This week’s Fortune magazine has a special issue on the digital revolution in Hollywood. It includes a feature by Julia Boorstin on Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros' new digital supreme. What caught my eye was the photo of Tsujihara with his two kids playing video games. Boorstin suggests that Tsujihara’s young kids, Morgan (4) and Matthew (6), to “help him focus on the future of entertainment.”
So the top new-media guru at Warner is depending on the wisdom of his four year old and his six year old to learn about the future of entertainment.
One of the most consistent mantras of the digital revolution is that kids know best, play best, web surf best. Grown ups -- from Tsujihara to Don Tapscott to Rupert Murdoch – claim to derive their wisdom from the kids. Thus New Corps’ radical overvaluation of My Space. Thus utopian books like Tapscott’s Growing up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. Thus Tsujihara’s intellectual reliance on his kids.
The world has been turned upside down. Traditionally, kids learnt from adults. The reverse is now true. Instead of Socrates' wise adult, we have Rousseau's wise child. This is logical conclusion of digital media’s radical democratization of traditional hierarchies. The revolution hasn’t so much been televised as infantilized.
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates’ tells us how tyranny grows out of radical democracy:
“It becomes the thing for father and son to change places, the father standing in awe of his son, and the son neither respecting nor fearing his parents, in order to assert what he calls his independence; and there’s no distinction between citizen and alien and foreigner.”
Socrates explains how this “extreme of popular liberty” results in the breakdown of authority and the rise of the tyrant. What would Socrates think of our contemporary cult of the digital child? Would he connect this with mob rule and the rise of the tyrant?