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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Is the Creative Class Engine Sputtering? 520

Geoffrey.landis writes "The 'creative class' was supposed to be the new engine of the United States economy, but according to Scott Timberg, writing in Salon, that engine is sputtering. While a very few technologists have become very wealthy, for most creative workers, the rise of amateurs and enthusiasts means that few are actually making a living. The new economy is good for the elite who own the servers, but, for most, 'the dream of a laptop-powered "knowledge class" is dead,' he says."
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Is the Creative Class Engine Sputtering?

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  • by Lead Butthead ( 321013 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:13AM (#37635536) Journal

    it's called "patent trolling," "eternal copyright," and "software patents."

    • Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:37AM (#37635682)

      It's easier (and more lucrative) for existing companies to use lawyers to bankrupt anyone with a creative idea that might threaten those companies.

      The moment you try to capitalize on your idea, you'll be looking at cease-and-desist letters and lawsuits claiming some kind of infringement.

      The entire system needs an overhaul.

      • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @08:04AM (#37637334)

        I highly recommend thus book. The problem stems from the definition of property. It's main characteristic is that it is scarce. Real goods are property. Ideas are not. The problem with patents and copyrights are they are trying to make a non scarce good artificially scarce.

        http://mises.org/books/against.pdf [mises.org]

        • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Javagator ( 679604 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @08:56AM (#37637744)
          When I am developing software, I have a lot of new ideas, many of them at least as good as some of the software patents that I have seen. My motivation for coming up with these ideas is to make my software more efficient and more reliable, not to patent them and keep the company lawyers employed. If I had to worry about whether someone had already patented one of my ideas, my productivity would come to a halt.
          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            You perfectly illustrated why patents are evil: it is impossible to avoid violating them, you can only wait to see if anyone sues you.

            If you have an idea and implement it you could spend vast amounts of time searching patent databases, but that is unrealistic for most people. Furthermore you might fall foul of patents that are not in the database yet but only come to your attention in the future, after you put in lots of work in your idea.

            I have yet to hear of a single instance where patents were vital for

            • by jc42 ( 318812 )

              You perfectly illustrated why patents are evil: it is impossible to avoid violating them, you can only wait to see if anyone sues you.

              This has been a growing problem with copyright, too, especially during the past couple of decades as society's information has moved online. You can see this clearly in music, where what used to be a routine "performance" can lead to prosecution as a copyright violation.

              One way I've found to express it is to ask: If I have a tune in my head, and want to perform it, how can I discover whether it's copyrighted, and if so, who owns the copyright? I've asked reps of a few music publishers this question, a

          • by jafac ( 1449 )

            When I am developing software - I'm just trying to solve problems for my customer. In the quickest and easiest, and most-sane way I can imagine. Sometimes that's based on something I was taught. Sometimes, it's based on something I've seen someone else do, in the past (but - I'm not going to copy/paste verbatim, of course.). Sometimes, it's just what makes sense, and I do it. I don't imagine for one second that with millions of others who have gone before me, that I'm the first one to solve problem x in t

        • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:4, Informative)

          by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Friday October 07, 2011 @12:20PM (#37640180)

          I highly recommend thus book. The problem stems from the definition of property. It's main characteristic is that it is scarce. Real goods are property. Ideas are not. The problem with patents and copyrights are they are trying to make a non scarce good artificially scarce.

          Actually, copyright and patents, when given properly are for scarce things. Ideas are a dime a dozen. However, taking that idea and fleshing out a whole work (book/song/movie/wthatever) takes time and energy. Copyright seeks to protect that investment in order to improve society.

          Patents are similar - there are tons of ideas out there. However, turning an idea into a practical machine isn't as easy, so patents seek to protect implementations of ideas.

          The problem is that copyright keeps getting extended and penalties made harsher which basically destroy the original goal - to protect the real work of taking some idea and turning it into something.

          Ditto patents, but mostly because software is quite an intangible that the "old laws" really cannot cope with . After all, IP laws date back many centuries, and back then, there was really nothing equivalent to software - it's something that takes an idea and is written that causes machinery to work in specific ways. Before that, a machine was a well-isolated system that had inputs, did something with it, and produced an output to accomplish some task in a specific fashion. But software can accomplish the same task in many ways, as long as it obeys the system limitations as the physical system it's in.

          Then there's software that doesn't interact with any physical machine other than the computer it's running on. Or maybe not even that. And that's a problem.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:39AM (#37635686) Journal

      If China is smart, they'll tell software patents to go to hell. When they then leave USA in the dust, it will be clear our system is foobarred.

