Re: Scooping Up & Blending Knowledge
Mon, 28 Sep 1998 17:28:56 -0700

--On Monday, September 28, 1998, 3:01 PM -0500 "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <> wrote:

> 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
> 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

Because you haven't read enough modern novels, seen enough movies, or studied enough modern philosophy?
I find Shakespeare incomprehensible. His writings may have been original 500 years ago but today they are completely trite, and I have no idea why anyone except a historian of literature or a poseur would find them interesting. Even a mediocre author like Stephen King can do better then Shakespeare, and certainly even the worst of Kurt Vonnegut's novels is better then Shakespeare's best play. The same goes for philosophy. I'm reading Descartes' "meditations on the first philosophy" for a class and Paul Churchland's "matter and consciousness" for fun, even disagreeing with most of what Churchland says, I can't deny that he is making his case ten times better then Descartes. At least I have to think to refute Churchland. I could also say that Descartes' is arguing ten times better then Plato, who was basically laying out dogma.
As for art (painting type art), it depends what you mean by "modern", I can't say much about art produced in the 1990s, but that produced in the 1920s is overwhelmingly more interesting to me then that of any of the artists you have mentioned as geniuses. Again, I would rather hang the worst Salvador Dali painting in my room then Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Realism takes talent, but only as much creativity as a camera - which is none. Why would I want to see a picture of an everyday sight like someone sitting there, when I can go into a classroom and see hundreds of real live people sitting there? Even in the small town where I was born, there are two places that sell paintings by local artists, boring subject matter like mountain scenes and stuff, each of them displaying as much talent as Da Vinci or Rembrandt. Of course it's all a matter of taste.

> In the old days, the brightest minds of a generation became writers or
> philosophers. Today they are scientists.

In the old days, there wasn't much distinction between science and philosophy. Maybe not so much between art and science either, in certain cases (i.e. Da Vinci)

> In the old days, the poetic souls were drawn to art or poetry. Today they
> science-fiction writers.
> In the old days, the mathematical minds wrote music. Today they are
computer programmers.
> There are so many new professions which employ to the utmost human
> intelligence, which are so much better paid, that the former occupations
> genius are dying; there are many competent artists, but the great geniuses
> generations have gone elsewhere, and far from science even competence
> rare. Compare science fiction and fiction. Compare the philosophy of AI
> philosophy. Compare "Gödel, Escher, Bach" with anything.
> Except for schools dying out for lack of intelligent teachers, I see
> wrong with this. Once someone asked me whether computer programming was a
> challenge that allowed me to use my talents; I replied: "There is no
limit to
> the amount of talent that can be used in computer programming." If there
> an explosion in the uses of talent, it is no surprise that those areas
> formerly had a monopoly will suffer.
> When will the days of art's greatness return? Perhaps when the sterile
> babblings that now inhabit these dead fields peter out, when nobody
> with modern art or deconstructing existentialism, when all the writers of
> Westerns and singers of rap have starved or moved to flipping burgers at
> McDonald's, then we will see more Hofstadters and Feynmans move in to fill
> vacuum. But these _are_ the days of art's highest flowering, and if you
> doubt it, reread "Permutation City" or "Gödel, Escher, Bach". Let those
> bemoan the lack of culture in the old and settled lands look to the true
> frontiers, the eternal tests of greatness.
> --
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> Disclaimer: Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
> everything I think I know.

There is plenty of good art out there and especially lots of great movies, you're just looking in the wrong place.

Zeb Haradon
my web page: