Re: SOC: Some Comments on Anti-Progressives

From: James Rogers (
Date: Wed Feb 14 2001 - 14:57:35 MST

At 08:52 AM 2/14/2001 -0500, Greg Burch wrote:
>Beyond this, your point about music and musical instruments is actually one
>that is quite apropos. There was a time when the violin was an innovation,
>when Baroque music and a string quartet were the Latest Thing. As you point
>out, in fact, a violin is a VERY sophisticated machine. I wouldn't ever
>argue that a modern digital musical synthesizer is "better" than a violin.

Indeed, one of the tragedies of the synthesizer market has been that they
tried to sell them on their weaknesses (e.g. the (poor) emulation of
acoustic instruments) rather than on their strengths (e.g. a synthesizers
ability to create a very broad spectrum of musical timbres not possible
with acoustic instruments). Both violins and synthesizers are deep sonic
tools with unique capabilities and using one to emulate the other is a
fool's errand for the most part*. Its analogous to comparing trucks to
sports cars -- different tools for different jobs.

*As DSPs become faster and faster, computers are becoming increasingly
adept at modeling complex physical acoustic processes. In a relatively
short period of time, we may in fact have synthetic violins that can fully
reproduce every nuance of the real thing. Moore's law is allowing the use
of fewer and fewer approximations in these models and more physical
component detail, which is leading to the inevitable convergence of the
computer models with their acoustic counterparts in terms of real-time
acoustic detail and nuance. The current detractors of physical modeling
are akin to the same people who pronounced CDs to be dead-on-arrival
because of sound quality problems that plagued the new technology. The
complaints were valid at the time, but engineers quickly fixed the problems
and now no one credibly disputes the inferiority of analog
formats. Lacking theoretical limitations, new technologies will eventually
approach the theoretical limits of their design.

>The problem with the neo-luddites is
>that they would say that we shouldn't have synthesizers at all because having
>them necessarily implies a rejection of violins. They're wrong.

In many ways it is worse than this. Neo-luddites continuously denigrate
technology as being destructive to "natural diversity", which clearly
doesn't really mean diversity in any kind of dictionary sense. "Diversity"
has been co-opted to mean "things that we like". Its kind of like defining
"you may eat any kind of poultry you like" as "you can't eat beef". The
former doesn't imply the latter, nor is the latter exclusive of the former,
yet they use it like that.

Allowing someone (e.g. the government) to define diversity (and enforce its
existence as "a good thing") is effectively granting someone autocratic
power. The obscenity is that "diversity", pretty much by definition,
happens as the consequence of evolution and allows populations to change
without bound, not within the confines or consequence of a decree, which
actually serves to limit diversity regardless of how one frames it.

-James Rogers

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