on the effects of risk aversion in cinema (and education)

Steven Soderbergh, lamenting the decline in cinema in lieu of movie-making by executives and accountants:

Now, of course, it's very subjective; there are going to be exceptions to everything I'm going to say, and I'm just saying that so no one thinks I'm talking about them. I want to be clear: The idea of cinema as I'm defining it is not on the radar in the studios. This is not a conversation anybody's having; it's not a word you would ever want to use in a meeting. Speaking of meetings, the meetings have gotten pretty weird. There are fewer and fewer executives who are in the business because they love movies. There are fewer and fewer executives that know movies. So it can become a very strange situation. I mean, I know how to drive a car, but I wouldn't presume to sit in a meeting with an engineer and tell him how to build one, and that's kind of what you feel like when you're in these meetings. You've got people who don't know movies and don't watch movies for pleasure deciding what movie you're going to be allowed to make. That's one reason studio movies aren't better than they are, and that's one reason that cinema, as I'm defining it, is shrinking.

Well, how does a studio decide what movies get made? One thing they take into consideration is the foreign market, obviously. It's become very big. So that means, you know, things that travel best are going to be action-adventure, science fiction, fantasy, spectacle, some animation thrown in there. Obviously the bigger the budget, the more people this thing is going to have to appeal to, the more homogenized it's got to be, the more simplified it's got to be. So things like cultural specificity and narrative complexity, and, god forbid, ambiguity, those become real obstacles to the success of the film here and abroad.

and, on a studio that passed on a likely-to-be-successful project because it didn't fit their standard operating model:

They were afraid it would fail, when they fail doing the other thing all the time. Maybe they were afraid it was going to work.

Sound familiar? Sounds an awful lot like the new neo-industrial era of online education. Education being saved not by the people that devote their lives to the craft, but to the executives and investors and accountants that have scrutinized cost/benefit analyses and determined that education is worth being saved. So, it's not just education that is afflicted with this pattern - it's a symptom of our larger cultural fear of risk and avoidance of failure.

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