Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Raymond Kurzweil

This guy is a genius with probably a little nuttiness in between (probably the good kind of nutiness, in a Ratatoille (the rat) way). He enriches our thoughts about the short term future (less than a thousand years from now), raising very interesting and thought provoking hypothesis. However he has a view of death which is quite peculiar:

"...death is a tragedy. That is our instinctive reaction and that reaction is correct. In my view it is not death that gives life meaning. Life gives life meaning. The creation of knowledge in all its forms (art, music, science, etc.) and relationships gives life meaning. And death is disruptive of that." (source found on wikipedia)
He praises immortality as if it is a good thing. Well, I wonder how much time he takes to get bored of a particular state of mind. But if he his talking about maintaining abilities and memories, well, we've already done it to a large extent: it's called language and it's main result - culture!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Regarding copyright

(this was posted on isohunt, a p2p forum currently being prosecuted by the MPAA and RIA)

I think that there are two things everyone agrees with:

1) Man is distinct from animals because he has the ability to think;

2) Thinkers and people who promote that ability should be rewarded in a prosperous human society.

Now for this reason it seems abundantly clear that scientists, artists and researchers of every sort should be well rewarded in today's society, especially those who go further, who discover something new, something that works. In the case of artists: those that create "quality" art. The kind of art that leads us to new places, that makes us evolve and see life in a new way.

Now, with scientists and other thinkers we have no problems today, after the second world war governments and enterprises all over the world get their services and pay them accordingly.

But artists are not getting the same feedback from their creativity. For two different reasons:

- the problem of paying more to the "fast-food" artists: most artists are sold through advertising, the ones that get more money are usually not the best, but the ones that are more promoted, those who get more publicity. Some of them sound awful and we would not take notice of their art if we didn't know it was made by them. Truly good works of art should be appealing and rewarding even if they had no "brand"" on them. they should speak for themselves.

- the problem of "where did the money go?": most money goes into the pockets of people who just copy and distribute what the artist made (the companies and labels). This is reinforced by the fact that current copyright laws do not make the artist the owner of what he has made. The company is the legal owner in spite of generally not having had any creative part in its birth.

These two aspects end up by economically strangling the "good" artists, those that just don't follow a formula, but are creating something new (I am speaking particularly about independent and alternative artists).

Now the net released the grip of the companies over the artistic production. It has more or less implicitly provided an alternative source of incoming for all artists which is direct donation. A band or person puts his works of art on display on the net for billions of users to see and enjoy. Some of them will want to contribute back through economic donations, showing the approval of the work and the want to have more.

This new model of financing the artists is much more efficient: it almost completely eliminates the "middle man", it provides access to much more artists, it provides a much better way of assessing who "deserves" the more money: those that have really "touched" us.

Now this does not apply to big hollywood productions, but then, with the development of cheaper technology, it will be gradually easier to produce stunning motion pictures without much money. Music studios can be generally replaced by a cheap pc, perhaps something like that will happen with movies in two or three decades.

Now, to me it seems clear, that the well-to-do people who made millions or billions in the music, tv and movie industry, are the ones that have something to loose. What they are seeing is a completely new model of refinancing the artist in which they are completely excluded. There is no need for a music industry anymore, or for book publishers. As musicians or writers can simply put their works on the web for the general consumption.

Now, to societies, it is of the utmost interest that many, good-quality, artistic creations be available to the widest audience. Art is what helps to guide the values of society. There is nothing more important to the evolution of a human society than to be clear about what is valuable and worth pursuing. Art makes us go deep into our hearts, to discover new ways of feeling and seeing the world. It helps us to heal our sores, to become more tolerant and wise, to see more and with more detail the inner recesses of the human soul. Art is no less important than technology or science. It should be well protected and developed.

Today's corporations are interested in profits, they put a sail on the winds of artistic creation, and try to get some profit from it. The best for their profit is to create a culture of scarcity so that we will be "hungry" for what they got to give, and we will be ready to pay them big time. But the scarcity is very damaging to our societies, especially when we now have an alternative which can reward the artist directly. we should not forget that it is the ability to think that distinguishes us from other species, we should take the greatest care that we maintain this ability as clear, sharp and wide as possible.

The future:
We should create a society in which we are taught to donate, to give back to those that have given us. Without this, if we are all "greedy", big corporations will continue to flourish. Ultimately, they rely on our own selfishness. Our economy relies on balancing selfish actions and desires, we must create a niche of gratitude and donation. If we are able to do this, then the corporations will crumble for the artists themselves will prefer the free web. It is the gratitude of consumers who will make a difference (or fail to do so).

