The Extermination of Future Creativity

I’m a pretty creative guy. My brothers are too. My wife and I have two highly creative kids. We all like to make things, to produce useful things, to make a contribution and a difference. I’m sure that’s true of many families.  

In my working life, I’ve been involved in making creative tools that other creative people took and made highly entertaining and beloved works with. The point I am trying to make is that this particular creative tributary has its source in my mother, to whom we can all trace our ancestry. If she hadn’t existed, then none of the music, paintings, writings, technology or other creative artefacts that her descendants produced would have existed either. We don’t have any monopoly on creativity, but we’ve done our bit. Without us, there would have been slightly less.

Before she died, my mother revealed a secret about her childhood, but first some background. During the war, she was a refugee, separated from her father, who had been conscripted into the army. Her mother, my grandmother, had to cope with three small children in tow, eating hand to mouth, not knowing what their fate would be, as the war panned out. At times, they were wholly dependent on the kindness and care of strangers for their survival. Circumstances had thrown them out of their highly civilised, middle class comfort and into refugee status. It wasn’t their doing or their fault. Geopolitical changes, driven by profiteers, had torn up their daily lives and thrust them into want and uncertainty. It could have happened to anybody and frequently did.

At some point, this little fractured family, under extraordinary stress, came under the jurisdiction of highly efficient Nazis. To the fascists, my ancestors were a problem to be solved. Three small children and a mother that couldn’t support them. Scroungers. Untermenschen. Not worth the beans and gruel necessary to feed them and keep them alive. Much more tidy and efficient to simply eliminate them. It was for these reasons that some officious, obnoxious, facelsss, anonymous, Nazi bureaucrat, just carrying out the orders and wishes of the German people, placed their names on a list for transportation to one of their notorious concentration camps. A simple solution. Quick. Neat. Problem solved.

This was the secret my mother had kept from me and my brothers, until just shortly before her death. She didn’t want us to hate. She wanted us to cherish our lives, but not because some authoritarian bureaucrat begrudgingly spared hers, while the society she grew up in looked on in open contempt. Life is too precious to waste.

My wife came from clever, creative people too. She is outstandingly creative, musical, poetic and inventive. Her insights into data and her logical, deductive mind are rare characteristics indeed. It’s no wonder our children are creative.  

Her father writes the most wonderful poetry and music. He has been a spiritual comfort to many, over the decades, in his work and through his sermons. My father in law’s mother had raised her own brothers and sister, after the death of their father and mother. One of her elder brothers, a highly intelligent, talented and creative man, had been a conscientious objector, during the first Great War. He had been white feathered and consequently found himself in a ditch in France, to uphold his dignity and honour. Even though the orphaned family relied on him as breadwinner, he died in agony in a French hospital, wounded and infected, screaming that he couldn’t die, because his younger brothers and sisters needed him to survive. We visited his grave recently. Nobody had, until we did.

The society he lived in considered him expendable. His creativity counted for little, compared to fighting a war for the vain glory of people who were far wealthier than he would ever be. The creativity of his descendants, who were never born, wasn’t considered at all. They never came to exist. Neither did the descendants of his two other brothers, who were also pointlessly killed in that same war.

When my own mother was placed on that list to transport her to a concentration camp, nobody considered what contributions her sons might make, or their children, her grandchildren. She was just a child. Children don’t have amazingly creative grandchildren. That’s as breathtakingly blinkered as bureaucratic thinking is.

Somehow, my wife’s grandmother survived and she did bring up her siblings, against all odds. Her descendants include my children. Had she perished, because her brother had been white feathered, my children wouldn’t be here now and neither would my wife and father in law. Nothing they created in their lives, no change that they made, would have ever happened. It would have been snuffed out quite literally at source.

My mother was taken off the concentration camp transportation list by a fluke event. My grandfather, while in the army against his will and better judgement, happened to notice a list of people for transportation posted on an obscure notice board, happened to read it and happened to spy the names of his wife and children on it. Imagine his horror! He then fought the bureaucrats and authorities to convince them that he had a job and that he could support them. They weren’t vermin and scroungers after all. It had all been a terrible and nearly fatally tragic cock up.

When we regard refugees as waste and trash, that we can exterminate quietly, through the infliction of intolerable suffering, what future creativity are we destroying? Is the saving made, by cutting short their particular branch of the human tree, really worth the cost of the creative contributions we will certainly lose from their unborn descendants? Treating refugees as disposable is indistinguishable from exterminating vital creative contributions from their future generations, of incalculable value and worth.

Today, when celebrities speak up in support of persecuted immigrants, who are only trying their best just to survive, they are pilloried. Their calls for decency fall on deaf ears. Mobs bay for their dismissal, dog-whistled into a shrill chorus by billionaire, tax-evading, non-resident media owners, drawn from the same elite classes that drum up and sustain wars, for personal profit and gain. These immigrants are worthless, they bark. Who cares if they perish? We should all care, because we have no idea of the value we’re destroying, maybe not from those refugees alive today, but from their subsequent generations. Caring for refugees is nothing more than enlightened self interest, if you can’t abide it on the grounds of compassion and wanting to be treated that way yourself, if you ever were in that circumstance.

Of course, nobody believes they could ever sink to the lowly status of a refugeee, In my experience and from family history, I can tell you that no refugee ever thought they would become one either. Yes, they were treated as second class citizens, as refugees in a strange land, but they were given the chance to survive, rebuild and make creative contributions, down the generations. Why wouldn’t any society welcome that?

If you are one of these nasty people that argues against immigration, don’t ask me to agree with you. Your views are ignorant and uninformed. You have no clue about what you are destroying. I have no time for your disgusting bigotry and specious arguments, driven by craven fear and propagandised, indoctrinated misidentification of your real enemies. In solidarity with all immigrants and refugees, I cannot agree with your rabid selfishness, because to do so would be to repudiate my entire family, its history and experience. Blood is thicker than water.