      In theory patents are supposed to encourage people to spend more resources coming up with good ideas. Instead they do the opposite because good ideas in software for the most part just pop into one's head while pondering a problem to solve and are not the result of thousands of hours of planned lab toil.

      Thus, they are rewarding accidents that would happen anyhow. There are exceptions to the rule, but the rule overwhelms them in numbers.

      Further, software patents dissuade mix-and-match because of the many patents involved in mixing.

      • by blarkon ( 1712194 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @02:14AM (#37635910)
        India doesn't have software patents (http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2005/04/4837.ars) and we can see clearly how Indian software has left our patent encumbered western system in the dust with its amazing innovations.
        • by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Friday October 07, 2011 @02:34AM (#37636010) Homepage

          India made a choice of building what is essentially a colonial economy without the colony part -- they produce things (call center "service", software) they can not possibly use at home, and rely on exporting them abroad, then (supposedly) using money to buy things abroad for local consumption. It builds no infrastructure, provides very distorted demand for education, and keeps large fraction of population in perpetual poverty.

          China, on the other hand, develops economy in a way that builds industrial infrastructure that can produce products directly usable locally.

          • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday October 07, 2011 @06:54AM (#37637048) Homepage Journal

            India made a choice of building what is essentially a colonial economy without the colony part

            I wasn't actually there, but I don't remember India making a choice. I recall it being made for them.

            China, on the other hand, develops economy in a way that builds industrial infrastructure that can produce products directly usable locally.

            China, on the other hand, is in a boom-bust cycle that will make what the USA is going through look like happy fun time. Or did you not notice they're producing whole cities no one wants to buy? I mean, Japan has kept it down to cars, and we mostly just build houses, but China has built enough needless, wasted, rotting cities to house what percentage of our population?

            • by cfulton ( 543949 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @10:26AM (#37638506)
              I was there and India did indeed make a choice. After independence the government decided that because of the LARGE population of people living in poverty (again an Indian problem born of the caste system not colonial occupation) they would build a system of 0% unemployment. This means that the government must generate or force industry to generate a lot of low end jobs. They end up with jobs like "blue tile cleaner and white tile cleaner". Two different jobs for the same bunch of tiles (I've seen it with my own eyes). The building I worked in must have had 40 security guards per floor. They have made a choice to generate a lot of jobs not increase income per job. This is a very different mindset than the western industrial mindset. Here in America we want to eliminate all the low wage jobs in exchange for a few high paying jobs.
              The use of the word "colonial" is what you are protesting but, the original poster is correct. They chose to a "colonial" style economy. If they hadn't they would have 50% unemployment and a revolution on their hands. We in the west make the mistake of seeing India as an emerging western style economy. The are not. They are an emerging Indian style economy.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07, 2011 @04:12AM (#37636416)

          India doesn't have software patents (http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2005/04/4837.ars) and we can see clearly how Indian software has left our patent encumbered western system in the dust with its amazing innovations.

          How long did it take Japan to go from producing cheap and okay to producing first class goods?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            More time than it took China to do the same. Growing up I hated the cheap matchbox cars that would always break, and everything from China was junk. Now I want a Lenovo computer and nearly every apse product is made in Dina (BUT DESIGNED IN CALIFORNIA).

            China is much more similar to Japan than India, as I have yet to purchase any good that ever came from India. As China develops, however, it will make more and more sense to open factories in India and India will go through an even bigger revolution than it h

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by WillAdams ( 45638 )

              an AC wrote:

              >China is much more similar to Japan than India, as I have yet to purchase any good that ever came from India.

              Poke around a bit.

              Since the kids have taken over, there's been better quality control at Harbor Freight Tools and there have been some surprisingly nice things showing up from India:

              http://www.harborfreight.com/no-33-bench-plane-97544.html [harborfreight.com]

              Discussion of it here:

              http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?173650-Harbor-Freight-quot-33-quot-Bench-Plane-I-like-it.-Especially-for-less-than- [sawmillcreek.org]

            • by Anthony Mouse ( 1927662 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @10:49AM (#37638722)

              And then it will spread to the middle east when europe, the US, China, and India all need a place for cheap manufacturing. And then it will make more sense to produce in Africa. Eventually (In a hundred or so years) every major region of the world will have had an industrial revolution.

              No it won't, because there aren't enough people there to do that without significant automation. And if you have almost fully automated factories then labor is no longer the primary cost of production and it makes more sense to build them near where the consumers are and save yourself the shipping costs.

              Also, China is very different from previous countries that have done this. They have a billion people, and they aren't a democracy. That makes it very easy for them to have an underclass with a population larger than the entire United States which, by applying a little automation to get some (but not all) of them out of the factories and into a middle class, can make enough goods for both the foreign and domestic markets. Then they can use central planning to implement greater automation at a rate that can slowly increase the size of the middle class, but never in a way that would cause significant unemployment.

