I read an article in the May 18th, “New Yorker”, about Marc Andreessen, a venture capitalist specializing in internet start-ups. He believes that the future is being decided by the internet, changing the way we do just about everything. I agree with him that the internet will have a strong influence on how the future looks and yet I feel a little dispirited by what I think that future might hold.
American civilization, at least from the industrial age forward, has been most creative in figuring out how to quantify seemingly unquantifiable things. That was Henry Ford’s genius, just as it was Ray Kroc’s and countless other entrepreneurs. These men figured out how to do things en masse for the masses. The internet is another step in that direction and because there is so much that is quantifiable, surprisingly so when you consider start-ups like Airbnb or Uber, it is genius to envision it.
But, how do you quantify those things in life that give it meaning? Stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and it takes your breath away. Watch your team upset the favorite to win a championship and it will be a memory forever. Describe the colors of the sunset that happened when you had your first kiss. These are the depth and dimension of life and I see us veering away from their appreciation because our smart phones and computers are offering us alternatives—alternatives that are without depth or dimension.
I love the internet, make no mistake. It has saved me numerous trips around the US looking at antiques in small auctions simply because I know my subject and can tell if something needs to be seen in person. The point is that my knowledge is what I am working with and the internet is an amazing facilitator. But the internet cannot tell me if the color is right. The internet doesn’t really betray proportion well. Those things that make you want to buy are ultimately things that you have to see.
It is said that the hardest thing to capture with robots are the mindless things we are able to do with our hands, such as putting them into pockets and picking out one particular object. I would venture that this mirrors the concept of experience that any aesthete has amassed in their life time. There is a knowledge that transcends collation and which isn’t quantifiable. Maybe I should add a minor caveat which is to say, not yet, at least.