May you never find yourself in the circumstances of the people that are treated so callously and harshly by you, because they are in need, homeless, hungry, scared and stripped of their human dignity. Even if you have no heart, consider the wanton waste of the creative contributions their children’s children could one day make.

Please, don’t ever ask me to participate in or abide your narrow, vile, barbaric project. It’s indefensible.

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Creative Maintenance

Kurt Vonnegut noted, “Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” The consequence, of course, is that everything we build, that has any longevity, eventually crumbles and decays. No matter how magnificent and finely crafted, no matter how excellent the materials and elegant the craftsmanship, time and wear makes even the best things eventually look tired and tatty.  

This is nowhere more true than in works of art, architecture or invention. Engineers, in particular, are a kind of artist whose best works are destined to be neglected, abused, overused and eventually demolished and replaced, rather than preserved and restored.  

Over the summer, I spent some time in Monaco and Genoa. These places have known real wealth and opulence. The fabric of these cities owes its character to the application of massive power and sheer money. Whatever the builders decreed was constructed and sometimes to the very highest standards achieved by mankind. Works of quality were lavishly adorned with priceless artworks; impeccable and irreplaceable, but exposed to the elements and hence destined to fade and erode. The problem bequeathed to subsequent generations is how to restore these once magnificent edifices to their former glory. It’s quite literally a monumental task.  

Sometimes, the skills simply no longer exist. Without the charity of benificent patrons, those crafts were simply not viable as ways to earn a living. Once the money and power evaporates, the guilds that once sculpted, carved, painted and gilded cease to exist. They are unsustainable, in a world of marked income inequality – an inequality that, today, is widening at an accelerating rate. Without the opportunity to perfect crafts skills over a lifetime of learning, through actual doing, it is impossible for anybody to meet the same standard of workmanship from a cold, standing start, no matter how well intentioned the effort. Money cannot buy skills accumulated over decades. They can’t simply be recreated on demand.

One route to keeping the artisans match-fit would be to engage in maintenance on a grander scale than we typically do. Why don’t we? It seems that most business models fail to make provision for the cost of maintenance and everybody wants to build something new, instead. Both the artists and their sponsors would rather create something afresh, rather than honouring the work of a forebearer, by lovingly preserving or restoring it. They call it “creative destruction”, but we should never forget that it is also plain old vanilla destruction, at root. This being the case, it’s also somewhat wasteful. Precious materials are often wantonly discarded – materials that are now extinct and unobtainable, through over-exploitation.

The interesting question, for me, is whether or not it is possible to be a creative maintainer. Can you find creative satisfaction in restoring, rather than starting from scratch? I propose that you can. Although it’s not your signature on the finished work, the restorer is worthy of placing their signature on the restored work (though they never do). Their contribution to the idea and concept is to give it new life and extended longevity, so that future generations will also be able to enjoy the intentions conveyed by the artist, in their original work. As such, restorers are worthy of much more recognition, reward and respect than they are given, today.

Monaco and Genoa are crumbling. While the new constructions are magnificent in their own way, what makes you sad is the things people come to see, which give these cities their unique signature, are the buildings, frescos and monuments that are, at best, a generation away from extinction. Even now, their existence is so precarious and their splendour so faded, that it’s often a disappointment to see them in this state of disrepair. It’s almost distressing. Who wants to go on vacation in a once beautiful city to experience the emotions of despair and distress?

As wealthy and opulent as the owners of these magnificent artefacts were, you’re also left with the disturbing feeling that, for all their munificence, is this it? Is this all money could buy? Renaissance palazzos are, after all, sadly lacking in creature comforts, such as heating, air conditioning and basic plumbing. Electric lighting and network connectivity was still science fiction, when these places were built. Surely the patrons of these monuments should have invested a little of their wealth in the invention of central heating, HVAC and stronger, more durable building materials, such as steel. What condemns a lot of the older buildings, splendid as they are, is the fact that they are not fit for modern purposes. Inhabiting them is more like a sentence in purgatory, than a brilliant experience.

Even the redevelopment of the Genoese old harbour, a multi-million dollar Renzo Piano extravaganza, only relatively recently completed, is already showing signs of inadequate maintenance. You can sense that the decay will only accelerate, leaving the good intentions only a memory and the newly built infrastructure unfit for purpose. The elevated bypass roadway nearby, a marvel of sixties engineering and bold urban planning, is a rusting eyesore. In the absence of any official attention to aesthetic pleasure, it is covered in random acts of graffiti. Ironically, it is daubed in anarchist slogans and symbols, as if to point an accusing finger at the authorities and hierarchies that allowed the infrastructure to fall into this state of disrepair and ugliness. Set between the crumbling Renaissance palaces and the foreshore redevelopment, it amply illustrates the sheer lack of attention to maintenance and its consequences. Conmen operate beneath it, ripping tourists off through their sharp patter and well-rehearsed scams. It’s a microcosm of what happened here centuries ago, but on a grander scale.

Corrosion is really hard to combat, because like so many things in life, it creeps up on you. There isn’t a crisply defined moment when it is obvious that something needs maintenance, because it’s self-evidently broken. Instead, things lose their beauty and utility by degrees, demanding that we make a judgement and choose the moment when we have to pay attention to bringing those qualities back, before they are lost entirely. Humanity is not very good at picking that moment correctly. Things often get way out of hand, before we rein them in.

We also have to recognise that some things cannot be restored without effectively remaking them. Reworking a masterpiece painting cannot hope to exactly reproduce each brush stroke, in its correct order, as originally applied by the artist. What the restorer is actually doing is making a brand new painting, using the masterpiece as an underlay and guide. If they are good at their craft, you won’t see the departure from the original, but rest assured that what you are seeing is less the work of the original artist and more the work of the repainter. We pretend that isn’t so, but that doesn’t change the actuality. Newly applied pigments are definitionally a new painting, whether or not the substrate is a blank canvas or a priceless masterpiece.