              The end result is going to be that China will be the last country to employ a large labor force in manufacturing. We could already automate half the stuff that they manufacture by hand there, the only reason we don't is that China doesn't want high unemployment and is more than willing to undervalue their currency and cause their population to work for slave wages in order to keep them working rather than starting an uprising. The second China can get any of those people into a middle class job (or, more realistically, the second any of those people dies or retires and is replaced by a young person with a better education), there will be a machine doing that work instead of a person.

          • How long did it take Japan to go from producing cheap and okay to producing first class goods?

            if you seriously are asking, I would guess about 20 years. it was not overnight and the going joke was 'made in japan' (meaning, very cheap and undesireable). I'm 50 and was alive when 'made in japan' meant negative things.

          • Japan is a much smaller country in terms of land mass, population and language groups. India has a similar problem to China in that they're the two largest countries by population and have dozens of languages with which to contend. China does have somewhat of an advantage in having one written language to cover the country, although that tends to be rendered moot by the fact that the people being attracted to the factories aren't likely to be literate in the first place.

        • by chrb ( 1083577 )
          India is a poor choice for comparison - they had to start a hi-tech industry from scratch in a nation with the largest illiterate population in the world. The European Union would be a more valid comparison - where software patents are specifically excluded by the European Patent Convention. The lack of software patents doesn't seem to have hurt E.U. companies: the UK is one of the leading manufacturers of financial services software and videogames, and Germany has one of the most productive export economie
      • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @08:52AM (#37637708) Homepage Journal

        I think you are stepping on motorist/pedestrian problem: when you are behind the wheel, pedestrians are crawling evil creeps that solely exist to slow you down. When you are crossing the road, motorists are reckless obnoxious power-tripping assholes that solely exist to intimidate you down to a crack between pavement tiles.

        Creative mind wants to freely use all the intellectual baggage of the humanity internalized in his head. He also wants others to pay dearly for every singe use of his contribution to the aforementioned baggage.

    • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:43AM (#37635716)


      How much money is currently being wasted on litigation and licensing?

      That money would fund a STAGGERING amount of new product development, research, or advancement of current products, but its being WASTED on lawyers working for patent trolls.

      All the politicians want science, technology, and engineering jobs, but then they pass laws that destroy and hamper innovators and creators.

      Software patents should be completely illegal. Patents on computer hardware should have a term of 12-18 months. Copyright on anything should be 20 years or less, a generation of protection for a work should be enough.

      The absurd length of copyright and the extreme vagueness allowed in modern patents is killing the innovation we will need for the economy to actually improve.

      • It's not wasted money if you're a lawyer. It's income.
  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) * on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:19AM (#37635566) Homepage Journal

    I seem to making a decent living designing chips and I know lots of other people in a similar situation. If you're a 'creative worker' create something that people need.

    • According to the article, you are not a "creative worker" since you actually produce a physical product (eventually).

      Their spin on the phrase is more of artists, website writers, newspapers, film makers, and for some reason software writers (don't get that one, myself). This includes the distribution channels of the previous people- physical newspapers are dying, music and book stores are closing, movie rental shops are nearly dead. One of the themes was that the internet was going to open up more avenues

      • by cshark ( 673578 )

        Still sounds cynical to me.
        The problem with competing on the internet is that you're literally competing with the entire world.
        If you've started something online, and it's not panning out... try something else.
        Since the barrier is so low, mistakes aren't as costly.

        • I agree with what you say. The price of doing things on the internet is now nearly zero, discounting your time. I am of course not talking about big commercial endeavors. The other side of that is, like you said, you're competing with a whole lot more people now. Same ol', same ol', keep plugging away and you'll find your spot.

          By the way, love your sig.

  • by rish87 ( 2460742 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:24AM (#37635594)
    ." Book editors, journalists, video store clerks, musicians, novelists without tenure". A lot of the 'jobs' he's talking about are radically changing or weren't worth anything to begin with. The article doesn't really have a concrete, well laid out argument. It sounds like yet another generalized complaint I've kept hearing for the past couple years: the elite are taking all my money and I'm a poor starving average joe. Except here it is some ill defined "creative class". Adapt to the world around you and use your money wisely. Same age old problem, same age old solution.
    • All the aforementioned professions never made all that much money to begin with, or at least not the vast majority of them(save for perhaps book editors, but with e-books I would see demand for them growing, not shrinking)

      Seriously, since when did more than 10% of novelists or musicians or journalists etc. ever make tons of money? Most of them toil in anonymity, eventually either giving it up and getting a day job or doing whatever it takes just to scrape by for however many years. This guy obviously ne
    • by swell ( 195815 )

      Correct- the 'creative class' is confused with journalists, programmers and coffee shop employees. Timberg speaks of the "laptop-powered "knowledge class"" ... what the heck is that? Are you talking about the texters and Facebook failures who are steeped in trivia? Do these people ever have an original thought or quiet time to develop one?

