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We find ourselves approaching Month Nine of a world-wide pandemic shutdown with only a few isolated exceptions across countries. There seems to be no end in sight. This should suggest that the particular nature of a virus pathogen defies a rational, measured social response, especially for a free democratic society.

This nature is defined by an unmeasurable risk shrouded in a fog of uncertainty that is reflected in the emotional fear incited by the coronavirus. That fear is amplified by several scientific realities: there is yet no sure treatment cure, there is yet no effective, preventive vaccine, and there is yet little verified knowledge about how the virus behaves and what effects it may have on long-term human health. …


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Hint: It’s all about the data.

Over the past 30 years, we’ve witnessed a radical transformation of creative industries buffeted by digital formats. Moore’s Law governing the cost of digital computing has drastically reduced the costs of creative production and product distribution. For aspiring authors this means no need for commercial book printing — all one needs is a simple computer with a word processing program and eBook publishing software provided free online. …


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Back in September, 2016, I wrote an essay posted here explaining why I would not be voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for POTUS. At the time I stated that “I do not believe Trump has the temperament, nor do I feel Clinton has the integrity, while neither display the requisite political skills to lead this nation.” At the time I argued for a protest vote and explained why, but nobody really needed to listen.

One could probably argue that I was only half right, because Trump did win the election and we’re still here. …


Hint: It’s all about the data.

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Hint: It’s all about the data.

Over the past 30 years, we’ve witnessed a radical transformation of creative industries buffeted by digital formats. Moore’s Law governing the cost of digital computing has drastically reduced the costs of production and distribution. For example, a $250,000 analog studio can now be eclipsed by a $2,500 digital home studio. The zero marginal cost of digital distribution has also made large scale publishing and distribution of physical products obsolete. Following the simple economic law of supply and demand, these technological trends have led to an explosion of supply while collapsing the selling price of creative output. Accordingly, global demand has responded strongly to lower prices, but the considerable cost of matching supply and demand across global niche markets prevents the price from increasing to a sustained level, or equilibrium. The result has been that creative content is almost free and incomes for creators almost non-existent. …


What’s next?

Reading the news each morning one might conclude that a significant part of our society has gone pretty much off the rails. A couple of article links are enough to make the point:

The Orwellian Nightmare

The Thought Police Are Coming

These trends are antithetical to a free society, so what is going on? It would be easy to point to one factor, like the police, as the cause of this meltdown but social science and history are usually a lot more complex than that. In fact, one might rightly suspect most of what we see on the television, read in the news or on social media is one major distraction from the true challenges we face. …


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Create — Share — Connect

The coronavirus pandemic has taken away so much in the blink of an eye: lives, jobs, income, wealth, vacations, travel, live entertainment, eating out, socializing, family gatherings, birthday parties, graduations, sports, libraries, universities, among so many things we never knew we would (not) miss.

But the pandemic has also given us a special moment to reflect; to reflect on life’s true meaning and value.

Plagues, like war, strip us down and lay us bare, the reason why they are constantly explored through our arts and literature.

So, as we #stayathome, quarantined away from the frantic life of just a few months ago, we have been given this unique opportunity of time to consider the important things in life. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. …


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As trite as that sounds…

The global coronavirus pandemic has consumed the news cycle for the past several months and quarantined us in our homes. I suppose this gives us all some time to reflect and think about some things. Not surprisingly, the crisis has divided our politics and media along familiar lines, despite all the admonishments that a biological pathogen doesn’t politically discriminate. Three months in and we now have red vs. blue viewpoints on the interpretation of uncertain data generated by speculative models, the divergence of expert opinions, on necessary mitigation policies, the costs and benefits of economic lockdowns, and even what to call the contagion. …


If you’re like me and follow the mainstream as well as social media, you’ve likely been inundated with information about the coronavirus pandemic, with many different data interpretations and conflicting claims based on these interpretations. The simple graphic below, called “flattening the curve,” seems to be the dominant visual for explaining the current public healthcare issues and provides a good starting point.

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Flattening the Curve

The graph was created by disease specialists at the CDC and has been spread widely by medical professionals, government officials, and non-government agencies. It visually represents the logic behind the political response to the crisis and the strategy to slow the spread of the virus. This is critical to managing the capacity limitations of healthcare resources like hospitals, drug therapies, and healthcare personnel. However, it is a theoretical model based on exponential pandemic dynamics; it is not a graph of actual empirical data. …


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The Present and Future Disruption of Digital Media

Digital technology has disrupted industries around the globe, none more so than creative media markets such as music, publishing, photography, and video. This disruption has affected every functionary within these industries, from artists, agents, publicists, and managers to publishers, concert promoters, and retailers to fans and consumers. What is more perplexing is the often-expressed desire to return to the past, as if this was a temporary detour instead of a permanent roadblock that requires an alternate route.

To begin, there is a radical shift in market strategies between the legacy age of physical media and the modern age of digital media. The age of physical media allowed for centralized control over the supply and distribution of physical content, whether vinyl records, print books, print photography, or cellulose film. Publishers’ and distributors’ roles as gatekeepers gave them control over price and profit margins. This control permitted high margins on certain content that enabled music, film, and publishing companies to pool and allocate resources for new artist development, as well as subsidizing certain less profitable market segments like jazz and classical music, documentary film, or literary fiction. …


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Peter Finch as Howard Beals in Network

…[P]olarization has become a subjective emotional phenomenon. But it is also an objective reality based on natural differences occurring within a community of diverse peoples.

The political movement known as Better Angels has advanced its mission of depolarizing politics by focusing largely on psychological techniques encouraging cooperation, empathy, mutual respect, and productive communication. We can justify this approach because politics, like religion, is an emotional issue. Our political positions are largely founded on belief systems that rely on a fundamental faith in those beliefs. When our beliefs conflict with others, our emotions are triggered first, which can hinder rational objective discourse that might lead to convergence. One can imagine the character Howard Beals in Network expressing his outrage today: “I’m mad as Hell!…and …

About

Michael Harrington

I am currently a tech start-up founder in the creative media original content space. Social science academic and author.

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