So, what is cultural appropriation and why has it become such a contentious issue? Susan Scafidi, professor of law at Fordham University, defines it as ‘taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission’. This can include the ‘unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.’ But what is it for knowledge or expression or a cuisine to ‘belong’ to a culture? And who gives permission for someone from another culture to use such knowledge or forms?
“To understand the danger Spotify poses to the music industry—and to music itself—you first have to dig beneath the “user experience” and examine its algorithmic schemes. Spotify’s front page “Browse” screen presents a classic illusion of choice, a stream of genre and mood playlists, charts, new releases, and now podcasts and video. It all appears limitless, a function of the platform’s infinite supply, but in reality it is tightly controlled by Spotify’s staff and dictated by the interests of major labels, brands, and other cash-rich businesses who have gamed the system.”
The optimum complexity principle is just one of many examples that Wilson rallies in The Origins of Creativity, his latest plea for the grand unification of the sciences and the humanities. The two camps are often viewed as enemy combatants, or at least paisley and plaid—best kept apart—but Wilson is deeply impatient with academic partitioning. Artists, he argues, should have a grasp of basic neuroscience and how the brain evolved. Scientists must appreciate the humanities for infusing human life with meaning.