You vs. Technology

One of the writers I follow is New York Times columnist David Brooks. The man must be a ravenous reader, and he often distills information in a way that makes lightbulbs go on. I want to connect some dots between some things he wrote about, and the ever-evolving task matrix of the modern church musician and worship leader.

In one particular piece, Brooks talked about the new "age of brilliant technology." In short, he says, it should not be a surprise that computers have become impressively good, and are getting progressively better at performing important pieces of mostly cognitive jobs (like diagnostics and, your phone's auto-correct feature notwithstanding, predictive behavior).

But, as it turns out, this new technological landscape has begun a Darwinian sifting that rewards certain human skills and traits. Brooks outlines several things, but I'll start with this: Enthusiasm. Here's a direct quote: "The people who seem to do best possess a voracious explanatory drive, an almost obsessive need to follow their curiosity...driven to perform extended bouts of concentration...trying to make sense of [today's] bottomless information oceans."

The era also seems to reward people with extended time horizons and Strategic Discipline.

In essence, Brooks says, machines possess greater "tactical acuity," but humans are rewarded for possessing strategic guidance. Here's a direct quote: "In a world of online distraction, the person who can maintain a long obedience toward a single goal, will obviously have enormous worth."

And the era also seems to reward Procedural Architects.

These folks don't so much come up with ideas as they develop systems in which other people can express ideas. They design an architecture that possesses a center of gravity, but which allows loose networks of soloists to collaborate. Here's a direct quote: "[Someone] who can organize a decentralized network around a clear question, without letting it dissipate or clump, will have enormous value."

But Essentialists will also be rewarded.

This is an important skill because creativity can be described as the ability to grasp the essence of one thing, and the essence of some very different thing, and do a mashup to create something entirely new. Here's a direct quote: "The role of the human is not to be dispassionate, depersonlized or neutral. It is precisely the emotive traits that are rewarded...the best workers will come with heart in hand."

But there is one (I think overarching) thing that Brooks actually mentioned FIRST. It is something that has become a fact of life in today's visual-oriented, information-overloaded, always-on reality: Technology rewards graphic artists who can visualize data, but it has punished those who can't turn written materials into video presentations. Like all of the traits above, visual presentation is an extraordinarily critical skill for those who serve in church music and worship ministries.

Is that you? How many of the other traits do you have? I don't want to be alarmist, but if you don't have at least some of them, you've got some homework (or else some 'splainin') to do...

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