So, good maintenance is, I argue, a fundamentally creative act of the highest quality. We condemn our favourite pieces of art to eventual extinction, by not crediting the skill and creativity of restorers and consequently discourage anybody from aspiring to become one. This is, I claim, to our ultimate detriment, especially in a world where the greenest thing you can do is prolong the useful life of finely made things. We lose the things we love and further degrade our environment, if our first instinct is always to destroy, discard and replace.

Creativity can have lots of guises and maintenance is one of them.

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Where’s Ya Bin?

Since I lasted posted, I’ve been to France, Italy, Switzerland and Hong Kong.  This has provided many new ideas for blog posts.  The struggle is to find the time to write them all.  

My laptop is also misbehaving.

Anyway, please stay tuned.

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Creative Rejuvenation

Artists get hung up on the quality and quantity of their creative output.  I suppose that’s only to be expected.  Artists spend a lot of time on their creative outpourings.  

Occasionally, though, that output needs to stop, while you recharge your creative batteries.  Instead of creativity pouring out, like an incessant torrent, sometimes you need to pour some inspiration, rest and new influences back in.  You need to stimulate your creative powers anew.

Creative rejuvenation is a necessary phase.  Without it, you get stale and your ideas can begin to dry up, or worse, you can become a self-referential pastiche of yourself.  You might even find it hard to take your own creative strengths seriously.

Stop.  Step away from your work space.  Go and live a little.  See new things.  Have new experiences.  Go on some kind of adventure.  Fall back in love with the world and with your art.  Give yourself the space to take stock and breathe.  Your work will still be there, waiting for you to do it.  Only, with recharged, rejuvenated creative powers, you just might approach it from a new angle and with renewed enthusiasm.

I’m recharging myself right now.  The quality and quantity of my posts might reduce, for a while.  Think of this time as my crysalis period.  It’s long overdue.

I will be back soon, but for now, it’s time to feed my mind, my heart and my soul.

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Things I Love About Making Art

If you’re like most artists (actually, most human beings), every now and then you’ll find yourself drifting, having lost sight of your goals completely.  You’ll feel like you’re going through the motions, but with little satisfaction.  That little self-critical voice in your head will be trying to tell you you’re no good at art.  You’ll feel certain nobody wants your work and that making art is utterly purposeless.  You’ll feel like giving up.  The thrill is gone.

About the only thing that can help, at a juncture like this, is to actively remember what it is about making art that got you into doing it in the first place.  OK, your art career might not be going the way you would have ideally liked.  Nobody buys your stuff.  The help, adulation and recognition you thought you would get, which you believed you had sincerely earned, haven’t materialised.  They don’t recognise how great you are.  You feel undervalued and underrated.  But is that why you started?  Was that really the feeling you liked most?  If those aspects of your art-making feel bad, then what feels good?

Writing a list of what you like about making art and being an artist can help you identify what you like and, subsequently, to focus more on creating more of those moments you like, which make you feel good, worrying less about (and actually experiencing fewer of) the feelings you don’t like.  It takes a certain honesty and humility to do this, but it can be a reviving tonic.  Deciding to fall in love again, with making art, can be one of the most refreshing and reawakening things you can do.

Without further ado, here’s my list:

