The Nature of Music Sector Technology

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This note invites contributions from readers on how new technological developments may impact on a future music sector. We hope that someone, indeed more than one person in the interest of nuanced analysis, will take up the challenge.

The Nature of Technology describes W. Brian Arthur's important 2009 book of that title. Brian Arthur and the "Second Economy" discusses the dramatic potential impact of a "second economy" based on autonomous digital systems accounting for most of the economic growth in major western economies (exemplified by the United States) since the 1990s.

In the technology book, Arthur draws a parallel with Darwinian evolution and shows how all technologies without exception (including seemingly radical or revolutionary new inventions) evolve from existing technologies, and how individual technologies keep forming new clusters or families creating new technological domains sparking further inventions down the road. Not all technologies are physical — infrastructure is a related concept which is not necessarily physical, nor is the symbiosis between science and technology as they encourage the evolution of one another.

Issues for music may include: the importance of clusters between music making and other technologies (would music have evolved differently with different technologies, and how is the nexus shifting as new technologies come into play?); the infrastructure of public funding in relation to musical development; the impact of music education from infant to tertiary in creating a vibrant music sector; and the likely influence of music and other arts-based health on community and national well-being and ultimately on long-term economic growth.

Brian Arthur's paper on the "second economy" adds a dramatic dimension that a transformed national and global economy will carry major opportunities as well as threats. The basic dilemma caused by a burgeoning and largely autonomous digital economy, if and when this becomes dominant, is that productivity growth will probably be largely confined there, rather than creating major new employment opportunities. In the absence of escalating international conflict associated with factors such as climate change and social injustice, the world will be richer but the nature of employment will change. The upside, as Arthur points out, is that people will have more time to be creative, across the spectrum of music, other arts, science and technology. Will they also be motivated to develop this creativity, aided by supportive infrastructure ranging from a better education system to more public funding and well-organised managerial structures?

These are just tentative thoughts on the importance of physical technology and its counterparts in the infrastructure areas, how the different parts interact, and whether the downside can be prevented from triumphing over the upside in a future of rapid change. There will be many other ways to tackle the issues along the lines of Brian Arthur's evolutionary model and his thoughts on the "second economy".

Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, editor, knowledge base. First entered 10.10.2011, updated and extended 12.11.2011.

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