Alan Kay at Aspen Institute/Kennedy Center Arts Summit "Science and Technology as Art" (2015)

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one of the cool things Alan once said  was when he was at
xerox parc he was
doing the dynabook which is really the  prototype for
not only laptops for the  ipad you
know just but it was for  individual creativity is for kid
to take  in the woods almost and make something  beautiful with
because he believed tools  are empowering and
empowerment mean to  be able to create art but
he was working  at a research center owned
by xerox  there's always boss one of his bosses
  there i think it was said you know kept  saying
well how does this really going  to help us what's the
like you know give me a report on the  future
and Alan's answer was the best  way
to predict the future is to invent  it Alan
Kay has done that thank you okay
so let me just
just get started
one more  time here so
very happy to be  invited here this
talk will be a little  bit different it starts
in the same  domain that
this conference has  been about
but is
going to be a little  bit different in the
way it approaches  the
is here and I'd like to  dedicate this
talk to Jerome Bruner many
  of you will know this name Jerry is now  in
his hundredth year of advancing  civilization
one of the most amazing  people
we've ever met we love you Jerry  and
our gardener
was a student of  Jerry's as we all were in
one one way or  another I like to start
off just by  saying this talk is
kind of a budget of  metaphors
because I'm going to have to  go
from areas
that we are a little bit  familiar with like this old metaphor
  from actually the 19th century about  human
memory which is actually
not not  so far from what actually goes
on that  rain comes down
hits randomly
on the  ground one little place some
stuff gets  moved the moving
of that stuff makes a  little channel
the channel funnels the  rain more
efficiently in the air and  pretty soon you get one of these
and we
  can wander around in it and
this pink  context can
actually seem to be  everything that is
in our world if we  grew up in the game Grand
Canyon we  might never even think to look up
it's  all around and we wouldn't even
know it  was pink because
as McLuhan said I don't  know who discovered
water but it wasn't  a fish and
so this first idea is this  idea that
we are always embedded in a  context
we're really aware of the
extent  of the context and because of
our  limitations in a variety of different
  ways even the context that were embedded
  in we only get to experience a little
  bit of its influence at any given time
  so here's an experiment
can actually do with your thumbs you  don't need quarters
if you hold up one  quarter or one thumb
twice as far away  as the other and look
at them turns out  on your retina the
one that's further  away will be half the size
on your  retina and Descartes actually
peel the  back of an ox's I in
order to see if an  a
biological lens work the
same way as a  glass Walter knows all this it's
great  heaven yep so and yes it does
and but in  fact
that I is connected to
  pachinko machine known as our brain and
  those optic those signals
nerve go to a lot of different places  about a dozen
different places that
  brain is actually active and
the process  that
it gives rise
to is
made up of two  things one is our beliefs
I've colored  it pink like the Grand Canyon these
are  the things that we both genetically  think
are true and that we culturally
  think are true and those beliefs
affect  what we like to call reality
but is  actually a waking dream we
are in fact  hallucinating all of the time
and if
  you've ever tried an isolation
chamber  tank in the 60s they're
coming back by  the way try them
about 15 minutes in  there without any ability
to detect any  sensing information at all you
start  hallucinating and go on the equivalent  of an LSD
trip because this waking dream  is
not just made up of our beliefs but  it actually requires
constant reference  to
the world around us in order to more  or less stay on
track otherwise it  starts acting like a sleeping dream
and  so what happens to those two
quarters is  we know those two quarters
in our two  thumbs are the same size and
so we pass  the information from our retina
through  our beliefs and in our waking dream
the  one that's half the size and
our retina  comes out being about eighty percent of  the size
of the one that's closer to us  and
this was one you cannot shake it
is  really hard to shake it you can mount  the
quarters on a ruler to make  everything it is really
really hard and  there are dozens and dozens and dozens  of
these and so basically
we cannot even  see what's on our rack what that
means  is that in the context of the word  sanity
the best we can be is what core
zip ski termed unsane  we
were always unsane and we may be  worse than that
so there's one idea of  the
influence of context here and  McLuhan
had a great line he said in till  I believe it I can't see
it this is much  more the case than
the way that that  line tends to go and right
outside my  hotel a few days ago in New York
this  happened the guy with the hammer and
as  reported by the New
York Times mr.  O'Grady said he looked like he
trying to get away from the officers  when he
was shot I saw another mrs.  calls
us said I saw a man who was  handcuffed
being shot i am sorry Bea I'm  crazy but that's that's
what I saw and  take
a look at the upper right
hand  corner
here's the guy chasing the cop  with a hammer
and here's the other cop  shooting
him I don't see any handcuffs
back dozens because
