Elon Musk, Bo Burnham, The Internet, Modern Renaissance and How To Be A Renaissance Man

What's your relationship to technology? I don’t remember my first time on a computer, I just know there always was one in the house. But my earliest memories of the computer are just one being in a room where my dad would sometimes send emails and use solitaire while drinking a Pepsi. But by the time I turned 7 I was operating my personal laptop, pirating Lil Wayne songs and using websites like Paltalk to catfish grown ups online with my big brothers. And soon after that I was graduating from eighth grade, fighting over Snapchat best friends lists and recording Vines in my friends basement.


The rapid technological advancement that I’ve seen in my 21 years of life far exceeds that of my grandparents, and changes the relationship I have with technology. My grandparents would never understand the personal relationship I have with my phone. The phone is no longer just a thing in the house that makes you talk to people, it's our glasses that helps us see a broader vision of reality. It's an extension of our consciousness in the physical world. It makes you smarter, more social and creative, it retains your likes, dislikes, memories, thoughts, beliefs and opinions as well as the optimal version of yourself. The version of yourself that you can curate and perfect when presenting to the world.


I would be significantly dumber without my phone. Whether or not it's the most accurate information is debatable, but I have instant access to a vast array of information. My phone and laptop give me the ability to be more creative because they give me access to a wide array of tools and information. I protect my phone with a passcode in the same way I lock my door when I leave my house. I would feel like my privacy was severely invaded if someone had access to my phone. That's not a feeling my grandparents would be able to comprehend in reference to a phone.


Calling a smartphone a phone is very misleading. Smartphones happen to place phone calls, that is no longer their primary function. Smartphones are this strange new information transmitter that have Trojan horsed their way into our lives by using a familiar name. This isn’t an anti technological boomer rant, I genuinely love my phone. But that's the weird part. Does that sentence even make sense? What does it mean to love my phone? I accessorize it, I upgrade it, I update the software and upkeep it, I am less functional in the world without it. Soon it will be impossible to function in the world without it.


Covid quarantine has made me notice that the phone is a place I spend time inside. The internet is a spatial dimension just like the room I’m in while using it, and it occupies more space in the amount of places you can spend your time in. The internet is an infinite universe. There are apps and websites that are being uploaded every second. Pictures, videos and content are uploaded every second. And the internet holds it all in this giant, ever growing and expanding hive mind. And my addition to the hivemind makes me have a very strange relationship with it.


Comedian and Youtuber Bo Burnham made his A24 directorial debut film which he also wrote titled Eighth Grade. Eighth Grade is about an introverted teenage girl who tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school. The girl has a YouTube channel where she uploads videos of herself speaking to the camera every single day in her room. Her internet personality was confident and extroverted, while that wasn’t how she was in real life. Bo wanted to depict the smart phone in the movie and the relationship to the internet and technology as personally as it genuinely is for our generation. Bo stated that he saw how the internet and the phone were usually depicted in film as an object that's distant and movies were never really able to show the personal connection that we have to these devices.


The movie showed various scenes with the characters alone in a room with a small grey light on their face, the characters are completely ignoring and unaware of the reality and space around them as they are engulfed in the world within the screen. The characters in the film used the devices as an external being that they existed alongside. Because the main character Kayla existed as 2 people. And she associated her internet personality as her real self. The internet personality existed as a cloak to cover up the other version of her that was insecure and introverted. And that's how a lot of us live with our devices. A vast majority of the internet is people like Kayla just talking to the device. And that's a positive of the internet.


People are more expressive, more creative, and more informed. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, only about 30 percent of European adults were literate. Gutenberg’s invention flooded Europe with printed material and literacy rates began to rise. In the 17th century education became an emphasized part of urban societies, further catalyzing the spread of literacy. Literacy rates in England grew from 30 percent of about 4 million people in 1641 to 47 percent of roughly 4.7 million in 1696. As wars, depressions and disease riddled 18th century Europe, the pace of literacy growth slowed but continued upwards, reaching 62 percent among the English population of roughly 8 million by 1800. People were becoming enlightened. Gutenberg's printing press spread literature to the masses in an efficient, durable way, shoving Europe headlong into the original information age – the Renaissance.


Intense interest in and learning about classical antiquity was "reborn" after the Middle Ages, in which classical philosophy was largely ignored or forgotten. Renaissance thinkers considered the Middle Ages to have been a period of cultural decline. They sought to revitalize their culture through re-emphasizing classical texts and philosophies. They expanded and interpreted them, creating their own style of art, philosophy and scientific inquiry. Some major developments of the Renaissance include astronomy, humanist philosophy, the printing press, vernacular language in writing, painting and sculpture technique, world exploration and, in the late Renaissance, Shakespeare's works.


The printing press gave people a renewed lust for information and created the Renaissance Man. Renaissance man, also called Universal Man, is an ideal that developed in Renaissance Italy from the notion expressed by one of its most-accomplished representatives, Leon Battista Alberti, that “a man can do all things if he will.” The ideal embodied the basic tenets of Renaissance humanism, which considered man the center of the universe, limitless in his capacities for development, and led to the notion that men should try to embrace all knowledge and develop their own capacities as fully as possible. For long stretches of time most information was experiential, oral traditions or distributed by religious leaders. In this period larger amounts of people had the ability to intake and output vast amounts of information and so more people were able to follow multiple disciplines, skills and ideas in an ultimate pursuit of knowledge and innovation. Those ideas were largely abandoned for the most part after the industrial revolution.


The emergence of British power during the Renaissance would spawn the third major advance in management, the Industrial Revolution. As the British Empire’s power grew, so did opportunities for trade. The 18th century saw the emergence of various international corporations, such as the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Industrial Revolution, in modern history, is the process of change from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. This process began in Britain in the 18th century and from there spread to other parts of the world. This further development of trade led to the establishment of the marketplace as a dominant means of organizing the exchange of goods. The market would coordinate the actions and activities of various participants, thus allowing resources to flow to their most efficient uses.


One of the major intellectual leaders of this period was the economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. Smith proposed the idea of specialization and coordination within corporations as a source of economic growth. Specialization and division of labor were Smith’s major contributions to management thought. The division of labor meant that a worker specialized in performing one task that was part of a larger series of tasks, at the end of which a product would be produced. The idea of specialization of labor had several important outcomes.


Firstly, specialization drastically reduced the cost of goods. Secondly, it drastically reduced the need for training. Instead of learning every aspect of a task, workers needed to learn one portion of it. Thirdly, the need to coordinate all these different tasks required a greater emphasis on management. And that factory system is still what our world is structured around despite the vast reduction in factory employment rates since the 1970s.


So now here we are, at the beginning of the information age. Our minds have been forced to specialize in one task for the past few centuries because of our factory systems but just like the people that were around when the printing press was invented, we are at yet another human enlightenment era. The access to information has never been wider and it has sparked multiple new schools of thought, philosophies, and has given artists, creatives and innovators the ability to pursue multiple disciplines and to pursue knowledge. But that doesn’t mean everything is great. Before the printing press people weren’t able to accurately state their findings and share them with large amounts of people.


So just like the internet, the access to information ultimately enlightened people made people more creative, more informed and more connected in this global record of accessible and transferable information. Obviously the internet, just like anything has its negatives. Just like any situation where you have to transfer information, misinformation to a certain extent is almost always a guarantee. Because every record of information ever shared from one human to another is vulnerable to human error. So now misinformation, spin and agendas run rampant on our information intake.


Either capitalistic, political or personal agendas are at the epicenter of most of our information intake and increased connection. We can be easily misinformed or influenced through the rapid rate in which we consume information. We all openly have our social causes, political beliefs, opinions, thoughts and ideas in this global high school cafeteria. And we want to be liked so we look at the phone for validation. That leaves us susceptible to accepting schools of thought just because they are popular or trending. We curate our image to perfection in order to be liked and impress a bunch of strangers, because just like Kayla, that's the real us. That’s the version of us that we want to present, not this external, insecure shell. But this confident, witty, funny and smart person that protests for social causes, cares about world issues, and is always having a good time and is liked by a million people on instagram.


We record reality and put out a distorted version where every moment was incredible and ultimately a highlight reel, as said in Modern Renaissance Man and Presidential candidate Kanye Wests song “Highlights” featuring Young Thug from the album, 'The Life Of Pablo'. We’re all guilty of it and there’s nothing inherently wrong with recording the best version of your life and putting it out there. The problem starts when you allow the device to start controlling your life, and making you make decisions in your life that you would never make if it weren't for the incentive of likes and validation. The device should not make us feel insecure, addicted or seeking validation. Because these devices are incredibly addictive. And it just feels like a regular part of life because of how long they have been a regular part of my life, but it's strange how the internet can make me feel.


