editorial Director

Lauren Goode is a senior writer at WIRED covering consumer tech issues. She focuses on the intersection of new technologies and humanity, often through experiential or investigative personal essays. Her coverage areas include communications apps, trends in commerce, AR and VR, subscription services, data and device ownership, and how Silicon… Read more
Senior Writer

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