David Byrne: Computers Will Have No Effect on the Arts

I love David Byrne. The guy is a total geek. He makes great music. He rides bikes. What's not to like? Well, his prognostication abilities, for one.

Illustration for article titled David Byrne: Computers Will Have No Effect on the Arts

Over at Paleofuture Matt Novak dug up a 1987 interview with David Byrne from Omni magazine. It was part of a package where the magazine had 14 "great minds" predict what life would be like in 20 years. Byrne's take?

I don't think computers will have any important effect on the arts in 2007. When it comes to the arts they're just big or small adding machines. And if they can't "think," that's all they'll ever be. They may help creative people with their bookkeeping, but they won't help in the creative process.


Keep in mind this is three years after the first Macintosh shipped, which revolutionized desktop publishing. More in Byrne's wheelhouse, it was also three years after Sound Designer was released (which would later become Pro Tools). Dire Straits had released their Money For Nothing video two years previously, which showed the promise of computer animation to a mainstream music audience. In short, things were happening!

Today Byrne is one of the more tech-savvy artists out there. He even (gasp) uses PowerPoint to make art. Irony!

The entire thing is worth reading. Go check it out. You can play this while you read.


[Photo by Alterna2.com]

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I think a lot of people may be missing what he is saying, and I'm not sure he is incorrect—I read it as "computers won't make non-artists into artists." The better quote is later on—"Some people will use new equipment to make art, but they will be the same people who would have been making art anyway." I think the point is that you can't codify the creative process; you can have tools (book keeping) that organize/distribute the product, but at the end of the day, it still takes an artist to make art.

Either that or I'm rationalizing because I've loved the Talking Heads since dropping a needle on Talking Heads '77... in 1978.