Brian Eno – surfing on entropy

Posted in ideas, music, Online by solle on 28/12/2008

Attention recently has been drawn towards Kevin Kelly’s interview with Brian Eno from the May 1995 edition of Wired.

Entitled ‘Gossip is Philosophy‘ the interview (a mix up of face-to-face, telephone and email) is full of suggestions that it could easily have taken place just yesterday. The conversation is so full of enlightened thinking and foresights that on occasion you read in wonder at its breathtaking scope.

Frustration with personal computers and their limitations continue to dog our use of them. Eno’s explanation: “The problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them”.

He continues:

“If you want to make computers that really work, create a design team composed only of healthy, active women with lots else to do in their lives and give them carte blanche. Do not under any circumstances consult anyone who (a) is fascinated by computer games (b) tends to describe silly things as “totally cool” (c) has nothing better to do except fiddle with these damn things night after night.”


Here are a few more worthy snippets:

Obviously his thoughts regarding how music will evolve are particularly interesting. You just about get a “Brian Eno box” with 77 Million Paintings. Obviously this is just a start and when watching/listening to it you get an idea of what is possible down the line. And yes you can pretty much “order an evening of music over the Net” – Last.fm will dance that trick.

And design:

13 years later and has the latest version of Photoshop really changed design? Maybe not as much as you would expect: “The answer is generally that, as with all computer-based things, the technology filters out most of the interesting people, and forces them to wait.” But how long do we have to wait?

This exchange between Kelly and Eno regarding algorithms and heuristics I think perfectly encapsulates the experience of interacting with the modern browser:

“Artificial life researchers talk about surfing the wave of increasing complexity. A very complex system gets close to a certain edge between rigid control and utter chaos – that’s when the whole thing can surf to the next level of complexity. They see this in evolutionary systems. Some go as far as to say that’s what life does: surf on entropy.

I like that. Metaphors involving the sea are very powerful to me. You have this interesting conflict – a sense of direction, a need to get somewhere, but in a medium that has its own, probably different, sense of direction. You can use the piggyback power of that medium, but you have to keep paying attention, making your own adjustments. Unless you really do want to go with the flow.”

The highlights above barely scratch the service. What is required is a follow up interview to catch up on the insights, ideas and thinking from 1995 and how they bare on the cultural experiences of today particularly the relation to ‘online’.

More will follow but for now please read Gossip is Philosophy

“History is changed by people who get pissed off”

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