  1. Colours thrill me. If I did nothing else than played with colour complements and contrasts, all day long, I’d be happy with that.
  2. Musical timbres thrill me, especially new or unusual ones that are distinctive and memorable. The search for these is wonderful and finding one is like discovering buried treasure.
  3. I love a melody that makes me feel something throughout my whole body. It can be happy or sad, but it has to move me.
  4. I love sharing that feeling with others. Making a melody that moves people, in the same way I feel moved, is like hitting the jackpot.
  5. I love that the art I make decorates the existential solitude I inhabit, with beauty. If we are all, ultimately, alone in the world, then the presence of beautiful things can soften the angst.
  6. I love that you can share moments with others, through art. It’s like an unwritten communication.  I often feel that other people have feelings, which they never could or would articulate in words, but you know they feel them all the same, because of something artistic you shared.
  7. Playing beautiful or interesting guitars inspires me. I won’t lie.  There’s something about an instrument that brings out different melodies and approaches to playing.  They change and extend my musical articulation subtly.  I don’t play two different guitars the same way and I don’t really know why.  Each one changes something in what I make, musically.
  8. I love how paint feels, as it goes onto canvas. That gooey smooshiness is really very satisfying.  Feeling that delicate point where the paint breaks and texture is created is a really great balance point to sense.
  9. I love how writing clarifies my thoughts and makes me calm. When I don’t commit my thoughts to paper, they compete for attention, in my subconscious.  Rather aggressively, actually.  When I write them down, though, an orderly queue seems to form and ideas that have had their attention, in being committed to paper, stop rattling around in my head, so other thoughts can form and blossom.  I can also see how those thoughts connect to each other more clearly and discern the relationships better.  It’s very clarifying and soothing.
  10. I love it when my art resonates with somebody. There’s nothing nicer than knowing something you made has meaning to somebody else.
  11. I love how inspiring art can be to others. Art can cause people to decide to take action.  I love it when a piece of art I made inspires others to make their art, or to break out of their passive complacency and do something great.
  12. I love how music comforts, soothes and understands how you’re feeling. Choosing the right music for your emotional state is incredibly comforting.  It takes away feelings of alienation and lets you know that somebody, at some time, felt what you’re feeling right now.  It forms a connection.  We all need connectedness to thrive.
  13. I love how music moves my body. I can’t help it.  There is some music that makes me want to move and groove.  I don’t care who sees me.  The feeling it too good to ignore.  I succumb to it.  Dancing is a reaction to the movement music induces.
  14. I love the feelings of accomplishment art brings me. I get a great deal of satisfaction when I finish making a piece of art and I like how it turned out.  There’s a sense of psychological closure to that.  Your plan has been made manifest.  You imagined something and now it’s real.
  15. I love how art makes me joyful. Making art, especially playing music, fills me with a sense of euphoria.  I love how it sounds and how the sound waves make my body feel.  This is related to my earlier point about dancing.  Dancing might be joy expressing itself outwardly.
  16. I love the beauty and grace of the tools. I have some beautiful brushes, a wide variety of beautifully made palette knives, gorgeous specialist luthiery tools, elegant musical instruments, exquisite writing materials, amazingly capable and flexible software, strange and beautiful effects boxes and so on.  These are all conduits to producing art, but the quality and elegance of the tools themselves is something to behold and appreciate.  I get a buzz from the tools.
  17. Art makes me feel alive. Making art makes me feel immortal, in a strange way.  I know that what I make has the potential to outlive me.
  18. Art shows my imagination that it can soar. Too often, in life, we feel helpless and powerless.  Creating something reminds your imagination that it is capable of thinking great thoughts and creating viable, important changes in the world.
  19. Creative freedom is real freedom, as a human being. The imprisoned Jews in Nazi Germany used to drive their guards crazy by singing “Our Thoughts Are Free”.  They might constrain and encumber you with responsibilities and bills to pay, but your escape is always your ability to create whatever the hell you want.
  20. Art changes the quality of everybody’s thoughts and beliefs. Higher quality thoughts are what the world needs more than anything, right now.  Art takes you there.
  21. I love that the ethos of art can be as antithetical to the prevailing culture of selfishness and greed as you want it to be. If you dislike the kinds of belief systems and ideologies that prevail, you can create your very own universe, within your art.  It can be as different and opposite to the horrors of the real world as you dare to make it.
  22. I love that art can edify everything that is great about being human. People like to think of humanity as a vicious, violent vermin, fit only for self-inflicted destruction.  When you make art, however, you experience compassion, empathy, generosity, unvarnished honesty and all of the loving things that are good and unique, about being a member of the species Homo sapiens.  There is a lot about us that is worthy and worthwhile.  Art helps you experience that.
  23. Loud music excites me and makes my arm hairs stand up. That visceral experience is something I have felt, profoundly, at key moments in my life and so, transports me straight back to those events and memories.  That feeling was what drove me toward electric guitar and highly rhythmic music.  Feeling the thud in my chest, in time with the music, is what alerted me to the fact that this is what I wanted to do.
  24. Quiet music calms me. Sometimes, I like to see how quietly and gently I can play and yet still articulate clear, beautiful, sustained notes.  When I want to relax and unwind, quiet music, which you have to listen to intently, often does that for me.
  25. Playing guitar is when I feel my most confident, invincible and attractive. I feel desirable and worthwhile.  I feel self-assured and capable, not doubtful and unsure of what I’m doing.  It’s the closest I get to feeling sexy.  Everybody should feel that they’re sexy to somebody.
  26. Music clarifies my thoughts, when writing. Just as writing seems to order my thoughts into something lucid and comprehensible, background music helps me to make those thoughts flow.  I write best when music is playing.  It cuts down the distraction and flips my brain into a more ordered state, somehow.
  27. Art helps me to cling to the belief in better. When the world is full of horrible people with a miserable view of humanity and diabolical plans to make everything more miserable, the fact of art and the facility to create is a powerful reminder that better is possible.  It’s an antidote to the psychopaths in charge, who you know have very little ability to feel and understand art.  Art is our world, from which the psychopaths are excluded, by their own inability to empathise.
  28. Making art allows me to trust my intuition to the fullest extent. I give free rein to my intuition, when creating.  I follow my instincts without hesitation.  That doesn’t happen in other spheres of life, where you act to minimise risk, with more over-thinking and circumspection.  In making art, none of that matters.  I just do what I do, trusting that my mind and heart will lead me in the right direction.
  29. I love the feeling of immersion in the task of making art, where cares fall away. The nice thing about the process of making art is that it’s a universe of your own that you imagine and inhabit and you choose what is admitted into it.  Your cares and worries don’t have to follow you into that moment of flow.  That’s quite liberating and relieving.
  30. Making art heightens my consciousness. Ideas beget better ideas.  The more I make art, the better are my conceptions and imaginations for future art I will make.  I feel more in the moment and present, while making art.
  31. Even when I don’t know what I’m doing, I feel like I know what I’m doing. I can simultaneously feel like I’ve no idea what I should be doing or how other people accomplish what I’m attempting, yet feel equally sure that whatever next step I take, it will work out fine.  The risk or ridicule falls away.  Whatever action I take, it’s the right action, because it is an action.
  32. It’s one of the few times in adult life where just playing is a legitimate activity. When I was a child, I loved to play and I still remember the feelings I had, while playing.  They were delightful feelings.  Making art helps me to recreate those feelings of just following my curiosity and seeing what happens.
  33. The imaginative, visualisation phase is as much fun as actually making the art (sometimes more fun). Creating and inhabiting a universe of my own making, which can be idealised, or else very focused on a specific thing, can give as much satisfaction as actually going on the next step of the journey, bringing it all to life as a reality.  The unreality is fun to inhabit anyway.  Daydreaming and musing is rewarding in and of itself, whether you make anything or not.
  34. Researching in preparation for making art is one of my favourite kinds of reading. I have to confess that my favourite things to read are books or information that causes new, imaginative thoughts to form in my head.  If it engages me and gets me thinking, resulting in a new innovation or idea, then that’s when I enjoy reading most.  I’m not so much an escapist reader as a reader that seeks imaginative stimulation.
  35. I always feel renewed and slightly younger, after I create something. The aches and pains and decrepitudes of getting older fall away and I feel like I did when I was a child, a teenager or a young man.  Making art rejuvenates.

