To Infinity and Beyond

Or how a ten-hour loop of Daft Punk signals the coming post-scarcity economy.


A couple of weeks ago, French electronica duo Daft Punk teased their new album with a 30-second ad that aired during Saturday Night Live. Soon after, a YouTube video appeared that took the audio, looped it, and extended it to five minutes. Then an hour-long version appeared. Then a ten-hour version, which is the maximum length video YouTube allows.

I listened to about two hours of the Daft Punk loop, while doing dishes, eating dinner, and finishing a little writing. Over the course of those two hours, the song began to take different shapes. The repetition was hypnotic. I sort of loved it.

The ten-hour video meme has been around since shortly after YouTube upped the length limit in June 2011. If YouTube increases that limit to twenty hours, expect twenty-hour videos to pop up just as quickly. It’s not unthinkable to imagine a hundred or thousand or million-hour-long video. The point isn’t the length, but to push the limits of what’s possible.

I’m fascinated by the absurdity of hyper-long YouTube videos. They illustrate a sense of scale that exists almost exclusively in a digital space. It’s bit like gawking at the impressive things players build in the sandbox game Minecraft. While the internet exists in very real, physical locations, in many ways the web allows us a glimpse into a post-scarcity universe: a place where resources cost nothing and things can be replicated infinitely.

Even in the real world, we’re approaching something not too different from that. I was at South by Southwest Interactive recently, where Bre Pettis, CEO of Makerbot, showed off a relatively inexpensive 3D printer that could replicate just about any object with impressive accuracy. What the Makerbot does now is crude, but only four years ago, it was just a working prototype. Now they have a surprisingly inexpensive product on the market. Imagine what 3D printing will be able to do five years from now, or ten, or a hundred.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Right now we just have ten-hours of Daft Punk to fathom.

10 Hours of Daft Punk Equals…

13⅓ – 33⅓ rpm LPs

13 – 8-track tapes

10 – cassette tapes

7½ – audio compact discs

Kevin Nguyen is a founding editor of The Bygone Bureau. His only marketable skill is an above-average knowledge of European geography. He has been useless since the introduction of the atlas in 1477. Reach him by email or follow his Twitter account.