it was captured by a  camera this
is going to lead into what  science is all about
which is absolutely  getting
away from what we like to think  about the
world we have to use  instruments to get around with what's  wrong with
their brains and those  instruments are not just physical
instruments but some of the instruments  are
actually instruments
to help us see  things that
cannot be seen so
  fortunately this was all captured and
we  got this perfect
record published in
The  New York Times and with the video
on  youtube so you can
actually check it out  yourself and see that these memories
was  a right after it happened we're
actually  manufactured by what people believed
as  you know we're here
today to honor mrs.  flexer who you all know as
grade teacher  she'll be here in just a
everything good
okay what does that look  on her face
does the look she's
phi  frightened out of her mind
that  pink
world that she was in suddenly got  violated
and it got violated and
that  violation was detected by
a fast working  system that's part of
the way our brain  deals with things we
have to deal with  real-time things and a good way
with real-time things with pre-stored  patterns we've
got zillions of them most  things we do in real time
are dealt with  in a more skillful
way than a cognitive  way and the transition
here was some  release
from that and then
she's so  happy you ever had this
happen to you so  these
stage now she could have been  listening to
a piece of music and had
  the same reaction it's like holy shit
  where am I
what's going on here well the  fear
reaction not only gets adrenaline  going
because you might have to run or  fight but
because you might have to  fight it also gets dopamine
and other  neurotransmitters that are actually
  opiates and so the fear reaction
  actually dopes you up so you
can contend  with danger
without feeling pain and
  when your cognitive system
says hey  there's no danger you're coked up
and  all of a sudden you have this fantastic
  feeling  this
has been studied very carefully  over the
last 20 years using PET scans
  and functional MRIs and so it's a
interesting thing to think about and  Daniel
Kahneman wrote the book fast  thinking and slow thinking
again a  metaphor here calls
the fast thinker  system one and the slow thinker
system  too and
just so we remember
that these  are metaphors here's a book
classical  book called maps of the mind and has
  about 40 different theories
of mind in  it not all of them incompatible
with  each other and it doesn't even matter  what the
theories are the important  thing is to realize that no matter what
  you throw at the mind there are other  points
of view on it and so a system one  and system two is
really a useful  metaphor but
here's the cool thing about  system
one and also the dangerous thing  about system
one is it doesn't matter if  you know you're safe
these kids
absolutely would not get on that roller  coaster if they thought
there is any  chance of them die but look at them
if we
were to stand next to a door and I  slam the door like
this you would have  this reaction even though
you know it's  just me slamming a door because system
  one is set up to respond among other  things
too loud noises genetically it's
  set up to respond to reptiles
it's hard  to shake that so
one way to think about  it is that system one is
fast reacting  and slow to train
as anybody who's ever  learned a musical instrument
knows you  play a musical instrument primarily
with  system one as far as all the technical  stuff
goes and it takes a while to train
  it and system two
is much faster at  learning but it's much slower
to react  because it actually has to think about
  things so you can do peekaboo
over and  over over again and
one one of the ways  of
thinking about what the arts and the  sciences are
partly about the joy there  is the joy
of this kind of supply  surprise
in this kind of release so
now  I'm going to make the Grand
Canyon into  a flat plane I'll
have an aunt thinking  its way along the
end can run into a
an  obstacle
i can plan its way around it  can do many many
things all the  trappings of thinking and it
realizes that it's only thinking pink  thoughts
but the ant can wander
along or  be led along it
could have a little blue  thought and
what the land has learned up  to this
point is critical because the
  and has been to school the and has gone  to
church the aunt has been  indoctrinated into
the pink world chris  flat that
little blue thought gets wiped  out but
every once in a while you're  taking a
shower you out you're in a  concert
you're in some place where  you're
a little bit disassociated you  can get a whips
  that whoops
puts you into a different
context than the one you're in i'll call  this the blue context can
bit different from the one you're in  could be enormously
different from the  one you're in and the
basic reactions to  this are the reactions
of that teacher  so like
the simplest one for instance is  a joke a
joke is bleeding somebody down  the garden
path and then revealing it's  about something else
but discovery
aha  and there's in
music you have em and
I  and oh and
I wanted to commute because I  didn't want to try and define art here
so I'm just going to stay with these  sounds these
are the sounds that people  make when they're taken
out of one  context and put into another and I
don't  need to go any further
important thing  about if you're creating
or running into  one of these ideas from somebody
else is  the idea might be
terrible it's  independent
just because you had this  epiphany doesn't
mean in fact many
people have these in the old days would  start religions
because they seem to come from heaven  but
in fact most ideas
to bed and I think everybody here  understands why
it's just hard to have a  good I idea
and another part of
this and  this goes against the myth particularly
  the American myth of doing everything
  spontaneously is can take a long
time to  have those whoops asst
can take years of
  Basque round to have those whoops asst
  courage who is a theatrical Critic as  well
as a poet wrote in a review people
  go to bad theater hoping to forget
  but they got a good theater tingling
to  remember and so everybody
here who has  done theatre knows that what
doing is trying to set up what's called  a magic
mirror in theater which is to  beam the audience's
intelligence back  out at them you're
trying to wake them  up you can't tell
them anything like I  can't tell you anything but
you to think of thoughts that might not  have thought when
you walked into the  room you already have them
but their  masked by other things that you're doing
  Paul Hindemith in a
composers world was  the guy who came up with
the first time  I saw this phrase in the 50s
co-creation  because that's what
happening when you're listening to music  is your co-creating
along with a  composer and if
it's completely random  you get upset if it's
completely  predictable you get bored but
if the  composer puts in things that you didn't
anticipate but you can instantly see  that
they actually were part of this  larger scheme you
get catapulted into  this other world the composer is showing
you something that you didn't anticipate  but
yet it fits into this thing so I  think this is a good
idea this to plane  model
is an idea of Arthur Koestler  called
it by association he was  particularly interested
in the whoops  having a foot in both worlds
but I think  you can see you don't have to have a  foot
in both worlds you don't have to  have an analogy that takes
you from one  together and then of course people
Richard Feynman have pointed out for  many many years
that hey these are the  same
this is what scientists feel  scientists
have all of these reactions  and so by
any reasonable sense of things
  the science and mathematics
and  technology our arts like
the rest of  them some of them are more recent
hey're a little bit different in a way  I'm going to try and show you
but first  to get away from the
words here and back  to something that's a little
more  sensual one of my friends is a  glassblower
  and we were fooling around this
is  called a gather yeah it's just one of  the
most beautiful things I'm he's  beautiful to blow
glass but a gather and
  he he held this thing up like
this and  he said you know if I could I would take  a
bite out of this because
he loved it  and when you're in love you
want to  merge with your beloved that's
another  way of thinking about art this is the  way scientists
think about science and
  so that adds another exclamation
to all  recipes
sensuality these
are dominant  ones of touch the
earliest forms of  sensing
most of
them are in the census  of the Arts we know today I
apologize to  the artist who
made this for only  drawing on it for
a couple of seconds as  an example is really
ugly to not
take  the time to enjoy each
one of these  here's another visual
known what was going to happen this  morning I would have
done this a little  bit differently but
we see something marvelous  happening in time
visuals and music  together and I'd like the sound
up quite  a bit more for this next one
music  doesn't actually need visuals that music
  actually really was aided by British
  dick off I think but
imagine now instead
of having these lights here that we're  all in san
marco cathedral in venice  with our eyes closed
and and we might  hear something like this
I just
love this music from the late
  16th century it's the most incredible
  stuff but it's
still sensual it's  invisible
Leonardo called music the  science of the invisible
but it's  audible but
Walters got all the  stuff covered in his books but
here's a  great story
that's Einstein at age four  and
when he was recovering from
an  illness he was given one of these and
  here's what he said I can
still remember  that this experience made a deep and  lasting impression
on me something  deeply hidden had
to be high be behind  things and here's
the problem the  problem with
what we're talking about  here with science and
technology is that  almost everything important about it
is  not just invisible it's non central
my  friend
Frank Oppenheimer many of you  will have known him
in the past did this  marvelous place
call the exploratorium  in the exploratorium
when it originally  started out had 500 exhibits
each one  devoted to just one thing which is the
  world as not as it seems and
the  sponsors complained they said we wanted
to science museum and you made a nosh  pit we're
always children running around  bashing on things
and Frank said you  don't understand the
Gateway to science  is to
understand that the world is not  as it seems in the most
profound fashion  you have to start
from there because  otherwise you're constantly
being  distracted by how the world does see and
  so these are the arts
of nonsense and  the
arts of non story for the most part
  their narratives about scientists
but  scientific knowledge mathematical
knowledge it's really isn't in a  narrative form is
actually what von  Neumann call relationships about  relation
  chips and I'll look at that in a in
a  little bit and it's not about
this this  is what this form
here is made for we  are around a campfire right
now and I'm  using oral means
