A Load of Pollocks?



“Beauty, which is what is meant by art…is no mere accident to human life, which people can take or leave as they choose, but a positive necessity of life…” William Morris

Are we all Luddites now?

In the dim and distant past some people suggested that pupils wouldn’t have to learn their times tables as a calculator could relieve them of that burden. Others worried that the moment a computer ‘Deep Blue’ beat Kasparov at Chess it was all over for human chess players… As for encyclopaedic knowledge that was defunct when google became a verb and that as humans can now google for information they no longer need to know anything…

This freedom, it was said, would allow us to be more free to be creative, critical, team playing, thinkers and school a place in which we can express ourselves! But… just as the machines threatened the workers, the mathematicians, the chess players and then the knowing… they went further…

Soon there will be no need of lawyers or GPs some say, you’ll just go online and follow a logical sequence of questions and answers that will tell you your case in law and cast judgement on your symptoms in health and you’ll be able to book your day in court, in hospital or even the morgue…

But we’ll still need surgeons, they cry! Maybe… but robots and lasers might do the job better…

But we’ll still have ‘Art’ they cry! Creativity is our last bastion of humanity!

Now they’re going to take that from us too. Artificially intelligent, artificially creative creatives… computers will be able to make art one day they say! And Jackson Pollock will be the first to fall.

In a world where machines become human, what need have we for humans? What purpose the art class, the chess class, the times tables and, indeed, why ‘know’ anything? An eccentric child who wants to compete with the machines might act as a robotic artist and cut off their right processor in a fit of artistic pique… A driverless car might punch its invisible robotic driver when it only gets cold fuel rather than the top gear it is used to…

For if computers become human then they will be as flawed as we. Computers are flawed, they crash, they are temperamental, they don’t recognise bar codes, they tell us we have placed too many items in our bags when we haven’t even begun to fill our shopping bag… And we argue back, as irritated with the machine as we are with any mere human… Computers are crap! Everything is a load of Pollocks! And then we cry: Schools aren’t needed! Why educate for a world in which humans will just get in the way of the inadequate machine? As William Morris put it:

“That pretence of art, to wit, which is done with machines, though sometimes the machines are called men, and doubtless are so out of working hours… and in short the whole civilised world had forgotten that there had ever been an art MADE BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE AS A JOY FOR THE MAKER AND THE USER…

…And how then can you really educate men who lead the life of machines, who only think for the few hours during which they are not at work, who in short spend almost their whole lives in doing work which is not proper for developing them body and mind in some worthy way? You cannot educate, you cannot civilise men, unless you can give them a share in art…

What else can we do to help to educate ourselves and others in the path of art, to be on the road to attaining an ART MADE BY THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE AS A JOY TO THE MAKER AND THE USER?”

Schools exist to spread joy, and in them we should encourage people to be the makers and users of knowledge. Machines may be our servants but never our masters, if we think the machine should replace our need to know anything or do anything, if we surrender our art, our purpose, then what are we?

We are the robots.

Of course we should learn our times tables! It would be inhumane not to.


4 thoughts on “A Load of Pollocks?

  1. Just sat through a beautiful concert. Eleven top class musicians aged 16-18. It did occur to me that of course those many hundreds of hours of practice were only to produce what a machine might anyway – but I’m glad they bothered.

    Liked by 1 person

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