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On Artists and Robots

by Gracjan A. Soren-Bjorn Kraszewski 

It was the colors that did it for me, rather, did it to me. I saw it, one image, and I was happy. I felt disencumbered, at relax moreso than relaxed or in the action of relaxing. A painting, best taken in looking up, skyward, an explosion, upwards, color, colors, as if so much sun-soaked Iowa corn on the open American plains had saturated past tolerable levels and so raised itself, not by itself, but by the talent of its designer’s-self, and there’s 1/5 proofs here we go, raised itself up to the sky, the sun, off the aforementioned American plains every bit as beautiful as snow covered peaks, as the cold fresh streams following there off from, as the ocean and all its uncountable droplets which yes, and especially yes, if we mean like I just said Iowa, like I will say now, Nebraska, like I could say, Kansas, went bottle rocket shaken soda up, up, up, poof and sizzle like a geyser the sun off the ground into the sun in the sky and you just lay back down now and look up—at relax—and you smile and you feel good and you get it and get even more than what you bargained for, haggled for like in a Teheran bazaar, expected to get, and that’s when you might even get it all; it.

But so therefore: every now and then the most pedantic among us will protest that athletes and entertainers make more than doctors and teachers, the latter two but two examples in a larger collection of what these people deem to be underpaid and underappreciated professions all the more so grotesquely undervalued when juxtaposed against those they claim are overpaid, overvalued, and feverishly, meaning without reflective reasoning but rather simply from passionate attachment, supported non-essential perhaps detrimental ‘games’ and ‘playtime sub-juvenile hijinks’ wholly undeserving of the appellations ‘job,’ ‘profession,’ ‘career,’ ‘serious,’ ‘work.’ 

They are wrong.

They are fond of pithy slogans like ‘Doctors save lives. Sports waste them.’ ‘Teachers educate the young in reality. Actors absolve the young of real contributions to society.’ Even the slogans themselves, that second one especially, are so obnoxiously schoolmarmish it takes a Kierkegaardian leap of faith to come to the conclusion that people can be so impossibly, past the point of pointing out the flaws in their system with an old fashioned wooden blackboard pointer, I might add, insufferable. 

They are wrong. 

           No one disagrees that if society was forced to choose between sports and school, in zero sum fashion, one must go only one can stay, 100% to 0%, we, everyone, would choose school. Society can go on without sports. It would die then descend into postmortem anarchy, not braindead but brainempty style, staggering zombie drunk stuttering nonsense strutting around nothing to nowhere without education. Teachers are more important and more essential than athletes but they should not be paid more. Do you buy a house because of the solid plumbing or the beautiful architecture? Can’t live in a house without proper plumbing, yet the artistic vision trumps the practical necessities. That’s why architects get, and do deserve to get, paid more. If we reduce life, and life being lived, to the bare necessities—the teachers, the farmers, the doctors, the plumbers and the electricians, the cleanup crew(s) writ large, the child watchers and child bearers, the caretakers of the old and infirm along with those taking care of that some few miles below the firmament above matter and matters: the catch all environmental everything—pretty soon you’d have a society grayer and more boring than a circa 1962 high rise apartment complex in Odessa, USSR; gray, gray, bloc, blocky and practical, gray, equal, egalitarian, boring, gray, gray, painfully plain and boring, boring, bad. 

People are either artists or robots. 

So, read and tell me; a list, this, on the San Andreas Faultline of demarcations between the real and the renumeratory. The former, art, across the line, money, and nothing can (because I’m talking about potential not certainty) ruin true see real art like money, like making it all about money. So, you decide, okay? I’ll talk to you for a while, as I already have, I’ll lay out the parameters, maybe that I have already done too, and then I’ll present the examples. You see, I’m going to do that now. And so here they are. Are they artistic or robotic (?), you tell me, because the art here is a product as well. Art but with the money made clear, attached, so maybe ‘art,’ maybe robotics. You be the judge. 

“In-Class Pub Notes.” Zac Yuccadilmo. Product Description: You like to drink? Wanna drink in class? Wanna be a secret agent, like, I mean, wanna do, rather get away with doing, secretive stuff secretly and without anybody knowing or ever finding out never? Our pen doubles as a beer dispenser, each one containing just about 0.28 oz. of beer right at the top in a secret plastic container no one will ever suspect. The pens are sold in packs of 32 so as to provide you with just a little over half a pint of beer per pack. Unfortunately, our pen does not actually write so you’ll need a real pen to take notes alongside this 007-type piece of secretive ballerness. Profit: $80,288.94.

