In a recent Scientific American article, Stephen Hawking made the following observation, which you can find online HERE: “I think computer viruses should count as life. Maybe it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. Talk about creating life in our own image.”
The premise of this observation is based upon the basic criteria for life. First, a living entity must be equipped with a way to sustain itself, a preconfigured guide relative to our genetic programming. Second, it should have the means to adhere to the parameters established in its “genetic programming.” This is all covered in the Hawking article as well.
I’ve always thought of art as living, even though it doesn’t fully adhere to the stipulations set forth by science. It doesn’t have a genetic predisposition. We sustain it through creation, distribution, and consumption. Art doesn’t really have a way to keep itself alive either. That also hinges upon us and what constitutes “good” art, or art worthy of sharing and passing on.
Like art, ideas are alive. They feed off of our energy. We make them tangible, accessible to those around us. Ideas, like art, grow and spread, or they wither and die.
Some artists choose not to have children because their art replaces that need to procreate. Their work becomes like their children. But by no means does this constitute asexual reproduction. Instead, art is sort of like immaculate conception. The mind grows fertile from interaction with the world and eventually births innovation.
Bringing art into the world and sharing ideas, it’s a high road in many respects, but I can’t help thinking about the legitimate concern found in dystopian films like Idiocracy. What if we reach a point someday at which the people left on this earth can’t appreciate the art that’s been left behind?
Sometimes it seems like the information age has been reduced to the age of meaningless input. A collection of lists and meme’d slogans placed on e-cards, overlapping pictures, attributed to various dead celebrities. Popular culture is giving birth to something never seen before, and as a washed-up, middle-aged man, of course my value judgment is going to be negative, my outlook on the future dire.
But I guess that doesn’t matter, because the entire premise of this entry was to challenge Hawking’s assertion that humans only create destructive forms of life. We’re hosts to a strange living entity: Art, our friendly parasite, the brain’s symbiotic partner that keeps the mind healthy and inspires further generation of art.
Something like that.