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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Jan 29, 2024

On this episode of Unsupervised Learning Razib talks to David Lightbringer, a YouTube content creator who focuses on the world of The Game of Thrones and the mythologies of ancient peoples. Though Lightbringer writes essays, and distributes his thoughts via podcast (and you can also read his views in short-form on numerous topics via his tweets on X), his primary platform is his YouTube channel. Lightbringer’s videos, range across topics as diverse as “Harappans, Aryans, and the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex: Indian Origins” to “The Grey King: Secret PreHistory of the Ironborn.” 

Two years ago, journalist and entrepreneur Antonio García Martínez declared that we were entering a new “age of orality.” By this, he meant that the primacy of text was declining in our culture, as younger generations preferentially consumed audio content over magazines. Perhaps Martínez could even have stipulated that this was the age of “audiovisuality.” Anyone producing podcast content knows that the “Zoomer” generation, those born after 1995, prefer not to subscribe to a feed proactively. Instead, they spend their days passively “consuming content” by leaving YouTube in the background at length. Nearly 40% of this generation spends four or more hours a day on social media, and 88% use YouTube. Lightbringer is part of this massive, new world of creators who produce history, literary and cultural commentary content for those who prefer hour-long documentaries or impassioned monologues to short clips of funny cat memes.

Razib and Lightbringer discuss his analytic method for producing secondary commentary on George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. Lightbringer points out that Martin has been explicit and open about his myriad literary influences, so filling in the “backstory” to the history and anthropology of his universe often involves detective work into its cultural roots, which go back to figures as diverse as J. R. R. Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft, as well as ancient motifs and primal archetypes drawn from the mythologies of varied cultures. The same methodologies we can use to analyze “real” mythology, religion and cultural history, can also be employed for fantastical literary worlds. Razib and Lightbringer also shine the light on the vast world of literature and history on YouTube, which is now the primary mode for many people’s autodidact pursuits. Razib argues for the value of text, while Lightbringer asserts that the visual aspect of YouTube documentaries allows for both greater accessibility and more informational richness.

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