“Twin transitions” and (the Transformation of) Art Exordium to an economist’s inquiry into the ecology and technology (and assorted ideologies) of tomorrow’s cultural and creative sector
The future of what is currently happening in the European Union (although the process we are discussing is ultimately and inevitably global) constitutes the beginning of the “twin transitions” that may find us, decades from now, in the following scenario: we will start our day in a smart and clean house (energetically and aseptically), looking out the VR window that shows us the weather status up to the air quality level and indicates the optimal time to spend outside from a health care index perspective; we will have breakfast after seeing the sustainability score of the menu’s food, with delicacies, by the way, coming from high-tech farmers who take care of their crops by buttoning in the cloud, connected to Big Data, open source weather platforms, fine sensors, and autonomous tractors; we use the washing machine when the dynamic electricity tariff is in our favour, for we are brave prosumers and suppliers in the grid, thanks to strategically mounted solar panels on the roof; we go to work, not yet counting among the lucky digital nomads with flexible telework regime, 4/24, 4/7, waiting for some well-deserved e-leisure hours reserved, for example, for culture; we have the choice between immersing ourselves, through the AR headset, in the captivating Metaverse for a play (where, no, we will not be spectators, but we will play Horatio, in Hamlet, replying to the immortal Laurence Olivier’s avatar) or we can order a Cézanne exhibition at home, as in the old days, at the Tate Museum (projected 16K on the white and versatile walls of the 3D printed and luxuriously finished house by Obi-One, the painter robot of the 100th Romanian unicorn); nostalgic, tired of e-books, we take a book from the vintage memories shelf and sit under the retro-futuristic lamp, in which an old LED bulb from Electromagnetica stubbornly functional has fused with the glass recovered from our great-great-great-grandfather’s oil lamp, a hero at Mărășești WWI clash. Always and everywhere, the cultural-artistic experience integrates us (as well as distinguishes us) in/from the environment, together with our exosomatic extensions (of instrumental, technological nature).
Yes, perhaps the future of cultural experiences may not look exactly like this, but negation is not absolute either. Returning to the green and digital transitions, they support each other. For example, the “distributed ledger” technology that underpins blockchain and, therefore, cryptocurrencies can be used to trace materials in the production processes of the circular economy. Digital twins (virtual counterparts of the real world) can model traffic, among other things, to optimize urban mobility flows, reduce traffic congestion, or lower emissions. Regarding AI, despite the anxieties that come with it, we know that it can help us in strategic projections and quick decision-making. However, sometimes the two transitions can find themselves in contradictory positions: digitization uses electricity, and many digital technologies consume excessive resources and create waste; remote work reduces the need for office space and demand for materials to build or maintain them, but it could also lead to employees needing to set up separate workspaces at home, involving energy consumption and additional costs for heating and cooling. To fully benefit from the dual transition, proactive and integrative management is said to be necessary. Undoubtedly, the digital transition will be driven mainly by the private sector due to its enormous economic potential, while the full exploitation of the benefits for environmental protection and limiting harmful excesses would require the involvement of the state and civil society. These reasonings, concerns and hopes also apply to those who, as artists, cultural entrepreneurs, or employees in creative companies, participate, through their particular added value, to social wealth. In this context, the importance of eco-/tech- transformations for the future of the cultural and creative sector, a key component of social metabolism – crucial in the ideological preparation of any future! –, is, to say the least, major, and is worth researching. For instance, a legit question, in this vein, might be: will the future markets for “green” and “digital” art creations be more (eco-)conservative or more (techno-)progressive?
To be continued…