Hello…Is This Thing On?

More Robots
“That small sliver represents the amount of human jobs that remain viable.”

WAY back in 2009 well-known motivational speaker (no not Matt Foley 🙂 ) named Daniel Pink delivered a Keynote Address to the good folks gathered for the Texas Music Educators Association Conference.

Click on this image to go to the WMEA site where the full 48 minute presentation is embedded.
Click on this image to go to the WMEA site where the full 48 minute presentation is embedded.

Check out Daniel’s wonderful work concerning all of this and focusing on the right-left brain concept “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future”:

Click on the image above OR HERE to order Daniel's book.
Click on the image above OR HERE to order Daniel’s book.

Daniel essentially had good news for the musicians in attendance at TMEA that can be summed up by saying that we have gone beyond The Information Age and into The Conceptual Age. In other words, as technology advances and replaces human beings, the one thing that will still be in demand is essentially anything that a computer can’t do.

BAM! We artists should be good then right? Computers (and therefore robots) can do so many things extremely well…but improvisation and creativity is not one of them. Right-brained thinkers should be in HIGH demand. But, how is that working out for us?

Well, something that perhaps wasn’t crystal clear back in 2009 was the oncoming devaluation of music and the arts in general. Where are we with all of that? Is it really happening? Steven Tyler of Aerosmith has some thoughts on that:

Steven Tyler screaming some common sense ideas into the air of Washington D.C.
Steven Tyler screaming some common sense ideas into the air of Washington D.C. (Click on the Image OR HERE to read his article: “Politicians: Respect and Protect Copyright”)

So, regarding the good news of Daniel Pink…how are we doing? Are the use of robots and computers replacing humans while not creating new jobs? Is society starting to devalue music and the arts in general? Have artists loss access to revenue streams?

Things could be bleak, or we could be in the midst of some kind of new Renaissance. What do you think? Let’s share some ideas and come up with some good news. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Hello…Is This Thing On?

  1. Earl MacDonald October 26, 2015 / 8:40 pm

    From an educator’s perspective, I enjoyed Dan Pink’s talk. As an artist, I find his arguments disheartening. Must music education be justified by what it can offer the corporate world? Can it no longer be an end unto itself? From a practical, financially self-sustaining standpoint, the answer may be no for many of us. That’s where Steven Tyler’s article comes into play. Copyright reform must happen, and we can’t stand by idly any more. As a group we need to become literate and fluently conversant about the state of our industry. We must pinpoint which current laws are negatively impacting us and bring these to the attention of our elected representatives. To start, I plan to read more about the Grammy Creators Alliance and learn how to sign on.

    As a side note, did you see this article in the JEN news bulletin this week?

    …so much for computers not being able to improvise jazz.

    Thanks for another stimulating blog post, Steve.


  2. Camilla Vaitaitis October 28, 2015 / 2:42 am

    The fact that humans have the ability to be creative, make connections, and develop emotions guarantees that computers will never be able to fully take over the arts industries. While technology might be developed that would allow computers to improvise or compose, they will always be lacking the aspect of emotion. I appreciate the points brought up by Dan Pink because I agree that arts education should be a fundamental part of any child’s schooling. The right brain skills learned through the arts are what is becoming essential to excel in any job today

    It makes me relieved and happy to see musicians as recognizable as Steven Tyler speaking out about the issues with current revenue generation in the music industry. It is comforting to know that musicians who have “made it” are still passionate about getting fair compensation for up and coming artists. If all artists believed these things and expressed them to the general public, perhaps we’d have more success in changing the way musicians are compensated. As Steven brought up, he was able to change the minds of politicians who only needed to hear the concerns from an artist.

    However, I frequently find myself speaking with fellow musicians who continually pirate music, and comment that it isn’t important to support [insert widely-known artist] because they already have enough money, or who don’t go support their friends at a local show because there is a $5 cover and they want to see it for free. If we’re going to make a change, all artists need to be on the same page about the vital necessity of fair compensation for our work. While Steven’s argument was more centered around copyright laws, I think that that specific conversation still brings up important points about general musical compensation that should always be discussed.

