Weed, Automation, and the New Creative Economy
Perhaps it’s worth pondering the implications of two simultaneous cultural shifts waiting in our midst. First, Canada’s decision to federally legalize marijuana by July 1st, 2018 will predictably alter the nation’s relationship to the plant and to our own minds. And second, automation threatens to eliminate an estimated 50%-60% of jobs within the next decade. Contemporary French philosopher, Bernard Stiegler predicts 80-90% of truck driving jobs will evaporate in the next ten years. The nature of work is changing and thus our relationship to life, labour, purpose, value, and existence itself is cast into flux.
Knowing this is not meant to deplete your ever-diminishing prospect of ever attaining a fulfilling, secure mode of existence in this reality, but instead, inform you of how perhaps the value we ascribe creativity is going to transform and why weed could be central to making it happen. The blindspot of utopian visions of technological acceleration is that we really do not know the long-term consequences of artificial intelligence, we are only vaguely aware of the short-term. Our skill for resilience lies in the aspects of human consciousness that cannot be automated, that is our capacity for creative production and direction. Our job is to give meaning and value to a post-work world.
The chances that you are an exceedingly creative person are quite low, but the chances that you are more creative than you believe you are is pretty high. Creative expression is not straightforward as we might imagine. Interest in aesthetics can manifest in art, music, literature, speech, commentary, expression, language and we can be sure aesthetics are more accurately tuned to the culture in which it was born, than ethical or religious dimensions of culture. As the world becomes standardized to measures we cannot currently imagine, our ability to adapt and transform the chaos of existence into a balanced and flexible order will be tested. A day off work for some can feel like a week. The hours extend into empty time. How can we be sure that the generations currently living on earth are spiritually, psychologically or socially prepared to develop a relationship to “spare time” that will not be dominated by self-loathing, over-thinking or distraction?
Alternatively, for many people, a day off involves a loose plan of places to be and people to see with a certain plan to get high first. We can embody the rhythm of time more naturally than we do in default mode. We know this. Often if one is expressing oneself fully, in the body and in spirit, time, for that person, seems to dissipate. This is how we know we are doing something we truly care about. To ease the surrender to flow of time you can get high first. The organic and synchronistic unfolding of experience that, with or without our awareness, plays out every day of our lives, can be better attended to, appreciated and utilized with access to the creativity weed affords. This is not to say that creativity relies upon weed or that your creative expression hinges on a “substance” to bring it into being. It is simply to propose that for some people, smoking weed gives access to a creativity typically undisclosed to the conscious mind, which is understandable as the current paradigm often fails to nurture or support creative expression.
The structure of everyday life under late capitalism, from within the digitized and accelerated cultural experience, is so highly regulated that true creative energy is more often than not stifled, if not altogether forgotten. Such intensity, accelerated-pace, high expectations, burgeoning uncertainty, and doubt are new inventions for human experience. The constituents of this particular technological, industrial era bring existential implications undisclosed until it is nearly too late. Author Charles Eisenstein speculates that creative energy exists in most of us but, instead of being expressed, gets burned up in addictions, or channeled into obsessions, compulsions, hobbies, nervous tics, excessive exercise, overeating, work and the like.
We can reasonably assume that culture develops most exquisitely when people have free time. When the hours of each day are spent towards mere survival, there is little energy left for self-actualization. Subsistence living cannot possibly give birth to the paradigmatic shifts in culture necessary for our flourishing in the face of automation. It is not uncommon for the most radical, transformative epiphanies to strike you after smoking a spliff. These ideas, the products of our imaginative potential, must be taken seriously and granted cultural value if we are to move beyond an economy of subsistence to embrace an economy of existence.
The 2018 legalization of weed may shift our cultural and mental paradigms and automation will grant us unprecedented free time. This free time is both the poison and cure to our current existential boredom. Boredom exposes you to the chaos of life, it forces you to reach into yourself and decide what is worth extracting for refinement. To confront the dystopian image of hyper-standardized, automated society, we should remain open to new modes of sharing time and imagining culture. If we are creative enough we can learn to create meaning and collectively articulate what is means to populate a culture of existence.