I'd also say it's kind of sweet that you assume that people who are pursuing the arts find it to be rewarding, or that the camaraderie that keeps these communities knit together is a pleasant experience.
Actually, that was an element that you introduced. "We don't want people working a job primarily because it's fun and they like their coworkers." and "the occasional bright spots of camaraderie when they do manage to get some sort of project going"
But given your description of "a slowly-developing psychological exaggeration of how meaningful their 'work' is", I guess I'm more inclined to give the people being described the benefit of the doubt than you are, which I admit is a bit cheeky considering that they're not people I've ever met. Still, I think it's worth at least considering the possibility that their values are not your values, and what you describe as exaggeration might be actual meaning to them.
Re: bullying, I've seen plenty of bullying over the internet, and some types of bullying are much more prevalent in online spaces. I don't really see any argument for bullying going away when more things are virtual. And for obnoxious people, I wonder if they might be more obnoxious, based on virtual things being generally more awkward. Obnoxious and awkward might be worse than just obnoxious?
Re: artist vs. shoe salesperson, there is one difference that seems especially salient to their influence on their respective scenes. Artists are expected to bring their uniqueness to what they do, while most shoe salespeople are limited in how much they are allowed to do so. So the loss of an artist to the art world is more likely to be the loss of something unique than the loss of a shoe salesperson to the shoe world.
When you describe the arts by saying "Their community as a whole knows how to create a false sense of glamour that draws in artist and audience alike. Chasing this glamour is a big motivator for the whole enterprise." and then go on to talk about "collective self-delusion that perpetuates deep deviations of work from social value, or even from genuine sustained happiness or achievement" and "a lot of that 'camaraderie' looks like FOMO, jealousy, inferiority complexes, extreme competition for scarce resources, and a sense of identity defined by victory in a zero-sum status competition, and to top it all off, it has to come with the pretense of liking others in the scene (and the scene itself)"
... sure, you're examining the idea that being alone is better, but you also seem to have an axe to grind against the arts. I am not reacting against the idea that sometimes being alone is better. I'm reacting against the idea that the world would be better off without much of the arts, and that the arts are in some sense perpetuating a fraud against hopeful artists and audience alike -- that they are just glamour and illusion -- that any value is the exception, not the rule, and most claimed value is deception. I believe your argument relies on your own sense of what is valuable, and I do not believe that your sense of what is valuable captures all value.
On a different note, if you haven't already seen it, you might find this interesting:
I know a successful author who says he started writing because he noticed authors get more attention at cons. FWIW. (I'm pretty sure he gets something out of the work itself, and yet, this is the story he tells.)
Observing this discussion, your point seems to be that there are some people in the world who do things because they are fun rather than because they are worthwhile (IYO), and that the world as a whole would be better if these people were less able to have fun so that they would be more motivated to do worthwhile (IYO) things. Given this, I don't suppose my anecdote actually changes anything about the main thrust of your argument, as you can just define the guy I know as outside of the class of people you're talking about. I mean, the amount of time he spends writing is probably more than the amount of time he spends at cons. Maybe his hard work purifies his desire to have fun? Maybe he's earned the right to have a little fun? Maybe he would have found some other reason to start writing if there were no cons?
And yet, I do sort of wonder if you're constructing a meaningful class of people, these people who are seduced by parties and glamour but would otherwise be doing something more worthy (IYO)... I sort of wonder if you are yourself being seduced by a narrative about the lone genius and/or the intrinsic value of hard work, and maybe by that thing that Zvi recently talked about where things are considered more valuable because they are sacrifices. Sacrifice all your fun, and your work will be more valuable?
I also think it's...really sweet, in a way, that you just assume that these people can find some way of contributing to the world that will both make them more money and be a more meaningful contribution to the world. Have you considered that maybe some of the people who you think could find something more valuable...maybe they don't share your belief, maybe they resonate with the idea of "bullshit jobs" or "moral mazes" rather than whatever assumptions about jobs and value that you have, and that perhaps these people are taking their meaning, their value, and their idea of what their true work is where they can find it? And that the thing stopping them from doing the things you consider more valuable may run deeper than being seduced by parties?
