Thursday, October 13, 2011

Different frequencies - On Brilliance, Part 1

Following up to some responses, quoted below, to this.
[People like Steve Jobs] do live on an entirely different frequency from this picture.
"This picture," here, being the description of the manipulation of financial markets to the creation of the latest bubble/burst in the "housing crisis," and subsequent bailout, discussed here.

Begin Steve Jobs-related text

(The first issue that jumps out in the current context is the adulation of Steve Jobs [ironic pun not intended, being preordained by his foster parents]. Like most of what the corporate media does, the hagiographical studies of Steve Jobs are not in and of themselves offensive. Viewed in a vacuum, time in proximity to death is a suitable time to focus on the issues pertaining to someone's life. However, paired with the rest of the "news," the intense focus on how spectacular the businessman was is saddening. As women and children in certain places go hungry, can't afford to see the doctor, and are left with little prospect for improving this lot, and in others, go hungry to the point of death, get shredded up to the same point, et cetera, the massive quantities of public attention focused on the death of an aging western multibillionaire male take a sickening turn. How many front page blowups commemorated the life of sweet little Hadiyyah, turned into carne asada for the crime of living two houses down from her uncle, who once sat next to some guy who'd been to the wrong part of Pakistan four years ago?

Bad things happen, none of which deserve ignorance, but when the crocodile cries so loudly for Steve Jobs, then presses the "fire" button again, one may recognize a disturbing pattern.

With a little technical knowledge, Jobs managed to convince others to design the technical aspects of products for him, then package them cleverly--something that's easy for many to do when you know the right people and can get them to invest millions of dollars in secured venture capital, utilize preexisting connections to market them cleverly, and catapult a venture onto the world stage. Good for Jobs. If I had the visual skill and the opportunity, I'd happily do the design, too. This one does, though, speculate, that many out there do, and could design cool computer boxes (or even, god forbid, things still more beneficial to humanity) if they had the chance. They might even be willing to work hard (The Jobs rites were rife with that good old Puritan praise of work ethic, if with nothing else)! At the right time in America, and the right time for humanity, he had just enough technical knowledge and geographical location to be the go-between between established southern California tech capital and the people who first came up with the idea of programming graphical user interfaces, got Xerox to showcase it, and were able to later work for Jobs building them.

Let's assume, though, that Jobs wasn't raised by upper-middle-class technical professionals in silicon valley, and that he actually did personally design, rather than dress up, the products he got people to sell for him. Let's forget about the horrific exploitation of south Asian child labor to produce his products, his role in free trade agreements and associated politicking that made the exploitation possible and easier, and his repeated use of the world stage to sell more cool stuff rather than effect some manner of more positive change for life or humanity. All that aside, the example of "Jobs" can be condensed, impersonally, to the hypothetical of the person who is so brilliant that they cannot be ignored.

End Steve Jobs-related text

The position of the brilliant success story is a valid point. Partly, this one has addressed it in "Rare Jumps," in the quotation excerpted below:
[T]he ability of such people to excel at all is dependent on the elites choosing to buy out and promote to excess certain kinds of art, through the control of publishing houses and/or IP law. Most inventors are forced to work for salaries to survive, their lives contingent on signing over their IP to their employing corporations, so that the rare stunning invention will belong to the company, not the individual. Armies of patent lawyers back up those contracts. Most independent inventors, lacking the millions in capital to exploit, protect and market an invention, are forced to sell the patent for a few mil to old money, and then live fairly well on their said few mil, but not ever elevate themselves and their offspring to levels of perpetual non-labor.
Brilliance doesn't suddenly reach everyone through brilliance alone. The "old guard," as it were, holds every key to the exploitation and appreciation of the "new ideas" for which capitalism (i.e., elite cronyism) ever claims credit: they control the technical companies, the publishing houses, the radio and television networks, the warehouses and factories, the financial lifeblood, and every other means of selling a product. Phenomenal young artists--even those lucky and fortunate enough to find their way through some manner of an educational infrastructure--may be forced to manual labor until they land the right happenstance connections to the businessmen who can exploit them for a nice cut. Einstein may have to work in the patent office until his work gets discovered.

(The world loses out while this happens--even in the case of success stories. If Einstein hadn't been filling out timesheets, what wonders might he have created? If he hadn't been forced to attract military attention to get funding and interest focused on his atomic theories, would humankind know better inventions than the atomic bomb? More later, but the channeling of genius spirit through established authority sullies and perverts the output. This is why a lot of talented, intelligent, energetic engineers may spend their lives designing more efficient killing weapons for defense contractors.)

Recognizing this, one can draw the conclusion that those who are brilliant and worthy are chosen. God, or merely the invisible hand of the virtuous, impartial free market, chooses those who are worthy to rise to success. This theory explains why unemployed people are all lazy or lacking in useful job skills, and why there are no undiscovered artists, musicians, graphic designers, mathematicians or inventors of any worth. Anyone who deserves it will get elevated. This is why America and Judeo-Christianity go so well together: success equals proof that you have merit.

Even within that framework, of course, the illusion begins to break down. However low in quality, Harry Potter and Twilight were massively successful at making money. And yet, each was rejected several times (over a dozen apiece, this one recalls) by experienced, well-connected literary professionals. Multiplatinum bands tell stories of no one liking their stuff until that one lucky moment--and the rest of their peers get normal jobs and give up the ghost. The gatekeepers, despite all their pomp and circumstance, do not actually have a secret sight that no one else possesses. (And, in honor to Steve Jobs, people do not buy Windows because it's the best, most reliable product; they buy it because it's the market standard.)

Failed teenage artists with foresight slit their wrists and die quietly in the tub, wondering why no one cares about their driving essence. The pretty brown-eyed girl this one helped improve her flute-playing in middle school--by writing down the notes in letter form so she didn't have to struggle with standard musical notation, and could just feel the music--shoots herself in the head a couple years later and is never heard again. A thousand statues are never sculpted--we never know what we've all lost. The quiet gentleman in the office, without any friends to call to show Mr. Big his demo tape, will give up singing and never be known.

What really creates the economic success and mass recognition of the slightly-better computer (maybe! talk to Michael Dell ten years ago if you want a different perspective!), the inventive genius, the Harry Potter/Twilight, or the Susan Boyle? Is it the person, or is it simply Mr. Monopoly choosing which unit to ship this month?

Life, and humanity, makes the wonder. It's our stuff. It's what we do. That's part of the reason that the winners of Oscars and other like awards occasionally break down and start thanking forty-two people for their individual performance role (Often, it's polished bullshit, but occasionally, it's a subconscious realization of the truth: "Wow! I can't believe I got so much money and attention and approval for! Wow! Thxsomuchkbye!").

When investment capital chooses to exalt something, throw hundreds of people and millions of dollars behind the project, and push it on the international stage, it's no surprise that it gets successful. Does that mean there aren't a thousand other British housewives out there with stories about a magical little boy that a bunch of kids might like to read, if the stories were pushed? A thousand other brilliant software engineers in India with new ideas that their overworked, overseas boss can't be bothered with, because the new card verification system needs to get fixed before Christmas season?

Those so chosen, and granted the freedom to "professionally" approach the said tasks, often do, through the monetary freedom granted by that golden touch from the clouds, develop and improve their abilities, and get to be appreciated for it, conversely to those who either do it for "hobby," or those who give it up for lack of the general approval (They also often get so co-opted that the original spark vanishes, and they find themselves merely honing and improving that old idea that got them there in the first place [slightly faster processors, slightly cooler casing, extravagant CG for the otherwise soulless fight scene]).

Part 2, in which the rest of the quote is responded to.

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