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not being afraid

18 April 2011 one comment

This is taken from Triumph of the Cyborg Composer at Miller-McClune:

At one Santa Cruz concert, the program notes neglected to mention that Emily Howell wasn’t a human being, and a chemistry professor and music aficionado in the audience described the performance of a Howell composition as one of the most moving experiences of his musical life. Six months later, when the same professor attended a lecture of Cope’s on Emily Howell and heard the same concert played from a recording, Cope remembers him saying, “You know, that’s pretty music, but I could tell absolutely, immediately that it was computer-composed. There’s no heart or soul or depth to the piece.”

That sentiment — present in many recent articles, blog posts and comments about Emily Howell — frustrates Cope. “Most of what I’ve heard [and read] is the same old crap,” he complains. “It’s all about machines versus humans, and ‘aren’t you taking away the last little thing we have left that we can call unique to human beings — creativity?’ I just find this so laborious and uncreative.”

Here is a performance from Emily Howell:

(from the movie I, Robot, 2004 )

Detective Spooner: Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a… canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?

Sonny: Can you?

One Comment »

  • Deb said:


    Ah, human hubris. History is chock-full of examples, real and imagined, of humans overreaching when it comes to their own capabilities. from Icarus to our genetic tinkering, we are a bit smug in what we think are our own crowing achievements.

    Frederick Engels said: “Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us.” Engels, an optimistic man to the point of communist designs, was a bit guilty of his own condemnation (thinking man was capable of more than perhaps they are). He’s spot on in this regard, methinks — Nature is as nature does. Red in tooth and claw, it can and will win, given time.

    There’s such a god-like call in this “making things in our image.” It’s *so* god-like that it triggers a yark reflex in me, honestly. I have to put it down, consciously, with some rational thought around “advancing technology needs open highways,” etc.

    And ultimately I am reminded of the movie version of Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” The movie — Blade Runner — is haunting in its inadvertent eulogy to mankind, hunting down versions of itself that are more human than humans. Such a conundrum — killing in order to live. (Oy, only humans could fold up that kind of catch-22 so well-nested.) I’ve not read the book. I think maybe it would be a good read for us both.