First Quarter in Review: The Big Picture, Ahead and Around

April 4, 2016 § 4 Comments


Unlike most of my posts, this issue (or this series, in multiple issues) does not feature specific artworks (which, by the way, many of you have told me to be beautiful–thank you!). Instead, I will share with you news, events and readings I came across in the first quarter of 2016, which collectively form a “big picture” context, helping to demonstrate that Essinova’s exploration into the arts is not just about beauty, although that itself is a worthy cause.

Top 10 skills 2020It is a big picture of the next industrial revolution and the future that mankind is entering, in which art and culture will be of fundamental importance not only to the human race as a whole but also to private industry. Philosophically speaking, art (with feelings) might become one of our last bastions of human privilege as machines can replace us in pretty much everything else. On a more practical level, culture and humanities, alongside science and technology, will become part of the very fabric of tomorrow’s businesses, rather than an afterthought marketing flair. This is necessitated by the new demands of solution design, consumer experience and talent development.

As we enter this future, the artificial divide of disciplines and silo-ed specialization, a feature of the Electricity Age that modern societies have since taken for granted, have begun to erode. The (modern) conventional wisdom of career specialities will continue to dominate for a while, but the next generation workforce will find themselves more competitive if they have well-rounded skills to traverse comfortably across domains.




Coming back to the present: in a “Tale of Two Cities” (pretending the two leading economic engines in the world are each a city), I bring you two major pieces of news in the Bay Area art world involving Silicon Valley venture capitalists; and some observations from my reconnaissance in China in the nexus of culture, technology and capital, where the three seem to be in much better accord.

Geography of GeniusLastly, zooming back out on the time scale again: for those who believe “history is a mirror for the future”, as we say in Chinese, I will bring you passages of a terrific book by Eric Weiner, “Geography of Genius”, which puts the glory of Silicon Valley into a highly-relevant historical context of all the major Golden Ages since Ancient Athens. The book has inspired mischievous questions in my head that wouldn’t go away: what would take for Silicon Valley to evolve from a single note of technology to a symphony like Renaissance Florence, sparking in multiple dimensions such as art, science, architecture, literature and self-awareness? Or for a “New Hanghzou” to emerge in China, reviving Song Dynasty’s flourishings, with not only scientific advances and technological inventions but also explosions of poetry, philosophy and spiritual geniuses? I maybe wishful thinking, but if robots will be doing all the work for us, and poor people can have rich people’s vacations through “virtual reality”, it seems humans should have no excuse not to reach those new heights. Perhaps cultural projects can also provide new jobs for those whose livelihood will be disrupted. Will such a new epoch ever happen? Or will that happen somewhere else?

My take on this “picture” might be naïve. I welcome your opinions. Each issue in the series will be posted in the Essinova | Art+Science Blog, where you are invited to comment or critique.

I now start with “the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, theme of Davos 2016, and a phrase on everyone’s lips in China these days.


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