The Modern Creative
After centuries of hardship, the time of the Creative has finally come … but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, in fact, it’s likely to get harder.
Ev Williams has created a platform for the future. Not only is it built for humans and feels natural but it was built to support a kind of modern employment. Our incomes will become, and in some cases already are, a combination of micro-payments from various sources.
The future of employment, or rather the definition of work, is undergoing a seismic shift from the industrial age (physical space), into the information age (or, mental space). Now, there’s no need to be afraid of this change, unless of course you get swept up by a tsunami that wipes out your job.
Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine said:
“The creation of language was the first singularity for humans.”
The world is made of language and the words we use to define our world go on to define us. Language gave us a mirror with which to reflect our thoughts.
Words like job and security are synonymous with employment and our relationship with all three defines a large part of our identity. What do you do?, is a question that I’ve always disliked – yet, it’s more or less the same as asking, Who are you?
Spend enough time doing something, and part of that something becomes You. We’re not simple creatures, each of us has our unique way of looking at the world, and our ability to embrace and express who we are will determine our future success.
The employment landscape is changing, and rapidly. Interestingly, where I see a lot of resistance to this change is in the definition(s) of what a job means. It’s obvious, at least to me, that the jobs we spend our lives wrapped up in change from generation to generation.
These changes are usually intimately linked with one or more new theme(s), which are being played by an orchestra, over which we sing the songs of our creation.
Which is, of course, just a fancy way of saying that a revolution is afoot.
The New Revolution
We’re now living in the Information Age, and it seems natural that our ‘jobs’, what they involve and their meaning(s) are tied to the Internet. The Industrial Revolution saw millions of jobs created around manufacturing. This revolution will see the creation of jobs around information. Case in point, one of the most in-demand jobs of 2017 was a Data Scientist.
But there’s an even greater difference inherent in this new revolution. The decentralised nature of the Internet means that the information is at your fingertips. You become the decision-maker and ultimate creator. The future of your employment is what you make it, literally.
If our identity is wrapped up in our jobs, which have traditionally been centralised, then this new revolution means we have the power to create our jobs and ultimately our identities.
Okay, but how do we get paid?
Well, I just wrote an article which related my observations on my own behaviour. I’m not sure how much closer you can get to just being you. Aside from that, if you know something about blockchain technology, then you would know that the definitions of money and currency are also changing.
I’m not going to go into great depth on this, but in my opinion, this new technology has diluted the traditional definition of money so much that it’s barely recognisable. Yes, there’s an exchange of value, but it’s far more powerful than that.
In my opinion, the thing that’s replaced money, at least in the traditional sense, is data. And guess what? Data is everywhere; anyone can ‘mine’ it. It means that effectively you can create your own wealth from thin air … just like the banks.
But remember, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Meaning that you have a greater responsibility to manage your own money. The accountability of which will separate most of us in the future.
Right now, what separates us is our ability to create.
Your success in this new revolution relies, with the weight of over 7 billion people, on you. One could survive the Industrial Revolution by working in a factory along-side others who were doing exactly the same thing, but you’re not just looking to survive, you want to thrive and now’s your chance.
The Information Revolution is designed to favour those who create and this is dependent on you. There’s a chance you’re now drowning in a wave of anxiety, but don’t worry, I’ve prepared a somewhat reassuring statistics. About 51% or 3.8 billion people use the internet.
The fact that you have access to the internet means that you have more of an advantage than half of the world’s population.
But wait, it gets better.
Through my research, I’ve discovered something called the 1% rule. It states that in Internet culture, the 1% rule is a rule of thumb pertaining to participation in an internet community, stating that only 1% of the users of a website actively create new content, while the other 99% of the participants simply lurk.
Let’s take that rule and apply it to some of the biggest social media platforms:
- Facebook has 2.07 billion active monthly users: 20.7 million Creators
- Reddit was shown to have 1.58 billion users: 15.8 million Creators
- YouTube has approx. 1.5 billion users: 15 million Creators
- WeChat has 963 million active monthly users: 9.63 million Creators
- Instagram has 800 million active monthly users: 8 million Creators
- Twitter has 330 million active monthly users: 3.3 million Creators
- Snapchat has 178 million active daily users: 1.78 million Creators
- Medium has 60 million unique monthly readers: 600,000 Creators
Giving us a total of 74,810,000 Creators across these platforms. Obviously, this figure is pretty rough given the overlap from those creating on multiple platforms. Also, it doesn’t include Qzone and VK, two other huge social media services in China and Russia.
Still, it’s not a bad estimation in my opinion and by way of confirmation, in a recent talk entitled Attention YouTube Creators: Continue To Innovate Or Suffer The Consequences, Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the state of the union:
…[22:18] “Please understand how much of a ridiculous advantage you have right now and how much more you need to squeeze. Please understand every 13 yr old wants to be you (YouTube Creator), so supply and demand is coming. Everybody’s going to do this, which means you’ve got to be disproportionately better in the next year or two. So just like ‘Coders’ and Developers got paid a lot, and right now all their parents want their kids to be Developers, which means it’s actually going to be commoditised and they’re going to get paid a lot less. Same for us (Creators). There’s not a 15 yr old in this f#cking country that doesn’t have this job as one of their first one or two things they want to do. Which means it’s going to be harder. Because the brands and the ad-sense and the merch is going to get split between 83 million people, instead of 8.3 million people.”