And finally, perhaps consider that in art, there is not necessarily one measure of value. The piece that speaks to you may not speak to me. The piece that speaks to me may not speak to you. I assume you've also heard of the long tail? Something doesn't have to change the world or even reach a large portion of the world in order to have any value at all, and if that small value is lost, if all those small bits of value are lost...
I suppose you might not miss it much if the people whose art you disdain were to stop making art altogether. At least at first. But as John Donne said, "Any man's death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind."
Perhaps you might consider art as an ecosystem, and the loss of any art potentially diminishes all art. So if you like any art at all (which I assume you do, otherwise I can't imagine why you'd spend so much time in and around the arts)... "Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."
You could see it as a portrait of a man who's stuck at simulacra level 3 (in the masking the lack of reality sense, not so much the signaling sense, though you can also watch him deciding which signals to send and which he's just going to ignore even though he knows he should send them). He not only lacks the epistemic tools to see reality except in glimpses before retreating to his fortress of banality, but is scared of reality and so doesn't want to, despite his near-constant boredom and misery. And so he dies in confusion, a banal, narcissistic void in the center of the story.
(Although if you consider that this was published in 1921, i.e. just a little after WWI, you may consider that the main character may have participated in WWI and have a little more sympathy for him. Or maybe not.)
I don't think the existence of multiple movies is good evidence that what appeals about the story as a written story is not at least partially the writing style. Yes, it is impossible to film the story as written. Moviemakers may rise to the challenge of creating something with the same feel and basic plot, and take the existence of previous versions as evidence that it's a project that's worth doing and also that it hasn't been done right yet, so there's still room for their version. (Though apparently Huxley did one of the adaptations to film, so presumably he got it right if there is a right. Still, updating classics is always popular.)
I do think this was probably a more successful story at the time it was written, and now it's more classic. To some degree, I think the story depends on the gender roles and expectations of the time (1921), which can to some extent be derived from the text, but maybe not completely, and probably it was more meaningful when this was something the reader would be living with directly. The Sleepwalkers is describing the period just before WWI, and WWI had an effect (shell shock, society trying to deal with the reality of shell shock), but:
Historians of gender have suggested that around the last decades of the nineteenth and the first of the twentieth century, a relatively expansive form of patriarchal identity centered on the satisfaction of the appetites (food, sex, commodities) made way for something slimmer, harder and more abstinent. ... Yet these increasingly hypertrophic forms of masculinity existed in tension with ideals of obedience, courtesy, cultural refinement and charity that were still view as markers of the 'gentleman'. Perhaps we can ascribe the signs of role strain and exhaustion we observe ... to an accentuation of gender roles that had begun to impose intolerable burdens on some men. ... The nervousness that many saw as the signature of this era manifested itself in triumph over the 'weakness' of one's own will
Yes, I agree with that. Of course it's meaningful! It wouldn't be a reflection of reality if it wasn't. But meaningful isn't the same as complete or undistorted.
For example, I think it's meaningful (maybe not the most insightful thing that could possibly be said, but meaningful) to talk about the original Star Trek in terms of head, heart, and gut as reflected in the characters of Spock, McCoy, and Kirk. I don't think this covers everything that Star Trek is, or everything that those characters are, or everything that real people can be, but it's an interesting pattern (and from there one can have some fun considering felt senses and gut feelings, because so often people use an even simpler model and just contrast head and heart, so I think it's fun to consider the gut as Captain).
I saw The Gervais Principle as a way of looking at the show and at those aspects of reality that are reflected in the show (I read the whole thing for the reflections of reality, not the show analysis), and an interesting one, but not necessarily intended to be complete to every possibility (especially possibilities not explored in the show) or even...I mean, I'd have to read it again, but just as real people aren't only one of head heart gut, in terms of The Gervais Principle, I thought there was some simplification going on, but I can't actually remember if I thought the categories were more like personality types (which are usually a continuum), or like cultures, or like roles that one is forced into and then forced to act according to. I remember aspects of all of these, actually.
