Category Archives: warhol

i want to be a machine

10036AW~Four-Blue-Andys.jpg In 1963, long before computers became part of our consciousness, before Kasparov lost to Deep Blue, before HAL took over the spaceship, Andy Warhol said, “I want to be a machine.” Andy knew that machines were things to be feared, worshiped, admired and, therefore, emulated. His artwork was about people and ideas that were, more or less, generated by the machine: the media machine, the political machine, the printing press and the television, all cranking out iconic images that were powerful, not because they were complex, nuanced, interesting or even beautiful, but because they were relentless. Warhol’s brilliance was in recognizing how deep the machine metaphor had embedded itself into our personal ambitions and our collective self-image.
Fantasies about being machine-like, however, are not unique to the quirky imaginations of artists. Warhol would have been in good company with cognitive scientists who, for many years, have theorized that our brain works like a computer. This theory/myth is currently being debunked by a new Cornell study.

The theory that the mind works like a computer, in a series of distinct stages, was an important steppingstone in cognitive science, but it has outlived its usefulness, concludes a new Cornell University study. Instead, the mind should be thought of more as working the way biological organisms do: as a dynamic continuum, cascading through shades of grey.

Our mind works like a biological organism? Complex, untamed, “cascading through shades of grey,” oh my. Does that mean there are no definitive answers, only networks of possibility, spectrums of grey? If Andy were around today, he might have something to say about this revelatory denial of black and white thinking in an age of increasing fundementalism and exponential growth in media outlets. But we can only imagine the artwork he would have made.