Turn of the Century

“What the early 21st century revealed came as a shock. We had hoped for so many frivolous inventions by the time the leading digit in our century hit the big two: flying cars, jet packs, automaton slaves. Instead, we had smart phones that only made us dumber and an unending firehose of information that we seemed never satisfied with. When I say ‘we’ you must understand that I’m talking about those of us privileged enough to have access to the necessary infrastructure and the means to plug into it. This number was comparatively small when taken against the scope of the total human biomass on the planet, but in the raw terms of ‘armed individuals’ it was sizable. A lot of enough of us knew more than anyone had ever thought possible, and at best we were using the power to break taboos for the purposes of masturbation and the inflation of our fragile egos.

“But I digress. In short what really happened with the breaking down of the barriers to the free flow of information was that we slaughtered our gods. It was specifically the gods of media, whom we had previously held to impossible standards on breathlessly high pedestals, that came tumbling down to earth with a great crash. File sharing gutted the industries once solely responsible for providing high quality entertainment, and the rise of the ‘internet-based creative’ showed that where we had once assumed rarified talent was anything but, and in fact most folks had it within themselves to paint a picture, shoot a movie, cut a record, author a book, or craft a video game. In the end many, if not all, human beings possessed at least some ability to crank out great content, and we shredded the illusion of the inaccessible genius on the sharp-toothed viral waves of YouTube videos and Instagram photos.

“It was a sad time for those who had previously enjoyed the various gold rushes in their fields. I think it hit musicians and visual artists the hardest, and yet that destruction cast a hot spotlight on the question of ‘how much was enough’? In the past, a hit record would generate an obscene amount of money for a small handful of people. The companies who helped grease the wheels of commerce had all manner of justification for the income they required to keep promoting the work of their stable of artists, but once those bubbles burst such words rang as empty as their coffers.

“In a world that gives every determined individual the opportunity to become a voice in any given artistic field, how much is enough? Does a record have to generate millions of dollars? Is it right to drop gigantic buckets of cash onto artists simply to justify their ongoing production? Is the reward commensurate with the labor involved? When you consider that the average human being in the developed Western world only needs to generate about a million dollars over a lifetime to remain comfortable how gross is earning more than that for less than a year’s worth of effort?

“What the rise of technology stripped away so it also returned in the form of a greater liberation of the arts and those who wished to commercialize their efforts. And if anything, it threw those financial imbalances into even starker relief as a result. But understand that it was not a one-way street, and that the river flowed both ways.”


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