I notice patterns everywhere and all of the time. It’s how my brain works. As a musician this ability has served me well.
There have been numerous books about art vis-à-vis science, for example “Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time & Light”, by Leonard Shlain. Shlain’s book sets out to show that, throughout history, art presaged or prefigured insights in the field of physics.
This morning I saw a pattern that started with different effects of allowing computing to shape our reality. Specifically I thought of quantization, which forces music to be “in time”, auto-tune, which changes vocal performances as to be “in tune”, and the fact that computers cannot create a curve… if you look closely every video game shows a curve, or a circle, as a series of minute straight lines. The higher the resolution the shorter the straight lines are and the more convincing the curve becomes. But it will never be a curve. It might become unobservable to the human eye, but it will not be a curve as long as computers are binary.
Computers change or correct the timing and the tuning of music, and make us conform to their inability to create a curve? Did computers change the way we work? The answer is unequivocally yes. Did computers change the way we process information? Yes, retaining data has been offloaded to computers in most cases. Our memory and our brains are changing. This has been proven. What about the binary nature of computing, has that changed us? I would say yes, without a doubt. Computing is lacking the messiness of the human mind. To a computer everything is either on or off, one or zero, bit or no bit, correct or wrong, this way or that way… and isn’t that the way we have started to look at everything? There is no place where this isn’t more obvious than in politics. The lines are being drawn more clearly, more distinctly, and more absolutely than at any time I can remember. There are no nuanced discussions on social media – or maybe I don’t spend enough time on social media anymore to discover them. It seems that we are losing that gray area, the art of the compromise, the center that can combine the best from the extremes.
I think the most worrying aspect of this pattern is the possibility that we are trying to think and act according to the computer’s binary view… of course this may just be a phase of development and messy will become the new beautiful.