So, that’s my list.  What do you love most about making art?


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How to Make Absolutely Anything

It turns out that there is a simple (but difficult) three step process that allows you to make absolutely anything.  This is such a powerful process that, if you don’t follow it, you probably won’t be able to make anything.  People that struggle with making things are usually foundering on one or more of the three steps.  It doesn’t matter what you are trying to make, the same three steps apply.  It could be a piece of music, a painting, designing an electronic circuit, building a house, changing the minds of the masses, or creating a political revolution.

Here are the three steps, which usually take place in this order:

  • Desire
  • Envisioning /visualising
  • Aligning with the vision

That’s it.  That’s the whole, general purpose process.

Perhaps I should elaborate.


Before anything (and I mean anything) can get made, there has to be a clear intention.  Somebody has to want to bring it into being.  Manifestation of the new thing, which doesn’t yet exist, absolutely requires that somebody, somewhere, has sufficient desire for it to exist.  If you are the maker, that should be you.  You should desire the change you seek to make.

Indifference to the existence of the new idea is why so many people think of really great ideas, but never follow through.  They don’t want it enough.  You have to really want this thing to become real.  You have to love the very idea of its existence.  Without the desire for the thing to be made, it won’t be possible to carry out the other two steps.

Desire is almost analogous to love, but not quite.  Desire is more visceral and corporeal.  It involves your body, your agency and your dexterity, not just your feelings.  Your body is the most potent, magnificent, yet delicate instrument and engine of creation you will ever own.  It will need to be applied.  You need to love the idea of the thing you want to make.  You need to want it.


The mind is a wonderful thing.  Everybody should have one.  The power of the mind is to envision the thing you want to make, visualising it in every detail.  Imagining the completed thing with every sense available to you, as if it already exists, is your mind’s way of perfecting the details a priori, planning the necessary steps and setting the goal, so that you know when the making is done.  Being able to crystallise your desire into a realisable vision, through visualising it lucidly in your imagination, means that you will be able to undertake the manifestation of the idea with surety and confidence.  When you can already see the end goal, clearly and in exquisite detail, the rest is a bit like taking down dictation.

Composers often write music this way.  Mozart was said to envision the entire composition in his head, detailed part by detailed part, sensing the fragrance of every harmony and contrapuntal device, before committing it to manuscript.  The “writing it down” part was not where the creation took place.  That was just the download.  The composition was completed entirely in his mind.

If you want to play a piece of music that is way beyond your current skill level on your instrument, seeing yourself playing that piece, as perfectly and beautifully as anybody could, sensing the satisfaction and adulation that comes from executing the piece as well as you imagine, is an important step in the process of learning how to play it.  Without this sensation and very clear feeling, you won’t be able to slog through the small, intricate parts you will need to focus on and repeat, over and over again, first slowly, then perfectly, then faster, to accomplish your goal.  Without the desire, your effort will fade away too.  Visualising your ultimate success and holding that image in your mind is the bridge between desire and effort.

Similarly, sculptors see a block of stone, but in their mind, they can already see the figure they wish to create, living inside that stone.  Because of the power of their imagination, they are able to chip away only the stone that isn’t the sculpture, leaving the figure they imagined behind.


While the first two steps of the process can be challenging, if not daunting, once you learn how to do them, things get easier and you will find you can want something to exist and envision its finished form in your mind with some alacrity.  Now comes the very difficult final step.

The final step in making absolutely anything is allowing yourself to align with the vision.  That means letting your already developed skills work on the problem of getting the thing made.  It means opening yourself to finding and seizing the opportunities to get the resources and support you need.  If your skills are not developed to the point of being able to make the thing you desire and envisage, it means letting yourself do the hard work and many hours of practice required, in order to manifest the thing you wish to create.

People struggle with aligning themselves to the vision.  They are easily distracted and discouraged.  While trying to make things, if the alignment between your being and your desire and vision is not good, you’ll find your body fighting against your mind.  You will think you just can’t do what it takes to realise your creation.  And you may be right.  You may, initially, lack the dexterity or fine motor skills to get the work done.  You might be completely baffled by the complexity of your tools.  Maybe you’ll have to read some manuals, do some tutorials, work through some simpler examples after all.

A funny thing happened, when I built my first electric guitar.  I had designed a second, perfect guitar in my mind, but built my first, a much simpler design, so that I could practice enough to make the guitar I really wanted to make.  I made the first guitar, amazing myself and others that I could, facing many challenges on the way, so that I was “match fit” to make the second.  It turned out so well, I lost some of my desire to make the second one.  That second “built from scratch” guitar still isn’t finished.  The first one, however, fits me like a glove and plays like a dream.  Even though it used to be just a pile of wood and parts, it’s now the manifestation of my imagination.  It’s a very cool thing.

The secret to aligning yourself to your vision is to celebrate incremental victories, no matter how small.  If you can do something today that you couldn’t do before, that’s a very healthy sign that the alignment you need is taking place, by small steps.  In fact, doing something that nobody ever did before comes from precisely this place.  It’s by letting yourself align with what you envision and desire.

Doing the work of making absolutely anything manifest is all about letting the creation flow out of you, trusting in your creativity and your ability.  It comes from a place of trusting in yourself and your necessity to realise what you desire and can see in your mind so clearly.  This alignment may take quite some time, in the face of setbacks and discouragement, but persistence pays off.  Even if it takes the mythical ten thousand hours of practice (or thirty thousand, if you want to be a virtuoso), everywhere is walking distance, if you have the time.

You can reach your goal, if your desire remains strong, your vision remains focused and you allow yourself to align with those very powerful anchors.

