Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Substance is so passe

Human history has been divided into periods with weighty names like Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. There was the Age of Discovery, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Industrial Age. We proudly proclaimed The Nuclear Age, The Space Age and The Information Age. It was all part of our glorious progress to a brilliant future. But now, like an airplane climbing too steeply, it seems to be stalling.

We're in the Entertainment Age.

Despite the principle that we are all created equal, some people clearly have had more technical minds and more detailed visions of the future. This minority has managed to forge ahead against various setbacks, to advance technology that makes all things seem possible.

Advancement depends on conveying information clearly and memorably, and on creating searchable repositories of knowledge. Enlisting mass cooperation depends on various techniques of persuasion or coercion. And people just like to diddle with things, and express their interpretations of the world around them. Art was born, in all its forms: verbal, performance, visual, sculptural, musical, to create a world of entertainment.

When all the major challenges to survival seemed to be surmounted, and information technology made the transmission of beguiling images pervasive and immediate, The Entertainment Age began.

Entertainers have always attracted a following, but when stars could be recorded and displayed nationally and globally they became major economic and social influences, rapidly displacing actual thinkers and producers. We have become a culture of the entertaining and the entertained. If you are entertaining enough, you can become wealthy. Wealthy is good, right? Wealthy is the best. Anyone who has become wealthy is automatically better than anyone who has not.

The majority of people in any age are idle dreamers. Before The Entertainment Age, they might dream idly of actual inventions and achievements. Now they dream of performance skills most of them don't have the work ethic to develop. And even if they do, someone still has to set up the stage and clean up after the show.

Our existence serves no discernible purpose, so entertainment is as good a goal as any. As long as we can imagine great things and depict them in more and more convincing facsimile, we don't really need to accomplish anything. Someone will always manage to be good enough to keep us watching.