      There are creative individuals, there is no creative class. Great artists, writers and composers are not part of any 'class'. They do not follow the beat of the social med

    • The problem that the author does a horrible job of addressing is that the market has been expanded from your small locality to the entire globe.

      If you write a song or create a film instead of playing a coffee shop you can now sell your work to billions of people.

      The problem is that the coffee shop is now there is no need for the 'local creatives' since remote performance (and web-hosted performance) allows billions of people to find the top performers.

      If someone was a really great blogger then instead of a

    • by Orne ( 144925 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:29AM (#37637170) Homepage

      These people need to understand the technological revolution of the last 20 years has changed the value equation for content creators. When anyone can blog, the value of a journalist drops. When anyone can film on their phone and post it to YouTube, a studio has to work harder (competition), and the value of a movie distribution system drops. When anyone can write a story, make an ebook and sell it on Amazon or the Apple Store, then the value of a writer goes down.

      "Everyone can be super! And when everyone's super, no-one will be." -- The Incredibles

  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:25AM (#37635598) Homepage

    The author puts "book editors, journalists, video store clerks" into that creative class. It's hard to see why a video store clerk (what is a video store?) is a creative persona. He is merely shining the scanner on your purchases. He can be illiterate for all practical purposes.

    Musicians? Well, those that are good are doing OK. The rest... perhaps they are in the wrong business. Same applies to "aspiring novelists" - there is always ten graphomaniacs for one semi-decent writer. Good writers are even more rare.

    Computer programmers are also like that. Those who write simple, boring code - but lots of it - will lose to their Chinese and Indian competition. Those who write difficult code remain in business. I personally specialize in microcontrollers, hardware, FPGA, real-time and high speed stuff. There is plenty of work in this area.

    To summarize, if you are truly creative in what is in demand then there will be always someone willing - and desperate - to pay you.

    • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:33AM (#37635646) Journal

      > Musicians? Well, those that are good are doing OK.

      Gimme a break. Making music and making money are completely different skills. There are plenty of wonderful artists creating beautiful things that have to make their living doing something else.

      • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:48AM (#37635748) Homepage

        Making music and making money are completely different skills.

        That's true everywhere. Writing a good, fast code in C and assembly is in no way related to smooth-talking a client into signing a contract to develop the abovementioned code. Many programmers who are capable of the former in their sleep can't do the latter if their life depended on it.

        The musician in your example (talented but poor) needs to either learn how to develop his business or hire a manager. A talented programmer can develop business skills to manage his own business (contracts, ISV like iPhone/Android) or he can join someone else's company; then business opportunities will be taken care of by someone else (along with the lion's share of profits.)

        It is not easy for a programmer to gain businessman's skills. I'd guess it's equally hard for an artist. But that's what the money is paid for. If you don't want to touch that, you are still free to code (or compose music) in your parents' basement. Only don't expect anyone to know about you or want to pay you.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          >>>That's true everywhere. Writing a good, fast code in C and assembly is in no way related to smooth-talking a client into signing a contract to develop the abovementioned code. Many programmers who are capable of the former in their sleep can't do the latter if their life depended on it.

          Exactly. Take a quality coder, a guy who spend all his time in his mom's basement making new projects, and introduce him to HR. It is a culture clash. One guy spends all his time working with people, the ot
    • Here here. I get more work than I know what to do with doing freelance programming on the side, and I'm competing against those same dirt rate Indian programmers. Why? Because people still pay for quality. I don't know how many times I've seen clients get stuck with crappy code from these guys. In my case, I'm even benefiting from another creative person who created an entire new industry that I'm working in. That person? Steve Jobs. iPhone programming on the side basically paid for my new house. Thanks St

      • More importantly there is the "people person" aspect of it. A significant part of the job isn't writing code, but figuring out what the hell your boss/client really wants as opposed to what they say they want (lets be honest, not everyone is technically inclined, if everyone were we wouldn't have a job).

        Some ideas don't translate so well over the phone as well as a finger next to the screen saying, "No, we want that kind of thingy, you know, like that thing, that does that stuff".

        "You mean one of these?"


  • by spasm ( 79260 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:26AM (#37635604) Homepage

    No-one makes money from 'creativity'. You make money from what economists call 'rent-seeking' from creative output, be it yours or someone else's. The people who get rich (or even just make a decent living) are those who are good at rent seeking, and those people aren't necessarily the same people who are good at 'creating'. Hence Disney inc still aggressively rent-seeking from the creative output of illustrators, animators, voice artists etc 70 years after the creative act, and you can bet those creatives or their descendants aren't making any ongoing money from it.

    Being able to work at home or from your local cafe on your laptop doesn't magically free you from the need to either have a lot of capital to promote and exploit your creative output, or alternately the need to sell your creative labor to someone who does, it just frees those with that capital from the need to supply the infrastructure of an OSHA-compliant workplace.

    • The question is, if the creative industry is largely rent-seeking instead of producing, where is the money coming from to pay them? Its not like western economies manufacture enough to feed the 'knowledge economy' beast on their output alone.

      The answer, I think, is resources. The dirty little secret of modern economies is that the largest determinant of our output is our input of resources. The notion that we shape our own fate through our ingenuity is largely a fable, told to justify a blatantly unfair eco

  • Race to the bottom (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blarkon ( 1712194 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:26AM (#37635606)

    The creative class as a driver of the local economy was always a big stretch. If a guy (or girl) sitting in a coffee shop in Seattle can do something for $X, it's likely that a guy (or girl) sitting in a coffee shop in Estonia can do the same thing for a fraction of $X. Smart people that make up the creative class are evenly distributed across the planet. There will be places where you can support yourself on a creative class income, but it's not likely to be most of the places that people read /.

  • Economics... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Until recently the 'creative class' would be distributed between struggling (70%), getting by (25%) and going great (5%). This applied to photographers, artists, writers, glass workers, a whole swathe of people. But with the rise of the internet all but the last one are being undermined financially by virtually free distribution of material from amateurs, as well as the effects of digitial copying.

    Economics suggests that the price of an item will tend towards the marginal cost of production, particulaly wit

    • That's part of the reason that many authors actually make more money running writing workshops than writing books. Neal Stephenson said at an interview once that one of the most common questions he got from other writers was "so where do you teach your writing classes"
  • The first thing I thought about after skimming the article is, "what about all the hackers making a dime these days." It seems that folks like Lady Ada [adafruit.com] and some of the folks over at iFixit [ifixit.com] are making a decent shot of it. I have no idea what their finances are, but their sites and offerings continue to grow. It looks to me like they are making some decent and honest money based off of the industry of others.

    Jonathan Coulton [jonathancoulton.com] of Code_Monkey [youtube.com] fame is doing alright. I heard a pice on NPR about him recently.

    • by cshark ( 673578 )

      And there's always radiohead. Everyone's holding them up as the howto example related to how to do this without a label, and no advertising.

  • Book editors, journalists, video store clerks, musicians, novelists without tenure — they’re among the many groups struggling

    Video store clerks. Go figure. Who really thought these types would be thriving in the new economy? They're failing and going back to school or pairing up with friends / family and trying again. Because they're mostly entry-level employees. Give them some time, they know how to enrich themselves and indeed have a natural instinct for it.

  • Shortsighted (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hedgemage ( 934558 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:39AM (#37635700)
    The creative class is failing because the middle class who would support them is shrinking. Instead of money going to thousands and thousands of small creative enterprises, it is going to only a few dozen large enterprises (i.e. the 'job creators').
    Its not the creative class that's failing, its the middle class.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes, you know something is wrong when educated people can't find a job coming out of college. It is one thing to go,"Get an education so you don't work at Mcdonalds." And quite another thing to go,"Get an education, but work at Mcdonalds anyway, and maybe by the time you're 50 you can finally pay off your student loans and move out of your parents house."
      • False. I'm 27 and have my Master's Degree paid in full. The truly creative class, in this economy, exploits whatever the hell it can in order to survive and grow. It doesn't matter if you're an Art History professor or an Engineer these days.
      • Yeah. See, the problem lies on both sides. People graduating from college are expecting to receive exceptional salaries for incomplete skills. Now that the workforce is mobile (you can, and probably will, change jobs every 3-5 years), it's hard for a business to justify paying $40-50,000 a year so that they can reduce the productivity of a truly worthwhile, $80,000-$100,000/yr senior person to train you for two years so that you can become useful.

        At least in engineering, even the best schools are not prepar

    • The other place money is going is pointless wars across the world. That money could help the middle and lower classes substantially.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:48AM (#37635744) Journal

    Machines made manual labor a cheap commodity, and offshoring made brains a cheap commodity. There's fewer and fewer new organs to economically milk. Maybe our yankers will give us another decade or two.....if you have a good one.