I often find myself scrolling back and forth through apps looking for notifications waiting for a flood of dopamine. “I feel tremendous guilt,” admitted Chamath Palihapitiya, former Vice President of User Growth at Facebook, to an audience of Stanford students. He was responding to a question about his involvement in exploiting consumer behavior. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” he explained. In Palihapitiya’s talk, he highlighted something most of us know but few really appreciate: smartphones and the social media platforms they support are turning us into bona fide addicts. While it’s easy to dismiss this claim as hyperbole, platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible.


There comes a point in time where you have to question if you are using the device or if the device is using you. Are we using the internet as the new printing press where we can download useful and resourceful information that will enrich our lives, or are we just content and notification junkies, floating through apps for our next hit. And I’m a functioning social media addict, this year I’ve tried multiple times to completely stay off my phone and social media, but even then I find myself running back to tweet something to get my next hit. And again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with twitter. It's my favourite app, I like reading funny stuff, writing funny stuff and leaving memos for future me.


But then sometimes I find myself being controlled by the apps. I find myself seeking validation and acceptance from the phone, I run to the phone to tell twitter whenever I accomplish anything. The phone makes me feel slightly insecure and anxious where I have to check social media every once in a while cause I’m having mini notification withdrawals. These are strange, nuanced and complex feelings to have towards a bunch of metal and plastic that lives in my pocket. I love my phone, but I fear my phone, I want to use my phone but I don’t want it using me. I want to use the internet as a place where I can gather useful and resourceful information that will enrich my life and help me actualize my full abilities in my quest of achieving my modern day Renaissance Man ideal.


With our modern day bubonic plague, Covid-19, forcing us into remaining inside our homes with immediate access to resources and information, I see no choice but to pursue knowledge and to develop my capacities to their full potential. And that is a luxury the internet gives us that differentiates us from any generation before us. We have the world in the palm of our hands. We can pursue any creative, scientific, philosophical or artistic discipline or information with no restraints and also find a means to monetize it. That gives us the ability to reduce poverty rates, unemployment rates, raise literacy rates and general happiness and satisfaction if people are content with the fields and disciplines they are pursuing that are benefiting the world, instead of feeling trapped in the same dead end job until old age. To get to the sea of knowledge lurking below social media, you have to overcome the smoke screen that is the social media search for a validation feedback loop.


I’ve been out with people multiple times where I saw them repeat an organic moment for snapchat. And that's what I mean by the device using you. You are changing the flow of socializing and instead of exchanging useful or interesting information, you are curating your real life to fit the context of your social presence. You are curating a real life moment and situation then commodifying it. It's like daily vloggers that lose touch with reality because their life is spent performing for that lens. There’s nothing inherently wrong with performing for your socials and if you enjoy using them and don’t feel the negatives that I stated apply to you, then more power to you and I hope you continue enjoying your regular usage of technology. I personally do not like how this thing makes me feel so I will definitely be limiting my own usage of social media. But I do believe that this is the beginning of the New Renaissance Era.


The Black Death or Great Bubonic Plague was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. It marked the end of an era in Italy, its impact was profound, and it resulted in wide-ranging social, economic, cultural and religious changes. These changes, directly and indirectly, led to the emergence of the Renaissance, one of the greatest eras for art, architecture, and literature in human history.


Now the Coronavirus might not be as deadly as the Bubonic Plague but it has provided a moment unlike any other in modern history. For the first time in human history, all humans in the world are urged to stay home while also being able to maintain communication with all other humans, having all of the world's information literally in the palm of their hands and having more resources to create than ever before as well as having the opportunity to earn a living from their creativity.


The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia under construction since 2011 that was completed in 2020. The primary purpose of the dam is electricity production to relieve Ethiopia’s acute energy shortage and for electricity export to neighboring countries. With a planned installed capacity of 6.45 gigawatts, the dam is the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa, as well as the seventh largest in the world. The filling of the reservoir began in July 2020, the reservoir will take between 5 and 15 years to fill with water, depending on hydrologic conditions during the filling period and agreements reached between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. Whether or not those who named the dam meant for it, they have labeled this era in history accurately. We are at the cusp of a global renaissance and enlightenment period, far vaster in scope than anything we have seen before, just because there have never been this many people occupying the planet with this much access to information, ever before.


