This Week: Did Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for literature expand the category to songwriting?… Artists protest against gentrification… We’re deeply conflicted about the value of creativity… Is Google rewiring our brains so they don’t work so well?… Are we all living in a giant computer simulation? (don’t laugh)
- American Wins Nobel Literature Prize (Just Not The American Anyone Expected): After a decades-long drought, an American won the Nobel. There were plenty of candidates – and no shortage of speculation about whether it would be DeLilo, Roth, or someone else. Instead, Bob Dylan won. Dylan has often been “mentioned often as having an outside shot at the prize, his work does not fit into the traditional literary canons of novels, poetry and short stories that the prize has traditionally recognized.” So is this an expansion of the Nobel scope, broadening the category to include songwriters? Handwringing about “what is literature?” seems inevitable after the announcement that a rock star has taken the global writing community’s biggest award. But no great existential crisis is needed. The Nobel Committee could have decided that with this prize it wanted to expand the definition of “literature” to include recorded music, a hugely influential and relatively young art form that doesn’t have an award of Nobel-like prestige dedicated to it. But it seems to have declined to do so. Here’s a good selection of the literary world’s reaction to the news.
- Creativity Everywhere, Right? Well… Maybe Not: “There’s a critical misunderstanding of the over-used C word. The first thing most of us think of when we hear that someone is creative is: artist, poet, musician, or entrepreneur. That’s not to say that creative people don’t fall into those categories, but what I’m suggesting is that creativity is a state of mind rather than a set of skills in a particular area.” And while we all celebrate creativity as an idea, we’re also deeply suspicious of it. “The paradox of this bias against creativity lies in the fact that creativity — along with its close cousin innovation — is frequently celebrated in business as a most desired organizational trait. Reports of management excellence from McKinsey to KPMG state that creativity among the workforce is a basic requirement for long-term business success. Why then does the organizational immune system kick into high gear whenever exposed to the very thing it needs to survive?”
- Is Google Ruining Our Ability To Think? Sounds crazy, right? Google is just a tool, and it gives us unparalleled access to information. But “whereas before we might have tried to recall something on our own, now we don’t bother. As more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively more reliant on it in our daily lives.”
- Are We All Living In A Giant Simulation? Sounds crazy also, right? But as those computer scientists who work on machine learning and artificial intelligence are discovering, the mind-boggling complexity that machines can now handle leads many to project these capabilities forward and envision a blurring of the lines between what we think is real and biological and what might just be computer simulations. “If one progresses at the current rate of technology a few decades into the future, very quickly we will be a society where there are artificial entities living in simulations that are much more abundant than human beings.”