The HBO sitcom “Silicon Valley” may hinge on fictional technology, concocted by the show’s co-creator Mike Judge and its showrunner Alec Berg, but if that tech actually makes waves, Judge and Berg may go down as geniuses.
In a recent New Yorker article examining just how thorough “Silicon Valley” creators and writers are about building their fake world, writer Andrew Marantz offered a revealing detail from the show’s head consultant, Jonathan Dotan.
Dotan was remarking on an idea Judge and Berg floated to him one day in the writers’ room. They wondered if so-called “middle-out” compression was a viable way to make really big files, like 4K video, much smaller. Typical compression methods were either top-down or bottom-up.
Dotan took the question to Stanford engineers Tsachy Weissman and Vinith Misra. Rather than laugh it off, the experts mulled it over.
Eventually, Weissman published a paper on the topic. And a couple years later, in 2015, Misra published a paper of his own on “middle-out compression,” the breakthrough concept that scores the show’s main character, Richard Hendricks, his big career breakthrough in season one.
“Clearly, middle-out compression doesn’t work as well as it does on the show,” Dotan told Marantz. “If it did, we’d all be trillionaires. But we do have an arrangement where, if Tsachy and Vinith ever perfect it, Mike and Alec will share the Nobel Prize with them.”
Middle-out compression, however viable it may be, is probably the least plausible part of “Silicon Valley.” In his piece, Marantz notes that 200 consultants are on-hand to ensure every document, whiteboard, negotiation, and board meeting are staged to mimic the real Silicon Valley.
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