    Hopefully with the support of people like Pink and Tyler, the general public will start to realize the deep importance of the arts. This can only be accomplished, though, if all artists advocate for arts education and stand up for fair compensation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. David Bernot November 2, 2015 / 4:25 pm

    I thought what Dan Pink said about the creative skills that a necessary today was good. I don’t hope to be an engineer by any means but from an artists’ view I see Dan’s talk as a verification that the skills that musicians and artists have to create from a blank slate and see or hear what isn’t there yet, is something that cannot be copied by a machine or laid out step by step to be done for minimum wage. It’s the ability to think outside the box that will remain something that only a human can acquire and use to make art.

    Since our art is our own and as Dan Pink says, “art is a look at what’s inside the artist, something that you didn’t know you needed”, it also needs to be protected. Other types of work are protected by managers and bosses, in the forms of regular wages and benefits, a boss won’t take a regular worker’s hours and not pay them for satisfactory work, however, musicians and artists alike often have issues with copyright laws that allow our work to go unpaid for, yet still widely available. Steven Tyler talked about this and the efforts being made to fix these laws that are very activist in nature. It makes sense that we should be willing to petition for what we deserve by knocking on the doors of congress, like Steven mentions in his article. As well I believe we need to have non-musicians on our side, is there a way to combine this? Everyone loves free music, maybe a petition attached to streaming links or downloads could be an incentive to show congress that more than just the musicians and artists appreciate and want artists to be able to continue to master and create their own art and live.


  4. Eunha So November 4, 2015 / 2:36 am

    To answer the question “how are we doing? Are the use of robots and computers replacing humans while not creating new jobs?” we need to know what kind of jobs we are talking about and how we are using the robots and computers. Robots and computers are excellent at replacing human jobs that are only related to left-brain skills, but they cannot replace the job that requires right-brain skills. However most jobs today that takes left-brain skills also requires right-brain skills, because people are always trying to improve what they can do with left-brain skills, and in order to improve that right-brain skills are absolutely necessary. For example, robots and machines can produce IPhone 6, however it took human’s creativity (which is using the right-brain) to come up with the next IPhone 6s.

    Music happens to be a big part of people life and career that requires both left and right brain, and cannot be replaced by robots. For instance, people need their left-brain to count measures and learn techniques that requires playing the music, but they also need their right brain to learn the techniques and create music (improvising). Robots and computers cannot improvise, they can also do what they are programed to do. For all these reasons I appreciate Dan Pink for mentioning that arts education is a necessary part of child’s education, because that we people can grow up using the right-brain, and learn the importance of it.

    Another question is that “Is society starting to devalue music and the arts in general?” I believe that if society did not seem to devalue music and the arts in general, this question would not have come up, also people such as Dan Pink and Steven Tyler would not have to speak up for the music and arts’ importance. However, the fact that Steve and Dan spoke up about addressing the problems, it shows that we still have hopes because we have people who supports music and arts in out society.


  5. taylormartinconductor November 24, 2015 / 7:03 pm

    I think that Pink’s argument is a very strong point of advocacy for professionals in non-musical fields. What Pink’s advocacy is strongest is in the hands of language arts teachers, economists, tech programmers, etc. and it is twofold. First, musicians, arguable, can perform and create music in ways that computers can’t. Our brains remember feelings and emotions, and our bodies have an incredible range of expressive capabilities. The latter is something that I think computers can lear, and I am not so sure about the former, though AI is getting very complex. The argument that performers should feel good about the fact that human performers will be needed for a long time is not really where I think Pink’s optimism lies. His argument comes from a non-musicians perspective who sees the benefit of bank employees and scientists having a musical outlet and a musical background. Will this lead to a broader appreciation for the performing arts? Yes, I believe so. But does it mean that pursuing a career as a musician is made any easier because we can do something that a computer can’t? I don’t think it necessarily does. Steven Tyler puts a voice to the challenges for performing musicians, not for..well..everyone else. New technologies and trends are making it harder for musicians to make money, even though there may be a movement to value arts in other circles. Convenience will still rule, and technology makes buying music convenient. Pink’s perspective is important. People will have to value the art in order to feel that they need to pay for it, and when influential people are working in the community with backgrounds in music, there is a better chance for this type of support. But at this point I don’t see our ability to offer something different as the saving grace for professional opportunities in our field. We will still have to be creative, we will still have to convince non-musicians of our music, and we will still have to find ways to work alongside our constantly changing technological landscape.


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