The concept of High-Concept crystallized in Hollywood in 1980s: a movie whose idea is delivered by its title and whose plot can be explained in two sentences and understood by an eighth-grader. It is highly visual and has an appeal to all types of viewers, from retired army colonels to nurses and young university lecturers. You can entry this movie at any point of its narrative and enjoy it and have a good feeling at the end. All this however does not mean that high-concept movies are stupid and made for dummies – they are original, made in a thoughtful way and perfectly orchestrated. These movies are planed to be box-office bombs (“We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. Our obligation is to make money“, Don Simpson). Examples: “Top Gun” and “Jurassic Park”.
Low-concept movies are on the other side of spectrum: complex plots (sometimes completely opposite, so trivial that you cannot even pitch them, like “two guys are seating in a restaurant and talking”) and character-driven narratives. These movies are targeted to a specific audience, they are more demanding and often full of connotations to literature, art, and other movies. Prospects for commercial success are slim. Examples: “My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days” and “Faces”.
The High/Low concept has been extended to literature. It can also be extended to science: A high-concept paper is a scientific paper presenting exciting results which are explained by paper’s title and whose idea can be grasped by a commoner. Such paper gets good media coverage and journalists are happy to write about it. Example: “Washing Away Postdecisional Dissonance” (2010) and “Speech synthesis from neural decoding of spoken sentences” (2019). Low-concept papers: traditional scientific papers which can be comprehended by experts only. Examples: open a random issue of “Journal of Topology” and choose a random paper.
“Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor” (October, 2019) is a trickster, a low-concept wolf in a high-concept’s skin. The title tells about the message: Supremacy of quantum computers over classical ones is demonstrated. Media coverage: 375 News stories, 34 Blog posts, 6,026 Tweets and 9 Wikipedia mentions. It was in newspapers and magazines, it was discussed in podcasts. By now, many laypeople have heard of it.
But what is the content? How precisely the QS was demonstrated? What is the idea of the proof-of-concept experiment reported? Even physicists or IT experts are hardly able to get answers to these questions by reading the paper — because it is too cryptic, too demanding, too technical. It is a Klein bottle, a promise of a joy of learning something deep & exciting which turns to be a depressive demonstration of a growing gap between society and technology and shallowness of media hypes.