May 23, 2024

The State of the Culture, 2024

The fastest growing sector of the culture economy is distraction

The State of the Culture, 2024

Or a glimpse into post-entertainment society (it’s not pretty)

The President delivers a ‘State of the Union’ Speech every year, but that’s a snooze. Just look at your worthy representatives struggling to keep their eyes open. That’s because they’ve heard it all before.

We have too. Not much changes in politics. Certainly not the candidates.

There’s more variety at my local gas station, where at least I get to choose from three types of fuel and five flavors of Big Gulp. 

So forget about politics. All the action now is happening in mainstream culture—which is changing at warp speed.

That’s why we need a “State of the Culture” speech instead. My address last year was quoted and cited, and was absolutely true back then—but it’s already as obsolete as the ChatGPT-1 help desk at the Bored Ape Yacht Club.

In fact, 2024 may be the most fast-paced—and dangerous—time ever for the creative economy. And that will be true, no matter what happens in November.

So let’s plunge in.

I want to tell you why entertainment is dead. And what’s coming to take its place.

If the culture was like politics, you would get just two choices. They might look like this.

Many creative people think these are the only options—both for them and their audience. Either they give the audience what it wants (the entertainer’s job) or else they put demands on the public (that’s where art begins).

But they’re dead wrong.

Maybe it’s smarter to view the creative economy like a food chain. If you’re an artist—or are striving to become one—your reality often feels like this.

Until recently, the entertainment industry has been on a growth tear—so much so, that anything artsy or indie or alternative got squeezed as collateral damage.

But even this disturbing picture isn’t disturbing enough. That’s because it misses the single biggest change happening right now.

We’re witnessing the birth of a post-entertainment culture. And it won’t help the arts. In fact, it won’t help society at all.

Even that big whale is in trouble. Entertainment companies are struggling in ways nobody anticipated just a few years ago.

Consider the movie business:

The TV business also hit a wall in 2023. After years of steady growth, the number of scripted series has started shrinking.

Music may be in the worst state of them all. Just consider Sony’s huge move a few days ago—investing in Michael Jackson’s song catalog at a valuation of $1.2 billion. No label would invest even a fraction of that amount in launching new artists.

In 2024, musicians are actually worth more old than young, dead than alive.

This raises the obvious question. How can demand for new entertainment shrink? What can possibly replace it?

But something will replace it. It’s already starting to happen.

Here’s a better model of the cultural food chain in the year 2024.

The fastest growing sector of the culture economy is distraction. Or call it scrolling or swiping or wasting time or whatever you want. But it’s not art or entertainment, just ceaseless activity.

The key is that each stimulus only lasts a few seconds, and must be repeated.

It’s a huge business, and will soon be larger than arts and entertainment combined. Everything is getting turned into TikTok—an aptly named platform for a business based on stimuli that must be repeated after only a few ticks of the clock.

TikTok made a fortune with fast-paced scrolling video. And now Facebook—once a place to connect with family and friends—is imitating it. So long, Granny, hello Reels. Twitter has done the same. And, of course, Instagram, YouTube, and everybody else trying to get rich on social media.

This is more than just the hot trend of 2024. It can last forever—because it’s based on body chemistry, not fashion or aesthetics.

Our brain rewards these brief bursts of distraction. The neurochemical dopamine is released, and this makes us feel good—so we want to repeat the stimulus.

The cycle looks like this.

This is a familiar model for addiction.

Only now it is getting applied to culture and the creative world—and billions of people. They are unwitting volunteers in the largest social engineering experiment in human history.

So you need to ditch that simple model of art versus entertainment. And even ‘distraction’ is just a stepping stone toward the real goal nowadays—which is addiction.

Here’s the future cultural food chain—pursued aggressively by tech platforms that now dominate every aspect of our lives.

The tech platforms aren’t like the Medici in Florence, or those other rich patrons of the arts. They don’t want to find the next Michelangelo or Mozart. They want to create a world of junkies—because they will be the dealers.

Addiction is the goal.

They don’t say it openly, but they don’t need to. Just look at what they do.

Everything is designed to lock users into an addictive cycle.

