I was going to do this Thursday night but I got sidetracked.
Dan Brown at the The London Free Press took up my challenge (which was “both 100% ironic and 100% sincere at the same time”) to “take a few hours or a few months to figure out what really matters” and compose it into a commencement-style address.
Dan’s “speech” was about the value of a liberal arts education in today’s frantic, social media-driven world.
He didn’t oppose the two. It’s not an either/or scenario. A liberal arts eduction is a foundation or background — an appreciation of the things that don’t change — on which to build and grow.
The fact that everything is constantly changing doesn’t mean that reading Plato and Shakespeare (and stuff) for a few years is a waste of time. Counterintuitively, the fact that everything seems to change faster makes that kind of education even more valuable:
Besides, learning the new communication tools is not your real problem.
The true challenge is finding ways to use those tools.
By coincidence, I also happened to read this, from someone else, within minutes:
More and more, “production” — that word my fellow economists have worked over for generations — has become interior to the human mind rather than set on a factory floor. A tweet may not look like much, but its value lies in the mental dimension. You use Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other Web services to construct a complex meld of stories, images, and feelings in your mind. No single bit seems weighty on its own, but the resulting blend is rich in joy, emotion, and suspense. This is a new form of drama, and it plays out inside us — with technological assistance — rather than on a public stage.
That’s Tyler Cowen, promoting his new book in an article for Fast Company. It’s called Create Your Own Economy: The Path of Prosperity in a Disordered World. When it comes out in July readers will be treated to an
astute and thought-provoking take on how we can harness technology, embrace multitasking, and open our minds to “neurodiversity” in order to create our own happier, richer personal economies.
I’m genuinely excited to pick it up. When I first heard about this I tweeted “I live to read this book.” I wasn’t joking.
If you read everything I’ve written on this blog you’ll start to get an impression of “what it’s about.” Cowen’s book comes as close as any book is likely to get to my sweet spot (at least until I write one).
Just take a look at some of my earliest posts, which
- proposed we overcome our economic woes by investing in intellect
- made a case for composing better stories about ideas via technology
- predicted the web would only become mature when we learn to approach it primarily as a platform for education and creation
Even as I broadened to cover more topics and events, I have almost always implicitly referred to the same core questions and ideas.
When I write about media, for example, I’m not writing as a blogger who gets off on taking potshots at the “MSM” (I think that’s the first time that acronym has appeared on this blog); my thoughts about media come directly from my thoughts about where the world is going, how economies are changing, how governance is changing, how human relationships are changing — not to mention our core values, mindsets, and worldview…
When I write about Michael Jackson, or Iran, or London Ontario, or Google Wave, I’m not “spreading myself thin,” I’m actually just repeating myself — reiterating the same ideas in different contexts.
But eventually that process of reiteration must culminate or it will start losing energy. I can either keep blogging week-in and week-out, cycling through contexts and events as if I could go on forever, or I can organize it into a coherent whole that’s capable of standing on its own, without me having to feed it every week.
As Paul Rodriguez pointed out recently, technology can make people more creative without necessarily culminating in creation (which I take to mean making something self-sufficient and generative; not just something to address wants and needs but something that makes itself wanted and needed). In fact, technology might even diminish creation.
“The resulting blend is rich in joy, emotion, and suspense,” but that can’t go on forever. We need it to coalesce from time to time into structures or we’ll lose our way.
When crises occur we look at our past creations for guidance and support.
In a very general way, this is what the investment banking industry lacked. They traded and traded but they never created anything self-sufficient — which is to say, they didn’t create anything that could hold its value without more trading.
So I don’t know about you or anyone else, but want to create creating something that holds its own value without retweeting…