Rise of the Arts: The Road to Intellectual Capitalism
A bright future for creativity
Both within and outside the academic realm, those pursuing the arts or trying to develop an artistic career are not taken seriously and are often ridiculed. Art degree programs and ambitious scientific projects are being dropped left and right. It’s a shame that there is a lack of funding and genuine care for such initiatives, both at the governmental level and in the general public. This issue persists even where creative ambitions should be openly supported. I recall a personal experience in high school when I spoke to an adviser about entering the music program at the college I planned to attend. I was met with a sarcastic, condescending response: “Oh that’s right, you’re going to be a big rock star, uh huh... sure, sure”, which was followed up by advice for an alternate plan. And I know I’m not the only one who has been asked the ever-popular question by older generations: “Oh you’re a musician, but what’s your real job?” Wipe that smirk off your face boomer, we all know you hate your job.
Artistic ventures have been placed on the back burner of our society almost indefinitely. It has become commonplace that the artistically inclined are automatically branded with stereotypes like the “starving artist” who had “better not quit his/her day job”. Judging by the ever-growing consumer-fueled instant-gratification-based economy we find ourselves locked in, the future of the arts looks a bit grim. It is undoubtedly disheartening to those young artists pursuing their passion at the risk of living without a steady paycheck. But I urge you, fellow creators, to stick it out, and don’t settle for something you aren’t meant to do. There is indeed hope. But first, some context.
When we look at human history, it is evident that changes and developments happen in cycles, split into distinct phases. In his book Physics of the Future, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku takes a look at how technological advancements enter the marketplace, slowly mature, and become integrated. He uses paper as an example. Paper started out as something only available to royalty and the church. Then through advances like the printing press, the wealthy gained access, and later, the average person. Now it is ubiquitous: “everywhere and nowhere”.
So what does paper have to do with the future of the arts? It is an excellent example of the development of the Information Age. This concept will bridge the gap between our exit from our current commodity-based capitalism to an intellectual capitalism (more on this in a brief minute).
The last century or so has given us the most powerful technology known to humanity. We are still on the upward trend of Moore’s Law, which shows that our ability to produce powerful technology is increasing exponentially, at least for some time. We have watched computers evolve from room-sized monstrosities into pocket-sized gadgets. Computers are the driving force behind our economy and way of life, hence the “Information Age”. As we progress into the last stages of computerization, we see that it is becoming more integrated in the workplace than we could ever have imagined.
Former democratic presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang speaks of how automated factories have already displaced millions of workers, and soon enough even the trucking industry will be overtaken by self-driving vehicles. Automated work spaces are the way of the future, and this concept can no longer be denied. Given the current growth rate of technology, it is only a matter of decades before computers are also “everywhere and nowhere”.
Kaku theorizes a near-future in which virtually everything is a “smart” device. Computers will replace the dangerous and repetitive jobs. They will expand into the medical field, monitoring our vital signs and chemical balance through our homes and our clothing, allowing us to take appropriate actions before we get sick, ensuring that we can live longer functionally. This technology is already being tested in universities and corporations. Many businesses are doing away with common unskilled and labor-intensive jobs. The business world is looking toward technological creativity instead. This trend, by the very nature of Moore’s Law, will only continue to gain momentum as new discoveries are made.
So after all these revisions to the traditional workforce, we can embrace Intellectual Capitalism. This form of capitalism is, at its core, the same capitalism we have today: people earn as much money as their goods or services are worth. But we will experience an economic paradigm shift. “Goods and services” are getting overhauled. The majority of the monotonous factory work or depressing clerical work will be handled by technology. Therefore we will shift to the exchange of intellectual property. Gone will be the unnatural concept of being paid to show up somewhere for a predetermined amount of time to do meaningless “work”.
Even our personal lives will be restructured. Picture, for a moment, a world in which you don’t have to devote so much valuable time to busy-work like preparing meals, repairing cars or your home, vacuuming, driving, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, unclogging the gutters, or watering the plants, to name a few. Sure, some folks find therapeutic value in these activities, so don’t fret. It’s not like they have to give them up. But they will have the option to automate or do it manually. But I’m sure we can all agree that we don’t particularly enjoy spending our days off doing chores. These can all be handled by robots, AI, and smart-infrastructure. With more time in your schedule, you can freely compose music, paint, sculpt, write, dance, etc.
