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OUR COLUMNIST AND IN-HOUSE ARTIST AVILA REFLECTS ON THE PLACE OF THE ARTIST IN TODAY’S SOCIETY:

‘As we know, there are many benefits and disadvantages of being part of a mass society. Depending of our situation, we can admire the efficiency of its members working towards a goal, or we can despair when we observe the irrational conduct that the entire system often displays without any sign of guilt or remorse. The size of its body has produced a type of behavior that reflects the frequent incapability of its individuals to exert opinions about specific facts, which could cause a deviation in society’s objectives. The result is a lack of adaptation to new circumstances, and consequently, frustration.

As we can see, the existence, or the absence of common sense, depending on how we look at the situation, is what moves the transmission gears of our crowded world. If we play a chess game against a computer, we could observe two possible outcomes. One is accepting that a limited number of possibilities of moving the pieces exist in the match, and the computer can calculate them in its favor. The second possibility is that the program that manages the computer game is incapable of finding the right move to win the match, and on the contrary, we can.

In the game of chess, victory is achieved by obtaining a checkmate on the opponent. It’s a game of strategy, where the pieces are moved according to the rival’s position on the chessboard, with the objective of eliminating each other’s king. The overall plan requires knowledge in order to foresee in advance the possible choices. A computer moves a piece by calculating multiple mathematical formulas at great speed, choosing the simplest result. On the other hand an individual has to make a move based on imagining future alternatives.

The computer’s strategy centers on evaluating numbers; while the core of man’s strategy is vision and practice. Appearances deceive our senses independently of who wins the match. The reality is that we are not playing one game of chess; but two different games. Would it be right to consider the same sport, racing a horse along a one mile track against a motorcycle? Or, would it be correct to compare the same basketball game if one team plays the ball with their hands, and the other with their feet?

PASEO

In our world, the result of reaching an ending to our endeavors often appears to justify the methods we use. The movement of the pieces on the chessboard conceal the use of two different techniques for two different games that have the same rules. One is designed to be played with the use of computers, and the other one is conceived to be played with the use of minds. The fact that both techniques can result in a check-mate shouldn’t distract us from accepting the reality of playing with a disadvantage from the first move, after all, computers love numbers, not morals.

Imagine playing against a robot in a not too distant future. Imagine that the robot could be switched between playing “mathematically correct” or “morally adequate,” choosing the latter option. Now, imagine that after the robot makes its first move, it looks at us and says “oops.” Then imagine knocking its head off. How do you think that, following some repairs, the robot would play the next match, “mathematically correct” or “morally adequate?”

If it’s a smart robot, it wouldn’t play at all. But “morally adequate” would be a likely answer. Why? Because in case it chooses the “mathematically correct” option, and in the course of a new game it gets hit again, it wouldn’t have the conscience to remember it, and that would imply danger to its existence. Without memory, there is little chance of surviving.

The society’s tendency is to redirect the individual will of a person, in order to make him walk a restricted path. It has its own behavioral methods which we should accept if we want to be part of the community. But it often seems that there are two different games being played at the same time. One refers to the satisfaction of the necessities of the society as a whole and the other points to fulfilling the individual requirements. From afar they seem alike, with the same objectives. Nevertheless, the conflict arises when the individual tries to predict the movements of many. The crowd has a way to make and change, the rules of the game as it goes along, leaving the individual scrambling for a solution to his own moves.

Small cultures profess the ability of retaining the memories of previous events with ease, due to the circumstance of having fewer changes between the members of each generation. For example, the tradition of a tribe lost in the jungles of the South Pacific, based on keeping the skulls of predecessors hanging from the roofs of their huts to produce a sense of comfort and safety, must date back a very long time. They believe that the knowledge and experiences acquired by their family members before death, can be passed on some how, to the descendants that take care of the bones.

Our large societies have substituted the skulls for books and quantities of numerical characters operated by computers, while the physical individuals have disappeared in some sort of Minoan labyrinth of information. What is left are their personal sacrifices accumulated over time in shelves and databases, waiting to be extracted at the click of a mouse. As Herman Melville once wrote “The reason the mass of men fear God, and at bottom dislike Him, is because they rather distrust His heart, and fancy Him all brain like a watch.”

That doesn’t mean that the application of science is not useful to Man. What it means is that in order for Man to save himself, he has accustomed God to science.

Like the robot’s choice in my previous example, some individuals would rather suffer pain in order to give meaning to their existence instead living in a perpetual state of numbness. This choice involves learning, communicating, convincing, rebelling, and probably analyzing the concept of sacrifice.’