Re: Scooping Up & Blending Knowledge

Joe E. Dees (
Mon, 28 Sep 1998 22:11:37 -0500

Date sent:      	Mon, 28 Sep 1998 22:37:11 -0400
From:           	Dan Fabulich <>
Subject:        	Re: Scooping Up & Blending Knowledge
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> 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
> incomprehensible,
> >> why is modern philosophy incomprehensible, and why is modern poetry boring?
> >
> >[etc.]
> >
> >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."
> -- The last words of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

The bovine response that people (even nonscience professors) display to science in the face of a "toxic event" is epitomized in the Dod DeLillo book WHITE NOISE.