and we heard that oil
means are very important and they are  they're
important for telling stories  and those are I
don't want to replace  those a lot
of our joy about being human  beings is about
alking about I'm talking about  something different
something really  different it's an additive
one of the  biggest additives
the human race has  ever come up with and every part
of it  has to be approached through this
  nonsense way
of dealing with things and
  here's one of my favorite so
this is  back in the 18th century I have one of  these
I love this this
may be its last  trip because
they're made out of paper
  on here
so this is
well two hundred  some-odd years ago
in the late 18th  century
people in coffee shops in  England
and Europe had these little  globes they could
take them out and they  would talk about what the earth
looks  like from space they knew because
when  we went out there just as was
described  the
most interesting thing to scientists  was there
was no surprise it looked just  exactly
the way Chesley bone still had
painted those pictures that looked  exactly the way
the earth had been  mapped out no
surprises of any kind and
  the picture on the right is engineering
  picture on the left is science
we can think of this as the birth of  a baby being
able to find out things  that you can't find
out by really direct  means and here's a nice picture
of how  India was
mapped and using
various  various instruments
chronometer 'he's  sextants
to find out where you are and
  viata lights to measure things
and was done by piecing together  evidence and
a critical idea here
is  that the
we can think about what science  math
and engineering are from
  considering this diagram that the
content of all these areas is kind of  like this it's a system
there isn't  really a narrative here see it's a it's  more
complicated than there there's no  place to begin and end everything
is  related in mathematics you
can get this  point to
be in the same place because  you're not reasoning
about the real  world in mathematics you're only  reasoning
about how relationships work  with
each other abstractly in science  you
can never get those points together  and an
engineering you can never get  those points together
for two different  reasons
so you have this idea of  tolerance
and yet what you get out of  this
is plausibility so India
is  represented here and in the maps
today  is plausibly similar to
a very very high  degree with what's
actually there it's  not exact but it's better
than any form  of falsehood from
the past and
here's  one of the great books of all time most
people have never read it most people  are never trained
to read it and yet it  was
had as big an
impact on human  thought
as anything a person could think
  of you I put it in the top five every  part
of this is a beautiful  and yet
you have to understand some  mathematics
you have to actually be  willing
to plow through it take some  years of preparation it
has all the  trappings of what it takes to
appreciate  classical music and other developed
  forms and if you don't do that for
instance one way of thinking about if  system one isn't
fluent with a lot of  the trappings of this
stuff system to  never gets a chance because there's just  too
much stuff there
similarly what's  interesting about magnetism isn't
what  the iron filings show
or even what  Faraday
and Earth's dad found
out that  by putting a current through a wire a
  magnetic field is somehow created that
  acts as though a magnet has happened
  what's interesting here is that the
only  descriptions that we know of this that  are any
good are in the forms of  mathematics that is a
very very cold  desert to
learn how to eat
because what  you have to what you're envisioning
here  is not anything that its physical
you're  in visiting what the relationships of  this
particular kind of mathematics have
  so as Galileo said the language of  nature is
written in mathematics and  most people don't read
that language  similarly in what's interesting
in  molecular biology
here this is charles  darwin as a younger man endless
forms  most beautiful the problem is the  wavelengths
of light are such that the
detail that's shown here had to be  simulated
because we can't see them  directly even with
at has to be found out the same way  the
world was mapped and by using  electron
microscopy which unfortunately  kills the animals
in order to see some
  of the details on them computing so
much  similar to what biology
is about modern  biology I wound
up getting degrees in  both of them and they
parallel  on them
and as beautiful as this wafer
is it has nothing to do with computing  as
beautiful as silicon transistors are  has nothing
to do with computing you can  make computers out of rope to
make  computers out of paper clips what's
  really beautiful about computing is what
  it can do and how it how
it actually  does it abstractly so
a metaphor here is  the computer is an instrument like
a  musical instrument whose music is ideas
  this is something that ADA when Ava said
  the analytical
engine weaves algebraic  patterns
the way the jacquard loom  weaves
flowers and leaves she understood
what the extent because it's the  projection out
of the mirror machinery  that counts
so here's a an
image of four  intertwined systems
that we live in  because now we're getting that the one
of the lingua franca for talking about  these areas
that this this session is  about is
actually systems it's not  really even just science
or engineering  so on the on the right there
is the  system of the universe nature
in the  middle in
the back is our social systems  on
