MF Art and Technology

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Jan 16 2000 - 23:58:02 GMT

Seen in the light of the MOQ, why are art and technology divorced? In other
words, what does ZAMM mean in light of Lila? Whew! I've been "building" some
kind of answer in stages. If I may remind you, dear reader, this is my
fourth post on the topic.

I was very excited when Pirsig was quoted on my favorite TV show and started
my first post with it. "The Buddha, the Godhead resides"...etc. And I agreed
with DLT, and apparently with everyone else as well, that the art/tech split
is really a philosophical problem. I think we all agree that SOM is the
source of this split and other dicotomies, like the classic/romantic split.
That first post also pointed out a lot of the negative feelings we have
toward technological ugliness. They were all lifted right out of ZAMM, which
was written during an anti-technology movement, a romantic movement, if you

GEARS OR LOTUS FLOWERS... because they are all composed of static quality.
They've all been left in the wake of Dynamic Quality. See, the difference
between the mechanic and the artist boils down to the classic/romantic
split. The MOQ abandons it in favor of the static/Dynamic split. Now we can
see that romantic understanding is best described as static intellectual
value just as classical understanding is, and that what Pirsig was really
trying to get at was the creative and evolutionary force that only happens
to be associated with romantic and artistic personalities. The difference
between them is really just a matter of style - mathematicians can be
creative too.

Then there was "precision and magic". Remember? John sees only "parts" while
Pirsig sees IDEAS behind the steel. And a precise treatment of those ideas
allows us to fly across the landscape as if by magic. Steel is just a better
idea than bronze.... And Pirsig expands this kind of thinking to include
all of our constructs, not just technological things. Governments, kingdoms,
empires, churches, armies, science and the structure of knowlege itself are
all seen as concepts and systems of concepts.

In terms of the MOQ...we can see that the four levels allows us to make
distinctions between social patterns like churches and armies on the one
hand and intellectual level constructs like science, technology and even
thought systems themselves. We can see that these ideas and concepts behind
the things become a hierarchy of static patterns and the crucial social
level was not yet recognized until after ZAMM. Notice how Pirsig had lumped
kingdoms in with science! GASP! That is precisely the problem with SOM,
that's why it splits everything up, because it makes social level values so
hard to see. But in Lila, Descartes' existence is dependent on the French
culture and we can have no intellect at all without this neglected level of
reality. Suspended in language...

The third one was based on the rotisserie scene in ZAMM, which John Beasley
didn't like. In response to his points, I focused on the late night
discussion. (Pssst. Hey, John. I'm talking to you. Why the silence?) There
he says that the solution is not to abandon rationality, but to expand
rationality. There is nothing wrong with the art that doesn't make "sense",
it is the "sense" that has to be corrected through expansion. Pirsig points
to Newton as an example saying he "INVENTED a new form of reason. He
expanded reason...and I think what is needed now is a similar expansion of
reason to handle technological ugliness."

In terms of the MOQ...
SOM doesn't just split things up, its the source of AMORAL SCIENTIFIC
OBJECTIVITY. That's exactly what makes technology so ugly. User-friendly
consumer electronic aside, SOM's amorality shouts KEEP OUT! Its ignorance of
social values translates into an absence of HUMAN VALUES. That's why we feel
like strangers in a strange land, like we live in a world made for someone

Maybe the MOQ is the begining of that expansion of rationality. Just as
Pirsig reduces SOM to just s and o without any METAPHYSICAL PRIMACY, as
Bodvar points out, so it is with art and technology. Its not just amatter of
making pretty machines... The expansion will include both art and technology
and unite them both in the service of a higher level purpose...

Thanks for your time, DMB

PS to Andreas: Yes, I write these in one go. Thanks for the kind words. -

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