[Humanist] 23.230 gene poetry and the artist's attitude

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Aug 18 07:11:32 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 230.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    renata lemos <renata.lemoz at eletrocooperativa.org>         (22)
        Subject: gene poetry

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (38)
        Subject: the artist's attitude

        Date: Wed, 12 Aug 2009 13:52:20 -0300
        From: renata lemos <renata.lemoz at eletrocooperativa.org>
        Subject: gene poetry

The Poetry and Revolution of the Human
8/11/2009 2:48:06 PM

Researchers unlocking the secrets of our DNA may be sparking a new Romantic
Age  http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=22955 ,
Freeman Dyson writes for the *New York Review of Books*.* *The years between
1770 and 1830, often referred to as the Romantic Age, were characterized by
an explosion of both scientific and artistic achievements. Dyson wonders if
that billionaire technocrats—like Craig Venter, who led the charge to map
the first human genome, and Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway—might
play a role similar to “the lightened aristocrats of the eighteenth

What today's revolution lacks, according to Dyson, is poetry. “Poetry, the
dominant art form in many human cultures from Homer to Byron, no longer
dominates.” He suggests that biology could become today’s dominant art form,
and that creating new kinds of plants and animals could combine art with

at: http://ow.ly/jPFG
renata lemos

        Date: Tue, 18 Aug 2009 06:10:15 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: the artist's attitude

> Re-enactment has lived on the technological borders of pure science
> for a long time -- the planetarium is an astronomer's reenactment of
> the solar system, the model is an engineer's pre-enactment of his
> structure, the wind tunnel is an aeronautical re-enactment of the
> atmosphere -- but it has usually played a supporting role. If a
> description is correct and accurate, re-enactments based upon it
> should closely resemble the natural phenomenon that was described.
> Now, however, re-enactment is emerging as a scientific alternative in
> its own right. The development of modern computing machines, more than
> anything else, has given scientists the tools required to re-enact,
> or simulate, on a large scale, the processes they want to study. The
> program for a computer that re-enacts a process is becoming just as
> acceptable a theory of that process as would be the equations
> describing it. There is still much that needs to be clarified in this
> new application of the artist's ancient attitude, but clarification
> will not lag far behind application. And as the understanding of
> these complex systems grows, the need to distinguish between
> introspectively derived and behaviorally derived concepts should
> decline -- until eventually both our experience and our behavior will
> be understood in the same terms. Then, and only then, will
> psychologists have bridged the gap between the Image and Behavior.

This is the concluding paragraph of a quite astonishing and beautifully 
written book: George A. Miller, Eugene Galanter and Karl H. Pribram, 
Plans and the Structure of Behavior (1960). Much has happened in 
psychology since then, as Donald Broadbent remarks in his Forward to a 
reprinting of the book 25 years later, and that is of course a 
considerably greater qualification today, at twice that distance in 
time. The problem of re-enactment, or simulation, in much of the 
humanities is, I'd say, a much greater problem, and so it makes sense 
that we'd be finding this statement fresh now with regards to our 
interpretative work. Note especially the reference to "the artist's 
ancient attitude" -- how much there is for us to ponder.


Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London: staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/

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