This week a Canadian man was denied life insurance because of having a â€śgeneralized anxiety disorderâ€ť after undergoing an interview to collect his medical history during which he disclosed having taken CBD oil and a medication used for treating depression. In reading the story I thought of several paradoxes about how life insurance is determined, lifespans estimated, and the risk for these companies within the larger scope of how mental illness can be an indicator of many things, suicide arguably being lower on the list than other qualities.
Take, for instance, the correlation between intelligence and mental illness or the 19th century orientalists likeÂ Cesare Lombroso who, although better known for his racialist ideas about southern Italians and Africans, also presented myriad theories linking creativity and mental illness whereby he collected the artwork of patients at the mental hospital he directed, and in 1880 published a treatise on his collection,Â Lâ€™Arte Nei PazziÂ (The Art of the Insane). Where life insurance is carefully analyzed in terms of a set of statistical probabilities through the underwriting process, our cultural and economic structures donâ€™t statistically evaluate more obvious risk structures, for instance, such as the risk that men might pose as mass shooters or the link between mass shooters and misogyny. Bizarrely, something that should be incorporated as a healthcare issue, has become the basis for exempting an individual from covering the economic future of his family in case of untimely death.
Yet, there are all sorts of cultural associations that many make with mental health issues and normally life insurance does not fall within the top ten of these thoughts. Where the insurance market today is changing to incorporate new software and schemes such as critical illness insurance, this sector continues to be profitable with many entrepreneurs having created insurance companies from the ground up such as Calvin Lo who has amassed a personal fortune of US$1.7 billion. Despite the profitability of this sector, who is to say that having a mental health condition would make someone more prone to suicide than, for instance, to paint a masterpiece?
Despite the growth of AI and machine learning in the fields of insurance and business, the one sector where we are not fully exploring new technologyâ€™s possibilities is that of art and media. Sure, the potential of streaming media has been explored to a large degree with the availability of films on Netflix and Amazon, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Arch Hades, a 26-year-old Londoner, is considered by many to be Britainâ€™s most successful and celebrated contemporary poet. She explains her ethos: â€śIf just a few words can help a person to understand their own feelings, or see a different truth, or change a perspective, those words are worth remembering and sharing.â€ť Hades rose to fame after the publication of her first anthology in 2018, High Tide: Poetry & Postcards, a collection of traditional verse and postcards she sent to her friends and family while traveling. She then began posting excerpts on Instagram and in the past year has gained over 300,000 followers, stating she is â€śoverwhelmed by the support from others who have experienced heartbreak.â€ť
Other forms of digital art have become more popularized with the internet, especially in the realm of graphic design. Suzy Chan is one such artist whose work is a technicolor mixture of what appears to be advertising-like art mixed with nuances of Chinese and Japanese cultural artifact, Western iconography and the nuanced use of internet kitsch. Then there is the internet art collective, Felt Zine, an experimental internet art platform and artist collective.
In terms of media exposure, the internet has given birth to an entirely new genre of media innovation where companies like BingeNetworks have contributed to this medium in expanding their audience, such as Jeff Turnbowâ€™s show Interruptit. And this is not merely â€śmedia streamingâ€ť as per Netflix or other MultichannelÂ VideoÂ ProgrammingÂ DistributionÂ (MVPD) systems. With streaming services in almost 50% of homes in the UK, streaming media is becoming more the norm than television or cable spectatorship as this week Disney and Warner Bros added themselves to the list of streaming platforms and CBS and Viacom announced their $30 billion merger to consolidate their content for the streaming age.
While downloading or streaming videos is an excellent use of this technology, another unexpected use of new technology has been the way that streaming has changed who is producing content and who is seeing it. As a filmmaker, I am only too aware how difficult it is to have films picked up for distributionâ€”and this is where film festivals not only help to connect filmmakers with distributors, but today festivals have become places for online streaming services to view potential films forÂ their platforms. Services like Docsville, IndiePix Unlimited and Snagfilms are just a few online streaming services for independent filmmakers and videographers.
As we move more profoundly into the world of new technology incorporating it within our lives, it is not necessarily the case that we are stuck with choosing between major Hollywood productions or corporatized infomercials in order to access innovative media and the arts. The internet is asÂ expansive as we make it and following some of the independent innovators in the world of media and art is sure to uncover newer voices and techniques for bringing art into our everyday existence.