Jason Kottke writing for kottke.org
In a 1969 piece, Kurt Vonnegut asserted that art is an early warning system for society:
I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.