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

Updated: Feb 28

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 b