Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why Computers May Be Taking Over the World, but People Still Make Better Art

Have you heard about the computers running Wall Street these days?  I mean, talk about artificial intelligence replacing human intuition! No need to muddy the world with "emotion and fallible judgment" when all you really need is cold hard data mashed into complex algorithms, right?  Sigh.  Well at least we can still count on the art world to fill our craving for all things random, inspired or chaotic, right?  Maybe.

It seems that order may be the most under-credited pillar of aesthetic success.  Did you know that Jackson Pollack planned a complicated linear framework for Autumn Rhythm?  Or that the Fibonacci Sequence's Golden Spiral is a pattern found in everything from shells and whirlpools to the proportions of the human body and the aesthetically pleasing composition of certain artworks?  How about this mind-blowing fact: If you connect a plate of sand to a sound system, and make it vibrate at a certain harmonic frequencies, it will produce beautiful patterns that would make textile designers green with envy!  (Incidentally, this does not happen if the notes are discordant.) 

Still, I'm inclined to be on the side of Mathew Crawford, author of the killer book, SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT (shout out to the Dugans who thoughtfully gifted it to me) who argues that nothing can replace the "tacit knowledge" of a real live person.  Data is important.  Ordering that data is important.  But the ability to recognize a pattern and to then choose to do something unique with that information is what separates the artists from the computers.

What do you think?


  1. the last math colloquium we had was about chladni's work in a modern setting. cool stuff,
    i never knew about it. here is a video the speaker showed at the beginning:

  2. That is incredible, Pat! Thanks for passing it along.


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