Entertainment Killing Our Time

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Hollywood / philosophy

Are any forms of entertainment, movies or museums, a “waste of time.”

You’ll hear one argument many bring up which is that entertainment and those benevolent forms of artistic expression are forms of escapism. When we dream of playing video-games instead of talking to others, is that really so bad? The storylines and journey of another character whether it’s in film or a video game can radically affect how the lens of your own life.

Is there a correlation perhaps between people who play video-games or watch a form of entertainment and optimism for the future, assuming it’s not an addiction. I believe so. Much of our day can be monotonous if we let it. The casual cycle of wake up, work, Netflix, and sleep can turn a lifetime into a day.

The argument that living through stories has no purpose is historically inaccurate. Millenia ago, Homo Erecti would sit around the fire and watch their shaman paint entire worlds through their stories. Then as we left pagan times, religion, and more specifically Christianity, took the centerpiece – bible study became the norm in the west.

The crux of the matter is that the role models we have through our daily lives or online are then used by a few to build the future. As a notable fan of Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm, I recall this piece of how Andreessen and Horowitz built their firm – they copied a lot of the processes from Michael Ovitz’s Creative Arts Agency.

I’ve written about Hollywood and movies before, but not the benefits of entertainment.

Shakespeare, along with Plato, is remembered as the man who essentially built the pillars of Western thought. This was due to the depth and layer of each play. People could see nascent worlds born anew each time they entered the theatre. Why is our entertainment today any different?

Take what Plato said about men learning how to write in his Phaedrus:

“If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder.

And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.

In the tech world, a strong distribution tactic can win consumer internet consumer marketshare. That’s why Netflix is now a staple of American and European culture. People don’t want to live without their daily source of entertainment.

Warren Buffet notes that one of the most important details he scours for when reading business reports is its pricing power. Great businesses have immense pricing power, of which the classic example is See’s Candies. You can raise the power and demand is inelastic – we’ll keep buying hell or high water.

Is it feasible to say that as the price of watching stories has dropped so low, the quality of the content we consume has fallen? If anything we’re living in the golden age of superhero movies, great if you grew up as a fan of Sci-Fi as a Gen X-er. There is huge pricing power in entertainment (definitely not the case in movies nowadays).

As I’ve met more people, I believe much of my conversation is a past-time. In a Pareto way, at least 80% of the conversations I have are pointless and me trying to boost my ego. They’ll never amount to anything nor will I think about them afterwards.

As Paul Allen said while he was building Microsoft with Bill Gates:

“For breaks [Bill and I would] go to the movies; we must have seen more than 500 hundred over the years.”

If the ex-richest man in the world has time for entertainment, there could be unseen value in taking time to apply our imaginations.

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Allen and Gates, 1981

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