Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Going digital

Ever since arriving on the planet Earth and acquiring fuzzy means [which I didn't even have to pay for] of comprehending vaguely what seemed to be happening around me, I can truly say that my most extraordinary observation in the Cosmos is that most folk appear to find this whole human-existence affair quite "ordinary". Some of my best friends, for example, have spent most of their latest years playing golf, intensely and profoundly, as if this were their ordinary God-ordained destiny. They would no doubt think of me as crazy or sick to even raise a doubt about the perfectly ordinary worthiness of their golfing preoccupations, as opposed to any kind of philosophical quest for enlightenment. Other close friends don't waste their time on Earth belting balls over globally-warmed fields, but they find me just as crazy or sick when I refer to science, quantum physics, the so-called "theory of everything", multiverses and the beautiful literary opus of Richard Dawkins. The friends in question are prompt in concluding that I'm a psychotic fraudster who hates his fellow men, sees himself egotistically but falsely as an elitist intellectual, despises his own children, and is doomed to die in sad solitude... which, incidentally, to me, sounds like a perfectly normal way to die. Sincerely, I conclude that it wasn't worthwhile getting married and having children, if one's closest friends end up thinking of me in such a way. But I really don't care, because I'm totally convinced, like a absolutist monk, that my philosophical judgment and my faith in science are correct. And I'm saddened by the narrow-mindedness of the critical friends in question.

Looking back on my existence, I find it extraordinary that my personal path has passed alongside many phenomena of a strictly digital nature:

— I started work with IBM Australia as a computer programmer in 1957, at the age of 17. It goes without saying that this was my grand initiation into the digital world... which was a largely unknown entity at that time.

— Much later, in Paris, I happened to become aware of the digital nature of music, and I wrote a vague article on computer music.

— For much of my adult life, I've been spending money to purchase delightful electronic gadgets of a so-called analog kind, only to discover, shortly after, that they're being replaced by digital equipment. In that losers category, I reckon I might be a champion... but I prefer to see myself as a mere innocent victim of change. My monument, at this level, is my Revox tape recorder and my Midi-based music studio... not to mention a lovely old super-8 movie camera recuperated—for old times sake, you might say—by my most-digital son François.

Today, of course, everything has become digital: not only machines, but life itself... ever since the momentous discovery of the double helix of DNA by Watson and Crick. In the same way that a celebrated French TV presenter sees himself and his generation as "children of TV", I envisage myself as a "digital child". My genome is a soulless series of numbers, and I'm happy to see myself as such.

I've just devised a French-language project that consists of writing my autobiography in this spirit. The digital title: One, two, three... many. Subtitle: A solitary voyager from the Antipodes discovers incredible worlds. Nice, no?

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