“But won’t this lifestyle make us lazy?” Sure, a small portion of the population will choose to be lazy. These are the people who have always been lazy. But overall, human beings are industrious, and we enjoy getting stuff done. The “Caveman Principle” applies to us all in one way or another. It is fulfilling to get our hands dirty and do some physical work. Our nomadic ancestors lived like this for hundreds of thousands of years, so it’s built into our evolutionary framework. But wouldn’t you much rather exert yourself building something useful for your family or your community instead of your greedy boss who only pays you for your time? Wait, paid for your time? Uh...what? Take a moment to think of how truly unnatural that is. If you’re going to be undertaking a physically demanding job, shouldn’t you be paid for the value of your product? Egalitarianism, too, is built into our evolutionary framework. Shouldn’t your deliverable work mean something? Shouldn’t it help people?
I’ll throw this in for our friends who lean a little further to the right, who might be trembling at the word “egalitarianism”. Before you lock all your doors and grab your shotgun, think about this. Doesn’t this input to output relationship look a little more like capitalism than a fixed schedule and a predetermined paycheck based solely on your attendance?
In an intellectual economy, creative types thrive. Media such as video games, television, film, augmented reality, podcasts, online courses, or audio books will need music, sound design, artwork, graphic design, cinematography and programming. With robots handling the heavy lifting and production of construction materials, there will be more room for artistic architecture and innovative, sustainable engineering. Scientists will be at the forefront of every innovative technology, whether its medical, environmental, infrastructure, or even space exploration. And with all these new employment and educational opportunities comes an immense variety of material for journalists, authors, and philosophers to write about. And all of this can be shared online through teachers and influencers. Entrepreneurs would have all the opportunity in the world to package new knowledge in condensed, focused courses. The world will be a playground for the intellectually inclined. But there’s still room for those who enjoy more simplistic, labor-intensive work. There will be plenty of opportunity for hands-on installation of new technology.
The “starving artists” will no longer need to drain themselves during the day working a pointless job and then go home to give up on sleep developing their career. They will have the financial security to create, to share, to imagine, supported by an intelligent culture that allows for a healthy lifestyle and leisure time.
So, we have the vision. Now to put it into action. This is where things get tricky.
“The saddest aspect of society right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom” -Isaac Asimov
Unfortunately, we still live in a largely backwards society without the slightest inclination for creativity. As our social media feeds and news headlines bombard us with uneducated ranting, science is quietly striving ahead behind the scenes, nudging us into an automated future whether or not we are prepared. Armed with this knowledge, we can say with confidence that the latest innovations like Virtual Reality, the iRobot automated house-cleaning robot, and the Google Home are just clunky prototype versions of what’s to come. Despite having an overwhelmingly conservative, backwards-dreaming administration at the helm of our government, corporations will embrace automation soon enough. It’s the most cost-effective thing to do. These corporate CEOs are capitalists after all, so what else would you expect? So we need to be ready for this change and prevent it from falling into the hands of those who would use it to further exploit consumerism or advance a dangerous agenda. Look at what happened with surveillance technology after 9/11. Now the internet giants own our personal information. Scientific and technological innovations are powerful tools, and must be handled with much consideration and care.
So this is why I write to you all. It is up to us to pave the way for a collaborative technological future that promotes creativity. And we can achieve this by giving voice to creative initiatives and proving that scientific fact is valid. We must be vocal about our passion for the arts, and stress the importance of egalitarianism. And most importantly, we must elect officials who take science seriously and would use new technology in the interest of the people. George Bernard Shaw writes “democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” Our elected officials are a reflection of our collective selves. This is why it is up to us artists to speak up and be heard amidst the chaos. Because we’ve done the research. We know the facts. Bearing the knowledge of our place in the future, we must endure the current suppression of our passions and be that missing source of wisdom. So against all odds, I urge you to keep on creating, and to be an outspoken voice of reason. Together, we can ensure that one day we shall be governed as we deserve. The world will be a better, more vibrant place because of our efforts.