the right hand side is our  technological
system that is a  self-portrait of the internet
and then  there's us so we could call this
the  systems that we live in and the systems
  we are there is a way of thinking about
  all of these ideas
the thing that  most closely approaches this is
writing  and see I would
disagree with Megan and  she didn't actually make it up with
the  internet is not the most important thing
it's the most
important thing since the  printing press writing
is much more  important than either of those but
the  printing
press is a great amplifier for  it and part
of it is that getting fluent  getting system one again fluent
with what it means to become a reader  and writer
changes us cognitively and
  here's something that we did as a  systems
design quite a long
time ago and  it's just wonderful that
you can I've
got it here I love that you can just  hold the thing up and
it's an operating  system for
us you can think of it as the
  tcp/ip for the human race as a
start not  a perfect system but
what was  interesting is not just the result
but  actually how they arrived at the result
  and the
Constitutional Convention by
the  way recommend James Madison's notes
which of the most comprehensive notes  taken
on this secret proceeding they set
hings up in really interesting ways and  occasionally
with correctives to try and  damp
out the natural tendencies of human  beings
and they did it in a fantastic  way
and it's something we should talk  about because this is this
process of  making progress in the face of  disagreement
this is almost a lost art
  Franklin as I
got this from I got this  from Walters book
we are sent hither to  consult not
to contend and then here's  his
famous statement and
then the thing  to realize is that every time we do one  of these
things we were just making a  new context so it's a gully and
we  shouldn't act as though it's sacred and  not to be
not to be changed I
time is  short here
but I could could not
find a  way of
not digressing for one second
and just because
that's the nature of  this stuff
so I think many people
have  learned about the Constitution
  everything else but there are 55
they weren't all there at the same time  but in any given time there
20 to 40 how
  did they vet the drafts
think about it  the
thing that's in the library
of  congress is written by out by hand
so  that they have 40 people
copying each  draft no
way they type set overnight
  each draft they use
the next technology  the technology that they weren't
going  to write the official thing in the
  technology they could have actually used  to
put out the thing but it just wasn't  official it was too
new but in order to  make
it readable they each draft and  this
is a copy of the first draft of the  thing was done like this with
room for making notes and cross outs and  everything
else something to think about  what about
technology okay so
the  problem of course is us and
as I've been  portraying
us we are kind of like cave  people with briefcases
in our brief  cases are
remnants of our hunting and  gathering past a
distaste for the other  in concentric
circles going out from our
  siblings our family our neighborhood our
  country all of these lead to rivalries
  of various kinds we love revenge we
just  decided to take revenge on the Boston
instead of a spear we have an  atomic weapon
and the combination of  these two is disastrous
we have the same  old brain we have to ask what's
a better  context for surely not pink
and that  brain can
also think itself out of the  context that it's been in
several  we just haven't made it stick
with the  larger population we have not been
to improve the Constitution to the  extent that it needs to
be improved and  we have not been able to improve our
conception and vision of what we should  be thanked
you very much Alan and now to
give  a bit of a counterpoint
view is somebody  I'm very proud to del
call professor  because sarah lewis
as of july first  will be the professor of
architecture and African and African  American Studies at
Harvard University  which he has
been a de bois scholar and
  knowing about the Dubois scholars
I was  particularly interested in how much
  you've drawn in your book the rise which  everybody should
read which is about  creativity and
the foundations of  creativity one of which is even failure
  but how you drew from Frederick Douglass
  and his connection to the beauty of art
which he fully understood which I did  not know until last night
when I read  your book and the connection of art
to  policy technology so professor
Sarah  Lewis thank you
so much Walter for that
  generous introduction and I have
I felt as though i received my first  test after
accepting the position to be  a professor at Harvard when Damien
walsall gave me the invitation to do a  response as
an art historian to a panel  presentation
on technology
and hopefully  I'll pass we'll
see but you know Alan  gave
a beautifully wide-ranging  presentation and I won't
respond to all the different points but  I will
say one of his comments made me  flash back to that
moment when Damien  invited me when he said we are all loose
  inated all the time
system one was going  on in my mind when
Damien asked me to  present right
but system two prevailed  when I realized
that ultimately the work  that I'm up to is understanding
how art  is a technology for getting us to
see  around our collective failures right
to  come together when we
might prefer not  to so
speak today is art as a technology  for justice in historical
terms and I'll  do
so briefly so we'll have time for a  wrap-up panel
