Loss

What one strong man could once do, now is done by two or three weaker men or one weaker man and a machine. More generally, what could once be accomplished by one individual with energy and some executive skills now takes a team, usually a team with computers. There’s no point distinguishing between manual labour and other kinds of work, all work has the same fate—or better to say that human capacities are being lost all along the board. That’s why I see nothing to celebrate in the growing digital economy—it’s just one aspect of what could be called biosocial entropy, the inevitable and always more rapid disappearance of human capacities. Excuse my repetition, but I like that phrase—human capacities. They are gained through use, and art has always been an important channel for producing new ones. You might hear an echo of Marx’s notion that art trains the senses. I think that was a great idea, but I’m more interested right now in a parallel one, also probably Marxist—that when one acts on the world, one’s capacity to act on the world and transform it is increased, but we act on the world less and our actions are more mediated everyday. The first part of that last statement will sound counter intuitive to most, but now you’re in the crazy mixed up world of Robert Linsley, where progress is merely breakdown.

Robert Linsley, Flowery Meadows Island 1999

Robert Linsley, Flowery Meadows Island 1999

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