'"Well, is it art?" "I do not know," said Mordel. "It may be. Perhaps randomicity is the principle behind artistic technique. I cannot judge this work because I do not understand it. I must therefore go deeper, and inquire into what lies behind it, rather than merely considering the technique whereby it was produced. I know that human artists never set out to create art, as such," he said, "but rather to portray with their techniquest some features of objects and their functions which they deemed significant." "'Significant'? In what sense of the word?" "In the only sense of the word possible under the circumstances: significant in relation to the human condition, and worth of accentuation because of the manner in which they touched upon it." "In what manner?" "Obviously, it must be in a manner knowable only to one who has experience of the human condition." "There is a flaw somewhere in your logic, Mordel, and I shall find it." "I will wait." "If your major premise is correct," said Frost after awhile, "then I do not comprehend art."' -- Roger Zelazny, "For a Breath I Tarry"
Why the Digital Revolution Won't be a Rerun of the Industrial Revolution: Whenever you talk about smart machines taking all our jobs, the usual pushback is that you're being a Luddite—an argument that's especially appropriate this year since it's the 200th anniversary of the end of the Luddite movement… all those skilled weavers in 1813 thought that power looms would put them out of jobs, but they were right only in the most limited way…. But the Digital Revolution won't be a rerun of the Industrial Revolution…. Karl Smith… [has a] take:
Creating things is a matter of rearranging atoms. Broadly speaking, you need two things to do this — a power system to overcome the gravitational and electromagnetic forces that tend to hold atoms in their relative positions and a control system to guarantee that atoms wind up in the right place. The industrial revolution was about one thing — more power! But, more power means the need for more control. Hence, the Industrial Revolution meant a rapid increase in the demand for human brains, not decrease. Smart machines provide both the power system and the control system in one convenient package. You can still argue that displaced humans will end up doing something else—we just don't know what yet—but it's a tough argument to win. If you agree that artificial intelligence will be real someday soon, then by definition smart machines will be able to do just about anything that humans can do. The answer to "Humans will do X," for any value of X, is "But robots can do that too." That wasn't true of the Industrial Revolution.
If you don't believe that AI is around the corner, then there's no argument to have here (aside from why you think AI is so far off). But if you do, then we have some serious questions to ponder about the future of work, the future of money, and the future of democracy. That's what my piece is mainly about.