  • The platforms are all shifting to scrolling and reeling interfaces where stimuli optimize the dopamine doom loop.
  • Anything that might persuade you to leave the platform—a news story, or any outside link—is brutally punished by their algorithms. It might liberate you from your dependent junkie status, and that can’t be allowed.
  • But wait, there’s more! Apple, Facebook, and others are now telling you to put on their virtual reality headsets—where you are swallowed up by the stimuli, like those tiny fish in my food chain charts. You’re invited to live as a passive recipient of make-believe experiences, like a pod slave in The Matrix.

The tech CEOs know this is harmful, but they do it anyway. A whistleblower released internal documents showing how Instagram use leads to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Mark Zuckerberg was told all the disturbing details.

He doesn’t care. The CEOs all know the score. The more their tech gets used, the worse all the psychic metrics get.

But still they push aggressively forward—they don’t want to lose market share to the other dopamine cartel members. And with a special focus on children. They figured out what every junk peddler already knows: It’s more profitable to get users locked in while they’re young.

And the virtual reality headsets raise even more issues—because they rewire users’ brains. Experts are already talking about “simulator sickness,” and that’s just the physical nausea, dizziness, and headaches. Imagine the psychic dislocations.

And you thought artists had it tough back in the day?

Even the dumbest entertainment looks like Shakespeare compared to dopamine culture. You don’t need Hamlet, a photo of a hamburger will suffice. Or a video of somebody twerking, or a pet looking goofy.

Instead of movies, users get served up an endless sequence of 15-second videos. Instead of symphonies, listeners hear bite-sized melodies, usually accompanied by one of these tiny videos—just enough for a dopamine hit, and no more.

This is the new culture. And its most striking feature is the absence of Culture (with a capital C) or even mindless entertainment—both get replaced by compulsive activity.

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Amazon’s “magical” AI grocery store technology exposed—it was actually 1,000 Indians…

There’s this meme that’s been cracking everyone up online. It jokes that AI isn’t some next-level tech marvel. Instead, picture this: 5,000 people in India, just sitting around, answering all our queries. It’s a funny take on the whole AI scene and pokes fun at the idea that maybe, just maybe, the big players like Big Tech, Big Pharma, and the government are pulling one over on us. And there’s this TikTok video that nails the humor perfectly.

There’s this meme that’s been cracking everyone up online. It jokes that AI isn’t some next-level tech marvel. Instead, picture this: 5,000 people in India, just sitting around, answering all our queries. It’s a funny take on the whole AI scene and pokes fun at the idea that maybe, just maybe, the big players like Big Tech, Big Pharma, and the government are pulling one over on us. And there’s this TikTok video that nails the humor perfectly.

TikTok – Make Your Day

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This meme, as hilarious as it is, turns out to be not so far from the truth, and those who chuckled at the idea might just be onto something. You’ve probably heard about those Amazon Go stores, right? The ones that promised a futuristic shopping experience where you could just grab what you need and walk out, no checkout required—all thanks to what was touted as cutting-edge AI technology. Well, plot twist: as Amazon starts to cancel this “technology,” it turns out it wasn’t the AI doing the heavy lifting after all. Instead, it was actually a team of low-paid Indians, one thousand strong, sitting somewhere, monitoring what shoppers were adding to their baskets. So much for high-tech AI shopping, eh?!

Knowing what we know now, let’s take a moment to revisit that glossy marketing campaign Amazon rolled out for their so-called “high-tech” Go stores.

Here’s the actual article from Gizmodo:

Amazon is phasing out its checkout-less grocery stores with “Just Walk Out” technology, first reported by The Information Tuesday. The company’s senior vice president of grocery stores says they’re moving away from Just Walk Out, which relied on cameras and sensors to track what people were leaving the store with.

Just over half of Amazon Fresh stores are equipped with Just Walk Out. The technology allows customers to skip checkout altogether by scanning a QR code when they enter the store. Though it seemed completely automated, Just Walk Out relied on more than 1,000 people in India watching and labeling videos to ensure accurate checkouts. The cashiers were simply moved off-site, and they watched you as you shopped.

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