So that’s the process, folks.  It’s reliable and proven and works every time.  Every step can be uniquely difficult for you, at different times and for different things you are trying to make, but sticking to the process helps you to overcome the obstacles.  There aren’t any known workarounds or alternative processes that I am aware of.  This is it.  This is how it’s all done.  The details, of course, are down to your vision.  Whatever change you need to make in the world will require of you things that you don’t know or cannot do, today.  The work is in finding a way.

Try it.


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The Tedious Transhumanist

You don’t often read an analysis of what the prevailing agenda is, in Silicon Valley and what that might mean for creativity and art, but I have a foot in both camps, so to speak, so I thought I would write a post about how I see things developing, from my perspective, as both a technologist and artist.  The irony, for me, is that I see both disciplines require a great deal of comfort with innovation and creativity, yet I sense that this is not the path Silicon Valley is on.  I could be wrong, but I sense a real subversion of art, creativity and innovation, for ugly, dominating ends.  Their collective project represents, from my perspective, a genuine existential threat to artists and aesthetics.  You can read this blog post as a critique of this collective delusion, if you like.

This is one of those blog posts I have approached with a sense of dread and reluctance.  It’s painful to write it, when your assessment of the situation is that the project is well advanced, well funded, determined and organised, while opposition to it is almost non-existent, because the consequences are barely recognised at all.  Ask the average person about what Transhumanism even is and you will draw blank stares.  Yet, the project itself is insidious, harmful, dreadful and very likely to succeed, even though it is based on junk science, a massively flawed conception of humanity and blind faith in huckster-promoted science fictions.  It feels like we’re already done for.  Even writing about it feels futile.

The catalyst for this article was a keynote speech I attended, at one of the world’s larger technical conferences, hosted by a company that makes something like over 90% of the very fabric of the Internet.  This company is currently undervalued on the stock market, dependent as it has traditionally been on the sale of hardware, operated manually, by specialist geeks.  They’re trying to transform themselves into a software services powerhouse and this means they have had to embark upon major change initiatives, to take their very conservative customer base and partner ecosystem, as well as their own employees, along on their change programme.  They have had to actively foster and promote change to survive.

Their response to this imperative was to open the floor to an unabashed Transhumanist, futurologist and, in my view, charlatan.  What this huckster said, in 45 minutes, boiled my blood and aroused my every instinct to rail against it.  That’s not because I am anti-change, or uncomfortable with innovation.  It was because what this man espoused was pure, dangerous nonsense, yet a nonsense that has been embraced like a cult religion, among the board rooms of struggling Silicon Valley technology companies, trying to change themselves fast enough to survive.  I was moved to spend most of the keynote speech jotting keywords and counter arguments into Evernote, on my smart phone, while I listened.  I was incensed by what I was hearing.  I was probably the only one, in an audience of ten thousand or more, not cheering and actively lapping it up, accepting every pronouncement as gospel.  I felt as though they had already started distributing the Kool-Aid.

For those that don’t know, Transhumanism is the belief that humans, through engineering, can design and produce a superior human being.  They wrap it up in laudable enough aims, but at its very heart is a form of spectacular hubris, born of ignorance of what a human being actually is.  They start from a very blinkered and narrow view of what people are and what they’re for, which they hope to amplify.

Wikipedia says the following, about Transhumanism (  Transhumanism “is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and creating widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.”  Note that emotional and empathic capacities are omitted.

Wikipedia goes on to say:  “Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as the ethics of using such technologies.  The most common Transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of post human beings.”

You should be very worried about this.  It’s an arid and dead philosophy, reeking of coercive eugenics.  Ethics are very much a secondary concern and the dangers are downplayed.  In the keynote speech I witnessed, they were barely mentioned at all, except by way of glibly reassuring us that it will all be OK, offering not a shred of evidence to back the bald assertion.

The keynote speaker is touted as “A Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age”.  He is described as a media artist, futurist, philosopher, keynote speaker and TV personality.  This is how far we have sunk.  We now list “TV personality” as a qualification.  You can read about the dude here (not that I wish to endorse him in any way):

Here is some of his tripe:  Notice that the imagery is laden with tacit endorsements of weapons systems – weapons of conquest and mass destruction; weapons that threaten us all, with cold, ruthless, indiscriminate, mass murder, of innocents.  Those are glossed over, in the narrative, but the visual impressions are distinctly made.  Let’s also not concern ourselves with accidental, unintentional triggering of those weapons.  That’s not progressive enough, is it?

This dude is hyperactive, hyperbolic and young.  His delivery is imperative, like a child throwing a tantrum that demands to have his way.  He leaps and prances around the stage like a fidgety kid, high on some kind of substance.  Yet, he is considered to be a high priest of Silicon Valley’s current obsessive religion.  It’s a religion that wants to make humans live forever, but which abhors and discriminates against age and wisdom.  Their quest is to create a species that remains young, compliant and impressionable, yet also immortal.  If this is not a pure vanity and ego gratification project, I don’t know what is.  Who wants that kind of person to live forever?

At only 34 years of age, our keynote speaker lacks any semblance of the wisdom accumulated with age.  Heck, at 34 I didn’t have a clue, but I thought I knew everything.  I suspect he thinks he knows everything, too and has it all figured out.  Furthermore, your objections are likely to be only because you’re too old to understand the epiphanies he has had.  How can that be?  It can’t be.  It’s nonsense.

This guy makes a handsome living, I suspect, as a huckster for innovation, only he thinks that any innovation will do.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you should.  He’s only concerned that you can.  That said, his overriding concern is obviously how to make a buck in a world that doesn’t value media artists very highly.  He’s found his niche and he is milking it for all it’s worth.  The consequences be damned!   At least he gets to make his films.  If corporations want to sponsor him to sprout his brand of dangerous nonsense, so much the better for his bank balance.

