“The Internet is full of music. Some of it we like, some of it we don’t. Then, there’s Phil Collins.” – Unknown
“The appropriately programmed computer with the right inputs and outputs would thereby have a mind in exactly the same sense human beings have minds.” – John Searle
So, I think my iPod can read my mind, or at least understand my moods.
Preface: Whether the device is benevolent or malevolent remains to be seen. Since it’s essentially a manmade device it is thereby removed from the sticky regulations governing human ethics, just as a gun is a gun; at once a weapon of destruction and an exciting television remote, depending on the hand that wields it. On these shaky grounds, I suppose it can be said it possesses both good and evil. Whether I snapped it in half and used the jagged ends to carve crude epithets on the foreheads of cornered strangers, or used it for its intended purpose, it’s still neutral because it can’t act on its own. Just to be on the safe side, I keep it on ‘shuffle’, the rough equivalent of ‘free will’.
My iPod plays what I refer to as ‘baseline’ when I’m doing something that doesn’t require much involvement, such as riding the Metro or walking down the street. I think of these as background songs because they are ‘just songs’. They contain very little magic and only trace amounts of passion, yet their melodies have gentle impact on my perspective, changing the way I feel about my surroundings in subtle ways, like a director moving the viewer along from scene to scene and emphasizing certain things in the frame. These songs provide the soundtrack to a movie that never seems to end.
That begs another question: how does my iPod know where I am, what’s going on around me, or even that I’m on the Metro? Damned if I know, but it does! Maybe it’s got my behavior patterns down so cold that it knows I wake up at 0645, get ready for work, and board the morning train at 0730. (I’m kinda OCD that way, so I suppose that’s one possible solution.)
Another question; if the songs in my library could be considered a means of expression and communication for my 4GB AI, am I limiting its vocabulary with the music I choose to listen to? Does it ‘like’ the same music I do, only because it’s never been exposed to anything else? Obviously an iPod has a ‘priori’ and ‘a posteriori’ knowledge, long bits of code that give it a rudimentary identity, and tell it how to interact with my computer. Do iPods come to resemble their owners in the way that pets do (in more than physical characteristics, like tacky leather carrying cases, and poor color choices?) I know there are probably far more important questions I could be asking here, but I don’t have the time. I’m on my lunch break.
In the morning, my enlightened little friend knows to play songs that drive me and motivate me, songs that compel me, propelling me along as I weave in and out of dense morning crowds of commuters as though I were skydiving through a slow motion explosion… I envision myself in freefall, a HALO jump, alighting perhaps on a giant chunk of what used to be an office building spinning gently through the morning light. I charge along the length of this tumbling platform and fling myself from the opposing edge with all the grace of an Olympic diver or a practitioner of Parkour, stepping gingerly across torn fragments of detonation-damaged I-beams as though I were crossing a quiet country brook on the moss-covered tops of common stones, the slap of fragmented dust and debris slapping against the fabric of my protective suit like raindrops on a sleepy tin roof as I continue my descent. (Sometimes I wonder what other people think about on the way to the office!)
There are songs so indescribably powerful that, when I hear them, I get the distinct impression that I’m trailing fire; long blue tongues of visible flame that seep from my skin as though I were perpetually striding through the gateway of another world, another dimension. These songs make me feel as though I were experiencing on-the-spot evolution, as though I were shedding my weakness, becoming More; swapping emotion-vulnerable flesh and blood for the impervious safety of machine-driven precision. As though the vaguely recollected fragments of a long-lost destiny were being decoded from songs and related only to me. (“This isn’t your world, you’re just passing through, you belong up there, out there…”)
There are songs so potent, so utterly overwhelming, so perfectly consuming, so wonderful that I wish scientists would hurry up and invent a way for me to climb inside them, so I could bolt the doors and stay awhile. There are songs that make me feel that time is slowing down, coming to a halt. Sometimes I catch sight of the second hand on my watch running backwards a few ticks before Greater Laws take precedence, and the Blessed Machinery of the Universe resumes authority with a quiet hum.
There are songs so heartbreakingly mournful, so absolutely barren, that I have to thrust my hand into my pocket with a gunfighter’s speed and fast-forward to the next track lest I fall to my knees, incapacitated on a busy sidewalk with great streams of tears running down my face; forced to relive some now-forgotten heartbreak, some ancient feeling of abandonment, some prior loss or rejection. Sometimes they’re not even my emotions, which makes them even harder to deal with. During those interludes, it’s as if everything were coming down around my ears at once, and a very real, very tangible, weight were bearing down hard on my shoulders, on my bones, on my heart, and on my lungs. Enough!’ I cry aloud. ‘It is too much for any one soul to deal with!’
There are songs in my collection now lost to me, songs I’ve shared with former lovers, songs that summon up their smiles of perfect warmth and angelic light, such adoration as I may never know again; chords and notes that contain their smells, their tastes, and their touch upon my skin like lockets worn about the neck. Those songs hurt me in ways I cannot fully describe here. Suffice to say, I find it necessary to remove them from my library altogether, until such a time as their memories have sufficiently faded and they can be released back into the wild. (Presently, my entire collections of ‘Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’, ‘Clutch’, and ‘The Melvins’ are on temporary suspension. You’d think I’d learn to be secretive about my music, hide it away from new flames and interests, learn to protect my heart, preserve my collection. But then, I’m not the one spinning the hits, am I?)
The experiment continues…