Note To Self

The Gift Of Limitation

In her latest Note To Self, FW editor Emily Brooks explores the value of human limitation.

By Emily Brooks

Note To Self

In her latest Note To Self, FW editor Emily Brooks explores the value of human limitation.

By Emily Brooks

In July this year, Childish Gambino told me that the naive passion I have is there for a reason. He told me this at a concert in Sydney, during the monologue performers tend to deliver mid-concert. As the crowd was young, he decided to advise us on our futures and his advice was that we must use this naive passion to propel ourselves forward. That, of course, is why naive passion exists in your twenties. I remember this, because I wrote it down. And between the time I wrote it down and the time I write this, I have felt a shift in this naive passion. As I inch closer to my thirties, I feel like the curtains of that naivety are slowly being pulled back, revealing a window framing an entirely different view: a world of limitation. I haven’t been able to write with any ease for the past three weeks, so limitation has been on my mind. This, I will put down to the end of the year approaching, but as life tends to do, it delivered a fortuitous revelation and I have been able to view limitation through another, more useful, lens.

In January this year, Australian musician Nick Cave, answered a question in his regular newsletter, The Red Hand Files, and a good friend sent me his words – unprompted – this week. The questioner states that human imagination is “the last piece of wilderness”, and as we grapple with the rise of Artificial Intelligence, they wondered whether AI would ever be able to write a good song. Cave begins by referencing Yuval Noah Harari’s book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which argued that AI will be able to write far better songs than human beings. The reason being that we listen to songs to feel certain things, and AI will be able to tailor songs exclusively to our mental algorithms. We’ll have our bespoke happy songs and bespoke sad songs, and they’ll help us feel what we need to feel and then we can move on. “But, I am not sure that this is all songs do,” wrote Cave. “Of course, we go to songs to make us feel something – happy, sad, sexy, homesick, excited or whatever – but this is not all a song does. What a great song makes us feel is a sense of awe. There is a reason for this. A sense of awe is almost exclusively predicated on our limitations as human beings. It is entirely to do with our audacity as humans to reach beyond our potential.”

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