  • by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @01:48AM (#37635750) Journal

    The true creative class is the people who are willing to put forth the hard work to study particle physics, microbiology, colloid science, differential equations, managerial accounting, and parallel algorithms. Their dedication is what makes carrying out their creative dreams possible. As the article states, they're doing well, as there's still scarcity in that market. Their competition in overseas diploma mills that teach to the test do not produce the same results.

    What this article is referring to is the so-called "creative class" who thought they could start a grunge band by learning power chords, buy a Canon EOS and become a professional photographer, or become a psychologist because they were interested in their bad teenage relationships. They are the types who thought they'd win the lottery and become rock stars without the serious learning required to invent, build, and deploy something new.

    Those people in the so-called "creative class" locked in an entitlement mentality are a dime a dozen.It may have worked in the 1990s when they and their friends were given unlimited subsidy by coddling baby boomer parents, but these days, you're on your own and actually have to know your shit. Universities today aren't full of ambitious engineers who will take full advantage of their $50K in student loans, they're full of future waitresses and customer service reps with a piece of paper.

    A better article would be "Why did 17 million people go to college?" -- http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/why-did-17-million-students-go-to-college/27634 [chronicle.com]

    • by t2t10 ( 1909766 )

      Indeed. And that probably also explains why we are spending ever more money on education with nearly no marginal return.

      • by bye ( 87770 )

        Indeed. And that probably also explains why we are spending ever more money on education with nearly no marginal return.

        That's not actually true - per work hour productivity has been increasing steadily in the last 20 years. Efficiency and capacity utilization has been edging up consistently too.

        What has not increased in the last 10 years were wages - in the last decade the true creators of value, the 99%, got paid in "take up this cheap mortgage, it will be fine, house prices only rise" promises.

    • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @11:45AM (#37639598) Journal
      Interesting that you mention photography. I'm a full-time professional photographer, although I actually went to school, apprenticed, practiced, paid my dues, etc, and have been running a studio for 10 years now. I would consider myself part of this "creative class" the article mentions, as I get by on my creativity and use the de-localization of the internet to mean that I can be anywhere, create anywhere, and sell to anywhere. Before the crash, when I could make money from middle class people as well as the wealthy, it was way, way easier. Today I'm working twice as hard for half the money, but I'm not complaining...at least I'm still in business, paying my bills and doing what I love. But I'm in the very rare minority...about 98% of photographers are struggling to make it, getting day jobs, or living off their spouses who have a real job.

      What you said about "buy a Canon EOS and become a professional photographer" is definitely true. In the past 10 years, the number of "professional photographers" has about quadrupled, easily, based on attendance numbers at professional photography conventions and local business listings. And it is mostly 23 year old girls with doctor hubbies who pay for their gear to give them something to do to keep them out of trouble, or it's guys who work in IT looking for a weekend hobby they can make some extra money at. But they're not actually "making a living" at it...they're living off their husband or their real job.

      In the meantime, though, all of these part-timers are putting a serious hurting on the former full-time photographers. The mom-and-pop studios that have been around forever. As their businesses dwindled (death by a thousand cuts), they've had to close up or get part-time jobs themselves to make ends meet. So there's more photographers, more "creatives" than ever before...but fewer and fewer of them are actually making a living at it. The article is dead-on about how this is a story not being told, and how it's the corporations who ride on the backs of these creatives that are actually making money. "The Industry," ie, the camera makers like Canon and Nikon, software companies like Adobe, the "professional organizations" like the PPA, WPPI, and the magazines trip over themselves to blow smoke up everyone's asses about how great and wonderful it is to be a professional photographer, and champion "success stories" (which are mostly untrue), because they don't care how many photographers there are or whether they're making any money or not. Every new schmuck who opens up shop has to go buy thousands of dollars in camera equipment, software, websites and services, and the corporations make bank. So in a time when fewer and fewer photographers are making enough money to get by, you would never, ever know it listening to the industry.

      Anyway, the article is spot-on. The corporations are winning, the people who "own the server farm" are winning. Blogs using crowd-sourced cell-phone pictures for news stories: winning; photojournalists: losing. istock.com and Getty Images selling stock images for $1 and paying the photographer a few cents: winning; editorial photographers: losing. Camera makers, software vendors selling $$$$$ in gear to housewives: winning; portrait and wedding photographers: losing.

      The moral is, if you want to make money in the "creative economy," don't be a creative, sell stuff to creatives.
  • "The 'creative class' was supposed to be the new engine of the United States economy"

    Does that even merit comment?? If it does, the comment is "Be more cynical, young man."

