Two Years Ago: Too Much Choice

02009-07-06 | Musings | 0 comments

I wrote this two years ago:

This most likely will be a long rambling post about stuff that’s been on my mind. I have talked about it on separate occasions with Jon Gagan (over lunch), Andrew Gaskins (over tea), Keith Vizcarra (in his workshop when I dropped off my fav DeVoe for crack-patching) and Colin and other Integral-types (after the Boulder show last Friday)… There is really nothing new here, just a few lines connecting stuff – trying to make sense of how it fits together.

Television moved from 4 channels to cable/sattelite with 400 channels and now to YouTube. Less editing and more choice. I am told that one of the most viewed clips on YouTube is some guy lighting his fart, which I think says a lot about the medium. Parallel to that we have the music biz. Up until the mid-nineties recording was so expensive that only a few musicians would stay in the game if they didn’t receive record company support. A large number of musicians would simply drop out after a while and decide to play in cover bands or take other jobs. Out of the musos that stayed in the game and continued to find ways to pay for studio time with the money from lots of live-performances, a willing donor or day-jobs, the record companies would pick a very small number who received corporate support. So, two elements whittled down the number of acts, the cost of recording and the record company selection process.

Here is what I do in the face of too much choice:
After surfing lots of channels and not finding anything to watch I usually decided that it was a waste of my time and grabbed a book. Then I got rid of TV altogether. The same is true for music. I buy a lot less than I used to. I am overwhelmed by the choice and frankly am not willing to put in the time to find something I might enjoy. I mostly rely on my network of friends to make suggestions.

Jon thinks that the next step in this chain from 4 networks to cable/sattelite to YouTube might be some kind of subscription to an editor or curator who emails his selections to customers. Somebody who wades through gigabites of crap to find the good stuff. I have mentioned the curator concept a number of times as well. See this post from 1999 or this one. I am not sure how many people would be willing to pay money for such a curator subscription, but there are other revenue models out that might work…

What might really work is a great network of people… I use the word people instead of friends because friends can be too homogenous. If you want to throw a great party you don’t invite a bunch of similar thinking people! No, you select a couple of extreme thinkers and you buffer them with moderates. Very important is how/where you seat everyone. There is a real art to this and some people have a great knack for it. Nothing will ever replace meeting people in meatspace… Warning: here starts another tangent… Speaking of meatspace, humans are 99.5% genetically alike. The remaining .5% is what we have killed so many people for: the shape of an eye, the curve of a nose, the look of a forehead – small and subtle differences when we consider all humans… A Korean girlfriend told me in the late Eighties about arriving in the USA when she was seven years old. She could not tell any of the white folks apart… they all looked the same to her. Well, that’s because it takes training to tell us humans apart by the 0.5% in genetic differential! So to each race the other, unfamiliar races look homogenous. The same is true for music, by the way. If you play Bebop or trad Flamenco to the uninitiated, they will not be able to hear what is outstanding about this particular version or how terrible this other one is… We can differentiate that which we are familiar or intimate with, everything remains apart. Another tangent: wouldn’t it be great if these tangents were another layer, hyper-linked to the main post and I could have several layers for each post… hm, has any blooging software ever considered coding something like this? Can’t be that hard and it would go another step in creating a new medium. Yes, I could work around this and create a separate post and then link to it – but that’s just not the same!! I am talking about having, say 3 or more layers available when writing a post. One could use a different link-color to differentiate between an outside link and a layer-link…

Anyway, what about the internet? Isn’t that a great space for networking? Not really. I think one really needs that person with a knack to bring the right people together. Zaadz does not do it for me, MySpace is plain ugly… So how would one go about it? One would have to have a beautiful and intuitive interface first of all. (What did you say on Friday, Colin? The most direct way between points A and B is the aesthetic solution? Something like that. Colin also mentioned that Ken Wilber and the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas are contributing new thoughts on the subject of editing or quality.) And no, a computer cannot create that network – I have not once liked a suggestion amazon.com has offered me. You might answer that the system is just not complex enough and does not have enough data yet. Maybe that’s true and maybe it’s just not something a computer can do well. If you like this you are NOT necessarily going to like that…

The Good, the True and the Beautiful. Not a new concept. Plato came up with that a long time ago and Ken Wilber has written a lot of great stuff about it. My question is this: Is a life worth living if you are only offered clean water and clean air, but no elegance or beauty? And what happens when Beauty is eliminated from our schools because politicians and parents don’t want to “waste” resources on art-education and music?

And one last thought: in the past it was easy, even convenient, to literally forget about the masses… the plebs, the “great unwashed“. They were fodder for wars and industry. The less education was offered to people, the easier it was to manipulate them. Well, now they will be the ones deciding whether this planet will live. We can no longer afford to solve a manufacturing problem (read: design problem) by shipping the poisonous waste to Africa or Asia and we can no longer afford to ignore education (and that includes art and music education) if we want to create a bright future. As Ken has pointed out many times, nobody can skip stages, but we can sure try to help the development along, maximize the speed and opportunity at which people can move upwards. Now everywhere is our backyard and everyone is our brother/sister.

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