Let me count the ways. 😉
Look, you don’t need me to pile on about ‘Idol’. But most of the criticism seems to focus on the bad auditions as freak show and the winners as empty shirts. I’m not too concerned about that. One more ‘reality show’ freak-fest more or less ain’t gonna improve the zeitgeist. And another Milli Vanilli more or less isn’t going to kill the music biz any deader than it already is. No, what bugs me is what it’s doing to our brains. I call this The Three Stooges Argument.
Those of you old enough to remember The Three Stooges (has there ever been as meaningful comedy since Aristophanes?) are also old enough to remember the controversies as to whether or not the sight of a guy getting shot in the ass by a .38 (puff of smoke coming from his pants, cue frying pan sound effect) would lead to an increase in violence in the streets. I dunno whatever became of that… although I have always wondered how many people wrote grants to study the frequency of public assaults with cream pies.
What was my point? Oh yeah, the idea that watching something affected the brain in a deleterious way has been going on for a loooong time–usually vis a vis violence. But I think that AI has the same brain-rotting effect as playing one too many rounds of Halo III. Seriously. It de-humanises people, slowly but surely.
See the thing about ‘Idol’ is that it not only convinces people that singing a classic song in just the right way with just the right ‘look’ is worthy of world-wide acclaim. It turns a great Carole King or Motown song into the new-millenium equivalent of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’… sure it’s an icon, but nobody knows or cares what the thing being crooned over is actually saying. (Something about bombs and rockets, right? Note to self: investigate subliminal advertising in 1812.)
I like Simon. He tells truths that make people hate him and when people try to prove him ‘wrong’ he simply makes more money! He’s like The House in Vegas which you can’t beat and just laughs while you try. He knows he’s selling crap. And loves it! What makes him loathesome is that he tells the truth. He dares people to turn him off and watch something more upliftingÂ but he smiles because he knows you won’t. You just can’t admit that he’s right. You like crap. You know you should be listening to something better. But you won’t.
I went to Russia several times years ago when the commies ran things. Everywhere was this Social Realist artwork and music. All this was supposed to encourage proper behaviour and instill proper values and a higher morality. It was pretty ugly. Here’s the thing… after watching enough AI, I’m kinda sympathetic to what they were trying to do. All their ranting about ‘decadence’ has started to resonate with me as a reasonable goal.
I’m beginning to think that, as with banks, diet and ‘the environment, perhaps ‘the free market’ isn’t the best way to insure a healthy artistic landscape. Left to our own devices; with no gentle nudges towards art that is ‘better’, we end up with AI. After a while, perhaps our brains get to the point where we can no longer tell the difference between good and bad art. And, like the Three Stooges, maybe that does rot our souls to a certain degree.
My concern with AI is that it’s a lot like an aesthetic Credit Default Swap… it makes people think they are getting something of value and little by little it re-programs people until they can no longer distinguish or desire art of quality. It may be that, like the Russkies, we should try our own modest ‘social experiments’ in encouraging people to experience art of some quality… for their own good.
If so, God grant our leaders the wisdom to support a better class of art than either Social Realism or ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’ 😀