Would Aristotle have Tweeted? Would Isaac Newton have been too busy being distracted by Facebook that he would not have written The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy?
Would Ayn Rand have Snapchatted?
In reading about historical figures it is easy to forget that they were once living, breathing beings. We can read and even watch the voluminous material about Ayn Rand’s life, but forget that she would have had restless nights just as we do. We can read her works and hear that she fled Soviet Russia in 1926. We may know of her as a stolid stoic, but undoubtedly, in leaving her homeland, her family, and her friends, she wept.
The lives of those who came before us can be a guide to our own choices. We learn about staunch idealists like Ayn Rand and Winston Churchill and we become more idealistic ourselves.
Ayn Rand was a revolutionary in many ways. Not merely in challenging two thousand years of entrenched morality, but in the way she lived her life. She may not have had Snapchat, but she had moving pictures.
From today’s perspective, we see her life and many of her choices as quaint. Watch the movie The Fountainhead or Love Letters, both written by Rand, and you will probably experience this feeling too. “Aww how cute she is creating little romances where they kiss on the cheek.” Seeing old films in general can cause this reaction in most people today.
No doubt in fifty years people will look back at our Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube activities as quaint and cute. “Aww look how cute they are without cameras in their eyeballs.” Or whatever may be coming.
In our own day, especially among intellectuals and the more traditional or “pure” artists, there still remains a reluctance to fully embracing the culture which we all clearly live in today (for future generations this is January 2017).
To help you see just how revolutionary Ayn Rand was, here is a timeline of her life and that of the brand new technology: Motion Pictures. This was the art form that most inspired her to leave Petrograd for America.
When Rand was 8 years old, while living in Petrograd she saw a flicker across a screen — the motion picture camera was less than 20 years old at that time; when she moved to America she got her first job as an extra on The King of Kings, she was 20 years old and the feature length film was barely 13 years old. Even by the time she wrote and sold The Fountainhead script in 1948, “Talkies” were barely 20 years old and the industry was not yet 40.
Every step of the way, even in her desire to adapt a teleplay for Atlas Shrugged in the 70s, she adopted whatever new technology existed as a means to tell her story. By the way, her adoption of technology had nothing to do with her age. She was planning a teleplay adaptation of Atlas Shrugged till her death.
Let us imagine Ayn Rand being born in 1990 rather than 1905.
In 1998 rather than watching her first “two reeler” (fifteen minute short movie) she would have seen a short video on the internet. In 2010 she would read a blog about YouTube storytellers in America. She would be in America that same year. In 2012 she would learn about Snapchat and Instagram. She would begin telling stories on those platforms. In 2017 she would either have a mildly watched show online, or she would sell her storytelling ability to a more popular producer — maybe she would sell a script to Netflix or Amazon Productions.
She would be 27.
Accepting the Inevitable
I commend those intelligentsia today who do embrace (if tentatively) the new social media production capabilities. Most, however, are so romantic about the past as to be blind to the potential of the present. Even those who admire a figure like Rand are often blind to the reality of how utterly revolutionary and bold she really was.
We live in a time that Rand and other revolutionaries would have envied. “You mean I can simply produce my own material, rather than be rejected dozens of times and eat in soup kitchens?” And yet, we today are still complaining and ignoring the truth of this amazing technology. Parents in the 1920s and 1930s complained about those nuisances called nickelodeons and motion pictures, too.
I have some advice for anyone curious about being a Randian Revolutionary.
First, go to your app store.
Second, download Snapchat, Instagram, music.ly, Anchor and any other social media platform you may not already possess.
Third, watch. Read. Listen.
That’s right, just consume like a child. Explore every day for two or three hours (kind of like watching a movie a day). Follow social media stars. Read viral articles by Ryan Holiday. Listen to the DJ Khaleds and Gary Vaynerchuks on Snapchat.
We have already forgotten just how young the consumer web really is. Netscape and Windows 95 were launched … well, in 1995. That’s only 22 years ago. Really, the consumer web is in its childhood, maybe it’s a teenager. It will mature in the next 5–10 years. And then?