Reading Response #5

to Artful Design, Chapter 5: Interface Design

Frankie S.

2022 October 30

Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University

Reading Response: Beauty

Right away while reading chapter 5 this week I was taken aback when you laid out the differences between computers and humans. A lot of discussion these days centers around how to improve efficiency and how to automate expensive processes to save us money. We ask “how can we make the computer more like us?” and we even try to replicate the mind in the machine. I never thought of us as remarkably adaptable or inherently having the desire to express, but these are absolutely true. Computers have their strengths as well, but to sum it up “I am inspired by the uses of computers that result from recognizing these differences, rather than painstakingly attempting to force similarities to what people already do” – I could not say it better. How do we augment rather than replicate? This is a fundamental question of our time.

To jump around, I am incredibly interested in the mentioned short story “Twilight” by John Campbell. I love when stories catch you by surprise, and there is almost nothing more surprising to me than the end of humanity being characterized by a quiet sunset rather than an explosive end. I will be reading this soon and I would love to chat about it afterwards.

Finally and perhaps most saliently I can’t stop thinking about the closing pages of the interlude. “Is it beauty we are after? Beauty not so much in making something ‘look pretty’ but as in this kind of truth, or is it just some insatiable drive forward? What are we trying to accomplish?” Wow. I forget who said it but some famous philosopher at some point equated beauty and truth and reason into some greater oneness. I don’t know what it’s called but it is absolutely true. I did a project once where I asked people to talk about a time when they felt awestruck. I heard people talk about their partners, and research papers, math theorems, art pieces, novels, solar eclipses, and all of these things are unified by that oneness. I saw it when I witnessed the solar eclipse in Nashville on August 21, 2017. I felt it when I finished The Song of Achilles for the first time. I heard it when I sang the starting notes of Cherry at the ICCAs. It is the same thing. Maybe it’s God or the universe or something else but it’s there. Quietly revealing itself when you have a moment to catch your breath. Or maybe even more so when you lose it. I suppose that’s what I’m searching for now.