as well the walter kindly  mentioned i began
this investigation  when i started to look at the really  improbable
foundations of iconic rises  in the history
of creative endeavors i  learned
some things i didn't know i  learned for example that
ellington's said about his landmark  music I merely
took the energy it takes  to pout and I
wrote some blues I learned
  that this now legendary RKO
screen test  from the 1930s said about
a particular  dancer can't sing can't
act balding  condense
a little and this was in  reference to Fred
Astaire  there's so many of these stories
one of  which really gripped me when I saw it
at  sotheby's was that Martin Luther King  received seized
in a transcript of A's  and B's
during seminary right and I  thought about
these improbable failures  but as an art historian I
think I was  most struck by learning that the start
  of the communications revolution The  Telegraph
you might say began with the  failed pursuit
of a painter namely  Samuel
Morse so as you might be able
to  see from the Telegraph model the  stretcher
bars of one of his failed  canvases comprise the
actual frame of  this device
Samuel Morse didn't just  want to be a painter
he wanted to be a  painter of great renowned Rembrandt
  Titian as he wrote to his parents and he
  felt jilted by his first love at
that  altar he was unable to
support himself  and his family sent his
family to live  in New Haven while he struggled to make  a living in
New York might sound  familiar it's
a kind of timeless theme  he was NYU's first
professor of painting  in fact but one
day his students started  to notice that batteries and wires
populated that small studio in  Washington Square
as much as paint  brushes and pigments
Morse didn't see  any difference between
innovation with  artistic means and what we might now  call
technological means Morse
ffectively knew what we are holding a  summit about today that
their art and  Technology are inextricably bound and
as  Walter Isaacson beautifully wrote
in the  innovators the truest creativity of
digital age came from those who were  able to connect
the arts and the  sciences many
have been arguing for the  needs to bring the Arts and Sciences
  together but I would argue that the
urgency to do so comes from the fact  that they were
once never so far apart  right mae
Jemison i think puts this most  beautifully
she writes explaining
she took with her on her first trip to  space a
poster of a dancer and  choreographer Judith
Jamison the  artistic director
of Alvin Ailey until  recently and a bundu statue from Sierra
  Leone the creativity that allowed us to
  conceive and build and launch the space
shuttle Springs on the same source as  the
imagination analysis it took to  carve a bundu statue
or the ingenuity to  design choreograph
and stage and Alvin  Ailey Dance cry
that's what we have to  reconcile
in our minds how these things  fit together
a few years back when I  was curating at
the Tate Modern and then  moma I created
a show kill curated a  biennial that
really looked at the  connection between art and technology  explicitly
it was called the dissolve  and I was fortunate enough
to have David  Adjaye design the
space but recently  I've begun to be
productively inspired  by the tension
you might say between art  and technology and how
it gives us an  opportunity to look at the unique  mechanism
of an object itself of art
itself and how it offers a sense of  connectivity
when we might not otherwise  come together and
how does it do this  that's what I'll focus on really for the  last
few minutes here but to do that I  just want to
go back to San o mores for  a minute this is a painting
of his from  18 22 / 23 the
House of Representatives  it was a painting
that he created to  offer a sense
of his excellence he  wanted to receive a commission
to paint  works that now still
reside in the  Capitol building but John
Quincy Adams  rejected him beyond hope of appeal more
  sense so this is what you
might call  failed painting but now I'm
going into  art history class mode you
might notice  it has a very odd compositional focus  right
what's really at the center is
not  a portrait of any of the many luminaries
  that were on that floor but instead is  her
pointer here hmm a man preoccupied
  by currents at the center of that  painting
it's unusual
really it  Telegraph's where he was going to go
  his own career but it also implement
  eyeses the function of the Arts which
is  to get us to focus with
immersive  concentration to
fall into ourselves and  to create a kind of private domain
the  art of tech
the art as a technology  offers us a way
to access this kind of  interior tea and in
this sense I think  back to what Thomas
he was standing in front of the painting  and described
how he lost his sense of  time completely in
so doing it makes me  think about the
way in which jennifer  roberts my new colleague at harvard
and  why she asks her art historian
students  to sit in front of a painting for three
  hours as an exercise to
get them to  consider what comes to them because our  creates
a private domain in us i've
been  told i need to close now okay
so  much to say here but these private  domains are
crucial because they offer a  pathway to iconic plastic
decision  making right the kind that we
can't make  when faced with potential collective  descent
our gardener
speaks about in his  book changing minds the invisible
  quality of the gradual shifts in our
  judgments and decisions and I think
the private domains that occur in  response
to the arts is one of the ways  that this takes place
think about what  occurred for example with
