Show Notes: Absence of Limits

the mighty humanzee
By The Mighty Humanzee

Link Back to LIVE Stream

When you seek to remove all barriers, all limitations, you destroy creativity because there is no cost to achieving skill.

Young Adults and the Consequence of Severed Conscience and What Our Generation Allowed

A very sad passage from a young write for Jonathon Haidt who focuses on the damage social media does to teens. 

Allowing them to languish online has eliminated the joy of music, creativity and art as CONTENT has been streamed at them non-stop.

Absence of Limits

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations”

—Orson Welles

“Artificial intelligence would be the ultimate version of Google. The ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the web. It would understand exactly what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing. We’re nowhere near doing that now. However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on.”

—Larry Page

Why do we seek to eliminate the cost of acquiring skills?  There are many times when I wonder what people expect that everyone will be doing if we eliminate the cost of learning and obtaining new levels of skill.  Not only is this applicable in art, but also in business, education, science, music, literature, economics, medicine, play time, after school projects.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that this is applicable to most endeavors for life.  Most importantly, we will see this lack of limitations regarding communications is destroying our ability to create lasting relationships in person.  Less effort is needed to ping someone online than it is to maintain a conversation over the phone, and to plan activities with family and friends.  We see Gen Z, who has had many limitations removed from their daily lives, and the arduous paths to acquiring skill replaced with streams of video and constant updates from posts.  

We are going to start with music and then work our way to other areas of life.  You’ll see that there is a movement in our culture to says all skills from all types of professions should be at our fingertips, and we will be more creative when we accept that eliminating the time and cost to acquiring a skill is the justification for using common sources for creativity, for our thinking, for our writing.  Artificial Intelligence and social collaboration is the main driver.  Social media is also a factor, because the ubiquitous nature of new trends influences; in fact, the thrill of new discovery online is a major factor as to why people are creating less themselves.

What Did You Do Before The Internet and Loved Music?

You struggled, you held albums and songs as special because the good ones were so rare and hard to come by.

In the 80s you could MAYBE find sheet music and if you did, you got a blend of piano with guitar chords but not the voicings.  This meant that you could sing along, but sounding like the performance was really hard – there were very few books that told you the precise transcriptions or the hand positions that the original artists used.  

This made the music all the more special – measuring your skill against the performer’s demonstrated your limitation.  It presented a barrier that you had to break through if you wanted to be like those who you admired.  This also presented a challenge – how would you go about sounding like the artist who inspired you?  

Immediately you are on a hard path of discovery.  Prior to YouTube, Spotify and Apple music, you had to see the performers in concert to glean any sort of tips regarding the performance of your favorite music.  Or you sought out other musicians and learned what they learned.  Invariably you heard “no that’s not right, it’s like this” when you were trading riffs.  

“What’s that chord – where are you placing your fingers on the fretboard? Oh that’s A Minor 7, up there, that high on the neck, too?”

Then there were moments when by accident you discovered – or should I say stumbled – upon how a song was performed when you noodled around and used your ear to just figure something out.  Many times that was a combination that was not a standard chord or voicing.  


That type of discovery would be enough to inspire you to sit down with a record or tape cassette, play the song, try your version, and compare.  A lot of trial and error.  A lot of time you had to spend on your own, the investment of time and sacrifice of other things.  Perhaps less TV.  Or reading.  But invariably you came back to a group because you had to perform and gain feedback on your progress.  High school was brutal, you got brutal feedback.  That toughened you up to come back and prove people wrong when they said you sucked.  When Lisa Shackelton lays into you with “you keep playing that, can’t you learn anything else?” and she’s the one you were trying to impress, that’s a beating.  Lisa, despite that I still kept trying to impress you.  Hopefully you were impressed without noticing how hard I was trying.


Embrace What Seems Impossible, the Limitation Forges Something

I also was faced with the realization that I needed to blend in order to produce something that was pleasant to listen to.  You weren’t there to stand out as the best, you needed the whole group to stand out as good.  Sometimes that meant taking a supporting role if you were in the rhythm section – bass, drum, guitar and piano – because the horns and saxes were the featured instruments.  Sometimes those chord changes were intricate, but that didn’t matter as much as you were there to support Lisa when she played her solo.  Being meant going unnoticed at times.  If that makes sense in a weird Zen way.  

All of these liver interactions are replaced in this era by libraries, software and AI.  It’s cheaper and more productive to use samples, which sound very good, or sound libraries for drums.  It is incredibly difficult to mic a drum kit.  It is incredibly expensive to mic a drum kit.