  • At first I thought this was an article about C++. What, creatives have a "class" now? The reality is that every human can be pretty creative in one way or another. Thinking that somehow there is a "class" of creative person is ridiculous. While one person might be very good at choosing color palettes, another might be fairly adept at wiring a building. The thought that creativity is in short supply is an artificial concept created by those who seek to charge you money for it.
  • I'm the CTO for a tech startup. We've been operating for almost a year on angel funds. We're well along and getting traction with large customers, and everything looks good.

    But here's the thing: while we're stretching "laptop powered knowledge workers" as far as we can by being very flexible with skilled people working from home and whatnot, there's still a tremendous amount of office work to be done. We've been successful so far in large part because the CEO and the sales guy have been kicking in doors

    • by cheros ( 223479 )

      If I had mod points I'd mod you up. You're absolutely right. The unsexy stuff is what creates the substance to a business - and you need to be in one office to get it going.

      Having said that, if you have good comms you can often give people the option to work from home - office hours don't always work and the traditional commute eats time as well - but that takes people that can indeed *WORK* from home. In my experience they are rather exception than rule. It's much easier to switch to "work" mode with a

  • Of course they aren't making any money. They spent all their money on the equipment that you need to be creative: MacBooks, iMacs, and all that.

  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @02:16AM (#37635918)

    So, the problem highlighted is that 'creative' people - and lets for the moment give them the benefit of the doubt on the level of their creativity - cannot find paid employment that allows them to produce new the new ideas and culture that keeps a society from stagnating.

    My question is, why does everyone have to work?

    We are trapped by absurd, outdated Protestant work ethics. Failure to bust your gut 50 hours a week is a sign of moral weakness, according to our leaders (most of whom have only ever worked through choice, not necessity) and our newspapers - sometimes even our teachers and parents.

    This ethic is reflected in a society that is structured in a way that survival is next to impossible without work. Don't fool yourselves - even social safety nets here in Europe are specifically designed to make lack of full time employment unsustainable over the long term. What we need is to provide people with a decent living regardless of what they do, and make anything earned through work a bonus.

    Maybe its time to stop blindly forcing the square pegs of our society (and everyone else) into the round hole of clock punching, just to serve some ancient disgust at the supposed 'fecklessness' of those who don't like the 8-6 run (I think its safe to say 9-5 is mostly a fantasy in the west now)

    Its a valid question of how to pay for this; but not actually a difficult one. The simplest is to go after the rent-seekers; money earned by not doing anything can't possibly be created due to an incentive for the person earning it to do anything, so lets have it. Start with the Earth's natural resources - I have always considered the notion of a creature with a maximum lifespan barely over 100 years claiming that part of a 4 billion year old planet is his and his only to exploit.

    Might it not work? Sure. But considering the current economic order is grinding to a halt, it is certainly worth a shot.

    • by NoSig ( 1919688 )
      Let's take you up on your suggestion and extrapolate into the future. You won't need an education unless you think it's interesting enough to do for its own sake. For example I am guessing that not many people will choose to get a plumber's education just for the joy of making shit flow. Who's going to fix your toilet if no one needs to work and it requires a skilled plumber to fix it? Who's going to build new buildings? Grow food? I think you suggestion requires robots to be able to do all the jobs for us,
      • You incorrectly assume that providing everyone with a decent standard of living automatically, means that nobody will be paid for doing anything.

        Plumbers are always going to get paid. You certainly do need to compensate people for doing jobs that might be considered unpleasant - but that isn't a huge portion of our economies. When was the last time you heard the UK chancellor talk about sanitation?

        My personal experience of the British economy is of shuffling papers around offices. There is a lot of busywork

    • by satuon ( 1822492 )
      Is it ethical to expect to be fed if you will not work in exchange? The food you eat, the clothes you wear, everything you have is created by someone's labor. Money blinds us all to the fact that what is exchanged really are goods and services, if someone gives you money for nothing it really means that you have received the fruits of others' labors -- the things you will buy with that money. If you haven't worked it means those people have performed unpaid labor for you.
  • by Internetuser1248 ( 1787630 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @02:29AM (#37635994)
    The issue here as far as I am concerned is that the article supposes a values system based on money and profit. The phrase "the rise of amateurs and enthusiasts means that few are actually making a living. " is a good example. Personally as someone who's values are based on quality of life and advancement of the human race's knowledge and experience, I would say the creative class is booming and the amateurs and enthusiasts are the main engine for that. I personally am an amateur and an enthusiast in the area of game development, and although my own offerings are minimal as yet, it seems that the majority of innovation in the field and also the majority of value added (my values, not money) are coming from the independents, amateurs and enthusiasts. If major game studios were bringing out anything that broke new ground it would be a different story but they seem to be operating on the premise that you make more money from a tried and true formula, than from trying new things. They may even be right about this. This is why I believe that a system of values based on money is flawed. All in all, I hear only good news from the creative sector recently (apart from copyright lawsuits), and the fact that people aren't making a living is more of the same. The less money there is in it, the more the people involved will be working towards other goals, goals like "because I love my art". This increases the quality of the products and decreases the cost to society for enjoying them. I realise it sucks for people who live in countries without a real social welfare system, starving to death for your art, while a time honoured tradition, is not a lot of fun.
  • by erice ( 13380 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @02:38AM (#37636036) Homepage

