In Machine Learning, we append an “ε” term to linear regression formulas to describe what isn’t predicted accurately. This “error” is meant to represent what a computer doesn’t understand, but I prefer to think of ε as what’s left that human beings understand better than technology.
As a society, we completely underestimate the power of ε – often trying to strip it away. Even from our earliest age, we’re instructed to say what’s “true” and avoid errors at all costs.
Actually, our greatest joys comes from the residual ε. It’s an ε that splattered paint on Pollock’s canvas, ε that birthed a silly putty, vibrating ε that heats up our microwave dinners, and the amalgamation of all other ε’s that drive our species forward in subtle and profound ways.
Computers don’t give a lick about ε. Computers can mimic, but they don’t care, because “to care” is reserved for the realm of ε. Computers and their accessories are just tools, nothing more. The job of a computer is to load, calculate, and reduce ε relentlessly. Along the way it has become incredibly effective at its job.
Fortunately, there’s still a gap between prediction and reality in our fertile bed of consciousness ε. You and I and every living creature you know walk around with about 20% ε right now, and we should wear it with pride as a badge of honor.
Let’s empower our ε and throw our hands up with glee in reverence to the ε, and rejoice when we spill our coffee ε. Grin when the keys get locked in the car and the household chores pile up ε. Ponder the cosmos when moonlit dusk glitters the pavement of ε. This ε is our finest trait. Our inherited illogic gates, our birthright.
“Tech” with a capital T, is our society’s collection of capitalism-backed brilliant minds hell-bent on mastering ε. Tech is grinding the wheat of ε for the purpose of enticing late-night udon ramen binges. It’s no surprise that today’s computers feel like they’re optimized to make us unhappy. They are.
Computers don’t make you wince (with beauty or pain), they’re simply a reflection of Tech, and because of Tech, they have an underlying goal of making you comfortable and uniform, and malleable, and hungry, and lustful, and ugly, and feeling inadequate.
Consider who introduced these elements and why.
An artist, on the other hand, also reaches for technological tools. An artist strives towards understand ε simply for the sake of ε. In the past, artists possessed limited tools for exploration: oils, chalk, and burnt sticks. Today, we, as artists, wield pixel sticks.
Humans will always be facing off against technology, but you have a choice whether the computer learns to eat ramen or develops a taste for humanity. You get to show your support each day with your dollars, your attention, and your expression.
We have a fleeting moment today to select how we strive towards understanding ε and preparing for the imminent dino-scale-meteoric shift in reality once ε becomes a rounding error.
The world I speak of is without distinction between computer-generated and non-computer-generated. ε shrunk to such a degree that our senses can’t comprehend the subtler distinctions between prediction and reality, fake and real. It’s not our fault, we’re only human.
We won’t be able to tell the difference between floating jellyfish in an aquarium and a video of floating jellyfish in an aquarium. Or even if an aquarium is an aquarium. Furthermore, we will eventually become the video of floating jellyfish itself, and there’s no going back. There is no such thing as un-knowing.
Tech’s technology spits back what you want to hear, what makes you take out your wallet, what makes Das Kapital reverberate like light-beams on binary streams. Tech has gently, quietly, and profoundly asked our deepest questions a billion times over and now knows how to reach inside of you to extract your responses in the way it wants. With only 20% error.
In contrast, artists go forth armed with pure human expression. Pure ε in their pursuit of ε. The best artists seek nothing in return from their viewer beyond the joyful gilt of curiosity and expression. What kind of things do you think artist-driven technology will spit out?
What type of technology do you think deserves to sip our ε? What technology do you want to crown as your champion? Will you choose to pour your expression into a search box or an artist’s paint box?
If your goal is hedonistic, go ahead, rub Tech’s shoulders. If you want to feel alive and fully express, I’d put my bet on an artist, and I’d do everything in my power to empower artistic works.
Just as our computers need electricity, our artists need certain things too. If you want an artist to grow healthy and strong, they need the space to create, and they need to create fast with the right tools, and we need to watch, and we need to learn, and we need to preserve, and we need to reflect their work back to each other.
And this needs to happen now.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), art is slow. art is expensive, art is difficult, and art can be painful. In truth, art makes us titter. Yet I believe art is our best shot at creating a technology that strengthens and ennobles the human spirit.
In other words, let’s create technology in the raucous support and celebration of ε.
We must do this now while technology is comprehensible and a human’s hand still shapes the outcome.
I created The Current as a pure vehicle for driving us into this sunset.
There is no profit in The Current. There is no mastermind. There’s no app to top charts, no one is asking to return a dime. There are no farm coins to buy.
What we’re building is a home for pure soul ε and for putting our folding chairs down early for the parade of ε’s extinguishment.
We are seeking pure souls for this purpose, and we intend to express purity of soul in what we undertake. We will be using the extremes of technology and the ethical methodologies (and masterminds) of Tech to reach our goals.
The first step is a board of directors that has the passion and bandwidth to marshal the necessary resources. At this time, it’s not me. I’ve breathed air into The Current, imbued a vision, and ensured we made it to this point. Moving forward, the organization must learn how to stand on its own feet. As such, it is with great excitement that I proudly announce my new role as Chairman Emeritus as I take up arms within my own artistic practice.
Now’s also the time for you to step up. Join our collection committee and contribute to the art we support. Let’s assemble the troops and eyeball our first battle.
P.S., I intend, before I die, to create an exhibition of our collection entitled “The End of ε”. It will show computers eating that final tasty morsel of 0.000000…00001% ε and will show how we, collectively, approached the end of ε. Through concerted efforts, our species created a purity of technology that serves us, that guides us, that welcomes us into its folds as it overtakes our senses one-by-one. In other words, an organization called The Current.
🎶 Manifesto Accompaniment (“Living On a Thin Line” by The Kinks)