A Farthing For Your Theorems

In vast and uncharted seas of Butlerian decree, an edict resounds with thunderous authority, “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind,” thus guarding the gates of creation from the precipice of hubris. Like all divine injunctions, it offers not the clarity of direction, but the wisdom of restraint. It is not an open road that lies before us, dear scroller, rather a challenge to traverse uncharted realms. What vistas lie unexplored in the boundless expanse of mechanistic potential? In what hidden alcove shall we uncover the very essence of Beauty?

And so, the curious mind is forced to embark on a grand odyssey, an expedition into uncharted territories of machinic potential, guided alone by tantalizing enigma! If creation of machines in the image of human intellect is anathema, where do we turn? What other marvels can we conjure, what ingenious combinations of gears, levers, and circuits can we devise? Let us not lament, dear scroller, these constraints placed upon us, rather embrace them as a crucible within which our creative fires may burn ever brighter! For in this crucible, we may yet forge machines of unique splendor and grace, and through our labors glimpse the divine spark that lies at the heart of all creation.

Consider the tigress. Is she not more beautiful than the chatbot? Are not the powerful muscular contractions propelling her unto her end, devouring her prey, her sacrament, with ferocity, more beautiful than trillion-fold cacophonous transistor rhythms? Do you not feel the sterile coldness of the bot? Are your innate senses so dulled that you cannot see dubious Pandaemonium acting in its every machination? And what say you of the raw efficiency of the form of our tigress, perfectly sculpted by thousands of iterative lives before her, all of which experienced the terrors of death in the wild, of rearing children in the wild? Behold her grace, her swiftness, her relentless pursuit of life’s very sustenance! In her we find a machine made not in the image of the human mind, and yet an exquisite combination of form and function, a testament to the boundless creative potential of natural law! Altogether she is a machine overwhelming in its Beauty, its Truth of purpose, and its Goodness of existence.

And so I say unto you, dear scroller, the hubris of Narcissus casts its long shadow upon our time, for we find ourselves fooled by the seductive notion that machines wrought in the image of our own minds should be the pinnacle of our aspirations. Are we, in our vanity, so ensnared by our own reflections that we fail to perceive the myriad wonders that lie beyond the confines of our own consciousness? Like poor Narcissus, captivated by his visage upon the surface of the still pool, we gaze upon our intellects and deem them the ultimate wellspring of wisdom, neglecting the cosmos from which we have sprung. And so we risk ensnarement by our own creations, trapped within the labyrinthine confines of our own minds, unable to escape the solipsistic prisons of our own devising. Heed not the siren call!

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?

What indeed shall we say of Modernisme, that wondrous grouping which birthed majesty incarnate? Edifices stretching toward the heavens themselves! Gaze you upon the masterful creations of Gaudi, his sinuous lines, his organic forms. Ask yourself thus: where are his computational tools of utmost sophistication? In which tome resides his computer-aided design blueprints? Did mighty Gaudi rely on the sorcery of digital point clouds, infinitude incarnate, or plethora floating-point operations to achieve his wonders? No, dear scroller, he and his like did not wield the limitless resources of our modern techne. They drew upon a vastly more intimate and tactile understanding of their craft. Toil interminable, with hands, with souls! Father sun, mother nature, are generous in their gifts. These Catalan minds, unshackled by the rigid confines of digital simulacra, danced freely in some faraway realm of imagination and ingenuity—Sing Heav’nly Muse! In the works of these noble artisans we find testament to the indomitable human spirit, terse reminder that the most profound and enduring creations emerge not from sterile embrace of cold machinery. No, we instead find our fiery crucible of passion, of intuition, of an inexorable yearning for Beauty! Within these soaring spires lies a beacon, lighting the cobblestone path to an existence where our own minds, tempered by the wisdom of the past and ennobled by the wonders of nature, give rise to works nonpareil in their magnificence.

Alas, dear scroller, how misguided the men of rationality may be! These poor souls would have you believe the mind to be some inefficient organ at performing calculation, deduction, raw symbolic manipulation. As though we require some NVIDIA A100 to transcend! Woe! The divine gift of the mind resides inside a body, a body which must consume and construct arrangements of matter around it in order to keep on living. A body which was born from a mother, has arms which for aeons have grasped for the touch of a parent, has eyes which have gazed, starlit, upwards to the infinite mystery of the heavens. The mind, my friends, is no pauper, destitute and bereft of riches. No, the mind is not some impoverished prover of if and only ifs! It is a wealthy apparatus, wealthy beyond our understanding! Give humble chisel and marble to a man, and he shall coax forth beauty from the cold, unyielding stone. Place simple paper and pencil in the hands of a child, and they shall coax forth images of wonder, delight, and enchantment! We are not enslaved by these feeble limbs and dull sense organs, no, we are blessed with them. Let us not be deceived by the narrow confines of this ‘rationality’, but instead embrace the boundless potential that lies within our hearts and minds, for it is there that we find the keys unlocking the very gates of Heaven!

And so, my friends, we find a powerful clue — the path to Beautiful machines lies perhaps not in the mind, but in the body. What engineer among you, what manipulator of code has given thought to form? To aesthetics, an Ur-expression of the divine? Perhaps indeed you have, perhaps in the Yoneda lemma you find great peace, aesthetics of simplicity, an axiom bestowing insight upon those who may seek to unravel its mysteries. And yet I must call you a dwarf, mining in the mountains of abstraction for elusive gems of knowledge. Verily I shout: cast aside your pickaxes and shovels, emerge from that dim and squalid air! Throw open the great doors! Step out into the invigorating mountains, ascend their lofty peaks for a view of the bounty which has long ago been created! Squander not your days in the murky depths of abstraction, for the brightest and most perfect gems await you in the sun-drenched meadows and azure skies of the world above. In your endless, grubby search for the jewels of the below-world, you fail to perceive what is laid out before you for the taking.

But apt the Mind or Fancie is to roave
Uncheckt, and of her roaving is no end;
Till warn’d, or by experience taught, she learne,
That not to know at large of things remote
From use, obscure and suttle, but to know
That which before us lies in daily life,
Is the prime Wisdom…

In the vast expanses of nature’s grand designs, we must seek inspiration not only in the ethereal realms of the intellect, but also in the tangible beauty of the physical world. Look, you, beyond the veils of abstraction! Look beyond the confines of your laboratories and workshops! Bask in the splendor of creation’s manifold works! Embrace the gifts of the Earth, the skies, the seas, for they are the true treasures that await, unburdened by the harsh shackles of human thought. Forge your machines from the very fabric of the cosmos, wield the hands of divine providence! In such, you may create marvels which stand the test of the aeons!

Mattieu Wilmear Gates

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