Friday, August 14, 2009

How Does One Make a Living While Becoming an Expert?

It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. That's the new common knowledge. Let's accept that. At 10,000 hours, that is a full time job (8 hours), taking weekends off and a two week vacation, for five years. Or a part time job for 10.

Contrary to romantic versions of expertise, it's not genius, but hard work (this is something I have talked about before). Genius doesn't hurt, of course, but in many cases, one can learn to become a genius -- on the other hand, many a genius is lazy and will do nothing.

If there is no modern day Beethoven, could it be that few if any people have the 10,000 hours necessary? Why not? In the day of patronage, wealth equalled time equalled 10,000 hours to become a genius. In the present day, you have to already prove yourself a success to get any funding from anyone. At the same time, nobody in their right mind would find anyone coming along, claiming to be an artist, as that would encourage people who don't want to work to cheat and take advantage of such a system to continue to avoid work for a while.

It seems, though, that some sort of system could be set up to make it so that creativity is given a space to develop -- so that we could develop artists, writers, and philosophers who are truly experts. RIght now, people have to pay for the privilege to develop expertise (we pay to go to graduate school). So, again, wealth is the answer. But wouldn't it be more efficient, and develop more and better experts, if we paid people to become such experts? If becoming an expert, and maintaining that expertise were their full time job? Certainly willingness to pay demonstrates one's genuine desire to become an expert, but wouldn't a willingness to practice for 8 hours every day for five years also demonstrate that?

This seems to be an intractable problem. Who would be willing to pay people to do such things? What would be the selection criteria? What jobs, other than academia, would they be able to do? Couldn't there be a followup to the full time job of becoming an expert in maintaining one's expertise and contributing creatively? How would success be measured? Could they have secretaries to send out their works to make sure they are in galleries, having their plays performed, having their stories and poems published, etc.?

In other words, how can artists and philosophers make a living doing what they ought to be doing -- creating -- without having to rely on academia, where they have to teach, etc.? We can't pretend that artists, etc. don't have to eat and have a place to live, and take care of their families. They need the freedom to learn to do the work, then to do it, and also the money to live. How do we solve this problem?

Anyone who answers, "The government could/should do it" isn't taking this problem seriously, and is merely being intellectually lazy.
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