Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Human Being Version 2.0

Sábado Tarde, Isla Vista, California, USA

February 22, 2010

This essay, Human Being Version 2.0, is the companion piece to A Transformed Way Of Living.

I am indebted to John Frederick "JFH" Hammond who contributed material for this conversation.

In 1958 the first vinyl 78  record I bought and owned was Paul Anka's classic Diana ("Ohhh ... pleeez ... staaay ... by meee ... Di‑yanna")  covered by David Serame. I played it over and over and over  on my wind-up gramophone  wearing out an entire tin of gramophone needles in the process. It was called a "78" because it revolved at 78 revolutions per minute - which gave The Beatles the idea for naming their ground‑breaking Revolver album ... but that's a story for another occasion ...

The 78 was state of the art  technology in its day. Then pretty soon we started seeing more and more of the much smaller vinyl 45  - so-called because it revolved at 45 revolutions per minute. In 1963 my first 45 was The Beatles' I Wanna Hold Your Hand which also, in short order, was worn thin by repeated playing on my next new, state of the art electric gramophone made by Decca known as a Deccalian. Because the 45 played a cleaner sound at a slower speed than a 78, it was known as an EP:  Extended Play. Pretty soon EPs were ubiquitous. The transition of the 78 from de rigueur  music medium to archaic music relic had begun.

But the dominant vinyl format was the 33. In 1965 my first 33 was Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass' Whipped Cream And Other Delights which also fared well on my Deccalian. Much wider than the 45 and even than the 78, a 33 could hold the equivalent of five 45s or 78s on each side, because of which a 33 was called an album. And since a 33 played an ever cleaner sound at an even slower speed (33 revolutions per minute) than a 45 or a 78, a 33 was known as an LP:  Long Playing album. Pretty soon LPs were firmly entrenched, and 45s had started their inexorable march from the turntables into the Smithsonian.

Deccalians and other turntables required solid footing for their delicately balanced playing mechanisms to work. They didn't do well bouncing around in cars, so initially radio dominated how music was enjoyed while driving. Then in 1964 we saw the emergence of the grandly named 8 track stereo cartridge, a chunky four inch by six inch by one inch slab of plastic encased three quarter inch tape, which in turn gave way to the more manageable, much smaller tape format known simply as a cassette, both of which were playable in cars, completely changing the menu of what was available for listening pleasure while driving. In 1969 my first cassette was Yes' breakout self titled Yes album. Given its lush breakthrough sound, driving would never be the same again.

In 1982 CDs  ie Compact Disks followed, providing digitally perfect sound reproduction, rendering tapes redundant, and requiring an entirely new playback system. In 1997 my first CD was Supertramp's remastered 1974 masterpiece Crime Of The Century (I'd remained a diehard  cassette holdout until then).

It wasn't only the medium on which music was presented which continuously evolved. It was the layering of the sound  as well. Mono  sound gave way to stereophonic  sound which gave way to quadraphonic  sound in 1972 and sensurround  sound in 1974. When I first heard quadraphonic (or "quad"  as we called it) versions of Pink Floyd's legendary Dark Side Of The Moon and Electric Light Orchestra's self titled debut album The Electric Light Orchestra during a sojourn in New Zealand in the early 1970s, it literally (to coin the phrase of the day) blew my mind.

While the music media continuously improved to provide better quality sound in more and more places, we were already beginning to see the decline  of an equally important aspect of the listening experience: album cover art. Columbia Records' art director Alex Steinweiss pioneered album cover art on the LPs' 12.375 inch square sleeve. Each album cover provided an opportunity to depict unforgettable images, representations of the music recorded on the vinyl within. The large canvas provided by a 33 album cover was perfect for artistically accurate representations of the music - like the attention grabbing depiction of the quintessential 21st century schizoid man  painted by Barry Godber on the cover of King Crimson's uncannily ground breaking In The Court Of The Crimson King. The diminishing canvas offered by the much smaller label of the 8 track stereo cartridge and the tiny  by comparison label of a cassette was difficult for me to witness - it was like watching the death knell of an extraordinary art form. And even though CD jewel case inserts with their cover art are larger than 8 track stereo cartridge labels and much  larger than cassette labels, the damage is done. Album cover art will never be the same again.

An old fashioned music store in the farming community town where I live sold old fashioned vinyl (all speeds) and old fashioned tapes (8 track stereo cartridges and cassettes) in an old fashioned converted barber shop. I loved going there to browse its dusty shelves and racks, never knowing what treasures I'd turn up next. Then one day in 1995 the vinyl and tape store closed its doors forever, unable to sustain a profitable business in the face of the transition of music onto CDs. When I, unknowingly, returned one lazy winter's day to meander through its treasure troves looking for surprises and golden oldies  and found it was, once again, a barber shop, I stood there, my mouth opening and shutting like a goldfish, uncomprehendingly. Something valuable had obviously come to an end - for me, all too abruptly.

I could, however, still browse through racks upon racks of CDs at our local CD outlet. Then one day in 2010 when its ability to make a profit was also completely and finally decimated by growing sales of CDs via the internet, it too closed its doors forever. Although CDs themselves haven't disappeared (yet), in my home town there are now no more brick and mortar stores with either vinyl or tape or CD music to browse at leisure. In my life it took eleven years from 1958 to 1969 for vinyl, version 1.0, to start disappearing and give way to tape, version 2.0, and then another twenty eight years from 1969 to 1997 for tape to start disappearing and give way to CD, version 3.0, and then another thirteen years from 1997 to 2010 for brick and mortar outlets of all three versions to disappear completely and entirely  from my home town. Three entire versions of brick and mortar history have come and gone in my life in the space of fifty years.

As I contemplated this passing of these once rock solid  (pun intended) standards and the changing of what's available in sound and music and how it's delivered, I first noticed while technology and indeed while the world  itself comes and changes and goes, what remains as a constant are we human beings. We've been around for quite a while now. Depending on whom you listen to, some say we've been making footprints on the planet for around five million  years or so. In a timeframe of five million years, the rapid transition of three sound and music versions over a mere fifty years hardly merits a mention.

Yes we've certainly changed, evolved, and advanced during this time from neanderthal hominid  to archaic Homo Sapiens  to modern Homo Sapiens. But for the most part, even given the continuum of growth and development over this extraordinary period of time, this is still us: Human Being version 1.0, having started circa  5,000,000 BC.

Then, just as I noticed I'd started to lapse into the complacency  of the idea that while everything around us is changing, version 1.0 of us human beings is constant and has been around for a long, long time time and will be around in the future for a long, long time (although, truth be told, the jury's still out on that one), I realized to my astonishment and delight it's not true at all. I realized human being version 2.0  has indeed recently appeared on the planet. And when I saw that, I was rocked to the core, perhaps rocked even more than by all the versions of all the music in all the music delivery formats and systems of all kinds combined  than have ever rocked me before.

What I realized is this:

In 1971 a new possibility made its presence known on the planet for the first time. In 1971 a new fish, figuratively speaking, walked up on the land for the first time, bringing with it elephants and eagles like a possibility. In 1971 a new context  suddenly and discontiguously  appeared on the planet in which it became possible for a human being's life to be full and whole and complete exactly the way it is and exactly the way it isn't. In the space of this new possibility, the onus shifted  for human beings away from dealing  with life, away from reacting and responding  to life, away from managing  life, and towards creating  life, towards determining the quality  of life, towards sourcing  life.

The era of incomplete reacter/hunter/gatherer  has ended. The era of whole and complete causer/inventor/generator  has begun.

Human being version 2.0 has started.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

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