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courtesy of Newlife.AI

The AI-driven social media network hailed as the next Tumblr

New Life.AI is the cryptocurrency powered platform with a stamp of approval from creatives worldwide

Imagine a social media network powered entirely by aesthetics – no ads, no sponsored posts, no data being sold to faceless conglomerates, and certainly no censorship (looking at you, Instagram). Sounds too good to be true; in this post-capitalist society, really? But New Life.AI is just that. Hailed as the ‘new Tumblr’, the cyberpunk-looking app is like Blade Runner with a buffer time; a decentralised platform for and governed by its users, powered by a mysterious force called New Power. Admittedly, it all sounds a bit Black Mirror, but with a fan base comprising of everyone who’s anyone in the net art know-how, including JohwskaInes AlphaAllan Berger, and Virgen María, it’s worth digging into.

The futuristic app is targeted at artists, designers, tech people, crypto-nerds, and everything in between. It was founded by net artist and general tech dude Vector Newman (that’s his New Life name) and is supported by a network of Internet pioneers, including V-files’ Preston Chaunsumlit. It claims to be the first social media platform to convert our ability to create and curate content – something that Newman refers to as Aesthetic Quotient or AQ – “finding patterns between different things people find beautiful” – into real-world currency. Afterall, building an economy controlled entirely by aesthetics is so post-internet. “There is no boss, no executives. As the founder, I'm federating people but eventually I want this project to be owned and driven by the community,” Newman tells Dazed, whose name alone sounds like the alias of an Internet overlord.

The app itself is divided into eight video game-style levels. “This format is best for us because creativity requires a mood that should be relaxed and exciting,” Newman says. Each level unlocks a different function on the app. For example, level one is the voting booth where users are presented with various posts from across the network (think edgy Instagram filtorials and VR fembots) and invited to rate the quality of the content by pressing down on the screen: the longer you press the higher the vote. This number is measured against other users through an AI-powered system, sort of like an aesthetic hive mind. The more you vote with the community, the more Newpoints you gain. The more Newpoints you gain, the more features are unlocked, the more weight your votes have in the cultural ecosystem, and the more air-time given to your content. There’s even a HAL 9000-style chatbot that you can speak to – though TBH it’s been over a day since it last spoke to me, so I’m pretty sure I’ve been ghosted.

Each point you gain is then converted into a cryptocurrency (stay with me) called New Coin, a blockchain that functions in a similar way to Bitcoin. “The value of the Newcoin is measured by the curation, the trust and the creativity of the users of the app,” explains Newman. In short, the idea is to create a currency that can be used all across the world “so that a user from Sri Lanka can vote for content posted by a Mexican user and some microscopic value units will flow between the two and bounce onto everyone else,” he explains.

The long-term goal, he adds, is for creatives outside of the world’s key metropolitan areas to have the same opportunities as, say, someone in London, Paris, or New York. “Right now, my main project is focusing on building bridges with countries that are not traditionally included in the global creative ecosystem, working with music labels and film studios in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Mali,” he continues. “We also work with a board of AI experts in order to optimise the algorithms.”

Sure, this all sounds über utopian, but what’s to say this isn’t just another fad for hypebeasts and edgelords? At times, the whole thing sounds like it’s come out of a buzzword generator: “artificial intelligence!” “cryptocurrency!” “cyberspace!” –  even the logo, a y2K interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”, feels all too current. Yet Newman argues that New Life.AI is necessary to seizing the creative means of production from the suited man in Silicon Valley. “Most tech giants are working according to the standard of the stock market valuation and advertising agencies, which is based on engagement, the daily active users being plugged to their screen,” says Newman. “Social networks considered that the free access to their platform was enough in exchange for all the work of producing, liking and sharing. Some brands made great profit out of them but there was no compensation for all those great minds working collectively to build it.”

In this sense, New Life.AI offers a metaverse of new possibilities for young creatives to collaborate with others across the world and receive full compensation for their so-called capital goods.

Then again – and I’m not sure whether it’s the AI, the crypto-jargon, or the collective rating system – there are moments on New Life.AI that feel like that bit like the opening third of a techno-thriller, right before the cyberbrain takes over, shit gets real, and everyone dies. After all, if we’ve learnt anything from sci-fi landmarks like 2001: Space OdysseyAlphaville, Pierce Brosnan’s Ultrahouse in The Simpsons, and basically every episode of Black Mirror minus maybe San Junipero, it’s that autonomous computer systems are a big fat (highlighted and underlined) no. But pop culture paranoia aside, New Life.AI sounds… good? Who wouldn’t want to get full recognition for their work? In the words of its creator: “It’s now time to distribute this power across the globe to whoever wants it.”