The Rise of the Philosopher King
We’re seeing a fundamental change in the way the world is led. This is the great story of our time. It’s happening now, it’s all around us. People in open source or the Bitcoin space tend to understand this shift better than most, but it isn’t just a technological shift - it’s a cultural and societal change in the way that society is organized.
The culturally perceptive are seeing a dramatic sea change in the way that our culture operates and the entire world is asleep to it. We’ve watched the film industry and the music industry utterly collapse under its own weight and move to streaming entirely. Can the streaming model be sustained? Probably not. Netflix’s content output has dropped dramatically since the heyday of expensive, bespoke properties like House of Cards and Sense8. Now, browsing Netflix originals looks like a desert of algorithmically produced content for increasingly specific demographics.
Kanye West is currently leading the charge for artists to retain control of their masters, of the recordings that are used to make the final releases of the songs that their music studios sell. In our ghostly world, we buy and sell the recordings of dead and living artists like chattel in the town square. We are the barterers of souls, and our eternal punishment is that we can never create culture, only content. The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, and so is yogurt.
What purpose does the music industry serve? They used to run recording studios, but now that’s been democratized, and 14 year olds have complex studios in their bedroom so they can record Let’s Plays. (does anybody still call them Let’s Plays?) Studios used to run distribution, but now recording sales have dropped so far and everything has moved to digital, distribution is no longer particularly useful. Artists can’t make money from touring, or from merch sales. It seems like all that’s left for the music studios to do is promotion, to play the gatekeeper in the age of the attention economy.
Ironically, as we’ve developed the tools to instantly communicate worldwide, we seem to have completely lost the ability to have any one cultural phenomenon speak for the whole zeitgeist. Where are the Beatles of today? The universally loved artist seems a thing of the past. The world today is increasingly isolated by earbuds, in echo chambers, in prisons of their own idealogical construction, their fate predetermined by their hate for the things that their demographic has been identified as reliably hating.
Bitcoin can abstract away Spotify. The function that Spotify serves can be abstracted away so they no longer take their pound of flesh. Bitcoin can host the words that you’re reading right now. Bitcoin can solve the marketing problem as well. Sharing art digitally is not stealing, it’s providing a service. We figured this out 20 years ago and the point of P2P is not to revert to decades-old modes of thought. (that said, let’s not get tacky, boys. We’re making great art, not selling Amway. “Sharing incentives” will not save the world.) If your reaction to seeing the powers and principalities of this world is to try and start your own principality, then you will be swept away into the dustbin of history and the rest of us won’t even remember you well enough to be happy about it.
The information wants to be free, the artists want to be free, the people want to be free, and this is Exodus. It’s time to build the tabernacle. Get to work.