This change of attitude can be done by giving the example, by talking about it, etc, but it is also necessary to create a practical way of materially rewarding the artists. To give just one example, I love Regina Spektor, her music has changed my life. Yet I have no way of donating to her, I can buy some of her musics on her "MySpace" page, but half of the money will go to other people, and if I buy one of her CDs, then even less will go to her. But I don't feel indebted to any of those distributors, I don't even remember how I got in touch with her music in the first place. I would like to pay her, only! So... as long as the artists don't provide ways for us to make direct donations, someone should build a page with a bank account into which we can make deposits or paypal payments addressed to a particular artist. And then that someone would take like 0,1% or something and give the rest to the artist in question. Everything should be very transparent and public. One could make a living just by redistributing money to the artist in this fashion. I think that there are a lot of people like me, who feel grateful and would like to retribute in some way what was given to them.

On a final, personal note:
I don't feel like I have taken any money from any big corporation, I don't see tv and I don't listen to "mtv-music". I am a student with very limited financial resources at this time. I like reading and if every contemporary work of art was forbidden, as these rich guys would want to, I would simply read Plato and Plotino from the library, and would be even more distanced from all this consumerist society than what I already am. The free net is what connects me to this century.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

comment on Regina Spektor's "Buildings"

this was written to and appears in the context of the following page:

Wow, almost everything has been said (including lacrimosa's description of the tall buildings, but almost all comments have amazing insight and speak for themselves).

I'm just going to add what's different in my impression: I think it is difficult to understand this song as a direct description of a husband-wife relation. People are together for many reasons but it is mainly because they want to (it gives them pleasure or because they think they should), or getting out makes them afraid (of being alone, loosing social or economic status, etc). When one of us is alcoholic or getting into trouble the relation gets a complex change that is not reflected in this song (for instance good memories mix with present deception, a will to fly away mixes with wanting to cuddle, etc).

So it seems to me that this is the view of a son or a daughter, that is anxious to get out and live is life, he looks at his parents lives and sees them as getting stuck in the sift of time. He sees them as always repeating the same mistakes, going over and over again the same states of mind, giving time to each other, but just repeating the same things all over again.

The son (or daughter), looking at their parents miserable (to him) life realizes: time cannot be given. You cannot ask for time. No one can. You are waiting for your life to happen, but time is going on anyway and you are the one not being sifted in the sift of time. You are stopped, in the inner walls of your house and life, you can't move on, and everything else is around you, happening, evolving, etc.

So, the child realizes, time is not given, time is not taken, it is just passing along, sifting from the ones who want to change with it, who go along, and those who got caught in the past. This child then breaks away from what he/she sees as their parents circular (or even vicious) relation, and gets out.

The final words, disconnected, is like the child getting away, understanding his parent's life, and, because he understands it so well, at the very core, he can let it go. He has lived it, he has been through it, done that, so he can move on.

Of course, he really does not understand what is going on. Spouse relations may seem very dull and dry from the outside but, most of the time, they are full of light and freedom and adventure in the inside.

Another thing I would like to add is that there is a slight ambiguity in the song. It is clear that the explicit meaning is of an alcoholic wife, but there are also some hidden suggestions or hints at a sexually abusing husband:

"in the car he would lean her head gently against the side door window"

may be a subtle reference to sex in the back seat, and the following line

"And in the bathroom he would hold her hair back and hope"

Seems so close to "hold her hair back and forth"

I'm not saying the Regina though about this, but, you know, it's really easy to imagine this, and when you do the lyrics is complemented: you understand *why* the wife get's drunk all the time. She is not loved, she is simply used. The husband saying "Oh, oh it's okay" would now also have a double interpretation: he seems to tolerate her, or even to apparently support her in her role, but not really to *be" with her, to love her to her most inner core, to see her as the most beautiful thing ever (and without this "love" is just an empty shell).

This actually opens an interesting perspective on the song's meaning. What does "love" means? What is the difference between making love and using the person for sexual gratification?

I think what "true" love provides is what Kant said: we should treat others as ends in themselves. That means, not as a means to an end, but as an end in himself or herself. When we put the other above everything else and treat him/her as an end in himself/herself we are loving them.

In this perspective we are all turned into instruments (not loved) when we put success, economical development, technology, gadgets, etc, above what we want and who we are. Instead of being an end, we become just a means to get something (money, glory, friends, food, etc). We disrespect our inner being to get something outside of us. So the "they build building so tall these days" could also refer to the mesmerizing beauty of today's technology and scientific achievements. Some of us are so mesmerized by this beauty, that we follow, hypnotized as if we had no free will, the trends and fashions and best paying jobs. We become slaves to the system. And, because we become instruments to get the best place in it, we start begging for time, asking for time, time to be ourselves...

In this sense this song would apply to all of us. We are all asking for time, giving ourselves more time: perhaps tomorrow I'll do what I like, perhaps tomorrow I'll follow my dreams, perhaps tomorrow I'll break free from all this non-sense that interests me no more... perhaps... more time, more time...

But time is not given, time is not taken,

Time just sifts through its sift

And either you're with it, flowing with it, or you sit in its sift.

In a breaking moment.