Charles black  when he went to go listen to louis  armstrong
one day in 1931 the private  domain that was
created in him charles  block went on to become one
lawyers for Brown versus Board of  Education he
says because he noticed the  genius coming
out of Louis Armstrong's  horn during a
period of here we go again  segregation right
he knew that  segregation was wrong in that moment
  because of that genius and describes  that his
trumpet playing let him start  walking
towards justice that day
when he  went on to teach at Columbia and Yale he
would hold an Armstrong listening night  to remind
his colleagues and students  of the private domains that
the arts can  create and the technology that allows us  to walk
towards justice as a result I  could go
on and on but I would simply  really ask how many movements
have begun  when one impactful
work of art one work
of aesthetic force of any kinds  indelibly change
our sense of the world  think for example the
abolitionist print  the slaveship brooks that
was used in  parliament as evidence to
show with  graphic precision the inhumanity
of  slavery right to show how
734 men women  and children were fit into the halls
of  a ship that could hold 450 think
about  as we've heard earlier the galvanizing
  force of the image that we now call  earth
rise from the Apollo aid and how  it sparked the environmental
movement I  really
want to close by reminding us
I think it's so important to honor the  private domains that come
from our  aesthetic force as it
relates to  technology it's
because we're in a  moment where we have increased access
to  the arts that can offer us this
kind of  impact but I wonder if there
is a  bystander effect that occurs because
of  the glut of images that we have I
think  of this in
a particular sense consider  the fact that we've now
been able to  witness firsthand crimes and
and  justices that decades before might have  been unimaginable
to see with your own  eyes our gardeners
killing for example  but
I don't sense an increased outrage  necessarily
I wonder as allen spoke  earlier about
the instruments technology  as an instrument to get us around
what's  wrong with our
own cognitive perception  I wonder
if instruments are also  creating problems with
how we process  the world around us
psychologists might  call this the bystander effect right
a  collective
looking at an injustice might  consider the fact
that someone else  might run
to the rescue of a person  who's being  harmed and
therefore no one does  anything at all
for me this is a concern  because the
importance of the Arts the  access that we can create to
technology is a huge opportunity but I  think that it might short-circuit
the  impact that an individual work of art  can have
when we experience it  physically and more
so as for we
can  speak more about prescriptions in a bed  and
perhaps i'll leave it there but i  want to remind us that this is a
  historical idea it's an idea that  certainly
Frederick Douglas had long  before any
of us did on American soil  about the importance of the Arts for
justice he argued during the Civil War  in
a speech pictures in progress that  art was what
was needed most for America  to have a new vision of
itself and I  think our work with
technology is to  understand precisely what
that  contribution has been one
of the  endeavors i have now at harvard
both  through teaching and in an initiative i  hope
to create is to see whether or not  we could harness the
power of technology  to quantify
so that we don't just use
  anecdotal sort of evidence to quantify
the role of the Arts in connecting  groups
the fantastic
book by bill Bishop  the big sort
has shown us that we have  not by choice
but by circumstance have
come to live in an increasingly  polarized climate
right we now no longer  live or
come into contact with people  who have divergent political
or  religious views as often so
for example  in 1976 he
reminds us less than one  quarter of Americans lived in landslides
  political counties in 2004
48.3 percent  of Americans
did right I wonder if  technology can help us
to understand how  the arts have always integrated us  allowing
us to see as Charles black did  when
he heard Louis Armstrong's horn  that we have
far more reasons to connect  us to each other than we do
have reasons  to stay apart and I hope we
about the productive quality of  technology in that regard
  and in many more aspects thank
we've got to get right and we're  standing between you
all in one so I'm  going to just do if I may a
informal thing and then we'll have this  will stand up
and then we'll have this  panel actually devolve into
lunch where  you can ask your own questions of Sarah
  and Alan but just real
quickly you  mentioned
Martin Luther King and you  found his transcripts
couple of scenes but I've actually read  your book and
what astounded me is what  the two seas were yeah
there were two  seasoned oratory class yeah
that'd be  probably order well
you know there he  actually experienced many different
kinds of failure of course but we don't  know precisely what
his response was to  receiving those seas in
oratory class  this is why I wrote the book the rise I
was curious to understand the impactful  force of
so-called failure in people's  lives the and how much were deprived of
road maps we need by not knowing these  stories but perhaps
I mean more  significant is the fact that he  developed that
speech impediment you  know later in his life and Harry
  Belafonte asked him at one point how he  overcame
it and he ultimately said it  was about surrender
really to what his  mission was you know and that
