Welcome the Shiny Object! Beware the Shiny Object!

It’s an interesting notion; what do we do with all this technology, all this information, all these shiny objects? Electronic and technological capabilities have far outpaced our progress in social, emotional, spiritual and environmental matters, and we’ve been working at those for millennia longer than we’ve even had lightbulbs, cars and computers.

Today’s post features two videos; both mind-blowing and alarmingly trivial at the same time. The first is one of several robots-playing-acoustic guitars videos found on the web, the second is a relatively new look at the Leap interface for large non-tablet screens that’s gotten 5 million views in just 10 days. They are both truly impressive works of engineering, skill and labor. But …

..something gnaws at you deep inside after watching them.

Now admittedly, the guitar-playing robot was simply designed for an engineering contest and is more in line with the mechanized music-boxes and player pianos of the past. It’s not trying to replace musicians or do away with composers or even to be part of a recording. And the Leap video is simply showing the further advancement of what we can use as an interface with our digital desktops, gaming systems and the presentation of information.

But if you start to think about how much you can actually accomplish with these developments (more precise and intricate robots and a more responsive 3D virtual environment), what is the ultimate goal or idealized outcome that we expect from technology, both in replicating creative human content like music and in developing more in-depth virtual worlds? How much of it is convenience, how much of it lessens our possible full-spectrum experience and how much of it is just us being hypnotized by the latest shiny object?

And though it’s not what these two projects set out to accomplish, it makes you wonder about the limits of effectiveness on our sensory systems and making an emotional impact in our experiences. And is today’s programmed music and 3D playground of imagination really any better than the originals; namely, Kraftwerk in the 1970’s and kids making play forts out of cardboard boxes? Or is it simply more complex?

Welcome the shiny object; beware the shiny object.

2 thoughts on “Welcome the Shiny Object! Beware the Shiny Object!

  1. I feel it all depends on the value of utilization . Like the television that was initally invented as a learning tool only to become in time a household object to zone out with.
    Convenience is desirable, but not at the cost of numbing our imaginations or creativity. I would love it if the orchestration in my music could actually be performed by a real orchestra. It’s what I hear in my head. But reality dictates that it would not be financially feasible for me to hire out a real orchestra….so…it’s virtual instruments for me in a DAW.
    Also I would love to see these shiny objects used in ways that would benefit mankind better. (bioelectronics to enable paraplegics to actually walk, and even play the guitar..ha ha…or a way to reverse global warming). Not just used for even more ways to separate us from human face to face interaction

    By the way, nice article you’ve written here Nar, gets one pondering..

    • I hear ya Jay; the TV quickly went from info source to campfire replacement to propaganda/mindnumber. And it will be neat when tech gets to the point where musical brains can interface with a DAW and we can feed it an arrangement as we’re hearing it in our heads, huh? But of course, some DHS hacks will exploit that interface to gather ‘subversive thoughts’ while the brainline is open, won’t they? “But officer, I was only recording a lullaby symphony!” “Sorry longhair, we found urges to protest in your brain’s #3 zone; you’re coming with us.” Direct-to-disk recording indeed. Tech is indeed so full of promise and so readily subverted.

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