Thursday 6 January 2000


Pic of the day: "This is your monitor on acid." No, really, it is the small, free, Lava Lamp pattern generator from semi-Bogus Software, for unreconstructed hippies. Playing appropriate instrumental music on my earphones seems to help, too.

Renaissance Man

The music I've been playing just lately have been from BlueTonicWorld. I found it under "Ambient" on MP3.COM. [Don't try that now - it has come under new and more greedy ownership since I wrote this and is shunned by most of its original artists.]

A problem with the new music is to find the pearls in the acre of mud. There is indeed an unparalleled renaissance of the arts in our time. People - often young people - are making music like never before. But unlike the Italian renaissance, we have not had hundreds of years to weed away the dross. I despair when entering a record shop. There are hundreds of albums, and that's only those who made it through to be published somehow. There is no way I can keep up with that and still have other interests too.


Sometime in 1998 I wrote a small essay-like thing on the Flynn effect. Then, about a year ago, I read an interview with Mr Flynn, who doubts his own findings. The measured IQ goes up, concedes Flynn, but people are not getting more intelligent. If they did, we would now have a golden age, an unparalleled renaissance ...
I found it hilarious that this researcher was unaware that we are experiencing the renaissance to end all renaissances, as it were.

The sciences are exploding with new knowledge. A cry for freedom sweeps the world. But the crucial symptom of the renaissance is the explosion of arts. In the Italian renaissance, wealthy merchant houses and the Church commisioned artists to paint or sculpt or compose. Today, there is such a wealth of talent that artists give away their works for free. Witness sites like for music (all of it legal giveaways) and various other sites with visual art. Oh, and poetry and storytelling too. It reminds me of the poetic description of the great king Solomon and his reign, were silver was as plentiful as stone in Jerusalem...

What we today call the Renaissance, from the French word for rebirth, was the rebirth of the classical Greek and Roman culture, though it was more than that: It was an awakening of the human potential, as seen at that time. In a similar vein, where some see a lack of cultural identity in our time, I see the rebirth of many historical epochs at once. With the vastly increased number of human minds now alive, it is possible to hold these different cultures and blend them in a caleidoscope of culture. So dramatic is this explosive unfolding of the human potential, that one can be excused for believing that some vast supernatural power or creative force has drawn near to Earth, perhaps even the enigmatic Messiah or an Enlightened One; and that the recent Dark Ages of the past century were but the birth pains of the new era, a world screaming in agony at the birth of the new world-soul.

Wish it were that well, but it might at least as likely be the wild mood swings of an adolescent humanity. If so, we may still not be fully grown, and there may be much more to come. Remember that the civilization measures its age in millenia. There are certainly many now alive who feel that their time was gone before they arrive, and who long back to a simpler time. Then again, there are those who feel that their time has not yet come, who long for the world to catch up with us. Er, with them, of course. Ahem.


Humans are not exactly rational all day long, and let us face it: Darwinism would not have secured its position as fast if it was only another dry theory. It had powerful opposition. But the fact is that evolution, properly arranged, has its own powerful mythos. From my childhood on, I noticed how popular science attributed purpose and power to the mindless processes, and made prehistory a drama of vibrant life battling for survival and growth.

One of the most compelling stories of evolution is the bottleneck experience. Suddenly there are mass extinctions. After millions of years of lazy status quo, the seas shift and the air is filled with smoke. Evolve or die! In my childhood textbooks, the mighty dinosaurs died out, unable to change in time. The small but agile mammals took over the shop and ushered in a new time. Modern science is more lenient on the dinosaurs: According to one popular theory, they were actually quick and warm-blooded and evolved into today's birds.

Today "evolve or die!" may be replaced with "publish or perish!", but the feeling of drama is still there, in a time of sea shifts, social and ethical as well as economic and technological. And perhaps once again literal, if the greenhouse effect really takes off.


Speaking of the greenhouse effect, it's been a mostly mild winter up here in Norway so far. Well, on the South Coast at least. Further inland the snow is lying steady, but it's still nothing like the really cold years, where water freezes in the pipes. We should be thankful for that, I say. Keep the wheels spinning. :)

I've not yet succumbed to the flu, but my throat is kind of rough, making me swallow a lot. But hey, I'm not complaining. (More like whining.) It's great to be alive in times like this at all. I love it.

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