speech  impediment went away I think that King
really is looking at the techno I mean  he's maybe our greatest
exemplar of  oratory as a technology
bringing us together as an artistic  process and
you mentioned Charles black  jr. hearing Louis
Armstrong and he said  it was
because he could see genius but  was also the music
right I mean how does  that inform even
social justice well you  know
I've spoken about this before  Aristotle
really was consumed by the  power of the Arts and
said it this way  reason
alone is not enough to make men  good you know that's
a cool  and what
he was getting at is that the  arts when something
is impactful as  Louie Armstrong is
playing it kind of  slips in the back door rational
thought  you know that in for some like
Charles  blacks friend who refused to
really see  Louie Armstrong as a genius gets
them  because of the prejudice of the day gets  them
to understand common humanity right  because you're no
longer to seeing the  cypher of a body that's raced
that says  that this is someone who's a lower class
than you and gets you to connect on a  different non-rational
non sensible  they're absolutely
use Allen's term  level you know Alan
one of the things  people may not know about you is
that  you started as a jazz musician langless
  Armstrong I hope a little bit to
extent was playing as a jazz musician  connected
to technology in your mind or  to
what extent it well formed I mean  other people
have said this but my  mother was
an artist and a musician of  my father was a physiologist in
so the  house I grew up at my grandfather
was a  writer for the house I grew up in didn't
  have any special rooms for one
of the  other four and there anything well so
as  I said I most scientists
don't make any  distinction from
the standpoint of the  feelings and
many of the impulses the  thing that's
different in the
arts is  how much how
much do you have to learn
  in order to be a participant in each art
  some of the arts are learnable
very  readily some of the arts require
years  in order to get in
there because of the  amendment vast number of things
so in in  jazz
the thing that you have
to develop  jazz improvisation is like
driving an  all-terrain vehicle at night
over out in  the fields with a
5 watt bulb in order  to it
is rather than ahead of you it's  rather like
learning to drive in the first place  where anybody
can drive a car at one  mile an hour the problem
is the handle  all of the things and to learn how to
  drive you have to have a part
mind trained to recognize stop signs  children
things in the street listen to  the
person talking next to you what gear  you in and most
learning of developed
  things has this character so I when
think of the arts I don't think of  something at differentiates
between  standard arts and science I think of the  arts
as how much work do you have to put  in
to be a full-fledged fluent  participant
and the most interesting  thing about jazz improvisation
is how it  both
matches up and differentiates from  composition
in some cases it can be the
  same thing some of the best organ pieces  ever
written were written down by books  to hooters students
listening to him  improvise and they are fantastic
but  some may
be better organ pieces were  written very carefully by
Bach who  differ was a great improviser
completely differentiated the two  processes
and I think this is true in  most other developed forms
because the  difference is how much planning
can you  actually do and there's a limit to the
amount of planning you can do when  you're improvising and so tinkering
  things together which is what I think  the
American myth is about is not
the  whole story and it shouldn't be so as a  lot we
learned partly improvised of  improvisational
team and you saw that  you were at Utah
where universal gear to  up which is where the graphical
came  together with the technology and we  create
a great graphical user interface  as one of your great
predecessors and  technology was JCR Licklider looking
at  light of MIT who created the first wheel
  graphical interfaces interactive  computers
things like that and he used  to say just like you did
that you stand  in front of a painting for three
hours  at a time he made his MIT students look
  at a painting for three hours I'm going  to end the
n we'll all  just hang out need
but with the formal  part you said you wanted to talk about  prescriptions
Frederick Douglass in your
  writing and stuff actually takes  photographs
and uses that is the tool  for social
justice how would you extend  that to prescriptions
hmmm it's a great  point well I should clarify Douglas
a  was also a photographer right
deeply invested in this idea but his  idea was that
the arts are impactful not  just because
of the power of an artist  to show us something that we might not  ordinarily see
but because of how it  creates images in
us right his idea was  that the
arts are powerful because they  create what he called thought pictures
  it's beautiful really he's looking at
  the phenomenology apart so what
erms of prescription I think what's  most important
is that we yes focus on
the access the technology offers to  artists to get their work out
there but  that we encourage artists to make sure  that their vision
and that their  ambition is large right and
take on the  social issues of the day such
that when  it impacts us it can create a thought  picture
that might as Douglas was  arguing really change the world and what
you've really said is that both  technology
and are both tools for
we humans are going to make of it first  really want to thank both