The vision Transhumanists offer for humanity is one of ruthless efficiency, but insensate.  They want us to work more productively, producing greater profits for the few, but don’t want us to be any more connected to our feelings and emotions.  Rather, they prefer it if we were less connected to our feelings and emotions, especially if that conflicts with the goals of efficiency and improved productivity.  It’s a vision of humanity as pre-destined slaves.  What they aim to produce is a race of insensate psychopaths, made in the image of the very billionaires that are so hell-bent of pushing this agenda.

Take another look at the imagery.  It’s always similar:


(From – this article seeks to soothe those that fear losing their jobs, by telling them that robots will be peers, not replacements.  The assertion in the article is not convincing.)

The Transhumanist wet dream is for human flesh to be augmented by, or even replaced with metal alloys and silicon.  Silicon and metal alloys are poor substances and technologies for empathy, imagination, self replication, sustainability and awareness (self and situational).  Metal hands have no warmth or feeling.  Silicon brains have no introspection or empathy.  These aren’t technologies that can run all day on a cheese sandwich, like a human being can and they cannot self-heal.  They’re hard and brutal, like the Transhumanist vision.

Exoskeletons won’t protect us (in the workplace or in battle).  Like the suits of armour of medieval times, they’ll more often than not be a hindrance and an encumbrance, making us more vulnerable, not less.  Our thoughts won’t be held in smart phones.  The computing power necessary will never fit (at least not for a very long time) and its energy requirements will far exceed any foreseeable battery technology.  What would be the use of an identity, memory and consciousness that has a three hour battery life?  Yet, the Transhumanists are convinced that the robots will be our children and that they will inherit the Earth.  Not my children.  Not on my watch.  I care for them too much to lumber them with these defective, inferior technologies.

The Prussians, at the end of the 19th century, used to fit beautifully crafted prostheses to their war-maimed, telling them that they would be stronger and better than ever before.  It was a lie, of course.  They were never the same, let alone any better.  We still do that to today’s horribly mutilated soldiers, with our carbon fibre, Kevlar and titanium retro-fitments.  Ask any single one of them if they would like to have their previous flesh and blood limbs back and you’ll get a resounding affirmation, if they’re honest.

There’s almost nothing (if anything) in the Transhumanist agenda about enhancing or even fostering the human capacity for creativity – arguably our most remarkable characteristic.  There is nothing about enhancing our aesthetic senses (instead, it’s anaesthetic), our appreciation and capacity for beauty, or our art.  Those are considered to be irrelevant trivialities, not worthy of enhancement or even preservation.  In the Transhumanist conception, those things are hindrances, that ought to be expunged.  Instead, the obsession is with efficiency and productivity, as if that is the highest good.  Efficiency and productivity are nice to have, but for the ultimate benefit of whom?

Our current neoliberal economic system, with its blinkered focus on productivity , already induces an emotional need to prove one’s worth through one’s job, which leave’s workers in a permanent state of “fight or flight”.  It mainly manifests in the anxiety of underperformance and a sense of not being good enough, or not living up to expectations.  Is this a tendency we want to accelerate and amplify?

I found the keynote speech far too “gee whizz”.  The speaker was protected from criticism by his adherence to blind optimism and unfounded positivity.  The greatest heresy, in the Transhumanist religion, is to be negative, after all.  To be negative is to be toxic.  Lunatics like this speaker, lacking the capacity for deep, honest introspection, or for learning the lessons of history, lacking real empathy for others, are downright dangerous propagandists for what is, in essence, a thorough-going corporatist agenda.

Here’s a list of things that are missing from the Transhumanist agenda, which (as far as I can tell) they are making no attempt whatsoever to enhance and improve:

  1. Human beings are hardwired for friendship.
  2. We’re also naturally empathetic.
  3. Kindness makes us feel happy.
  4. Our first instinct is to act selflessly.
  5. A human’s ability to fall in love is biological.
  6. Holding hands with someone alleviates fear.
  7. Our bodies physically change when we hug someone.
  8. Human beings are programmed to recover from bad events.
  9. And if all of that doesn’t convince you that there’s a lot of good in human nature, know that dogs are hardwired to love us.

(Quoted from

While the Transhumanists are trying to design a better, faster, stronger, more enduring human being, there are other forces at work.  Meanwhile, in society at large (most notably post-Brexit and in the US elections), politicians, pastors, friends, and strangers, both in person and on social media now regularly out themselves as hateful, intolerant, and malicious—and they remind us just how close they are to us, just how deep the sickness in us runs, and just how far we have to go together.  Do the Transhumanists have a solution for any of this?  If anything, they’ll make it all worse.

I may have more computing power in my pocket, today, than a head of state had at his disposal 25 years ago, but does that make me any wiser?  Does the amount of computing power available to a head of state, today, make them any wiser?  Wisdom is not increasing exponentially, only our capacity and appetite for destruction has.

Among the many flaws in the Transhumanist project is that there is no way to make machines “desire” things.  They don’t dream.  Desire, of course, is the first step toward creation.  Only humans do that.  Why reduce that desire, through augmentation of the human with an engineered mechanism, or even with a biologically altered version of the human?  It’s fundamentally anti-creativity.

Transhumanists cite machine learning as being far superior to human learning.  This is smoke and mirrors, even if you consider machine learning at a data centre scale.  Machine learning is, in actuality, little more than a classification engine that creates categories on the basis of probabilities. Without vast amounts of data, confidence is low.  The faster you want the answer, the more likely it is to be hilariously wrong.  How does that improve on the human capacity for curiosity-driven learning?  It doesn’t.

What annoyed me about the tedious Transhumanist, giving his keynote speech at me, was that he was far too uncritical.  He represented a class of people too privileged and too corporate to really understand the needs and hopes of most of humanity.  He was quite content to perfect humans at the expense of losing feelings and sensations.  While he was enamoured with awe, he didn’t feel that it was essential that the half-machine, half human beings of tomorrow would experience the same thing.  This was the paradox at the heart of his address.  He wanted us to be bowled over and awed at the possibilities, but the vision was to excise our capacity to be so impressed and overawed.

