Wednesday, 4 February 2015

writers’ block

So much ink has been spilt over the subject of writing, whether calling it recursive, self-referential or bestowing it with the intellectual shorthand of the affix meta- that’s really just become a tag for something bigger, super-, supra-, para- by recalling that the Metaphysics was only labeled as such owing to the fact, chapter-wise, came after the treatment on Physics, as if that were all to be said on the subject. Many lyrics, too, sing of composition—in this same tidy, higher-plane manner. This coupling is hardly a unique observation. I do believe that it is such a common and also tolerable theme because any of us can relate to the repairing and resurgence when a certain career has careened, as it were, and this exercise is needed for atrophied talents. Focus and attention have become commodities priceless beyond words because there’s a life-hack for that, there’s an app for that and oh, sitting is the little death, the new mind-killer and oh, one’s imagined dives and hangouts don’t exist except as those idealised gathering spots that are plot devices and the familiars of the tempo of situation-comedy exposition, and oh, those votes of confidence, those clicks of solidarity don’t mean don’t suggest readership or even comprehension—much less loyalty, oh, those literary magazines are only read by those who’ve gotten a by-line and attribution and maybe those whom apingly hope to.  Schuyler Greene thought about this litany of stereotype and out-modishness as he leaned rather demandingly over his interface device that remained ostensible external so that he might retain some sense of restraint or decorum—or helpful censure, planted in a familiar haunt though really nowhere, a romanticised sense of place that respected no special protocols nor drew any measure of notice, aside from what his more inchoate gadgets wished to broadcast, so as to to invite in more novelty and distraction. “Schuyler Greene,” he wondered and cursed with hushed incredulity, begging what could be more nostalgic, more old-fashioned than a name than announcing that’s what he’s called and continued to insist for inspiration among anonymity, which was a buffeting force of expectation.
Do the connoisseurs and gourmands only wish for this, to shy away and wilt from anything more challenging than a sequel or a re-awakening of an established classic that toyed with half-remembered impressions or the learned biopic of half-forgotten influences? Was he being too harsh? He only had his name, after all. In this environment, what had others done to become viral or at least to enjoy the ballast of the moment? Aggregating machines, maybe, were better suited to indulging and winning over such fickle and mutable fancies. It all came so quickly; the culture that had already been digitised—which was most of it and it was the only share that mattered since the ethnographies of the saboteurs and luddites and the late-adopters was incorporated as well, was landscaped for machine-access to filter by algorithm to its human pets, leaving out any efforts at direct curating and care-taking for automated and adaptive processes. Certainly there was an inexhaustible feel for the cannon, and the amalgamating machines had conjured up some very good and convincing protocols that had fooled Greene and many others by posing as fully undiscovered authors and genres, not that they weren’t very astute about being discovered and never neglected to reward someone for being mistook and got all the more clever for their transgressions and spoofs, however advertised. Toponyms, endonyms and exonyms were only honoured for those jobs—which Greene had had the sense to cleave to, which were grandfathered in a sense of minor celebrity and the legacy of systems that refused to talk to one another. Past the human vanity to make noise, Greene also enjoyed for the moment security from redundancy from his day job, codified by humans in the same predicament but surely ruthlessly calculated to whatever gain, admitting day-by-day that it was cheaper to keep him on. Humans, of course, were also capable of such efficient reckoning—only the machines excelled at it. It had become fashionable to worry about the singularity—the moment of no return when machines became self-aware but no one really was arguing that it had already occurred, that somehow intelligence had crawled out of the chaotic primordial soup of our social malcontent. Greene was supposing that the capacity to feel threatened, self-preservation and the instinct for fight-or-flight would come later, if those were even universal traits. “Let the Wookie win,” he thought with half a chuckle. Maybe though a sentient machine, extant or emergent, would foresee all possible outcomes with its first thought and would not be prone to the vanities of making the big spectacle of its birth and have the sense to be humble, regardless of how it was programmed. Machines must calculate into that formula that kept Greene employed, weighing in the labour-laws and the price of dismissal and severance packages, and concluded that maybe Greene was being retained solely for his moonlighting.