“Thirteen Steps to Weight Loss Goals Achieved Bliss.” Ananya Patel. Product Description: 1. Buy my Program; pamphlets, audio-visual accessories & workbook 2. Smile (because you’re on your way!) 3. *-Not available until purchase* 4. Look in the mirror and say something nice to yourself; today’s your day and you’re special! 5. *-Not available until purchase* 6. *-Not available until purchase* 7. *-Not available until purchase* 8. Keep going, perseverance is key. 9. *-Not available until purchase* 10. *-Not available until purchase* 11. Drink at least three gallons of water within a four hour period or contact a medical professional immediately. 12. *-Not available until purchase* 13. *-Not available until purchase* Profit: $140,233.33.

“Room to Breathe.” Melanie Crud. Product Description: Smog is so last century. True, true, but still, are you one of the people who neither inside nor outside can ever seem to avoid, inevitably, smelling something foul? Forget that, how about just wanting a little air-space to yourself. Well, no need to get on a crowded and yucky mcbad smelling jet! Come to us and purchase your air by the hectare. We sell side to side, up and down, even below ground or bottled synthetic air spaces. What for? For shame! For breathing like you’ve never breathed before. We guarantee that once you buy a few ha or two your lungs will be so happy they might just grow you a pair of gills as a thank you! Profit: N/A/-*various government agencies forbid even the advertisement of this project claiming that it was not just misleading (the purchaser would be left to his/her own devices when it came to keeping their air space clean. i.e. what to do if one bought a bunch of air in some random field but, right nearby, a bunch of people liked to burn leaves and tires and such and this would freely waft into the air space because of course, so what to do?) but one could not sell air for the simple reason that no one could own it in the first place; much like trying to tax the sun, moon, or even distant stars. 

“Disembodied Female Romantic Partner.” Jae Eun Lee aka “Tokyo Tony by way of Seoul (‘TTS)”. Product Description: Lonely? Don’t want to be? Need companionship? But scared of real human interaction? Not looking for something too serious? Need someone who knows you? Want someone there for you, all the time? Just need to talk? Just want someone who cares? Afraid of the implications of a human, personal, person to person relationship but still desire the tingly feet up to sweaty hands feeling knowing someone on the other end of that line wants you to want them like they’ve been wanting their whole lives to be wanted, needed, and cherished? Profit: $1,198,765.65.

Robotics, like all the sciences in sum, are good and necessary. One can live a reasonably happy live as a robot. One can expect, and would deserve, all the plumbs and peachy simplicity of robotic citizenship: duty done, a contribution, making a difference, to make a living, everyone’s gotta eat, noble breadwinning, smiles and handshakes, the gratitude of a local community where each and everyone does his or her part and we’re all in this together and together we are better off. 

 Sports are not boring.

 Films and music are not boring.

But these, all these, these three can go if society collapses or in order to prophylactically prevent societal collapse. But then, and in this hypothetical case, the robot-led and robot-built successful society, after a long day at the office, at the schoolhouse, at the shop, the bakery, they need as in they live for that which not the robots but only the artists—the athletes, the writers, the entertainers, the designers in fashion, in architecture of the landscape, the cityscape, the sky—can provide. That’s it. That’s the sole reason the original complaining group was and is wrong regarding the question of Benjamins withdrawn from the ATM spilling out like leprechaun gold soon to be stacked high like Pennsylvania Amish butter flapjacks then forked over to recipients receiving ‘payment;’ aww, you get it. You understand. And even you, you know there is nothing wrong with being a robot, with choosing a practical career in the expectation of receiving practical rewards in the course of practical life practically planned and lived. Do not mock this. These collective choices forming the conglomerate of a concerted busyness about the quotidian needs of me, you, them, and we, this is the bedrock of a healthy society. I’m saying this cannot be all there is. Even the most streamline functioning, economically just and healthy, highly educated and one, two, three, four, five ad infinitum we do things the right way society would go crazy, and worse still find life gray and boring, see: meaningless, without a team to root for, a favorite musician to listen to, or the golden prose, the honeydipped and honeycomb gnawchewed words and paragraphs, yes even paragraphs strung together on pages and pages and pages, of a favorite author who just made your day, your week, your months to come because you, difference making citizen # fill in the digits do such good work throughout the day but at the end of the day, each and every day, you are tired, sometimes exhausted, and no robots can provide that which you then need:

 art. 