But The Gervais Principle is a model of a tv show, not directly of reality. I haven't seen the particular show, but most tv shows are not trying to model reality, but reflect it, and distorting it is fair and even expected. There's an argument to be made that the distortions are what makes it interesting.
Do you see this differently?
I'm reminded of this:https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/01/dude-you-broke-the-future.html
(And no worries.)
That's a really different scenario from the historical one.
I'd like to note that I didn't say the governors were stupid (nor do I believe that people in the past were stupid), just that they were likely to be very different in outlook and understanding about the world and likely to act on these ways of thinking (and I also think that the world was also different and some of their understanding may be more accurate for their time). I was trying to question the notion of control, which I think is a question that still holds in the AGI scenario.
When you say we've lost and game over, what do you mean? Roman Empire level of lost, colonialism level of lost, something else? Even in colonialism level of lost, obviously it has had long term effects but I do not think "game over" is quite the phrase to describe the situation today, and that being the case, how can it be the phrase to describe anything that came before today?
And if you're thinking of a level of "game over" that has no historical counterpart, then I'd question the relevance of the historical discussion as a supporting argument for the scenario you're really interested in.
I'm not sure that works when you're not starting with a unified culture. Long term long distance delegation may only work if everyone shares the same doctrine, more or less, went to the same schools, has similar ideas about what the goal is, has similar loyalties, etc. You install a governor in India and you have some idea of what sorts of things they may do, because you know how they were brought up.
But if you write to a subordinate "Sounds like we need to increase moral" and the next thing you hear about they've killed a lot of people and put their heads up on poles at the city gate, and you're like (via letter, which they may get months later) no no no why did you do that and half a year later you get back a bewildered reply where they're like well obviously we had to for whatever reason made sense to them as a product of that era and location? I mean, maybe you don't care as long as you're "in charge", but maybe you do care?
And maybe some of the unexpected things they do involve selling your more advanced technology to your enemies, or starting wars with your other governors, or...
(I'm not sure any amount of communication technology makes up for this, but more would be better, even though you can't micromanage the whole world either.)
And if you have complicated plans for what to do with the world once you control it...well, good luck? Also, start founding schools and training teachers, but expect anything you try to instill to mutate at least somewhat, or for portions of it to be ignored entirely because it doesn't make sense to the teachers, much less the students, or...
Though I guess I'm not sure what degree of control you're really aiming for. The Roman Empire involved a lot of local rule, for example, so if what you really want is taxes and maybe some form of conscription... (Though they also had their provincial governors looking out for Rome and with the same basic idea of what looking out for Rome meant...)
What level of communication technology do you consider necessary? It seems that in order to control the whole world, you'd need a pretty high level of communication technology.
Okay, but what is a bicycle?
Is this? https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4e/Michauxjun.jpg/682px-Michauxjun.jpg
What about this?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Draisine_or_Laufmaschine,_around_1820._Archetype_of_the_Bicycle._Pic_01.jpg
Except for the pneumatic tire, about which I really have no idea, it seems pretty likely that a blacksmith and/or clockmaker in the past <i>could</i> make a bicycle. But is it economically feasible? How would the bicycle work on the streets/roads of the time? Can you make a cross-country type of bicycle out of wood (i.e. less expensive but able to deal with likely terrains)?
What would people use this bicycle for? Is it more useful than a cart? Than a horse? Would someone who could get around in a coach and four (i.e. rich enough to buy something that may be expensive, especially if made mostly of metal) choose to use a bicycle?
I feel like your question about physical artifacts is on the right track, but that it needs to be expanded quite a bit. It's not just the physical artifacts for making things, but the environment in which things will be used, and that environment includes both physical artifacts and economic situation and mental memes and ways of thinking and culture and etc.
I haven't read it, but from what I've heard, the 1632 series by Eric Flint and collaborators looks into some of these questions, and at least tries to be realistic about it. It is fiction, but I think it's the kind where some thought has gone into how things work.