    In the old days, most new ventures failed. Only a very few people could be at the top when an idea exploded. That wasn't a big problem. Fully exploiting those ideas required hiring lots of people. And thats how most people made their living. They didn't have to make a big win themselves. They just needed to be useful those who did.

    Enter the economy of today. Most new ventures still fail. Occasionally, one still wins. But when it comes time to hire all those people to exploit the idea, they don't. Either the need for large numbers of employers never materializes due to automation and the non-physical nature of the work or, if they really must hire, they hire overseas.

    The myth of the creative class was created out of need to believe we had an out. It was obvious to anyone that the American dream could no longer be supported by manufacturing. And I don't think anyone really believed that retail and burger flipping was an option. There needed to be something that was productive but different from what goes on in the emerging world and, therefore, safe. Well, it isn't all that different and it isn't safe. Employment security in the info economy didn't even survive beyond the business cycle in which it was born.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @03:08AM (#37636150)
    There has to BE a new economy before anybody, creative or otherwise, can be an "engine" for it.

    Unfortunately, as we have seen, our economy has been (so far) too full of old greedy curmudgeons who will exploit anybody, including the government and the innocent, to keep the old economy going for just a few more years so they can continue to line their pockets.
  • by BeforeCoffee ( 519489 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @03:15AM (#37636190)

    I have homebrew business ideas that I've been developing and I wanted to own my own servers and learn how to rack and manage them. I could have rented time on a cloud or PHP hosting site or whatever. But I figure that controlling my server infrastructure means controlling my costs. I consider that to be like owning my means of production if you wanna get all marxist about it.

    I'm no sysadmin, but I know enough to get around Linux. I'm not doing an awesome job of it, and I have a big meltdown failure once every two years or so. Usually just a harddrive failure that I can recover from, but sometimes it's more serious. My sites haven't earned enough popularity to get sustained intense internet traffic yet; so far, my boxes have done okay with the occasional big burst of traffic for my sites ( https://clubcompy.com/ [clubcompy.com] and http://cardmeeting.com/ [cardmeeting.com] ) that I get from Slashdot or some random blog.

    I negotiated my costs as a fixed $150/mo for 4U and throttled monthly bandwidth. And I'm not alone, in the colocation facility I rent at, I see a lot of homebrew rigs racked up with google and yahoo-owned servers (obviously not in the same rack and not as well cooled, heh.) I had no idea what I was doing, and the techs at the facility were totally cool and taught me how to rack my boxes and helped hold them up for me while I mounted them to the rails. The server and network hardware that I have probably totals about 4K and I built them up over years. I've still got 2U free for future expansion. I use only mini-ITX form factor mobos because I want to rack them in teensy enclosures so I can max out my rackspace, and those motherboards run cool so they go for years without any failure - heat kills. I buy passively cooled MB's whenever they're available and still meet my requirements. I have found Intel Atom boards to be extremely reliable in 24/7 operation. CPU-wise they stink, and I wish I could go 64-bit with more RAM, but I just need cheep life support for SATA and ethernet at this stage. I've had DIMM's die before motherboards, I don't mind spending extra for the best manufacturing quality there.

    If you have a steady, good paying job and you're a developer, you should have a homebrew project that you hope/wish/dream will someday blow up and become your livelihood. No excuses about cost if you have even a couple hundred dollars a month of discretionary funds to burn. If anything, do it for fun and chalk the costs up to hobby expenses and do it to learn new things. Make it a long term project - over years - and you can pay for it yourself. You don't need magical silicon valley angel vc startup capital to do very cool things on the internet or in wireless apps.


  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @07:22AM (#37637144)

    The real problem is that creative people often lack business skills, and marketers have found a way to exploit that by marketing other peoples' products without actually paying for the product that they market.

    I don't know whether to blame this on the ignorance of creative people or the greed of sales people. I'm inclined to blame the latter because this has been an ongoing problem (e.g. music publishers) and we can't be specialists in everything (e.g. most people are good at producing content or good at marketing, but few are great at both).

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.