Complex entertainment

Consider the entertainment industry 100 years ago. Or 200. Or 2000.

Could you ever believe you might be satisfied with shadow puppets, Punch n’ Judy, traveling minstrels, oral stories in an amphitheater or around a campfire and maybe, if you’re lucky, a play or a view of the art of a city, the wealthy or a religious edifice?

Throw your 21st Century self back into antiquity and imagine how bored your mind would be after about a month of getting used to life then. Sure, your time would be taken up with ten times the survival activity you practice today. But if you were one of the leisure crowd, try and picture the limited mental stimulation you’d be exposed to.

Today that would be worth a few hours of “Oh, this looks interesting…” (Now, what’s next? Because — I’m bored to tears.)

In our era, we’ve got so much entertainment, arts, media, sociality that we have a hard time turning it off. The common mantra “unplug, disconnect, go outside and live a little” is to return to a time when humans had little to fill their intellectual minds. “Ah, no jingles, beeps and buzzes, aside from the insects. Tranquility.”

I wonder at this progression.

From the simplistic, 300 baud data input stream of the natural world to the flood of terabytes saturating our brain cellsĀ  — we adapt; humanity’s every growing capacity to embrace the complex.

In 100 years we’ve gone from, what today’s media moguls would call pathetic information and entertainment input streams to what can only be called total-sensory-overload. Yet we condition ourselves, brace for the onslaught and beg for more.

In 100 years from now, imagine the exabytes that will blanket our minds and drive our desire for more, faster, now — even higher.

Why buy a story?

Have you ever bought a novel? Paid money to see a movie? Bought a DVD? Rented a netflix, redbox or, gasp, a Blockbuster video cassette? Have you ever watched TV?

Of course you have. We all have. But why?

Because we love to be entertained. Our brains are so big, so complex that they crave constant interaction. But our lives are so small, so trivial and filled with such mundane jobs and workaday tasks that we are compelled to entertain them. We need entertainment to, well, complete our lives.

Would we ever just go back to telling stories around a tribal campfire? Oh, we might and would, if that’s all we could get. And what stories we could tell then too. Stories of financial conquest and ruin, trips to foreign lands, amazing things we’d eaten, drunk, and seen. But we don’t need to do that do we?

No. We just need to whip our our credit card and buy another hour or ten’s worth of entertainment. There. Done. Now we can settle back and watch or read and live another’s life — as if it were our own; fiction or not; reality, fantasy or fantastical science. As long as we can get away from our own mundane lives.

How often to you seek entertainment escape? Every week? Everyday? More often? Is that not odd? Humanity sponsors a trillion dollar enterprise dedicated to allow people to abandon their lives, for a time, in order to remain sane in this banal world we’ve created. What’s even more odd — we’re just getting started. Our entertainment menu is set to grow exponentially.

When that day comes, whose stories will be the ones told, read, projected, injected? Yours? One can only hope.