Robots and Writers

I read Wired magazine on the plane back to California. I bought it because it had this iconic cover with Bill Gates, older, wiser, and more considerate–the face of technology’s past–while Mark Zuckerburg was hanging out right behind Gates shoulder. A smirk was on the social networking titan’s face, a shadow of Gates’ younger, naive, and sometimes foolishly inconsiderate self–the face of technology’s future. I’m a big fan of empowering nerds as well, so the title Geek Power: How Hacker Culture Conquered the World, also drew me in.

I was surprised to find that the story of “the hacker” runs directly parallel to the writer, and every other artist. As the article explains, a “hacker” was first meant to denote the people who used their techie know-how for good, not for bad, and somehow the mainstream adopted the term to refer to people who spread viruses, infiltrate and subvert online security, and otherwise wreak havoc on The Wild Wild West that is The World Wide Web. But the truth is, hackers, or the geeks who write code, are the same as the geeks who write stories. They are creative people. People who feel threatened by commercialism and the limits of going mainstream with their codes. Hackers believe in the freedom and equality of information. They have an ethos, a mission they live by, and most of all, they feel like their creativity is being threatened by modern society.

I also found it interesting that hackers judge each other by how well they hack–not their education, not their class, race, gender, age, not even their clothing!–but hackers judge other hackers on how well they can write code. Writers are the same way. I don’t care where you come from and how you got where you are, if you write well, you have my respect as both a writer and a reader. The article revealed to me that what once seemed to me like the most cold, least creative, non-artistic, (boring), field of coding and technology is actually a field based on creativity more than anything else. Gates and Zuckerburg are artists! They are first and foremost creative people who simply could not have created anything worth talking about unless they used their artistic and creative brain muscles. Numbers and robots need artists behind them as much as novels and paintings do.

Okay, if you are a techie, you might have already known techies are closet artists and creatives–but I didn’t. I mean, I guess it’s obvious, but I just didn’t realize it, because math, engineering, computer science all seem to run so completely opposite to any artistic endeavor. It’s no surprise that I feel this way. Many techie classmates scoffed at me and thought it was cute that I was majoring in Drama at Stanford. So obviously I got very used to pitting myself against techies as my enemy, and now I realized that computer geeks are simply self-hating artists.

Which makes me think…  Why are people so insistent about trying to get more math, science and technology teachers, thinking that the modern world is ruled by math, science, and technology, when two of the most influential technological innovators (and all of hacker culture) are closet artists! More specifically, they are closet writers! They write code and not stories, but really, what’s the difference? Isn’t social networking just a story? A second-by-second, up-to-date, live story?

Creativity and an artistic sensibility serve as the basis for technology. So, if you get rid of art and creativity in schools, it DOES make reasonable sense that you are severely stifling a student’s ability to create anything innovate to solve society’s future problems.

This just adds to my overall theory:

Creativity and art are necessary for human survival, and they should never, ever be seen as expendable!

Art is no joke. I’ve seen theater and writing used to heal psychological wounds. I’ve seen art used to empower a voiceless people, and inform others who were ignorant of an injustice. Art has saved many lives including mine. We are all artists, we are all creative people. We have used our creativity for basic survival in the past, and for the future it is creativity that we will use to solve big issues like the climate crisis. More math teachers, more science teachers, more technology teachers, yes, but keep our art teachers too.

Because without human creativity, humanity can’t move forward. And if humanity can’t move forward, then you know what will happen next.

The robots will take over.

much 0000010000001111,


Editor’s note: this post previously featured the song The Humans Are Dead by Flight of The Conchords.

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9 comments on “Robots and Writers

  1. I too hate computer geeks. They’re rude, snobbish, and self-absorbed. They think the world of themselves. And, they snub artists.

    I hate them!

    But this post changes a lot of perspectives – Geeks are artists of a weird kind as their title implies (pun intended). And I agree that artists of our kind are very important. We are the cushion they can crash land into when they’re tired or depressed. We’re not idiots, and that explains why we alone can provide entertainment to a sleepy, grouchy, exhausted nation of people.

    Yes, we rule!

    • ollinmorales says:

      Haha. I don’t necessarily hate them in the real sense of the word. Some of my best friends are computer geeks, science and math geeks. But what frustrates me is that some techie people just don’t understand us, and this article makes me wonder why the don’t. We’re so s similiar in so many ways!

  2. Barb says:

    I had already learned the true meaning of “hacker” from an article in an Italian mag. So glad you did the English version for all to see!
    I guess you’re right, they’re writers too… and I thought Artists and Scientists couldn’t co-exist, just because I have problems with maths… (I wanted to be a sci-fi writer like Asimov, except when I started studying astronomy I saw how many numbers were involved, got a headache, and changed my mind! ;-))
    Thank you for the new perspective!

    • ollinmorales says:

      You’re welcome. I just saw a connection there that I had to elaborate on, I was surprised to find myself for the first time IDENTIFYING with computer programmers of all people! 🙂

  3. Lua says:

    Another big fan of empowering the nerds here as well! 🙂
    I’ve never thought about the analogy between writers and hackers but when I read your post, you describe the similarities so well, it kind of hit me in the face!
    And I couldn’t agree more- art is no joke.
    Money, politics, power plays, and even football can be a joke but not art. Art is what connects people, what gives them voice and proves they are more than just flesh and bones.
    “I don’t care where you come from and how you got where you are, if you write well, you have my respect as both a writer and a reader.” I loved this!

    • ollinmorales says:

      Thanks Lua for agreeing with me. I never thought about the analogy either, but after I read that article, i just couldn’t help to see the parallels.

  4. Robi says:

    When it comes to the dividing space between Art and Science, I’m going to go with Heidegger. Despite the fact that he was a Nazi, he got some things about philosophy right.

    In his article, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” Heidegger explains the essence of art in terms of the concepts of being and truth. He argues that art is not only a way of expressing the element of truth in a culture, but the means of creating it and providing a springboard from which “that which is” can be revealed.

    If you look at it that way, Art and Science are brothers, family on the search for Truth. But it is always going be art that represents what is true and real. That is the entire purpose of its existence. Science exists to find truth, and Art to portray it to the world. Society depends on it.

    Another Heidegger concept – The Hermeneutic Circle. You can’t understand Science without understanding Art, and vice versa. They are interdependent, mutually nonexclusive. A shaded region on a Venn Diagram.

    This really is a great post, Ollin.

    • Thanks Robi,

      I’ve never heard of Heidegger, but he sounds interesting. I’m learning a lot from my blogger friends. I didn’t know there was so much literature out there about for example, how Art and Science are codependent. I’ll have to check all the literature out now. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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