Tuesday, March 26, 2013


From Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop:
The Episcopal residence was an old adobe house, much out of repair, but with possibilities of comfort...The thick clay walls had been finished on the inside by the deft palms of Indian women, and had that irregular and intimate quality of things made entirely by the human hand.
That's what I like about handmade things.  Every one is different and reflects the skill, thoughts, and even moods of their creator.  Creativity, actual creativity, doesn't require materials, it requires thought and time.

By such a measure, our most productive places are also the least creative.  Factories are cold, full of motion but absent of life and vitality - machines building machines designed by machines. No creativity there.  If any human should find themselves on the factory floor, it is to play a part that humans can still play more cheaply than the best designed robot.  They are judged by how well they perform as machines.

And what about our homes?  Our clothing?  Our furniture?

Our art?  Machines have understood language, image and composition for decades; when will they take over the production of art?  If art becomes a constricted matter of process and form, they probably could no problem.

That was a crucial part of the nightmares in Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984 - the only purpose of art was to prop up the powerful or distract the populace.  A machine could easily generate such art.  Here's 1984:
There was a whole chain of separate departments [in the Ministry of Truth] dealing with proletarian literature,  music, drama and entertainment generally.  Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime, and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs that were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator. 
And Julia describing the books they produce in "Pornosec":
Oh ghastly rubbish.  They're boring really.  They only have six plots, but they swap them round a bit.  Of course I was only on the kaleidoscopes...
Could people tolerate such things?  I think we already do, whether they are machine creations or not.

Let me have handmade words.

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