Our economic system is going through a major shift yet again because people won’t be able to effectively work in close quarters for the foreseeable future and people are continually losing their jobs to automation so within the next 15 years, creativity and non repeatable human functions will become more and more valuable as we begin to occupy our automated, artificial intelligence powered world. The universe has created the soil for us to pursue knowledge, accurate, useful and resourceful information that can help us pursue multiple disciplines and create a more efficient, safer, beneficial, optimal and beautiful world than the one we were born into. This virus in conjunction with where we are in our technological age of information has given us the necessary time, reasons and ability to exert the effort and energy.


Some of our biggest pop culture figures in our modern day and age are reflections of that ideal. People like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Kanye West, Virgil Abloh, and Donald Glover are some of the most famous people alive and they are all applauded for traversing industry and genre by using the internet formula of amalgamating information. Everything blends into everything with the internet. Sports are related to politics and race and film and music and TV shows and everything is clickable and streamable so everyone is technically competing against everything. The biggest show on TV would usually only be competing against other TV shows but now the biggest show on Netflix is vying for your attention against everything on Netflix as well as the entire internet, Kylie Jenners Instagram and Donald Trumps tweets.


So we have to adapt with our times and transfer and blend our information intake into multiple different fields. Elon Musk always talks about a very specific type of learning that most others aren’t even aware of — learning transfer. Learning transfer is taking what we learn in one context and applying it to another. It can be taking a kernel of what we learn in school or in a book and applying it to the “real world.” It can also be taking what we learn in one industry and applying it to another. This is where Musk shines. Several of his interviews show that he has a unique two-step process for fostering learning transfer. First, he deconstructs knowledge into fundamental principles. He says “It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang onto.” Next, he reconstructs the fundamental principles in new fields Step two of Musk’s learning transfer process involves reconstructing the foundational principles he’s learned in artificial intelligence, technology, physics, and engineering into separate fields:


In aerospace in order to create SpaceX

In automotive in order to create Tesla with self-driving features

In trains in order to envision the Hyperloop

In aviation in order to envision electric aircraft that take off and land vertically

In technology in order to envision a neural lace that interfaces your brain

In technology in order to help build PayPal

In technology in order to co-found OpenAI, a non-profit that limits the probability of negative artificial intelligence futures


Elon Musk is not a magician, he has just learned how to consume useful and resourceful information in order to alchemize it in the creation of something beneficial. The internet, the smartphone and modern technology as a whole has given us this power and we shouldn’t squander it. The long term effects of the internet have yet to be seen. Some will be groundbreaking and positive, some will be negative and some will be completely out of our control. But what we do have control of is what we consume and what we produce.


We can focus our energy into harnessing our creativity in the pursuit of knowledge in order to actualize our full capacity with the tools we have in the palm of our hands within our lifetime. I don’t know about you but that seems like a worthy pursuit to me.


During quarantine I put time into learning about music production, graphic design, quantum physics and video game design and it culminated in the release of my project ‘HyperReality’. My project HyperReality is a combination of an album and a video game. The album is an instrumental album with vocal samples, the project is my sonic argument for simulation theory. The simulation theory idea of the music album sparked the idea for the video game. Since I am new to the creation of games I used the Utility software and created a game from a preexisting template. The world-building aspects of the game were fascinating. Being able to manipulate the physics, terrain, gravity and spatial dimensions of the game helped with my research into physics, quantum physics and simulation theory.


The videogame is about the adventures of Ellen into a strange world. You suddenly wake up in a strange world. You will need to use 3d platforming skills in order to evade. You will encounter some weird creatures that will attack you. Prepare your brain since you will need to solve some puzzles in order to advance in game. You will need to use triggered actions to open gates, to trigger moving platforms, and to use your fighting skills to fight robot enemies and bosses. All links to the project are available below!


HyperReality-Album (also available on all streaming platforms)

HyperReality/The Explorer-Video Game

HyperReality/The Explorer-Video Game (Etsy)

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