And people are either artists or robots. 

So, tell me again; decide. 

“No, it really is just a toilet this time.” Zara Noor Khan. Product Description: A two-thousand plus page guide to modern, postmodern, and Avant-Barnyard House art. Illustrations and detailed critiques included. Profit: $9,333.90

“When I Grow Up I want to be President.” Sarah Jane Johnson. Product Description: It’s never too early to get out the vote, to do some canvassing, to work a little bit on that county-by-county grassroots gerrymandering operation. And why, on another but related note, should sports have exclusive rights to youth recruiting and youth academy type programs? Is there no correlation between a successful European soccer club claiming domestic league and Champions League titles year after year and a wellspring of talent flowing upstream-northwards like the Nile, within house, so to speak, up from the very bottom kindergarten levels where future stars were first identified and then trained and developed into what they eventually became? We want to do the same thing for the future political stars of America. For if for countless years countless amounts of money and energy have been spent a gaspillage excessively on honing the ability to slam balls into the upper corner of netted goalposts, on the ability to slam smaller white balls with sticks, on the ability even to slam one’s padded self into an equally padded opponent, then why, pray tell, should not the very same, if not greater quantities of, energy be directed towards the far more important task of running our country? That’s what we do; that’s where we step in, ‘one step up the ladder unto the fierce smashing of any and all glass ceilings.’ We are not partisan. We are not left, right, or centrist. We do not form beliefs or build platforms. What we simply do is teach the trappings of the profession. Similar to how young soccer players are taught the fundamentals of the game, we teach the political fundamentals of (among myriad other skills) oratory, gladhanding, speech writing, money laundering, how to craft invitations for foreign entities to ‘meddle,’ positional flip-flopping, weathervaning, how to justify holding any position as having ‘evolved’ to see its ‘truth,’ and, of course, good old fashioned lying (lying through one’s teeth lessons are available upon request and for an additional fee). Profit: $903,328.44

“Telekinetic 3D glasses.” Katy Fox-Smith. Product Description: Not Available. Profit: $1,988.45. 

“Fake Newspaper headline service.” Winona Creihmwire. Product Description: We specialize in seemingly incorrect, and certainly redundant, newspaper headlines that are guaranteed to increase your readership, and soon your circulation, two and half times over within six months of exclusively using our service. How it works is the answer to the question of how to stand out. Take a stroll past any newspaper stand, or past the newspapers at the local supermarket, and see if you can tell one from the other from the whole lot. So James just goes on buying The Washington Post because his dad does and Sally reads The New York Times because polite people keeping posh company ought to. Imagine walking past a vast array of papers with some variant of the headline “American arrested in Greece for intoxicated altercation with locals.” Then you see your paper with our headline: “American not in America arrested for being an American abroad towards non-Americans.” The second one catches your eye! Now that’s something different, just begging to be picked up and given the once over. The headline seems wrong, yet so right at the same time. And here’s the catch, the rest of the article beyond the odd headline is just as standard and boring and normal as all of the papers. And so people start buying your paper because they know they’ll get all the same news along with the additional bonus of a really clever, weirdly on the nose headline; all thanks to us. Please see herein, immediately forthcoming as in now, presented here, sample authentic (meaning actual) headlines we have run for papers across the U.S. before. “Dogs at dog park fall ill after eating other dogs’ dog material;” “Wannabe governor forced to suspend gubernatorial campaign following an assortment of classically governor-like scandals;” “At this restaurant, pizza still tastes like pizza should not like pizza should not;” “Cream of the Crop Ice Cream shop tops our list of local ice cream shop crop;” “Woman dials 911 demanding women paramedics fix her “woman bathroom issues” because women just know;” “Local archer David Eeo takes gold at state fair and we have da video to prove its not pyrite but the highest quality fare.” Profit: $122,000.97. 

Yeah, that which they the people, they, these people, have needed and do need and will need in the future: 

art; 

transcendence; 

attempted explanations of the very Form of beauty, beauty beyond sensory indulgences redirected towards ultimate questions concerning the good, the true, the beautiful. 

Beauty the Transcendental.
           That’s art. And people need art. 

So those exaggerated black ink bolded numbers on the balance sheets of artists, so scandalous to the robots and their advocates, they do not signify essential work or work more valuable than other work. They signify satisfaction of a human, near metaphysical, need. People cannot properly live without art and artists.

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