Monday, June 05, 2006

Beware My L33T Interior Decorating Skillz!

What? What the heck is the Trollsmyth doing, linking to an article at Cato Unbound on the future of workforce demographics?!? Because this article, ladies and gents, is about us. It’s about the power of creativity in the future of the American and global economies. It’s about why I should have taken art in high school instead of a second year of chemistry.

Richard Florida, the Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, has gazed into his crystal ball and seen a world of shrinking manufacturing jobs and waxing creative careers:

In the past two and a half decades, this shift has taken us from the older industrial model to a new economic paradigm, where knowledge, innovation, and creativity are key. At the cutting edge of this shift is the creative sector of the economy: science and technology, art and design, culture and entertainment, and the knowledge-based professions.

This goes beyond Reich’s The Work of Nations in that Florida’s article directly addresses trends in motion, and things happening not in some distant future, but at this very moment, a wave that will lift some and drag down others. Reich’s book was also written when the internet was still a toy for the college crowd and techie nerds, long before the rise of the blogs, MMOGs, Napster, and Amazon. Today every company needs a web page, and this need employs lots of programmers, yes, but also editors, artists, page-layout specialists, and musicians.

Obviously, this is a boon for us. We’ve already seen it in the rise of the smaller companies like Green Ronin and Indie Press Revolution through the sale of PDFs. But beyond the growing opportunities for creative expression and the money-making possibilities that follow in their wake, I really think we can see a future for our hobby in this trend. What other pastime, after all, encourages participants to be creative writers, cartographers, architects, resource managers, spreadsheet analysts, and problem solvers. Being an artist of just about any stripe doesn’t hurt either, and you need to produce often on the fly every week.

Seriously, folks, I don’t think we take enough advantage of the benefits of our hobby, and so nobody sees them. But as art, music, and literature fade from our schools in deference to the three R’s, our economy is going to rely more and more on hobbies to pick up the slack. And as it does so, I think we need to put a greater emphasis on the mental and creative benefits of our hobby. And I think we need to explore ways to drag it, kicking and screaming, into the economy, beyond just buying and selling books. How? I’m not certain yet, but there’s a lot of creative talent tied up in our games. I’m certain there are people playing now who can figure out creative ways to make a buck from having fun.

I hope, after all, that we haven't played D&D all those years without learning a little something about economics.

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