The “Big Picture” Wrapup; and a New Chapter for Essinova

September 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Started as a review of Q1 2016 news reflecting the technology, culture and economics confluence, the Big Picture series has extended well into Q3. In the meantime, world affairs have been taking troubling turns, with one shocking news story after another. The unstoppable Fourth Industrial Revolution, itself complex with mixed implications, is now juxtaposed on top of precarious geopolitical and social dynamics potentially affecting the world at large.

A recent article on these themes particularly resonated with me: “History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump,” by Tobias Stone, entrepreneur, investor, writer and innovation scholar. As with Eric Weiner’s time travel back to Athens for historical insights in The Geography of Genius, Stone’s background in archeology affords him a macroscopic view onto anthropological patterns which enables a more insightful prediction of where the world might be headed. “We humans have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction, generally self imposed to some extent or another,” he says, “and another such stupid season might very well be ahead of us.”

Historical patterns have sobering inevitability, and the bad case scenario could sadly become reality. With hell in Syria, mess in Europe, violence and “Trumpism” in the U.S., terrorists everywhere, and WWIII not inconceivable, let alone ongoing challenges such as climate woes and health crises, it may seem art and creativity are too frivolous or low-priority for solvers of “serious” problems.

Here again, though, history provides vision. As Graham Greene poignantly remarked about Italy, “for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.” The Florence as we know it emerged from Black Death that devastated Europe. As one of many paradoxes of the human condition (and as my friend, cultural historian Piero Scaruffi would point out), creativity often spikes in periods of great instability. « Read the rest of this entry »

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The Big Picture, IV – How about a 21st Century Florence? Or for that matter, a new Hangzhou?

June 10, 2016 § 1 Comment

Athenian bowl, Chinese Song Dynasty compass, Michelangelo drawing, image of brain as circuit

“Silicon Valley’s continued success depends, ironically, not on some shiny new gizmo but on learning the lessons of history.”

“What jumpstarts a golden age is not necessarily what keeps it going. The good ones manage to change fuel sources midstream. The Renaissance was initially powered by the recovered ancient texts, but the Humanists who discovered them soon generated their own ideas, their own intellectual momentum. Silicon Valley, if it is to survive, needs to find alternative energy sources, new ways of being creative and not simply new creative products.”

– Eric Weiner, Geography of Genius

“History is a mirror for the future!”

– My parents. Or maybe Chinese axiom?

So it appears that the Bay Area has an art scene undergoing transformation, with exodus and influx both at play. My roundup in the last installment of the Series didn’t even include the Stanford Arts District — the one-stop, four-institution arts compound at Stanford University that is quickly ascending in national significance, with three new buildings in three years (at a cost of $235 million), adding to the existing Cantor Arts Center.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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