For this sake, the internet was created

Last semester, I got extremely peeved at Dan Dennett for suggesting that a TED talk could replace religion. And while I still disagree with him – religious teachings can be more subtle, poetic, and nuanced than any 20-minute speech – I’m about ready to agree with him that TED may be the most intellectually stimulating source of ideas produced in the 21st century thus far. (Actually, it’s as old as the Macintosh, but it too only got massively popular in the last 5 years.)

Wikipedia is source of information; Google is a source of sources; IBM Watson is Google making a final answer (oops wrong show – and more on these three Ws is a Post For Another Day), but TED is a source of ideas. An idea is intrinsically human; only humans have ideas because our cognitive processes are interwoven, complex, unpredictable, and come in spurts. If those other sources are hamburgers made of a hundred different cows by an opaque industrial process, TED is a steak from the local farmer’s market. It’s another person talking to another person, sharing experiences and creativity and accomplishments in a way that only a highly intelligent and inventive human being can make coherent and compelling.

Most recent is this one:

The new piece isn’t out yet, but the original:

I couldn’t get through it. Still can’t. It’s too beautiful.

I’ve criticized Tron: Legacy for being an unrealistic depiction of computer science. The score’s climactic track, Flynn Lives does not convey what the internet is precisely because it is so emotionally epic. But Lux Aurumque is precisely what the internet is. Musically, it’s much more subtle, much more hauntingly beautiful without trying to get your attention but by simply being. But more importantly, it was made on the internet, by dozens of volunteers working together, and connecting to one another over the experience, hosted from start to finish on free and public YouTube and talked about and introduced to me via TED.

This is the culmination of secular human knowledge. Everything we’ve built or learned, from Euclid discovering harmonics from blacksmith hammers to the telegraph to the workers who laid fiberoptic cable under the ocean to the programmers who worry about packet loss – all contributed to this beauty, this wonder. This is why I’m a computer scientist – to enable this. I make the STEM; this is the flower.

Yeah, have I mentioned humanity is awesome lately?


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