Sometime back in the early 2000s I had an article published in what was, at the time, the premier Tai Chi magazine, T’ai Chi Magazine. It was American, but you could find it in the UK in newsagents like WHSmiths and in martial arts shops. I was reminded of it recently and dug it out of my archive. Here it is! I looked a lot younger back then…
I remember being really excited that I got this article published. It’s hard to imagine now, but beyond your instructor or random seminar big wig in your town, T’ai Chi Magazine was one of the only ways to get information about Tai Chi before the Internet took over everything. It was run by its Editor, Marvin Smalheiser, who sadly passed away in 2016.
Whenever you dig out something from the past it’s a good opportunity to reflect on how things have changed. T’ai Chi Magazine was run to a pretty high standard, the images it published were always good, and many of them were in colour. The articles were generally of the interview type and provided a little glimpse into the T’ai Chi world for fanatic followers, who would look at the articles for hours, trying to work out what a particular pose could be for, or how the featured practitioner was doing something. Then VHS video came along and made still images irrelevant, since you could actually see the applications being done (a lot of the pages in T’ai Chi Magazine were dedicated to advertising VHS videos of forms and styles, mainly from China). And later online video sites like YouTube came along and made VHS look antiquated.
Considering the latest developments in AI it looks like our future will consist of an AI-generated person teaching us Tai Chi forms with no credit to the sources it stole it from, and probably teaching the moves wrong anyway. I’m not sure that technology is always moving us forward. You can imagine the fear that the first Tai Chi instructors had that if they put images of their form in a book it could be stolen from them. These days, it’s not only going to be stolen by AI, but it’s going to be manipulated into something else entirely!
You can imagine the prompts now:
“Alexa, teach me a Tai Chi form that lasts for 10 minutes and exercises all my major muscle groups”.
“Sure, here you go Graham.”
A video (or hologram?) of Alexa will then start teaching you some ‘follow along’ series of Tai Chi movements it’s magicked up out of thin air, with no credit to where it got them from, and slightly wrong.
And the worst thing will be, it’s probably exactly what people want.