The average number of Creators per platform, based on the above-calculated figures, is 9.3 million, so I guess I’m lucky to have found the ‘writers’ platform at a time when it hypothetically has 600,000.
To add some weight to the importance of building a business around yourself and your own creativity, let’s turn one of the worlds greatest entrepreneurial minds alive today: Jack Ma.
Globalization, The Future of Work and AI
Jack isn’t just smart; he’s also wise. I recently watched a CNBC interview where he outlines his thoughts on the coming revolution and its consequences.
I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing excerpts pertaining to this article, however, the complete interview has been embedded below for those who would like to watch it, which I highly recommend:
I think globalisation is good, but the only thing is that in the past 20 years globalisation was built for big companies, for developed countries. Only 60,000 big companies benefited from globalisation. But in a lot of developing countries, small business, young people, they’re not happy. So how can we help small business?
Globalization is good, but it needs to be improved. It should be inclusive to everybody.
In the next 30 years, technology is going to challenge a lot of job opportunities. So, if we cannot help the local, small businesses to go global, it’s going to be a big problem. Small business should be the driver of globalisation.
The Future of Work:
In the next 30 years, the world will see much more pain than happiness. Every technology revolution will cause social instability. People are already unhappy because a lot of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence start to kill a lot of jobs. People start to worry. If you’re not innovative and/or creative enough your job will be taken away by machines.
The good thing is that technology is going to improve people’s lives. The bad thing is technology is killing a lot of jobs.
You might think that not working would be great, but don’t forget that for a lot of us our identity and purpose is tied up with our jobs. Take that away and who are you?
I believe that identity will become, and in some respects already is, a very important focus for our global society. Again, I urge you to embrace your own history because it’s who you are and will likely play a big role in your future success.
Speaking to the Industrial Revolution and the next 100 years:
In the last 200 years, it’s like an industry period; large-scale, standardisation is the model. Next 100 years, personalised, custom made is the future. So I think the challenge of this technology is for a lot of big companies. With the power of the Internet, we can help small businesses sell globally.
If you’re interested in how Alibaba is doing this, I recommend researching its affiliate company Ant Financial. Created in 2014 it was valued at $45 billion. In 2017 it was valued by some analysts at $70 billion, predicted to soon reach 100 billion (above the market cap of Goldman Sachs).
On a side note, Alibaba is currently trading at around $185 (USD) and is a company I would be investing in if I had the money, especially since Amazon is trading at $1,125.
Talking about AI:
Machine is good at knowledge. Human is good at wisdom. Wisdom is about experience, it’s about your life experience. So I don’t think that artificial intelligence is going to replace the wisdom.
Smart people know what you want. Wise people know what you don’t want.
Speaking of Data:
Data is our water and our soil. We think data is going to be so important to the future.
You can start to see parallels to the revolution I explored earlier and the similarities in the words of Jack Ma. Drawing your attention to Jack’s last point, in particular, I believe my data is encoded in my DNA and written through experience.
The goal I have at this point is to replace my income, which currently equates to approx. $500 (USD)/fortnight.Yes, I pretty much live like a peasant, and although I could improve my standard of living, I choose not to. It’s through this lifestyle that I’m able to cultivate the dirt in which to grow my garden.
“I spent all my time in the clouds or the dirt, and that is why I think I’m successful.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
What I’m doing isn’t for everyone, nor could everyone do it. In fact, it’s quite a difficult, uncomfortable lifestyle and according to the most recent data from the Australian Council of Social Service, I’m actually living well below the poverty line.
Nothing makes you hungrier than literally having nothing to eat.
Although weight can be applied to Jack Ma’s words by using the metric of financial success, it’s a cheap tactic, and one I’m unable to use given I have the financial status of a gummy bear.
The only way to add weight to my words is by filling them with dirt, i.e. my experiences. By writing from experience, and expressing my own ideas and perspectives, I will hopefully increase the value of my words.
Write what you know is the often-quoted piece of advice from Mark Twain which is also expressed with a modern twist by Gary Vaynerchuk:
“Don’t talk shit. Talk your reality. Talk your truth.”
As a Creative, this is what I’m endeavouring to express and is something I would encourage you to do also, whatever the medium. Writing is what I love though, so it’s the art form for my creative expression.
Discovering this was by no means easy and it’s with this insight that I now stress the most advantageous step you can take is the first one. For any creative, the biggest difficulty is overcoming fear, but it’s precisely this emotion which should be your motivation.
Instead of looking forward and projecting your fears into the future, try to imagine yourself at the end of your life, having not danced with those fears and the regret you now feel.
It’s worth being in the 1%. Even if you fail, at least you’re dancing.
My plan right now is to simply document my observations on what are basically Tim Ferris style life-experiments. It’s the most basic level of creative expression that I’ve found and doesn’t involve much more than existing in a contemplative state.
There are hints as to where this path is taking me, but on a superficial level, I hope it serves as inspiration to those struggling to figure out if they’re ‘creative’ or not.
Originally I pursued a career in the world of numbers and finance which is stereotypically seen as the desert of creative arts, and so have asked myself this question before. And while I’ve since learned that all humans are inherently creative, you must summon the courage to express it.
Why then, is now the best time to explore your creative side?
Well, in the words of Alfred North Whitehead:
“Periods of tranquility are seldom prolific of creative achievement. Mankind has to be stirred up.”
With a world on the brink of destruction, it doesn’t get much better.