But even worse, if you can just download a software library that gives you an approximation, you have circumvented a limit.  You can program it to play anything you want.  That requires some skill, but not nearly as much as the hard won skill of live performance and collaboration with people.  But if you want to know why most music today sounds so similar and bland, it’s because of the ubiquitous access to sampling libraries that anyone can employ on their laptops.

It is one thing to build up a library of skills and start to recognize patterns in a particular endeavor.  That is a sign of mastery when you can apply what you have learned, on the spot, and start to assemble new ideas, to create.  With performance in music, you can eventually use those patterns to anticipate where a melody is headed.  Knowing the key and the relationships of the notes to that key, you can very quickly get an idea of what notes to play ahead of time.  “Sight reading” is not only quickly recognizing the notes, but all the turn arounds and resolution to musical phrases.

But with AI just pulling patterns together for you, there is NO skill at all.  It is the elimination of skill, it is the devaluation of the relationships you need to form with others during performances and with instructors or your church choir that is making us just consume output.  It removes quality and the scarcity that makes music, art, literature and many other things something to cherish.  It also removes the need to aspire to anything.  After all, you just need the right library and formula and or template to make sounds that people can download.  Are you capturing a performance or are you creating a presentation?  Those are two different things.

Limitations In Order To Blend

Back during this time you would have to perform live in order for people to hear you.  That meant you either formed a band and practiced together or you took music at school.  Either way, time in isolation worked against you, because no matter how you sounded, you had to learn to blend with others.  My band teacher drilled that into me – when you’re here, you have to listen to how the others sound as well as how you are supporting them.  This is a group effort.

These are all ego checks, these are all limitations.  Sometimes they were roadblocks, and that’s why we value some creativity over others.  For me I wanted to be able to play well, and because I had a good mentor who made me work at things, I learned to break things down into components and work on weak areas.  I also learned the difference between wanting to sound like the artists that I admired and the reality of how I needed to play in my high school concert band or jazz band.  My guitar playing was only a camp counselor and church endeavor until the chair opened up at school.  And I couldn’t play the songs I wanted because we focused on jazz.  Another limitation.  But that presented new challenges and barriers to overcome.  And a lot of things to learn that I wouldn’t have considered had I stuck with just playing rock music. 

Data Science and the Destruction of Romance and Personal Interaction

When did we adopt this method of tabulating in order to succeed in life?  Should we constantly treat others as though we are Jane Goodall and the people who come in and out of our lives are there to be studied?  A friend who is single just sent me this article as I was writing this.  Talk about synchronicity,  this is about people who keep spreadsheets for dating.

I decided to devise a dating spreadsheet of my own with two primary purposes. First, to hopefully better gauge if someone would be a suitable partner for me, and second, to guard against my own tendency of making bad romantic decisions. My plan was to figure out which criteria matter to me the most, score each first date afterwards accordingly, and note any potential red flags that I would ask about if I go out with them again.

How is this not a remote controlled approach to human relationships, and the source for further kavetching and commiserating in chat rooms with other friends who express their sympathy with emojis and hollow bromides via text?

From fall of 2016 to summer of 2017, I went on 21 first dates and recorded each one. I have since made a blank template version and shared with many of my fellow Type A female friends. (Note: My circle of friends happens to have way more single women than men. When I asked David*, a straight man, about the concept of dating spreadsheets, he said he has heard of it “in the context of women keeping track of attributes for dating, and for men keeping track of people they’ve slept with.”)

There is no magic formula in dating. A recent study of romantic relationship patterns with the largest data set ever of its kind — using statistics from 11,000 heterosexual couples on demographics, physical appearances, interests and hobbies, health, etc. — still cannot accurately predict how happy someone’s relationship will be. 

And why would you want to erase the process of getting to know someone?  Keeping metrics takes time away from the relationship, or perhaps the insights you would get if you spent time with a person and not studying that person.  

Don’t Meet Those Who Hollow Out the World Half Way

By turning to living online, by rejecting the stunning achievements that we have in everyday life when we play that first squeaky note on a saxophone, by seeking to remove barriers with automation and eliminating the need to practice, we are destroying ourselves.  Read Freya’s cry for help, Gen Z cannot form relationships and they feel something is terribly wrong.  Music, and fellowship without the screens is what we need.

Don’t meet Severed Conscience half way, don’t let AI dictate your tastes. 

Leave a Reply