Re: Scooping Up & Blending Knowledge

Dan Fabulich (
Mon, 28 Sep 1998 22:37:11 -0400

den Otter wrote:
>> From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <>
>> Where are the da Vincis, the Rembrandts, the Bach or Mozart, the Homer or
>> Shakespeare of this age? Why has modern art degenerated into a test to see
>> how random or tawdry art has become, and why does modern music sound like
>> noise even to the teenagers? Why are modern novels either
>> why is modern philosophy incomprehensible, and why is modern poetry boring?
>Art is obviously in the eye of the beholder. That you happen to dislike
>modern art (in the broadest sense of the word), doesn't mean that
>it really is less inspired. For example, quality dance (techno/trance)
>music is imho at least (if not more) as enjoyable and intellectually
>stimulating as the best of the old masters. It's all a matter of opening
>up to it (of course, drugs can help too ;-)

I feel like this misses the point, however. I personally have been frustrated by how many good artists with obvious talent focus on the spreading of entropic memes; while some techno avoids this theme, a great deal of the stuff I've heard plunges into entropy head first. :(

The answer to Eliezer's questions, however, is that for most people most of the time, *science* is the incomprehensible noise. Entropic art is the way most people make "sense" of that noise, particularly by using "universal" (ie ancient) memes.

Imagine what it must be like to never really understand algebra. Imagine a world that is utterly "mysterious," (where "mystery" is used in the sense of incomprehensible "mysteries of God" rather than mysteries to be solved). In this world, all of physics is just incomprehensible symbols on a blackboard. And really, what's the difference between one set of incomprehensible symbols and another? And who's to say they can't be biased?

As for the Shakespeares of our day, it's impossible to be Shakespeare today, in the same sense that one can't be Newton today. Harold Bloom of Yale has pointed out that to some extent Shakespeare tapped into something so universal, so utterly ubiquitous in human society, that one could even sensibly say that Shakespeare discovered his work, rather than inventing it himself; that to some extent even Western authors who wrote *before* Shakespeare were responding to his work.

Whether or not you believe that, there's no doubting that Shakespeare took the work that was given him and refined it to such a degree that he very nearly perfected the forms. More or less everyone since is either responding to him or unconsciously reinventing Shakespeare's wheel. (Again, for comparison, imagine if today's physicists, too sollipsistic to study the work of those who came before them, would continually rediscover differential calculus in an attempt to create something "original.")

Anyway, if you're keen on modern authors who are more aware of the universe around them, I highly recommend you take a look at Thomas Pynchon's _Gravity's Rainbow_. However, I also strongly recommend *against* doing so without a copy of Weisenburger's _Gravity's Rainbow Companion_, as GR references so much from art, history, science, philosophy, etc. (and some of it very eclectic stuff) that one really can't understand or enjoy the book without at least 40 hrs of library research, which Weisenburger has made somewhat easier.

"Decay is inherent in all compounded things. Strive unceasingly."