second order black swans

I suppose it’s simply in the nature of exponentiality that black swans build upon one another. Last night, I learned a little bit about the differences between analog & digital and thought quite a lot about Taleb’s writing on the black swan of recorded music, and that because recordings came about, people were much more likely to support those who were already popular & dead & gone than those nearby. A form of specialization, I suppose, but the introduction of music that was able to be transported and played and replayed whenever the listener wanted created an ‘extremistan’ of the music industry. I realized, though, that vinyl and other forms of physical manifestations of music were only half of the story; the digitization of music makes it shareable, streamable and significantly more editable and creates a significantly wider gap between the successful and the ‘mediocre’ (not necessarily in talent, but in popularity).

The interesting part of it is that because in seconds artists can instantly upload their work to a myriad of places that can be accessed from all over the world, there are very few barriers to entry. This creates a flooded market where it can be incredibly difficult to distinguish between the really good and the sorta good, leaving behind only those who have had enough luck to occupy the majority of the market share. That’s not to say that there aren’t benefits to the width of access (if it weren’t for the digitization of music and shared computing conventions all over the world, I would never have heard this truly incredible song).

Digitization has taken over virtually every form of art, and with each iteration I think we find ourselves further and further from the ancestral voices and needs that sit deep inside us. And because the ratio of success to stagnation is (simply a conjecture) widening, we may see that in the future the number of voices we can hear and perspectives we can take in will decrease.

It’s funny, as I ramble about my belief that I’ve found some sort of order to unpredictability, I realize that it’s quite possible that the first order black swan being discussed here (analog music recording) stands upon the back of one or many black swans before it.