Mind, Body and Computers

02008-08-19 | Computer, Internet, Musings | 9 comments

Storytelling and oral culture is local, books are cosmopolitan and the web is international. The first is the most physical as actual molecules are exchanged, air is moved, pheromones and scents are exchanged. Physical presence is required.

Maybe playing music live is storytelling, recording music is a book and midi is the web. Midi is more in the head than recording part after part… Some musicians did well with midi, others did not. Stevie Wonder and Joe Zawinul recorded mind-boggling music before midi, but after they adopted midi, their music (at least to my ears) suffered. The strange thing is that they did not seem to recognize that themselves. Neither of them, as far as I know, ever went back to the pre-midi world of layering instruments. Stevie Wonder is a great drummer, but seemed to be happy using drum-machines after 1985.

I have never really used midi. I record guitar after guitar to a click track, then add bass and then record the percussionists. Then Jon might add synths and the guitar melodies and soli are last.

Yesterday I heard from a friend that some therapists work via the phone or even email. Really? What about physical reactions… maybe the voice stays even, but the patient grips the chair… or, on the phone one can at least hear a quiver in the voice… but email? But, once again there are three levels of interaction… storytelling, book, internet – sitting in front of a therapist, using the phone and using email…

That got me thinking about MySpace and other social sites. No sound, no scent, no personal vibe. In that world a person can be anybody they want to be. A man can pose as a woman and vice versa. A short person can become a giant basketball player. Some people use photos of themselves, others don’t even bother. Headgames. Brain playing brain. What will a person, who grows up on MySpace, be like in their thirties or forties? Will they order everything on the net? Will they go out at all?

Last night I watched this TED talk. Computers don’t have enough Africa in them… If one does NOT grow up with Western Sci-Fi novels and movies and buys into computing – what would one think of it? Would computers be strangely devoid of pleasant smell and touch? Would we wonder why the computer cannot react to dancing input? Why is it so NOT-artistic?

We seem to adapt to the way computers think, instead of the other way around. Then again, personal computers have been around for less than three decades. Maybe they are simply still the shiny new toy.

To me computers are another brain-game. It makes one want to park one’s body, in order to enter the matrix in some way. Should it not involve the body? 25% of Americans are obese, I read somewhere. Does that have something to do with computers – and video games? (((and cars!)))

Why do we try to get away from our bodies? We often drive when we could walk or bike… and isn’t a car a lot like a computer? Minimal physical input… and even that isn’t enough distraction from our lives – we need to talk on the cellphone while we drive…

And then there are those who are waiting for the singularity… to live forever, or at least a few hundred or a thousand years. The brain is a flower – just like the rest of the body… Neural plasticity blooms, flowers and wilts… I guess we will find out the hard way, how long that can be extended sensibly. Better build-in an off switch in case your techno-body last too long…

Ah, don’t mind me. I had a very nice bottle of Pinot Noir with my friend, to celebrate his birthday. I walked to the restaurant and back… the light was incredible, the sky a translucent blue – really, the sky looked like a painted backdrop for an old Hollywood movie. I walked slowly, as if to savor each step and each breath.



  1. yumi

    Very nice post and flow to the writing.

    “That got me thinking about MySpace and other social sites. No sound, no scent, no personal vibe.”
    Very true!

  2. michael c

    Your final sentence is a practice in itself. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. LindaW

    As I read this I had a strange sensation that you were in my head, seeing things from my perspective!

    While I make a living off of the use of computers at this time, it is a very impersonal way to communicate. I much prefer the storyteller aspect, with senses involved. Perhaps this lends more of a sense of reality to the one telling the tale?

    I suspect you are spot on with the idea that computers/car/etc is a contributor to the “fattening” of mankind. We are bombarded by media hype as to what is and isn’t good for us. We have drive thru this and mechanized that… it’s no wonder we as a people have become fat. I have no doubt that the reason I gave up my car a year ago, started walking everywhere and bussing to work is to regain a sense of what life is really all about.

    I have to agree with Michael C’s comment too, we need to remember to slow down and appreciate what life has to offer in it’s purest form. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for mentioning Stevie Wonder. I had forgotten all the lyrics but it was good to revisit that moment in time.
    I remember him as Little Stevie Wonder and especially, one of my favorite 45’s, “My Cherie Amor” that me, my sister and girlfriends would sing or dream, awe was it me? What a wonderful childhood!

  5. marijose

    I hope people aren’t flocking to social sites for the sound, scent, or personal vibe. While they don’t offer the benefits of personal contact, they are just another way for people with similar interests to connect. Sort of like electronic toys with interactive features, but on a global scale. First and foremost, though, social sites exist so that site owners or company shareholders can make money.

    Computers could be viewed as a brain game, but they are also helping people communicate who had not been able to do so before computers. In the disability community, for example, they are giving a voice to those who are non-verbal and allowing people who are deaf to converse with those who can hear.

  6. Panj

    Beautiful Horse sculpture, one can imagine walking and coming upon it…

  7. Anonymous

    Yes, our body is only temporary vessel but our spirit will live forever.

  8. Anonymous

    Yes, computers are a tool for communication and not a replacment for human beings.

  9. Victor

    This post made my wonder why the human fascination with technologies that leave the body behind? I think it’s because the brain fills in for what is missing (i.e. real sensory input) and so these technologies free us of physical effort while giving the illusion of a real experience. In other words, maximize sensation with minimal effort. And for those growing up in a world where these technologies always existed, it’s just what you do (or so it seems).

    Take phone texting for example. Verbal queues as minimal as you can imagine… and yet surely the conversation you’re having with your bff on the other end is just as full as if they were sitting there in the airport terminal with you. But if the tiny cryptic sentences were actually being generated by a computer on the other end would you sense that or would you just go on blissfully in the rich relationship you were having with yourself?


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