Of Artists and Entrepreneurs: The Second Renaissance is Now

“Autonomy, adventure, imagination: entrepreneurship comprehends all this and more for us. The characteristic art form of our age may be the business plan.” -William Deresiewicz


Imagine you are a painter for a moment. In front of you is a blank canvas, sitting desolate on its stand, awaiting your spirit to infuse it with life. Right beside you are your tools. A paintbrush and a palette, with no more colors than a rainbow. It’s a simple set up - but altogether, combined with the human imagination and an ability to execute, has the ingredients to create a piece of work with the power to inspire and impact the course of history.

Whether you are a painter, sculptor, musician or movie director, what artists do is take an idea and manifest it into reality. From Michelangelo sculpting the David, to Quentin Tarantino writing, directing, and soundtracking a film, these artists are taking a vision that existed nowhere else but in their own mind, and actualizing it into reality through their work.

This process of dreaming and creating is typically associated with artists, but it is precisely what every entrepreneur has ever done. The only difference being the medium, which for the entrepreneur is not a canvas, but rather, the world around us.

The archetype is Steve Jobs. Imagining a day where a computer would be part of everyone’s life is a dream; the world we live in today validates the execution of that dream; and the design and elegance of Apple products is simply the aesthetics inherent in every great piece of art. For without beauty and awe, innovation would be soulless and unable to captivate an audience.

But the examples extend far beyond the late Steve Jobs. We have entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey; prolific ideators who dream and create, in the same fashion as artists like Banksy and Thom Yorke. These individuals are all luminaries, playing different instruments in the same concerto.

Now today in 2013, the hero’s journey is beginning to feel more like Star Wars than The Hobbit. Thanks to the rise of computers, the things we make seems to have no bounds. The canvas has given way to the tablet, and the plethora of modern day tools continue to increase in power and complexity. It has created a rich ecosystem for individuals to imagine, work and build. With resources available online and in the cloud, it is now possible to create something on Tuesday and have it reach millions by Wednesday.

This prolific period feels familiar. If the first Renaissance was characterized by the fusion of art and science to liberate mankind’s thinking, we must then be in a second Renaissance; one characterized by the same interdisciplinary school of thought, only with a business nuance that accelerates art into action.

Renaissance 1.0 took the canvas and the pen, and showed a world that could be. Renaissance 2.0 is taking the world itself, using new tools to tangibly redefine modus operandi. From Google to Facebook, to the projects on Behance and Kickstarter, we are high tide in a modern day evolution. Caffeinated by technology and motivated by the giants whose shoulders we stand upon, the formerly starving artist is now destined for the cover of Fortune magazine. These are the coders and the hackers, the hippies - who follow through on their to-do list, and they are rocking our world and lifting us out of the Industrial Age, into a Creative Age of abundance.

It is imperative we understand the origins of this innovation taking root, especially if we want to grow more of it. For at least in regards to our education system, we are standing at a crossroads between what was, and what could be. With MOOCs, the Khan Academy, and the whole nine yards attached to this next epoch of schooling, we will collectively be re-imagining the learning experience. In doing so, we must recognize what is essential and what is redundant.

Deciding what to juice our minds with and what to outsource to the machines has no definitive answer. However, rote memorization, knowledge regurgitation, and anything inside-the-box will only have depleting effects on a growing creative class. We need more artists and entrepreneurs, engineers and programmers. People that dream, and know how to make that dream come true. This is what our education system needs to embrace, this is what our Renaissance is all about.

The irony of all this - if the past is any indication of the future - is that the innovation in education, to teach the skills behind creativity and execution, will not come from the bureaucrats but rather the innovators themselves. Just as a painter teaches painting, and a pianist teaches the piano, it will be an entrepreneur who dreams, designs and builds the platform that can effectively teach entrepreneurship. But the time is here and now, with cell phones outnumbering toilets in the developing world, we must democratize this novel art form and empower individuals to paint their own canvas.

The seeds of Renaissance 2.0 have been planted, with a little bit of water and sunshine this planet can flourish. But as Buckminster Fuller once said, “you never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” The transitionary phase we find ourselves in is similar to an artist going from draft a to draft b, or an entrepreneur going from beta-testing to public launch. It’s a recursive loop that builds off what came before and progressively improves. We must innovate our way to more innovation. We have the technology, but as the old saying goes: it’s not the tools, it’s the craftsman. We need to do this right, education is too important for the greater good. So as we re-learn how to learn, it’s time to teach the things that matter, and embrace the art of entrepreneurship.

 

Related Articles

Major study: Drug overdoses over a 38-year period reveal hidden trends

It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction

From the study: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/361/6408/eaau1184
Surprising Science
  • It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
  • If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
  • The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Keep reading Show less

Why "nuclear pasta" is the strongest material in the universe

Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.

Accretion disk surrounding a neutron star. Credit: NASA
Surprising Science
  • The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
  • You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
  • This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.

Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.

Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.

The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.

Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv

Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.

The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.

While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.

One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.

"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"

Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.

The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.

Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.


How a huge, underwater wall could save melting Antarctic glaciers

Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.

Image: NASA
Surprising Science
  • Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
  • Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
  • The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.

The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.

To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.

In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.

An "unthinkable" engineering project

"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.

One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.

The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.

Source: Wolovick et al.

An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.

But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.

Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.

"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.

"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."

A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.

"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."