Culture is Stuck

It’s hard not to notice the epidemic of sequels coming out of Hollywood for the past 15 years. It’s almost like every other movie is some sort of prequel or sequel. I remember the superhero movie genre starting in the early 00s and it was a pleasant surprise. Then it kept going and going and going. We’re still in it. It’s 2020. In 2016, half of the Top 50 movies released were a remake or a sequel representing a 312 percent increase since 2000. It seems like this era of sequels started around 2005. The mid 2000s are an interesting time that is not discussed much.


A lot of things that shaped society came out right around the mid 2000s.

Wikipedia really started growing in articles around 2006

The first iPhone came out in 2007. The cell phone still looks like this basic design. We all still use the original iPhone, even if its called something else.

In fact, Apple basically “improves” every new model by adding another camera to the back. Much like razor companies release a new razor by adding a new blade.

Youtube came out in 2005. But back then there were dozens of Youtubes. All of a sudden people started gravitating toward this particular Youtube after Google acquired it in 2006. The internet was a different place pre-2005. Forums, emails, websites. The internet was a bigger place then. People had hundreds of favorites in their bookmark folder. Since then, the internet has shrunk. To only a handful of places users visit every day.

Facebook came out in the mid 2000s. I remember having an account when you could only join if you had a school email address in the late 00s.

Twitter came out in 2006.

Netflix was around since the 90s with dvds. I remember using them back then. That isn’t what Netflix is now, though. It’s a different service. This online service began in the mid-2000s.

Amazon started to grow fast in the mid 2000s. They went from a company just selling books to selling everything. From 2005-2009 Amazon launched Amazon Prime, Amazon Music, Create Space and the Kindle. They moved into the cloud computing area with Amazon AWS, as well as the crowdsourcing area with Amazon Mechanical Turk. They dominated the cloud computing scene.

The internet as we know it today was created in the mid 2000s and we’ve been there ever since. But is it just the internet?

Take a Look Around

The problem with being down so long is that it will start looking like up to you. If you are under the age of 30 you may think things are normal. But to someone who has lived 3 decades or more you may notice something odd: we haven’t had a shift like we did in the past. Culture is frozen. Throughout the 20th century we had changes almost every decade. Changes in fashion, in music, in aesthetics, hairstyles, style of comedy, television shows and movies. It sort of felt like someone was directing society from the top down, dictating a big shift every 10 years to something new. A director. If I show you a photo or play you a song from the 20th century, you’d probably be able to guess the decade. It was that clean of a break.

But I haven’t felt that change since the mid 2000s

All they would see is a luxury iPhone that was only released to a select few. But the hairstyles, clothes, slang and temperament are the same.


Old songs now represent 70% of the US music market.

The new music market is actually shrinking. All the growth in the market is coming from old songs. The current list of most downloaded tracks on iTunes is filled with the names of bands from the last century.

In the past few years alone, a few companies have snapped up music rights related to artists including Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Shakira, John Lennon, and Dire Straits. By acquiring music rights, these companies can reap the money from royalties, licensing, brand deals, and other revenue streams that would have gone to the artist. These contracts are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are millions of songs and artists on various streaming sites. People are overwhelmed. They are going back to the media monoculture of the 20th century.


So what’s going on. Why is culture stuck? I have two arguments

1) We lived in a 20th century media monoculture where the culture changed every decade from the top down. This was done by the handful of radio stations, television stations, hollywood and fashion houses. Then, the real internet came along in 2005 and decentralized everything. All of a sudden, small groups online have innovated and changed. But the big media monoculture has stayed the same. Why? Because the current model makes money, and why change it? Why risk it? Not everyone is going along with you like the previous century where people had no choice.

2) Algorithms

Culture is no longer made. It is simply curated from existing culture, refined, and regurgitated back at us. The algorithms cut off the possibility of new discovery.