On the whole, he came across as way too programmed, by years of pro-corporatist, neoliberal propaganda – the only dominant skein of political thought he would be familiar with or meaningfully exposed to, during his short life.  When the State becomes fundamentally corporatist (as it already has), then it is, by definition, Fascist.  The Transhumanist ideal sits quite comfortably with corporate control of everything.  It depends on it.  He’s awestruck by the amazing technological possibilities, professing non-conformity, but he is, in reality, the ultimate conformist.  There is no inkling that he knows a single thing about anarchy, voluntaryism, humanism or any of the other possible ways of organising human affairs, devoid of so-called leaders and rulers.  The question of who rules and what entitles them to do so is never questioned, in his world view.

Re-engineering humanity ignores utterly the threat of nuclear destruction (accidental or wanton).  It doesn’t factor in the many environmental threats to continued existence of any form of life, even if Transhuman.  Why should these threats even exist?  Why do we need to engineer human beings capable of withstanding nuclear holocaust, environmental catastrophe or the need to work with heavy loads, over extended hours?  The motivation for Transhuman design, like the motivation for all the problems a Transhuman is designed to endure, is simply neoliberal, corporate greed.  Without it, the threats abate and hence the imperative to design a being to deal with them evaporates instantly.  Transhumanism is solving the wrong problem, the wrong way.

Transhumanism also offers no solution for the current crisis of governance that is being experienced in many parts of the world.  Leadership has been unmasked as fraud.  Yet, Transhumanism offers no narrative or solutions to the idiocy at the top, the idiocy of those that vote them in and the sheer inequality that is driving all the childish hurt and anger.  With Transhumanism silent on all of these pressing issues, you have to wonder.  Transhumanism to what end?

Their design and vision for humanity is to make us faster and cheaper, bigger and better, enduring longer and tolerating more abuse.   What we actually need is a species that takes time to understand their fellow human beings, before creating things and experiences of value to other people.  Transhumanism is a tired, out of date, irrelevant conception of what it is to be better than a human.  It lacks imagination and is simply the stale regurgitation of discredited, dysfunctional, destructive and doomed ideas about how one improves life for oneself, while disregarding the well-being of everybody else alive or yet to be born.  In short, it’s a dead end idea, propagated by dead head thinkers.

The reality of our modern, connected, networked world is that there soon won’t be enough electrical energy generated to run our IP networks.  That’s yet another problem that remains unsolved, which Transhumanism is silent about.

What place is there for failure, in the Transhumanist future?  Every artist knows that failure is a necessary and unavoidable step on the way to success, but Transhumanism seems to ignore this entirely.  Failures will simply be re-engineered.  Version one will be perfection personified.  There won’t be any failures and no need to mop up the mess and try again.  Sure.  And pigs might fly.  Engineering, being a fundamentally creative process, doesn’t proceed in that manner.  Given that the first Transhumans are likely to be failures, what should become of them?  What are the ethics of scrapping an improved human being that didn’t turn out that way?

While this stupid huckster was prancing around the stage, espousing a perfected future, just beyond our current grasp, there was something else in the gigantic arena that gave me some small hope.  While the speaker was talking about improving on the human mind and its mortal body, above me one of the stage lights, constructed of LEDs, was flickering.  It was a flickering of hope.  We’re going to re-engineer humanity, but we can’t even design a stage light that doesn’t fail.  That flickering light was a ray of hope to me, because it proved that without superior maintenance, all our designs are worthless.

So, this tub thumper for billionaires and start up culture, as practised in Silicon Valley, did his schtick, trotting out trite, tired quotes from discredited pundits and pseudo intellectuals.  The whole thing reminded me that I was a committed Rehumanist.  See my earlier blog post on what that means:

Noam Chomsky’s view on Transhumanism and the so-called “singularity” is closer to my thoughts:  The Singularity is Science Fiction.

Here’s a quote from that video, about what it means to programme future human beings with artificial intelligence:  “What’s a program? A program is a theory; it’s a theory written in an arcane, complex notation designed to be executed by the machine. What about the program, you ask?  The same questions you ask about any other theory: Does it give insight and understanding?  These theories don’t.  So what we’re asking here is: Can we design a theory of being smart?  We’re eons away from doing that.”

No, the keynote speaker I endured was evidently addicted to epiphanies, but very shallow epiphanies.  Just because an idea precipitates a personal epiphany, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

In any case, Transhumanism is going nowhere while we remain, as a people, so conservative, violent, ignorant, dependent on technologies we can’t begin to understand, fearful, paranoid, insular, addicted to the cult of leadership personalities, while we believe the fraud that is the money system to be legitimate and while we think we need daily governance, in all things, by people and corporations we think know better what is good for us, than we do, who are prepared to enforce it with violence.

Humans will never progress, while we remain drunk on power, which is just another way of saying people who think they have enough privilege to break the laws that are enforced on lesser mortals.

Humanity will not progress while we dismiss the intrinsic and fundamental value of creativity and art, or while we delegate shocking, inhuman powers to leaders that we ourselves do not have.

While we revel, with pride, in our inability to take in, absorb and live by demonstrably better ideas than the ones we doggedly, stubbornly, irrationally and stupidly cling to, there will be no transformation, Transhuman or other.

While we use anonymity to cloak our misdeeds and shame to control the lives of others, we’re going nowhere better.  While we think the key to success, meaning the accumulation of material wealth and privilege, is to remain positive and pretend all is well, when clearly there are people that need our help urgently, we’re going to remain moronic.

Instead, we remain wedded to conquest, to vanquishing and humiliating our enemies, retaliation, revenge and command and control hierarchies.  None of that will make humanity any better.  Transhumanism simply entrenches it.

There are no design improvements planned, here.  There is no current project to realise them.



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